I Can Cook!

I've always been a better (and more prolific) baker than I've been a cook, though I do have some simple specialties—mostly casseroles and sautéd fish and vegetables. Since I returned from Maine, however, I've been on a tear with the cooking. I've been making applesauce like a maniac (I now have several jars, Pyrex dishes, and Gladware containers with blue masking tape labels reading "2:1 Cortland:Macintosh + 2 Organic Pink Lady Med. Smooth", "Cortland/Macintosh Chunky", "Cortland Lt. Cinn Smooth" in my freezer), which of course means lots of apple peeling if the apples aren't organic, which in turn means lots of apple peels. My wrists are certainly stronger from the peeling, and I now have two large pots of compost decomposing on the back deck. [Thank Valerie for inspiring me to finally start composting.]

On Monday I took the car in to Pep Boys to get a state inspection, and on the walk home I bought broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini at Trader Joe's with the idea that with the onions and tomatoes I already had on hand, I could make Valerie's "garbage soup". I'm not sure when I thought I'd do this, since I still had to pick up the car in the afternoon and most likely soothe Austen through his normal 4:30-5:30 meltdown, but I was feeling optimistic. I'd watched Valerie make the soup, and (a) the recipe seemed very forgiving, and (b) it didn't take more than 30 minutes or so to get everything in the pot.

God apparently was smiling on me on Monday, because not only did I have the energy to walk back to the Pep Boys (20 blocks away), but the weather was also nice enough to do so, AND Austen fell asleep in the stroller after a stop on the way for a Children's Menu grilled cheese sandwich and a nut brown ale at the White Dog (sandwich for him, beer and the accompanying potato chips for me). He even STAYED ASLEEP when I moved him from the stroller to the car seat, and he slept for another 30-40 minutes after we got home—time enough for me to chop all the vegetables and get the soup started. He woke up as I was dumping the mushrooms into the pot. The soup was delicious, and I made enough that we could have leftovers on Tuesday with a loaf of bread that the babysitter got for me while she was out with Austen.

On Wednesday, another non-babysitter day, Austen and I went to the mall so I could buy him a real pair of shoes (now that he's walking, he needs something sturdy and waterproof enough to wear outside) and myself and immersion blender. I'd been wanting one of these for a while, but making the garbage soup on Monday had moved the item to the top of my list, as it would have been easier to puree the onions and zucchini in the pot instead of moving a few cups at a time to a blender.

I found a Braun blender on sale, paid a near fortune for a pair of Stride Rite shoes, and spent more than I should have on some other necessaries, and then stopped at Whole Foods on the way home to pick up a couple organic apples (so I could make some sauce with a bit of peel in it) and some leeks. Of course, I had a brain fart and didn't think about how leeks were counted; I was thinking that each layer counted as one leek, but obviously it's the whole stalk that counts. Thus I only bought one leek instead of the two called for in this recipe for Potato Leek Soup from Gourmet.

I substituted a small yellow onion for the second leek, used the Yukon Gold potatoes I already had in the house, used all vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth/water mix, and added just a splash of milk at the end, but otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter. ;) Oh, and of course I used my new immersion blender to partly puree the soup instead of removing a cup if it to a regular blender as suggested. OK, so it seems that I, like most other cooks who comment on Epicurious recipes, only followed the recipe in the most general sense, but the results were still spectacular. I used the leftover ciabatta from Tuesday's dinner to make croutons and sprinkled these and a bit of Gruyere cheese on top of each bowl of soup before serving. DELICIOUS. Al has requested that I make this soup again asap. The best part was that it was really easy to make with a baby underfoot; the small ingredient list means that there's very little chopping to do.

For last night's dinner I got *really* ambitious—especially for a non-babysitter day—and decided to make a pumpkin risotto. I got the recipe from the pumpkin cookbook Heidi bought for me on a whim a few years ago, and I used the crook-neck pumpkin that Al bought for me at Weaver's Orchard when we went apple picking. I got the abborio rice, fresh sage, and vegetable broth from Trader Joe's (man, it's convenient having a TJ's two blocks away!) right before I started cooking. The result was OUTSTANDING, even if the rice was a bit on the al dente side. Oh how I wish I'd photographed the lumpy piles of orange-studded rice with their garnishes of shaved parmesan and fried sage leaves before we ate them!

It was definitely a labor-intensive dish, but I think I could have prepared it without much trouble if I hadn't also made an enormous pot of applesauce right before leaving for TJ's. Peeling, chopping, and coring 30 small apples and then chopping pumpkin and stirring rice was a little tough on my arms, especially since I had to hold Austen while doing some of the peeling and stirring. Still, it was totally worthwhile—all three of us loved it, and I'd definitely make it again. I think we'll probably have the leftovers for dinner (or at least for lunch), so I don't have to think about what to make next just yet. Still, I'm excited to know that I *can* make yummy dinners, and I can't wait to add new recipes to my repertoire. Yay, I can cook!

Posted by Lori in food at 7:35 PM on November 17, 2005

Comments (1)


The Bay Area still misses your Buckeyes. Lots.


The Bay Area still misses your Buckeyes. Lots.

Posted by: Eric at November 18, 2005 12:36 PM

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