Monday, October 11, 2010

Mixed Vegetable and Farro Soup

Perhaps I've given the wrong impression.

Over the past few months people have asked me, do you really cook every day? How do you do it?!

Well, let me clear this up, I do not cook every day, and in fact the past few weeks have been like this: I run around the city all day, my eating habits deteriorating with every panini and piece of cake I pass, skipping meals, gorging myself on sweets, forgetting to drink water, and then arriving home around eight to a fridge filled with half rotten vegetables, and a computer whose only use-of-late is looking up take-out menus. This all leads me to feel depressed, tired and cranky.

So, I have to ask myself, what happened? I know where to buy good food and I know how to make it but why don't I do it?

Several weeks ago I was in Philadelphia eating Thai food with my friend Liz and she was lamenting her own eating habits. She's in the process of training for a marathon and even though she knows a slice of pizza is not a decent meal, it still winds up on her dinner plate far too often. 

Then, the other day I was watching the Dr.'s, which always seems like a ridiculous show to me because the doctors all look like models and sell a colonoscopy like it was oxiclean, and they were each sitting with their favorite "bad food" in front of them, pasta, ice cream sundae, cake, etc. And while they were talking about how sugar has the same effect on the brain as crack, they were eating away, flirting and batting heavily made-up eyelashes. 

After rolling my eyes at their tans and four inch heals, I have to agree that sugar is a powerful substance. Usually when I notice I'm cooking less, it's because during the day I'm eating a lot of white flour and sugar in all sorts of combinations and then at night I just crave more. As a result I feel lethargic and fall into all kinds of unhelpful behavior, including not wanting to cook.

I have read a lot about food and everyone has their own idea of a healthy diet. Eat all organic, eat real foods, eat local, eat low fat, eat low carb, eat raw, re-alkaline your body, reduce candida, count calories, count fat, eat on a smaller dinner plate, don't eat after dinner, drink only juice for a week, eat macro, eat vegan, eat only what you grow and on and on. But the most helpful idea for me, when I'm feeling out of whack and I start getting sick and lose interest in my cookbooks is, eat mostly plants. 

Somehow this simple little mantra, shakes up my eating habits, guides me back to the kitchen and gets me feeling better. For me this does not mean eat salad for every meal, or that if you go out to a fabulous restaurant pick at a side dish of broccoli rabe all night, but it does make me think before I eat. And before I know it, I've got fresh vegetables in the fridge, I'm stopping by Angelica Kitchen for lunch rather then eating a piece of pound cake from Starbucks, or I'm getting a cocktail of green juice from the health food store that I've forgotten is right around the corner.

There is a lot I can do in my bathroom with regards to cooking but the one thing I envy about people with kitchens is their freezer space. I think that freezers are little miracles to the working, stressed out people of today who wish they had more time to cook but lets face it, just don't. So Liz, I know you don't have a lot of time, but I do know you have a fantastic new knife perfect for chopping vegetables and a decent freezer. So here is my suggestion to eating better, in addition to eating more plants, on a Sunday or whenever you have a couple of hours, make a pot of soup or two or some chili or a stew, buy some single or double serving Tupperware, fill them up and freeze the hell out of them. That way when you come home tired and hungry with only condiments and sludgy containers of take-out in your fridge, all you need to do is look up, pull a frosty hunk of homemade soup from your freezer and warm it up. 

You don't need to cook every day in order to eat home-made food. 

Mixed Vegetable and Farro Soup (Food + Wine, October 2010)

3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup farro or wheat berries
1 tbs. tomato paste
2 quarts water
1 fifteen ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs. thinly sliced basil

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds. Add 1 quart of water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil (and I grated some good Parmesan cheese on top).

the above photos are of cranberry beans also known as borlotti beans, canned or fresh work equally well.


  1. I've been eating like poo lately and it has made me lazy and depressed. Thanks for the healthy tips reminder!

  2. I'm eating pizza as I'm reading this!!! Haha...but, you make a good point. I'll have to put those frozen veggies to use!

  3. We use packaged frozen veggies as a side dish for nights when we both get home late and tired. They're not the best but we figure it's better than pizza. Which, we also eat a lot of that if I'm being honest.