Creamy “pumpkin” soup

January 2, 2013 § 35 Comments

pumpkin soup 1

Happy, happy New Year to you all!  Did you ring in the New Year in style?

I know we did.  Much more stylishly than we really are, in fact.  But if the holidays aren’t a time to up your style game, when is, right?

Perhaps it’s the crash after the high of holiday activity, perhaps it’s that the New Year always makes me nearly as nostalgic as October does, but I’m now left feeling quietly morose.  “Another year,” a voice somewhere inside of me sighs, “another year, and I still don’t understand.”

onion skins

So I’m sitting in our living room now, which feels dark as the Christmas twinkle lights have all been put back into boxes, wondering to myself, ‘understand what?  What do I so yearn to understand?’

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is anything and everything, as far as I can tell.  The answer is Life.

Day by day life happens, intermittently glorious and terrible, and I don’t understand any of it.  At all.  Not a bit.

I’m suddenly remembering a quote my mother told to me earlier this year (I’m not entirely sure of its origin), “this thing of which we speak cannot be found by seeking.  But only seekers will find it.”

I don’t entirely understand the quote either, but it speaks to me about life and meaning on a level separate from understanding.  I feel somehow like that’s it.  Like maybe trying to understand won’t get you anywhere.  Life just is, it isn’t an entity to be dissected and understood.  You have to get out of your own way, but at the same time seek and make that daily effort to get out of your own way. « Read the rest of this entry »

Jorrun’s rhubarb torte

June 1, 2012 § 17 Comments

If you page through my spiral bound notebook stuffed with recipes, you will almost certainly notice that it is spattered and worn and nearly fallen apart.  If your eye is particularly of the sort that seeks out patterns, however, you may also notice that somewhere in the realm of 75 percent of the recipes in it are attached to someone’s name.

Beth’s chicken, Peter’s pancakes, Daim cake from Caroline, Liz’s shirley bars, Judy’s scones, Peach’s cardamom bread.  And I’m fairly positive that, all around the world, many cooks have similarly labeled recipes, this one from grandma, that one from an old friend, and this one from that lady who used to live down the street.  Remember her?  She always made the best…

Even some of my cookbooks by acclaimed chefs contain recipes attributed by name to someone else –  Lindsay’s sugar cookies or Rob’s famous coleslaw in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Sally Schmitt’s cranberry and apple kuchen or Eric’s staff lasagne in the French Laundry.

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Apple cider and curry glazed beets

December 3, 2011 § 7 Comments

Everything I’ve been cooking lately seems to be orange.  Have you noticed?  If you haven’t noticed, forget that I said anything at all.  Orange food?  What?  I cook the rainbow!

If you have noticed, know that I thought I was going to be breaking out when I dreamed up this beet recipe.  I envisioned deep claret purple.  But then I rooted in my vegetable crisper drawer and was reminded that I had selected golden (read: orange) beets.  Hmph.  Well, we’re getting our vitamin A in these parts.

Whatever the color, these beet nubbins turned out to be a spectacular treat.  Like candy.

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Baked sweet potato with lime butter

November 13, 2011 § 18 Comments

It’s been a thoroughly draining week, intellectually.  Emotionally too, actually.  And, the idea of trying to say something remotely intelligible or amusing seems more than a little out of my league, at present.

On the way to trying to become a doctor of philosophy, there are many hurdles you have to clear and people you have to convince.  (Including yourself.  There’s a lot of convincing of yourself that you can, in fact, do this, in spite of the daunting monolithic-ness of the task at any given moment.) Last week I had another one to fling myself over in defending my dissertation proposal.

I did it.  Hurrah!  Which puts me, finally, in that category, which I’ve always been somewhat confused by, known as ABD.  All but dissertation.  I always used to hear that and think, what?  All but dissertation?  But, isn’t the dissertation kind of the whole thing?  Answer, no.  Not even remotely.

