Archive for December, 2008

Double-Roasted Winter Soup

I just got back from visiting family in Yreka, California. Yreka is about as far north as you can go and still be in California, a lovely area ringed by mountains. My dad and I drove up from San Francisco, and immediately launched into a three-day cooking spree that resulted in a holiday feast for 20. Not all of the food was local but we kept it as local and organic as we could. Even my 96-year old grandmother got put to work. Here she is peeling chestnuts for the yemisee (Greek rice stuffing that also has pine nuts, raisins, and other good stuff in it):

Grandma Nea peeling chestnuts

To keep us fed while we worked on the party food, my mom made a chicken soup.Mom\'s chicken soup

The soup went on an unintended road trip: After eating it for dinner one night, there was no room in the fridge because of all the party food. My dad suggested we store the leftover soup in the unheated garage. The next day my mom drove to meet me at a local coffee shop. A traffic cop pulled up along side her car, gesturing vehemently towards the roof of the car. I ran out of the coffee shop doing the same. My poor mom thought there was something wrong with her driving and looked totally confused. What we were trying to get her to realize was that she had driven downtown with the pot of chicken soup still on the roof of the car where she had placed it the night before.chicken soup goes for a ridesoup on a ride2

A different soup was featured at the party: Double-Roasted Winter Soup. I invented this vegan recipe because I was told there would be many vegetarians and possibly vegans at the party. It was delicious, and the recipe is below if you’d like to give it a try. Don’t be tempted to jack it up with chicken or meat stock: the soup rich enough as is and the flavors of the ingredients really star in this vegan version.

I have to confess, however, that at the party the pork tenderloin disappeared just as fast as the soup. So I guess the guests were omnivores after all, at least for that evening.

The rest of the menu included local cheeses, homemade dips including hummus and a smoked salmon spread, local olives, cranberry sauce to go with that pork (I thought cranberries were strictly a Northeastern crop, but turns out they are grown in the Pacific Northwest as well), the yemisee made with local rice, a version of spanakopita using chard instead of spinach because my grandmother can’t eat spinach, and Beata’s apple crumble.

I hope your holidays are as filled with great food and company as mine have been. Grandma, me, and Mom dancing at the partyHere’s that soup recipe (do NOT store it on the roof of your car):

DOUBLE-ROASTED WINTER SOUP
(No quantities given because you can make this to serve 1 or 20 depending on what you need. It’s called “double-roasted” because it takes two batches of roasted vegetables and fruit to make it, one for the stock and one to blend in later. Use about 4 parts vegetables to one part fruit for both the stock and the final soup.)

For the stock:
Carrots, parsnips, or pretty much any root vegetable except red beets (wrong color for this soup) or potatoes (they get added in step two, but don’t add anything to the stock). No need to peel, just scrub clean and cut into large chunks.

Onions, peeled and cut into quarters

Garlic cloves, peeled, about 1 for every 4 portions of soup you want to end up with

Apples or pears, cored and quartered

Olive oil

Bay leaves (about 1 per every 4 portions of soup you’re making)

Sprig of thyme

Celery stalks, cut in half crosswise

1.    Preheat oven to 400F. Toss all of the fruit and vegetables except the celery with just enough oil to lightly coat them and spread on a baking pan. Roast until just starting to brown.
2.    Transfer the roasted mixture to a soup pot. Add the herbs, celery, and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, adding water if necessary. The stock should take on a nice amber color from the carmelized fruits and vegetables.
3.    Strain the stock (you can compost the solids).

For the soup:

More root vegetables, including potatoes for this step. Peel the vegetables this time and chop them into approximately 1-inch pieces. I used carrots, parsnips, gold beets, and potatoes. Rutabagas and turnips would also work (go easy on the turnips).

Winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks. I used Butternut in this batch.

Apples or pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks.

Onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

Garlic cloves, peeled

Olive oil

1.    Toss all of the above with just enough oil to coat. As before, roast in a 400F oven until just starting to brown. It will take less time since you’ve cut the veg and fruit smaller this time.
2.    Add the roasted mixture to the strained stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
3.    Puree, either using a hand-blender (my preference) or in batches in a blender.
4.    Add salt to taste.

I served this soup with a garnish of crispy-fried fresh sage leaves, but it’s good even if you skip that part.
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Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

Get the book:

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith

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Home Cooking

One of the things I’ve found myself talking about lately, when asked about my local foods diet, is that it is grounded in community. It’s impossible to eat alone now (even when I do) because I’ve become friendly with so many of the people who grow my food. Even a solitary work night meal feels encircled by an extended “family” of people who contributed to the meal: that is Farmer Ted’s kale on my plate, Nancy’s lamb, the bread was made with Don’s locally grown and milled flour.

But nothing beats actually sitting down to eat with people you care about. In a recent interview on Bill Moyers, Michael Pollan commented that yes, a local diet does require an investment of time, but that food is so important it deserves more than ten minutes shoved into our busy schedules here and there.

