Frost is lingering on the rooftops below our house this morning. Though sunny and bright outside, smoke is visible out of several chimneys in the neighborhood. I miss a fireplace. Fireplaces warm a room in so many ways besides the heat they generate. As a little girl, I remember sitting on the floor by the hearth next to my grandfather’s reading chair. He would sit in his red brocade smoking jacket, pipe in hand, and I in my flannel pajamas by the snapping fire and share a book before bedtime.
This house has a gas stove, a check on the negative side of a largely positive home in my eyes. For me it is real logs, in a real hearth, with actual fire and smoke. We have friends that have a “virtual fireplace” which is a simulated fire that springs into life with the flick of a switch. Although lovely, I need the crackle and pop and smell of a genuine wood fire. Many of the houses I have owned or occupied over the years have had a fireplace.
When married to my second husband our large family room was dominated by a huge rock hearth in one corner. Winters, the room was the primary gathering place for friends and family and the fireplace during the colder months rarely lay fallow. My husband’s job dictated he travel about three weeks out of four. Often, or mostly really, the management of the house and our combined brood of three fell to me.
Our second winter in the house he was traveling so I was tasked with ordering firewood. Instructions were brief. Get a good deal and get it delivered. Gotcha. Not exactly rocket science. Never having ordered firewood before, I began at the beginning. Scanning the local newspaper ads and Penny Savers, I called several firewood suppliers and received quotes. They spoke in cords, which it seemed was the measurement on which wood is sold. What a cord embodied was a mystery, but I was told I needed one. Ah, the consummate consumer.
Now, there was no mention in the original instructions about seasoned wood. Those of you who order firewood, might consider this a notable omission. Type of wood also didn’t come into play. Later I was to learn he meant oak, but since I’d given up mind reading for Lent I hadn’t conjured up that vision. After speaking to numerous vendors I weighed my options. I settled at last for a man who claimed to have cut lumber from Oregon for sale (apparently a selling point). Not only did he promise quick delivery but at a low ball price. Bingo. Do you suppose a person can sense blonde on the other end of the phone, or had I betrayed myself with my complete lack of knowledge on the subject we were discussing? Whatever the case, it spurred him on to sell me everything but the Taj Mahal, and I may have made a down payment on that.
Delivery was scheduled for the following Friday afternoon. I would be at work but my middle school children would be home from school. A phone call came in shortly after the truck made the delivery. It was my son. Another glaring omission in the original orders was to be sure the wood would be stacked. Because that was not specified, I now had one cord of wood occupying my driveway and the weather prediction for the following day was rain. Swell. I couldn’t have made a bigger mess of it had I set out with that in mind. Around eleven that Friday we finished stacking all the wood in the back of the garage.
As promised the following day a weather front moved in. It was the perfect day for a fire in the fireplace. I may be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to purchasing wood, but I certainly know how to build a fire. I placed two large logs on the grill, wadded newspapers beneath the pile, added some tinder and lit the paper. Life was good. Both children over at friends, I ran a hot bubble bath, poured myself a glass of wine, and sank into the deep sea of foam. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.
I heard the smoke alarm in the kitchen go off, then the one in the hall, then I actually smelled the smoke. Wet and soapy I padded down the hall now filling up with smoke. In the family room black smoke was pouring out around the wood at an astonishing rate and our “in-house” alarm system, triggered by the commotion, signaled the alarm center something was wrong. Both dogs were howling and running in circles when suddenly the “voice in the ceiling”, as we referred to the alarm company dispatcher, asked me for my password. Really? Now? “Pooh (of Winnie fame)”, I screamed over the cacophony, though there was a word closely associated with pooh that lingered on my tongue.
Teeth chattering, I opened every door and window. My neighbor came across to help me air out the house and douse the fire. After surveying the disaster he went into the garage to ferret out the source of the problem. As it turned out my wood, of which I only needed 1/2 of a cord, was not only not seasoned but not oak. It was unseasoned, or wet, pine, which when burned smoked. Case solved. For weeks the smokey smell lingered in the house and furniture so we had to pay to have it all cleaned to return things to normal. End result, I had one full cord of wood totally useless for burning, the gentlemen who sold it to me had returned to unknown points in Oregon, and we had a stiff bill for house sanitizing. At least I wasn’t asked to do the chore next year but I never did get the keys to the Taj Mahal.
This soup is so quick, easy and delicious. Often I pull it out for a busy day. Visit one of my favorite readers, John, from The Bartolini Kitchens for a great broth recipe and so many others.
Tortellini en Brodo (in broth)
4 slices Coppa ham, cooked and chopped
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tsp. chicken boullion
3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green)
6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 9 oz. pkg. fresh chicken and proscuitto tortellini
4 oz. Napoleon (or the like) tricolor tortellini with cheese filling
1 cup frozen peas
1 6 oz. bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 tsp. basil
Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
Brown and crisp ham in skillet over med. heat. Set aside.
In large pot bring broth and water to a boil. Add chopped ham, green onions, tomatoes, and tortellini. Cook for 15 mins. at low rolling boil, or until pasta is cooked. Add peas and gradually introduce spinach to pot. Sprinkle with basil.
Ladle into bowls and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Yum