My sister Kelly called the other day, talking about leaving her kids here for a week or so this summer, while she and her husband go hiking with friends in Europe. I think that was in the back of my mind, as our soup today has a bit of a French slant. Instead of sage or rosemary, I chose to put thyme in the soup—a very French herb. There are other very summery ingredients—tomatoes, zucchini—and if I were a pastis drinker, which I am vehemently NOT, I would have added some to the broth; chopped fennel serves the same purpose, but without being too licorice-y for me.
Even though half the vegetables in the soup are June-in-Provence sunny, the other half are November-in-Paris winter storage vegetables—carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and butternut squash. The potatoes and carrots give the soup heft, while the cabbage and squash soften into the background, giving their sweetness and softness to the broth.
The standout vegetable in this soup, though, is rutabaga. I don’t know how I managed to get this far along in life without trying rutabagas. It wasn’t something my mom or anyone else in my family ever cooked, and though I’ve seen them at the grocery store and at the market, I didn’t buy them or eat them until last year. I thought they were yellow turnips, because they look almost the same. They’re both members of the brassica family (along with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale…); rutabagas were probably a hybridized cross between turnip and cabbage. But while turnips can be peppery and spicy, rutabagas are sweeter and more mellow.
We’ve got another season-crossing combo in the salad today. County Line has a new crop of radishes, which I associate with spring. And Tim (Amber Oaks Farm) has mandarins! Did you see the exclamation point? !!Mandarins!! The season’s just starting, so I only bought one bag instead of a whole case. I threw a few whole fruits into the blender for today’s dressing, with a glug of honey and a big spoonful of whole-grain mustard. Add some toasted walnuts and gorgonzola, and that’s a pretty good salad right there.
In another week or so, Tim will have a truck full of boxes of mandarins, and then he’ll be willing to sell me a 50-pound case instead of a measly 10-pound bag. We’ll have them in salads, and in that orange-olive oil cake I love so much, and I’ll make a citrus mess, with lemon curd and mandarins… Tim’s mandarins are the best thing about late fall/early winter.
For dessert, there are ginger-molasses cookies. Usually, I make cookies that are delicate, crisp, crumbly. This week, the cookies are huge and soft and punchy. They’re spicy from both powdered and crystalized ginger, with a rich sweetness that comes from molasses. This recipe’s a keeper, for sure.
I sent out the second issue of my weekly(ish) newsletter on Saturday. I’m having a fun time writing it! This week, I talked about finding pockets of joy in daily life, listed some book recommendations, and included links to a short film, a podcast, and a song I’ve been enjoying. I didn’t automatically add anyone to the mailing list, since I don’t want to fill up your email box unless it’s something you really want to read. But I hope you check out the new issue, and I hope you decide to subscribe.
I’m doing another holiday gift-making workshop for kids on December 14th. We’re going to make flavored sugars in homemade shakers, and roll milk and dark chocolate truffles in a variety of coatings—cocoa, coconut, spices, nuts. The kids will go home with at least a half-dozen wrapped gifts ready for giving, and the parents get three hours of unaccompanied shopping or resting time. Lend me your children! Go shopping or take a nap! It’s a win-win. Details here.