Better Late Than Never

Once upon a time it was Christmas Day. And once upon a time I made soup. Specifically, the most arrestingly red soup I have ever laid eyes on. It was, as the recipe’s author (Nigella Lawson) pointed out in the recipe itself, “so damn Christmassy that it’s ridiculous.”

I chose my recipes for Christmas dinner about four months beforehand.  I am the sort of person that plans ahead with intricate lists and detailed, choreographed visions of sugarplums, but usually not THAT far in advance.  The extenuating circumstance?  Beef tenderloin.  We can afford to buy it about once a year, and when I find a good recipe, I reserve the next holiday meal, whatever it might be, for That Recipe.  Thus, I found a recipe for a filet mignon spiced with garlic and winter spices in September, copied it down, and horded my cash for the interim. 

With the main dish chosen, it was easy enough to pick out the side dishes–mashed rutabaga with cardamom and a green salad with winter spices in the dressing.  Voila.  Christmas dinner. 

There are, however, two more meals that happen on any given day, and Christmas day is no exception.  It would be easy enough to just fling sandwiches and pastry at people, while getting on with the massive undertaking that most people consider Christmas dinner preparation to be, but given that there were only two people for dinner (this was both Teacherman’s and my own first Christmas spent without either of our families.  Extenuating circumstances?  You don’t want to hear them), there was no reason not to have real food for these meals.

Breakfast was pumpkin-hazlenut smoothies, based on a pumpkin-hazelnut pie recipe I found online.  Voila.  Done.  (And delicious).

Lunch?  Um.  Er.  Thing? 

I never felt particularly Christmas-y this year, and this led to a distinct lack of inspiration when it came to holiday meals.  Every time I came up with something “traditional” (for a typical American, that is, since my family never had a set holiday dinner), it just didn’t sound appealling.  I began ransacking all of my cookbooks, trying to find anything that I might want to eat.

Finally, in Nigella Feasts, Nigella Lawson’s cookbook about holiday food–in the Christmas section, no less–I found a recipe that sounded weird enough to peak my interest: cranberry-beet soup. 

No, really!  (This is becoming a continuing refrain in my posts–Honestly, I made it!  And it was really good!)

I cooked 3 grated beets and 1 chopped onion in some oil until softened.  I then added a bit more than a cup of cranberries, a large clementine’s-worth of juice and zest and a shake of cloves.  I smushed everything together for a second, then added a container of vegetable stock and performed the usual soup routine: I brought it all to a boil and then turned it down for a simmer until everything had cooked through.  Using a stick blender, I pureed it into a pottage of an incredibly shocking color, and served it up. 

And yes, it was really good.  The beets were sweet and earthy, and the cranberries added the sour tang necessary in a beet soup, so often added through liberal use of vinegar.  The texture was silken and the flavors were as bright as the color.  It was undeniably Christmas-inna-bowl. 

(And, unsurprisingly for a beet soup, the leftovers were delicious cold, the next day).

Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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