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 »

Coconut and Thai curry soup with pork dumplings

March 3, 2012 § 18 Comments

On Thursday it snowed!  Finally.  It wasn’t the best timing since Joel was flying back from a work trip that night, but it was snow, and I wanted it!  The winter has been so sparse and brown, and when I looked out at the fragile white coating on the ground I literally felt what is meant by “a sight for sore eyes.”  My strained retinas relaxed perceptibly, and something inside me that has been tight and knotted all winter relaxed and unwound just slightly.  I’m a northerner.  My heart aches for a real winter.

I think you can see it in the photos too, that de-saturated grey light that comes with flakes suspended in the air.  Today it’s drizzling, so the snow won’t last long.  But it was there, and I was happy.

But anyways, what was I here to tell you about? Focus.  Focus.  Reel it in, Emily.  Ah yes, soup.

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Swiss chard gratin

April 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

I tried to make caramels yesterday.  It was a spectacular disaster.  Tasty judging by the mess I licked off of my fingers , but also crazy sticky, goopy, runny, and in sum, disastrous.  I knew it was not something I ought to be doing, even before I started.  A large batch of caramels was the last thing we needed around the house to tempt us to snack on.  And, I knew I had a focus group guide to edit and a conceptual model to draft and shouldn’t be distracting myself.

And yet, somehow I found myself in the kitchen caramelizing sugar to a dark amber and pouring it into a foiled pan and patiently waiting for it to cool and set.  But, it never set. It remained barely stiffer than the consistency of caramel sauce, so when I took it out to cut it and wrap it, it flowed like an unstoppable saccharine mudslide all over the cutting board, the counter, my hands, everywhere.  Obviously the universe was sending me a signal.  ‘Get back to work.  Cook vegetables.’  At least, that was how I interpreted it.

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Two Turkish stuffed flatbreads (one savory, one sweet)

June 22, 2010 § 6 Comments

If you picture yourself walking down the path of your life, what do you see?  A straight path?  Hilly with amazing vistas?  Through deep dark woods?  All of the above?  I’m starting to feel like in my own life, I’m taking a rather circuitous, meandering route.  It’s as though I’m putsing and poking about, the actual path way off somewhere to the left.  Back there, before I got distracted by a berry bush or a patch of wildflowers and wandered off.  Sometimes it feels as if there is no continuity, no path at all.  But, then I find myself looking at a familiar tree or rock and thinking, ‘hey!  I’ve been this way before!’ And, each time I touch back onto the path, I have come at least a very short distance further than I had before.  It’s another way in which my cooking, amusingly, mirrors life.

Maybe you do this too.  You discover a recipe, or try making something new, and fall in love with it.  So you go through a spurt of making it over and over and over.  Until it starts to come burbling out of your ears, and then you stop.  And completely forget about it.  Until you come across it in your old notes to yourself, or a meal somewhere else jogs your memory, or, I don’t know, it comes to you in a dream.  Then you start making it again, maybe tweaking it or experimenting with it, making it more your own, and you wonder, ‘Why on earth did I ever stop making this?  It’s totally the bomb!’  (yes, I’m sorry to say that inside your mind you still call things ‘the bomb’).  But, eventually you stop making it and forget about it, until you rediscover it and reclaim it once more.

Okay, maybe you actually don’t do this, but I can tell you for certain that I do.  And, these Turkish flatbreads are a prime example of it.  I first encountered a description of Turkish flatbread a few years ago in the great Paula Wolfert’s, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. It’s one of a small handful of foods in the book that don’t take between 4 hours and a week to cook, but even if it had, I probably would have made it.  In the preface to the recipe Ms. Wolfert conjurs up the aura of a steamy, bustling marketplace in Turkey where she bought slices of the slightly flaky, fragrant bread, bubbling and oozing  with pungent cheese, still scalding hot from a coal fired oven.  Upon reading it, I  immediately went and checked on the price of tickets to Turkey.  Yikes!  Nothing doing.  So, I settled for baking flatbread, though settled is hardly the right word for it.  Her version calls for simply stuffing them with runny, stinky (in the good way) teleme cheese, which is what I did.  And, for several weeks I did my best to monopolize the local cheese shop’s supply of teleme, and baked veritable stacks of flatbread.  But, as suddenly as I started, I stopped.  I probably got distracted by a desire to eat tomatoes, or kale, or something.

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Herb jam a la Paula Wolfert

March 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

I’ve been having an long-running debate with myself about whether it’s ever worth it to go buy a bunch of parsley.  I’m not really a parsley girl to begin with (cilantro is another story – I’m fanatical!).  Then, so many recipes that call for parsley call for at most a couple of Tablespoons in the recipe and as a garnish.  And then you have this big bunch of parsley leftover, standing in a jar of water, getting more and more wilted in spite of your best efforts to garnish everything in site, until finally it’s so bedraggled looking you have to sacrifice it to the trash/compost (sadly this even happens frequently with leftover cilantro as well).  And I HATE wasting food.  So what’s the point?  I can make do without garnishes.  I could cheat and use a bit of dried parsley in dishes that call for the fresh stuff.  Maybe I should just cut fresh parsley out of my life all together.  Would that make me a poor excuse for a cook?

