Soup Stories

 Click on the post title to listen to Tigertown’s Lonely Cities.



It’s dark by 4:00, there is no baseball, the virus is still raging, the election is still raging—what to do? Make soup. Soup is the ultimate comfort food: cream of tomato soup—a hug in a bowl; lentil soup—a hearty greeting when you walk in the door after a brutal day; chicken soup—the only thing when you’re flat on your back with a runny nose and bleary eyes.

Cream of tomato soup:
When Tommy was alive, the Sweetie and I would drive from Tacoma through Bremerton, over the bridge and through the woods, to Lariat Loop. The boys were usually in school; Ali was working, hoeing in the garden, mowing the lawn, or baking muffins; Tommy was in the garage working on a car, in his woods chopping down a tree, on the roof fixing the gutters, or up in a tree building a treehouse. Feets, the cocker spaniel, or later Skittles, would race around the house from the backyard and greet us in the driveway with enthusiastic wags and wiggles. Whenever we arrived, it was time for lunch: cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We still remember those lunches whenever we eat a grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s thinking of you, Tommy.

City Restaurant cream of tomato soup 

  • 2 tablespoons butter  
  • 1 medium onion, julienned or sliced  
  • 1 large fennel bulb (optional) you can also use 1⁄2-1 teaspoon fennel seeds  
  • 2 teaspoons salt  
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper  
  • 1⁄2 cup Pernod (optional)  
  • 4-6 ripe Romas, seeded & chopped or 1 can diced-in-juice tomatoes (best quality possible)  
  • 2 cups chicken stock  
  • 1⁄2 cup heavy cream  
  • 1⁄2 cup half & half 
  • Dash of Tabasco  

Trim fennel, discarding stem. Thinly slice stalks.

Melt butter over moderate heat in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add onions and cook with salt and pepper until soft, about 10 minutes. Add fennel, reduce heat to low, cook additional ten minutes. 

Add Pernod and reduce liquid by half.

Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Reduce to simmer and cook, covered about 20 minutes.  

Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to pot and add cream and half and half. Bring to a boil, simmer 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Add Tabasco. 

Fennel bulb and Pernod are optional. I usually don’t have either so almost always make the soup without. Good quality canned tomatoes are preferred, but I often use regular old grocery store Hunt’s. The imported Italian are the best but cost plenty more—San Marzano or Muir Glen are both good brands.  Heavy cream and half and half make for a silky delicious soup, but you can substitute less caloric milk for part of the dairy or leave it out and use only stock. Thin to your preference. Restaurants make many variations on this method for soup of the day, substituting any other vegetable: broccoli, mushroom, spinach, asparagus, potato/leek, squash, beet, carrot, etc.  

Lentil soup:
In 1974 when I started working at Sound Food, I was no stranger to lentils. Dick’s dad, Pop, made Umjudada, Lebanese lentils and rice, on a regular basis so it became one of my rotating dinner favorites. Surprise then, when a few years later lentils showed up on every “Hippie” communal table. Our friend Ted, regaled us with stories of the lentil loaf served at a counterculture Thanksgiving dinner on the Everson-Goshen Road and the gastric distress that followed. Back at Sound Food, Jeffrey’s vegetarian lentil soup (finished off with fried onion bits), a lunchtime favorite with both locals and hippies, has been on my rotating favorites ever since.

Nick Stellino’s lentil soup with sausage

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 5 cloves garlic, cut thickly 
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar 
  • 1 pound cooked sweet Italian sausages, cut into 1/4” dice 
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 1 cup dry lentils 
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock 
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 
  • 1 cup ricotta 
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper  

Stir the oil and the garlic in a nonstick pot over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes, stir, and cook for about 1 minute until the garlic starts to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, carrots, and brown sugar. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the sausages and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.

Pour in the wine, stir, and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beef stock and tomato sauce, Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Add red wine vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes.

Top each serving with a tablespoon of fresh ricotta.

Chicken soup:

Chicken soup—liquid penicillin, comfort served up steamy and fragrant, guaranteed to warm both body and soul. When I was in fifth grade, despite Daddy’s misgivings about my reliability, I started a paper route (A girl could always use a little money). Every weekday at 5:00 pm (5:00 am on Sundays) I rode my bike down the street to Mr. Connor’s house to load up my bike sack with the day’s edition of the Sioux City Journal. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, the paper had to be delivered. At the end of the route, I would start looking in the windows of those houses that had a television. Captain Video and His Video Rangers was on at 7:00 so I would pick up the pace to be home on the couch when the theme song began.

