I blame it on the rain. Or on Vanilli Willie for aiding in the unleashing of that song on us all and just for being an easy, funny target. But just a week ago last Monday it was 113 degrees, and this Monday it was 59 (that’s a 54 degree difference) and now it has been raining enough to leak through my skylights and create a little stream inside my loft. Almost nothing is better than the seasons changing, especially when you live in a completely season-less city, but when it rains it pours.
And almost nothing helps a girl’s dating life out more than a national magazine article that uses the word “Single” to describe her and uses an overly flattering photograph of her chopping prop herbs (did you SEE how I was holding that knife? It’s lucky I have fingers at all). Really. It’s been the best personal ad anyone has ever imagined. Screw piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. The only glitch: the girl.
Here’s the thing. I have been moping more than dating recently and I am totally out of practice and off my game; if you read about the One Night Stand-Up you even know that sometimes a date with me is not only emotionally painful, but physically so. I have friends because they stick around long enough to get to know me (I am highly contextual), but, as evidenced in these here little pages, I would say I am not so adept at the first (and sometimes second or third) impressions thing when there is a chance of romance. I get super nervous, usually drink waaaaaayyy too much and say things that no girl should (I like to announce that I don’t even have a savings account, because nothing says successful, independent woman more than that). And, as the Guy I went out with on Monday night said, I like to under-promise and over-deliver, minus the over-deliver part.
We’re calling him “Guy” because I don’t think I need to waste any time at all on a nickname for someone who, in all likelihood, isn’t going to make another appearance on soupapolooza!.
Here’s a little background for you. A week ago last Friday I got a text message from a Producer I worked with on a delightfully historically inaccurate and politically scintillating series for the History Channel last year. It was one of those shows where I’d get a call on Monday asking me to get a costume for Hitler, specifically for, say, Hitler during the Battle of Britain, to be shot the next day on an actor that hadn’t been cast yet. I lost like ten pounds every time we shot an episode from the stress, and the guys in the military room at Western Costume would literally run and hide in the bathroom when I would walk in, no joke. Anyway, this Producer is a total sweetheart so I was excited she popped up on my phone.
“Funny story... was just hit up on Facebook cause I know you! Your article came out (looks very cute by the way) and apparently you caught the eye of someone, an old friend of mine is friends with... and he wants to meet you... apparently after reading ur article one of his friends said you were perfect for him and he read the article and wants to meet u too... so they looked you up and saw that you were FB friends with me... so he messaged me... so yeah...blind date?”
I told her I was in if he was cute. She said she had no idea if he was cute. I said I was still in and asked her to pass on my email address.
And after some witty (on his part) email banter, we arranged a drinks date, and I showed up in my best t-shirt and kelly green five inch platform shoes, a winning combination. Or so you’d think.
I talked a lot in between gulps of Champagne. About myself. About nothing. About who I know. About how I think Dallas is totally lame (he’s from Dallas) and how Mi Cucina has crappy enchiladas. About any and everything I could think of that could possibly make me shallow, insecure and silly all at the same time. It was a blind date tour de force (farce). I shamelessly flirted, and by shameless I mean that I was indelicate, pointedly and disingenuously contrarian and a little scary. And then I kissed him in a desperate attempt to make it all better, which it most certainly did not.
If I had any manners at all, I’d have sent him a text, thanking him for his patience and for the Piper, but I think I’ll just spare us both. It’s probably a very good thing that he doesn’t read this blog.
Statistically speaking, I suppose it’s like the Great Meatball Escandolo of 2010-- you’re just going to cook some bad soup every once in a while, but hopefully these failures only serve to make the good soup seem even that much better. Or that’s at least what I’m telling myself until I get my dating sea legs back. Let’s hope, for the sake of those innocent Los Angeles bachelors looking for soup chefs, that this happens in short order.
This week, the same changes in the weather that I’m blaming for my bad behavior made for a great background for an early fall soup-- I made a smoky corn, okra and roasted turkey stew with chive shortcakes. To start: charcuterie, cheese (sheep and cow) and crostini. On the side: baked tomatoes with hazelnut breadcrumbs and a farmer’s market salad with aged gouda and roasted portabella mushrooms. And for dessert: gianduia gelato (toasted hazelnut and chocolate). All of these recipes, by the way, were from Gourmet, of which I totally miss the print version but am happy to use ALL THE TIME online.
Here is the 4-11 on the s-o-u-p:
Gourmet | August 2009
by Ruth Cousineau
A creamed-vegetable stew tastes mighty fine ladled over pillowy biscuits dotted with chives. A store-bought smoked turkey leg deepens the stew's flavor almost effortlessly—its bone and skin go into making the broth (along with the corn cobs and silk), and its meat is stirred into the stew.
Yield: Makes 8 (main course) servings
Active Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 1/2 hr
4 ears corn, shucked, discarding husks but reserving silk
1 pound smoked turkey leg
5 cups water
1 large onion, quartered, divided
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 pound small okra
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
Garnish: finely chopped chives
Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick; preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until hot, then brown ears of corn, in batches if necessary. Cut kernels from cobs and set aside. Put cobs and silk into a medium pot. Remove skin, bone, and tendons from turkey (reserve meat) and add to cobs along with water, 1 onion quarter, and 1 teaspoon salt, then simmer briskly until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups, 30 to 40 minutes. Strain broth through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.
Cut turkey meat into 1/2-inch pieces.
Coarsely chop remaining onion, then cook in butter with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn broth and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring, then boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in corn kernels and turkey, then gently simmer until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Make shortcakes while broth simmers:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper into a bowl. Stir in chives. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface, lightly dust dough with flour, and knead gently 6 to 8 times. Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12- by 6-inch rectangle (1 inch thick), re-flouring surface if necessary. Cut into 8 (3-inch) squares with a floured knife. Transfer biscuits with a metal spatula to an un-greased baking sheet, arranging 2 inches apart.
Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to warm. Halve biscuits horizontally and put each bottom half in a shallow bowl. Spoon stew over biscuit bottoms and cover with tops.
Corn broth can be made 1 day ahead and chilled (covered once cool). Chill corn kernels and turkey meat separately in sealable bags.
The soup was creamy, not slimy at all, fear not the okra. But this is a soup that doesn’t hold up as well as a leftover-- okra can get really gluey after it sits around and biscuits are always a million times better hot out of the oven.
It was a pretty ambitious menu for me, these five courses, especially since I was unable to get north of San Vicente Blvd because of those pesky triathletes and their little race, thereby cutting off my access to any decent produce. I started cooking late and served even later. And I had many more guests than I had prepared for, which could have been even more of a challenge had I not tripled the soup recipe, just because I had a sneaking suspicion.
Now if I could only carry that intuition into my personal life, I wouldn’t have to blame the weather. Maybe I could behave long enough to get that second date.