A while back, more years than I’d like to consider actually – oh. yes. that’s a little scary to think about – I took a journalism class. As with so many classes, I remember very little from it. A few things, however, are indelibly stuck in my memory: the inverted pyramid format of conveying information (most important info first, juicy details later), which I found I abhored; the maxim, “if it bleeds it leads” (meaning, violence always get the front page); and the professor’s counsel that the public always wants stories about war, scandal, children, and pets.
I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Or maybe it’s just that those are never the things I want to write about. (Good thing I didn’t wind up going into journalism!) Except today. Today I want to write about pets, specifically, my pet. You’ve all already humored me so much, but now I’m going to make you listen to just one more story about the puppy.
Because, this weekend, we took her to the beach, and she saw the ocean for the first time.
It was pure joy to watch her awe as she crested a dune and started at the sight of the water. She stared for a long moment, just like I do whenever I arrive at the ocean, actually. Then, she initiated a game of chase with the waves.
She’s not a water dog, and clearly did not want to get wet, but she seemed to take immense pleasure in chasing the ripples down the beach as the waves went out, trying to sniff them it seemed, and then turning to sprint to higher ground as the waves crashed back into the shore again.
She did this for two hours while we walked along the beach. Walked in bare feet! And no sleeves!
A little something has happened here people, and that little something is called highs in the mid-70’s. In March! Who knew armageddon was going to start so balmily, right?!
Spring usually seems to drip in one unfurling crocus and one whistling robin at a time, as if from a slow leaking faucet. But, this year nature is threatening to crank the spigot so spring comes gushing out all at once in a river of buds and birdsong. It’s like in the children’s book The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments, when the magician’s cauldron of colors tips over and suddenly the world is awash in a technicolor rainbow.
That seems to be happening now. The arboretum is quite carpeted with crocuses and snowdrops, flowers I usually anticipate come mid-April.
Which means that by all rights and according to any pre-ordained rules about this sort of thing, I should not be making soup. A light salad perhaps, fire up the grill for certain, but not a soup. At the same time, I feel a sudden rush to cram in all the pots of soup I possibly can before any final vestiges of cool are eradicated from the breeze and the idea of a hot soup takes on the near mythological aura of a voyage across country taken by your great-great-grandfather. (Does your family have one of those stories? It seems like many do…)
I could have taken my celeriac and apple and made a remoulade. When I next come by celeriac, I will. But, with these particular celeriac, and these particular apples, I had fixated on soup (a half week ago, you know, back when it was still chilly), and by golly, a little fine weather wasn’t going to send me off course.
Celeriac (also known as celery root) shows its full celery character in soup, but with rumbly, earthier undertones. I would say its flavor actually reminds me a bit of its looks, but it seems unlikely that you would take that as the compliment I mean it to be. It’s not that it has an ugly flavor – though the root it not known for dapper good looks – but it does have a sort of gnarled, wizened flavor. An aged, knowing sort of flavor.
With its edge of bitterness, you could say it’s a slightly grumpy flavor, but with a sprinkling of salt, and the sweetness of apples, the grumpiness becomes the good-natured grumpiness of the old man who sits on the front porch looking foreboding, but who has a heart of gold. It also mellows even a bit more with a little time. It’s a soup that does not at all object to reheating.
Between the onion and the celery root, this is a more savory than sweet soup. The fruity flavor of the apples is a key part of the foundation, but not the organizing element. After I blended the soup to velvet smoothness, I decided to up the savory quotient even further with a drizzle of electric orange paprika oil, and then sprinkle in some sizzling, crisped slices of chorizo, both of which fill your mouth with sweet smoke and heat.
It is a soup for March, whether or not the weather is for March. And as the Whether Man says (in The Phantom Tollbooth), “it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” I’m not entirely sure how that applies to this situation, but I’m sure it does, and whatever the weather, we’re eating soup.
In addition to going to the beach with Joel and Squid, I also spent some time this weekend playing with photoshop. Therefore, you have to put up with funky effects on my photos for this post. So cool and retro, right?
Celeriac and Apple Soup with Chorizo Chips and Paprika Swirl (serves 4-6)
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 medium-large celeriac (celery root), scrubbed and peeled and cut into smallish chunks
- 2-3 medium apples, peeled and cut into chunks
- 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
- salt and white pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tsp. sweet paprika
- a couple oz. chorizo, cut into thin slices
- In a large soup pot, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes. You want the onion to become tender without browning, so if it starts to brown, either turn down the heat or add a little splash of water.
- When the onion is softened, stir in the chopped celeriac and apple and a sprinkling of salt. Stir well to mix it in with the onion. Then, add the stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and cook, still covered, until the celeriac is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Puree the soup in batches in a blender (or using a handheld blender). Taste, and add salt and white pepper to taste. If you want a really creamy soup, you can stir in a cup of heavy cream or creme fraiche at this point. Return the soup to the pot and keep warm.
- In a small frying pan, heat the 1/3 cup olive oil with the garlic clove and the paprika, stirring, until the garlic clove is sizzling and golden. Remove from the heat and remove the garlic clove.
- Spread the chorizo slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil under high heat until slightly crisped, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Swirl a generous spoonful of paprika oil into each bowl and sprinkle with chorizo chips. If you’re like me, you can continue to add more of each as you eat your way to the bottom of the bowl, as well.