Daddy was right—I hated that paper route and complained daily. One especially severe winter day I whined into the kitchen, shoulders slumping, sad-faced and droopy. “Please take me in the car!” Daddy relented, we finished off the route in no time, and came home to Muth’s chicken noodle soup in our warm kitchen and Captain Video’s rangers in the living room. No greater love…

Thai chicken noodle soup

  • 1 cup cooked shredded chicken 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, 2 tsp sesame oil 
  • Kosher salt 
  • ½ lb rice noodles (I also have used both udon and ramen—cooked separately and added at the end)
  • 1/2 onion, diced 
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced 
  • ½ lb mushrooms, diced 
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic 
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger 
  • 1 tbsp minced lemongrass (I rarely have lemongrass but I’m sure it would be good)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste or panang curry paste (try a little more if you like spicy)
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk (don’t worry if the coconut milk is solid at the top. Just pour it in a bowl & whisk)
  • 1 ½ qt chicken stock 
  • 3 limes, juiced 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce 
  • Garnishes: Thinly sliced scallions, cilantro leaves, lime wedges 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rice noodles one minute less than the package’s instructions. Drain the noodles and run under cold water. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and shallots. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until tender and slightly caramelized. Season with a pinch of salt. 

Add the carrots and mushrooms. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Cook for a minute until fragrant. 

Add the red curry paste and stir well to combine. Whisk in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes, stirring often. 

Stir in the shredded chicken and cooked rice noodles to heat through. Taste for salty, sweet, sour, hot balance and add where necessary. Right before serving, stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Serve the soup hot with scallions, cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lime.

 

 

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 4 Comments

Heronswood: Sheetpan chicken with plums

For no good reason, here’s Tusk, with a young Fleetwood Mac and the 1979 USC marching band. Click on the post title to listen to the video.

While browsing for wildflower tips, the Sweetie came across Dan Hinkley’s book, Windcliff, and ordered it from Amazon. It is a heavy, coffee table hardcover filled with beautiful photography, poetic prose, and advice on gardening in the Pacific Northwest. The book describes Windcliff, Hinkley’s home garden, and Heronswood, a fifteen-acre public botanical garden and nursery near Washington State’s Kingston ferry, established in 1987 by Dan Hinkley and his partner architect Robert Jones. Heronswood is currently owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and is being restored by the tribe, Heronswood volunteers, and Heronswood staff, with input from Hinkley and Jones.

Itching for a reason to get off the block, the Sweetie and I picked up Ginny at the Pt. Defiance ferry and headed up Hwy 16 to tour the garden. As an afternoon ride certainly calls for lunch, along the way we stopped at Mori Sushi & Bento in Poulsbo.

Poke bowl


Bibimbap


Bento box

The day was cool, the sun a dim reminder, and the clouds open to the suggestion of rain. We took a path that skirted the edges of Heronswood, passing through the folly (part fountain and part temple) in the woodland garden, past the kitchen potager, the pond, and the extensive collection of hydrangea varieties. As summer has turned into brisk fall and the colors are more subtle, visitors are fewer and we were almost the only people there. We hope to return again to see another season.

I’m giving this ”Gallery” feature a try and I think if you click on one of the small “thumbnail” pictures, it will open into a larger view.

Stone columns

Sheet pan chicken with plums, New York Times, Melissa Clark

“Beautiful to behold and easy to make, this sheet-pan dinner combines sweet plums and soft red onions with crisp-skinned pieces of roasted chicken. Toasted fennel seeds, red-pepper flakes and a touch of allspice add complexity while a mound of fresh torn herbs crowns the top. If good ripe plums aren’t available, you can substitute another stone fruit including peaches, nectarines or pluots, though if your fruit is very sweet, you might want to add a squeeze of lemon at the end. Serve this with rice pilaf, polenta or warm flatbread for a festive meal.”

Ingredients 

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest 
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated 
  • 2 teaspoons honey 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice 
  • Large pinch red-pepper flakes, or to taste 
  • 1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into parts 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper 
  • 2 cups ripe, soft plums, pitted and cut into 3/4-inch thick slices 
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs 
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced from root to stem in 1/2-inch wedges 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling 
  • ⅔ cup torn mint, basil or cilantro leaves (or a combination) 
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving 

Preparation 

Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour seeds into a mortar and pound with a pestle until coarsely crushed (or lay seeds on a cutting board and pound them with a can or jar). Put the seeds into a large bowl and stir in lemon juice, zest, garlic, honey, allspice and red-pepper flakes.

Season chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and add to the bowl, turning the pieces to coat them with marinade. Mix in plums and thyme sprigs. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the chicken pieces, plums, and thyme sprigs on a rimmed baking pan. Add onions, spreading them out around the chicken and plums. Season plums and onions lightly with salt. Drizzle everything with olive oil.

Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, removing the white meat if it’s done before the dark meat.

Transfer chicken pieces as they are done to a platter. Spoon the plums and onions around the chicken. Drizzle a little of the pan drippings over the chicken and serve, garnished with the herbs and flaky salt.

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 2 Comments

The Back of the House: Sopa de Guajillo

This post was originally published in 2016.


“Immigrants are good for our kitchens and for our country.”


Ry Cooder and Harry Dean Stanton, Across The
Borderline 

 


Le disparé cinco veces, por accidente.”

