Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love's labor's lost

I tenderly kissed my tomato plants goodbye on Saturday night. I figured it would be the last time I 'd see them once Irene stormed through. As we now know, Irene was very kind to most of us in NYC and so my tomato plants live on.

Not all of us were lucky. So many towns in upstate NY are reeling from the brutal flooding that washed away hopes, dreams and years of labor and love. It will take years to rebuild for many and much has been lost for good. We in the city will begin to see some of that loss in the local farmers markets for the rest of this season. Many Hudson Valley and Catskill farms have lost their entire fall crops. These are losses not only to the farmer's income and the enjoyment of those of us that patronize these farmers, but it includes the many who are dependent on these extended systems.
Take for example Roxbury Farm, a community supported farm located in Kinderhook, NY. Their current newsletter describes to their CSA community in heartbreaking detail the irreparable loss of the upcoming season's bounty. I ran into a colleague who runs a food pantry that is connected to the Roxbury Farm CSA drop-off site on the Upper West Side. That pantry has been the recipient of generous donations of Roxbury farm's beautiful produce all summer long.  The loss of that resource will be a terrible blow to the patrons of the food pantry where need is great and resources are always scarce.

As I was waiting for the storm to pass on Sunday I dug into my refrigerator and pulled out all the odds and ends accumulated over the week. Hurricane soup is what I dubbed the result of combining these disparate bits to make a compelling and very delicious whole.

The white beans were cooked from scratch, submerged under two inches of water in a covered pot for about one hour, till tender.  I had plenty of time on Sunday to make them, but I am not above using canned beans when in a rush and they can be substituted here.

In a separate pot saute some chopped carrots, celery and onions in a dash of olive oil.

To the sauteed vegetables add the cooked beans, some vegetable stock or broth and some chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Add some cubed potatoes or pumpkin or winter squash to the pot and continue to cook till these vegetables are soft.

Add a whole chili pepper to the simmering pot. If you leave the chili whole you will extract the flavor with out all the heat. I happened to have these habanero chilies growing in my garden. They are one of the hottest peppers, but after fishing the chili pepper out of the soup pot at the end of cooking the broth had a pleasant bite without a major sting.

Cooked green vegetables go into the soup pot towards the end of cooking. I had leftover green beans and broccoli rabe that I chopped into bite sized pieces and added to the mix. Simmer for a few more minutes till all the ingredients are warmed through.
My refrigerator offered up other choice tidbits like grilled onions and zucchini that also got chopped up and thrown in. I wanted a lot of variety of textures and flavors in the soup, but tried to be mindful not to go too crazy, you don't want the soup to be weird. Too late for me. My husband was picking the broccoli rabe out of his bowl and smiling politely.

Chop up some fresh herbs to stir into the finished soup and top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve piping hot!


  1. yes I am also afraid that my friend from NY is also affected on that Irene hurricane till now there is no isp connection...I hope they are okay there. I love the green vetable and your photos are amazing

  2. My family and I have lived with the dread of Hurricane Season for 29 years in South Florida. For the most part we have been lucky. But in 2005 Hurricane Wilma put our catering company out of business so I can totally sympathize with the farmers who have lost their crops. Our very seasonal upscale business thrived for 17 years but Wilma just proved to be too financially devastating to overcome.

    So now I blog, write memoir/cookbooks and teach private, hands on, cooking classes. It seems we have very similar interests.


Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!