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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Warm fall slaw, with goat cheese

October 24, 2011 § 16 Comments

What is it with this time of year anyways?  It’s so, I don’t know, distinctive, I guess.  Not that other times of the year aren’t, but fall feels more ephemeral and therefore somehow stands out from the hot days of mid-summer, the frigid days of mid-winter, or the muddy days of spring.  All of which last long enough to wear you out, at least slightly.

Fall manages never to outstay its welcome.  It’s like a favorite uncle, or other cooky relative, who blows in and out, full of color and liveliness, and who never sticks around long enough to grate on you.  But, perhaps you never really get to know them either.

Fall tends to be a bit of a yearning season for me.  A busy, yet philosophical season.  And beyond a doubt, the most nostalgic season (which is saying something since I am, as a general rule, nostalgic!).  I think of the line in that goofy movie “You’ve Got Mail” when Meg Ryan’s character says that fall makes her want to buy a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Except, for me, when the weather becomes as bracing and clear as it was this morning, I find what I want to do is go door to door and sell folios full of static cling window decorations shaped like skeletons and bats and pumpkins and turkeys.

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Root Vegetables Au Gratin (and cream sauce basics)

November 21, 2009 § 3 Comments

You’d think at this point in my life, having gone through a number of years, I’d be used to the way the seasons change. But somehow it surprises and delights me every year to see the leaves change and watch the first snow fall. I’m also shocked every single autumn by how short the days suddenly become. It gets dark so early now! Holy-moly! Nowadays, even though it’s easy to buy any food you want at any time of the year, I think it’s important and pleasurable to mark the shift in the seasons by changing cooking styles and ingredients. As the nights get darker and colder, I feel like it becomes imperative to make heartier, creamier dishes (I justify this (as if it needs justification) because I still bike commute everywhere in the cold and sleet!), which you don’t really feel like eating on warm summer evenings. In chatting about the quintessentially fall foods we eat on Thanksgiving, a friend told me that his mother had recently started making a gratin of mixed sweet and regular potatoes that was amazing. Now, I don’t think I’m going to add this to my Thanksgiving meal this year because I’m just too fond of having my sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes separately. But, I thought, it sounded too good not to try at least something of the sort for a regular supper.

I had never actually made a gratin before. But, having eaten them, I felt I had a pretty good guess as to what the necessary components are. That being: vegetables, a white sauce, and cheese. And given how the dish turned out, I’m inclined to believe that my guess was correct. Anyone who thinks it requires anything more is making it more complicated than necessary (sure this may take it to the next level, but I was quite happy with the level I achieved). So, the key to making a gratin is knowing how to make a white sauce. Once you can do that you can au gratin-ate just about anything you please (as long as you also know how to grate cheese, which doesn’t usually take any advanced training, unless you want to be able to grate without scraping your knuckles, which I think might be virtually impossible). « Read the rest of this entry »

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