Up at four a.m., on La Brea by 5:30—the clock in front of the bank already reads 78 degrees—I’m in the kitchen at 6:00, with enough time to make a quick espresso before the boys arrive. If I smoked, I would lean against the dumpster in the alley and have a cigarette. Instead I’ll sit on pastry counter and enjoy the quiet before the chaos begins. It will be the last time I sit until dinner service is underway.

“Hola, Raul. ¿Como esta?” My ally, the dignified, solemn-faced dishwasher is always first in. He owned a small business in Peru but lost everything during the last military coup and came to this country to start over. He examines the kitchen to spot anything the night guys missed and walks through the back door into the alley, ready to unload the produce truck. His nephew, Luis the pot washer, walks in behind him, loosens the stacks of kitchen towels just delivered by the laundry and portions out twelve for each station. Raul’s wife Lupe, the shy, sturdy pastry prep, saves two towels from her dole and hides the rest in a “Lard” container.

Raul, Luis, and I head for the walk-in to plan the day. Everything is dragged out, opened, sniffed, and either thrown away or put on someone’s prep list to add to the day’s revenue. Luis dips the string mop in hot soapy water, wrings it out and swabs the walk-in floor, adding a pine-scented, hospital smell to the chlorine odor of fish a day too old—no money there.

By this time Manuel, the tall, surly King of Prep and his crew of three—all from a small town in Oaxaca—are here. They find a narco station on the battered boom box, turn it up to #Pain, unwrap their stilettos from clean kitchen towels, and check their eight-inch prep list. The vegetables are stacked and waiting in the alley, so they head out to distribute the sacks and boxes to the prep sinks, the pantry, the walk-in, and the upstairs storeroom. The exotics—truffles, stinky cheese, French strawberries, chanterelles—are carefully boxed and set by Chef’s office door.

I argue with the produce guy about the limp green beans and overripe tomatoes, bringing in Raul when I need help with my Spanish, sending back the slippery oyster mushrooms and moldy raspberries. “I have choices, you know, I could call Frank’s.” An empty threat—we all know that’s not an option.

The meat order arrives—again Raul and I check each item, bartering, badgering, and rejecting. Today’s meat order, which includes a baby goat—one of Dennis’s night specials, three boxes of chickens, two boxes of ducks, three legs of lamb, four untrimmed tenderloins, a side of pork, cryovaced skirt steaks, and chuck roasts for grinding, is iced and stacked by the butcher’s station. The bussers, one from Honduras and two from Mexico City, trickle in, start the morning coffee, and fill the silverware tubs with hot, soapy water.

Sweet-faced Jose, the second dishwasher, joins the others in the alley unpacking vegetables and distributing the meat order. His mother Maria, the pastry assistant, checks yesterday’s pastries deciding which to toss, which to put on the pass for the staff, and which to sell. Last year she paid a coyote $2000 to smuggle her and her son into San Diego, then to LA where she got a green card from her brother, the butcher, and replaced Flora who had been deported.

The butcher—speaking of the butcher, where’s the kitchen’s rock, Jon Pierre? He’s always here by 8:00 with his two guys and it’s already 8:30. My world shudders.

At 10:00 the kitchen phone rings. Manuel answers and hands it to me.

“Jon Pierre, donde?”

Manuel translates, “There was a fight last night in my backyard. I shot him five times, by accident. I’m on my way to El Salvador. Lo siento. I’ll try to call when I get there. Tell Maria.”

I look at the meat stacked by the butcher block and know that it will be a long day for both of us.


When it was Raul’s turn to prepare family meal, if we were lucky he would make his mother’s Sopa de Guajillo. The following recipe is an approximation.

Sopa de Guajillo
  • 1 (2-3 lb) whole chicken, a chicken cut into pieces, or the chicken removed from one roasted or poached whole chicken
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Water to cover
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 guajillo chilies, deveined and deseeded (these chiles are not so hot)
  • 2-3 arbol chilies, deveined and deseeded (be careful, these are very hot)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 tomatillos, husks peeled off and chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 11⁄2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup green beans, cut in 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • lime wedges
  • queso fresco, crumbled
  • chopped cilantro

Place whole chicken or chicken pieces, onions, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water or chicken stock and bring to a boil, turn down to a slow simmer and cook until chicken is done–30 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken from pot, cool, and take chicken from bones. Strain stock.

In a small sauce pan, bring water to a boil and drop in chilies. Remove pan from heat and let sit for chiles to soften. When softened, drain off cooking liquid from chilies and add chilies along with tomatillos, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin seed and salt to blender with 1/2 cup chicken stock and blend well. Set aside.

