Month: April 2005
When Paris came to Seattle, or on carrot-fennel soup
Some days, everything just falls into place. Seattle has been sunny and warm and at least temporarily spring-like; I managed to twist and cajole my hair into a messy-chic ballerina-meets-French-frump bun that stayed in place—no drooping!—for over seven hours; and, thanks to divine intervention and local farmers, I bought two brimming basketfuls of organic strawberries and still have money left over to pay rent. It really doesn’t get any better than that—unless, of course, the whole scene takes place in Paris. It’s downright bliss all around, and especially the fantastic hair. Enjoying these things isn’t easy, however; it takes work, or rather, it takes leaving work early.
The story begins a few mornings ago, when I found myself sitting in my office, distractedly watching the angle of the sun shift on the building across the alley from my window. By two in the afternoon, it was unbearable: I was suffering indoors while a spectacular day hovered just out of reach on the other side of the windowpane. But rather than continue to needlessly moan and mourn, I put down my red proofreading pencil and traded the carpeted hallway of the office for the concrete of the sidewalk. A few blocks away at Pike Place Market, I found that I wasn’t the only one: we were a crowd full of shirkers. And with good reason: at the produce stands, tables were lined with berries and ramps and frilly-topped carrots, and pale green bulbs of fennel leaned invitingly out of wooden crates. As I stopped to admire them, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find an unfamiliar woman standing next to me.
“Where is the Metro?” she asked, staring at me from behind dark sunglasses.
“You mean the Metro buses?” I replied, trying to remember if I’d ever heard anyone call the local public transportation system by its official name.
“No, the Métro, may-TRO,” she said, carefully enunciating through what I now recognized as a distinctly French accent. She made a downward zooming motion with her hand, as if to imitate a train going underground, and looked at me quizzically.
“Oh, the Métro? The subway? Seattle doesn’t have a subway. But you can catch a bus on Third Avenue,” I explained, gesturing up the hill. She turned from me and started away, and I returned to the piles of produce, wondering at our surreal exchange. Lo and behold, Paris had come to Pike Place.
Looking at the fennel bulb under my hand, I remembered the morning that I came to France last June, when I opened the door to my short-term rental, threw my bags down gleefully on the bed, and ran back outside to the Sunday market—a French version, if you will, of the one I found myself standing in now. That morning, I snatched up the makings for a modest early-summer feast—red-skinned apricots, a ripe wedge or two of cheese, and the ingredients for my favorite carrot-fennel soup—and came home to lunch in my little studio, with its tiny hallway kitchen, sunny terrace, and kitschy garden gnome in the grass. And this Seattle afternoon ten months later, I decided that it was only fitting to cap my superlative day with a celebratory carrot-fennel nod to Paris—who, after all, had come a great distance to find me.
Indeed, some days, everything just falls into place. So I came home to my familiar long-term rental with its not-so-tiny kitchen, sunny catwalk balcony, and kitschy garden gnome on the railing; threw my grocery bag down gleefully on the counter; and ran for the stockpot.
Adapted from Amanda Hesser in The New York Times Magazine, and, I think, Cooking for Mr. Latte
This light soup strikes a perfect balance between the delicate springtime flavors of young carrots and fennel. Be sure to choose carrots that are sweet and worthy of being eaten on their own; if you make this soup with tired, winter-weary ones, you’ll be sorry.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced; fronds reserved and chopped
1 ½ lbs. carrots, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 cups vegetable broth (I used Imagine brand)
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. crème fraîche, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy saucepan, warm oil over medium heat. Add the fennel slices, and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the carrots and garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Pour in 4 cups vegetable broth (if, after puréeing, you feel that the soup is too thick, you can add the final cup, but it’s better to err on the side of adding too little at first), and season with salt. Simmer, covered, until the carrots and fennel are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the orange juice and reserved fennel fronds. If you have an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the pot; otherwise, transfer it in batches to a food processor or blender, puréeing until smooth. Stir in the crème fraîche. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve warm.
(Recipe updated March 20, 2007.)
