Saturday, January 1, 2011

What Real Food Looks Like

I'm having another day where I am inspired to try something new and Mediterranean. I've always been a fan of Giada DeLaurentiis's cooking show and I've made a few recipes from her book Giada's Family Dinners. On this particular day, I decide to try a soup recipe that I've never made before.

Giada's Winter Minestrone has a few things going against it. First of all, it calls for Swiss Chard - an ingredient I have never eaten before and one that sounds bitter and far too green for my taste. Seriously, CHARD? What marketing genius devised that name?

Second of all, it calls for a Parmesan cheese rind - like I should just have a stash of them that I've saved from previous hunks that I've freshly grated over hot pasta. That idea seems as ludicrous as the low cut blouses Giada cooks in. I love her, but c'mon! A rogue splash of hot oil must have singed her bra at least once in her career.

And there is no meat! I never trust a soup recipe that doesn't start with browning some sort of pork product in the bottom of the pan. But I am in the middle of an upswing in motivation, so I step outside of my comfort zone and go for it anyway.

I head to our local Wegmans because they have a cheese counter where I'm hoping to score a leftover  Parmesan rind.  I have to ask the produce guy for help because I am leaf illiterate and couldn't find Swiss Chard. It's two dollars for a rather puny looking bunch, so I buy far less than the recipe calls for and decide that if it's good I'll buy the real amount next time. At the cheese counter I am too embarrassed to ask for any left over rinds, but I stumble upon a stack of rinds that are actually for sale. That' s right, no cheese attached, just a container of five or six Parmesan rinds, all ready for real Italian cooks. I was excited to find exactly what I needed, but the fact that it looked like they were selling what I would normally call "garbage" cracked me up. (Clearly I am easily amused.)

My usual M.O. is to buy fresh produce and then stash it in the crisper, only to throw it out weeks later when it rots and turns into a slimy green science experiment. This time I force myself to get off my butt and make the soup while I'm still inspired. I actually like to cook, so chopping vegetables and assembling a soup is relaxing to me.

Half an hour later I suck in my breath as I am struck by how absolutely gorgeous this soup looks. The best word to describe this soup  is VIBRANT. The canned tomatoes are a brilliant red and they contrast beautifully with the deep green of the Swiss Chard (which turned out to be delicious.) While marvelling over the color in my soup pot, it occurred to me that food that is good for you actually looks good too. We're not supposed to be eating beige carbohydrates out of beige cardboard boxes. We are supposed to be eating natural produce that is the color of the rainbow. Now, somebody remind me of that the next time I top a bunch of Triscuits with Wispride and attempt to call it lunch.

Score one for the Mediterranean Diet!