In Dutch oven, add 1 Tbs. oil and heat to medium high. Pour in blended salsa and fry briefly. Add chicken stock. Reduce to medium heat and add vegetables. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Add cooked chicken pieces, simmer for 10 minutes. Add more chicken broth if necessary. Taste for seasoning and garnish with chopped cilantro, squeezed lime wedges, Mexican crema or sour cream and queso fresco. Serve with warm tortillas and a side of beans. Yield: 6-8 portions

 

Posted in Chefs, Recipes, Restaurants | 2 Comments

Trending, in or out? Porcupine meatballs

ABBA, Dancing Queen

http://www.youtube.com/embed/xFrGuyw1V8s

In 1989, the Sweetie and I bought my Aunt Normie’s house on Vashon. The house sat back from the road on a high-bank waterfront with a view of Quartermaster Harbor, the Yacht Club, and Mt. Rainier. The decorating style was true to the 1970s and featured a small, separate kitchen, avocado green appliances, formica in the kitchen and bathrooms, oak everywhere, a spindled room divider, and gold, shag wall-to-wall carpet. I had loved the house for years and was thrilled with every detail…except for the gold shag wall-to-wall carpet. As soon as we had a little stash saved up, we tore out the gold shag and installed quieter, sage green plush. It never occurred to us to replace it with hard wood floors, that was a trend yet to come.

Our current house, built in 2016, is also true to the decorating styles of its decade: open concept, stainless steel appliances, subway-tile in the kitchen and bathrooms, and…beige, wall-to-wall, contractor-grade carpet. As soon as we had a little stash saved up, we replaced the wall-to-wall with hard surface flooring, it never occurred to us to replace it with better carpet.

As I stopped following decorating trends years ago, I thought I would check in with Mr. Google to see what’s in and what’s out. I’ve been out for so long that the cycle has started over again: floral wallpaper is in; mixing Gramma’s wicker, ruffles, and chintz with modern touches (called “grandmillennial style”) is in; tapestries are back (time to pull your mother’s William Morris out from under the bed); “whimsical” bathrooms are in; black and white is in but all white is out, barn doors are out, word art is over, the Italian villa kitchen look is passé (Oh no, what to do with all that gold-veined marble), your futon is no longer relevant, and that zebra rug in front of the futon…out it goes. Don’t know what world these people live in, but no one I know would toss a perfectly good zebra rug.

There is one “in” trend that I consistently support: “layering new and old”, although my decor tends more toward the layering of old and old. Our furniture is piecemeal: a cabinet given to us in 1983 by LA apartment neighbors, Bob’s grandpa’s buffet and dining room chairs, an oak table Beth used for years and returned with the broken extensions fixed by her father, a funky, green chest built by Irvine Allen, a leather couch bought during one of Ted’s Eugene visits, the black bedroom dresser—a gift from our 501 neighbor Anne’s sister, and the yellow table lamp, brought along from another life. Ginny has been a big factor in our decorating style, both inside and out. In 1979 she recovered a rocker I bought at Grannie’s, one year she made me the cutest ever bark cloth foot stool, and this year she donated a stunning red leather chair and red metal table for the office—also a Grannie’s find, recovered a beautiful side chair she found on the sidewalk, and…lugged the stump of my dreams up from the beach.

My new stump


New chair, old buffet, Grampa chairs, Beth’s table


Spiffy bird-watching footstool

Regardless of what the trends are, I will always love solid wood doors, hardwood floors, subway tiles, white kitchens, concrete counters and floors, glass brick walls, mosaic anything, rocking chairs, oriental rugs, stained glass windows, braided wool rugs, long dining room tables, kitchen slide-in booths, folding room dividers, and, last but not least, quilts everywhere.

A quilt for every nap.


Ginny’s work in progress.

Porcupine meatballs

Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, cooled, long grain rice
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1 Tbl minced garlic
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 slices of bread, torn
  • 1/4 cup milk

Sauce:

  • 1 23 ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup beef stock or water
  • 8 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

  • Make the Sauce
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a bowl, add all sauce ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Meatballs:

  • In a small bowl add the bread and milk and gently press down. Allow to soak for 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl add the rest of the meatball ingredients. Add the panade mixture (milk and bread) to the bowl. Without overworking the mixture, gently mix just to combine. The mixture should be wet but hold a shape when you form it into a ball.
  • Scoop enough meat mixture to form a 2” round ball. Wet your hands and shape. Damp hands are a trick to keeping the mixture from sticking to your hands.
  • Place the meatballs in a 3-4 quart baking dish or 9×13” baking pan. They can touch. Repeat until all of the meatballs are shaped and in a pan. If necessary, use 2 pans if you do not have a large enough pan. Assemble and bake
  • Pour the mixture over top of the meatballs. Cover the meatballs with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the cover and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165F.
Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 3 Comments

Touch ‘em all: Salmorejo

John Fogerty, Centerfield

On the day I was born, my dad was still smarting from the loss his beloved Yankees suffered when the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1942 World Series, four games to one. I grew up with the summer sounds of baseball coming from the big living room console radio. Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Enos Slaughter, Roy Campanella, Willie McCovey, and Joe DiMaggio still rattle around in my brain, waiting to be called up. Daddy listened to the games in his big chair by the window; the rest of us drifted in and out, yelling encouragement or moaning softly.

