Down to the Bone

DownToTheBone_color350The older I get, the more I hate to throw food away.

When I was a kid, I had no qualms about chucking an entire hunk of cheese if the end bit was brittle and dried out. I was skittish about eating a slice of bread that had been in the same bag as something moldy, and I had no interest in cutting the bruises off fruits and vegetables. These days, I’ve pulled a complete 180—nothing is trashward-bound unless it’s completely inedible. Just this morning, I spent 10 minutes washing, slicing, and salvaging semi-squishy peaches I found at the bottom of the crisper.

Before we started dating, one of the defining moments of my developing crush on my now-boyfriend Tony was the evening he brought Portuguese kale and sausage soup to a study group at my house (yup—study group—totally wild) because he had to get rid of some kale that “was really starting to go.”

Even better, when I told my family about the cute boy with the expiring kale—they completely understood the attraction. My mom, the self-professed Patron Saint of Lost Food, was obviously ecstatic. But even Maggy, who (like me) is still learning not to turn up her nose at over-the-hill food, thought it was meant to be.

Last week, at our annual Anderson Family Reunion, Tony pulled another awesome food-salvaging move that reminded me of that first, fateful kettle of soup. Maggy, Andy, Tony and I were on the roster to clean up after a big brunch. And after most of the washing, rinsing, and cleaning had been done, there was only one dish left: a roasting pan with two plump, juicy ham bones sitting in it, picked mostly clean of their meat. We were all set to throw them away, when Tony stopped us, grabbed a big Ziploc, threw them both in, and labeled it so no one would unwittingly toss them. I didn’t really think we’d remember to bring them with us, but somehow those two bones found their way into the cooler and into the car, and all the way back to my freezer in Connecticut.

Last night, when we had Mom and Dad over for dinner at the last minute, I could have kissed Tony for saving those bones! In fact, I think I did…twice. We sautéed up some aromatics, threw a ham bone into the pot with water, black beans, and spices. And in no time, we had the most amazing black bean soup I have ever had. Ever. Ask Mom, she’ll tell you.

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  1. Jeanne says

    I actually have a ham bone in the freezer and was close to throwing it out. Love black bean anything. This recipe looks fabulous!
    By the way, Aldoris would LOVE Tony!!

  2. Pam says

    I’m here to tell you that black bean soup was one of the best I’ve ever had. Loved the technique of adding beans in two stages. This way you get the best of both textures–velvety smooth and wonderfully chunky.
    A lot of cooks can whip up something amazing with pristine ingredients, but it’s the clever, confident cook that can do it with the stuff that just needs to be loved.
    You two have got it, and you make me proud.

  3. says

    Yea, we once had dinner at a friend’s. She served a delicious roast chicken. After dinner I asked what she would do with the bones, and she said “nothing.” So I asked if I could take the carcass home. She said “no.” I asked “why not” and she said, “because that’s weird.” This leads me to believe there are two types of people in this world – people like us and people who are not like us. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just saying I know who eats well the next day, or in your case, a couple weeks after 😉

  4. leu2500 says

    You were going to throw out the ham bones!!!! They are culinary gold. They are almost reasonenough to cook a ham. How else can you make split pea or bean soup? SO not in the same class as stale bread, limp veggies, and dried out cheese.

  5. julie Potter says

    I won’t even get started here or it won’t end, but……oh that Thanksgiving turkey carcus…from years past! The making for best soup in the world, isn’t it? Certainly not meant for the dump after the feast!
    Tony and Sharon, I loved reading your Porttuguese kale & sausage dinner/study night. You’re groovin on the same wave length! You’ve only just begun! Julie

  6. says

    If I didn’t adore him already, this is one more reason to love Sharon’s Tony. (FYI- that’s his official moniker now)

    My grandmother, the one who taught me how to cook, grew up during the Great Depression. If I dared try to throw away any kind of bone, she’d have had my backside in a sling. You can go too far though – 2 Christmases ago, she drank an opened bottle of strawberry wine that had been stewing in her fridge for several years. We tried to stop her, but she insisted it was ‘just fine’. Yeah.. she was off her face in a matter of minutes.

    Now I’ve got to go make a ham (such a trial, I know) just so I can nom some of this delish soup.

  7. says

    I love the story of Tony and the Kale! He does, indeed, sound like a keeper! I need a man like him around because I stink at using up leftovers!

    Sharon, I enjoyed meeting you at BlogHer. I’ll be coming back here, definitely!

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