“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
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.
“I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of my human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my Fool.”
― Theodore I. Rubin
Sunchoke Soup with Cracked Black Pepper
1 pound sunchokes, peeled and chopped
2 cups peeled, chopped potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 sweet onions, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
9 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup whole milk (optional)
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the sunchokes and the potatoes. Cut into dice-sized chunks.
Heat butter or oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot. Add onions, garlic, and thyme, and stir until the onions begin to brown. Add the broth. Stir. Then add potatoes and sunchokes. Cook covered for 5 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes until chokes and taters are softened. Add apple juice and lemon juice, cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in milk.
Working in batches, transfer the soup mixture to a blender, remove the middle-nob so that steam can escape and cover with a paper towel as to not burn yourself with soup splatters. Puree until smooth in batches, each time adding some of the butter to the blender. Serve with a healthy amount of fresh black pepper.
I stood there, in the cold of the morning, hunched over the kitchen sink with my hands gripping the counters ledge watching the leaves fall and collect on the deck. Trying to count my breaths, I silently beg each one to play it’s reverse card and go back to the tree, the life-force, that created it earlier in the spring. They do not stop. With each yellow sliver that drops, I feel myself being pulled down to the ground with them. Pieces of my heart and understanding lay there, wilting, disentigrating back to the earth. I wished for Autumn all summer long — for it’s first snow, cold sheets, fires in the living room. Now that it’s here, I’m not sure I’m ready to dig through the “basement” for all that needs supporting it. Things have settled, and suddenly the stillness I asked for has arrived with a pretty bow and a painful but necessary awareness to all that has really taken place from January to October.
I’ve highlighted and bookmarked Tiny Beautiful Things to shreds during this phase. Is it a phase? Can we call it that when it hasn’t yet passed? Anyway, Cheryl Strayed’s words are both comfort and a total slap in the face right now. In one particular letter, a young woman writes to Cheryl asking “WTF, WTF, WTF?” She responds in sharing the bone chilling history of sexual abuse from her father’s father and how she came to realize that pressing against the wound, tackling it straight on, was the only way to get a grip on her life. She ends her response to the young woman, “Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.”
I share this passage not because I stood there staring at the leaves thinking, like the young woman who wrote Cheryl, “WTF, WTF, WTF.” But I realize that the leaves falling is my life. I need to answer it. Simple as that. I need to ask better questions about the why. Ask questions that shed light on what needs adjusting.So you’re feeling like “x” you’re acting like “y” and it’s causing a sour, hollow feeling in your gut. It’s not WTF. It’s your life. Dig deeper. Lean in. Throw yourself down the basement stairs and scavenge for as much as you can. You’re going to need all of it, everything you got, to make it to winter.
Thai Carrot Soup
3 sweet onions
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp red chili flakes
3 spoonfuls coconut oil
2 tbsp cumin
dash of nutmeg
2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1.5 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1 can full fat coconut milk
5-6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tsp salt
4-5 thai chiles, de-seeded
handful fresh basil
3 limes, juiced
In a large pot or dutch oven, saute roughly chopped onions with grated garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, and coconut oil until softened but not terribly browned. Add apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pot. Add cumin, nutmeg, lemongrass, and carrots. Stir to coat. Add coconut milk and the broth. Combine. Simmer on low with a lid for 30-40 minutes or until the carrots are completely softened.
Pour contents of pot into a high-powered blender in small batches with the fresh thai chiles. Blend until completely pureed. Add water or stock to adjust the thickness. Pour into individual bowls and top with juice of fresh lime and chopped basil.
Today is one of those days where words seem to fail. Sentences and ideas come together, but nothing feels right. I’m saying something, but I’m not really saying anything. I’m dabbling in themes that seem important, but they aren’t authentic. I’m not feeling provocative, compelling, or wise. More exhaustion, frustration, acceptance, relief.
I stop fighting the resistance and set aside the notebook. I rest my head back on the couch we bought second-hand a few weeks ago, laughing to myself when I remember how we almost broke my finger in the doorframe trying to move it into the apartment. Shaun is in the kitchen, I can hear him hammering planks of plywood for shelves in the pantry. Pickin’ on Coldplay plays on the desktop computer on the tall table and Sadie is asleep by my feet. The wind and the sun come through the screens and effortlessly toss shadows of the maple tree across the hardwood.
Take off your battle fatigues for a second, Kelsey, let go of trying to write something big, inspiring, creative. This is all I have to offer today: say I love you more. That’s it. Pretty simple. Say it more. Say it right now, not later. It’s the only moment that counts. I’m not the first to impress upon it and I won’t be the last. Don’t assume people know how much they mean to you. Make an effort to tell them as much and as often as you can. In an instant, you may wish it were the only thing you ever did in this world, and all the other words that failed will not matter. Who will you say I love you to, today?
