Eat Something

{August 5, 2008}   Potage Maigre (aka. Feely Good Fasting-Day Soup)
Please forgive the darkness (I'll try to toy with it more later), but here's the end result.

Please forgive the darkness (I'll try to toy with it more later), but here's the end result.

So Joelen has a cajun/creole challenge going on (due date is Saturday night I think) and I was figuring I should make something since I know how to make many a something or since “it’s in my blood” as my father would say (though I sometimes feel not a lot of that blood made it into me). But I hadn’t commited and didn’t really no what I would make, so I figured I’d put it off (I mean I did both the others on the fly, with like Friday’s notice or something) but then in a bid to get more entrants she tried to tempt and lure us by revealling the prize. And sure enough it worked on me… so I dunno if I’ll submit this or make something else later that I’ll submit but I figured I’d make something for me tonight (since the kids are taken care of anyway) that was both revuvinating–since I have the last remnants of a sour belly–and comforting. So I settled on a soup, because a) there’s not much that gets to the heart of creole food like soups and stews, and b) I have noticed many a person I know seems to have the impression that it’s all about using the trinity and making it spicy–but we eat all day long and there’s always of course dessert to consider so no that’s not in all cajun/creole food, and c) while people clamour about my soups and it is hands down the most requested thing people want me to make it’s probably the thing that’d most make my kinfolk draw in sharps breathes about because I don’t often make a soup properly. Now in general, I don’t feel much guilt about that dirty little secret, but I might feel a little bad about the “child, child, child” tisks that would ensue from a few if I were to commit some of those usual sins and still put the word creole at the top…plus I don’t want hate mail from strangers who might take offense, LOL.

The most striking thing to me about creole food in general is the method and approach to cooking… It is much less structured by strict recipes (and those recipes that do exist are mother recipes intended for flexibility and multiple uses, more a technique if you will) and much more about what types of things go together and what odds and ends are on hand and/or what’s easy to get access to. And it’s not hung on specialty ingredients but rather exceptionally about making do. It’s rather like that old story stone soup except you start with a bone and everything that goes in the pot is of your own finding…or like that old quilt your greatgrandmother made of everyone’s scraps and outgrown hand-me-downs of the youngest child; it’s taking what you’ve got, the fresh and the scraps, and making it beautiful. It doesn’t start with any grand or elaborate plan beyond just setting out to do it, and it isn’t really something you could specifically duplicate if you tried (it can come close enough for sentimental value, but it’ll always be a little different each time). Some things are slow foods, some things are faster and you don’t make slow food when you are in a hurry, but you also never really watch a timer any more than you’d measure every piddling thing…you just do it until it’s done. You do things by taste, smell, sight, and sound rather than cups and minutes. It’s fluid and resplendent and I can’t help but love it, it’s how you feel cooking was meant to be: unfettered and free to be precisely what you make it… Like when you first ride your bike without training wheels and realize it’s not just about the wheels, everything about it is different the way you hold your upper body, the way you shift your weight, even the way you pedal…but there’s a freedom and a you-ness to it, you will ultimately succeed or fail completely of your own doing and while that might be scary it is in the very same moment empowering…and you falter and try again you just do what ever it takes. It can be the same with food, good or bad, nothing is settled until it’s on the table…(just like mending that quilt or ripping out stiches and moving a square or two) you can tweak it as need be–you don’t have to know how beforehand you just try something, and eventually you’ll know how from experience–you can salvage nearly anything, and nothing is a failure until you stop.

I feel this is a lesson a lot of the people behind me starting this blog really need to hear and try to embrace: Have confidence in yourselves and just put food together and start doing it. you can make it work the point is just to make something to eat it doesn’t have to be any certain way. I’ve worked really hard to try to measure for those fearful of you who wanted measurements, but the truth is even with measuring it’s more about how I made that dish that day…the next time I make it I will probably not use those measurements of things at all. Develop processes, rather than recipes…and then just get in the kitchen and eat something. It’s not something to be afraid of…it’s just life, and every day that it’s there it will be different. You know what tastes good to you so take a bite, and if it’s not good yet make it good. It’s as simple as believing you can. [Of course those of you who know me and how I am about baking, may be laughing hysterically right about now. But that’s different that’s a chemistry-ish and mystical.] So on to the soup… LOL

