Lifestyle

WHIDBEY RECIPES: Let me count the ways

It used to be fairly easy to know if you’d sinned or not.

The seven deadly sins were clearly spelled out; pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed, envy and anger. Being human meant chances were good that you’d be guilty of at least two or three on a regular basis, but that gave you something to confess and be forgiven for, if or when you went to confession and believed in such things.

Now, of course, you need only make a public apology for whatever it is you’ve done and that makes it all OK.

Well, sinning has become a lot more complicated now that the Vatican has issued new guidelines for what constitutes a sin. According to Pope Benedict, who’s about to pay this country a visit, “We are losing the notion of sin.” It seems that attendance at confession has dropped dramatically and interpretations of some of the seven deadlies have changed substantially.

Pride is now thought of as “self-esteem,” something we should all work to acquire, especially young girls, and a lack of self-esteem is often cited as the cause of more than a few personality maladjustments.

Lust and greed are frequently the motivation behind many modern advertising strategies; righteous anger makes it OK for protesters to destroy property; and most working people, especially those with kids, would welcome the opportunity to indulge in some sloth.

As for gluttony, a few French chefs recently went so far as to petition the Vatican to recognize that being a gourmand (lover of good food and drink) is not the same as gluttony. Hurrah!

To confuse matters further, however, the recently expanded list of sins now includes such things as polluting, cloning, genetic modifications, taking drugs, tolerating or promoting social injustices and becoming obscenely rich. Frankly, I’d like a shot at that particular sin. And, by the way, how does the obscenely wealthy Vatican get away with calling becoming obscenely rich a sin? Talk about hypocrisy.

I knew what every single one of the original seven deadly sins meant; it wasn’t difficult to recognize any of those feelings or the actions they might lead to.

But, the term “social injustice” is both vague and so widely used that I suspect every person living today is guilty of some form of social injustice and often we may not even recognize when we’ve committed a social injustice. And what of those who commit social injustices in the name of their God or because of their religious beliefs? Who decides exactly when social injustice has occurred and what will the punishment be, I wonder?

As you see, life just seems to get more and more complicated and now, thanks to the Vatican, we can’t even be sure if we’re sinning or not.

Personally, I prefer the seven originals, except for the one about gluttony. I’m totally with the French chefs on that one and I’d gladly sign their petition.

RECIPES

As long as we’re handing out kudos to French chefs for requesting a revision in the term “gluttony,” let’s go with a couple of very French recipes today. Oooh la la.

Sitting on a hotel patio on a very hot day in Mazatlan, Mexico, I ate my first ever bowl of vichyssoise. It fast became one of my all time favorite chilled soups on a summer evening, but with one or two modifications, it is equally delicious as Potage Parmentier (i.e., leek potato soup) on a chilly evening.

VICHYSSOISE

4 cups peeled, coarsely chopped potatoes

3 cups thinly sliced leeks (use the white part plus about 2 inches of green, and be sure to wash them well first)

1-2 T. vegetable oil

2 qts. chicken stock, preferably homemade

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1?2 cups cream* (see instructions for substitutions and changes for hot soup)

3 T. minced fresh chives or finely chopped fresh parsley

In a heavy 6-quart saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over med. heat. Put the sliced leeks in the heated oil and “sweat” them for about a minute. Add potatoes, stock and 1 t. salt; bring to simmering, cover and allow to cook about 20 min., or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and put soup through a food mill or fine sieve into a bowl. (Don’t use a food processor for this as it makes it too fine and this should be a thick soup). Season the soup with additional salt, if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in cream then chill the soup until very cold. Serve garnished with fresh chives or parsley. Serves 6-8.

* To make the hot version, after putting the soup through the food mill, return it to the pan on low heat, adjust seasonings as necessary, stir in 1 cup cream and bring soup just to a simmer before serving. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with fresh chives or parsley. Regarding substitutions for the cream, I’ve used half milk/half cream, half and half, and on occasion only milk, but the soup is not as rich tasting.

Soup is a major part of most French dinner menus; it is considered rather uncouth not to have soup of some kind as part of the evening meal. This classic recipe for vegetable soup is another favorite because I not only like the addition of the white beans (a typical French soup ingredient) but because you can use virtually any fresh vegetables in this that you can get your hands on.

FRENCH VEGETABLE SOUP

3 cups water

3?4 cup dry white beans (such as Great Northern or navy beans)

4 T. olive oil

1 cup diced onions

1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups and yes, I sometimes cheat and use canned)

3 quarts water

1 1?2 cups diced carrots

1 1?2 cups diced boiling potatoes

1 cup coarsely chopped leeks

1?2 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves

1 T. salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1?2 cups sliced fresh green beans

1 1?2 cups diced zucchini (unpeeled)

1?2 cup broken pieces of spaghettini (or other fine pasta)

2 pinches crumbled saffron threads (yes, it’s expensive but you use very little and nothing equals it for enhancing color and adding a very subtle flavor)

Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a 3 qt. saucepan. Drop in the white beans and boil them for 2 min. Remove from heat and let the beans soak for 1 hr. Return pan to low heat and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 1?2 hrs., or until beans are tender. Drain beans but reserve the cooking liquid.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Stir in the onion and cook over med. heat until onion is limp and golden. Add tomatoes and cook 3-4 min. longer. Pour in the 3 qts. of water and bring soup to a boil over high heat. Add carrots, potatoes, leeks, celery leaves, salt and a few grindings of pepper. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 min.

Stir in the beans, with their cooking liquid, and all remaining ingredients. Simmer for additional 15 min., or until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. I like to sprinkle the hot soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving, or serve it on the side along with the soup. Serve with crusty French bread and a tossed green salad. Serves 10-12.

Margaret Walton can be reached at falwalcal@msn.com.

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