Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Girls

A new group of women have started working in the kitchen. This means, among other things, that my year in the kitchen is almost up. I'm not thinking about that though, because if I think about it, I'll probably just start crying. I'm not ready to leave the kitchen. I love my kitchen. I love my people. Instead I'm going to think about how having new women around the kitchen reminds me of how far I've come. Once upon I was that person, standing bewildered in front of the food processor, overwhelmed by a pile of beets and frazzled by service. Now, I'm a food processor whiz (ok, that's not entirely true, sometimes I still put in the parts wrong), I don't flinch at a pile of vegetables waiting to be peeled and I can greet most of the people I feed by name without skipping a beat. I belong now and I don't want to leave.
New women also means learning how to negotiate new people and learning, a little bit, how to lead. So far, I've worked with two newbies. R, for better or for worse, is entirely bossy and likes to know precisely what's going on with every little thing at any given time. The first day I worked with her, I left with a headache the size of Texas. By the second time we were on shift together, I had learned to give her wide berth and go and do my own thing. I've got seniority, I know my way around the kitchen, she's in her corner, I'm in mine. And that's just fine. O, the second new woman I've worked with, is an absolute doll. We stood together, peeling onions and she talked and asked advice, and talked some more.She is relentlessly cheerful and curious.  I've only worked with her once, but I'll be happy to work with her again.
On the day I worked with her, we ran out vegetables by the end of the second round of service (there are three rounds) and even though O was doling out the carrots and squash, it was entirely my fault. You see, it was just me and her doing service, and watching O spooning the veg on to the plates, I could tell that she was giving portions that were too large. But O, was so excited and nervous to be doing service. I remember that feeling from my first weeks in the kitchen-that mix of exuberance and sheer holy sh*%, what if I screw up. I didn't want to ruin that, or make her feel self-conscious, and I certainly didn't want to go get R, who was running the ship that day, to tell her either. So we ran out of veggies and I felt terrible, both because we had to scramble to get more veg out before the third round of service, and because in holding my tongue I only succeeded in making O feel worse. It all ended fine, but I would like to think that I could make somebody's new experience a bit smoother.
So to O and new beginnings, carrot soup.

I was considering writing about Sweet Amandine's Carrot-Fennel Soup because it is probably my most favorite soup in the world. But really, what I want y'all to do is to hop on over to Sweet Amandine itself. It is a wonderful blog, and Jess (who writes it) is wonderful and a great writer and not one of her recipes have failed me yet. Instead I present to you Carrot Soup with Miso from the lovely and resourceful Smitten Kitchen.

This soup is light, and slightly sweet, with a sharp kick of ginger as an accent. We ate it for dinner, and lunch and more dinner. The only thing I might change about it is the miso. Deb calls for white miso, which is what I used, but I think next time, I might go for red miso, just to give the soup a deeper underpinning. (A short miso primer- miso is a Japanese fermented paste made of soy beans, salt and other (rice, barley, etc.). It's salty and meaty and full of umami. Miso comes in three colors white, red and blended. In general, the darker the miso the saltier and deeper it is. White miso is relatively sweet.)  Otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing.

Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame 
Lightly adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable broth*
1/4 miso paste

toasted sesame oil
scallions, chopped

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the liquid and ginger. Cover and simmer, about 30 minutes, until the carrots can be easily pierced with a knife.

2. Puree the soup in a blender (in batches) or, zuzzhie it with a hand blender. In a small bowl combine the miso and about a half a cup of the soup. Pour the miso/soup mixture back into the pot. Stir, and taste. Season with salt and pepper and more miso, if needed.

3. Serve, garnished with a drizzle of sesame oil and scallions. **

*Note 1: I didn't have vegetable broth, so I threw the carrot peels and heads along with the scraps on onion into a pot with boiling water (and salt and pepper, etc). I simmered it for as long as it took for me to saute the vegetables, strained it, and then added it to the pot. It wasn't quite stock, but it was slightly more flavorful than water.  If you don't have any vegetable broth, you can try my little trick, or just use water.

**Note 2: Reheat the soup gently. Miso doesn't like to be boiled.

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