A Postcard from Mrs. Sundberg's
January 2, 2012
Well, I don't have a lot of time at the moment but I wanted to share with you that Mr. Sundberg and I are hidden away at a lodge in far northern Minnesota, a place I discovered on my recent road trip to Canada. Mr. Sundberg is out snowshoeing (he fell twice trying to get them on and there's not much snow so he's a bit on the crabby side) and I have a short while to relax and take in the lovely view of Lake Superior. I wanted to share the word I chose for the year, and it is "revival." I've decided I need to attend to some things that I've let fall to the side in my life, and return to others that I've left behind. Friendships, embroidery, and giving backrubs. (I'm hoping Mr. Sundberg takes my cue and remembers those wonderful foot massages he used to give me...) And photographs, too. I'm going to dig through mine and enlarge and frame them. Why keep them in a box? Not many things belong in a box, and those that do, do for a reason. Love letters and old keys and tax forms. I'd also like to write a book. I began one once, and I think it might have been alright. Going to return to that. Revive it. Might buy a stick or two of lipstick along the way, too. New color. New Year. Make it glow.
Here's a tummy warmer for the cold month ahead. Call your siblings and invite them over to play board games and share a pot of this wonderful Italian stew.
One-Pot Bean and Pasta Stew (Pasta e Fagioli)
1 pound dried cannelloni beans
5 slices bacon, diced
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
3 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound pasta
5 thyme sprigs
3 tsp salt
10 ounces baby spinach
Pour the beans in a large mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Let sit at least 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat. Once all the fat has rendered, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off all put one T of bacon fat. Cook the onions slowly with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until they caramelize and turn golden brown, about half an hour. Add the celery and cook just until the celery is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Remove half of the onion mixture and reserve with the bacon. Deglaze the pan with a cup of water, scraping up any brown residue that has formed on the bottom of the pan.
Drain the beans and pour them into the pot with the remaining onions. Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover the beans and onions by an inch. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for an hour. After an hour, check the beans every 15 minutes until they are completely soft.
Return the pot to the stove top on medium-high heat. Add the bacon, reserved onions, whole thyme sprigs, remaining salt, and pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Add more water if necessary.
Add the spinach to the pot and stir until it is wilted. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.