Ciao'd while nibbling peppermint bark. 

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Happy Holidaze! My fingers ache from online shopping. My feet relentlessly remind me (at 3 AM) of time spent cooking and baking. My derrière seems to expand every day, no thanks to cocktailing and celebrating at various holiday soirées. It's time for a rejuvenating, healthy bowl of soup. And this one's a winner. 

Farro Soup with Beans, Broccoli, and Chicken Sausage is just the foundational recipe. You can add other vegetables (cubed potatoes, green beans, and peas come to mind). If you are of the vegetarian persuasion (shout out to Glo and Randee), you can take that route. Simply omit the sausage and use water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. Go for broke and add tubetti pasta for a farro-y take on pasta e fagioli. 

I'm giving a dinner party this weekend. Rather than serving an over-the-top menu, I'm thinking of offering this soup with warm crusty bread and a salad. For real. Cozy vibes all around! 

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Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, complement the earthy flavor of farro. Sure you can use canned beans (use 2 cups if you opt for this route) but the texture of the cooked dried beans is so much more substantial. You can also opt to make this a vegetarian soup. Simply omit the sausage and use water or vegetable stock rather than chicken stock. This is a hearty, satisfying soup that tastes even better on the second or third day. It freezes well, too.

Serves 6 to 8

1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fully cooked chicken or turkey sausages, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup farro
One 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock or water, more as necessary
2 cups broccoli florets
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Place the beans in a large, heavy pot. Cover with water about 2 inches above the beans. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Let the beans soak in the water for 1 hour and then drain.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pot along with a ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, scraping up any brown bits of sausage from the bottom of the pan, until the onion has softened and turned translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the farro, beans, tomatoes, sausage, and stock. Bring to a boil, and then decrease the heat and simmer until the farro and beans are tender, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and stir to combine.

Serve the soup and pass the Parmesan at the table.

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Ciao'd after eating rice pudding - no raisins! 


When my husband and I were startled out of our sleep by the ruddy smell of fire, we thought our home was on fire. No. And then we thought a house in the neighborhood was afire. No again. Instead, there were thousands of homes and vineyards burning 40 miles north of us in Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

We didn’t realize the terror until the next morning, which I shouldn’t term “morning” at all. The sky had disappeared. The light was little more than a smudge. The sun rested against a pillow of grey. Powdery ash punctuated the air. Shards of black, the afterlife of trees and, bless them, people’s homes, wallowed at the bottom of our pool and on the wide white arms of our Adirondack chairs. I gazed through my kitchen window at a surreal, sorrowful and dreamlike landscape. Any color I could discern lurked only in the sepia tinge of the air. The green leaves had dissolved into the brown branches. Sparrows and squirrels went about their business in grey camouflage. Even the red hummingbird feeders had assumed a plum hue.

Smoky air is different than fog, a familiar visitor to those of us who live near
San Francisco. Smoky air doesn’t come on little cat feet like fog (thank you, Carl Sandburg). It infiltrates and then it hangs. Smoke doesn’t wear fog’s mantle of misty and cool. It’s heavy and smothering. And unlike fog, which can highlight the colors it surrounds, smoky air mutes everything into a single muddy gradient.  

 Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi began spinning in my head and would not let go.

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

When the air cleared, my mind did, too. My eyes opened wider. The sky flaunts all manner of blue depending upon where your gaze alights. Cerulean, cornflower, steel, Duke, Yale and UCLA blue. Far from one note, the sparrows flock in a fluttering mix of grey, white, black, and brown. The squirrel flourishes red highlights in its fur. The Adirondack chairs are whiter than white. They glow with their whiteness. There is so much green. The lime green of the lime trees. The yellow-green in the bamboo. The Japanese maples strutting autumnal dappled greens.  The grass outside the kitchen is bright, the sage in the garden is silver-green. I could go on and on with this green thing.

I know, I know. It’s not lost on me that the “green thing” signifies life, renewal and nature. It's a promise and I believe that promise will be kept. Soon green will return to the fire-ravaged areas to the north. It will manifest itself in new beginnings of the structural and soulful kind.  

During times like this, manifested in wildfires, hurricanes, and the playpen aka the White House, sorrow and helplessness can permeate our days like smoky air. We all have different means of dealing with the unfathomable. My friend, Tori Ritchie, wrote a heartfelt and heart wrenching post on her blog, Tuesday Recipe, today. And then she shared a recipe “that might make you feel better.” It’s a recipe for Farro, Squash & Kale with Currants. I could not have shared a more spot on recipe myself so I’m spinning the spotlight to Tori. And I’m making that Farro goodness tonight. #grateful #lifeisshort #letseattogether

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