Spicy Potato Tarragon Soup

03 . 10 . 14

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“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

—    Anais Nin

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Spicy Potato Tarragon Soup 

It’s still winter here in Colorado, although spring is introducing itself in fits and starts. I’m considering this my last homage to the hearty, sustaining bowls of warmth that have characterized this amazing season of snow and festivity. Savor the crumbs of cold that are left for us, folks. Everyone seems to want to be in the season that’s in front of them instead of celebrating the one that’s here, now. It will be time for tulips, asparagus, and rhubarb soon enough.

  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 small red potatoes
  • 1 fuji apple, sliced
  • 12 small yellow fingerlings
  • 6 oz. Irish Red Ale
  • 6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of two large lemons
  • ———
  • 1/4 cup minced tarragon
  • Sriracha or other preferred hot sauce
  • Crisp cooked bacon (optional)

 

Melt butter in a 8-quart stockpot. Add onion, leek, garlic, and fennel; cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are just softening. Add potatoes (skins on) and stir together to create some browning at the bottom of the pot and the potatoes. Deglaze the browning bits after 10 minutes with the ale. Lower heat, add stock, salt, and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes.

When the potatoes are completely softened and separating from their skin, add the heavy cream then transfer batches to the blender and blend on low so that the soup is just combined but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a staging bowl and repeat until all the soup is blended but still has texture.

Stir in lemon juice, fresh chopped tarragon, hot sauce to your liking, and add bacon (optional). Taste for salt and pepper.

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Cardamom Oat Crumble

02 . 18 . 14

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We spent Saturday evening in the garage. Shaun turned on the propane heat lamp and Caroline and I watched the boys build a spice shelf for Corbyn and her newlywed digs.  Drinking beer from the can and sitting next to a woman I admire and respect more than she’ll ever know, I felt my pulse physically slow for the first time in months. I’ve missed this. Quiet, thoughtful moments without pressing emails to respond to, where tense decisions and terse dialogue are not on the regular, when the pendulum between fight and flight rests heavy.

Sunday continued at the same easy, tender pace. We went for a long run and treated ourselves to waffles and the NYTimes, laundry to Olympics coverage, and an afternoon bike ride to pick up frozen berries to satiate a brief craving for summertime. I love how Denver rewards us with a splattering of perfect days like these in the deep of winter. I swear they always show up at the right time as if to say, STOP! LOOK! The day is beautiful and you are here and very much alive to take in this moment and remember how to enjoy the miracle that is your life.

The fact that the weekend felt so precious is an indicator to me that the cards need shuffling around here. These weekends need to feel more ritual than they do unusual and surprising. I’ve quietly dedicated my time over the past six months to a local project that has called me to stretch, push, break down, pick up, and humble myself before a dizzying array of interpersonal dynamics in ways I do not yet have words to describe. I’m feeling a bit numb right now — to the success and failure, to what the work gave and what it took away. Regardless, I’m certain the impact of “it all” is positively permanent, and that the excruciating and thrilling days are teaching me something. For now I’m just feeling in the moment, and the moment isn’t good or bad… the moment just is.

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“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

― Pema Chödrön

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Cardamom Oat Crumble

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Don’t sell yourself short and try to use fresh fruit for this recipe in the wintertime! Ya’ll know I love Chile, but berries picked before they’re ripe and shipped by boat from the Southern Hemisphere taste like cardboard. Frozen fruit is dandy in the off-season and I’d encourage you not to poo-poo it. I tend to prefer darker berries with cardamom, but feel free to substitute as you feel inspired.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ———
  • 4 cups frozen cherries
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • zest and juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch (or) xantham gum

 

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Mix flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, candied ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375’. Butter 9″ deep cast iron pan. Add fruit to just below the fill line. Mix together with orange zest, juice, starch, and sugar. Pour and spread oat topping to cover the fruit completely. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the fruit is bubbling, thick, and the topping is beginning to brown. Let cool for 30 minutes to set before serving with ice cream or creme fraiche.

