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 »

Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

October 18, 2010 § 11 Comments

Over the centuries, humankind in every culture has struggled with some timeless questions. What am I here for? What does it mean to live life well? And, perhaps most notably, what do I do with my bread that is no longer fresh? I guess it comes with the territory. If your culture makes bread, you will have to deal with the fact that after a couple of days, your fresh baked bread is no longer fresh baked. In fact, it’s a little dry and crumbly or chewy. Sometimes even stale. And let’s face it kids, stale bread is kind of a big deal. It’s almost like a cruel trick of nature, the way bread is so unbelievably, indescribably delicious when it is warm and fresh out of the oven. I don’t think it’s exactly coincidental that bread has been used as a spiritual metaphor for life and all that is life-giving. But then, after just a couple of days – after a day even – it’s glory fades into pretty much, meh. Dry uninteresting bready stuff that can only be saved by toasting (and probably lots of butter or peanut butter or cheese).

So, if you look around the world, you will discover that almost everyone has found some very clever ways to use up bread that has gone stale. Necessity is the mother of invention, and using stale bread turns out to be a gold mine of creativity-promoting necessity. Panzanella; panades; stratas; pain perdu; torrijas; croutons; bread crumbs; brown Bettys; French toast. But, in my opinion, the queen of them all is the bread pudding. Well, sometimes.

It’s possible that there is nothing more disappointing than a poorly executed bread pudding. A bad bread pudding is so heavy and dense you could sink a canoe with it. They are frequently over-spiced, cinnamon or chocolate being used to badly cover up the overall dry flavorlessness of it, like using an air freshener to cover up the smell of cigarette smoke. They are, most definitely, to be avoided. Which is why I pretty much never would order a bread pudding at a restaurant unless I knew I had every reason to have implicit trust in the pastry chef (or if I just planned to eat the whipped cream off of the top of it and leave the pudding itself sitting, untouched, on the plate).

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