[The other night, May 2009.]
Last week was hot. I drank copious amounts of iced coffee in my parents’ backyard while toasting my toes in the little pool of sunlight allowed to break through the trees (I still marvel at all the trees my dad planted when my parents moved there. A true city boy, I think he saw a bare acre of land, imagined it swept full of green, and planted so many trees it’s now hard to lounge about in the sun anymore), and at the Giants game I didn’t even need the scarf I’d brought. I love when it’s warm like that.
Predictably, this week is chilly and a bit gray. Oh San Francisco, how fickle and temperamental you can be! (Note: I am not complaining; after experiencing the five months of dead heat and humidity that marks every summer in Washington I’m perfectly happy to wear my down vest in late July when the fog blows in.) But it’s spring, and in spring all sorts of strange things can happen, including weather fluctuations, a two-out, two-strikes, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and a ferry ride to Marin when it’s clear enough to see all the constellations from the windy deck.
After such excitement it makes sense that when the temperature drops a bit I find myself wanting not much more than to curl up in bed early with a book (or, I’ll admit it, a few past season episodes of the Office, thick wool socks required) and a cup of tea. I’m looking for little excuses to bake (cookies are upcoming for my weekend). I’m working my way through some neglected Gourmet magazines. And I’m making vegetable soup.
Is it OK to mention vegetable soup again after I did so recently? I hesitated sharing this recipe because really it’s a riff on the one I wrote about last month, but it’s so good I just have to. Pretty much it’s the same sort of idea but it’s blended — the vegetables are cooked down in a bit of water and then pureed within an inch of their lives, with the couscous thrown in at the end. I think it’s even better than the original version. It’s become my new favorite thing.
Today is just the littlest bit warmer. The sun has pushed through to burn off the fog and I want nothing more than to lace up my hiking shoes, make a cheese-and-avocado sandwich, and fill up my water bottle to set out for Wildcat along the winding trail. I imagine it’s bare and booming on the beach and perhaps warm; those are my very favorite kind of days out there. Near to sunset pelicans will flap by stoically and if you’re very lucky a seal will swim parallel to shore as you call to it like a dog. It feels so far away from where I sit in my little brick-braced office and I am wishing for it this morning. What is it like there today?
(I do so love it, that beautiful country of salt and rain.)
In this not knowing we surrender to delicious possibility: for example, if I go out to the beach this afternoon will it be as sunny as it is in my neighborhood or will the fog have blown in already? If I run my oven a little hotter will I kill my cupcakes or actually cook them a bit faster? Will a mish-mash of random vegetables cooked soft and then whirled together turn into a soup of small magic or will they be completely inedible? The unknown and unknowable all at once.
So you go to the beach anyway and the fog is in though it was hot at home, and maybe you wish you’d stayed there after all, drinking your ice water on the roof. But the light is suddenly beautiful and soft — all that grey — for taking photographs. Everyone has fled and it’s deserted and wonderful, a small gift. After all the cupcakes are fine, if a little dry, but that’s not the end of the world. And your soup, oh, your soup is a thing of delicious beauty, to be savored and exclaimed over for its simple pleasure.
Life, so short, whisks by in a flash and I know I’m young even if I’m not as young as I was and sometimes I wish I could grab up the things I know I want and have them all now. Oh, I do wish. And yet I know that taking a deep breath and just being in the moment is essential, too.
In the meantime, there are early bedtimes and bowls of vegetable soup and all the time in the world.
Spring Greens Vegetable Soup with Israeli Couscous
Note: This is a very loose recipe, and can be made with pretty much any vegetables you have in the fridge or which you particularly like, and in any quantity. I’d avoid potatoes, though, as it will make the soup take longer to cook and also will make it a lot heavier.
1 head cauliflower, washed and broken up
1 bunch spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5+ cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup cooked pearl couscous
salt + pepper
various herbs if you like
In a large soup pot, put in the water or broth and the vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
With an immersion blender or in a food processor, puree the soup until thick and well-blended. Return to pot and add more water if you would like a thinner consistency. Add the couscous and salt and pepper; stir well to combine.
Serve hot, perhaps with a splash of soy sauce at the last minute.