The spring here has been flat and gray and the American suburbs seem lonely and bleak and Barcelona, in memory, populous and lively and engrossing. If the sun would just stop being so coy maybe all would look rosier. We took a walk Saturday morning, bundled in our jackets, and under the sad white sky we saw a bobcat, a half dozen wild turkeys, a deer, an enormous black beetle, lupines, poppies, the mighty Pacific Ocean, cliffs, a sandy beach, and many joggers in unflattering tights listening to iPods. I whined to my husband that I think I made some wrong life choices because I was so much happier looking at people in harem pants and chunky glasses in Spain. You should all feel very sorry for me. . .
But only because I'm on a for-real diet. I'm trying to make it interesting and delicious, with moderate success. Friday, I had my biggest hit with the cauliflower soup
from Heidi Swanson's new Super Natural Every Day
. This soup does include croutons and a small amount of aged cheddar cheese, but I still think it counts as a dietetic dinner if you consume just one bowl. The soup is rich and mustardy (!) and if you have this book, rest assured that you can use water instead of stock, omit the shallots, and toast any bread you have around for the croutons (I used leftover English muffins, ciabatta, and hamburger buns) and end up with a supernaturally outstanding meal.
I'm completely under the spell of Super Natural Every Day
. I did not plan this. I was planning to cook from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty
, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. But that book has never quite seized my imagination. Meanwhile, I'm constantly picking up Super Natural Every Day
and flipping through it, the way I was constantly flipping through Pioneer Woman Cooks
a year ago. Although Heidi Swanson and Ree Drummond are pretty much polar opposites, they both forcefully convey their personalities and sensibilities through food. This is exactly what has always beguiled me about cookbooks: the way they can express so much while seeming to talk about muffins and main courses.
If you're unfamiliar with Swanson's blog
, she's a vegetarian who embraces creamy vegetable fats (avocado, coconut oil) and unusual beans and grains. She uses a bit of cheese in her recipes, but never much, and she skimps on sugar. Her photographs are lush and gorgeous, her voice is measured and precise, and her work inspiring and aspirational. I want to step into the lovely, orderly world she depicts and become the kind of restrained and principled person who can say:
"I do my best to keep a relatively minimalist kitchen, treating it more like a studio space than anything else. . . ."
"You'll likely notice I don't automatically season every one of my recipes with salt and pepper."
"I use little whispers of toasted sesame oil in my cooking but it can be devastatingly overpowering. To say I'm judicious with it is an understatement."
"I find myself most excited about light, bright, refreshing beverages. . . on the fancy beverage front, my repertoire is short and spritzy and none involve hard alcohol."
Sadly, the words "light," "bright," and "refreshing" do not describe the beverages that excite me most. I am most excited by drinks that are "heavy," "complex," and "intoxicating." They always involve hard alcohol. I season everything with salt and pepper. I've never cooked with a "whisper"of anything -- certainly not delicious sesame oil! -- and my kitchen and its cabinets look less like a studio space than the attic of a grandmother with hoarding tendencies. These are clearly my preferences; this is clearly my personality.
And yet here I am, halfway to 90, still envying and aspiring to the aesthetic of others, like I don't have one of my own. My mother did this, too. It's the insecurity of the magpie, the magpie who envies the minimalist.
A magpie sensibility is one reason, pace Gabrielle Hamilton
, I ultimately found Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table
so delightful to work from. I still haven't gotten that book out of my system. At first glance it's hard to figure out where Greenspan is going with the jumble of recipes, but once you plunge in you discover it's a magpie book that joyfully pulls from all sources and uses all manner of ingredients at the expense of an instantly discernible aesthetic. Don't be deceived. There's a unifying spirit to the book, and it's the inclusive and vibrant spirit of the magpie.
Anyway, here is Swanson's description of her honey and rose water tapioca: "The key to this fragrant tapioca pudding is a light touch with the honey and rose water. Too much of either and the tapioca goes from being lovely, charming and understated to vampy and garish."
I love rosewater more than I can say. I always double the amount called for in recipes. I will now, in a very awkward segue, provide the requested photograph of the platform shoes I brought back from Spain:
|Too clunky to be vampy, but definitely garish. Muxart.|
Are these loud green shoes a garish anomaly in my closet?
I am afraid not:
|Very cheap. Very uncomfortable. In 5 years, never worn, but treasured. |
In other news, we got leashes for our goats so we can take them into the unfenced part of the yard to eat blackberry vines. The other night I teased Isabel, who is 14: "Would you rather go without food for 24 hours or take the goats on a walk around the block."
Isabel: "Twenty-four hours? I'd rather go without food for 48 hours."