09 December 2009

On Soup

Remember this summer when it was about 120* outside, and everyone was grossly overheated and dripping in sweat and malice?  I don't.  Or, at least I'm beginning to feel as if I can forgive the spirits of Summers Past, if they will simply take away these inhuman temperatures and let me resume functioning as a normal human being.  The sun is shining so cheerfully outside, beckoning me to frolic through the streets on my day off, but I know it's just a tease.  These winter days are flirty little minx; it may seem like a great idea to romp around, but alas, it's 17*!  No thank you, I'll take my chances in here where it is warm and the blankets are plentiful.

Now, I realize this all seems a bit pessimistic.  Yes, yes, it is gorgeous out there, and all seasons have their merits.  But the winter inevitably turns me into a monster of sorts, one that stuffs themselves with candy and carbohydrates in anticipation of a looming hibernation, and only ventures out of the apartment when forced to go to work or coerced with the promise of more food.  I spend my days watching movies or delightfully girly television, reading, and every so often cleaning up my messes.

I truly do love winter.  It offers me an excuse for my perpetual laziness and homebody personality.  When it snows, I forget all about the subzero temperatures and prance around like a 7 year-old.  Of course, there is always Christmas.  But for me, winter holds that spot so near and dear to my heart because it is not only satsuma season, but, oh yes, soup season.

A big bowl of soup is as effective and much more delicious than any remedy money can buy.  I am accustomed to the "poor man's soup," that haphazard potion of potatoes, celery, beans, and whatever else left in the caverns of the refrigerator that warms and delights.  But this, dear readers, this is another thing all together.  I discovered this recipe in the Cafe Flora cookbook , which is a collection of recipes frequently produced in the kitchen of the celebrated vegetarian restaurant in Seattle.  A wholesome and slightly sweet concoction of butternut squash, curry, and coconut milk, this soup is sure to deliver some warmth to those otherwise intolerable winter days.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from the Cafe Flora Cookbook

Cafe Flora suggests using two cans of coconut milk (14 oz each), but I found that the sweetness of the coconut can overpower the taste of the squash.  I use one can of coconut milk, and substitute the rest with vegetable stock, or if you feel so inclined, heavy cream.  Also, some hazelnuts make a delicious addition to the soup if you are feeling particularly sassy.  

1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 (or much more, if you're anything like me) cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon finely ground coriander seeds
1 (14 oz) can of lite coconut milk
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1.  Peel and cut the butternut squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds, and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes.

2.  Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and a bit of salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent and soft, stirring often.  Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 2 more minutes.

3.  Add the curry powder, cumin, and ground coriander and sauté for 15 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add 4 cups of water and the squash, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook, covered, at a low boil until the squash is tender.

4.  Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, or simply remove from the heat temporarily and mash it up with a big wooden spoon.  This works just fine if the squash is soft enough and your determination is strong enough.

5.  Return the soup to heat, and add the coconut milk and broth, bringing just to a boil.  Remove the soup off the heat, and add salt and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.  Enjoy!

24 November 2009

An Unlikely Introduction

To be remembered, you must make it so. At a party, when introducing yourself, just giving a name won’t cut it. Attached to the name must be a story, something memorable, a play on words or a twist of phrase. So goes the advice a communications professor suggested to her class years ago, a bit of detail never to grow stale or be forgotten, although it might need to be dusted off from time to time, having spent too many months untouched in the back of the mind’s cupboard behind jars of brighter, newly opened delectables. Easy to incorporate into any dish, easy to digest. Which isn’t to say that jar gathering dust is difficult to swallow. Not in the least. It’s just easier to grab something closer, to avert the hand at the last minute and avoid the new face necessitating the storied introduction. Even if it might taste really, really good. Even if might awaken, if it might demand.

I like to visualize the act of memory-making as the first steps in creating the world you inhabit, in suggesting all that fine film of perception that surrounds a Self. This introduction is the entry point for the Other. Some common ground where neither extreme of oneself is revealed just yet, rather, an entryway is presented where seven halls beckon to be wandered, doors to be used as hiding places, windows to be peered through. And I like to think that if it were to have a taste—the whole kitten concept—it would hit the spot where savory turns to sweet, gooey to crusty, blackened to golden to honey-colored. It would taste like apple pie with cheddar crust.
So hello, welcome. Please explore our hallways, use our windows as a lens through which to see your own landscape, take comfort behind the doors standing ajar and don’t hesitate to open closed ones. From the Intemperies raging outside to the one’s baking in the oven to those bubbling on the stovetop, take a seat and take a breath and take a bite.

