Malibu Way of Life

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Simple gifts differingExperts say that Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, so many of you will be bundling up and buckling down to do battle in the malls. But, I have another suggestion. In my experience, the greatest gift is the simplest one – it is the gift of love, and with love, the best gift you can give in return is time. Unfettered, unstructured, unconditional time.

It is easy in our lives filled with to-do lists and a thousand daily chores to forget. Love is such a simple gift that often arrived unbidden and without strings or obligations – as though an angel appeared on the doorstep and said, “Hello, I’m here to love you, listen to you, stay by you and do anything I can to help you.” These gifts may be our children, good friends, our pets or even business associates. Too often, we are grateful they’re there, but we’re sooooo busy, their importance goes unnoticed.

Recently, I lost two great loves quite suddenly and, in missing them, I realize how much I treasure the time we shared and how little the busy-ness that kept us from each other really mattered. I think about the gifts we gave each other and I see that the best were the thoughtful little tokens of time we shared.

So, if you go out shopping this Friday, think about making it a day to share with someone you love. Go without a list and without a deadline. Laugh often and take your time. And, at the end of the day, give thanks for all you share. Happy holidays!

MINESTRONE

I selected this recipe for three reasons. First, it can be doubled or even tripled to feed a crowd- we often use it for church suppers – or, it can be saved for a few days where it, too, improves with time and can feed your family a satisfying meal after a busy day. Second, with just a salad and some bread to sop up the luscious broth, this becomes a hearty, simple dinner everybody loves. Omit the bacon and use vegetable broth instead of beef and even vegans will adore it. Finally, and most happily, this is a recipe that invites sharing in the making. Even novice chefs can chop, stir or open cans so preparation often becomes a shared memory of good times in the kitchen.

4 slices of bacon

1/4 cup olive oil

3 large onions, sliced thin

1tsp. sugar (or 1 packet sweetener)

1 cup carrots, peeled and diced (about 4)

1 cup celery, diced

1/2 pound green beans, diced

2 medium zucchini, diced

1 small cabbage – Napa or Savoy, cored and shredded

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 Tbs. tomato paste

2 cups beef stock

2 cups water

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

2 tsp. rosemary, chopped

2 tsp. thyme, chopped

2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbs. salt, to taste

Ground pepper and/or red pepper flakes, to taste

1 small can cannellini beans, drained

1/2 cup fusilli – or any other short pasta

1/2 cup grated Parmesan – the best you have

3 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped

1. In a large heavy pot, cook bacon until almost crisp, drain and set aside. In the same pan, heat olive oil. Turn down the heat and add onions. (If you use sugar, add it here). Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden – about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook another 20 minutes until they caramelize. (Watch carefully – if they burn, the soup will taste bitter.)

2. Add carrots, celery and green beans and cook until they start to color and turn soft. Add zucchini and cabbage and cook, stirring, another 10 minutes. Add liquid ingredients and seasonings and bring to a boil. (If you are using sweetener, add it here). Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer an hour to an hour-and-a-half – until the cabbage is completely wilted. (If you want to wait a day or two to serve it, stop here and refrigerate until you are ready for the last step).

3. Add the beans and cook 20 minutes more. Add pasta and cook until al dente – probably another 10. Adjust seasoning.

Serve hot or at room temperature with Parmesan, crumbled bacon and basil.