Monday, December 13, 2010

Derailing Exam Prep In One Easy Step

Thirteen days until Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring.  Because exams start tomorrow.

Did we have exams in high school – back in the lava-lamp 70s?  Probably.  Maybe.  Um.  Maybe I was absent that day. 

Is it possible I didn’t have exams?  Is it possible I did, but just don’t remember? Could I possibly have been that Holly-Go-Lightly?  Well, to all three questions, my answer would be, “Don’t judge me.”

If we did have exams, I must’ve taken them even less seriously than Son did last year (see "How To Prepare For Exams In 20 Easy Steps"), which on the one hand, is almost impossible to conceive.  And on the other, it's entirely possible, if not probable.

This year, though, the Son and Darling Daughter (DD) are hard at work.  Son is diligent, no doubt still smarting from last year’s metaphorical two-by-four upside the head, and DD is cautious, surely reliving my ‘round the clock shrieks last year of  “You have to do well!  You’re in high school now!  Everything counts!”

Whatever.  For the past few days, they’ve both been hitting the books.  Not to mention the refrigerator, pantry and, on occasion, each other. Are they really well-prepared for the week’s exams?  (Son has four and DD faces two.)  Or have they both been skillfully dodging everyday chores, holiday errands, and me?

But wait.  Is that snow?  Really?  In December?  In Charlotte?  When Son has two exams tomorrow and DD has two end of the semester tests?  Really?

Really.  Out of nowhere, flakes fall – fast, furious and magically illuminated by our outdoor holiday lights.

So much for quiet.  So much for focus.  So much exam prep.  The proverbial train has jumped the tracks, hopped the rails and ground to halt in our own front yard.   Even though it’s dark outside, both kids run out to catch the season’s first snowflakes.

Not exactly the way I saw this blog post going.

What was previously peaceful progress – or at least, peaceful plugging along -- turns to a bizarre combination of exuberance and panic.  What if school closes tomorrow?  What if school doesn’t close tomorrow?   Will it keep snowing?  Will it stick?  Will the roads ice over?

Mom.  Mom!  MOM!  What’s going to happen?

I wish I knew.  For years, I’ve insisted to them, fairly convincingly, that, like Santa, I always know what they’re up to.  Not only do I have eyes in the back of my head, but I can also predict the future.

This time, though, all I can predict is that it’s going to be cold.  Darned cold.  I’ll be sure to check the school closings before waking anyone up in the morning.  And regardless of exam schedules, I’ll be making up a batch of this heavenly white bean soup.  Because baby, it’s cold outside.

Rosemary White Bean Soup with Gremolata

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 4" - 6" branch of fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 cans cannellini beans (white beans), drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, very finely minced or grated
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of two lemons

In large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute onion and carrot in olive oil, over medium heat until onion is translucent.  Stir in garlic, and continue sauteeing until vegetables are very fragrant and onions begin to brown.  Stir in seasonings, broth, lemon juice and two cans of beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, lidded, for at least one hour.  Remove rosemary branch.  Using immersion blender (or food mill), puree soup.  Bring back to a simmer.  If you like your soup thicker, stir in additional can of beans and puree once again.  Season well with kosher salt and pepper.  Stir together gremolata ingredients (or even better, use a large knife to "cut" ingredients together on a cutting board) and sprinkle over soup.  Yum.