My hands stink of onion and garlic and this makes me happy. I cooked yesterday. It's been three weeks or longer since I’ve sliced, sautéed and stirred anything. The week prior to my leaving Ohio I ate most of my meals out with friends, and these past two weeks I’ve either eaten on the road, or in the hotel, with the exception of my three days on the farm where cousin Cheryl cooked for me. A couple of days ago I texted my cousin Jena and said, “I have a hankering for some MOEnastrone. I want to come to your house and cook dinner for you.” She loved this idea.
She was having concrete laid in her back yard, and we worked out Wednesday was a good day for me to keep her dog Luna company while the men worked in the yard. I left the hotel late in the morning and shopped for my ingredients at the Fred Meyer near Jena’s house.
Jena had left out a big pot for me and labeled cabinets so I could find spices, olive oil and utensils. I turned on the burner and drizzled olive oil inside the bottom of the pot. I diced an onion and tossed it in the warm oil. Next was garlic. The knife I used on the onions wasn’t cutting the garlic. I pulled a different knife out of the knife block and fell in love. This very expensive looking knife sliced the garlic like it was butter. Note to self; steal this knife.
As the garlic and onions softened, I added broth and chopped and diced zucchini, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. I’m often asked for my soup recipe, but I don’t have one. Each time I make it, the soup tastes slightly different from the previous batch. It depends on the season and which ingredients I choose. This time I used chicken broth Jena had prepared. I often use vegetable broth if I’m cooking for a group to appease vegetarians. Sometimes in winter I use beef broth as it has a heftier flavor. The two ingredients I always use are kidney beans and tomatoes.
In summer I aim to use almost entirely fresh vegetables. This time I also added frozen baby lima and green beans. Because I was cooking in Jena’s kitchen, I used the seasonings she had on hand at home I use an Italian seasoning mix, but the closest Jena had was an Italian sausage seasoning mix, which added a slight kick to the soup.
As the soup cooked, I looked up recipes for making chicken parmesan. I used the Food Network recipe as my guide, and adapted it slightly. (I never follow a recipe to the letter. I like to leave my own signature on a dish.)
After the chicken went into the oven, I took Luna for a short walk, and by the time we walked in the door Jena was home from work and the chicken was ready for me to add marinara and cheese. Jena opened a bottle of red wine, and we chatted as she prepared salad. We ate outdoors since the night was clear and crisp.