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Shaved Fennel Salad + The Lunchbox Fund

02 . 10 . 14

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Today I’m partnering with The Giving Table, The Lunchbox Fund, and nearly one hundred other food bloggers to feed impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren in South Africa. We’re donating our posts and asking our readers to join us in raising (at least) $5,000 to provide a daily meal to 100 children for an a whole year. Children with empty tummies at school can’t achieve their full potential. With the collective help of our reader base, we hope to nourish minds, nourish a nation, and positively impact the planet.

Nicole Gulotta asked us to share a personal anecdote to plead the case of this fantastic cause, and while I will eventually get to that, I think it goes without saying that hunger at home and abroad is a problem that should take very little convincing to get behind. It is stunning and despicable to me that nearly 65 percent of all South African children are food insecure and that 1.9 million of those children are orphans as a result of HIV and AIDS. It is also unacceptable to me that 1 in 5 children here in the U.S, the so-called “greatest country in the world” live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. This would never be true of the “greatest” country in the world.

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South Africa lives in a tender corner of my heart. In 2010 I lived on a small ship for five months with a few hundred students, professors, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing across the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, and finally back across the Pacific. On the days we weren’t at port he gave lectures on the history of his country, Apartheid, the meaning of Ubuntu, and spent his mealtimes fraternizing with young people in the mess hall. On one evening I remember sitting around a round table with  six women and one guy, a phenom to Arch (what we called him affectionately), that merited he scoot from his table to ours. He looked at us, giggled, and proceeded to circle the perimeter, tapping our heads like a game of duck-duck goose until he reached our male friend, Nimish, and squealed “you lucky little bugger!” before skipping off. He is at once the fieriest and goofiest person I’ve been lucky to experience and my life is forever changed by his unwavering optimism for human goodness, capacity for love and forgiveness, and his belief that young people can change the world.

A lot of things get the man riled up, and hunger is one of them.

“I doubt if there is a single moment in our history when all human beings have had enough to eat. Even today, in a world where it is possible to communicate across thousands of miles… close to 1 billion men, women and children will go to bed hungry tonight around the world. Yet a lifetime of experience has taught me that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved, no injustice so deeply entrenched it cannot be overcome. And that includes hunger. Hunger is not a natural phenomenon. It is a man made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat. They go hungry because the system which delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken.”

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I have a shoddy recording (watch/listen here) of the night before we made port in Cape Town that I watch often for reasons private and obvious, in which he says:

Don’t let us grind you down. Dream. Go on for goodness sakes, dreaming. Dream, dream.

Dream the craziest dreams. They actually often are, God’s dreams.

I feel pretty confident that I know only a smidgen of what there is to know about this life and humans and our collective experience, but I know this: we can’t do it alone. Most of you will visit this site for the recipe, and perhaps the half that read this accompanying post will find themselves economically capable of donating to The Lunchbox fund, and that’s okay. We are all doing what we can, with what we have, and the time we get here. But I’m dreaming. I’m going to dream that 5000 Happyolks readers who will see this post over the next week will donate $10 and multiply The Giving Table’s goal by a factor of 10. Yeah. Crazy dreams. Whatcha think? Let’s do it.

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Shaved Fennel Salad

  •  6 medium-ish bulbs fennel
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup watercress
  • ½ cup sour cherries
  • ½ cup shelled + chopped pistachios
  • juice of 1 navel orange
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp (plus a dash) sea salt
  • cracked pink pepper

 

With a mandoline, shave bulbs of fennel to ¼ inch thickness. Place in bowl and sprinkle with salt to soften. Set aside. Shave the onion and apples (with skin) on the same setting on the mandoline and set aside. Clean and remove leaves of watercress, parsley, and mint. Set aside.

Prepare the dressing by combining the juices of the orange and lemon, olive oil, plus salt, and cracked pink pepper.  Toss together the fennel, onions, apples, parsley, mint, watercress, chopped pistachios, and sour cherries with the dressing.

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This one’s for you, Arch.

For good measure, here’s the link (again) to donate a buck The Lunchbox Fund.

Let's get in Touch

I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.