Day 122: The National Arboretum and a Pavlova

Andrew and Alex thought it would be nice to visit the National Arboretum today. It was cold but the sun was delightfully bright and warming.

I couldn’t face cooking another involved meal so we ate leftover chili and Indian food. I did, however, make a pavlova as a nod to Oceania, especially New Zealand. It was beyond delightful and will not be the last pavlova I make.

Day 121: The Winter Solstice (and Indian Food)

Andrew and Alex wanted to celebrate the Solstice so we decided that we’d have a fire in the fire pit after dinner. They invited their friend Peter over to celebrate with us.

The Indian food from Kadhai was delightfully delicious, as usual. The Solstice celebration was also delightful. Clare sent a song* to sing that Alex and Andrew performed. We also wrote down things we were glad to be rid of from 2020 and threw them into the fire.


*The sun was born again today
We great the sun’s first morning rays
We sing and celebrate the light
The sun’s born on the longest night

Days 116 – 119: Planning Christmas Week

Delightfully, Andrew and Alex suggested they stay with us for several days through Christmas Day. They live 30 minutes away, so could come once or twice and then on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day instead. This is so wonderfully sweet of them.

I’ve decided to make a vegetarian paella on Christmas Day along with tapas. Alex is going to make a Spanish dessert.

A few years ago we began a tradition of eating Ethiopian food on Christmas eve, so we’ll continue that this year and order takeout from our favorite local Ethiopian restaurant, CherCher in Bethesda.

We all really enjoy Indian food, especially from Kadhai in Bethesda, so we are planning on getting takeout from them one day next week.

Looking at the range of foods already decided, we have decided to have a meal from a different continent each day. The three remaining continents, Oceania, North America and South America will be represented by food from New Zealand, the United States and probably Peru.

I had a delightful email conversation with our Linda/Mali about some New Zealand recipes tonight.

Photo courtesy Yasen, owner of WoodenCraftsBG on Etsy.

Day 115: Sunset

Very possibly other things delighted me today, but since I am writing this much later, I don’t remember much of the day except the beautiful sunset with a tree branch in front that I tried to photograph from my study window.

Here’s the same view with the background in focus.

Days 113-114: Polish Dill Pickle Soup & Rye Bread

Backstories

Older backstory

Dean and I spent a few months in LA in 1984 while he did an internship at RAND. One memorable evening was spent with a co-worker whose wife was from Poland. For dinner, one of the courses was an unusual (to us) and very delicious soup: dill pickle soup.

Newer backstory

Dean’s office holds holiday parties every December and part of that holiday party is that gift exchange where you are allowed to take gifts from each other. Very often that gift is then found under the Christmas tree with my name on it. A few years ago this was the case with a Polish cookbook. We laughed, I put it away and never opened it.

Newest backstory

Dean needed fresh dill for the salmon he made for Thanksgiving. He bought a lot of dill. On Thursday I cleaned out the vegetable drawer and was determined to find a use for the leftover and beginning-to look-sad dill. I first thought I’d make quick dill pickles then remembered we had an abundance of dill pickles and only one sad looking cucumber. Then I thought about that dill pickle soup that we had in 1984 and also about that Polish cookbook. I checked the cookbook and found a recipe for dill pickle soup.


Of course I also needed a bread to go with it and had just gotten some rye flour from King Arthur Baking Company. I spent a few days looking for recipes for a Polish rye, but it all called for multiple days of prep work. I ended up settling on this hearth rye recipe but was not feeling up to baking bread on Sunday.

Today I felt better and baked the rye (I added a bit of sourdough starter to the bread dough to try to get a sourdough taste) and made the soup. The rye was too light for my taste — I wanted something more dense, but the soup was delightful. (note that the rye looked delightful and Dean was delighted with it).


Here’s the soup recipe if you are interested:

Dill Pickle Soup (Zupa Ogorkówa)

from Polish Classic Recipes by Laura & Peter Zeranski

Serves 6 – 8 (I halved it – and used a small egg for the egg yolk)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups beef broth (I used “Better than Bouillon” beef broth base + water but any broth would probably work including vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 4 large dill pickles, shredded (the recipe introduction suggests an imported Polish variety but I used kosher dills)
  • 2/3 cup dill pickle liquid
  • 2 ½ cups boiled, cubed potatoes
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon, parsley chopped (I didn’t have any fresh, so omitted this)
  • ½ teaspoon dill, chopped (I used much more)
  • 3 Tablespoons sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Bring the broth to a boil.
  2. In another pan, add the cubed potatoes and bring to a boil. Add the sliced carrots and cook until fork-tender. Drain and set aside. (this was not in the original recipe –  which didn’t call for cooking the carrots – but I didn’t want my carrots crunchy).
  3. Mix the flour with the milk and add to the broth (this went against all my knowledge of adding flour to a liquid – normally I’d make a roux first – but I followed the directions and it worked out fine – no flour taste in the soup). Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat.
  4. Mix the egg yolk with the butter (my butter was melted, but not hot) and add to the broth mixture. Add the pickles, pickle liquid, potatoes, and carrots. Heat but do not boil. Add the sour cream, if desired (I added it). Garnish with parsley and dill.

Days 111-112: Began Christmas Shopping

While I’d gotten a couple of gifts recently, I finally did the bulk of my Christmas shopping yesterday and today. Delightfully relieved. I don’t know why Christmas is still so stressful for me except that I am such a procrastinator and put off buying things until the last few “minutes”.

The photo is from after the packages were delivered (remember I am not writing this on the actual day(s) of the delight) — and yes, I used Amazon for most of them.