life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Warm and Savory

No matter how you spend the months of winter, curled up by a warm fire with a book or engaged in brisk outside activities, it's hard to beat the universal appeal of homemade soup.  It's easy and so satisfying.  Feel free to experiment with whatever ingredients you have on hand; there are no hard and fast rules for soup and it's one of the best ways to use up leftover vegetables, rice, pasta, and roasted meats.

Winter Bean Soup
3 c. cold water
1 16-oz. package dried white beans or navy beans
1 med. butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1" chunks
1 onion, peeled & diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. butter
3 1/2 cups chicken broth plus the meat from a roasted chicken
    (boil carcass to remove the bones from the meat, skim the fat)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste

Put water and beans into a dutch oven or crock pot, heat to boiling, then turn off and let sit for an hour.  Turn heat back up and cook beans until soft, adding water as needed to ensure beans do not dry out.  Add onion, garlic, butternut squash, chicken broth and chicken, cook on medium for a couple of hours.  When vegetables are soft and soup is of a good consistency, add herbs, salt and pepper, and simmer on low for another hour or so.  Serve with hearty bread and cheese or cornmeal muffins.

Soupe a la Reine
Never a fan of turnips, I was in a weird mood when I decided to try this... Said to be the favorite of Marie Antoinette, this recipe is adapted from one used in the artist Claude Monet's kitchen at Giverny, and two other 19th century recipes which mentioned the use of almonds in the broth.  It is positively decadently delicious, and should be placed right up there among the necessary indulgences with brie, ripe strawberries, and darkest, richest chocolate.

1 1/2 lbs. fresh turnips, washed, trimmed, and sliced
1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream (or substitute additional 1 c. whole milk, 1 tbsp butter, and 1/4 c. potato flakes)
1/2 cup almond milk (do not substitute soy milk, but skim milk or a bit of chicken broth would work)
1 tbsp. unbleached flour
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook turnips on medium heat in as little water as possible (no more than 3 to 4 cups but enough so that the turnips do not stick or scorch) until soft enough to mash with a fork.  Puree the turnips (or mash completely), add butter and continue heating on medium-low heat until butter is melted through the mixture.  Add milk and cream, stirring slowly until thickened slightly; small bubbles may appear at edge of pot, but do not boil.  Add flour to almond milk, salt, and pepper, whisk until completely dissolved, and add to soup mixture.  Heat thoroughly on low simmer.  Serve hot with table water crackers, tea, and fruit.