Category: Vegetables

Vegetables as star ingredient

Citrus & Beet Salad with mixed greens

I was once told that you start at the beginning, continue to the end, then stop. Then you do the same with the next task. This is how things get done. Wise words, when it comes to writing, but hard to do. Especially when this bright and lovely thing that I’m sharing with you today doesn’t start at its beginning but at the beginning of my week.

It seems that griping¬†about past weather did the trick, because what a glorious week we’ve had weather-wise. Personally, it could have been one out of those old silent era comic movies. Someone having a bad week would have been considerably cheered up with a glimpse into mine. Talk about comic relief.

An unusual bout of insomnia has me falling asleep too late and waking up too early for a couple of weeks now. Last week, this offered me the opportunity to get into more trouble than I normally do, which aiming to please, I did. On Monday morning, I woke up at five, decided to make dinner for the evening while trying to call my cousin in New Zealand. I’m probably the only person in the history of dinner who burnt it at six a.m.

Tuesday, I almost got run over. Not the driver’s fault; no one should be looking at the sky and thinking about Rottweilers and Retrievers when she’s crossing the street. Wednesday is a bit of a blur in my head. There’s a good chance I might have told someone that he sucked. Also, I missed a perfectly good chicken and waffles dinner with friends since I was otherwise occupied with trying to kill my too-slow work computer.

I did not succeed.
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Annie Somerville’s New Mexican Border Stew

There is grating sanctimony in the general intent that you must eat something because it is good for you. Taking this quite rigourously to heart, well-meaning yet hapless parents have urged scores of chilidren over millenia to tuck into things that they have no natural affinity for. Unfortunately, the things children do make a beeline for, like sugar and chips, are quite bad for them. This makes for the eternal tussle between harried parents and their stubborn progeny who firmly refuse to open their mouths when they see suspicious and unknown things on their plate. Most children must feel that there is an inescapable, unseen plot to ensure their gastronomical suffering. As a child, I know I often did.

Eating a thing just because it is good for you makes little sense to me, though it is a sentiment with which I’ve made peace with some difficulty. I’ve been taken in by needing to eat purely for health, forcing myself at one point to try to eat fish. It was an experiment that ended in disaster, as it was doomed to from the start. We refuse to eat lots of things as children, sometimes growing to like them as adults. Yet grown-up children all around tell me that they do not like something because they were force-fed it as children. I suspect this is only half true, as I had to admit after my tryst with “chicken of the sea”. The moment you step out into the world on your own, you take the reins of your life into your own hands. This includes what you will or won’t eat, and honestly, how long are you going to blame your palate on the actions of a well-intentioned parent?

‘Calvin & Hobbes’ comic strip by Bill Watterson

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James Beard’s Garlic Soup

The new year has brought with it a need for cleaning. And organizing. A lot of organizing, coupled with the putting away of childish things. Well, not quite all things re-eally. That PS2 is going nowhere until it gets replaced with a PS3 someday. (Where else can you learn about Greek Mythology and hack Medusa to bits at the same time?). The problem with having a multitude of interests is that they have a way of taking over precious space and multiplying. Books seem to settle down onto available surfaces and proceed to invite their friends and relatives over to join them, then begin masquerading as surfaces themselves. Magazines try to outmatch them by throwing raucous parties that have them flopping all over everything. Guitars and cameras start showing signs of aspiring to world domination, upon the imminent conquest of our home. Then there is our music collection. We find there was a downside to being able to carry 10,000 songs in your pocket. You end up having 10,000 songs in your pocket. Finding anything in there takes a while. A possible upside? If you want your cooking of soup to be accompanied by a (fairly unhealthy to some) dose of Nirvana, you can easily do so without looking for CDs under those towering stacks of books.

Soup seems to be the obvious choice to counteract the excesses of the holiday season. The weekend that saw some fog-ridden grey days appeared to corroborate this. On the Ipod, Cobain rambled on about the friends he found in his head. Meanwhile, I moved some websites around on my screen and toppled some book towers over before I chanced upon a quaint recipe for garlic soup, requiring very little effort on my part and just as few ingredients. Entirely too prim a soup for Nirvana, but sometimes the most unlikely things work in pairing.
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Gourmet’s Hummus and Tzatziki

It is an inevitable truth that everything that has a beginning has an end. Some enjoy heights of success, only to falter and fade away, then fall into oblivion to disappear with nary a blip. Others are lamented in their eventual passing. Then there are those whose demise brings on waves of despair, shouts of protest, flowing tributes in homage. “How can it be true?” you hear people shout! “Where are we to turn?” they ponder in sadness. These are the lucky few. Their demise sends shockwaves among their supporters. They live amongst their fans forever.

This is what happened with the closure of Gourmet magazine. Witnessing the shock and despair of its legions of fans at Conde Nast’s decision to shut down this matriarch of the published food world, I have to admit I didn’t quite get it right away. I revere books; I’ve never been much of a magazine lover, the only ones I ever subscribed to were the Architectural Review, Readers’ Digest and Archie comics (yes, the 12 year old in me never quite grew up). The hue and cry baffled me. Surely this was just a magazine meeting an untimely demise at the hands of business people? Given the tough economy so many things have gone a similar way. Cookbooks are still around, so how bad could it be?

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup with blue cheese

It is that lingering kind of cold day. Many people in the States might disagree. Forty-five degrees might be welcome to most of them right now. But it is the kind of low temperature that insidiously creeps into your bones and freezes you at the core. You can’t shake it. There is a still in the air, like someone holding their breath. Everything is grey. Even my brain has hit pause. I’ve typed and deleted several opening lines to this post…there are no words that work. Instead of the usual chaos I have to sort through, there is white noise. Maybe the paranoid strains of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s watching me” aren’t helping…. **scrambling for the remote, hitting forward**….maybe Blue’s optimistic “Make it Happen” will wake up the grey matter…or Xzhibit’s oddly stentorian “Concentrate” **…flipping through the music…passing by “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and ZZ Top, slowing down at Mos Def’s “Quiet dog” and settling on Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the silence”** ...oddly appropriate, though still not helping much. It is hard to quite make sense of this mental block.

I welcome winter and this time of year, and the season hasn’t been around long enough to make me yearn for another, just for the change. So why then, this blankness? I turn and look out the window. Down on the street, wet cars are fervently scuttling home, thinking warm thoughts. Across the street, a neighbour appears at his window. He sees me and raises the mug in his hand in a cheery greeting, then turns around and switches on his Christmas lights. I wave back and switch ours on in mute response. Little pinpricks of light shine through the dusk. Suddenly, more windows light up in the buildings around and swatches of brightness spill into the rapidly darkening evening. A wind flutters the leaves on the trees like a drawn-out sigh, and in the blink of an eye, it begins to rain. A small smattering of rain drops that form a sheer veil between me and the world outside. As if by magic, the synapses begin firing again. Thoughts return to this soup, the one I want to tell you about.

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