Ah, my poor, neglected blog. It was a roller-coaster fall, most of which is documented at Christine‘s blog, so I’ll spare you all the details.
One of my challenges for the new year is to improve my eating habits. I’ve slipped over the last couple months of the year, and while decadence might be immediately gratifying, it’s not sustainable. So, at least for the time being, I’m going to try and eat healthier, cook more, cook better, and blog about it (semi-)regularly. It’s a lot easier to fall behind in private than it is publicly.
A wealth of information is available on better/healthier eating, ranging from exotic diet plans (South Beach, Atkins) to balancing food intake (Weight Watchers, glycemic index plans) to more holistic approaches to food (Slow Food movement, Locavores). My issue with each of these is that, to varying degrees, each represents a fundamental and abrupt shift in habits. This is very difficult to overcome and sustain. My experience has been that I become obsessive about following "the rules", don’t think about anything but food, and eventually slide into familiar routines.
My own philosophy, then, is to make continual changes for good. The Japanese term for this is Kaizen – admittedly, this is a common English slight misuse of the actual term, but it fits. By focusing on what I believe about food and trying to live it in small ways every day, I aim to eat better and feel better:
I believe in foods prepared from raw/base materials, where I have real control over what goes in the dish.
I believe mainly in classical preparations and food that has an evocative history or culture over modern adaptations or replications.
I believe that having solid technique lets me adapt and work with the ingredients at hand.
I believe that good quality food is paramount, but that skill can overcome mediocre ingredients and a little thought informs me when I can compromise and when I can’t.
I believe that practice makes me a faster, more efficient cook.
My goal is to be more conscious about meals and balancing out the protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable content of meals. This won’t happen overnight, but each day I should try and make one more decision for the better. Gradually, I’ll improve.
With that, I couldn’t write a manifesto-lite such as this without including some sort of dish. Dinner tonight was a Leek and Potato Soup. I’m a big fan of leeks in soup, and hadn’t made this in a while. Winter is the domain of warm soups and braised, slow-cooked meats that take an afternoon to prepare but make the whole house smell inviting. This idea was running around in my mind for a while, but seeing Clotilde’s pictures sparked my creativity. This was also a good way to use up the duck stock I’ve had in the freezer for the last month or so – homemade stocks almost always work better.
- 2 lb. leeks, cleaned and trimmed (1 bunch from the Wal-Mart – mutant large, but the only ones I can get nearby)
- 1 lb Russet potato (about 1 1/2 large spuds)
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 4 C duck stock (chicken would be good here, too)
Thinly slice the leeks, white and light green part, reserving some of the light green for garnish. (I ended up, after trimming and cutting, with about 1 lb. of leeks from the 2 lb. batch to start.)
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or medium size (3 qt) pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft, 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato. Add the potato cubes to the pot, then add the stock. Season to taste.
Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth and silky. Serve, garnished with the reserved leek slices.