I was a bit saddened by this NYTimes article – couples where one person is the alpha cook and doesn’t give up control, watching his partner’s every kitchen move, and sometimes (gasp!) putting them down! This made me sad, for food, to me, is one of many ways we show that we care, extend ourselves, and bond with others. While I am extremely detail oriented and a perfectionist in the kitchen, I am also of the persuasion that I don’t need to be in control in the kitchen all the time. Quite the opposite, I find it quite refreshing to kick back and let someone else do the work in the kitchen. Provided of course, that the person cooking know what he’s doing. Luckily for me, the BF is that person, knowingly navigating the kitchen and teaching me a thing or two in the process.
Which brings me, perhaps, to a bit of a name change here. After I sang him praises and vowed to give him due credit for this entry’s meal, he decided he no longer wanted to go in the disguise of the vacuous and impersonal label of BF, and instead adopt a nom-de-plume of Konstantin Steel (the K, being my Russification of his vision, I’m sure). If you start wonder where on earth he came up with such a name, then I’ll allude to a discussion we once had of what our names would be if we were exotic film stars. His was Konstantin Steel; mine – will remain a deep, dark secret. Ha!
But back to all things cooking-related; this week, I’ve cooked almost nothing. Work’s been quite demanding and there was Valentine’s Day in the middle as well. I did accomplish quite a bit last week, on the kitchen front, but I’ve yet to blog about it – I am SO behind (head down in shame).
But KS, my goodness, he was a cooking superstar this week. He picked up my slack and raised it up a notch. So not only did he make me a sublime dinner of Lobel’s steak with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and roasted green beans for Valentine’s Day (I’m still faint from it), but last night, he whipped up this Tuscan White Bean soup that hit just the spot. He even soaked the beans the night before. All I did was chop the vegetables for our customized mirepoix and eat the soup. Not bad for an alpha cook! Not to mention yesterday morning when he made us delecable huevos rancheros, toasted tortillas and everything, and all I did was pour coffee and grab some forks.
So you see, I relinquish kitchen control quite easily, in fact, KS and I switch the alpha cook roles depending on who is cooking what and who’s specialty it is. Today, for example, I promised to make him those white chocolate, pignolia nuts, cranberry cookies he’s been asking for weeks. While I’d rather not mention repeats here, the cookies were such a hit, I’m still hearing about them two months after Christmas. This will be my alpha cook moment – but last night, I was quite happy in the beta category, playing sous-chef and staying out of the way.
In the end, I think that two very competent cooks can play nicely in the kitchen – it’s just a matter of taking turns, giving up a little control, and most importantly realizing that the person who is cooking for you is crafting a gift of love, and what can be more perfect that that?
1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy (2 cups), picked over and rinsed
1/4 lb sliced pancetta or soppresatta, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (32 fl oz)
4 cups water
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 lb Swiss chard (preferably red or rainbow), stems discarded and leaves halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon salt
4 pieces of thick, rustic bread, toasted (optional)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely minced
Soak beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches in a bowl at room temperature at least 8 hours. Drain in a colander.
Cook pancetta in oil in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Cook the remaining vegetables minus garlic in oil remaining in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, stock, water, basil, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Discard bay leaf.
Stir in Swiss chard and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
Cook’s Note: we didn’t have Swiss chard on hand, so we made the soup without – it was still lovely and delicious, but this is why there’s no chard in pictures.