At age 20 when I told Daddy, a staunch Republican and life-long Presbyterian, that Dick and I wanted to get married, he asked, “Is he a Republican?” “No, he’s a Democrat.” “Is he a Protestant?” “No, he’s a Catholic.” “Is he a Yankee fan or a Dodger fan?” “He’s a Yankee fan.” “Well in that case, you have my blessing.”

Luckily, when the Sweetie and I lived in Los Angeles and became true blue Dodger fans, Daddy wasn’t around to witness the betrayal. We went to Chavez Ravine, ate as many Dodger Dogs as we could, drank 25 cent beers on Fan Day, and were there when the Dodgers won the 1988 World Series. We loved hearing Vin Scully call Dodger games on the radio. He was the master of understatement, allowing his audience to experience the game without constant interpretation.

I remember listening to another play-by-play announcer, can’t remember his name, talking about a game he called as a rookie commentator: it’s the bottom of the ninth, the game is tied, and the star hitter who is down in the count, smacks a fast ball over the fence for the winning home run. The announcer was so excited that he forgot the star’s name and burst out, “Touch ‘em all, Mr. Baseball Man.”

Baseball play-by-play announcers are known by their home run calls. “Touch ‘em all, Joe” came from Tom Creek calling Joe Carter’s game-winning home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. The Seattle Mariners’ all-time marvelous Dave Neihaus was famous for his “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Gramma cause it’s grand salami time!” ESPN’s Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back—gone!” is loved by some but not by all, and then there’s the Cub’s Harry Caray’s, “It could be, it might be, it is…a home run!”

In 1975, during his Saturday Night Live monologue, comedian George Carlin described baseball as a “pastoral sport,” compared to football’s “technological struggle.”

“In football you wear a helmet; in baseball you wear a cap.

Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying; baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.

Football has the two-minute warning; baseball has the seventh-inning stretch.

Football is played in a stadium; baseball is played in the park.

In football, you get a penalty; in baseball, you make an error—whoops!

The object in football is to march downfield and penetrate enemy territory, and get into the end zone; in baseball, the object is to go home! “I’m going home!”

And, in football, they have the clip, the hit, the block, the tackle, the blitz, the bomb, the offense and the defense; in baseball, they have…the sacrifice.”

Anyways, just thought I would tip my cap to baseball before football takes over.

BTW, if you’re one of those lucky gardeners who has spare, ripe tomatoes on hand, give this Spanish alternative to gazpacho a try. 

Salmorejo  

  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste 
  • 8 plum tomatoes, cored, halved, and seeded  
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed  
  • 1 1/2 cups white French-style bread, cut into large pieces  
  • 1⁄2 small onion  
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
  • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped 
  • 1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped Iberian ham or prosciutto 

Place salt, tomatoes, garlic, bread, and onion in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit for 1 hour.
Drain vegetables, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid; place in blender. Squeeze water from bread; place in blender with reserved soaking liquid, oil, and vinegar. Purée until smooth; season with salt and pepper, and chill. Pour into serving bowls; top with eggs, ham, and a drizzle of oil. 

 

The Sweetie’s latest CT scan “looked good” so we’re feeling very happy. 

Posted in Family and friends | 2 Comments

September: Plum Streusel Tart, Plum Chutney

September of My Years, Frank Sinatra

“One day you turn around and it’s summer. Next day you turn around and it’s fall. And all the winters and the springs of a lifetime, whatever happened to them all?”

September’s slight melancholy inspires song writers: See You in SeptemberSeptember in the RainSeptember Song, Try to Remember—all about lost love and remembering. I slip into a mood on the first whiff of autumn and stay there until my birthday. What happened to summer? How could it be Labor Day? Where have all the flowers gone? But we all know that once firecrackers light up skies on the Fourth of July and send the poor doggies onto your lap, the next time you turn around, it’s Fall.

Any gardener knows the end is near by looking out the window at the flowers, the zucchini, and the fruit trees. Dahlias scream out in reds, yellows, and peaches; those vulnerable hanging baskets whine for an everyday watering; any squash plant worth it’s salt has taken over the garden, hiding zucchini the size of seals beneath it’s broad leaves; if we’re lucky tomato vines hang heavy with red orbs; red chard challenges the cook to keep up with its output; and if it’s that every other year, Italian plum tree branches droop with juicy purple fruit and mean wasps.

As I rely on the kindness of friends and family for plums, Ginny again graciously offered her plum bounty for jam and chutney. The mornings warn of the coming change of seasons and when I got up today I felt that exact moment when I know for sure that summer is not going to last forever. It’s dark when I get up in the morning, the sun sets later every night, I saw my first fallen red leaf the other day, the grosbeaks are gone, the spiders are busy building webs, Chipper Jones, the chipmunk, cheeks bulging with bird feeder droppings, scurries back and forth hoarding for the lean season; and mournful geese, flying in neat, V-shape silhouettes, honk across the sky.

According to our TV Weather Blonde, September will be unusually warm, but we all know what’s coming.

Plum Streusel Tart (an old City Restaurant dessert— steppy, but worth the trouble).

