|lumps of coal|
How was your Christmas? Did you eat roast beef and yorkshire pudding? Did you go to mass? Did you go to the movies? Did Santa bring you pecan pie Pringles? Aren't they revolting?
Our Christmas was lovely. We saw every member of our extended family living within a 90 mile radius, ate crab, listened to carols, exchanged presents, and spent last night cleaning for the house sitter which always makes me want to cancel a vacation. Today we’re driving to Los Angeles.
I received three cookbooks: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, The Model Bakery Cookbook, and Kenvin: An Artist’s Kitchen. I look forward to exploring them when we return.
But I can’t leave town before wrapping up Soups, which I started out dreading and ended up loving. Not so much the book itself, as the soup experience. Soup still lacks romance for me, but while I have always preferred steak and red wine, I find that I feel better on a diet of vegetarian soups and coconut water. What a shocker.
Let’s rewind: Last Friday, I made “boiled water” soup because it involved little money or time and no trip to the supermarket. Richard Olney excerpted the recipe from a 1977 book called Ma Cuisine Provencale by Josephine Besson and writes: “This Provencal infusion is said to have extraordinary virtues. Nothing can resist it: hangover, illness, childbirth -- there can be no convalescence without ‘boiled water.’” He also writes that it is “delicious and tangy.” I wondered how such a primitive soup could possibly be delicious. How primitive is boiled water? This primitive:
Salt a quart of water to taste, drop in 15 cloves of garlic and boil for 10 minutes. Add a bay leaf, a sage leaf. and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Boil 5 minutes more. Cover the pot and let the water sit for 10 minutes. Pull out the leaves and garlic cloves. Put slices of crusty bread on the bottom of four bowls, top with shredded gruyere, pour the hot garlic water over the bread. (You can add more olive oil at this point, but I forgot.) Serve.
Owen thought it was “too garlicky” and Mark thought it was “too sharp.” Isabel and her friend Juliet decided to go to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, so I don’t know what they thought of boiled water. Or maybe their decision to go the Cheesecake Factory is exactly what they thought of boiled water.
I loved it. I’d make this again in a second.
Saturday, I made carrot soup, the only other soup that didn’t require a trip to the supermarket. (Olney plucked this recipe out of Terence Conran and Maria Kroll’s Vegetable Book.) In the early afternoon I sauteed sliced carrots in butter with some finely chopped onion. Added water and a little rice and simmered until cooked. Turned off stove, put lid on pot, and Mark and I went to see Inside Llewyn Davis, which we did not enjoy. If you were spellbound by the music, Oscar Isaac’s performance, John Goodman, and the Coen Brothers’ dark genius, you are in good company. We can agree to disagree.
Back home, I pureed the carrot soup with the stick blender, reheated, salted vigorously, served. It was so carroty it practically crunched. Sour cream did a lot to soften the raw rootiness and in the end I was happy with the soup, though I wouldn’t make it again.
That’s it for Soups. The book is too full of unappealing, archaic recipes (brown rabbit soup, a cream of asparagus soup made with twenty tablespoons of butter) to recommend. But I’m glad I forced myself to cook five recipes from its pages. I would be a healthier, skinnier, happier person if I ate vegetable soup for dinner two or three nights a week. Maybe that will be a resolution.