Monday, September 12, 2016

Beet and mushroom soup - laugh in the face of the apocalypse

OK, that one's going in the cookbook: Beet and mushroom soup

Step 1: build a garden

Step 2: grow a beet

Step 3: make bone stock

Step 4: make beet and mushroom soup

Step 5: survive the Apocalypse, 

Optional: laugh in the face of disaster

I planted a whole row of beet seeds, and they all sprouted up nicely, and didn't grow into beets. They all stayed these little things with some small leaves. One seed, however, must have fallen into the planter outside the veg bed where I've planted a protective wall of marigolds. It sprouted and grew right up into a full size beet. My entire crop. I learned that you have to thin the seedlings, or they just don't grow. Sigh. Live and learn. 

However, my beet was a beaut. Its leaves were large and shiny with beautiful red stems nice and lots of pretty veining. The root was a good size, about the size of a lightbulb. And the colour was excellent, a gorgeous deep purply red. 

I chopped the leaves and stems and sauteed them with a little stock and curry powder and had them as a side with lunch yesterday. 

For the soup: 


a few cups of stock
one beet, peeled and grated fine
blob of tomato paste
chopped mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 onion, chopped small
(dried porcini mushrooms, or porcini mushroom soup cube)
tsp salt
splash of port
(optional) tsp apple cider vinegar 
(If you want the digestive benefits of apple cider vinegar but don't like too much acid, add a teeny barely-there bit of baking soda, which neutralizes acid.) 

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan (mine's enamelled cast iron) bring the stock to the boiling point, but don't boil. Sautee the chopped mushrooms, onion and garlic until they are releasing their juice and the onions are transparent, and add to the stock.(If you're using dried mushrooms for flavouring, add them to the stock immediately so the flavour can be simmered out.)

Grate the beet root very fine and add to the pot. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes - NO BOILING ! Add the blob of tomato paste, a handful of pepper, the stock cube if you're using one, splash of port and vinegar. 

Cover, and turn the heat down as low as it will go. Maybe move to the smallest burner. Leave it to simmer very, very low for 1/2 hour. 

Eat. Good with a blob of sour cream, like the Ruskies do. 

Here's a thing about how beets are the best food in the world. Antioxidants. Phytonutrients. Science!

Here's a thing about how to grow beets in the winter.

How do you know your beets are ready to pick and eat?

Not like potatoes when you just have to guess. Beets - which have a bazillion times the nutrients of potatoes - pop up out of the ground and all but say, "Hey! I'm done here! Where's the soup?"


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Life after the shaking stops

Some photos from the last few days. For the last 24 hours, the aftershocks have slowed down and each one has become a lot smaller. You can mostly hear them more than feel them. So let's hope we're getting near the end of it.

Getting ready for the first Mass in the "scavi" today.

We've more or less just been waiting for the town engineers to tell the monks which parts of the monastery and church can be used, and today the first conventual Mass was celebrated in the "scavi," the little room that has been built over the excavated remains of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica's family home. ("ExCAVation"... get it?)

Fr. Basil told us after that "very soon" they were hoping to be able to have Vespers in that space. Slowly, slowly, things are coming back to life.

V. beautiful medieval frescoes, salvaged from another Umbrian church. Put to their proper devotional use.

Fr. Cassian intones the Gospel.

What "major structural damage" looks like in a building that hasn't fallen down. It's the wall of the kitchen of the monastery. This sort of cracking is something you can see in nearly every building in the city, and is especially dangerous since it can't be predicted how much it will take to bring the structure down. Another aftershock? Or just regular vehicle traffic over time? Who knows.

This is the back end of a row of buildings on the main street. The front of the building doesn't show any sign of damage at all, but the engineers have closed it completely, even to foot traffic. The second door on the left side is the back door to the pastry shop owned by some friends of mine who are now not able to go back to work.

Here are the engineers from the vigili del fuoco, doing their work of systematically checking all the buildings in the city for damage.

Santa Maria Addolorata, the old church of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. You can see the big structural cracks above the doors.

Now the Ministry of Justice building, formerly the palazzo of the Knights of Malta and before that, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.

The Basilica of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, closed for who knows how long. You can just see the finial on the top right where it has "danced" around 45 degrees. It's made of stone and is about twice the height of a man, so that was some earthquake!

Like a giant has come along and taken a big bite out of it, and left the crumbs.

One of the two main gates into the city. Closed now to all vehicles. You can still walk through the side gate

Lots and lots of this.

If you can't live in your house, the government will give you one of these.

Just waiting. It's what most of us are doing. Waiting to see if they can go home. Waiting to see if their house is declared safe. Waiting to find out if the insurance will cover you. Waiting to see if the government will offer re-building costs.

Looks as peaceful as ever.

About a block from my house. This neighbourhood didn't do too badly but some houses were not built to meet earthquake standards, despite regulations. Now everyone knows which ones.

One of the medieval towers on the wall near the Rome gate. The big crack you can see running up means the whole thing could come down at any time.