It’s the time of year when cooking can fall into a somewhat doldrum state. On one hand, we have the best produce of any season…
If you’re lucky enough to live in places where spring vegetables were planted weeks ago, you could already have a crop of spinach or green onions or asparagus. Our past-frost date in Colorado Springs hasn’t yet arrived; it’s June 1 – June 10. For the first time, I’ve snuck a few things in early, but am nightly ready to rush out to bring pots in or run into the yard like a crazy woman throwing blankets over newly-planted beds. (We have upcoming lows of 32 F this week, for instance.)
Disclaimer June, 2014 : I have used the term “lusty vegan” in my blogs without knowing a book by that name was going to be published; I naively thought it was my own phrase. Just so you know. Not a thief!
In Colorado, spring comes in fits and starts, swirling itself in and out through March, April, and sometimes May. There are warm days where we heat up the grill at five pm followed by frozen hoarfrost mornings perfect for stew-making. We, unlike most of the northern United States, have truly fine days long before the real start of spring; January and February can breed 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit afternoons when the windows are thrown open for the stagnant winter aromas to dissipate into sweet, albeit temporary, breezes floating down from the mountains. A cook who lives within the seasons and responds accordingly often doesn’t know what to do but be exceedingly spontaneous and keep a daily eye on the weather channel.
Despite snow still appearing on an at least weekly basis, I have for weeks been dreaming of spring vegetables and a new soup to celebrate them. It’s not that we have any spring vegetables cropping up (good pun) in Colorado Springs; we have so little rain that locally-grown vegetables are like gold. And where we live, up on the mesa, it’s bedrock, bobcats, coyotes, deer, and bears. If you had the good luck to get anything to grow, you could be sure something not-so-human would be eating it. I grow copious amounts of herbs in pots and often have cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets on the deck. That’s about it; that’s all I can protect from the wildlife.
below: one of our local young and scrawny bucks making his way through our back garden
Still–the idea of spring food is dear to my heart and I have lovely memories of the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market and its bounty. (In Saint Paul, the Farmer’s Market is still selling winter products, I’m sure. Way too early to plant, though they’re all dreaming and many are starting seeds indoors.) Happy spring vegetables like fennel, asparagus, and leeks deserve their very own dishes with luscious and copious amounts of fresh herbs to encourage them along. While I love asparagus soup ( and who doesn’t), adore leek and potato soup (same thing), and will put sautéed spicy fennel on just about anything, I kept thinking of a soup that featured all of them. Together.
My daughter-in-law, Jami, pregnant with our granddaughter, hasn’t had much appetite. I said to her, “What sounds good?” She said, “I’m supposed to be eating more red meat, but I just don’t feel like eating. I loved that salmon you made last week.” So I made the salmon (or Dave did–on the grill) and also a couple of strip steaks. She loves cauliflower, so that, too was on the menu–steamed and topped with a generous grating of sharp cheddar. (No leftover cauliflower!) A pot of jasmine rice finished out the meal, as Jami is Gluten-Free.
Over the meal, which Jami ate if not with abandon, at least with appetite, we talked baby names. Samantha came up, as did Gwendolyn. Aileen was uttered. “What Celtic names do you know?” Well, I couldn’t think of many Celtic names, but I did tell her the names of our grandmothers, just for fun:
- Laura (pronounced Lara)
They of course already knew their own grandmother’s names, though I later realized that two of them shared the middle name Jean. Continue reading