I find time to be a slippery little creature, one who loves endless rounds of hide and seek. Right now time must be hiding because I feel like he got away from me again! When he’s not hiding, he’s running too fast for me to catch him, and every day I feel breathless and exhausted trying to chase him. I’ve been ever-so-slightly in denial about how fast time is moving for me these days. I’m enjoying my job very much, and that makes the passage of time smooth and swift, but it also makes me feel a little dizzy. So I try not to think about it too much so that it won’t bother me.
It doesn’t help that I have a tiny problem with procrastination. It’s nothing major, really, but I usually don’t finish my to-do lists each day, so every tomorrow is like a dustpan for today’s undone chores that get swept up into the next list. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my sweeping—does anyone actually finish their to-do lists each day?—but it does lead to situations like the one on Friday when Matt showed up early at my door and I had to greet him in my bathrobe because I’d been counting on every last second to finish my chore list before he arrived. It sounds a little sexy until you consider that my bathrobe is neon green terrycloth and covered in flaming pink flamingos. The flamingos are kissing, so at least that’s romantic. I was terribly embarrassed, but Matt was too nice to mock me openly. Instead he said, “I brought you thyme!” In my flustered and undressed state, I wished that he really would bring me time, but instead he produced a dainty little herb bouquet and instructed me to put it in water. It occurs to me right now that this is the closest I’ve ever come to receiving flowers from a man, but I like the thyme even more. A man who has good taste in herbs is a man I want to keep around.
We spent a happy weekend together, filled with fresh herbs, music, poetry, and a tortilla factory down the road from me. Then he got in his car and drove away. He left me that little bouquet of thyme, and while I was still swooning from the pleasure of his company, Monday snuck up on me and smacked me over the head. I hate when that happens. I also hate when I start the week with nothing exciting for lunches, not even a bag of salad greens because I ate the last of the spring green mix for Sunday dinner. So tonight, feeling desperate for both more time and lunch-worthy leftovers, I armed myself with my chef’s knife and a hefty soup pot, determined to put Monday back in his place.
During the work week, I find recipes with a lot of prep work to be intimidating. I worry that I’ll find them overwhelming or that I’ll get so hungry while chopping vegetables that I’ll decide to forgo cooking in favor of eating the raw ingredients while standing at the counter, knife still poised for chopping. I guess I’m a bit of a wuss, but at least I’m a healthy wuss who likes raw vegetables and salad. Maybe I’m just a rabbit. At any rate, tonight I embraced my prep cook duties and made a tasty French-inspired stew from my trusty Moosewood cookbook. The stew is a sprightly combination of green beans, fennel, and potatoes simmered in a citrus-spiked tomato broth. It’s a summer-meets-winter stew, refreshing and warming at the same time. Tomorrow, when I go back to chasing time or looking under the couch for him, I’ll have a big pot of leftover vegetable stew, and that makes me feel much, much better about everything.
Green Bean and Fennel Ragout
From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
Makes a lot! At least 6 big servings, I’d reckon.
This list of ingredients looks like a lot of prep work, but everything comes together easily and you’ll be rewarded with a fragrant pot of vegetable stew. In these post-holiday weeks filled with Mondays, a good vegetable stew is a very good thing to have tucked away in the fridge. Add some cheese and, if you like, some bread, and you’ve got dinner. I’ll confess, though, that tonight I had no bread and instead, fished the potatoes out of my bowl of stew and ate them with some very strong blue cheese, the kind that alarmed me with its blueness. But I have no complaints—it was delicious.
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh or dried thyme (I used fresh; dried thyme should give the stew a stronger flavor.)
1 cup water
1 pound of fresh green beans
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced as thinly as you can manage
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
Juice from half a lemon
Plenty of salt and pepper (to taste)
1) In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions for several minutes until glossy and fragrant, then add the garlic and saute for several more minutes until the onions become a bit translucent.
2) Add the potatoes, tomatoes, thyme, and water. Cover the pot and bring everything to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. While the pot is heating up, stem the green beans and snap them into roughly 1-inch pieces. After the pot is simmering nicely, add the green beans, fennel, orange peel, and lemon juice. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, then cover the pot and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the green beans and potatoes are tender. Test a green bean and a potato for doneness before turning off the heat. When everything is cooked to your liking, adjust the seasonings and serve.