So as not to bore you to tears, I will summarize my current mood with regards to technology as such: CROTCHETY ANGRY OLD LADY WITH COKE BOTTLE GLASSES SHAKING HER FIST AT THE RAINBOW SPINNING WHEEL OF DEATH WHILE CLUTCHING A WALKER WITH WIZENED KNUCKLES, the spinning wheel of death being a stand-in for several other things, in addition to the actual spinning wheel.
But! One does not want to dwell. One wants to remain positive in the face of adversity (although, really, Apple software updates, you are flirting dangerously with my blood pressure, you nasty little jerks). So I'd like to focus on someone who has always managed to make forward movement in work and technology seem effortless, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. She was at the forefront of food blogging over a decade ago, of course, but her ongoing productivity and creativity as the field gets ever noisier and more crowded is awesome to behold.
Her latest cookbook, Near & Far, is an idiosyncratic collection of recipes that she assembled and developed on her travels throughout Japan, Morocco, Italy, France and India, with a lovely little chapter dedicated to food she makes for the actual traveling part, too (including savory chive dumplings and strongly flavored gingersnap cookies, against travel sickness - brilliant!). Settling in with Near & Far on the couch has been the most soothing time I've spent with myself lately, with those soft, smooth pages, the quietly luscious photography, and Heidi's calm, capable tone.
Heidi slips millet into madeleines, makes granola with nori and cashews and shichimi togarashi and bakes oatmeal with plums and kefir, but she also has a knack for simple soups that steal the show, like this vegetarian Moroccan harira, blazing with spices, nubby with lentils and chickpeas, and rib-sticking in the very best way. When I made the soup, it filled my biggest soup pot to the very top. After feeding a bunch of my girlfriends for dinner, I figured I'd have leftovers for lunch the next day. I had left out the angel hair noodles broken in at the end, and the dates, which I didn't have, and so I served it with slices of bread for wiping our plates. By the end of the evening, there was nothing left but a bare scraping of soup at the bottom of the pot.
I left out the cilantro, because I didn't have any, and the marjoram/oregano and celery leaves, because I forgot, but I'd urge you to make sure to include all of those, if only because these kinds of bright pops of additional flavor are part of what Heidi does so well.
And now I'm off to plump up my pantry with some of Heidi's brilliant inventions, like hazelnut spice (a blend of orange zest, salt, toasted hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon and poppy seeds), and the aforementioned nori granola. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Heidi Swanson's Harira
Adapted from Near & Far
1 bunch cilantro
Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced, leaves reserved
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron (about 30 threads)
2 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups | 10 oz | 280 g cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups | 9 oz | 255 g dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups | 1.5 L water
4 to 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Scant 1/4 cup | 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (28-oz | 795g) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
3 oz | 55 g angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch | 2.5cm pieces
Chopped fresh dates, to serve
1. Chop the cilantro stems finely and set aside in a pile. Chop the leaves and reserve separately. Heat several spoonfuls of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, crushed garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems, stir to coat, and cook until everything softens a bit, 5 minutes or so. Grind the saffron with the salt into a powder with a mortar and pestle and add to the pot along with the cinnamon, sweet paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Stir well before adding the chickpeas and lentils. Stir in 4 cups (1 liter) of the water and bring to a simmer.