filling the empty nest with food

Distracted Cook or Creative Genius?

So, which is it?  You’re rushing to make a Sunday night dinner that won’t take too much of the afternoon but at the same time you hope will impress your son and his girlfriend enough so they’ll want to come back again to keep you company in your now big-and-empty house.

I’d only promised “soup” for dinner but couldn’t bring myself to serve only that.  Baking powder biscuits would accompany the soup, since I’ve embarked on a probably crazy project to stop buying prepared foods–which includes no store-bought bread.  (More on that later.)

Simple meals for guests is not usually my way, so I thought I’d whip up a chocolate cake with mocha icing for dessert.  Like the gingerbread last week, this has been on my mind for a while.  Well, it turned out to be a bad idea (or a genius plan!) to start both the Tuscan White Bean soup and chocolate cake at the same time, and be making part of each on the same stove in pans right next to each other.  I measured a teaspoonful of vanilla for the chocolate and butter mixture and mindlessly poured it right into the soup.  Yikes!

Too late to remove it.  How, actually, can you remove a liquid from a liquid?  Probably a question for a Chemistry teacher.  (Where is Walter White when you need him?)  I tried anyway and hoped the vanilla hadn’t spread throughout the soup before I quickly scooped it out with a big spoon and hoped the soup wasn’t ruined.

But then I thought about Mexico molé and what an unlikely combination that is–chocolate in a sauce with chiles, tomatoes, dried fruits and spices.  Maybe that dish got created by some harried, distracted cook back in the day. Fortunately, the soup turned out fine.  No-one remarked on the vanilla flavor.  Maybe they were being polite, or maybe it added just the right touch of savory-sweetness to enhance the Italian sausage and navy beans.

My soup recipe is an old one, from a 1973 cookbook titled The Seasonal Kitchen by Perla Meyers.  Not sure if it’s in print anymore, but the Tuscan White Bean soup is simple and delicious.  With or without the teaspoon of vanilla.

Tuscan White Bean Soup

1 cup dry white beans

2 tbsp lard or sweet butter

1 large onion, finely minced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

5 cups strong beef stock


1 Bouquet Garni, including a small sprig of sage

1 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground white pepper

2 small spicy sausages, thinly sliced


  1. Soak the beans overnight in cold water.  Drain them the next day and reserve.
  2. In a large casserole, heat the lard or butter.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft but not browned.
  3. Add the drained beans, the stock, a pinch of salt and the bouquet garni.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook partially covered until the beans are very soft.  About 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  4. Cool the soup, remove the bouquet and puree the soup in a blender until it is very smooth.
  5. Return the soup to the saucepan and add the cream and season with salt and pepper.
  6. A few minutes before serving, add the sliced sausages, heat them through and serve the soup very hot accompanied by crusty bread and sweet butter.

5 comments on “Distracted Cook or Creative Genius?

  1. chasandsuenichols
    October 20, 2012

    LOVE your blog…I didn’t know you you loved to cook/bake! The gingerbread cake recipe is one I want to try. Thanks for writing such an entertaining food blog!

  2. Noah Christians
    October 20, 2012

    What a great soup, I think next time you should just go on ahead with the cooking experiment and see what comes out!

  3. Caroline
    October 20, 2012

    Aren’t all cooks harried and distracted? Sounds like a great soup. And the cake….?

    • Catherine
      October 20, 2012

      Good point. Stay tuned for the chocolate cake.

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This entry was posted on October 19, 2012 by in Recipes.

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