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what? another take on hummus?

We have this favorite little Japanese maple out back. This past week, its finely pointed leaves began to wave then drop in sweet clusters of beet red.

It was quite impossible to say no to the urge that hit me…so,  with that…Wegetable Vednesday makes a comeback!

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With the crimson and scarlet, burnt orange, rust and gingko gold of fall flying,  suddenly I craved the taste of color.

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I’m in school and everything I do in the  kitchen for months will need to be simple. So, for a while simple is all I have to offer you.

…and a hope and a toast to your very good health!

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(Though the following recipe calls for black beluga lentils, they may be somewhat difficult to find. You can order on line if you like, or substitute with small, dark green Puy Lentils. Both these varieties will make a more luxuriously textured and  dramatically colored hummus.)

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Red Beet & (Black Beluga) Lentil Hummus

 Black  Beluga Lentils, rinsed – ½ cup

2 medium Beets or 3 small – peeled and cut into chunks

garlic – 2 cloves, peeled

Tahini Paste – 2 Tablespoons

Olive Oil – 2 Tablespoons

Fresh Lemon Juice – 2 Tablespoons

Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons grated (minimum)

sea salt – 1 teaspoon (to start)

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NOTE: Sometimes lentils off the shelf are rather old and will benefit from a little soaking. Nothing extravagant here, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow them to soak an hour or two before draining and cooking. If your package says no need to soak, then no need to soak.)

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Rinse the lentils and add to a medium size pot. Peel the beets and cut into chunks about 1½ inches in size. Add to the pot with the lentils and add 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and reduce temperature to simmer. The beets should be fork tender and the lentils soft when done.  (About 20 minutes or so.) Read more

a soup of celery and blue cheese

Celery: a humble veggie, commonplace, entirely taken for granted, under appreciated for all she contributes in the kitchen,  from soups to stews, sauces to stuffings.  She’s no  head-turner but she’s no slouch either.  There’s a certain grace about her, if you’ll take the time to notice. Still, who sings  celery’s praises?

The homely bulbous root of the plant from which she rises (almost proudly) is the sort of thing boys, desperate for a game, would kick around a vacant lot,.  Or, even worse, the sort of “good-for-nothing” that’s tossed to the compost. We have far better things in mind.

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We recently had a simmering bowl of soup, just right for the changing season, while on a dream trip to the Scottish Highlands. Dipping our spoons into this delicate green, almost featherweight, soup, bringing it to our lips, our wide eyes fixed on each others’ and we audibly sighed, in unison. We hadn’t expected anything like this at all. Which is why I want to talk to you about it, because maybe you wouldn’t have either.

The chef came out to our table after dinner and we asked after the soup. After falling all over him with our compliments, I vowed I’d try (though certainly fall short) of that exquisite bowlful. The chef had created an airiness to this brew by actually injecting air into it. A number of ways you could do this –  use an aerating wand made for the purpose, whir it extra long in your powerful blender, or use an emersion blender…or the steaming wand from an espresso machine. They each work pretty well it turns out. But, being practical, like a good Scot, it’s not a  necessary step. The bowl is just as delicious without it (though maybe just slightly less Cloud 9-ish.)

A note on the cheese: Apparently celery and English Stilton blue are commonly found together at Christmastime in the UK. Stilton would be fine here, but for this soup, you might prefer a saltier, bluer cheese, like Roquefort. We do.

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I’ve promised you (and me) simple things for the season, and this my friends is simple….

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Celery & Blue Cheese Soup

celery – a large head

onion – medium

celery root – half a head, about 9 ounces (250g)

butter – a thick slice – OR – fruity mild olive oil – a good drizzle

chicken stock – 4 cups (1 liter)  – see NOTE

bay leaf – 1 large or 2 small

blue cheese – 4½ ounces (125g)

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NOTE:  A vegetable broth may be substituted but you’ll want to be careful that it’s not a powerfully flavored  one or the gentle distinction of this soup will be lost…and that would be such a shame!

Wash the celery stocks carefully  and chop coarsely. Peel the outside of the celery root and onion and chop. (No need to be fancy.)

Into a deep and wide pan over medium heat, drizzle the olive oil or drop in the slice of butter. Add the vegetables and sauté for about 20 minutes, or until relatively soft. Pour in the stock, add the bay leaf, a dash of white pepper (if you have it) and a good pinch of salt. (Remember that the stock contains salt, and so does the cheese, so be light-handed with it at this point.) Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Place into a blender or food processor. (If you have a powerful VitaMix, bring it out.) Process for a good while as these vegetables are naturally a bit stringier than some others and you want velvet.

You have a choice at this point: Add all the cheese to the pureed soup, and whir again. Add most of it but reserve a bit for scattering on top when serving. Or, divide the cheese into four portions and drop into each of four bowls their share. Stir, but not to completely melt the cheese, allowing each person the pleasure.CeleryAndRootSoup-3

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a letter to friends

graveside-1I come out of this season while away knowing a few things for sure:

Final goodbyes are the most painful sort

They become no less so with repetition

Four feels too many

Little girls – and little boys – mend hearts

Sky and earth make good medicine

 so do rainy streets

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Dear friends,

I never dreamed that I would be away from this space for so long. For us, this has been a season to remember. Maybe it has been for you too.

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