The Oxford English Dictionary defines a vignette as
An ornamental or decorative design on a blank space in a book or among printed matter, esp. at the beginning or end of a chapter or other division, usually one of small size or occupying a small proportion of the space; spec. any embellishment, illustration, or picture uninclosed in a border, or having the edges shading off into the surrounding paper; a head-piece or tail-piece.
Very well, then. If you’ll permit me, I present you a few vignettes, accompanied only by a smattering of explanatory text, of the food we’ve been playing with over the past few months, while my dissertation lengthened and my sad little blog slowly became emaciated. Since this is a season of excess, I’d like to fatten it up a bit. Here’s a start:
Serving suggestion for French Onion soup: hollow out a sourdough bread bowl, toast the inside, coat with a crust of Parmesan cheese, and flood with soup. Top with Swiss cheese and broil until the bread crusts and the cheese blisters. Try not to burn your tongue.
To celebrate, or perhaps provide an epitaph for, our pathetic tomato season this year, I made a roasted green salsa for Halloween. Tomatillos, which flourished happily, green tomatoes, which did not, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and plenty of cumin. Roasted, cooled, pulsed together with salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Tickling and spicy and smoky, and perfect for a rainy Halloween.
Seeking fruit without the healthful feeling, I made crustless “apple pie” one evening with great triumph. Apples sliced thinly, tossed with a tablespoon or two of flour, butter, and a hefty sprinkling each of sugar and cinnamon, bake in the oven for half an hour. I left the skin on for color, chew, and nutrients, and we were both delighted with the syrupy excellence they eschewed. It was not unlike the filling in an apple pie crepe from The Vintage which, if you haven’t visited, you should. With haste.
Spurred toward the heady, heavy, comforting feel of winter food by this apple pieless dessert, we delved into the season of rich sauces, hearty vegetables, and warm fatty indulgences. Perhaps yearning for protein in the darkness of November’s cold snap, we opted for a rich beer and beef stew replete with parsnips, carrots, and cup after cup of rich brown mushrooms spilling earthy thickness into the stew. Whole grain mustard offered intrigue, a whole bottle of Jubelale provided dark yeasty flavor, and a glug of beef broth tied the flavors together. Good stew meat from Long’s Meat Market (warning: the website has sound) was the clear star, and even the “low quality” stew meat I bought, intended to be cooked long and low to tenderize, was so juicy, so flavorful, and so ridiculously good, that I couldn’t stop myself from gulping down three or four pieces after only searing them crusty brown on all edges. Lucky for us, I made a full recipe and froze half, so when the celebratory delectability of December ends and the long, cold middle of winter sweeps into Oregon, we will have reserves to bolster us until the sun appears again.
Fortunately this same reserve will not have to serve this site. Holidays approach, and with them a break from school, which means a break from dissertating, a break from grading, and a break from relentless reading. Rather, I intend to poise myself in my kitchen and dart behind and before the camera, mincing, stirring, pouring, focusing, clicking. And, inevitably, writing. To you. Happy December!