Dear winter, I hate you.
Running out of the IndependaDen (the improved version 2.0) with my black tea in hand, I try to whip my scarf around my neck only to miss, step on it and nearly strangle myself.
Outside, I find Jane Honda whimpering under 20cm of snow, but I manage to uncover her, jump in, turn her on (in a non-sexual type of way) and we’re off. Driving up the street, Jane’s tires hit a sheet of ice and we spin fast in a mini circle and eventually stop. White knuckling my wheel, I feel a warm sensation between my legs and wonder if I’d pee’d myself (thankfully it was just my black tea). This was enough for me to think about a vacation…pronto.
[Melissa drives back to the IndependaDen, gets out of her car, kicks a snowman in his largest bottom ball, rips off the carrot nose and takes a bite]
Dear winter…I hate you.
One of my favourite places in the world is Italy. Back in October 2009, I traveled there on my own and fell in love with the simplicity of the food, the passion of the people and of course, the wine. Which is exactly why at this very moment, I’m dreaming of going back in September of this year for Part I of the Eat Pray Love Retreat Series I’ve designed with Frontier Wine Tours. There’s something about the spirit of Italy that captures you and helps you rediscover the passion that faded due to our 9-5. With a package that includes car transport, meals, lodging, wine tours, truffle hunting and cooking classes, how can you possibly go wrong?
So while it isn’t September, I’m dedicating myself to giving a little sneak peak of the recipes I learned while in Italy…beginning with a Tuscan white bean soup…delish.
SEXY TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP
4 15oz cans white kidney beans
½ cup thinly sliced leeks
1 whole garlic roasted and cloves set aside and chopped
100gm of pancetta cut into mini chunks
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves chopped
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves chopped
5 basil large leaves whole
1 cup of thinly shredded Napa Cabbage (large bok choy can be used as an alternative)
Salt and pepper as needed – be careful pancetta is salty as it is!
Begin with pancetta in a pan and sauté with leeks until leeks become soft. Set aside.
In a large pot, add drained white beans and four cups of water. Add in garlic and herbs and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove 1 ½ cups of beans on their own and add to the pan of pancetta. With a hand blender or Vitamix, puree soup until smooth and creamy. Add in all items from the frying pan into the pot along with cabbage. Bring to medium heat until cabbage softens and serve with Lavash crackers or crusty bread.
In Chinese Medicine, winter is about grounding ourselves which beans are perfect for since they resemble our kidneys – the root of our energy. And if you’re worried about the tooting factor, throw in a stick of kombu seaweed which you won’t even taste and say farewell to the smelly invasions.
So while we can’t escape shoveling the snow off our cars, the darker days and cabin fever, we can reignite our passion through food, wine and travel. Through this formula, we can build life-long relationships and break bread together and quite possibly prevent the abuse of snowmen everywhere.