February 11, 2012

Sweet Beets

Nigella Lawson's recipes have a beautifully generous quality about them. She often references "Lawson portions" (i.e. BIG), which gets me very excited. Although I can't enjoy the generous portions I used to (office job! slow metabolism!) -- I get very excited about the idea of large portions. I'd give anything for my 19-year-old appetite. It was fun.

Which is why I was drawn to her beet soup recipe. It's clean and sprightly, with Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar foiling the sweet beets. It's found in her book, "How to Eat". If there's anyone I'm willing to let dictate how I eat, it's undoubtedly Ms. Lawson. She with her butterscotch cake that made a former colleague nearly weep with joy. All the same, she has a way with brussels sprouts that makes me nearly weep. (The secret is bacon, of course.) She's the queen of both sweet and savory.

Back to the soup. The biggest task is boiling and peeling the beets, but it can be done days ahead. Once that's done, it's a matter of putting them in the blender with water, dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar. Pour the puree in a pan, add more water until it's the consistency you like, and heat until desired. Note that the soup will thicken as it sits in the fridge; you'll want to add more water upon reheating. Also, don't wear white when you make this.

Trust me.

Beet Soup
"How to Eat" by Nigella Lawson

2 large or 4 small beets (about 1.5 lbs)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
buttermilk or yogurt (optional)

Put the beets in a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 hours or until tender. (Less, if they're small.) Slip a knife in one to test doneness; it should insert easily. Remove the cooked beets (retaining the cooking liquid) and slip their skins off under running cold water. This step can be done days ahead.

Put beets in a food processor or blender together with the mustard and balsamic vinegar. Puree, adding the cooking liquid until the texture is as you like it. (Mine was a bit thick.) The soup will thicken as it sits in the fridge, so you'll want to add a little more water each time as you reheat. Add buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream if desired. Snipped chives are nice, too.

January 22, 2012

A Unique Month

When the wind snaps and the snow falls, nothing offers more comfort than a hardy stew. But January is a unique month. Its chill echos December's call to hibernate, yet January offers suggestions to mend. Stews can be too much, too heavy. I want food that offers both substance and succor.

It calls itself a ragout. Page 289 of Amanda Hesser's "The Essential New York Times Cookbook" offers a Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Ragout. The roasted carrots are deep and sweet. The lentils are impartial, but the heat is deft. Listed in the cookbook's index under the "Dinner on a Moment's Notice" section, it's a cinch to make.

It's no beauty queen, but makes up in practicality for what it lacks in eye appeal. The recipe is forgiving. Add as much or little chile powder to suit your taste. I will use less next time, as well as more roasted carrots. The ragout is happy atop rice or alongside boiled potatoes, and takes a liking to a dallop of yogurt or sour cream when eaten by itself. The rich-sweet smell of roasting carrots will have you thinking of this ragout long after your bowl is empty.

Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Ragout
1.5 lbs carrots, peeled
5 Tbs. olive oil
2.5 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp ancho chile powder
3/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
5 cups chicken broth

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the carrots in a roasting pan or a baking sheet and toss with 3 Tbs oil. Season with 1.5 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.

2. Turn the carrots, add the onion, and roast for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are brown and tender. Remove from the oven.

3. When the carrots are cool enough, cut them into 1/4 inch dice.

4. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrots and onions, chile powder, and cayenne pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils, add the broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart. Season with the remaining 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste.

December 23, 2011

Merry merry

Here's the entry to a post I started about our Maui honeymoon:

A salty kiss in the ocean. Ham and pineapple scrambled eggs. $5 bags of WA apples. Mango smoothie breakfasts. Retirees. Newlyweds. Kindles on the beach. Apple bananas.

And the post sat for months, as I intended to tell you so much more. I finally see that those things sum up Hawaii for us: surprising, yet sweet and gentle. By now our tan lines have disappeared, and our swimwear couldn't be more buried in our closet. We've substituted apple bananas for clementines, and our swimwear for wool and cashmere.

The sunshine has been replaced by our Christmas lights, both on our tree and those scattered throughout our living room. Our days are much shorter (and busier!), but we're excited spending our first 'married' Holiday season together.

Happy Holidays. Eat, drink, and be merry!

September 27, 2011

We're Home

Some things don't need many words to explain. The wedding was great, guests even better, and we're slowly building on our home together. Young and happy! Here are a few shots from our home.

Apple tart to bring in fall.

My wedding bouquet.

What our movie nights looked like before our new couch.

... after couch(es).

August 20, 2011

What I Know

'Write what you know.' That was the mantra rehashed by my journalism professors year after year. That, and 'omit needless words.' Since using the latter as a theme for this post would produce a snooze-fest, let's go with the first. Plus it's back-to-school season--what better way to pay homage to those old profs than listing a few things I now know since leaving my Alma mater. Here goes:

Good listeners are almost always well-liked.

A misshappen vegetable is a sign of a quality product.

A good heel can make a $20 pair of slim Levis look like a million bucks... or actually more like $30.

When in doubt, choose black or white.

Practice makes (almost) perfect.

If my cupboards were filled only with ramekins, I would be just fine.

The most essential kitchen item is a sharp knife.

"Fake it 'till you feel it," actually works.

I like 'having tea', but I don't really like tea itself.

No matter how silent they are, Coldplay will always be quietly churning out a fabulous album.

Never underestimate the power of a (or five) white Hanes cotton t-shirt as a closet staple.

The New Yorker on the iPad has to be one of the best releases in 2011 yet.

What about you? What do you know?

July 23, 2011

Time for Morning

Joining a vanpool for my work commute has several benefits, time-savings being a major one. (Learning about the best Costco-buys from my fellow vanpoolers being another.) But if I'm honest, it's having time for a coffee routine that has me thanking the Metro Transit gods.

Not being in such a hurry has surfaced simple pleasures previously overlooked, like the coziness of rumpled bedsheets.

Here's to another week of bedsheets, a routine coffee, and other simple pleasures.