I recently saw fresh cherries in a local store, marked “product of Chile”. It had to cross the equator to get to northern Manhattan. Oh the carbon footprint!
For this month’s choices from my soup-and-salad-for-the-monastery books*, Brother Victor-Antoine (hereinafter referred to as d’Avila) offered some tempting options. Ruling out anything with lima beans (bad childhood memories), I could have chosen something French (lentils), Polish (barley), Mexican (black bean), Bulgarian (vegetables) or Provençal (leek), but kept turning the pages. A red bean soup called for an entire bottle of red wine (pass), and a cheese soup required tapioca (no thank you).
I chose, by chance, two pottages (d’Avila spells the word with only one t). A pottage should be thick and creamy, and the first one, Potage de Navets (turnip soup), had plenty of both qualities. Turnip, onions and rice cooked in water, then add milk AND cream and heat (don’t boil!). Before serving, stir in a pat of butter, salt and pepper. Really quite good. The turnips add a sweetness that you can’t get from potatoes; I added a dusting of sage for a bit of color and it worked well. But it still could use more color. Parsley? Diced red pepper? Any suggestions?
My second choice was Ravioli Potage, harking back to when I used to spend a lot of time in the East Village. There was an Italian restaurant where I worked on my grad school assignments while I ate a bowl of ravioli soup. The soup was basic: chicken broth and ravioli, garnished with grated parmesan. Quick and easy, perfect for a wintry afternoon. d’Avila’s recipe also uses chicken broth, but with sautéed shallots and tomatoes to perk it up. Bring to a boil, add the ravioli, and then toss in some chopped fresh spinach during the final minute. Very nice indeed. Don’t forget that parmesan garnish.
I almost made the Wild Rice and Barley salad (might still make it, some day), and even considered the Copperfield Salad (oranges, avocados, onions; it was the name that grabbed me). But I settled for two that would be easy, not just to make, but also to size down to one serving. First, Avocado and Egg Appetizer Salad is exactly that: sliced avocado and quartered hard-boiled egg on a bed of endive, drizzled with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette. It was a bit monochromatic, so I added the chopped grape tomatoes. A grating of fresh pepper, a bit of salt, and it makes a light but satisfying lunch.
The Savory Cauliflower Salad also calls for hard-boiled eggs, but chopped fine, along with capers and minced shallot. The cauliflower is steamed, and then all are mixed together with a tarragon oil-and-vinegar dressing. (Again, the tomatoes are my addition, for color.) This dish, served with the cauliflower still warm, reminded me of a German potato salad.
Note to self after making these recipes — Remember to plan for garnishes! Keep parsley and fresh green/red peppers on hand for last-minute needs.
*Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and Twelve Months of Monastery Salads, both by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette.