Spinach and pine nut soup

March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments

spinach pine nut soup 1

I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch.  This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage).  And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup.  Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends.  Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is!  I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.

And it did.  It’s actually quite a wonderful soup.  No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time!  Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted.  That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.

toasted pine nuts

Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.

That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner.  (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.)  I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night.  I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Panade of leeks, greens, and gruyere

March 14, 2013 § 24 Comments

panade of leeks and greens above

I’ve been going through a spate of soup-mania lately.  Vast quantities of soup have been making their way from the kitchen to my lips.  It’s practically all I want to eat.

I mean, I always like soup, but right now something about the world, the liminality of so many things – not the least of which being the season – is making soup particularly appealing.  When you’re in between winter and spring as well as all sorts of projects, just waiting (and waiting (and waiting)) for people to get back to you about pesky little things like edits and comments, what better to do than a little slurping?  Soup is there to oblige all slurping needs.   Also, I have a private theory that I’ve been dehydrated because of the dryness in the air, and my body is trying to make up for the fact that 10 or so cups of water a day just isn’t quite enough by steering me towards eating liquid food as well.  Is that even possible?  Not sure.

leeks for panade 1leeks for panade 2

Anyhow, I’ve had avocado soup for lunch for about 5 days in a row.  We’ve had sourdough tomato soup, and Norwegian fiskesuppe (with some extra parsnip and tiny arctic shrimp added), and creamy squash soup, and pho.  To name just a few.  I also just had the sudden flicker of a memory of a spinach and pine nut soup that I used to make for dinner parties in college (because I hosted dinner parties in college.  With no kegs or even drinking games.  Because I was that cool.).  I’ll have to make that some time soon because doesn’t that sound good?

This soup, though, I consider the culmination of sorts (though not the sort of culmination that signals the end.  No way.  More soups to come, so if you’re a soup person you should come on over…).  The soup to rule all soups, you might say.  A soup so filled with wonderful things that it is a considerable stretch to call it a soup.  It should be eaten with a fork.  Indeed, it should be so thick a fork should stand right up in it. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli salad with bacon and pecans

March 5, 2013 § 13 Comments

broccoli salad dressed

It is decidedly not spring here yet.  In fact, it’s blowing ferociously and snowing several inches outside right now (just a stone’s throw further south they’re getting close to 10 inches, but we’re getting only brushed by the storm).

I remember the day in March in 2nd grade when our teacher taught us the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  She even had a paper cut out lion and lamb thumb tacked up on the cork board to drive the point home.

We were all mystified.  No, no, no.  The saying was all wrong, we pointed out (after the metaphor had been explained).  March comes in like a lion and it goes out like a lion too.  Maybe an ever so slightly more docile lion, but a lion nonetheless.

blanched broccoligreen onions for slicing

That’s Minnesota for you.

So, no, no spring yet.  It makes me miss the other places I’ve lived, the places where crocuses and daffodils start intrepidly strutting about in March.  However, the yearning for spring isn’t desperate yet.  Not desperate, but on the other hand, I’m definitely not as into root vegetables as I was a couple months ago.

In my need for a change of pace, I found myself craving broccoli salad a few days ago, something that does not happen often at all, except for the odd day midsummer when it sounds good, or when I’m several time zones out of my element, running late for a wedding rehearsal, and my stomach is growling audibly, and I’m standing in front of a deli counter.  It happens sometimes then too. « Read the rest of this entry »

Polenta hiding mozzarella and lemony greens

February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments

polenta hiding greens 1

This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner.  The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world.  Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.

From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.

My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember.  There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course.  My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.

mozzarella slices

I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college.  But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.

But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country!  And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.

So then we had to start training like mad.  Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow.  Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted.  Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise).  I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though.  Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »

Winter vegetable fattoush

December 29, 2012 § 30 Comments

fattoush winter vegetables 1

Hello there!  ‘Tis really and truly the season, isn’t it?

I feel as though it’s been days since I’ve gotten to bed at a reasonable hour, drunk anything that didn’t come from a just uncorked bottle, or eaten a meal that didn’t end with cookies.

And it isn’t even New Year’s yet!

Which is terrifically fun.  Obviously.  Though is it horribly dull of me to say I’m ready to get back to our quieter everyday routine?   What can I say, I’m a cancer.  Home and hearth is where my heart is.

Plus, I’m looking forward to putting my shiny new Christmas gifts to use!

My family tried (and semi-succeeded) in going mildly minimal on gifting this year.  That is to say, we gave presents that were things people needed (socks!  Oh my gosh, I love socks!  And I’m not even saying that in a sarcastic voice.  I reeeeaally love getting socks as a present.  Somehow I always need them.) or that were really high quality and would earn their keep with use.

fattoush parsley « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted cauliflower with harissa cream

December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments

cauliflower harissa pom 1

I’m back.  Phew.

I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston.  In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues!  Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.

But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times.  The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.

homemade harissa

Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!

I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much.  I just do.  I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets.  I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.

I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop.  I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli cheddar and apple gratin

November 28, 2012 § 18 Comments

Fair ladies, kind gentlemen!  I bring you: more broccoli!

Yes.  More broccoli.  Consider it another delicious stepping stone on the cruciferal march toward that cauliflower with harissa cream that I mentioned, and I swear I am working on, and it will appear any day now.

As a reward for your patience (or a way of buying it, perhaps?) though, this gratin is none too shabby, at least that much I can promise.

But first and foremost, for those of you who had Thanksgiving last week, how did it go?  Are you still stuffed?  Ours was quite the gathering, the most rollicking Thanksgiving I’ve been to in years, perhaps ever.

We were not only my family but also Joel’s, and on top of that not one but precisely six Norwegian students, here in Minnesota studying at various universities and connected to my mother in various ways.

The turkey was gargantuan, the gravy flowing, the Brussels sprouts piled high, and the pies numerous and flaky.  The conversation was sparkling.  Also, loud.  Norwegian Americans may be reticent, but Norwegian Norwegians generally aren’t. Nor is my family.  Plus, my grandmother was in the midst of everything exhibiting her talent for handwriting interpretation (mine = hard to read) and discussing Project Runway.  Always a kick. « Read the rest of this entry »

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