How to become "The Best Cook in the World" (by Cade’s standards)

by Maile on March 15, 2012

Aside from the occasional batch of chocolate chip pancakes, I’ve done about zero cooking in the past week or so. I had 2 cans of cannellini beans and one of vegetable broth staring back at me from the narrow ledge behind the kitchen faucet. They’d been sitting there for 3 weeks, trying their best to look pathetic and unwanted, the bottom edge of one can slowly rusting in the small puddles produced from rinsing dishes in a shallow sink. I could almost envision my cooking expertise setting up there beside them, pouting and mumbling, “She’ll forget about me completely before this trip is over. Soon it will be Hungry Man microwave dinners and Taco Bell for every meal.”

To be honest, I kind of had the same fears. Willie (our affectionate name for our bus/rv) isn’t exactly a culinary muse. His kitchen quarters are tight, his burners take light years to bring a pot of water to boil, and his sink can comfortably hold a dirty tablespoon and a small cereal bowl; anything more teeters on complete chaos. Therefore, while my heart wants to cook, my reason says, “Too much work.” So I feed my children yet another bowl of Cheerios and occasionally throw in a Nutella sandwich just to mix it up.

Until yesterday. I simply had to cook something. Forget the fact that our refrigerator was bursting with the fruits of others’ labors (an outstanding veggie soup from Shawn’s Aunt Kate , Panera leftovers, and piles of sweet Florida strawberries); I needed to blow the dust off my fingers and get them wrapped around a spatula and the handle of a frying pan, even if no one ate what they had to offer.

Well, it seems their offerings weren’t half bad; in fact, they even elicited a “You are the best cook in the entire world!” from my dear Cade; wow, I love that kid. Really, though, if you are looking for some hearty fare to make their bowls empty and their bellies full, this is what’s for dinner tonight.

Mai’s Ham and Bean Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ c. sweet onion, chopped (This is about half of a medium onion.)

2 c. cooked ham, chopped (I got this really tasty piece down here in Sarasota at a Farmer’s Market; some local yocal brand. It had a slight hint of maple in it. Mmm. Mmm.)

1 (14 oz.) can vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

¾ tsp. herbes de provence

2 (14 oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained

Saute garlic and onion in oil till soft, about 10 minutes (or 2 hours if you are cooking in Willie). Add ham, broth, bay leaf, and herbes de provence and simmer for 10 minutes. Add beans and cook for 10 additional minutes, and dinner’s done.

I served the soup with simple slices of bread, but if you are feeling a little frisky and happen to have an oven (which Willie does not possess), I’d encourage you to whip up a batch of cornbread and serve this over top a big slice. Merely a suggestion, but a really, really good one at that.

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