Paté Sucre

8 Tbs. (1 stick unsalted butter), softened

1 cup + 6 Tbs. powdered sugar, sifted

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1 3⁄4 cup flour

In an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and salt, and beat until combined. Add flour, all at once, and slowly mix until flour is evenly moistened. (Don’t mix until a ball forms around the beaters).

Transfer to a plastic bag and form dough into a 6” log. Seal bag, pressing out any air, and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Divide log in half for one tart. To roll, soften dough by pressing it with your hands until soft and malleable. Form a 4” round disk. On a lightly floured board, roll from center out, lifting dough, turning slightly, to prevent sticking. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

Fold dough in half, and lift into tart pan. Unfold and press gently into bottom and up the sides. Chill 1⁄2 hour before baking.


Almond Cream

1⁄2 cup + 1 Tbs. granulated sugar

1 cup almonds (I’ve used both blanched and unblanched)

9 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla

Process sugar and almonds in a food processor until fine. Add butter, one Tbs. at a time, pulsing after each addition until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


Streusel

1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar

7 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tsp. cinnamon

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1 cup + 2 Tbs. flour

Cream together sugar and butter until smooth. Add cinnamon and salt and mix until blended. Add flour. Mix with your fingers just until crumbly.


To assemble tart

Roll Paté Sucre and use to line a 10” tart pan with removable bottom. Preheat oven to 350 ̊. Bake empty tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and spread almond cream in hot tart shell. Bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Cut 8-10 plums in half and remove pits. Arrange plums, cut side down, over baked almond cream; sprinkle with streusel and bake 20-30 minutes, until plums are soft and crust is golden brown.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

 

Plum Chutney 


10# Italian plums (preferably free from a friend) 

3 c. sugar (or part sugar, part Splenda) 

1 c. rice wine vinegar (cider vinegar works too but is stronger) 

1⁄2 c. fresh chopped ginger 

3 T. chopped garlic 

1 t. nutmeg 

1 T. cinnamon 

1 t. allspice 

1⁄2 t. salt 

1⁄4 t. cayenne pepper 


Combine all and cook two-three hours until thickened. The last hour is very tricky—I’ve ruined more than one pot by not minding the plums. Be sure to stir occasionally during the first two hours, and frequently (almost constantly) during the last hour. Process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.


 Taken in our Eugene backyard 

My very own beets

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Glorious gardens: Sautéed greens


When I was a kid, my summer backyard always included a vegetable garden. Daddy did the up-front work: the hoeing, planting, weeding, and harvesting; Muth dealt with the results: the washing, cooking, and canning. Not much was expected of us three girls. We sat in the garden among the August tomatoes, kitchen salt shaker in hand, rubbing off the dirt and eating the warm red globes out of hand, but didn’t contribute much to the garden’s success.

Thirty years later when we lived on Vashon, the Sweetie wrangled a big vegetable garden. He rototilled every September, mixing in fallen pears, oak leaves, sheep manure, and kelp, planted a winter cover crop, rototilled again in the spring, planted rows of beets, chard, carrots, green beans, lettuce, tomatillos, basil, zucchini, cucumber, and tomatoes; then usually went on the road to work, leaving the bounty of his labor to Muth and I. One summer when he was home on an extended break, there was such an abundance of beets that he canned fifteen quarts of pickled beets. One year, we turned our rare bumper crop of tomatoes into gleaming jars of spaghetti sauce.

If there is a downside to a successful garden, it shows up in too many baskets of tomatoes on the back porch, armfuls of beets heavy with dirt clods sitting on the kitchen counter, a sinkful of chard leaves, and an oh-no-not-another box of zucchini. Now, you can hardly say that my little chard/beet garden defines overabundance, but still… We have chard in some form every day just to keep up: sautéed greens, chard tart, chard/beet/feta pasta, beans & greens soup—we’ve had it all.

Chard, glorious chard


I mean, come on, this is one beautiful beet!

But abundance in a flower garden has no downside. The Sweetie has spent hours on our backyard slope raking, hoeing, adding top soil and compost to the rocks and bad dirt, and eventually sowing three pounds of wildflower seeds—then came the weeding and watering.

Our wildflower season started with drifts of small white flowers, soon little bluebells emerged, followed by splashes  of California poppies. Then came the batchelor buttons, pink and red poppies, and lavender snapdragon-like blooms. We’re now in the red, pink, and white cup-like extravaganza supported by cosmos and accented by black-eyed suzies.

Meanwhile in the raised planter, the nasturtiums have taken charge, those tall red-flowered somebodies tower over everyone, the huge variegated-leaf plant with pink carnation-like flowers threatens to explode, and overseeing his domaine—the purple morning glory, Granda Ott. All in all, our garden spot is certainly not restrained but it is entertaining.

Basil, who moped through May, June, and part of July, hit his stride and insists daily on pizza Margherita, caprese salad, or pesto.

Mophead hydrangea, a spoiled two-year old who is quickly outgrowing her pot, decided to wear pink this year.


