Tuscan White Bean Soup with Pancetta and Rosemary
Rock the Boat: “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…” – Gilligan’s Island theme song
When the sun had set and the food was all gone, it was time to cast off. We invited my friend’s parents, her mother’s cousin and husband (got that?) to come aboard our pontoon, a.k.a. The Party Barge, a.k.a. The Chill Boat, so named because it doesn’t have the speed and sheer power of..well, a speed boat. This simple fact is about to become way important up in here. Especially for, let’s say, someone who has just purchased a waterborne vehicle and is still learning the ropes of boating safety and nautical know-how. Ahem. Anyway, Adam at the helm, puffing on his signature Cuban cigar and donning a classic white captain’s hat, was chatting with the other two men sitting at the rear of the boat (the stern). The women were at the front (the bow), sipping wine and having a wonderful time as we headed back to the marina. Dave’s boat (remember, the powerful speed boat?) was actually being driven by his son, who was gaily making large, lazy circles around The Party Barge from a safe parameter until he decided to straighten out and punch the gas for a joy ride on the last stretch home. Here’s a little F.Y.I. for all you budding boats people: A speed boat with a huge hull and a huge motor creates very large and wide wakes (moving waves) that the boat leaves behind when it is ripping across the water (got that?). No? Think Moses parting the Red Sea. Are you with me?
The Skipper, brave but unsure, did know that he had to turn into the oncoming tsunami so we wouldn’t be broad-sided. But, he didn’t expect what happened next. As he turned into the wave, now a.k.a. Dave’s Big-A$$ Wake, in what seemed like painfully slow motion, and close to something right out of the movie, The Perfect Storm, we went over the Hawaii Five-O barrel wave that tossed our boat like a rag doll, high in the air. You know the saying, “What goes up must come down?” Well, it’s true! The Party Barge took a titanic nosedive and mercilessly plunged into the lake, drenching us to the core. Us being the women. We three looked at each other in muted shock, as we all sat like drowned rats, our hair wet and clothes dripping, mascara running, with our arms crooked at the elbow in delayed defense of the watery onslaught, wine glasses in hand that were all now filled with a nasty, diluted pinkish cocktail of lake water and the remnants of a full-bodied red. Since the water port-rounded us, the men watched the whole thing, in the comfort of dry clothes and dry back seats, snickering enthusiastically, not even bothering to hide their delight in our rather messy misfortune. None of them, including Adam, got sprayed. Not even one tiny drop!
Well, my friend’s mother…oh, shiver me timbers! Buoy, oh, buoy, she got mad. I mean really mad. With her carefully coiffed ‘do now completely soaked and undone, she raised her bejeweled fist in the air, shook it violently, and with her lady-like draw of her sugary South Carolina accent, uncharacteristically screamed a few choice (stern!) words at her son-in-law that would have made a sailor blush. Although we were all freezing at this point (the women, not the men), I laughed out loud as I dried myself off. It was pretty funny, I had to admit. But then, as I tightly wrapped the towel around my shoulders, I looked over at the Capt’n, who was pulling long puffs from his dwindling stogie, staring off in the distance with a guilty look on his face. I thought it unusually odd, his remaining mysteriously silent about the whole thing. Normally, he’d be all over something like this. I believe the appropriate term would be gloating. So, knowing him as well as I do, he was definitely hiding something and I was pretty sure his novice captain’s skills may have been the reason we three had just been involuntarily baptized. I gave him major stink eye. Walk-the-plank kind of stink eye. At first, he avoided my stares and didn’t own up to his maritime mistake. Then, a little chagrined, he sheepishly fessed up. Yes, he had seen the first wake. But not the second monster one that almost swamped us.
Despite the bit of seafaring drama that ended the party on a less than ship-shape note, a few weeks later, we received an incredibly gracious and sweet card from my friend’s mother’s cousin (got that?) gushing about the astonishing surprise set-up of the food, how delicious everything was and went on and on about what a marvelous time they had and that they were still talking about it. My goodness, I thought. Looks like they didn’t even mind the unplanned “swim.” I guess it’s not really a party until something’s broken or someone gets thrown in the pool, huh? I suppose they had a good giggle about it afterwards, too. But probably after the women were safely back on dry land. And, um, in dry clothes. Definitely.
So, join us here each week my friend, you’re sure to get a smile…
Is there anything more soul warming on a cold (okay, and damp) day than a bowl of soup? One wisp of its aromatic steam, laced with woodsy rosemary, flavored with the smokiness of pancetta and richly perfumed with garlic and onions, it’s no wonder this soup is a classic. Quick and easy, too. So, matey…get yourself in the galley and whip up a steaming pot of Italian love!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 onions, diced
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- two (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium; add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned and crispy, about 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Set aside. Add the onions to the hot oil, season with some salt and pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add one cup of the stock to the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining stock, beans, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and Parmesan rind, if using. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves, herb stems and Parmesan rind; add in the cream and Parmesan and cook until soup starts to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes more.
- Taste for seasoning. Coarsely chop the pancetta and scatter a few pieces over each bowl before serving. Drizzle a little extra olive oil and a few shards of Parmesan over the soup, if desired.
I am often asked what light sources I would recommend to those creating a home studio. Honestly, the best source I can think of is natural window light; it’s simple, easy to use and it’s free. (Photographers can go to a lot of trouble shut up in locked rooms with expensive equipment to re-create the look and feel of window light.) Choose a time of day when you like what you see and use it!
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