With Jane, who might take a seat among the loveliest of ladies—and a spot in my heart as dear friend—I take credit for what follows in this space. Look to her definition of Intemperies, which reminds me that even without all the exotic spices, the sumptuous linens and the gilded teacups to hold that silken crème, life right now can be just as rich as life over in dark Parisian corners or bluish Scandinavian mornings, fluid Florentine museums or writhing Bombay avenues.

But for now, some aged white cheddar and slippery, un-spiced apples to entice that ephemera from where it sleeps on blustery November nights.

Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust
From Gourmet, September 2009

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ {2 1/2 cups} lb extra-sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½ -inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon milk

For the Apples:

1 ½ lb Gala apples {3 medium}
1 ½ lb Granny Smith apples {3 medium}
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Equipment: 9-inch pie plate

Make the crust:

Toss flour, salt and cheese in a large bowl or pulse in a food processor. Blend in butter and shortening with a pastry blender, processor or fingers. Stop when you have pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 6 Tbsp water over the flour mixture and toss lightly to combine and dampen mixture.
If dough doesn't hold together at this time, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. Do not overwork.

Divide dough in half, making two disks and wrapping them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make the filling:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a foil-lined baking sheet under rack where pie will rest.

Peel and core apples, slicing them about 1/4 in thick. Toss well with the sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Roll out one piece of dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into the pie plate and roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch round. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with the second pastry and trim edges leaving a bit of dough to pinch together all around the circumference. Brush top crust lightly with milk and cut 5, one inch long vents.

Bake on the foil-lined sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, until the crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool 2-3 hours before serving.

It's lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, which cuts the cheddar with a cooling sweet.

19 November 2009


Finally.  I've done it.  My curious fixation for blogs began a few years ago when I happened upon the eloquent and highly-relatable musings of Molly Wizenberg on her beautiful blog, Orangette .  While reading the stories Molly shares with her vast, anonymous world of readers, I realized that I may have just found what it was I had been searching for; that is, a way to combine two seemingly contrasting passions, the crafts of cuisine and writing, into an outlet of energy and emotion that allows me to explore more deeply the very things my life revolves around.

This is not to say I am any expert in either.  I struggle with finding a voice in my more creative writing that seems genuine; let me loose on an academic paper and I'll knock your socks off.  And I am certainly no Alice Waters.  I've made pancakes and left out the flour (and believe me, this is not an isolated incident).

Nonetheless, I have been yearning for a space where I can cultivate these interests of mine in the hopes of connecting with or inspiring others, much like the multitudes of foodie bloggers out there have done for me.  It is my firm belief that what we eat sustains our bodies and enriches our minds and hearts, and there should be so much joy in the preparation of meals, and certainly in the sharing of our food.

I have been lucky enough to encounter like-minded individuals in my life that share these fundamental values of food and writing and happiness, and upon forming a bond with my dear friend Veronica, Intempéries was born.  Our goal is to share stories about our daily lives that inspire us, especially in our culinary ventures, while focusing on dishes that are seasonal and, more often than not, local.

Intempéries is a french word for "bad weather," but as Veronica explained to me, the term can be used to refer to those surely surreal moments in time when it seems like the weather is a bit schizophrenic, emulating the four seasons all at once.  In the context of a blog centered around food, I took this as a way to incorporate a multitude of ingredients in a food-geek cop-out.  However, I think a much more poignant view is thinking of our lives as a bit intempéries themselves.  Life can be glorious, depressing, raucous, and downright crummy all at once.  No matter what, though, it is always beautiful, always worthwhile.  I could drop a bottle of wine on my foot, followed by a can of coconut milk on the exact spot (like I did a few days ago), let my soup boil over and scald, and forget to put in those spices that make it all the more sexy, but... somehow, it is still delicious and oh-so-worth it.

I am so looking forward to this shared venture with Veronica and the rest of you.  Do bear with us while we get the blog going and designed to our liking... we're even delusional and excited enough to believe we can learn html code for it!