March 14, 2013 § 24 Comments
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.
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 »
January 28, 2013 § 11 Comments
Ever since eating salad while admitting it was stew weather, I haven’t been able to shake stew off. Stew has been following me, or more accurately I have been following stew, chasing it into every manner of manifestation in my kitchen and out onto the table, beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, simple, spiced, something in between. It’s been stew all of this last week.
Or, if not stew itself, a member of the stew family. That is, tagines, curries, chilis, and so on. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, all of those are really stew masquerading as something exotic. And, of course, to those who grew up eating these others as their comfort food, stew is the exotic one.
And so, because once you can make a stew you can make all of its spicier cousins, let us go over some basics of stew construction, plus variations on how to transform your warming pot of meat and vegetables into a tagine, curry, or chili.
Stew is basically slow cooked pieces of meat (or it can be beans or another protein source) with vegetables in liquid of some sort. It’s thicker – less soupy – than soup, and the pieces of meat are smaller than the one (or several) large pieces in a braise. The steps in making stew are approximately these:
Start by cutting a couple pounds of a tough cut of meat into 2-inch cubes (stew beef, lamb, or even pork tend to work well; you can also stew chicken thighs, but they’ll take a bit less time in the final cooking process) and sprinkle them with salt. If you wish you can also toss them in some flour, which will help thicken the stew, but which is by no means absolutely necessary. Follow this by browning all your meat bits in butter or oil in a large heavy pan. Do this in batches so as not to crowd the pieces of meat because if they’re crowded they’ll steam rather than browning. Once nice and brown on all sides, transfer the meat to a plate. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 11, 2012 § 20 Comments
Hello friends. How are you? I am well, but my head is quite lodged in a cloud of data. Like the high peak of a mountain, caught in its own little weather pattern of eternal fog. Would that I had some of the other characteristics of a mountain to compensate! I trust that at some point it will all coalesce and I’ll be able to step out of it enough to see what shape it is – a bunny! a dragon! an armadillo! ah, the shapes clouds take on… – but right now I’m in the thick of it, hours upon hours of interview data.
(At least it’s the very best kind of data I could possibly be wanting to work with – people’s stories! How precious! Yet, I find this also makes it all the harder to do anything akin to analyzing. I’d rather just listen…)
Also, along with Boston’s schoolchildren, whatever wonky muse I may be endowed with seems to be taking an April vacation. Anyone who has seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s stellar TED talk on creativity and genius will know exactly what I mean when I say, my genius is being “kind of lame” at the moment. (And, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s fascinating and entertaining.) « Read the rest of this entry »
February 21, 2012 § 15 Comments
Last Friday night we went out to dinner with some friends at a postage stamp sized little pop-up restaurant called Whisk, just around the corner from our house. We had an absolute blast, which was mostly due to being in the best of company, but the seven course tasting menu offered at the restaurant, aka the dining experience, was quite fun too. The food was legitimately good, fancy and conceptual, though it was not flawless.
Usually I sneer a little at deconstructed this, foamed that, or anything made into a gel version of itself. It can seem so pretentious. So if it is going to be done, it either needs to be executed near perfectly or be done tongue in cheek. At Whisk, it was neither, but they were so incredibly endearing and effusive about their project, so adorably bumbling as they mispronounced Camembert and granita in their excitement, that any apparent pretention was immediately forgiven. It felt like we were all playing house together, and we got to eat a very delicious meal during the course of it.
And I must say, their plating was truly beautiful and creative. I love carefully, stunningly plated food. It has some of the interesting aesthetic elements of abstract art and sculpture, except then you get to devour it! It is not something I have ever given a try myself though, except for carefully placed mounds and dollops (I do have this idea for a crazy project loitering in the back of my mind that, if enacted, could thoroughly change this, but that is something for the future). And, when I looked at the meal I created for us the very next day, it provided a pretty amusing contrast to Friday’s edible art. On Saturday, we ate piles.
January 20, 2012 § 7 Comments
Pretty much everyone in my family is a card carrying nerd in his or her spare time. You may not perceive this on first glance. It’s a sort of internal nerdiness. Our spirits wear broken glasses, high water pants, and pocket protectors. We pick up on Star Wars references, and occasionally sing little songs under our breath about whatever it is we’re doing in the moment. Ok, maybe it’s actually just me who does that. But, whatever. (Have you seen New Girl? Kind of like that.)
One of my brothers has read famous political figures’ dissertations, for fun. The last time I spoke to my mother, she was gleefully reading a stack of dictionaries. (Some of them have fascinating material in their appendices. Seriously.) I have a certain propensity toward exploring the thesaurus. My reliance on it during college verged on the
religious, zealous, fervid, a little over the top.
As many of the food obsessed are wont to do, I also like to read through cookbooks. So, when my middle brother gave me The Flavor Thesaurus for Christmas, well it was clear that the book and I were going to need to get a room. I’ve been slowly savoring my way through it ever since. It’s truly a magnificent little oeuvre, informative, but not remotely boring.
August 28, 2011 § 12 Comments
Hoo-wee, we are having some weather out there. The wind and rain are battering my windows like ill-intentioned thugs trying to get in. The potted plants and deck furniture have the look of a bunch of cast-aways where they’re clustered, near the entryway, but I think they’re giving me looks of thankfulness – ‘thank you for not leaving us out there!’ And, for perhaps the first time ever, I’m feeling rather glad we don’t have any large trees growing right next to our apartment building.
I’m so thankful that the hurricane had calmed somewhat, into a tropical storm, by the time it came to visit us this far north. We still have power and water (knock on wood), so I cannot complain one bit. It’s still nothing to mess with though. Hunkering is the only word to describe what the city is doing.
January 21, 2011 § 10 Comments
I think that one of the nicest things about having a parent from another country is all the funny turns of phrase or sayings you pick up as you grow up. Things translated directly from another language or phrases that were misheard but adopted nonetheless, which seem quite natural to you at home, but then as you head out into the wide world you discover that pretty much no one else says them. I suppose I could find this embarrassing, but instead it’s somehow incredibly endearing. And, I’m guessing that nearly every family has some idiomatic phrases belonging only to them. My mother has bestowed some particularly lovely sayings, mispronunciations, and the like upon her children.
In Norwegian, instead of saying “speak of the devil,” if you’re talking about someone and they suddenly show up, you say “speak of the sun and it shines!” Which probably has something to do with the national obsession with the weather, but which I also think is a much nicer way of referring to someone. No one wants to walk onto the scene only to be called the devil! My favorite saying, however is “necessity teaches the naked woman how to spin,” which is so much more colorful than “necessity is the mother of invention”…and will also earn you some strange looks if you use it offhandedly in conversation.