What better way to say I love you than with a bowl of soup. It definitely makes the Billboard top-forty. And my take on this Alice Waters’ treasure, well I have to say (and Shaun agrees), this may be the best Happyolks recipe to date. Sweet red, yellow, and orange peppers are still coming in our local CSA box, but you could always use the more traditional looking organic bell peppers from the store too. Greens are off limits, not sweet enough.
Sweet Pepper Soup
1 pound of sweet peppers, seeds and veins removed
1 small hot red pepper (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsb olive oil, for sauteing
3 tbsp fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
7 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup brown rice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, bring olive oil to medium-high heat. Toss in sliced onions and peppers, sauté for about 10 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring frequently. When softened add garlic and thyme, stirring to coat and cooking for another 4-5 minutes. Pour vegetable broth over the mixture, sprinkle in the rice, add a bit of apple cider vinegar, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes while you prepare the blender. Transfer a few ladles of soupy-pepper mixture to the blender at a time, until all of the soup has been pureed. Serve with a few teaspoons of fresh chives and a warm country levain loaf.
Fall arrives in fits and starts in here in San Diego. Friday was a tease with its grey skies, cool breeze, and invitation for thinking books and black coffee. Sun, shorts, and summer squash on Sunday — September keeps us wanting. My creative process follows suit. Ideas come and go, passing through me before I have time to bottle them up or at least find a working pen.
I bought a sketchbook at the end of summer, it was on sale at the art store and at the time I had these great intentions of writing everyday; “creativity for creativity’s sake.” I was inspired by a recent feature Shaun and I had collaborated on about a new friend, colleague who encouraged “artists need to be creative for the sake of it, not for work, but because it’s who you are.” Agree. So does Julia Cameron, who insists on a practice of writing every day, among other things, to “recover creativity, as it is the natural expression and direction of life.” It’s been three weeks, and that sketchbook is barely filled with the caught inspiration, captured realizations, or daydreams like I envisioned.
I love, and fully one hundred and fifty percent believe in the practice of “creativity for creativity’s sake,” but as Elizabeth Gilbert, writer, says in her ’09 TED Talk, it can’t always account for “the utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process, a process which everyone who has ever tried to make something knows doesn’t behave rationally, and sometimes seems downright paranormal.”
Case in point, Shaun and I saw Bon Iver this past weekend, and in the middle of a solo set the creative rain comes like a flood and I have nowhere to put it in the dark, musty auditorium. Vernon is singing, I am completely in the present moment, engrossed, emotional, and the ideas come a’knocking. WTF, creativity? I needed you a few days ago. I can’t deal with you right now.
We have to be okay with that. Part of being creative for creativity’s sake is not documenting it, saving it for later, making it a practice. Let it just be. A thing that comes, at random, irrationally, and reminds you that it’s there and that it will come back because it always does . Let the creativity just be there for the sake of it, even if it’s stuck in your head or heart and can’t be rendered “useful.” Perhaps this is the extended meaning of being creative for the sake of it. Feeling it. Enjoying it. Not having to go anywhere with it. Just letting it affirm our sometimes maddening humanness.
Fall will come in San Diego. Eventually. It will fake us out for a while. And it may feel inconvenient when it does make an appearance because we’ll be wearing shorts and sandals. But heck. Let it come when it does. The sketchbook will be there, and if it doesn’t get love everyday, there will be times later when I’ll be glad I have all the extra pages. I think. I hope.
2 cups short-grain brown rice, cooked with a tsp of olive oil
Soak dry beans overnight, and cook for 45 minutes before you plan to get started. Alternatively, you could use canned, but I discourage it – BPA, the same stuff we’re on the watch for in water bottles is found in tin can linings. While you’re cooking the beans, put on the rice too.
Okay, now we can start. Whist the tamarind with 3 tbsp of water until it dissolves into a paste. Set aside. Place chopped onion and caraway seeds in a large pan with olive oil and saute on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, honey, beans, ground coriander, cumin, chard, and a bit of salt and pepper. Strain the tamarind water through a fine mesh strainer over the pan. Bring to a slight boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. If you like a more soup-y stew, add a bit more water. If you prefer a thicker stew, remove the lid to let the steam evaporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When you’re ready to serve, spoon rice into a shallow bowl, creating crater in the center. Put a ladle or two over the rice, and top with fresh cilantro.