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 »

Roasted carrot soup with citrus and cumin

October 8, 2012 § 28 Comments

Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season?  It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.

I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.

This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?!  It is frivolous.  Forgive me, I’m a flake!  At least where corduroy is involved.  And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment.  The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.

It snowed a little bit both days this weekend.  In some places, actually, it snowed a lot!  I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air.  It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling.  The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather.  I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell.  Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.

I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Grilled kale salad with beets, figs, and ricotta

September 18, 2012 § 49 Comments

We went up into the woods over the weekend.  It felt so good.  Always does, really.

We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada.  A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake.  There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.

Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace.  I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere.  It affords the most beautiful solitude  (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine.  Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between?  It’s remarkable.

We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday.  On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet.  On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »

Heirloom tomato tart

September 13, 2012 § 17 Comments

Although fun and life-giving and joyful and love-filled right now, if I had to choose a single word to describe life these past two weeks (and thank goodness I don’t have to choose just one word – a world where you use only one word when you could spout off a string of five to ten would be a sad world indeed, far too Hemingway-ian for the verbose among us), it would be chaotic.

Totally chaotic.  Connecting with old friends and nabbing as much quality time with family as possible on top of working on a dissertation on top of that ultimate relaxing free time activity of, ahem, starting a business, turns out not to be a recipe for order and quiet.  We did expect this, but you never fully appreciate these things until you’re in the middle of them.

But I love it!  We love it!  We love everyone here.  So far so amazing.  We even had a chance to ride around on The Lake and under the Aerial Lift Bridge on a decommissioned coast guard cutter owned by friends of friends, all in the name of settling in.  That’s pretty darn cool. « Read the rest of this entry »

Parsnip and leek soup

January 2, 2012 § 20 Comments

What would you do if you weren’t afraid of failing?

It’s not an original question, I’ll admit.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It’s pretty painfully cheesy, like those horrible motivational posters we used to have in our gym locker rooms for high school sports, or the quotes I carefully wrote into my journals, in metallic pens and with cutesy cut-outs as decorations.

Yet, it was the question I found myself asking in my mind last night as I got ready for bed and contemplated the journey back to Boston and working/studying/data analysis/teaching/writing/whatever-it-is-I-actually-do after a swift and very full holiday vacation.  I have a tentative nature when it comes to work and school, and I put a lot of effort, particularly mental effort, into trying to make sure I do everything right and just as others want.  The idea of failing is so scary I almost never allow myself to fully contemplate it.

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Beet green and ricotta gnudi

April 7, 2011 § 6 Comments

The Italians have such a way with naming their dishes.  I love how they seem to have a sense of humor about it.  I’ve already mentioned pasta a la puttanesca, the fast and easy pasta supposedly named after, ahem, women of the street.  Strozzapreti, a thick slightly coiled pasta, means “priest choker,” and was purportedly given this name because villagers in Emilia Romagna would feed it to friars who came over for dinner (in those days friars ate free) as a first course in an attempt to stuff them too full to have much room for the more expensive second course, meat.

The nickname for tortellini means “sacred navel,” and one must admit they do look a lot like navels.  (Sacred because legend has it that an innkeeper created them after being so inspired by the sight of Venus lying sleeping, he wanted to come up with some tribute to her.  So, he made a pasta that looked like her navel.  Creative, if nothing else!)  There’s even a traditional way of cutting fresh pasta haphazardly at angles that is know as maltagliati, which just means “badly cut.”  Because, hey,why not just tell it like it is?  As long as it tastes good.

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