Our neighbors’ garden is a glorious extension of abundance: wallflowers, lilies, crocosmia, yarrow, and fuchsia blooms that look just like sparklers.

Swiss chard/beet greens 

  • A couple slices of bacon, cut into batons
  • A lump of butter
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Minced garlic
  • Chard/beet stems, diced
  • If there are any small beets attached to the beet greens, scrub them, cut them into smaller pieces, and add them along with the onions, and chopped stems.
  • About twice as much greens as you think 
  • Sherry or red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper 

Cram as many greens possible in a small microwaveable dish, sprinkle on some olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Microwave for 3 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. 

 

Sauté bacon in butter until softened, add onion, garlic, chard/beet stems, and any beet pieces. Add a splash of water or reserved greens liquid. Sauté for five minutes or so until onions and stems are soft. Cook briskly at the end to reduce liquid. 

 

Coarse-chop cooked greens and add to onion/bacon/stem mixture. Simmer five minutes. 

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Rent Control?: Sound Food clam chowder


When I moved to Vashon in 1971, Ginny found me a waterfront cabin on Klahanie Beach that rented for $75 a month. Granted, getting there required hiking down a steep, quarter-mile path from the road—pitch dark at night and treacherous in the winter—but still, once I got there, my porch was the beach with views of whales, seals, and cargo ships passing by. From there, I moved to an inland, three-bedroom rambler on five acres—purchase price $45,000. Granted, in the 1970s, $45,000 wasn’t chump change, but still…

In the late 70s, Sweetie and I lived on the island as summer-home gypsies. We would find a place in September, move out in June, then move back in at the end of summer. We rented a loft in Betty MacDonald’s farm for $100/month, so deep in the woods that we dressed for winter in the morning, then went uptown to warm up. Then for a few years there was the Klinks’—a tiny, high-bank waterfront on Tramp Harbor, built by a ship’s captain in the 1930s, complete with captain’s wheel, stained-glass lookout, a productive Italian plum tree, and a killer view of Mt. Rainier. A few years later with two full-time salaries, we stepped up and rented Normie’s house above the Quartermaster Yacht Club—modern, bath and a half, full kitchen, wood stove—$200.00/month.

We lost one salary and for $125.00/month, we rented the top floor at the Cove Motel (known then as a good place to buy weed) and lived above a clutch of bikers who loved to party, dressed in scary black leather, and had even scarier black dogs. One late night (or was it early morning), after listening for hours to thumps and hoots, I summoned up the nerve, marched downstairs to complain about the noise, pounded on their door, and retreated meekly back up the stairs after the tallest, meanest biker opened the door and barked, “What!” But we loved the Cove—pre-Fixer Upper, open-concept design, with kitchen, bathroom, living area in one room, and a tiny space with a bed that opened out to the ocean breezes. Luckily we didn’t have much stuff as all storage was along the outdoor staircase.

We lived in Olympia for a while—in a mid-century rambler close to the water and then, in a rundown, Westside bungalow purchased for $23,000 and sold six months later for $25,000. We had friends who lived in Boston Harbor—waterfront rentals for $100-125/month—and we loved going there for poker, bridge, and general merriment. Boston Harbor, like Vashon, was small, affordable, and funky. Ginny and I took a little trip there a few weeks ago to see what was left of the old charm. Glad to report that the charm, smallness, and funkiness remain—affordability, not so much.



And…happy Fourth of July!

Sound Food Clam or Fish Chowder

  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 3 stalks celery fine dice
  • 1 fine diced onion
  • 4 carrots—fine dice
  • 4 smallish red potatoes, peeled
  • 1 t. dry thyme
  • 1⁄4 t. dill or 1 head fresh dill
  • 2 c. fish stock, clam juice or chicken stock
  • 2 c. 1⁄2 & 1⁄2 or heavy cream
  • 2 cans canned chopped clams or 1# firm fish (salmon, halibut, cod, snapper)
  • 2 c. corn (fresh is best, but frozen is fine) 

Melt butter and mix in flour. Sauté one to two minutes, stirring constantly, to develop roux.

Add vegetables and herbs, sauté to coat, stirring constantly. Add stock and simmer until thickened and vegetables are soft, 15-20 minutes.

Add cream, simmer gently for two minutes.

Greens—beet, mustard, collard—are also great in this soup. Add after hard vegetables are cooked.

Add chopped clams or raw cubed fish and corn. Bring back to a simmer.

Serve with pesto, red pepper rouille, chopped parsley

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes, Sound Food | 2 Comments

Green: Chile verde with white beans

 

In 1982, when the Sweetie and I moved from rainy-day Vashon to semi-arid Los Angeles, we were amazed by the abundance of green, manicured lawns in front yards and the popularity of full, azure-blue swimming pools in back yards. In Westside LA neighborhoods, the grass—a David Hockney still-life of wealth and status—looked like it had escaped from a well-tended golf course. The daily hiss and sprinkle of lawns started up early each morning, along with the aggressive spray of professional hosers cleaning the sidewalks on the UCLA campus near our apartment. Run-off cascaded over the concrete, along sidewalks, down gutters, into storm drains, and out to sea. Yards were green, pools were full—there seemed to be plenty of water.

