Mar 30 2011

Swiss Chard Soup

While we’re on tenterhooks to hear about Robin’s preschool (they say that “In early April we will notify all interested families with either an Admission Invitation or a notice that they have been placed on our waitlist”), spring has arrived in the Bay Area—but the swiss chard is still coming. Luckily I’ve discovered a new chard recipe to put into the rotation. This swiss chard and lentil soup is super-healthful, easy to make, and comes together quickly (although you do need to soak the lentils for a few hours beforehand).

Credit for this recipe goes to The Silver Spoon Cookbook, which was a wedding present to us from my sisters-in-law. I use it all the time!

swiss chard soup

Right, so, first, a few hours before dinnertime, put 2/3 cup of lentils in a bowl covered with cold water, and let them soak for three hours.

Then when you’re ready to actually make your soup, chop up an onion, a clove of garlic, a celery stalk, and a carrot. Tear up the leaves from a bunch of swiss chard, coarsely chop the stems (discarding the tough ends), and wash thoroughly.

Bring six and half cups of chicken stock (homemade is immensely better, as always) to a simmer. You can either do this in the pot you mean to use for your soup, or you can use a smaller pot and do the next part in the stockpot. You’re going to need two pots, is what I’m saying. So! Either you now have an empty stockpot (or Dutch oven), in which case you are going to want to use it to heat up three tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, or else you are going to go fetch a big skillet and use it to do the same thing. Add the chopped veggies and chard stems (but not the leaves) and sauté until lightly browned, about ten minutes.

Oh! I have a question for someone who has access to an OED. Wikipedia says “The French word ‘sauté’ is a past participle of to jump. This refers to the need to have pan and fat, or oil, to 500 degrees or higher. Whole butter and many oils will not withstand this amount of heat without reaching their ‘smoking point,’ meaning the temperature that they begin to burn. When ingredients are added to this amount of heat they hop and ‘jump’ around in the pan, confirming that you have begun with a sufficient amount of heat.” Meanwhile Wiktionary says “French sauté, past participle of sauter, to jump, because the cook shakes the pan to make the food move around.” What does the OED say?

Anyway, your veggies are browning now, so go ahead and stir in the chard leaves and cook until wilted (just a few minutes). Drain your lentils and add them to the pot (or skillet, whichever you’re using) along with two tablespoons of tomato paste. Stir it all up.

Now, if you’re cooking the veggies in your stockpot, then go ahead and pour your hot chicken stock in there too. Otherwise, if the stock is in the big pot and you’re cooking the veggies in a skillet, then you’re going to add the veggies to the stock. You see how it works. In any case, now everything’s in the same pot. Yay! We’ll have soup soon!

Bring that stock back up to a (low) boil and add 1/2 cup brown rice, along with a rind of Parmesan cheese if you have one on hand (it’s always good to save your Parmesan rinds, they add a very nice complexity to soups). Put in a tablespoon of salt, or less if you’re sensitive to salt, but I like to go big with it. Grind in some pepper too. Let the soup continue to cook at a low boil/fast simmer until the rice is tender. Soup’s up! Fish out that Parmesan rind before you serve it, and dish it up drizzled with olive oil and/or a dusting of fresh-grated Parmesan.

Mar 26 2011

Davy in the Bath

Sam took this picture with his cellphone, so it’s a bit grainy, but I had to share:

Davy bathtime

Also, by popular demand, here is a picture of the ratty sock puppet that Robin still loves. It looked much better back when it had its yarn hair.

incredibly ratty sock puppet

Mar 16 2011

Pictures of Robin

Robin’s “family play date” at the Peter Pan Nursery School co-op is this Saturday. They also have a written application they want us to submit, and they’ve asked that we attach a photo so they’ll be able to remember who the kids are when they’re reviewing the applications. So I took a few new pictures of Robin. Here he is playing dress-up with a pair of his daddy’s glasses:


Here he is wincing away from the camera’s flash:


And here’s a perfectly straightforward photo that is probably the one I’ll give them:

big boy

I do kind of like that middle one, though.

Mar 16 2011

Arts and Crafts

Yikes, apparently it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted anything? In the meantime we had a lovely visit from Nanita and Marqueño. Davy is old enough now to enjoy attention from his grandparents, and it was really sweet to see him bonding with my mom and Mark. Robin was also thrilled, of course. Unfortunately it was rainy most of the time so we had a tough time getting out of the house. Instead we stayed in and did arts and crafts projects. Robin was especially proud of this fish that Nanita helped him make:


He also is inexplicably attached to a sock poppet that I made him out of one of Sam’s ratty old socks. It is in fact so ratty that I am not going to take a picture of it. I let Robin pick out two buttons for eyes and sewed them on the sock, then cut out a cardboard mouth and glued it in roughly the right place. I covered the cardboard with red construction paper to make it more attractive, and also sewed on some yarn hair. The yarn hair lasted a bit over 24 hours, and the mouth has also come out several times. The eyes are doing okay, but basically this toy looks like something I picked up out of the sewer and gave to my boy to play with. He finds it delightful. It’s especially gross when he brings it to the dinner table and tries to feed it.

Meanwhile of course we are saddened by the devastation in Japan. We’re not personally affected, but I have so much sympathy for those who have been. There are a lot of Californians now rushing to stock up on potassium iodide—I understand the impulse, but I think it’s not good to create global scarcity at a time when those in Japan may truly be in need. When I read about people here weeping because they can’t get any iodide pills I just have to shake my head. People are ridiculous.

Mar 4 2011

Gifts from the Internet

Internet, I do not want to talk about Charlie Sheen. Yes, the memes are funny, but the man has two small children and a history of domestic violence, which rather spoils the yuks.

Instead, here’s why I’m grateful for the Internet today. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose blog I have mentioned admiring before, has discovered Jane Austen.

I love this about blogs—the way they allow you to observe the authors’ thoughts and reactions evolving over the short term. There is such a pleasure in watching a writer who I admire falling into books that I love—and given that I was initially attracted to TNC because he writes so incisively about race in America, a particular pleasure in hearing him declare: “I feel like she’s talking to me, and strangely enough, only to me. It really is kind of sick to say this, but I think I’m in love.” Austen is so often pigeonholed as a genre writer and dismissed on those grounds, and contemporary black writers can be pigeonholed in the same way, stuck off on the African-American shelves in one shadowy corner of the bookstore. It’s delightful to watch two minds reaching across time, geography, and culture to create that ageless alchemy that happens when a receptive reader takes up a great book.

Ta-Nehisi + Jane Austen 4ever. They make such a lovely couple.

Mar 1 2011


Not good news for me:

“Two years after her mother has disappeared, and two foster homes later, 15-year-old Ariane moves in with her Aunt Phyllis in small-town Regina, but any hope of normalcy is soon dashed. Mean girl Felicia and her ‘coven’ of followers target Ariane, and she experiences troubling visions and then hears mysterious chanting from the water. She discovers that she is a descendant of the Lady of the Lake and learns that she has no choice but to try to find the scattered shards of the sword Excalibur…”

This was published last October, meaning it would have been in the works for a couple years before that. It’s not exactly the same as my novel, but it shares enough of the basic concept—a girl inherits Excalibur and becomes the modern-day Lady of the Lake—that I now know agents and editors will have “seen it before,” and seen it recently. It’s really a stroke of bad luck, or bad timing, on my part.