Posts tagged “cooking

Morning in the Garden of Good and Evil

Posted on October 2, 2012

I have morning routines that set me up for working through the rest of the day. Generally, I devote an hour to yoga or a walk each day, but I also throw in a bit of gardening for good measure. I started a backyard vegetable garden when I first moved to Louisiana two years ago and it has been the site of just as many glories (tender baby carrots, sweet leeks and sugar peas in Spring) as defeats (the wilt disease that gobbled up my cucumbers and squash this Summer). But I keep at it because a. there’s something wildly therapeutic about weeding (out with the bad so the good can flourish) and b. it’s a way to bring something good and positive into the world.

After my walk this morning, I checked in with my backyard plot, which has begun to sprout fall produce. Here are a couple of highlights:

tomatilloTomatillo: I saw these seeds over the summer and thought I’d try them, largely because they’re supposed to yield purple fruit when they’re ripe. Roasted, they should serve as the base for a good salsa that could include the onions (you can see them poking up in the background in this picture) and cilantro growing in other parts of this box. The authors of Latin Chic also have a great tomatillo salad dressing recipe that was a hit at a baby shower I once catered for a friend in Atlanta. So I have big plans for this crop and hope it continues to flourish.

wintersquashWinter squash: I wish I knew what type of squash this was. I bought a general winter squash seed packet that included butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash seeds. But the seeds were all mixed up, so I’m not sure what I planted here or on the other side of my plot. It’ll be a surprise. I like surprises. I’ll either have something that will make a great soup (butternut), something that will be a healthy pasta substitute (spaghetti), or something that will be great roasted on its own (acorn).

okraOkra: This plant is almost tall and sturdy enough for my child to climb. It is also yielding a constant supply of pods that I’ve tossed into gumbos, fried in cornmeal, or packed in my kid’s lunch. The kid will eat raw okra, which is amazing to me, especially because it took me a while to acquire a taste for them. One thing I might try this fall: Pickling okra. Pickled okra make good stirrers in a Bloody Mary, after all.

blackeyedpeaBlack-eyed peas: I’ve tried and failed with a lot of different things in this box over the past two years. But I decided over the summer that as a self-respecting Southern gardener, I needed to plant black-eyed peas. I had no idea this plant would grow the way it did, exploding with yellow and white blooms that yield pods of sweet, fresh peas. In my house they don’t last long, but I’ll be stockpiling some for a black-eyed pea hummus.

Potato and Leek Soup

Posted on November 29, 2011

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It’s cold in South Louisiana.

So last night I wanted to warm up with homemade soup.

This one is special, satisfying and oh-so-easy to make. It’s Potato and Leek Soup and you can find the recipe in Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook. Her version includes oysters, which I adore, but I decided to omit them in hopes of getting my kid to eat the soup too.

According to Wells:

“Potato soups have long been a French favorite, and the classic combination of leeks and potatoes . . . is one of the most obvious winter warm-ups.”

What boosts the comfort factor? Outside of the potatoes, it’s definitely the cream and butter.

You can never go wrong with cream and butter.

Ever.

Anyway, here’s what you need to  make this rich, subtly sweet soup:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I like to use Plugra because it’s super-creamy)
  • 2 leeks, white and tender green portions, rinsed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced.
  • fine sea salt to taste
  • 8 ounces baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  • Combine butter, leeks and 1 teaspoons sea salt. Cook the leeks over low heat until they are soft, but not browned. Add potatoes, milk, cream and several gratings of nutmeg. Simmer for 20 minutes, covered, stirring often to prevent the soup from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Blend soup until smooth. (Best tool ever for blending soup? The KitchenAid 2-Speed Hand Blender.) Serve. *If you want to include oysters, you can float them in the soup at this point and the heat will gently cook them.

Wells recommends pairing this with a glass of chilled white wine. Last night I wanted to avoid cold at all costs so I went with a full-bodied red wine instead.

The Return of the Mad Gardener

Posted on April 18, 2011

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A couple of years ago, I experimented with vegetable gardening. Though I am a plant murderer of the first order, I successfully grew tomatoes and basil in containers for a while. Things went wrong when I tried to grow a lot of things from seed. Part of the reason for the demise of said plants was I left the newbie sprouts for a week while I was out of the country. The other reason things went wrong: I came back from my trip and there was a month’s worth of torrential rain. Plants do like water, but perhaps not that much water.

Well, I moved to Louisiana.

And then I got bold.

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