The Teacup Chronicles

Month: March, 2011

Green bean and almond soup from Rose Bakery

Well, you may be getting sick of hearing about books here at The Teacup Chronicles (is that really possible?), but I’ve another book to tell you about – though this one is a cookbook rather than an herbal one, and you will get a delicious recipe out of the deal to boot.  I have to admit that if there is one class of books that rivals my attention for herb and plant literature, it is the mighty cookbook. Those who know me will attest that my love of cookbooks borders nearly on obsession. I’ve so many that I hardly have enough space to fit them in the kitchen, and still there are always more lurking on the horizon, waiting patiently in saved amazon shopping carts for the blissful day when I can click on “buy now” and bring them home.  I’ve even developed the endearing (though my husband might say aggravating) quality of giving each cookbook a name, as in “Skye has a wonderful recipe for a cauliflower soup,” or “Nigel says that black olives work better for this dish.” My husband always turns round with a confused, “who?” before he remembers that I am partially insane, and continues on with his task.

So you can imagine with my borderline pathological obsession with cookbooks, that I should find great happiness at discovering 101cookbooks.com – a blog/website that I’m sure many of you have heard of and love as dearly as I do. She posts recipes each week from her beloved collection, adding in her personal touches and slight alterations to the recipes to make them her own (and she has an amazing cookbook collection to choose from, so you can imagine how delicious each recipe is!) But the most exciting thing, which you must must MUST check out, is that she has started an online cookbook “library” of sorts, where people can post and review their favorite cookbooks, share recipes, etc. This is a cookbook lover’s paradise if ever there was one.

As part of her cookbook library, she has also started selecting a “book of the month” style selection, which encourages people to cook, review, share and write about the same cookbook for a month or two. When I saw that this month’s choice was Breakfast, Lunch and Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery (or Rose, as I call her…), well, how could I not participate! This cookbook is one of my most cherished, most favorite, most well-used cookbooks of all – the perfect blend of French panache and English comfort. You can find other recipes inspired by this book on my blog, such as this one for gingerbread, and this for a lovely savory tart.

The recipe I’m choosing to share with you first is one that has caught my eye many times when flipping through, but lacks the sort of catchy name or unexpected ingredient/ spice combinations that usually lead me to add a recipe to the weekly queue. But as in many instances of this kind, the humble ingredients and plain name disguised a truly exceptional soup. The almonds give it an exquisite creaminess that pairs so nicely with the simple larder of ingredients. I’ve added some greenery (parsley and dark leafies) to spruce it up nutritionally and roasted garlic, to give it an added depth of flavor – and left it chunky rather than completely pureed. In short, this is a perfect thing to nourish your spirits on these sloppy, snowy/sleety March days.

Green Bean and Almond Soup

I realize this isn’t exactly green bean season, so feel free to substitute another more seasonal vegetable or leave them out altogether if you wish.

  • A few good spoonfuls of fat (butter, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, etc)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small head of garlic (10-12 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 3 large handfuls green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bunch dark leafy greens (kale, collards, etc)
  • 1 quart vegetable stock (or enough to cover the vegetables by an inch)
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • Lemon wedges and olive oil for serving

Split the head of garlic into individual cloves, and peel them. Toss the peeled cloves in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then place on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat the fat in a saucepan, and add your onions, celery and carrots over a low heat, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, cooking until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to golden in color.

Add the beans and stir well for about 5 minutes, then add your stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

Add the ground almonds to the soup, stirring well. When the soup has cooled slightly, transfer a third of the soup to a food processor or blender along with the roasted garlic, and process until smooth.

Add the blended soup back into the pot along with the greens, and heat until the greens begin to soften and turn bright green. Season well. Serve in bowls with a generous sprinkling of parsley, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish.

The Tree Year: My wizened apple trees make a fashionable entrance

 

January always finds me overly ambitious and pathologically motivated – lists of books I will read, things I will write about, projects to embark upon and exciting plans that will be executed throughout the year. If I could maintain that surge of enthusiasm and initiative, I should be one very productive lady (I’d be on my second novel by now, having just mastered the violin and become fluent in French). Alas, the weeks of winter roll by, and I find that my ideas of what I might accomplish and my abilities of what I can accomplish are often quite asunder.

