ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

I found this lace collar made by Teena Brown at an estate sale, in a pile of vintage linens:

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My research didn’t turn up anything about Teena Brown, but I did find several other styles of lace collars made by the company on ebay and etsy.

There doesn’t appear to be much demand for this frillery today.  Nevertheless, I did find one willing wearer.  When our puppy Maisy was spayed a few months ago, her incision took forever to heal, and she had to wear the dreaded Elizabethan collar of shame to keep her from licking the wound.  It turned out she didn’t mind wearing it — we think she enjoyed the attention:

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What’s your story, morning glory?

So naturally, I asked her to model the fancy lace collar.

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What’s up, buttercup?

I think I’ve discovered a new market for these vintage collars!

Happily, lace still rules at weddings, and last weekend we saw a display of beautiful lace.  It was my husband’s niece’s wedding — very exciting, especially seeing as she is the first grandchild (or cousin, as my kids see it) on either side to get married.  Her lace gown was stunning:

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And her lacy wedding cake was beautiful:

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Inspired by the lace collar and the beautiful lace gown, I made Italian Wedding Soup, which is really great on the cold nights we’ve been having lately.  If you’re not going to serve the whole pot in one sitting, I suggest not adding the pasta to the pot.  Instead, add pasta to individual soup bowls just before serving to help keep it from getting mushy.

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the meatballs:
  • ½ pound ground veal
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup plain bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium head escarole, chopped
  • ½ cup small pasta, uncooked
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the veal, beef, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, grated cheese, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Form into 1-inch meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove meatballs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions , drain, and set aside.
  2. For the soup: Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and saute until onion is golden. Add the garlic and saute one minute more. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the escarole, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for a few minutes more, until meatballs are heated through. Just before serving, stir in the pasta. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese, if desired.

IMG_3520These pasta circles are a fun shape

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The meatballs brown nicely in the oven, no frying necessary

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Escarole and its many shades of green

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A satisfying soup, worthy of a special occasion

HEARTY HAM AND BEAN SOUP

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I found this giant hammered copper ladle at an estate sale.  It’s 17 inches long, and the bowl holds a whopping 24 ounces.  I can’t wait to buy a cauldron so I can use it.

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Have you heard the joke about the missing ladle?  A college student invites his mother over to eat dinner with him and his new roommate. When his mother arrives, she can’t help but notice how beautiful his new female roommate is.  The son assures her that they’re just roommates and their relationship is strictly platonic.  The mother enjoys a nice dinner, and later goes home.  Two weeks later, the girl tells her roommate that ever since his mother visited, she can’t find her silver gravy ladle.  So the son writes his mother a letter saying, “Mom, I’m not saying that you ‘did’ take the silver gravy ladle, and I’m not saying that you ‘did not’ take the silver gravy ladle, but the fact remains that it has been missing since you came over for dinner.”  The mother wrote back saying, “Son, I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with your roommate, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with your roommate, but the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the ladle by now.”

According to information on Snopes, versions of this joke have been around since 1840.  Variations on who is sleeping together include a housekeeper and an employer/pastor/Bill Clinton.  You, of course, can substitute whoever you want when you tell the joke.  :)

The ladle, of course, inspires me to make soup.  Even though the temperatures are rising here, we still enjoy soup for an occasional meal.  If, by chance, you have a leftover ham bone, you have the beginnings of a great, hearty soup.  The soup is not particularly pretty, although you could put some lipstick on it with chopped herbs. Rather, its beauty lies beneath the surface in its smoky flavor and chewy bits of ham, and the fact that a hearty pot of bean soup is one of the highest and best uses of a ham bone.  The soup reminds me of the little camellia bush in my backyard.  It was diseased, and its curled yellowing leaves made it anything but pretty.  We were going to rip it out, but instead treated the infestation and left it to see what would happen.  Just when I was ready to give up on it, I noticed something peeking out from the leaves, and discovered one perfect white camellia flower.  Despite the fact that it was not, at this time, a beautiful glossy green bush, it nevertheless delighted me with what was hiding beneath the surface.

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For this batch, I used Jacob’s Cattle Beans, also known as Trout or Dalmatian beans, which is an heirloom bean originally from Germany.  According to Slow Food, “legend has it that it was a gift from Maine’s Passamaquoddy Indians to Joseph Clark, the first white child born in Lubec, Maine.”  These are fat, kidney-shaped, white and maroon splashed beans that are great in soup and slow-cooker dishes because they hold their shape, even when cooked for hours, resulting in a meaty, not mushy, bean.

HAM AND BEAN SOUP
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dried beans
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large meaty ham bone
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried cayenne chilies
Instructions
  1. Rinse beans in a colander. Place beans in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. (Or, skip boiling water and soak beans overnight in a covered pan.) Drain and rinse beans.
  2. In the same pan combine beans, 5 cups fresh water, pork hocks or ham bone, onion, celery, bouillon granules, parsley, thyme, and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-3/4 hours. Remove pork hocks or ham bone; set aside to cool. Mash beans slightly. Stir in parsnips or rutabaga and carrots. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, cut meat off bones and coarsely chop. Discard bones. Stir meat and spinach into saucepan. Cook until heated through. Makes 4 or 5 servings.

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