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Quick pickled cucumber and melon salad

August 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

It’s been another crazy week, this last week.  More travel, more weddings (an exceptionally gorgeous and happy one of some close friends), and a running of errands for my own that could give the running of the bulls a run for its money in the category of harrowing, stampede-like qualities.

It’s all been beyond fun, but also beyond exhausting.  So, I’m going to take a little moment to share this refreshing little gem of a salad with you.  It makes me think of a spa food, which makes me think, “ahhhhhhh, I’m so relaxed.” (In spite of a certain preponderance of the evidence indicating the opposite.)

Granted, I’ve never been to a spa, so I can’t really speak to the nature of the food served at one.  But, here’s what I imagine spa food to be like: light and refreshing, nourishing and satisfying, full of pure, sensual flavors.  Food that lets you feel like you’re pampering yourself, while also being good for you.

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Spring vegetable jumble with lemon tarragon butter

May 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

There is a little restaurant a quick stroll down the street from us that serves a ridiculous brunch on the weekends.  You might be tipped off to the fact that they have some tricks up their sleeves when, come Saturday at 10am, you see the line of chipper people trailing out their door and down the sidewalk, drinking coffee and chatting as they wait for a table.  Your suspicions would be further aroused by the amazing technicolor underwater scene painted across their bathroom walls.  It’s ebullient, playful, borderline garish, but oh so enticing, just like their food.

They make waffles so large and airy you could raft them down a river (of maple syrup, at least), their pancakes piled with enough fruit to fill a decorative bowl on a coffee table, and they have been known to make a popover the size of your head and fill it to overflowing with creamy eggs, sausage, vegetables, and hollandaise.  That last one is something I’ve been thinking about recreating at home, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.  I think you might need to get a special permit to make popovers that big.

Their suppers, I’m afraid, don’t quite live up to their brunch standard.  We’ve tried twice, giving it the benefit of the doubt, but both times the food was fine, but relatively uninspired.  It had a couple things going for it anyway, though.  One was the extreme and helpful frankness of the servers.  All of our questions were answered fully and honestly, and then some.  The crab cakes were fine,  we were told, but they were more cake than crab.  The burger was more worth getting, we were counseled.  And the enchiladas, it was explained, would be good if what we were looking for was the extremely-gooey-cheesey type of Tex-Mex (Joel was, in fact).

The other thing the place had going for it was the vegetables.  I get irked when I go to restaurants and all the more vegetables they provide you with are 3 elegantly plated green beans or a thimble-sized nest of micro-greens.  This place was much more my style.  That style being the, “why yes, my meal will consist of 2 servings each of 4 different vegetables perhaps drizzled with a delectable sauce, thank you,” style.  Each dish came with a riot of seasonal veggies, a mountain of veggies, a jumble of veggies…

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Veiled farm girls, with pear

February 1, 2011 § 12 Comments

Oh dear, I feel like such a bad influence posting two desserts in a row.  I’m usually not like this, I swear. 😉  But, this one is simply too lovely not to share.  And, I’m going to go ahead and justify it by arguing that, if you replaced the whipped cream with yogurt then it would be almost healthy (though not nearly as fun!).  Considering that the cooking boils off the alcohol from the white wine in the pear compote, you could even eat it for breakfast.  So there we go, justification accomplished.

Veiled farm girls, or tilslørte bondepiker, is a very traditional and equally delicious Norwegian dessert.  Personally, I think it is a classic example of how a few simple ingredients, ingeniously combined, can result in something dazzling – it’s the gestalt theory of cooking!  In the classic version of veiled farm girls you just layer applesauce with cinnamon breadcrumbs and whipped cream, and voila, dessert is ready!  It’s almost too simple and too delicious to be true.  Sadly, I was deprived of this wonder for many years as this is actually not one of the desserts I grew up with (though we sometimes had a dessert of similar spirit and simplicity we called krem bananer og rik rak, which was banana slices with whipped cream and chocolate shavings…yum.).  I didn’t get to try tilslørte bondepiker until I was in college, but when I was introduced to it, it was in a most spectacularly legitimate fashion.

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