Sugar High Friday, or Long-Distance Ginger-Molasses Cookies for Kate
More often than not, Orangette is just a fancy cover for what might be more appropriately titled “The Molly-and-Her-Friends Show,” or “What We Ate, How Ridiculous We Were, and How Much We Adore Each Other Because of and/or Despite Our Ridiculousness.” Lately, however, it’s been a little quieter than usual around here. A principal cast member is missing, and that would be Kate—she of the pointy red heels, long-distance bike rides, winning-hearts-and-minds cakes, broken French, early-morning bread-baking, gin and tonics on the 18th floor, mussels with crabs, and the vacuum cleaner with a hip-hop low-ride shag setting. About three weeks ago, Kate packed up nearly all of her worldly possessions and jetted off to India on a six-week business trip.…Read more
9 am Sunday: bubbling oil and beignets
After a few weeks’ hiatus, it’s high time that I recommitted myself to what has clearly become the celestial purpose of Orangette: making Jimmy famous. He may be the gay husband of my former employer Rebecca, but he’s also much more, and that’s where I come in. My commitment to Jimmy is truly the highest of callings, a fanatical devotion to a church where a choir of deep-fryers sing sweetly from the altar. On the seventh day, some rest and some go to Sunday school, but I go to Jimmy’s. And then I write about it. This week’s episode began with a rather enthusiastic e-mail from the man himself. He’d been on a mission, he explained, to replicate New Orleans’s…Read more
On sharing and sugar, with a lot of banana cake
Like so many others who love the warmth of the stove, I once thought that I wanted to be a chef. One of my half-brothers had gone to cooking school, so it seemed only natural. Never mind the fact that said half-brother does the least amount of cooking of anyone in our family; chefdom was clearly in my blood. To test my reasoning, I took an internship one summer at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, the city’s oldest, most well-known vegetarian restaurant and the birthplace of several celebrated cookbooks. I knew next to nothing about restaurant kitchens, much less that I would be told to “fire” this or that, slice onions as “thin as an angel’s eyelash,” or distinguish among…Read more
She cooks, she tells again
Over at Saucy, the second installment of “Cook and Tell” is up and available for consumption, titled “Have Your Beefcake and Eat With Him Too.”* Please forgive me the pun; I couldn’t resist. I mean, really, could you? While you’re there, I hope that you’ll take a moment to peruse Saucy’s other features and news, updated daily, Monday through Thursday. Saucy pulls together a bit of something for everyone, from(cook)book and magazine reviews to columns on drinks, gardening, baking, host(ess)ing, and practical cooking. Plus, there’s a cheese of the month feature! If that doesn’t make you happy, you’re just a very picky eater. I hope that you’ll make Saucy a part of your daily rotation. *Special thanks—long overdue!—to Gigi, for…Read more
For a French-toast master on his 76th
My father loved to play in the kitchen. For him, relaxing after a long day of patients and paperwork meant pouring a Scotch and taking up residence at the butcher-block island. Sometimes Burg would scour our overflowing shelves of cookbooks for ideas or techniques, but mainly he’d work by feel and taste, stewing, sautéing, melding this and that—and never keeping the slightest note of the path that led him from start to finished dish. Somewhere there may be an index card in his blocky handwriting, detailing the ingredients for his trademark vinaigrette or summertime potato salad, but it’s unlikely and, anyway, hidden forever in the dark recesses of an overfilled kitchen drawer. His experiments were many, and most were fruitful,…Read more
Back in September—a lifetime ago in blog years, it seems—I wrote about a Seattle nonprofit called FareStart and its weekly Guest Chef Nights, in which local chefs work with FareStart’s students to produce impressive three-course meals. Last night I had the pleasure of attending my second Guest Chef Night—this time in the company of fellow food blogger B (of Culinary Fool), B’s friend E, and my ever-faithful Keaton—and once again, I can’t keep it to myself. Everything about FareStart just feels so good that it would be a crime not to share. Consider this a public service announcement. Our evening began with a tour of the bustling kitchen, where the students were hard at work in their chef’s whites, plating…Read more
On routine, with tears, taste buds, and chickpea-tomato soup
Alright, I admit it: I’m kind of boring. I love routine. I’ve never been good at change—which is to say that I’m actually rather bad at it. My poor, long-suffering mother can attest to this: during college, I called her at the beginning of each and every quarter, sobbing and sniveling incoherently about my new schedule and new classes and the end of life as I knew it. I’m also the girl who took the same brown-bag lunch to school every single day for the first fourteen years of her life: Peter Pan creamy peanut butter on mushy Home Pride whole wheat bread (no jam, jelly, or other gelatinousness; no crunchy peanut butter; no natural peanut butter; no white bread;…Read more
Love letter with animosity and asparagus
Dearest Seattle, Every now and then you’re really spectacular. It’s usually something small and subtle and a little gritty, something I would have missed if I didn’t have a nasty habit of staring, a keen ear for other people’s conversations, or a weakness for your Patagonia-meets-post-punk fashion sense. It’s the chatty produce vendor at Pike Place Market, a gin and tonic at the Alibi Room, a romp in the ravine at Ravenna Park, or your Space Needle glowing on the night skyline like some sort of majestic wizard’s tower in a sci-fi movie. You’re everywhere I want to go. To hijack the Frank O’Hara poem “Steps,” “oh god it’s wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too…Read more