What follows is a guest post written by my friend, Miriam Kresh. Miriam is a wonderful cook, forager, and home winemaker who lives in Israel and has a fascinating blog, Israeli Kitchen. I hope you enjoy her beautifully written post as much as I did. I also wish you many wonderful meals this holiday season, whether they are shared with family and friends, or spent appreciating the farmers who grew your food (or both!):

Miriam\'s homemade muffin

HOME COOKING

By Miriam Kresh

“It smells good in here,” said a visiting friend.

“I baked applesauce muffins. Here, take one, they’re still warm.”

Her eyes brightened. She chose a muffin with an especially thick cinnamon crumble topping, and took a bite. A look of pleasure spread over her face, and she said, “Where do you find time to do these things?”

I know what she wanted me to say: “I stayed up till late to bake; I baked for stress therapy; I baked at the expense of doing more important things.” But I couldn’t say any of that, because home cooking is one of the more important things.

When people I care for eat my food, they also satisfy a less conscious hunger, one that lives in all of us – the hunger to feel loved. How much am I willing to invest in love? Well, at least the ten minutes it takes to mix up a batch of muffins.

My mother cooked the savory foods of her Latin childhood all her life, and I’ve been eating them all of mine. With the food came her taste and verve, her interest in living and eating well, her sense of color and texture and fun. It was all cooked into dinner. It was an ingredient in the family fare, mixed in with talk, quarrels, jokes. Those dinners glow with the patina of family memories now.

Tonight, having guests, I cooked one of Mom’s recipes, a sumptuous arroz con pollo –garlic-scented, saffron-yellow rice, encircling tender pieces of chicken and decorated with green olives. We ate, we poured out wine. Eventually the evening wound up. The guests left, shaking hands and repeating thanks. We washed the dishes, and I took one last look around the kitchen before turning off the light. No one was thinking of food anymore.

Was that all? No. There was more to dinner than that. I know that sometime later in life, someone who ate at my table will look back with nostalgia and say how delicious the meal was, how the room seemed to fill with good cheer as the big platter passed from hand to hand. My food, like my mother’s, will have taken the shape of memories, and memories, being light, travel far into the future.

Simple as a muffin, elaborate as a Latin feast. Even scrambled eggs and toast are special when served by loving hands. Food equals love and memories, you know: some of the important things.

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith (a local foods memoir and cookbook that would make a great gift…hint, hint)

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Hello, Pantry

Tonight was the first time this late-autumn that I’ve needed my pantry. Well, “needed” may be too strong a word. The fact is that I was plain lazy. Haven’t made it to a farmers’ market for a couple of weeks and the CSA weekly share is over. Aside from a bunch of leeks, I had no vegetables in my crisper drawers as of tonight. I could have walked to the Park Slope Food Coop and dealt with the after-work crowd lines, because the coop still offers late-season fresh produce from a few local farms. But it’s dark outside, and cold, and I’m still walking slower than normal in my post-surgery leg brace. So I ain’t gonna.

Hello, Pantry. This is one of those times I am really, really grateful for my hobby-become-lifestyle of canning and freezing during the peak of the harvest season. Do I dig into a jar of ratatouille to serve over pasta, or maybe a salad of pickled beets and dilly beans? Tonight I decided to leave the home-canned goods alone and dove into the freezer. My freezer is so stuffed full at this time of year in prep for winter that even though I have a list of what’s in there I can’t get at most of it without the entire contents tumbling onto the floor at my feet.

Tonight it’s going to be bell pepper halves stuffed with a chorizo sausage and chard mixture, all of it drawing on ingredients I have in the freezer. I also have some fresh mozzarella from local, pastured cow’s milk that I picked up while I was visiting friends in Williamsburg, Mass. for Thanksgiving. Some of that will get melted on top.

On a different note, this past week I noticed a couple more signs that the local foods movement is gaining public awareness. Bill Moyer’s interviewed Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food) on PBS, and a curious piece of mail arrived in my mail box. The mail was from All-America Selections, a horticultural company that in the past has sent me ornamental plants such as new kinds of hydrangeas to try out. Their letter this time began with “Based on recent financial difficulties, it is easy to predict that people will be growing their own food this winter and next spring. whether grown in containers or garden soil, vegetable seed and bedding plant consumption will increase. We need to encourage this trend with practical advice, such as ‘It is as easy to grow a tomato as it is to grow a petunia or marigold.’”

The letter continues with an advertisement for vegetable varieties they are hoping to sell. Well, why not? Michael Pollan mentioned in his interview with Bill Moyers last week that during World War II Eleanor Roosevelt had part of the white house lawn torn up and converted into a “victory garden” a.k.a. vegetable garden. I teach classes at NYBG and BBG on how to grow food even if you don’t have a garden (in community gardens as well as on roof tops, fire escapes, windowsills, and indoors) and attendance has been especially good this year. There is no food more local than what you just picked at home.

Will everyone jump on the homegrown bandwagon? Of course not. Are there a lot of urbanites who might? Yes. Could that make a significant difference economically and environmentally? Yes.

Near the end of WWII, home gardens accounted for nearly 40% of the produce in the U.S.

Do you have a window? A plant pot? Let’s talk…

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

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