This is the time of year when all I’m doing is making up lists — constantly, consciously writing lists.
Example 1: For a holiday party this weekend, things still left to pick up
small (compostable) plates
non-alcoholic delicious beverages
xmas ornament hangers
(This may seem like a lot of things, but trust me it is far, far less than it was.)
Example 2: For a holiday party this weekend, things still to make
gingerbread men (and stars, and trees)
blackberry jam thumbprint cookies
roasted red pepper-white bean hummus
cranberry punch (day-of)
mushroom pizza squares (day-of)
(The already-made list includes things like flourless chocolate cake bites, cocoa-toasted and sea-salted hazelnuts, 1 1/2 smallish cheesecakes with gingersnap crusts, chocolate and dried fruit and nut candies, a faintly sweet, nutmeg-spiced cake … which means this little list feels like nothing at this point.)
These two are manageable, nothing to get concerned about. But they represent only two of the lists I’m currently maintaining — there’s the gifts for immediate family list; the edible gifts list; the gifts (+ edible) to go into the send-away boxes list; the ingredients for the second round of holiday baking list; the ideas for Christmas Eve (and perhaps Christmas) dinner — and what about breakfast? — list; the holiday cards list; the work party baking + gifts list; the things I must grab for tomorrow night’s dinner list …
(And tucked away is the idea for another list, the post-holiday week long weekend of New Year’s Eve/Day list, which involves wee menus and plots for picnics on the beach and a visit to a little pub in Muir Beach on the first day of the year … oh, am trying not to get too much ahead of myself.)
My lists are not organized on my computer — oh, if only — nor are they tacked up on the wall near my desk so I can observe, update, and amend them, nor are they kept in any kind of notebook or folder. Rather, they’re written on bits of scrap paper or in an old spiral book that I either misplace or file away, forgetting that indeed there is a list in there I might like to have a look at … I find little grocery lists folded into my wallet (brown rice, org. broccoli, tofu, almonds, laundry detergent was a recent one) or stuffed into my work bag to scatter like the snow we’ll never see in San Francisco when I pull out my bus card as I get on the bus. And yet I rarely forget anything I want to make or procure. Is it some sort of divine intervention? Or more likely my neurotic list-making brain also mentally files them away so I can never forget …
I like making lists during this time of year. It’s so much more fun than at any other time. Rather than a to-do of drop books off at the library, scrub the baseboards, take out the composting, my lists are full of delightful ideas such as lingonberry jam compote (??), look into making those nut/nougat cookie things you made last year [recipe copied out a cookbook in a store on Haight Street one chilly afternoon, so good luck to me if I can remember any more ingredients than the brown sugar], flourless peanut butter cookies — yes! Soon enough I’ll return to the humdrum weekday meals lists, but for now I’m trying to enjoy this time.
Also what I’m enjoying right now is soup. It’s cold here in San Francisco (I wore gloves today which for me = cold and yes, it is not as cold as East Coast-cold but it’s pretty cold for here). Last night I ate butternut squash + white bean soup prepared by my lovely husband of two months (today!), which is a testament to how much he loves me because he can hardly bear to look at orange squash without cringing (a childhood trauma involving rotted pumpkins in the garden is responsible for this), and the night before I ate a chard and white bean (theme?) stew made from the last of the chard from my guy at the market. I know it’s really time for kale but I’m still clutching onto that chard …
So when it’s chilly, I want soup. Also, when I’m busy with all the list-making and actual baking and wrapping up homemade jam and watercoloring my holiday cards I don’t have a lot of time to chop and dice. Soup is something that’s fairly easy, because you have to do a bit of work to begin with but then your stove does a lot of work to finish it off while you’re doing other things. Plus, if you cram it with vegetables, as I do, it’s nourishing, healthful, and yes and of course, delicious.
I made a cauliflower-leek soup for the first course for the Thanksgiving dinner, although we didn’t end up eating it that night because out of the woods (literally — OK, it was carried through from the neighbors’ house) emerged a gorgeous, creamy butternut squash soup that (most of us) lapped up quickly and happily. The following afternoon we planned to head out to the coast to sleep out for the night, but we first we ate cauliflower soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to fortify ourselves for the 6+ mile hike.
This is a simple soup, but it’s dreamy. Lots of leeks, garlic, and onions sauteed until soft, then a lot of cauliflower and good vegetable stock are added in. It’s all eventually pureed until smooth; no dairy here, yet it’s remarkably rich. I’m thinking of making another pot for the weekend, for after-party sipping and Sunday afternoon post-napping, when a few of those lists can be tossed — at least for this year.
You can add some chopped spinach at the end, after you puree, if you like, as a way to add even more vegetable goodness to this soup. Make 6 servings.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium-small heads of cauliflower, broked into florets
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion, and garlic and sautee a few minutes, then turn down heat to low. Add the carrot and a splash of water or broth, and simmer until very, very tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the cauliflower florets and the stock or water to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. In batches in a food processor or blender, or using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste.