Well here’s a bit of news: tomorrow, I board a plane and leave for eight days in sunny Buenos Aires, where The Frenchman is currently business tripping. This voyage popped up somewhat last minute, but as I’ve never been to South America before, and as it’s winter here, and as–who says no to a trip to Argentina?–, it seemed prudent to aprovechar de la situación.
My other exciting semi-announcement is that I’m working toward making Spring Lake Creamery a real live business. I attended a fair this past weekend, and while it was ten degrees below zero thanks to a defunct radiator, the handful of eskimos willing to eat frozen dessert while also frozen themselves seemed to enjoy what they tried. I am continually adding to my list of Winter 2013 flavors. Slowly, I’m working toward making this ambition a reality.
This recipe is a nod to both my upcoming trip, and to my potential ice cream future.
I’ve been thinking a lot about tone and voice, and how they pertain to this blog. Although I’ve never been one for diary writing, for straightforward personal confession, I admit this is a journal of sorts. It details what I am cooking in a particular moment, as well as selected events around each recipe. I suppose creative writing of any stripe is its own kind of confession.
After a year plus of writing this blog, I’m sure my recipe-developing skills have improved. (I need only look to the archives to know this.) Part of me wants to scurry back and tweak what I know can be bettered, while another part of me is comforted by the fact that I can trace the changes. (I’m sure I’ve read similar sentiments voiced by Emma at Poires au Chocolat, but I can’t find where.) My photography skills have progressed too, as I’ve slowly learned the manual functions on my camera. Post recent birthday, I have loftier hopes still, thanks to a new lens (merci, darling Frenchman), a better editing system, and my first tripod (thanks, Mom).
But what about the other portion of the blog? The essay, the headnote, the this. When I read advice from successful bloggers, the same opinion is often echoed: “find your personal voice”, or “be yourself”. But how does one consciously follow this advice? If the hallmark of a successful blog is the convergence of skilled writing and a defined, likable personality, what qualifies the personality? From the writer’s perspective, where is the demarcating line, the happy medium, between inviting a reader into your life, and giving away the store?
Here is the thing about trying to recreate childhood dishes for the Frenchman: it is invariably a petit désastre. I have tried my hand at lentils, white beans, croque-monsieur. It’s not that my attempts are bad per se (well, except for the beans. I am bean-impaired), but they simply don’t live up to expectation; they aren’t the same. What can I say? Childhood memory is a cruel competitor, particularly in the kitchen.
The following “braise” was one such attempt. The Frenchman lived in Tunisia for six years as a kid, so the man knows his way around a couscous. He loves couscous. I, on the other hand, am quite new to the dish.
I did some research, but mostly I relied on techniques I was already familiar with (to me, winter is spelled b-r-a-i-s-e), and employed ingredients I thought made sense together. I even bought couscous imported from Tunisia, which I hoped might add some authenticity to the proceedings.
When the dish came out of the oven, I though it tasted really good: the vegetables were soft, and flavored with pan juices. The sauce itself was complex and spiced, a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The couscous was downy, and tasted ever so slightly of the good olive oil I stirred into it.
A few weeks ago, I tagged along on a road trip to Kinderhook Farm, located a few hours north of New York City in Ghent, New York. The animals who live there are extremely well cared for. The visit was excellent for several reasons.
The farm is gorgeous: a mosaic of red barns, a trail of low wooden fences, bold against the white snow that currently covers the pastures. Heritage breed chickens roam where they will, producing eggs in shades of blue, pink, green, and beige. I was introduced to Luci the dairy cow, the only dairy cow on the farm and apparently a bit of a diva for it. (I also met Apple, poor Apple, Luci’s somewhat abused sidekick; it’s a love-hate relationship between the two of them.) A sea of sheep spreads across a field, guarded by a pair of Italian herding dogs, both animal’s coats the white of snow.
The farmers who operate Kinderhook are impossibly friendly, gracious hosts. After touring us around the farm, we were invited into the kitchen for warm cookies, milk (courtesy of Luci, I cannot begin to tell you how tasty this milk is), and grilled cheese sandwiches. The kitchen’s bay windows look out past the barns and across the fields, over small hills dotted with trees that rise and fall as far as the eye can see.
If it feels like I am romanticizing this farm, I’m sorry, but it’s no exaggeration. It was bucolically beautiful, beautifully bucolic, and the animals Disney-esque in their loveliness. The clean and quiet air proved an invigorating change from the city.
Hello/Bonjour! Long time no see. My self-imposed winter break lasted a little longer than I originally intended, but now I am back and raring to go.
Let’s get right to this soup. It is perfect in every way you hope a January soup will be. It is oh so easy to make (like, actually easy), and quite economical too. If you make it a day ahead, it will only taste better upon reheating. It freezes beautifully. (Make a double batch to tuck into the freezer for some other night.)
The squash, apple, and parsnip balance together famously. The soup itself is a little sweet, a little sharp, and incredibly rich in flavor, while low in calories. (You know I don’t normally care about such things, but what with January being a month of resolutions, I figured it was worth mentioning.)
The only bad part about this soup is peeling the butternut squash. I abhor peeling butternut squash. Alas, we can’t have everything in life.