WND – The Perils of Scury, or how I don’t eat my vegetables

July 10, 2008

Left to my own devices I have appalling eating habits. This is because I really only cook for other people. My roommate’s been away for two weeks at various library conferences and if it wasn’t for Dinner I’m not entirely convinced I would have eaten a vegetable in that time. I eat fruit in the form of smoothies and baskets of blueberries, but vegetables not so much.

This doesn’t actually make much sense. I like vegetables. I firmly believe that they are an important part of a balanced diet. I’ve never made a meal that didn’t include a vegetable (well, okay spaghetti, but tomato sauce counts as a vegetable, right?). But, I don’t really cook for myself – too many dishes, too much effort for just one meal – and I don’t tend to just snack on vegetables. I suppose that eventually I would start cooking for myself if I lived alone, but two weeks isn’t long enough to break me of the habit of viewing cereal as a perfectly acceptable dinner and Dinner comes along once a week and prevents me from developing scurvy. You’ll note the preponderance of vegetables in tonight’s Dinner.

I don’t exactly know why I don’t cook for myself. I like cooking. There are things that I like that I know my roommate doesn’t, and having her away for two weeks should be the perfect time to indulge in things like shrimp and red beans & rice. However, when you cook for other people there’s a reward. There’s a reason for the time and effort involved, and the dishes you’ll have to do at the end. You’ve fed someone. There’s a visceral satisfaction that I get from that that I really don’t get when it’s just myself that I’m feeding. Somehow when it’s just me, it all just seems like too much effort and I’d rather curl up on the sofa with the cat and watch Jeopardy while nibbling on cereal and string cheese.

Growing up dinner wasn’t exactly a performance, but it was a ritual. My father would call to tell us he was leaving the office and by the time he got home dinner was usually about 15 minutes from being served. We set the table with my parent’s wedding china and silverware, and we sat down to eat as a family. If my father was travelling or out to dinner with clients, dinner was much more laissez-faire – my mother and I ate artichokes (my father thinks artichokes are more effort than they’re worth – and this is sort of true, but I like them anyway) and watched a movie and used up the leftover hollandaise sauce on coddled eggs.

I still see making dinner as a kind of ritual. It’s an act of creating a space for family and friends to come together. Making dinner for myself isn’t the same. I can do it, but I’m not getting as much out of it as if I do it for other people.

On the upside there is enough leftover from dinner last night that I can eat leftovers for the rest of the week and still be eating something that resembles a balanced diet.

Asparagus Soup
Farmer’s Market Vegetables

Asparagus Soup

Yes, I know it’s really not asparagus season anymore. I know that my asparagus must come from somewhere far far away. But, broccoli & cheddar soup is too heavy for this weather. I don’t have a gazpacho recipe I really like. Cucumber soup is a little too ephemeral to constitute a significant portion of Dinner. So, asparagus soup it is and my carbon footprint be damned. Also, the new Bon Appetit with the recipe for the corn soup that I really want to try didn’t arrive until last night

2 leeks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 Tbsp butter
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1.5 lb asparagus, trimmed
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
Swirl of heavy cream (less than ¼ cup)
Pinch nutmeg
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of one lemon

Sauté the leek, onion and garlic in butter until softened, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus, broken into pieces, the chicken stock and water and simmer until the asparagus is tender (about 10-12 minutes).

Puree until very smooth. Return to pan, add lemon juice, heavy cream and nutmeg (stir the lemon juice and heavy cream in separately or you run the risk of breaking the cream). Thin with a little more chicken stock/water if it seems too thick. Serve warm.

If you want to be really fancy you can make little parmesan custards to put in the middle of the bowl and pour the soup around them. If you want to be a little less fancy, add a swirl of sour cream or heavy cream when you serve the soup and sprinkle it with a little lemon zest for decoration.

I didn’t make the parmesan custards this week, but I have made them before and they’re really excellent.

Recipe: Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Custards

The custards are a little fiddly and time consuming to make, but if you’re doing a fancy something they are worth the work. The flavor combination is unexpected and subtle, and they look really pretty sitting in a sea of rich green soup. If you don’t have ramekins the right size you can bake the custards in muffin tins and then very gently scoop them out with a spatula.

Quiche is about the easiest thing in the world to make. This is particularly true if you use a store-bought pie crust. It’s a little more involved if you make your own pie crust.

1 pie crust
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup cream (whatever kind of cream you have in the fridge)
3 eggs
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup (scant) parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried)

Whisk the eggs and then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk lightly to combine. Pour into a pie shell and bake in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes until center is set. Allow to cool slightly before trying to slice.

You can add pretty much anything you like to quiche. Sometimes I sauté mushrooms and add them. Sometime I add caramelized onions. You can add cooked sausage, or bacon. I don’t happen to like meat in my quiche, but it’s a traditional thing to add. The only thing you want to be careful about is adding really wet vegetables like tomatoes to your quiche because they tend to give up a lot of water as they bake and make the quiche fall apart when you try and cut it.

Cheese & Farmer’s Market Vegetables
It’s that time of year. The Farmer’s Market at Government Center is back and bursting with tomatoes and summer squash.

I really wasn’t going to serve melon this week, but they were tiny and round and just far to pretty to resist buying.



  1. I love asparagus soup. Have you ever tried your recipe cold? I have an easy asparagus recipe that’s kind of my staple, but I’d love to try something different.

  2. I haven’t actually tried the soup cold. Although I suspect that I will have by the end of this week, and I’ll call it culinary curiosity instead of sheer laziness because it’ll make me feel better about myself. I’m guessing it works fairly well cold.

  3. […] Recipe previously given:  The Perils of Scurvy […]

  4. […] previously given:    The Perils of Scurvy * I left the cream out so that the soup was entirely dairy-free, and substituted vegetable stock […]

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