Posted in Commentary, Food, Gardening, tagged carrots, DC, Gardening, kale, leeks, Portland, soup on January 1, 2011|
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Seasons change, as they say. But in this past few months when the leaves were turning colors and frost was putting an end to the gardening season, I was going through a lot of changes of my own. The political consulting firm I worked for shut its doors and I found myself not just looking for work, but also looking for answers to some questions brewing in my mind. Do I want to keep working in politics? Or maybe do something a little different? Do I want to stay in DC? Try out some new city? Or maybe go back to my native Pacific Northwest?
True to my want-it-all generation, I found myself answering “yes” to all of those seemingly mutually exclusive questions. And then I received a terrific opportunity that let me have it all. I’m moving to Portland, Oregon, for eight months to work on post-Census redistricting, which will keep me connected to politics but let me develop a lot of new skills in statistics and demography (and form my own consulting LLC in the process). But I’ll be back in DC on a regular basis, and will return to my lovely (now subletted) Dupont Circle apartment after this is all over. Relevant to this blog, I’m going to keep my garden plot (but make it really minimalist this year), and will remain actively involved in planning the next DC State Fair.
So as with the past few months, 2011 will be a bit of a hibernation for this blog. I’ll post a few garden updates in the spring and summer, do a a tiny bit of posting about Portland, and help advertise DC State Fair events and deadlines. And if I take this round-the-world tour of the world’s street food capitals next Oct/Nov that I’ve been dreaming about, I’ll post my culinary adventures here as well. Expect a return to full DC gardening glory in 2012.
But for now, let me show you the last thing I made with my garden’s 2010 bounty. Just before I left DC on December 21, I went out one last time to my garden plot, which was blanketed by an inch of snow. But under the icy crust there were carrots, leeks, and the sweetest kale you can imagine. I combined these ingredients with rich stock, cannellini beans, sweet Italian sausage, and bacon to make a Tuscan soup that fed me for three solid meals. It was the perfect way to close out my garden, and a satisfying way to leave DC for my 2011 adventure. Happy New Year!
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I came up with this recipe not because I’ve ever heard of celeriac being used in combination with squash, but because I didn’t really have any other vegetables around. But it seemed to me that the sweetness of the kabocha would pair well with the bright flavor of the celeriac. Squash and pumpkin soups can be so heavy, so getting some brightness in there seemed like a good idea.
First I roasted chopped pieces of kabocha and celeriac until everything got good and browned. Then I combined it with sauteed onions, chicken stock, wine, ginger, and a little butter. No cream, although that’d be an option if you wanted it to be richer.
Roasted Kabocha Squash and Celeriac Soup
1 small kabocha squash
1 large celeriac bulb
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
32 ounces chicken stock
1 sprig rosemary
salt and pepper
1. Peel kabocha and celeriac and chop into medium-sized chunks. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little balsamic vinegar and roast in a 400° oven for an hour or so.
2. In a stock pot, sautee chopped onion, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until translucent. Deglaze with white wine. Add rosemary sprig and roasted celeriac and squash. Add chicken stock and simmer.
3. Remove rosemary sprig and use an immersion blender to blend everything is very smooth. Add water, wine, or chicken stock if the soup is too thick. Add a few tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste.
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The weather has been awful here. As I was telling fellow Pacific Northwesterner ModernDomestic, the first day of cold rain kind actually makes me happy because it reminds me of home. But now after several days of nonstop rain and lower-40s temperatures, it’s not so fun anymore. I barely left my apartment yesterday, it was so awful! On the other hand, it’s been a good opportunity to do a lot of cooking. There’s nothing quite like curling up with a big bowl of something warm, catching up on this season of Top Chef (like Mary of the Arugula Files, I’m obsessed with that show), and cranking up the heat while the elements rage outside.
Borscht! Made with beets and swiss chard, topped with goat cheese, capers, and some chopped homegrown arugula.
Warm rice pudding, flavored with a whole vanilla bean and lots of lemon zest.
Warm quinoa salad with more goat cheese.
When the rain lets up for a moment, I can peek outside my door and appreciate the fall colors on my street.
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…besides putting it on pasta, that is. The pesto I made the other day went into the freezer, and I meant for it to stay there for more than just a few days. But Tuesday rolled around, I got home late, and my raw materials for a quick dinner were somewhat limited. I had some new red and yellow potatoes from my garden and some green beans from the market. So I did some chopping and boiling, then threw in a couple of pesto cubes and a healthy dose of grated parmesan. Voilà: easy and delicious mid-week meal:
There are many ways to use extra pesto besides putting it on pasta. Sometimes when I make a pizza I’ll use a thin layer of pesto instead of tomato sauce (kind of like a white pizza, except greener, obviously). Pesto also makes a great bread spread, either as a sandwich element or as a party dip à la tapenade. And I’ve never made soupe au pistou, but it looks delicious. Somehow I don’t think my pesto cubes are going to last as long as I’d hoped.
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