Saturday, April 4, 2009
It came with such a loud crashing noise that I involuntarily shrieked into the phone and jumped back from the kitchen window. Through the cascade of heavy rain, came a burst of lightning so close to our house, so close to our barn, and glowing orange. A color neither JR nor I had previously associated with lightning, but now, yes. Orange is the color of a direct lightning strike. My chef friend in Florida asked, "are you ok?" presumably rubbing her now damaged ear as she switched the phone to her non-favored phone-listening ear. "Yes. Yes, I am. I've just never seen lightning that close to the house."
I continued stirring the orange juice reduction for that night's sibling dinner, and once it was sufficiently reduced, walked out to the barn where my computer and lifeline to the interwebs are housed, and found, well, no connection to the world outside my house. The cable modem was active, but the connection to my computer wasn't alive and blinking it's normal orange - ahhhh, the color of lightning strikes following me from my kitchen to my desk. Email hadn't been auto-checked since 4:49pm. Twitter was not available to me. And I cannot quite understand how in less than a month of tweeting, I now found the inability to tweet defeating and claustrophobic. I do anticipate that this will pass - with familiarity, boredom, I hope, but then, perhaps the self-indulgence will forever retain its charm. Hard to know at this stage. But for now, I'm thinking I should tweet that. You see the problem here, right?
The siblings came, the siblings ate, the brother sib brought a nice Dolcetto d'Alba from his cycling trip to Piedmont which everyone enjoyed greatly. Once the last shots of Limoncello had flowed, and after I cleaned their bowls of leftover stewed prunes through a process called devouring them, JR and I retired for the night, leaving the downstairs a disaster of stacked bowls, soup pots, plates, microplane zesters, and wine glasses strewn throughout both kitchen and dining room.
Alas, the morning gray - for we know not sunshine here in New England - didn't bring the interwebs back to my computer, and I began considering my very likely purchase of a new internal modem at the Apple store, also taking under consideration the expense of my order of two pork bellies to be collected at the farmers market this same morning, my need for fuel for my car, and the need for at least a small amount of non-pork belly sustenance for the week to come. There had to be a way around the Apple store trip for this week. There had to be.
En route to the farmers market, JR and I stopped at Staples, where I purchased the very least expensive wireless router I could find - and for those of you asking, "why the hell didn't you already have a wireless router, you dope?", I say, "um, have you not noticed that I'm financially embarrassed, oh, and also the physical connection to the modem was working just fine. Just fine. Until last night." The wireless router set up process didn't proceed as smoothly as I had hoped, with multiple error messages informing me that the router couldn't find the computer, but, somehow - and perhaps I am actually stealing my neighbor's wifi instead of using my own - the wireless connection worked, and my connection with humanity was restored. Then I went to a baby shower, where I saw actual humans who I have known all of my life - one of whom is joyfully pregnant - which may cause one to ask, "is not seeing actual humans - ones that you know, and who know you, and one of whom is blissfully pregnant - enough connectivity?" Boy, that is a tough one, isn't it? And tougher still as I was late for the shower because I felt compelled to tweet the moment I was back online. About this very modem/connectivity issue. But in a far less metaphysical fashion, I can assure you.
My siblings had come to dinner to celebrate the very new news of my cookbook deal, and proposed that I make a few of the dishes that are under consideration for the book to be sampled. I had two carrot soups up for review - one of which would be voted into the book, the other one onto the blog. I can assure you that they both have their merits - my sister-in-law even gave the blog-destined soup a "double thumbs up" - through tears of mirth, which might be construed as odd to some. Though the mirth was more to do with her selection of the phrase "double thumbs up" than with the soup, but she liked the soup well enough to cause herself to use the mirth-inducing phrase, so there's that endorsement for you. The book-bound soup will remain shhhhhhh - a secret - until the book is released. In the meantime, here is a still quite delicious, and, coincidentally, vegan so that my vegan sis could partake, carrot-parsnip soup for you to try at home. It happens to be a slightly less-bright orange than the lightning strike, but no less thrilling, and certainly far less destructive.
Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup
1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, well-washed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth, divided (3 cups and 1 cup)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sour cream, divided (1 tablespoon per serving)
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the cut parsnips and cut carrots with the olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a 9-by-13 baking sheet, being sure that all of the vegetables are in one layer. Bake on the middle rack for 40 minutes, flipping the carrots and parsnips midway through the cooking time.
While the carrots and parsnips roast, prepare the leeks. Leeks are notorious for trapping dirt within those lovely concentric rings of theirs, so you will want to cut them across the grain and then into one-inch pieces. Once the cutting is done, agitate them in a bowl of water to remove the dirt from within. This will be much appreciated when no one in your family crunches down on grit while eating what would otherwise be a smooth soup.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the leeks. Cook the leeks for 5 to 7 minutes, until they are softened.
Add the carrots and parsnips, and three cups of the vegetable broth to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. You are reserving the remaining one cup of stock for the pureeing process to better control the amount of liquid in each batch that meets the blades of your blender.
Once the twenty minutes has passed, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. I cannot say it enough, but, yet, I will try: you do not want to puree hot liquid right off of the stove for it will blow the lid clear off your blender and, in the case of this soup, you will be standing in the middle of a bright orange rain shower-style mess in the heart of your kitchen. This, I can assure you, is not desirable, despite the fact that orange and rain showers are clearly a theme in this post.
Once the contents of the saucepan have cooled to lukewarm, work in small batches to puree the carrot-parsnip mixture until smooth, adding reserved vegetable broth as needed to facilitate the pureeing process. Transfer pureed batches to a large bowl (at least 8-cup capacity) and continue to puree the remaining soup. Return the puree to the saucepan and reheat over medium heat prior to serving.
Top each bowl with a tablespoon of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped chives, and serve it forth. If you are vegan, skip the sour cream, but do not skimp on the chives, regardless of whether vegi- or omni- precedes -vore in your food consumption predisposition.
Dinner tonight: Whole wheat rotini with porcini cream sauce. Estimated cost for two: $4.28. The rotini cost $1.39. We will use half of the box for this dinner, at a cost of 70-cents, rounding up, of course. For the base of the sauce, the butter will cost 18-cents, the olive oil 22-cents, and the medium shallot 25-cents. The cream was $2.99 for two cups, and we will use half of that. The porcini were buried in my pantry from a long-ago dried porcini purchase, and they cost $9.95 for 1.9 ounces. I had about an ounce left, and used 1/4 of that to soak in warm water to make a poricini broth. As mentioned over there on the "welcome" sidebar, I am no mathematician, but I estimate that 1/4 ounce out of 1.9 ounces for $9.95 is $1.30. The flavor of dried porcini goes a long way, I can assure you. We will likely sprinkle a little grated Pecorino Romano cheese over top, figuring that 2 tablespoons - one for each of us - is roughly 1/8th cup, and that is equivalent to 1/4 ounce, so at $7.99/pound, that adds 12 and one-half cent to the total, but we'll round up and call it 13-cents, ok? Perfect. Sounds good to me, too.