Thursday, December 26, 2013

Santa's a funny guy


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.

15 comments:

  1. So glad you too disagreed with the critics about Llewyn Davis. I enjoyed the music, John Goodman and the period feel, but the central character was too disagreeable. And what was that business about suddenly springing a flashback on us? Blech.

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    1. holy cow, I could have written this comment...totally agree with all of the above!

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    2. I had a theory that the critics are mostly New Yorkers and thus have a soft spot for this very New York movie. But then I read the comments on the glowing NYT review and most the dissenters were New Yorkers. A mystery.

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  2. We made Carrot soup with ginger for both Thanksgiving and xmas and it is delicious. No rice though.

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    1. I've seen recipes for carrot soup with ginger. Also with orange. It can be so good.

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  3. Try this carrot soup. Roasting the carrots is a genius move.
    http://food52.com/recipes/9743-roasted-carrot-soup

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    1. That would intensify the flavors, wouldn't it. I'll try it.

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  4. David Tanis featured a version of this soup in his City Kitchen column in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/dining/garlic-soup-as-a-cure-for-the-common-meal-city-kitchen.html). I've used the garlic/oil/sage combo as a quick broth a number of times--it works really well. I even skip the garlic entirely sometimes and boil sage in water and add salt and (sometimes) a bit of olive oil for an instant soup when I'm lazy. All these flavors are delicious. Soups can be pedestrian, but they can also be wonderful. Glad you enjoyed the book.

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    1. Do you always put bread and shredded cheese in the bowl? It's a miracle to me how that soup came together with such simple ingredients.

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  5. Proud member of the "I Have Never Eaten A Pringles" Club.

    Your garlic soup sounds like something I was fed over and over again when traveling through Southern France and parts of Italy in the early 1980's. It was mostly sold to us at small family hostels and we started to refer to it as Poor Student Soup because a bowl of it only cost about 25 cents and everyone under the age of 25 seemed to exist on it. The cheese was sprinkled on top and the bread was served on the side. Most of the "poor students" crumbled the bread into the soup to thicken the broth. I also remember young men were often given two pieces of crusty bread, but not charged extra. I assume it was because they needed the extra calories and most of the women dishing out the soup looked like someones mother.

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    1. I wish I could claim membership in that club, but alas. . .
      This really is a cheap soup to make -- 25 cents a bowl was probably about right.

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  6. I know you are through with Soups, but it seems your readers have lots to say about it! I will have to look up these suggested recipes. Those Pringles look disgusting, but were they? Great gift for you, Santa does have a sense of humor sometimes. What's next? You haven't said.

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  7. I meant to comment on your garlic soup experience. It seems to me that I've seen recipes for a similar soup with an egg cracked into it.

    Also, your soup didn't involve a trip to the grocery store but it called for 15 garlic cloves? Dang.

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  8. NPR runs this "Monday Sandwich" thing where the "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" gang reviews regional sandwiches; you can find the transcripts (with photos!) on line. Recently they reviewed Pecan Pie Pringles. The general consensus seems to be that the reason the little guy on the Pringles Pecan Pie label is smiling is because he doesn't have a mouth.

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  9. I came across a cookbook called 'River Cottage Veg' by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall about two months ago - now I own it and cook from it several times a week. If vegetable soup becomes a resolution, definitely look into this book.

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