Deep Freeze

Winter

I walked home from my neighborhood grocery store last night, my toes gone numb, head bent against the wind, reusable bag filled to the brim with provisions, and I realized how much I love living in Chicago.

photo by @andrew_glatt
Chicago is the next Nordic country

Every few winters, Chicago falls into the organized chaos of preparing for the extreme cold. The grocery store was a microcosm of a city-wide event, everyone banding together in anticipation of the inevitable deep freeze. 

Most days at the grocery store, neighbors are all too happy to run you down in the aisle. Yesterday they made a little more space for each other. The liquor section was hilariously packed. I heard two strangers exchange their favorite cabernets, knowing the value of small joys over the next few days. As I was walking to the exit, my scarf was caught behind me and I grasped for the end, encumbered by my groceries and work tote. Another woman saw my struggle and pulled the end over my shoulder, telling me to stay warm out there. I love Chicago!

There is something liberating about being locked indoors. Especially in the self-care era we now reside. I will be working from home but I plan to stick to strict start and end times. Normally when I work from home I start early and end late. Instead, I have an achievable morning and afternoon to-do list. I’m going to enjoy a little mid-day workout with my free trial on the Pelaton app (can I convince Max to participate? I’m not holding my breath).

Tonight, I’m making a cold-weather staple from The Wooden Spoon, a cooking school here in Chicago (recipe below). The background noise to it all is a toss-up: the new season of Schitt’s Creek, picking up where I left off on Killing Eve, or trying to recommit to Game of Thrones (I’m the only one on the planet who can’t get into GOT). Or maybe just some groovy Leon Bridges Spotify radio.

Throughout, I’ll be checking in on Instagram and enjoying the camaraderie of everyone’s coping mechanisms. Chicago winters are not for the faint of heart. They are character building, separating the women from the girls. My best coping mechanism is repeating the mantra “this is making me stronger” every time Sally whines to go out. I’ll wave to my neighbors doing the same painful dance with their dogs. We’re in it together, if for no other reason than to bask in the supreme bliss of the Chicago summer.

Here’s what Max and I are making tonight, with a bottle of Hess Cabernet (as overheard in the Jewel wine section). We add more red pepper flakes and more cheese, because Salt Fat Acid Heat, right? (also on the streaming list for today).


WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH GRILLED SAUSAGE AND ESCAROLE

Makes 6 servings

  • ½ lb. Italian sausage links
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) no-salt-added Great Northern beans, rinsed 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 cups chopped escarole (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper1 tsp. white wine vinegar

Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium heat.  Cook sausages 8-10 min., turning occasionally, or until cooked through. Set aside.

Heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onions; sauté 4 min., stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add broth, beans, water, herbs, and cheese.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 min.

Slice sausage into small rounds.  Add to pot with escarole and carrots; cover.  Simmer 15 min. or until carrots are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients.  Serve topped with additional cheese, if desired.

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