Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.
One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair— sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.
I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!
Just a short drive from our house in Colorado Springs is our favorite Italian market and deli Mollica’s, which is perhaps best known as a popular, packed lunch spot on Garden of the Gods Road just west of I-25. Mollica’s is the happy kind of place that still serves old school “red sauce” meals like spaghetti and meatballs or a very good lasagna (all made with fresh pasta) as well as yummy pizza and calzone — though I couldn’t call it a “pizza place.” A large part of the lunch menu has always been devoted to stellar sandwiches (think grinders from house made sausage, scratch meatballs, heroes, and hot Italian beef) and a full line of filling salads that of course are served with fresh bread and butter. While I’m ready to eat anything Mollica’s makes –check out their dinner specials, too — I nearly always choose a salad because I can also get a cup of their minestrone–a simple and herby vegetable soup that just hits the sweet spot in my tummy. Occasionally I wonder why I don’t make some minestrone at home, but for some reason, I rarely do. That just changed.
Sometimes I know a couple of weeks ahead what’s coming up on the blog. Occasionally I even cook, write a recipe, take photos, and keep a post for the next season. For the last year, however, I have mostly begun working on the next week’s food within a day or two of the last post, photographing, writing, editing, and rewriting right up until my usual, but occasionally fluctuating deadline. In this case, the “Frozen Bailey’s Mochaccino” (Did you make it?!) wasn’t dry on the page before I was making this soup. I was interested in and then thoroughly inspired by a post of Nigella Lawson’s, “Broccoli and Stilton Soup” on twitter. (I’ve just looked back at it and see she’s even encouraged readers to use whatever cheeses they have on hand — just as I do here! Great minds think alike 😉 ) There was literally and figuratively a bunch of broccoli in the fridge and broccoli cheese soup of some sort, if not totally blue-cheesy, was sounding good for Meatless Monday. Well, the soup was grand if I do say so myself. I even had the recipe written and some decent photos in the can. I did, however, forget to note a couple of key elements like the weight of the broccoli, for instance. Hello, honey!! No choice: I re-ordered the ingredients, made the soup a second time (now as a first course before mushroom pork chops on date night), followed my own recipe weighing everything, and got it all straight for you.
Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.
This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.
While folks east of the Rockies often wax poetic about miles of midwestern corn billowing in the breeze this time of year, we here in Colorado know a little bit more than that. The corn might be“as high as an elephant’s eye” in say, Illinois, (and since I was raised right where the Illinois cornfields begin south of Chicago, I know), we higher country dwellers are sold on Colorado’s own Olathe sweet corn. Come corn time, we run to heat the butter, ready the grill, put out the extra salt shakers, and even a jar of mayo and Queso Fresco for those who like their corn Mexican style. There’s a trip planned out to the Olathe Corn Festival, when possible — or at least a quick run to the grocery store when the corn first gets into town. 2020 finds us in a different spot. The festival’s canceled and we’re a little teary over the whole thing if you really want to know. I mean, great fresh produce is at a premium out here and we wait all year for our sweet corn that comes just about the same time as Colorado’s Rocky Ford melons and Western Slope peaches, and not long before our tasty San Luis valley potatoes. It’s almost too much good stuff at once!
There are simply days when it’s time to eat lightly or cut back a little. Even if you’re not on WW (Weight Watchers) or following some other sort of weight-loss program, a few bowls of colorful all-vegetable soup might be just what you need today or even exactly as the doctor ordered. (“Eat more fiber!”) Maybe you overdid it at the restaurant Saturday night or at the neighbor’s brunch on Sunday; you could have skipped your workouts last week. Whatever…I’m guessing this could be your soup this week–great for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.
I have made this easy potful for years and it’s even been blogged before. Today it was time to rewrite the recipe and add its second-day version (baked in a bowl with an egg in the middle!) right here in the same post.
A stocked pantry is something like a gold mine when you’re hungry and you have no idea what’s for lunch. A peek into one big drawer of mine includes several kinds of dried beans, at least 5 kinds of rice, bulgar, barley, polenta, oats, couscous, farro, quinoa, a variety of dried fruits, and usually a couple of kinds of lentils. (A big bank account makes a lot of people feel secure, but I’m rich when my cabinets are full.) When I have no idea what’s to eat, lentils are my go-to. They’re easy, fast, filling, healthy as can be (see below), pair with nearly anything and in many a direction, and they’re even pretty darned inexpensive.
I married at 20 in 1974, and while I had a basic knowledge of cooking thanks to my food-loving parents, being in total charge of making sure there was food on the table for two people every day came as a bit of a shock.
After all, I had other things to do. There were two part-time jobs (one in a university office and one at a local restaurant–an old school red sauce place, by the way) and I went to school full time. I had a million books I wanted to read (and did) and I sang wherever and whenever I could. There were friends to hang out with, walks to take, dreams to make. And I had to student teach sometime if I wanted to graduate! What a body-blow it was to assume most of the burden for shopping, housework, and laundry because, well, that’s how things were despite my finest efforts to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. There were more than a few battles over those things, you could rightly assume. Perhaps an issue or two still occasionally floats to the surface because, well, I guess life has to remain interesting and we’re sometimes still working something out. (Who is cleaning out the laundry room this week, by the way?)