Roasted butternut and tomato soup with butter beans

Roasted butternut and butterbean soup

Roasted butternut and butterbean soup

I’ve said again and again that I don’t accept society’s definition of success. I’ve gone on and on explaining that I don’t always value what we’re supposed to value. I like to try to maintain my own definition of what makes a person successful and therefore happy, of what is worth working for. But let’s face it, sometimes it all comes crashing down around you, sometimes it’s just too much effort to think the happy thoughts that keep you aloft and the pixie dust wears off. And then you feel discouraged. I’m sure it happens to everyone, it comes and it goes. But discouragement is of no interest to anyone, so I’ll give you this instead.
dancing dogs
It’s dancing dogs! It’s from 200 BC! It’s from Jalisco, which is in Mexico! It makes me so happy that somebody took the time to make this. It’s so beautiful and joyful and perfect in every way. You can see the original at the Princeton University Art Museum, which is a wonderful place. And today’s Sunday interactive playlist is an easy one. It’s dancing songs, songs about dancing or songs that make you feel like dancing. It will help us all get through these dull grey January days.

And here’s a roasty juicy soup with nice plump butter beans in it and a good dollop of pesto on top. Not hard to make and very tasty. The boys ate it with pasta, as a sort of sauce.

Here’s a link to your interactive play list. Add what you like or leave a comment and I’ll try to remember to add it for you.
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Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Here at The Ordinary’s obvious observation department, we have determined that sunshine feels good. These chilly mornings, when Isaac and I walk to school, we head to the sunny side of the street. When he doesn’t have pockets, he’ll put both of his smooth little hands into one of mine, and swing the whole way to school, which is bad for my back but good for my spirits. I love the feeling of passing from shade into sun on a cold morning. It’s such a small but powerful thing – like when somebody you love pats you on the back as they walk by, and it cheers you all out of proportion with the slightness of the gesture. One of my favorite things about this time of year is watching everybody bask in the sun. We saw a man riding on the back of a truck – standing on the side and holding on with one hand. He had his free arm stretched out, feeling the wind passing and the sun shining down. It must have felt like flying. It stuck in my memory as such a beautiful moment. In the mornings the bluejays gather in the top of the oak trees, where the sun seems to collect like a golden haze – and they eat green acorns and call to each other. I love the sight of vultures on the tops of buildings, lined up in a row facing the sun with their wings stretched out. It’s the simple things, I tell you!

And here’s a simple meal. My poor boys are subjected to so many strange and unlikely food combinations. Sometimes they beg for just a simple meal. One of their favorite is pasta with “smooth” tomato sauce. Well! We had an abundance of tomatoes, and perfect weather for a fire in the backyard. We piled tomatoes and red peppers on the grill and left them for a long time, turning them every once in a while, but basically forgetting about them till the fire went out. We peeled them a little, but left some of the charred peel on, and then we cooked them up into a smooth tomato sauce. The boys loved it! And so did we. It’s ridiculously adaptable. You could add any herbs you like, or olives and capers, or red wine, or shallots or onions, or any other vegetable you have lying around, or cheese. Anything, really! This would make a nice soup, as well, if you add some cream or broth.

Here are five different versions of Sunny Side of the Street!!
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Roasted tomato & white bean soup with wild rice and tarragon

Tarragon soup

My husband said that this soup tastes like a wintery memory of summer. I concocted a soup that tastes like a memory! I can’t tell you how happy I felt, hearing that. There is something about tarragon (and there’s an unapologetic 2 tablespoonfuls of fresh tarragon in this soup!) that tastes like a sensation from a memory or a dream. It’s hard to describe or place, but in some part of your mind it makes perfect sense to you.

I have to tell you, I made this soup in such a roundabout fashion I’m not sure I can make the recipe make sense for anybody else! I don’t have a lot of experience cooking beans from scratch. When canned beans are so good and so cheap, and so easy…well, I tend to rely on them! I also don’t have a lot of experience with slow cooker crock pots. I got one for Christmas (thanks, Ellie!) and I’m still trying to figure out how it works. So here’s what happened…I combined all the ingredients for this soup in a big sauce pan, I brought them to a boil, and then I poured it into a slow-cooker, on high. I left it there for a couple of hours, as I gadded about the neighborhood.

When I returned, I checked the soup, and the beans were still rock hard. So, being an extremely impatient person, I poured the soup back into a big pot, brought it to a boil again, cooked it for another hour, and it was perfect. The truth is, if I made this soup again, I think I’d use canned small white beans, or maybe pre-cook the beans and save the broth to make the soup. The wild rice will still take about 45 minutes to cook, so all the flavors will still simmer nicely together. That’s the recipe I’m going to write down. Someday I’ll try it and let you know how it goes.

Here’s Jimi Hendrix’s sweet Remember. One of my favorite songs ever!
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Patatas bravas and cauliflower soup

You know that Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas? The one with potatoes in a spicy, smokey tomato sauce? This is my soup version of that. Plus cauliflower, for texture, flavor, and because potatoes and cauliflower are such good friends. It’s an easy soup to make, and the broth – warm, rich and spicy, is perfect for the freezingly dreary weather we’ve been experiencing here lately. I wanted it to be very brothy, but if you wanted a thicker soup, I think it would be nice to add a picada at the end…a mixture of toasted almonds, bread fried in olive oil, and garlic, all roughly ground together. I might try that some time! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here’s Mississippi John Hurt’s beautiful Spanish Fandango, and Elizabeth Cotten’s equally heartbreakingly beautiful Spanish Flang Dang.
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