One of my many aspirations for this year was to follow the lead of some of my other beloved bloggers and commit to The Tree Year – a marvelous campaign designed to celebrate the International Year of the Forests by intimately getting to know a tree and sharing your observations with the world. “I will do it next week, ” said I in January. Then it was February. And of course, you see that now it has become March. But I made a great discovery yesterday that has saved me the disgrace of the whole matter (and taken away my excuse of it being too late to start now). March, in the Roman calendar, was the first month of the year – and indeed remained such in many countries (Russia, Great Britain and her respective colonies) up until the latest date of 1752. Ha!

Now, you see, it all becomes clear. I must start my tree calendar in March, because March was the original and truest commencement of the year. I particular like this idea, not only as it saves me from the weight of my procrastinations, but because March is the beginning of the yearly growing cycle. It is spring (or soon it shall be) – and so immediately we shall see some good deal of action coming from my old dear friend the apple tree.

So, I introduce you:

Patiently waiting for spring, there are my twin apples holding their burdens of snow. There is a saying that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. I don’t know about the lamb part of yet, but they certainly don’t lie about the first part. The rains that yesterday promised to melt away our snow and give us sight of the earth again switched to snow come night fall, and we awoke this morning to nearly 2 feet adding to the thick blanket smothering the ground.  I may just imagine it, but I fancy that they look as though the burden of snow is bearing quite heavily upon them. I fancy that they hope for spring and the warmth of the sun as much as I do.

Apple trees have always held significance to me. Spring would not be as fair if it weren’t for their blushing flowers, and fall would not be as sweet if it weren’t for the nourishment of their fruits. It is no wonder to me that humans have endowed this tree with so much legend and mystery, linking them so often to immortality and paradise.  I remember when I was young, a teacher of mine slicing an apple in half horizontally, and revealing to me the most perfect 5 pointed star within. He told me that the star was a symbol of great wisdom and knowledge – of connection to the immortal and the unknown. What a curious thing that a tree could be at once so earthly and comforting – yet so ethereal as well.

There was no debate when my husband and I pondered last summer where was to be the site of our wedding ceremony – it would be the great apple tree we had walked by so often during the years – the tree in the field beyond his parent’s house that has always possessed a sense of comfort as well as mystery about it. Together we have picked her apples, gathered her blossoms and marveled at her majesty. Standing in the middle of a field, with the forest wrapping us on one side like a great amphitheater, and our friends and families circling us on the other,  it was the most beautiful place to stand, under the shelter of her arching branches, as we made our vows to one another.

And when searching for a place after our move to Vermont, we knew at once that we had found the right spot by the presence of two old, wizened apple trees in the backyard. Though they are old and no longer bear much fruit to speak of, their presence provides a sense of comfort and security – as though they hold us always in their watchful gaze and serene, wise countenance. It always gives me pleasure to glance out the window and see them standing there in the backyard.

Unfolding leaves and blossoms last April

So now that I have gotten around to beginning, I shall follow through with a monthly (or perhaps more! – though I wouldn’t hold your breath) post about them – honoring, celebrating and noting the great beauty of these trees as they move through the cycle of the year (beginning in March of course!). Hope you enjoy.

March Blog Party Announcement

This month’s blog party for the UK herbarium will be hosted by Lucinda over at Whispering Earth. In honoring the awakening happening within ourselves and our world as the seasons shift into spring, she has picked the topic of herbal creativity. Here is what she writes:

We’re almost, almost into spring, the sap is rising and there is that special zing in the air which signifies the wheel of the seasons turning once more. Everyone is starting to emerge from their wintery hibernation and fresh ideas abound so I thought it would be a good time to celebrate our Herbal Creativity.

This is a very broad topic covering anything that inspires us or encourages our creative side. You might want to share some herbal crafts that you particularly enjoy, a short story or poem inspired by herbs, a herbal drawing or photographs or a recipe that you are particularly proud of, be it culinary, cosmetic or medicinal. This blog party is about ideas you have enjoyed playing with and also about sharing with each other some of the ways in which herbs inspire us in all the many facets of our lives.

If you have your own blog then add your post before March 20th and email me the link at whisperingearth@gmail.com  -I’ll post the links to all the entries here that evening. If you don’t have a blog but would like to join us anyway you can email your piece as a word document to Debs at the UK Herbarium on debs at herbal-haven dot co dot uk and she will add it to the UK Herbarium blog as a guest post.

So go forth and celebrate your creative spirits, and share the fruits of your inspired minds with Lucinda by the 20th.