We were surprised by this mindless waste. In most of Puget Sound, by the end of June the grass is brown, with yellow dandelions and their dark green leaves the only sign of life. But by the first of October, the dormant season is over and Fall rains bring back the green grass.

David Hockney, Montcalm Pool, Los Angeles, 1980

David Hockney, A  Lawn Being Sprinkled, 1967

Our four-year stint in San Diego found front yards sporting the same Hollywood green. In Eugene, Oregon, however, a green lawn was a sign of thoughtless indulgence and if a bike-riding, tree hugger caught you watering your lawn, you were likely to receive a scolding. In Portland, Oregon, old neighborhoods with charming bungalows, flaunt frowsy, weedy, dried-up lawns. In Tacoma, not known for its ecological drift, we scoffed at lawn sprinklers and wore our summer brown grass as a badge of honor.

We currently live in a green-grass-in-the-front-yard zone—not by our own plan or hard work. Community wisdom chooses green, trimmed front lawns kept tidy and manicured by mowers, blowers, weeders, and trimmers. Now, don’t get me wrong—I am pleased as punch to forego the grind of a weekly mow but given the option, I’d prefer Portland blowzy, frowsy or Vashon it’s-July-so-of-course-the-grass-is-brown landscape design.


Chile Verde With White Beans Serves 4

  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, quartered
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 4 jalapeño chiles
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. cooked cannellini beans (If using canned, rinse off canning liquid.)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1 Lime 

In a blender, combine tomatillos, avocados, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, 2 garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, 2 tsp. olive oil, and salt. Purée until smooth. 
 

In a heavy soup pot, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Slice remaining 2 garlic cloves in half, and cook for 1 minute. Add onions, Mexican oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds; cook until onions are translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatillo sauce, beans (if using canned beans, wait until the last 10 minutes of step 4 to add the beans; otherwise they will fall apart) and water or stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for for 30 minutes, stirring often. 

Stir in the lime juice just before serving.

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 1 Comment

Cooking as comfort: Ribollita

I wasn’t sure whether or not to write a post this week but silence didn’t feel right. I don’t have words that might inspire or illuminate, but I do want to acknowledge the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have lived a long life of safety and comfort; I was born to caring parents, taught by generous teachers, and have been in a loving relationship for forty years. I have no idea how it feels to worry about what might happen to my son when he leaves the house, or to understand the the accumulated rage it takes to light a car on fire. I do feel sadness, despair, and the imperative to recognize lost lives and share the pain. I will try to be kinder and vow to work toward seeking leaders who will unite us with compassion.

On a much less important and more mundane note, I am currently on my second day of the dread colonoscopy preparation—leading to a procedure that ranks with having a root canal or watching The Bachelorette. Included in the complicated, four-page, particularly severe set of gastroenterological instructions, is the mandate to stop eating solid food two days before the day of the event. Seems unnecessarily unkind to me. 

I am surprised how often I think about food. What no cream in my coffee? No peanut butter toast after my morning walk? No afternoon Dorito snack? No dip into the pickle or olive jar? Not even a rice cake? Food marks time, rewards my efforts, celebrates the end of the day. Countless times I think, “time for a snack” only to remember.

I also miss the ease and focus I experience when I cook. I can remember working behind the line in restaurant kitchens when time disappeared in a dance of effort, practiced skill, and teamwork. In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named this state of mind “as being in the zone—the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” 

Stepping into the routine of cooking is always a stress reliever for me. For the most part I can control what happens: the water will boil, the onions will caramelize, the pork shoulder will become tender, and something eatable will emerge. Just throw in the occasional scorched peppers, salty potatoes, and overcooked salmon to keep my pride in check. 

So, if I could go into the kitchen and cook something to eat, would it be scalloped potatoes, sweet potato panang curry, a tuna melt? Maybe I’d try Mark Bitman’s recipe for Ribollita.

Ribollita 

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 1 carrot, chopped 
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic 
  • Salt and ground black pepper 
  • 2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans 
  • 1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes 
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water 
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig 1 fresh thyme sprig 
  • 1 pound chopped kale or escarole 
  • 4 large, thick slices whole-grain bread, toasted 
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan 

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Drain the beans; if they’re canned, rinse them as well. Add them to the pot along with tomatoes and their juices and stock, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the soup bubbles steadily; cover and cook, stirring once or twice to break up the tomatoes, until the flavors meld, 15 to 20 minutes.

Fish out and discard rosemary and thyme stems, if you like, and stir in kale. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lay bread slices on top of the stew so they cover the top and overlap as little as possible. Scatter red onion slices over the top, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Put the pot in the oven and bake until the bread, onions and cheese are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. (If your pot fits under the broiler, you can also brown the top there.) 

Divide the soup and bread among 4 bowls and serve.

Posted in Recipes, Restaurants | 4 Comments