Sad to See it Go

March 18, 2008


After all my whining about spring-this and summer-that last week, I suppose it’s only predictable that I’m now feeling quite sad that winter is slipping away. Cozy sweaters, roaring fires, steamy bowls of oatmeal, freshly fallen snow. I love all these things and will be sad to see them go. And I haven’t even started in on the cold-weathered food I will miss.







There are still quite a few winter recipes on my to do list. Even though I’m itching to use fresh produce and lighter, brighter flavors, I’m not so sure I’m ready to give up roasting, stewing, smothering or braising. So, I’ve decided to embrace the last stubborn days of winter. I will eat root vegetables, I will make as many pots of soup as possible and, by god, I will stuff things with cheese.

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Do you know that feature on that tells you what the temperature “feels like”? If not, I’m sorry for calling it to your attention. Because all it does is make an already intolerably cold day seem completely unbearable. Like this morning, for instance, when I checked the weather at the last second before we left for the grocery store (okay, fine, grocery stores, Kevin). I was wondering if I needed to go full bore, with hat, scarf, gloves and boots. As if the 2 degrees weren’t answer enough, taunted me with a “feels like” negative 21 degrees.


I mean, are you serious, Mother Nature? Sure, I can deal with the fact that Good Old Punxsawtaney Phil has bestowed six more weeks of winter on us. But does it have to be this particularly cruel, bitter form of winter? Quite simply, I object. And, on Saturday night, I objected via our meal choice. We cooked up a meal that would have been wonderful on a July evening. One that conjured visions of sunshine and beers and rooftop decks.

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The desserts emerging from my kitchen lately have ranged from the multi-stepped and complicated to the not-quite-right and downright disastrous. So it shouldn’t have surprised me when the need for a dessert arose and I eschewed all recipes involving layers and hours of cooling/chilling and rolling and candy thermometers.



It was time for a good old-fashioned cookie bake. Two bowls, one cookie sheet, an eager cookie-dough-taster, and no more than an hour later, the cookie jar was filled. Continuing with the simplicity streak, I opted for oatmeal-chocolate chip. The only real hiccup between me and the finish line with these cookies was deciding between a “best of” kind of recipe or a more well-behaved recipe. I consulted the person who I knew would be eating most of the cookies and, being that he was fresh off a week of per-diem-fueled restaurant eating, he opted for the more restrained cookie.

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I accidentally fell in love with split pea soup recently. Let me explain. One of my favorite pastimes is wandering around the little market a couple blocks from our house. Every time I’m there, I discover something else that I’d never noticed before. For instance, yesterday I found an extremely impressive array of pickles (not just cucumbers, but all manner of pickles) tucked away in a small corner. I’ve been to that nook of the store dozens of times, but there is so much to look at it, the pickles somehow alluded me.


While I could go on and on about my love for this little market, I’ll get back to the split pea soup now. Like the pickles, I somehow failed to notice that the market offered up several homemade soups every day. Perhaps it’s the weather that’s called such a thing to my attention. But the other day, the handwritten sign listing the soups of the day suddenly called out to me. And among the offerings, split pea soup inexplicably beckoned.

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This lentil-tomato soup recipe might have been a more apt January 1 recipe (a little more resolution-worthy than sticky buns, right?). But, as far as I was concerned, it was still the holiday yesterday and holidays deserve special foods, not salads (indeed, Salad Wednesday is making a repeat appearance tonight, as promised) and gyms (mine was so packed this morning I had to fight for machines and bob-and-weave my way to my locker).


But now the holidays are officially over. Sniff. And, mother nature seems to have neatly replaced the holiday season with a wicked cold snap here in Chicago. The thermometer isn’t climbing above the single digits and it actually hurts to breathe outside. Clearly, this situation calls for soup. And this soup, despite its rich smoky flavor and velvety luxe texture, won’t derail even the most rigorous health-related resolutions.


And, for me, this soup gave me another excuse to use my favorite kitchen-related Christmas present: the gorgeous Le Creuset dutch oven pictured above. In the week since Christmas, I’ve used it four times. That’s right, four times. I haven’t even found a home for it in our cupboards yet, because it’s been so frequently in use. And it’s just so pretty that it might take up permanent residence on the stove.


So whether you’ve got a resolution to uphold, a cold snap to weather or a new pot to break in, this is the recipe for you.


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