20 October 2008

Cold creeping in

Saturday night saw the first "killing frost" of the year in Bostonland, with Sunday clear and cold. Monday much the same, especially in the morning. Soup weather. This was dinner tonight, thrown together with my usual approach. I have a pressure cooker, a stovetop machine I highly recommend, and that makes this a 20 minute affair, no lie.

Velvet Potato & Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Garlic
serves two for dinner with planovers; certainly serves four for dinner with a salad or sammich
~1 TB olive oil + 1 TB butter (omit for vegans)
~medium onion, diced
~2 cloves raw garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
~3 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" dice or so
~small head of cauliflower, florets and stems, cut into medium chunks
~5-6 c. water
~vegetable bullion cube
~1/8 tsp. dried thyme
~white pepper
~salt to taste
~1 large head of roasted garlic*
~chopped chives for garnish, optional

Heat oil (and melt butter) in the bottom of your pressure cooker or soup pot. Add diced onions and cook over medium-low until very soft and translucent. Throw in raw garlic, potatoes, and cauliflower, and toss to coat in fat. Add thyme, pepper, bullion cube, and water, and...

a. ...lock the pressure cooker down. Crank the heat to high and let it be until the vent releases a strong stream of steam, then turn down to medium-low. Ensure that a modest, quiet stream of steam continues to issue from the vent and hold at pressure for 5-7 minutes. Then, remove from heat and loose the steam release valve. When all pressure is released, crack open the cooker and proceed to the next step.
b. ...bring to a boil over high heat. Then, reduce to a simmer and simmer until vegetables are completely soft, however long that takes in a soup pot. Proceed to the next step.

Remove all cloves from the roasted head of garlic and add to the hot pot, stirring in. Then, puree soup until completely smooth in batches in a blender (I have not graduated to an immersion blender, no). Return soup to the cooker/pot and bring back to steaming hot. Serve with crusty bread and a late season salad of spinach, beets, carrot, and apple.

*What, you don't just roast a ton of garlic on the weekends in the fall? That's odd. Here's how: lay a head of garlic on its side--still in its paper--and cut off the tops of all/most of the cloves, setting this cap of cloves aside. Repeat with two other heads. Place opened heads, roots down, in any shallow oven-proof receptacle (I use a glass pie dish). Drizzle slowly and liberally with olive oil, letting oil permeate and soak in. Sprinkle with salt, dried thyme, dried rosemary, black pepper. Place clove caps back on and drizzle those tops with more olive oil. Cover the receptacle with foil, tightly crimped shut at the edges. Roast at 375 degrees until the heads of garlic yield to light pressure on their sides and the cloves are caramel-colored, about 40 minutes give or take.

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I didn't mean for this to become a food blog, honest. What I'm not telling you, here, is The Disaster of the Spaetzle. Let us never speak of it again.

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Halloween is coming up. It's pretty much my favorite holiday, though in recent years I've been disappointed in my observation thereof. I am at fault entirely on this, because I have failed to actually live in Boston since we moved here: I've failed to make friends, I've declined to learn about the social life, I don't know anything about clubs, groups, venues, events, etc. So it comes Halloween and I experience a little regret. Why didn't I make a life here, so I could celebrate my favorite holiday with friends? Why wasn't I able to do like I did in Chicago, and get through the first, difficult months of reaching out and building a social circle? And there's the answer: I already did that; I built a life in Chicago and that's where my life was. And also: Boston's only been a stopover for me, drawing even now to its close and taking any shame I feel for being aloof and unsocial with it. Next stop, New York City, which is something I can say on the record now that I've made the announcement to my uppers at work. Shuh-BOOM.

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15 October 2008

Off the request line.

I owe someone a little something from a few posts ago, so this one's for you, Jacket.
That's my muscle, fools. I've been working on it.

I'm just over a year into my Going to The Gym to Get Ripped Initiative and I've hit a bit of a plateau. I worked with a trainer for my first month and a half; this was as much as I could afford (it is a swank, swank gym that I can only attend through the miracle of My Big Corporate Employer's health care plan subsidy). I'd been doing that plan--with results, no doubt--but I was starting to feel like I wasn't making more progress. So I took a preview class for a little something they call BURN. Which burns, by the way. The miniclass was 30 minutes and I was sweating like a sweaty pig--I can only guess that in the full hour class I would have been in a pile of sweaty soreness on the floor. But I felt great afterwards and, just like the trainer predicted, I find that my body is craving the increased heart rate, the sweat, and the deep breaths that I get from the cardio portion as well as the soreness and wrung out feeling from the weight work. So I've been picking up the literal pace of my workout. This fast walk/jog/run/jog/walk/run/jog/run/walk flies in the face of my prior attitude to moving at anything other than a swift walk. I have even been known to express the sentiment that I don't even run to catch a bus, if I'm late for work. But I do now, because damn if it don't feel fine.

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