Monday, December 14, 2009

On to Winter

I almost don't want to admit it, but I love Whole Foods. I know I should be going to Ellwood Thompson's, but something about the shiny new store keeps drawing me back. Every time I go I find more fresh produce and another intriguing ingredient. On one of my trips, rockfish was on sale, and I brought home a sizeable piece for dinner. I placed it in a foil packet and laid some slices of lemon over the top. After drizzling the fish with olive oil, some dry vermouth, and parsley, I closed the foil and baked it for 15-20 minutes until it was just cooked through.

I spent my first traditional Thanksgiving away from home this year, so my parents and Evan came to Richmond the weekend before the holiday. We went to Helen's, which was Davy's and my second experience there. Both of us remembered the food being impressive but a little fancier and more expensive than we would have liked, but the cuisine and atmosphere at Helen's have relaxed. I would classify our entrees as traditional instead of sophisticated: chicken pot pie, pork tenderloin, a variation of fish and chips, Tuscan pasta, and sirloin. Everything was prepared with care and was extraordinarly delicious.

A few years ago I made a chickpea soup with ditalini that I have craved from time to time every since. I didn't save the recipe, so I was excited to find a very similar version by Jamie Oliver in his book Jamie's Italy. He describes the soup as a cross between a pasta dish and a soup because it is very hearty and thick. The base of the recipe is onion, garlic and celery, and I added a spicy Italian pepper.

Two cans of chickpeas and chicken stock went in after the sauteed vegetables. After everything simmered together, I removed half of the chickpeas and used my immersion blender to puree the other ingredients.

Finally, I added a few ounces of ditalini, let the soup boil until the pasta cooked through, and finished it off with fresh parsley and olive oil. It's a very substantial (meatless) meal, and especially satisfying in cold weather.

As Christmas approaches, there are an increasing number of occasions featuring food. Davy made me a special, tasty dinner of salmon over puff pastry, roasted potatoes, and sauteed chard.

Shannon and John came over yesterday for our annual holiday meal, and there will be some photographic highlights to share later this week, along with another round of Whole Foods encounters.

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