Monday, May 30, 2011

Spinach, Garlic & Basil Soup

The inspiration for this wonderfully smooth and zesty soup was "food as medicine". To minimalize the severity and duration of a serious head cold was my culinary challenge. Garlic and lots of it, was my answer.

Actually, spring garlic and lots of it. Spring garlic is immature garlic that has a bulb, and has a milky, milder flavor than fully matured garlic. I found mine at the Farmer's Market:

I have to say, I think it's rather lovely.

Usually to offset a cold, I go for sinus-busting jalapeno. Perhaps it was the "warding off evil" quality of garlic that made it spring (ha!) to mind. Although garlic is, perhaps, better known as an anti-bacterial and an immune system enhancer, it is also said to have anti-viral properties.

What's great about this soup is that it requires very little time to prepare, is soothing, and easy on the stomach. It tastes and feels very healthy... in a good way.

I made a small batch and ate it for my first meal, so the following recipe produces about 6 cups. It's also one of those recipes you can rift on forever. I'm going to try adding some Indian flavors too. I thought the bright green color would fade, but it's still going strong. Lovely.

Spinach, Garlic & Basil Soup:

1 TBS olive oil
3 bulbs of spring garlic
32 oz vegetable broth
black pepper
14 oz organic spinach
basil as desired ( I used 1/3 cup)

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed large saucepan. Chop the spring garlic bulbs, removing any papery skin. Saute the garlic over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper and spinach and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the basil and cook for one minute. Remover from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Memory of Jason Dunbar

Millennium's Sous Chef, Jason Dunbar, spent his last day in Yosemite on Friday May 13th, his favorite place outside of the kitchen, with people he loved, people who loved him. He and Eric Tucker created the menu together for the past five years and he had been with Millennium since February of 2004.

Although I never got to know Jason, I always had the sense that he was a special person. He emanated presence: serene, grounded, but always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye! He would come in the last hour of my many cooking classes at the restaurant, cast a watchful eye on the state of the upstairs kitchen (my classmates and I regularly trashed it), and head downstairs to start prepping for the Sunday dinner service. I'd often go downstairs for some final ingredients and find Jason and the staff laughing and joking around as they worked. To me, he represented the joy of a self-actualized life and an easy connectedness with others.

Millennium, to me, is so much more that a restaurant and a place to learn about vegan cooking. There is such a strong sense of family there, and even though I may be a cousin, twice-removed, I have always felt welcomed into that family with open arms. I've met so many wonderful people who have become good friends at Millennium cooking classes. Jason was a big part of that family.

Jason emulated qualities I totally respect: he was extremely talented, passionate about and dedicated to feeding people delicious food that did not do harm in its making.

Jason left us too soon, and he will be missed deeply by everyone who knew him.

I invite you to take a moment to to send healing thoughts to Alison, his life-partner, his parents, family, and friends, Eric and his extended Millennium family.