At first, I thought about making a green gumbo because almost nothing is as rejuvinanting as greens IMO, but I don’t really have many on hand in the fridge or in the freezer. Then I decided to still make some thing meatless, since I have protein digestion issues and my tummy’s already a little off, so I figured I’d make something akin to a fasting or lenten soup/stew and some rice. Knowing I will ineveitably make something off what I can rummage up, and knowing I don’t have to appease the kids or the hubby with this dish, I’m just making something that feel up to eating and calling it a fasting soup (and I keep throwing lenten in there because while it’s not lent I don’t want people confusing this with those trendy diet fasts, this is not just liquid, I am not straining off the solids and sipping on the broth I’m just not using meat or meat bones, like for lenten fasting that’s it…it’s still food) by default of it’s nature. And yes, I considered throwing in some TVP and no I decided not to… and not because it’s not a particularly cajun thing to do, and not because my father would say “S*** child, soybeans? That’s what we feed the hogs. What were you thinking?” when he got back from Chicago and read it–although both those things are reasonably true–but because I think I just want something even gentler on my stomach…gentle and light and unfortunately not green gumbo (but that’s probably for the best as gumbo is just so obvious, it wouldn’t demonstrate much of my aforementioned point). I took out the scale and weighed stuff today because I know some of you really want measurements and I really am not feeling so hot and just don’t want to fuss with all that, and I threw in some red lentils because I told myself the transformative powers would pass on to me (as in they turn from reddish to yellow, I’ll morph for sick to well…yeah I know it doesn’t quite work that way but shhhh, I’m trying to use the power of persuation to will myself better) and some quinoa because I decided I didn’t want to make rice after all (oh yes, it’s entirely untraditional and not something you likely find in here, in fact the rice wouldn’t have been cooked in here if I’d made it–so I could have added as much or as little as I’d wanted, I was just lazy, but I didn’t feel good so whatever–but the truth is embracing what you have is the bigger point so yeah, I put quinoa in a peasant soup but oh well).

The 'clove' of garlic = about 3 or 4; and that's the broth before tomatoes you have to caramelize the onions and carrots and brown at least one side of the potatoes to get a dark rich color (the broth was significantly darker than this picture shows, but the image was too dark so I had to lighten it, which lost some of the color but I'll see if I can do better later)--a more yellowy broth is fine too, it'll just take on more tomato color...

The 'clove' of garlic = about 3 or 4; and that's the broth before tomatoes you have to caramelize the onions and carrots and brown at least one side of the potatoes to get a dark rich color (the broth was significantly darker than this picture shows, but the image was too dark so I had to lighten it, which lost some of the color but I'll see if I can do better later)--a more yellowy broth is fine too, it'll just take on more tomato color...

Potage Maigre (aka. Fasting/Lenten soup)
diced onion from a 4 oz wedge (so maybe 3 oz)
1/2 lb frozen leftover braised celery
1 big (6 oz) carrot (I’d love to throw some parsnip in too, but none here)
1/2 lb small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 HUGE garlic clove (ended up being maybe 1 T when chopped)
about 3/4 c red lentils
about 1/2 c quinoa (rice would help me feel better but I didn’t really feel like making it, too bad I didn’t have some in the fridge)
1 15oz can tomatoes
4 oz romaine heart (shh, I’m pretending it’s cabbage, but not throwing it in early like it really is)
the seasonings: a good bit of salt (maybe 1 T), a good bit of tarragon (about 1 T dried),  generous amount of blk pepper (would have like to used peppercorns, but couldn’t find them easily enough), a little cayenne (1/2 tsp or so), garlic and onion powder to taste (and I can’t remember if there was anything else, could have been I suppose but not necessarily)

I sauted over MED the onion, potatoes, and carrot in a combo of safflower oil (it was even a high MU one, for those ‘Flat Belly Dieters’) and butter (which is a necessary component of any feel good food, no?). Meanwhile, I soaked the frozen celery in a few cups of water to thaw it. Then when the potatoes had browned on one side I added the soaking liquid and a qt of water and the salt and tarragon and covered it. Chopped up the celery and added it, the quinoa, the lentils, and the tomatoes when the pot had begun a simmering boil, and recovered it. Later, I taste it and add the rest of the seasonings (then I set about to feeding the kids, maybe 30-45 min-ish). Later again, I taste it maybe/maybe not season it again I can’t be sure, and add the lettuce and turn it off recover with the lid (rearrange the dishwasher, so maybe 5 min-ish). And then I ate about half of it.


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