Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuscan Bean Soup and Anise Cookies

Today's primary cooking projects are a Tuscan Bean Soup and Anise Cookies.  These two quite different dishes have one important feature (not to say "ingredient") in common:  time.  To make bean soup, you have to start the beans soaking the night before.  And then, because I still have the turkey carcass in the freezer from Thanksgiving and the time to devote to doing it, I'm making the stock for the soup from scratch.  (By the way, I am not dogmatic about this the way some cooks and cookbooks are.  I think there are some really good packaged stocks out there, and I don't mind using them when I don't have homemade stock around.)

The anise cookies, a Christmas tradition in Sue's family, are very old-fashioned.  They are leavened by ammonium carbonate (smelling salts!), which takes a lot of time to work.  So you mix up the dough from superfine sugar, eggs, flour, and the ammonium carbonate.  You roll out the cookies with a fancy rolling pin that leaves designs on the dough and cut the decorated dough into squares.  Then you place the cookies on a baking sheet that is sprinkled with anise seeds.  THEN they have to stand for at least 8 hours.  It's better if they rest overnight.

Both require the cook to plan ahead, and this is not particularly how I ordinarily like to cook.  I prefer, really, to grab a pan and get going.  But this is the week for long-range plans, perhaps in preparation for the New Year's resolutions.  (I have a rib roast dry-aging in the fridge per Alton Brown.  I will cook it Saturday.  THAT'S planning.)

I will try to document all the dishes for the blog.  Please be patient.  I'm new at this.

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