Bright stew (with tiny potatoes, white beans, castelvetrano olives and meyer lemon) and 3-wheat medley (with farro, bulgur, and freekeh)

potato, olive, white bean and meyer lemon stew

potato, olive, white bean and meyer lemon stew

It’s a winter storm! It has a name, and I think it’s Janus, which is fitting, I suppose, this being January. Janus was the god of beginnings and change, of gates, doors, passages, journeys, endings, and time, the future and the past. But sitting here, looking out upon snow upon snow upon snow, I don’t feel inspired to start anything new, to embark on any journeys, to open any doors, be they real or metaphorical, and let the icy winds blow into my home. More arctic cold is predicted for the rest of the week. That’s right, it’s winter and we’re experiencing wintery weather. And everybody is talking about it, which is fine by me because I heartily approve of talking about the weather, I think it’s a weighty and important subject. But I also believe that if people have a problem with this weather, it’s because they made the wrong choice in being human. Obviously, they should have been dormice. I’m dormouse-obsessed at the moment. I saw a picture of a hibernating dormouse in Isaac’s magazine, and I’m completely enamored. Listen to this wisdom. They sleep all of winter and a good part of fall and spring. They don’t scurry around hoarding food, they just eat it! And get (relatively) plump! And then they curl up and sleep very soundly for months. Plus, they’re arboreal. They’re mice who live in trees. They have extravagant whiskers. They have bright dark eyes. They eat hazelnuts and berries. I want to eat hazelnuts and berries! They have little hands and feet and fluffy tails. They sleep so soundly that people can pick them up and record the sound of them snoring, which is apparently a thing that people do…


(look at his little hands and feet tremble!)


This is a juvenile dormouse in a torpid state.

If it’s snowing where you are, or raining, or the least bit cold, you should probably just stay inside and watch these BBC dormouse videos.

Or you could make this nice bright stew. It has tiny potatoes, but you could use larger potatoes and cut them up. It has small white beans, and white wine, and rosemary, thyme and sage. It has spinach and castelvetrano olives, and the juice of a meyer lemon. It’s nice in winter, because it’s savory and satisfying, but vivid and green and juicy as well. It would be nice in spring or summer with fresh new potatoes and baby spinach. I served it over a medley of wheat grains…bulgur, farro, and freekeh. I thought they were nice together because they each have a different texture. We had some goat cheese caper toasts, too, which I might tell you about another time.

Your song for today is this whistling dormouse.


Bright Winter Stew

2 T olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 t dried rosemary
1 t dried sage, or 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 t thyme
1 pound tiny potatoes, washed, or larger potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 heaping cup)
1/3 cup white wine (++)
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained
3 packed cups spinach, washed, large stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup (heaping)castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
1 T butter
juice of one meyer lemon
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and stir and cook for a minute or two. Add the garlic and the spices, stir and cook for about half a minute. Add the potatoes. Stir them around to coat them with oil and spices, and continue to cook them for a minute or two until they and the garlic start to brown. Add the wine. Stir, then cook until the wine is reduced and syrupy, after a few minutes. Add the white beans, stir and cook for a few minutes. Then add just enough water to reach the top of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are nearly tender, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Add the spinach and olives, and a little more water if the pan is too dried out. Stir, cover and simmer until the potatoes are exactly right for you. For me, that means tender, but not mushy. Add the butter, squeeze in the lemon juice, season well with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Serve with 3 wheat medley or with any grain you like, or just on its own!

3 Wheat Medley

1 T butter
1/2 t each dried oregano and basil
1/3 cup freekeh
1/3 cup farro
1/3 cup bulgur
2 cups water
salt, plenty of pepper, and more butter

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the herbs, and then the grains. Stir and toast for a few minutes. You want to smell them toasting, and smell that the butter is getting a bit browned. Add the water, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until all the grains are cooked and the water is absorbed. The farro will remain a little crunchier than the bulgur or the freekeh. Turn off the heat and leave the pot covered for a few minutes. Then fluff, season, and add more butter.

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