January 22, 2010

To Be Loved

Potato Parsnip Soup with Orange Oil Drizzle

Recently I celebrated a birthday. Not on my actual birthdate, because that coincides with the big birthday party of a very special, important, famous, historic and religious figure that much of the world observes. So, the adorable man in my life gave me my very own day. And what a day it was.

There were presents at breakfast. Spectacular presents. Meaningful, beautiful, functional, thoughtful and sexy presents. But I'll spare you that part. Just let me tell you it was fun.

The day's celebratory activities first involved wine tasting at Sweet Cheeks Winery, a Southern Willamette Valley enterprise, which is known for its classic Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The also have an interesting Burgundy/Bordeaux blend (Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) that's worth exploring. If you go there, grab your glass, head out to the deck and soak up the lovely view as well.

King Estate Winery in Oregon's Lorane Valley was our ultimate destination for more wine tasting and dinner. The location is beautiful, the estate itself is, well, stately; the wines are organically grown, solidly consistent and classically Oregon-in-a-glass. The Chef de Cuisine, Michael Landsberg, has a long list of Michelin-starred experience to his credit, and was most recently associated with Marche in Eugene.

Our meal was a delightful adventure from beginning to end. We started with soup de jour, a parsnip-potato puree, then moved on the to charcuterie plate and wild mushroom risotto with pancetta and prawns. We each ordered wine flights in order to enjoy the wines interplaying with the various food flavors. What a great learning experience... We discovered that a drizzle of blood-orange oil to the parsnip-potato soup created a terrific pairing with the zesty Viognier. Without the oil, Pinot Gris or even Chardonnay works better. These are lessons to take back to the kitchen.

Our main courses were a smoked trout with Beluga lentils and beets for me, leg of lamb with roasted fingerlings and cabbage for my handsome date.

And there were desserts. Fabulous desserts. Rich pumpkin bread pudding and traditional creme brulee. Yummm on a dish. I'm pretty sure that my eyes were rolling around by then, and vocalizations of rapture were being made.

Amazing gifts, good wine and delicious food are each wonderful things, but I would trade them all away for a lifetime of pop-beads, Kool-Aid and beans-n-weenies cold from the can for the sense of being loved I possess. That comes from the soul of the giver. Thank you, Baby. You throw one great party.

Every single day.


Here is a reasonable facsimile of the soup we had at King Estate that I came up with at home.

Potato Parsnip Soup with Orange Oil Drizzle
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
4 leeks, halved lenghtwise, washed, sliced 1/4" thick (about 4 cups)
4 parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
32 ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
4 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 springs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and white pepper to taste

Orange Oil
Zest from one large orange, white pith removed, cut into 1" strips
3/4 cup citrusy or peppery flavored olive oil

several sprigs flat-leafed parsley

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until very soft and meltingly textured, but not browned, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add parsnips and cook 10 minutes, again being careful not to brown, just soften vegetables. Add chicken stock, potatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

With an immersion blender, puree soup as smooth as possible. For the most elegant and velvety texture, strain soup through fine-mesh sieve set over a two-quart bowl. Return soup to pan to warm. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

For orange oil, cut zest only from orange with paring knife, leaving white pith behind. Reserve orange for another use. Place peel and olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Heat gently to just under a simmer. Cover, remove from heat, and allow to stand for one hour. Strain and reserve for soup garnish. (Use left overs with a little muscat orange vinegar for a terrific salad dressing.)

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle orange oil over, and sprinkle with finely chapped flat-leaved parsley to garnish.

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