Monday, December 4, 2006

Eating Soup for Two

Please God, let me finish this post without getting nauseous.

I miss blogging. I miss cooking interesting things. I miss eating out. I miss a lot of things. I don't mean "miss" in a crave sort of way, but in a I-remember-doing-those-things-once sort of way. What do I crave? Oh, what I wouldn't give right now for a bowl of potato vereniki (what in Polish and now English are called pierogies) with that toothsome homemade dough, the creamy potatoes, and the sweet golden onions. Actually, pretty much anything potato is my new best friend. And meat, particularly really fatty ground meat -- yes, the stuff I normally eat about once a year.

No, I was not abducted by aliens and replaced with the meat and potato obsessed person. I am just pregnant :) It's all very exciting, but also very unfamiliar territory for me. It was reassuring to have Jen, another pregnant woman, in one of my classes this weekend. After a few weeks of "evening sickness" (my "morning sickness" happens right around dinner time), I was sadly starting to get used to the idea that this is how my life will be from now on. But Jen reassured me that it gets better after a few months. I found it interesting that she also craved all the foods she ate in her childhood. I've cooked more Russian food in the last 3 weeks than I've cooked in the whole last year. I took this chance to perfect my pirozhki dough, so at least I am learning something in the kitchen.

Teaching has been surprisingly therapeutic. It's my chance to make all the dishes I can't actually eat because I know someone else will be enjoying them. All my usually favorite winter veggies (butternut squash, delicata, celery root) make me sick. But cooking them with my students last friday gave me a virtual experience of tasting them.

Soups have been my one salvation. I can't seem to figure out how to make healthy meat and potatoes, so soups provide me with a comfort food fix and an easy way to sneak something good for me into my diet. Today I made a kale bean soup that was really satisfying and healthy. If I keep this up for a few days, I'll reward myself with potato vareniki.

Kale Bean Soup

Feel free to substitute any beans that you like for great northern (also known as cannellini) and cranberry beans. You can even use drained canned beans (about 1 jar for 1 cup dry beans). You'll just need to add water or stock to your soup instead of bean cooking liquid.

Serves 6-8

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bunch kale, well-washed
1 cup dry great northern beans, cooked*
1 cup dry cranberry beans, cooked*
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
  1. Set a large stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally until onions are tender and golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove stems from kale and discard. Coarsely chop kale leaves.
  3. Add garlic, tomatoes, and kale to the pot. Mix all ingredients up. Cover the pot and turn up the heat to high. Cook until kale is wilted, 4-5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium. Add a generous pinch of salt and cook uncovered stirring occasionally until kale is tender, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the beans with their cooking liquid and enough water to make the consistency of the soup that you like. If using canned beans, use plain water or stock for liquid with 1/2 cup dry white wine.
  5. Season to taste with salt. Add bay leaf and simmer until the liquid absorbs the flavor of the other ingredients, about 15 minutes.
  6. Serve with good crusty bread.
*How to cook beans:
Since each type of beans has it's own cooking time (which is kind of unpredictable because it depends on the age of the beans) soak and cook each type of beans separately.
  1. Put the beans in a bowl, cover with cold water (at least 3 cups water per cup of beans) and let the beans sit overnight.
  2. Discard any floaters or strange looking beans. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
  3. Place them in a pot and cover with 4 cups cold water.
  4. Do not cover with lid and don't add salt! Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water just starts to boil, turn down the heat to low. The liquid should be less active than traditional "simmering." You shouldn't see any bubbles and should have to look at the pot for at least 5 seconds to detect any movement.
  5. Great northern and cranberry beans will take about an hour to cook +/- 20 minutes. After the first 40 minutes, taste them every 10 minutes to see how they are doing.
  6. When the beans are tender, generously season the cooking liquid with salt. Add 2 Tbsp dry white wine, and take the beans off heat.
Yay -- I finally got to write a whole post without being sick. Running to the bathroom between paragraphs does not inspire particularly good food writing ;)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations helen. This is wonderful news for you and Jason. So sorry you experience the "evening" sickness. it shall pass, as told by good friends of mine who went through it!

Kalyn Denny said...

Congratulations. I'm very happy to hear this good news for you.

Mrs. M. said...

Congrats, Helen! I suppose the plus side to morning sickness is that you will cook quite a lot of soup and post the recipes. :)

Anonymous said...

Mazel tov!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! And, love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Helen!!!! What exciting times. All the best,


Anonymous said...

There must be something in the air. I wrote about this exact thing today...
I Miss Tacos

And white bean and escarole soup was on the menu last night!

Dianka said...

Congratulations, Helen! What wonderful news and I'm happy for you. Good luck with the cravings, I can't even imagine how hard it must be. The soup looks like great comfort food for you and your baby!