Well, a winner has suddenly been declared in this internal debate.  And, exactly on the opposite side of the one towards which I have been leaning for a long time.  Never again will extra parsley go to waste!  Indeed, I may start buying it in extra quantities.  Oh yes!  It’s true.  I have contrived to put parsley to use in a delicious and unexpected way that has completely changed my opinion of the stuff: herb jam.  Yes, it sounds totally weird.  But it tastes totally phenomenal!  Salty, earthy, a little smokey, a little bright and acidic, and only very slightly green.  So good, it may be my new favorite snack, and appetizer, and sandwich spread, and…you get the idea. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever, in a sense

March 17, 2010 § 6 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and St. Urho’s Day yesterday!).  I know according to some generally accepted food writing standard I’m supposed to be making use of this holiday conversation starter to share some recipe for colcannon or bangers and mash or Irish soda bread.  But, I’m afraid I haven’t made any of those lately.  Though I feel an affinity for Irish folks – my Viking ancestors having pillaged and conquered their villages and such (always have to give my Irish friends a hard time on St. Patty’s day) – I’ve never gotten into celebrating the holiday.  Ack, wait!  Don’t pinch me!  Here’s something green.  And not to worry, I’ll certainly be raising a pint tonight.

I’ve been musing about growing up lately.  I just don’t feel like I make a particularly good grown up (growing old is a different story – I have high hopes of being a totally eccentric, white-haired old spitfire of a woman someday).  Growing up has its perks, for sure.  But, why are we expected to get so darn serious as we grow up?  Life is too important to take seriously, I say!  I still secretly want to be a ballerina.  I still look for fairies and elves in the trees and flowers.  I would rather chase after falling leaves and stomp in puddles than go running and do yoga (though I enjoy both of those too).  It keeps things magical. « Read the rest of this entry »

Kitchen Sink Soup (Basic soup steps)

March 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

“If you cannot think of anything appropriate to say you will please restrict your remarks to the weather.”

Sage advice from Mrs. Dashwood (in the movie version of Sense and Sensibility).  But what if I can’t think of anything appropriate to say about the weather?  And I can’t really think about anything else because the weather is so ridiculously godawful it’s like it’s jumping up and down yelling “look at me, I’m gross and depressing!  Hey, you, yeah you, look at me, I’m gross and depressing!”  We haven’t even been getting the snow that the rest of the East coast has been blessed with (I’m Minnesotan, I luuuuuv snow).  Nope, we’re getting this very slightly frozen version of rain.  It’s raining unflavored slushies!  I’m considering investing in an ark.

There’s really nothing for it in this sort of weather.  The only thing to do is to bake bread (mmm, challah – I think Joel may have decided he wants it to keep raining) and eat soup.  Maybe the weather has actually been sending me a sign because it’s soup making time anyway.  Whenever I find myself with a backlog of root vegetables – which tends to happen at this time of year because I can’t seem to eat them at the same pace that my farm share sends them to me – I go on a peeling, chopping, simmering, soup making rampage!  It’s one of the very most efficient ways to use up ginormous quantities of random vegetables.  I’m willing to throw pretty much anything but the kitchen sink into a pot of soup and see how it’ll come out. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to cook random greens: method 3

November 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’m lucky in my living situation, in that my roommates have similarly wonky tendencies to my own, most especially the tendency to cook up a storm in the morning at the same time as making and eating breakfast, in order to have food ready to go later on.  It’s not a bad approach, all things considered, and can have the added benefit (if one feels like it’s a benefit) of making the house smell like Thanksgiving…at 7 am.  For my own part, I do this most often when I’m wishing I had leftovers to bring to the office for lunch, but I don’t have any and I’m certainly not willing to spend an exorbitant sum of $8 or more to get a fancy sandwich from a café.  The thinking goes like this: “Oh gosh.  What am I going to bring for lunch today?  I suppose I could have bread and cheese again. But what am I going to do for a vegetable?  (yes, I think lunch should contain vegetables)  Ooh, I have some beets!  And some chard!  What an abundance of goodness!  I know, I’ll sautee the greens while I fry myself an egg and roast the beets in slices while I eat, then I can toss them together with herbs into a Tupperware and have them for lunch.  Brilliant!”

This particular morning, fabulous smells of frying onion wafted under my nose while I was washing my face.  I padded out of the bathroom and into the kitchen to see what my roommate, Andi, was up to.  She was monitoring a large frying pan of the most gorgeous, Technicolor, rainbow Swiss chard  I have, perhaps, ever seen.  And I’ve seen a lot of chard in my day!  When she tossed in a handful of golden raisins, I couldn’t take it any more.  “Andi!”  I cried out, “can you hold on a second and let me take a photo of what you’re cooking?  It’s too beautiful not to!”  Before she had really had the chance to answer I had grabbed my camera and started in on a full-blown photo shoot, starring the chard.  Unfortunately, photography is not one of my gifts.  But, hey, I’m trying.  And more importantly, it got me thinking about another method of dealing with your random greens, and other barely identifiable vegetables (or fully identifiable vegetables, come to think of it).  Think salad! « Read the rest of this entry »

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