My consort has just left me home alone again, but this time I've taken preemptive action with my refrigerator. I knew it was hiding a huge head of Romaine I bought a couple of weeks ago at the Greenmarket, and I could either let nature liquefy those leaves in the bag or intervene in hopes of a much longer shelf life. Luckily, I had just the prescription, a recipe I'd torn from a London Sunday supplement for a very British lettuce soup and hung next to my produce list on the refrigerator door. On closer reading it sounded a little futzy (blanch the leaves separately, make a liaison with egg yolk and cream), so I just winged it. And managed to give almost eternal life to some wilting chives, some about-to-wilt parsley and half a box of artichoke hearts I found in the freezer when I went excavating for turkey stock.
I just followed the method I learned in school for vegetable bisque (a k a puree as soup): Saute diced onion and minced garlic in butter, add stock and main ingredient, simmer until soft, liquefy in blender. But I threw in a couple of grated old carrots with the onion and garlic and added those flagging herbs and ice-encrusted artichoke hearts with the stock. I should have cooked the Romaine longer, though; who knew a lettuce that can wilt at the thought of Caesar dressing is so sturdy when you put its leaves to the fire? Plus I was trained to always finish a soup with heavy cream, and the British recipe condoned it, so I actually stirred in half a cup at the end. But the soup didn't really need it, or the grated Parmigiano I also dusted it with. With just salt and black pepper, it could pass for a fresh pea soup.
And I may have saved a lot of fresh stuff today, but there's always a downside. My freezer turned out to be full of pricey fossils I would be afraid to thaw and eat. Did I really forget we had great mail-order crab cakes from Obrycki's from a story over a year ago, let alone a Cajun chicken stuffed with crawfish straight from the Louisiana source four years ago? Maybe I won't freeze the soup. . . .
Regina Schrambling is best known for her acerbic Web site, gastropoda.com, and blog, gastriques.blogspot.com, but proudest of being a two-time refugee from The New York Times. She left the national desk in 1983 to enroll in the New York Restaurant School and was lured back as deputy editor of the Dining section, from which she resigned in 2002 to become a contract writer for the Los Angeles Times food section. She writes for magazines including Metropolitan Home, New York, Real Food, and Edible Brooklyn, as well as Slate and Salon.
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