Happy New Year!
I have not been a big resolution maker in the past, but this year, I vowed to get more organized in every aspect of my life. After moving to Glen Ellen two years ago from a larger house to a smaller house, I’ve noticed that I just keep adding more items to my house from our storage in the barn. Pretty soon we will have to move into the barn, because all of our things are taking over the house. So, since the kitchen doesn’t have enough cupboard space, and the bedroom closet is too small, I am purging things that don’t work, don’t fit, are too worn, or don’t give purpose or pleasure to my life. I am done with feeling overwhelmed and weighed down by my own belongings.
Of course, there is an exception. I don’t seem to be able to let go of any of my cookbooks. Sure, it doesn’t help my addiction that my friend Tony scours library book sales, offering me first dibs on used, sometimes first addition cookbooks that I usually find too hard to resist. Who wouldn’t want a first edition copy of The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child? This book follows her 1963 television series in Boston, mostly in the chronological order that the shows appeared. Other books that I couldn’t pass up were chef/authors that I admired, like James Beard and his books, Beard on Pasta and The Best of James Beard. A brand new copy of Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, still wrapped in the cellophane and never opened, anyone? How could I pass that up? Or how about an unfamiliar one, The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice A. Ojakangas, with recipes for Herring Meatballs, Pumpernickel Bread, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Christmas Prune Cake and more? All things I could potentially make and enjoy eating.
My sister Susan recently went through a cathartic cookbook moment, thinning her over 3,000 cookbooks. She catalogued each book like a librarian recording them for the Dewey decimal system, then sent me a list of books that she was getting rid of, and somehow, without seeing or touching them or their deliciously enticing photographs, I was able to scan the list, completely passing on them all. This was a strange phenomenon and yet quite liberating. There may still be hope for my cookbook obsession. Next on my list are the kitchen cupboards and drawers. After all, how many wooden spoons does one really need?
Here’s my 2011 Top 5 kitchen gadgets that I cannot live without:
Tongs – stainless steel with a locking clasp at one end. I use them for everything, from turning hot items like chicken in a skillet to tossing a salad.
Citrus reamer – I use fresh squeezed lemon juice in my salad dressing almost every day.
Japanese Santoku vegetable knife (6” blade) – My favorite size and style of knife.
Small metal whisk – used for making salad dressings, eggs, anything that needs a swirl.
Tea Stick Tea Infuser – It’s metal, it’s thin and sleek looking, but mostly it was a gift from Santa.
Magical Leek Soup (Broth)
This broth is a great way to start the New Year – the French way. It’s very nutritious and sets the stage to begin a lighter, healthier lifestyle in the New Year.
(Serves 1 for the weekend)
2 pounds leeks
Clean the leeks and rinse well to get rid of sand and soil. Cut off the ends of the dark green parts, leaving all the white parts plus a suggestion of pale green. (Reserve the extra greens for another soup stock.)
Put the leeks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Pour off the liquid and reserve. Place the leeks in a bowl.
The juice is to be drunk (reheated or at room temperature to taste) every 2-3 hours, 1 cup at a time. For mealtime, or whenever hungry, have some of the leeks, 1/2 cup at a time. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and lemon juice and season sparingly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you wish.
This will be your nourishment for both days, until Sunday dinner, when you can have a small piece of meat or fish with two vegetables steamed with a little butter or olive oil and a piece of fruit.
Recipe from French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
If you have a favorite cookbook that you cannot part with or a favorite kitchen gadget that you use every day, please let me know. Contact me at email@example.com or join me at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com and sign up for updates of recipes and inspiration about food related stories.
Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.