Helen said...

Hi guys,

Thank you so much for all your good wishes! Your thoughts must be with me today because I've been feeling fine for a change :)


Anonymous said...

Wow! This is great- I am pregnant also (8 weeks) and though I haven't been hit by nausea I can certainly agree w/having cravings for saurkraut and basically anything pickled! (I was in the mood for pickled beets, maybe even borscht so I decided to check your site for some ideas)...What a suprise to learn about your pregnancy!
So tell me, though you are probably not in the mood, is sushi really off-limits right now??
-fellow sushi lover, (you may remember me from 9/9 class)

Helen said...

Hi Heather,

Congratulations on your pregnancy :) We'll be due about the same time (I am 10 weeks).

About sushi -- I know I'll be making some people gasp, but I am eating almost everything that is supposed to be a no-no (unpasteurized cheese, rare meats, smoked meats and fish, and yes, even sushi). I also drink about 2-3 oz of wine (about 1/2 a glass) with dinner on regular basis. Shocking, I know. Here is my take on these things. There is no data to support the claim that small amounts of alcohol are dangerous. All data they have is that for alcoholic mothers (5+ drinks a day). I realize there is a risk associated with unpasteurized cheese, rare meats, and sushi. But there is also a risk with any raw vegetable (how about that spinach scare we just had and scallions about a year ago). But they don't tell us not to eat raw veggies, do they? In France, any cheese and small amounts of wine are fine during pregnancy, but not a salad or any raw produce. They are actually onto something.

After talking to people from other countries, I think I finally understood a formula for what is considered forbidden during pregnancy -- anything exotic. In Russia, it's spicy food, but caviar and smoked meat and fish are absolutely fine. In Japan sushi is no problem. In US, we like to think that food is fundamentally dangerous and it's not worth the risk because it's purpose is to feed us not bring us pleasure. So in US, a ton of stuff is forbidden (my recent discovery is that even honey is!)

Is sushi really dangerous? The parasites are not an issue since all the fish served raw in restaurants has to be previously frozen (except for tuna that's not prone to them). There is a bacteria risk too, but fish served for sushi in a reputable place is very fresh and I am yet to hear of food poisoning due to raw fish served in restaurant. It's important to remember that these "dangerous" foods can't quietly harm your baby while you are feeling fine. It's just that your immune system is a bit weaker when you are pregnant, so if the food is spoiled to begin with, it might effect you more than a non-pregnant person.

Is there something I won't eat? Yes -- burgers, because the only ones worth eating to me are done medium rare. The bacteria on meats and fish grows on the outside. If you eat a rare steak, the outside gets cooked no matter how rare the steak is inside. When you eat a burger, the meat on the inside that doesn't get cooked could very well have been on the outside to begin with. If I could see them cutting a fresh piece of meat and grinding it a few hours before serving the burgers, I'd go for it. But I worked in a restaurant and I know that's not how burgers are made. That ground beef likely sat for days.

So, do what you are comfortable with. My ob/gyn put it in very good terms. She said that if you'll feel guilty about it when your 8 year old brings home a C, don't do it. If you are willing to realize that there are many factors that effect your baby's health and cognition and you are willing to take an educated risk -- go for it. Of course, she also mentioned that they are not allowed to say that officially ;)

I view it this way -- any risk you could possibly take with food is way lower than the risk of driving in Boston (or anywhere else for that matter).

Congratulations again, and best wishes for an easy pregnancy!


Urban Agrarian said...

The morning/evening sickness along with any fatigue will all pass. People told me this, (now many years ago ) but I still remember being surprised when it actually did.

PS You may wany to stay far away from my blog for a while. I doing a chicken butchering series.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I had an inclining this might be the case during our last class ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Helen! Very exciting news. The sickness will pass. Have you tried saltines? They helped my wife during both pregnancies.

I had never heard of cranberry beans, so I of course immediately Googled it. 42,800 entries! I'll have to seek them out.

Helen said...

Hi guys,

Thanks all for stopping by and wishing me well.

Katya: hope all is going well and happy holidays to you and Leonid! Yes, I just found out that I was pregnant when I started teaching the Fish class at Newton :)

Urban agrarian: chicken butching... hmm, I don't think that would bother me (at least in the virtual blog world ;)

Roundie: Congratulations on your pregnancy! Glad you found my post about mercury useful. It's really not as bad as the media would like to have you believe :)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Helen!

Sarah Bell said...

Hi Helen,
Last weekend I made a pot of your bean kale soup. I posted on my own blog my huge success with it! I joked that I shouldn't give out my secret substitutions, but really, all I did was use adzuki beans instead of the cranberry beans, which can't be much different. I love that the kale stays relatively crunchy. Kale has such a great texture. Do you have other recipes that showcase kale?