Sometimes the most unexpected things can raise your spirits. For me, it was these three neighborhood kids who don’t know it, but who were responsible for an upward shift in my outlook. The prospect of shoveling my driveway (again!) was not engendering warm, fuzzy thoughts and I was remembering how my sister and I, as children, used to shovel not only our parents’ driveway, but our neighbor’s as well. “Aren’t there any kids like that anymore?” I thought to myself, bracing myself to start clearing the 8 inches of white stuff that covered our driveway as a result of the third snowfall in three weeks. Before I could suit up for the job, I hear a knock at the front door. Opening the door, I am greeted by three adorable, rosy-cheek children, asking “Would you like us to shovel your driveway?” “How much are you charging?” I ask, thinking “I don’t care what you’re charging. I’m just glad you’re here” When they reply “It’s free,” I am nearly bowled over. “I’d love for you to shovel, but I insist on paying you,” I tell them. Halfway through their work, I mix some cocoa, milk and sugar for hot chocolate, and take it outside to them along with a plate of cookies. By now, they’re nearly finished their work, so I happily pay them, remarking, “You know you really could charge people to shovel.” “Oh no, we do this as a neighborhood service,” they reply. At this point, a smile bigger than the widened driveway transforms my face and my mood. The good feeling has stayed with me since Wednesday – the day that these three siblings – Piper, 10; and 11-year-old twins Adam and Lana, appeared at my door with their generous offer and enthusiasm. So I thank you, my little snow angels, (and your parents too, for teaching you to help others) for clearing my driveway and bringing some brightness into my life this week. That little bit of help gave me the time and energy to focus on other things, like putting together this beans-and-sausage recipe that reminds me of my own daughter. Most kids ask for pizza, pasta or burgers as their special birthday meal, but no, my little munchkin – now a sophisticated career woman who has called Manhattan her home for years – always requested this humble dish on her birthday. The recipe is adapted from my well-worn 1971 edition of “ The New York Times International Cookbook” by its former food editor Craig Claiborne. The original recipe calls for 1 pound of cotechino or fresh kielbasa sausage. I prefer to use the type of Italian sausage you would find in a sausage and peppers sandwich. I buy a brand that comes from a local farm called “Simply Grazin.” The pigs are raised on certified organic feed in large paddocks where they able to roam freely. If you live in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Virginia or Philadelphia, here’s a link to where you can buy their products. The taste is so much better than normal supermarket sausage – and I’m not being paid to say that. It’s just really good and I want you to try it if you can. In this recipe, I use only 1/2 pound of sausage rather than the full pound called for. A half pound goes a long way toward flavoring the dish, and as much as I love good meat, I am trying to cut back on eating too much animal protein. Sausage and White Beans (serves 4 to 6 people) printable recipe here 1/2 pound Italian sausage 1/4 cup olive oil 6 green onions, green part and all 6 cloves garlic 2 13-ounce cans white cannellini beans (or other type of white beans) 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley fresh ground pepper, coarse salt to taste
- Peel the casing off the sausage and place the sausage in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until cooked. Do not throw away the water.
- Meanwhile, drain the beans in a colander and rinse them.
- Trim the green onions and chop fine. Cook briefly in the oil, then add the garlic and cook a few minutes. Cut the sausage into thin slices, or break into bits, and add to the pan, along with the beans, the wine, the salt and pepper and enough of the cooking liquid to barely cover the beans. Cook over very low heat about ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the parsley, and add more water if too dry. Serve hot with some crusty bread.