Monthly Archive for April 2010
The recipe for this soup should have arrived on this site months ago. Years ago, even. In the many days between my first batch of this brothy lentil soup, marbled with emerald strands of Swiss chard, and today, I have made the soup countless times, returning to it for its heartiness, its restorativeness, its ease. And I’ve thought several times about sharing the recipe with you, believe me, I have. But, until now, I’ve always decided against it in the end. I know exactly what’s stood between this soup and me on the one side and you out there in the Internet on the other side—and I’m not proud of it.
It’s this: Vanity.
My parents are passing through Chicago on Wednesday night. They’ll be en route to the Kentucky Derby, a trip they have always wanted to make. Our home, conveniently located midway between St. Paul and Churchill Downs, will make for a perfect pitstop. They are scheduled to arrive after sunfall and (knowing them) they’re likely to leave before the sun rises the next morning. It’s about as short as a visit gets, but it’s a visit still. I’ll be able to hug them, to see my mom’s silvery blonde bob, to hear my step-dad’s chuckle—a devious kind of giggle.
Even if the visit will likely clock in at under 12 hours, most of which will be spent sleeping, I’ve got to find some way to feed them.
Here’s what I propose: a picnic. In Chicago. Later today. Say, around noon? Don’t be late because I hear there’s a cold front moving in along the lake this afternoon. Assuming we can beat that, I think this city will make a fine location for our picnic. It’s that lovely tulip-y time of year and we’ll surely find a swatch of open grass in Millenium Park. Somehow, I’ll try to secure a few blankets—big ones, so there’ll be plenty of room for all of us. We’ll eat cool, colorful salads that have been packed into jars and containers; we’ll sip lemonade; we’ll eat slices of a homey cake wrapped in parchment paper. It would be my first picnic of the season and there’s a certain springness to that that makes me smile.
This time of year, I spend an inordinate amount of time checking the weather. Various media (a widget on my iPhone, Tom Skilling’s Twitter feed, weather.com, the ticker that inches across the bottom of any news channel, a little snapshot in the corner of my firm’s home page) have only fueled the fire. During the cold months, I abandon these media, knowing full well that the forecast contains only two choices: cold and colder. If a dusting of snow is on the way, I’d rather be surprised by it; if a big-bad-whopper of a storm is predicted, I’d rather not fix my hopes on a snow day that will never come. But with spring’s arrival comes my return to the forecast. I hang on every change in degree, every expected rain drop and, all the while, I hold my breath hoping against hope for a perfect day, when the skies open up and the sun shines warm.
It’s entirely fitting that I post this recipe today of all days. Today is Kevin’s birthday and if I know one thing about the man, it’s that he loves the magical combination of peanut butter and chocolate. He’ll take it in a variety of ways, showing no great preference for the complicated (a chocolate-lined peanut butter pie, which, as it happens, will be served tonight, a flickering candle set in its middle; multi-layered brownies; chocolate-enrobed peanut butter balls) over the simple (a spoonful of peanut butter adorned with bittersweet chips; a square of chocolate spread with a thin smear of peanut butter).
This recipe falls somewhere in the middle of the complicated-to-simple continuum. It’s got the stripped down qualities similar to the straight-up chips-and-peanut butter concoctions. Indeed, the ingredient list calls for little else beyond peanut butter and chocolate—a mere handful of additional ingredients. But the end-result lends the appearance of a more complicated confection—a stout little square, dense, cakey and incredibly peanut-buttery, set beneath a thick band of chocolate.
The answer, of course, is not forthcoming. But I think I’ve devised a solution for dealing with spring’s wild mood swings, in the meal deparatment, at least. And it’s as simple as this: soup. Specifically, asparagus soup, which will serve you well during both spring’s good and bad sides.
Let’s review, shall we? Doughnuts. Chocolate Pudding Cake (and, oh yes, Banana-Chocolate-Walnut Cake, too). Cocktails. An oozing pasta. A little pot full of butter. Those are the recipes that have marched across this site in recent weeks and, well, I think I have some explaining to do. Don’t you agree?
That’s not how we normally eat. Really, I swear. Where those recipes are time-consuming, most of our meals are quick, almost slap-dash affairs. Where those recipes are decadent, most of our meals are more austere; they’re hearty, but in a nourishing, not toothaching, way. Where those recipes reside mainly in the dessert category, dessert is a course that is not typically a part of our meals.