Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Warm Quinoa Salad with Asparagus and Herbs

It feels like the big wind-down right about now. The kids have a month of school left, yes, but they've already taken their big tests, had their spring concerts. (Birdy playing Space Oddity on electric guitar! Be still my heart.) The lilacs have given way to the peonies. My cigar-tube vase is full of bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley and even, already, a purple iris. 

The cat is finding nice shady spots to rest in. 

We've eaten the last of our friends' morels, picked from beneath their apple trees. Sauteed with butter and wine and cream. 

Perfection on toast.
Ben is in summer bartending mode.

Fresh cherry-mint mojito.
And we are eating a lot of salads. Partly because Birdy's arugula patch is like something UFOed down from a planet that has devoted all of eternity to perfecting the growing of arugula, and partly because that's just what we (as in *I*) feel like eating all the time. Salad and bread and cheese. Spring food.

Arugula with peppered farm cheese, slivered dates, toasted almonds, and a warm white-wine-vinegar vinaigrette. Can I get an amen? I promise that if I had pictures of Michael and me fighting about stupid stuff, I'd post those too. 
And the salad, below, with a long headnote explaining itself. We ate it at home, and had enough for lunch the next day. It would be perfect for a potluck.

Meanwhile, I have pieces to read here at Parents, and here, at the brand-new Motherwell, if you are so inclined! Thank you, as always, for being here.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Asparagus and Herbs
This is the kind of thing I always want to eat for dinner: fresh and wholesome and incredibly tasty, with lots of different flavors and textures to keep you interested through an entire bowlful. It’s also the kind of thing that mostly uses ingredients I have already, except for whatever the main veg is. In this case, a friend of ours had given us a lovely bunch of green garlic, which actually inspired me to make this. And all our herbs are flourishing, so all I had to do was pop out to the asparagus stand nearby! I was also inspired by Anna Jones’ A ModernWay to Eat, which I checked out of the library. She makes a similar salad, but using broccoli and spinach and different kinds of seeds. Feel free to swap those in for the asparagus, or to use snap peas or green beans if that’s what you’ve got. A diced red radish would be nice too!

Kosher salt
1 ½ cups quinoa
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek or some green garlic, thinly sliced, or ½ an onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas (I didn’t have these, but I wished I did!)
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used mint, basil, parsley, and chives)
1 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (or almonds, if you prefer)
Chive blossoms for garnish, if you have them

Bring a medium or large pot of water to a bowl over high heat and salt it heavily. It should taste as salty as the sea, so we are talking a fair amount of salt. Add the quinoa and stir, turn the heat down to medium-high and cook it for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until it is just tender and the grains have spiraled open a bit. (It will continue to cook as it steams, so don’t cook it until it’s soft at this point.)

Drain it really, really well in a fine sieve—I mean, really shake it around to get the water out—then put it back in the pot, stretch a doubled dish towel over the top of the pot, and put the lid back on. Leave it to steam for 5 or 10 minutes, or up to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat, and sauté the leeks (or whatever you’re using for this) with a large pinch of salt, until they’re tender. This may take a while, up to 15 minutes, so if they start to dry out go ahead and add a splash or two of water. When the leeks are tender, add the asparagus, and sauté until just bright green. Turn the heat off. If you’ve erred on the side of overcooking the asparagus, transfer everything to a large bowl, otherwise you can leave it in the pan with the heat off to cook a little longer.

At some point, add the frozen peas to something still hot so that they thaw and briefly steam. The quinoa pot is a good choice, as is the panful of asparagus.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a glass measuring cup or just a glass, add the zest and a teaspoon of kosher salt (or half as much table salt), then measure in enough olive oil to match the level of the lemon juice. Season with black pepper and whisk to combine.

Put the quinoa, vegetables, and capers in a large bowl and pour most of the dressing over. Stir gently with a rubber spatula and taste. The feta will add some saltiness, but if it’s radically undersalted at this point, add some more salt. Likewise, add the rest of the dressing and/or a bit of lemon and/or olive oil if it needs livening up or seems underdressed. The key to this being delicious is to season it really well.

Stir in the herbs, feta, and pine nuts, taste one last time, garnish, and serve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Butter-Basted One-Pan Asparagus

I am in the very thick of my spring love affair. Oh the lilacs! The dogwood! The violets and lilies of the valley and the mint coming fast and furious! The sunlit awakenings and long blue days and sunlit dinners! I mean, my god. Last night after we'd finished eating we watched a big, fat ground hog eating big, fat dandelions, and it was like a cartoon.

Plus, asparagus is in season here, and we really do gorge on it while it's gorgeous.

For Mother's Day Michael roasted asparagus in the oven and served it with my very most favorite dinner: cheese and crackers. But, like, really good cheese, and three different kinds of crackers, and I was in total heaven. I would eat cheese and crackers for dinner every single night if it were allowed. Plus, when you eat it for dinner, instead of before dinner, you can eat as much as you want. Or so I tell myself.

Speaking of Mother's Day, Birdy and I spent the weekend at the most incredible rug-making workshop taught by the most incredible Crispina Frrench at the most amazing Snow Farm, which is like art camp for grown-ups (and teens). We went in the fall too, and I wrote about it here. After I write the bestselling Catastrophic Da Vinci Code, we are going to go every weekend.

What, this old rug? [shrugs modestly]
In other news, a child in my family sustained a sports injury! What? I know! Birdy sprained her ankle playing ultimate Frisbee. I was a little patronizing about it, until it turned into a giant purple balloon, and I then I was like, "Oh, I see!" (Notice how smug she looks.)
Anyhoo, asparagus. I always think I couldn't possibly find a simpler way to cook it, and then I do. This method produces lovely, buttery, crisp-tender asparagus: your teeth find some resistance, but then the inside of each spear is all stringy tenderness. (That sounded better in my head than it sounds now, written out, but I'll just leave it there.) Try it. And share your own favorite asparagus methods, if you would be so kind!

The salmon eaters in our family ate it with salmon, and I made this sauce for it. Oh my god! So good. Lightly whipped cream with a little mustard and lemon zest and herbs (I used tarragon and chives) and my own personal addition of chopped capers to make it taste like a cross between pie topping and tartar sauce. Delish.
The non-salmon eaters were served herby scrambled eggs.  Everyone had toast because, well, toast.
Butter-Basted One-Pan Asparagus
Adapted from this recipe for green beans, which I adapted from this recipe for green beans.

2 bunches asparagus (around 2 pounds), ends snapped off
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ cup water
6 tablespoons butter
Squeeze of lemon and a bit of grated lemon zest (optional)

Put everything but the lemon in a wide, lidded skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cover it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it simmers steadily, and use tongs to mix the asparagus around occasionally, so that everyone gets a chance to be where the butter is.

Eventually, the liquid will evaporate and the asparagus will be buttery and done—start checking them at around 3 minutes (little ones will take a little bit of time, and fatter ones will take more time) and turn the heat off when they’re cooked to your liking—or, really, just shy of your liking, since they’ll cook a little more after.

Use tongs to move the asparagus to a platter, and evaluate the liquid left in the pan. If it’s just a buttery, glazey juice, then scrape it over the asparagus. If the asparagus have given up a lot of liquid, then boil this liquid briskly for a minute over high heat until it’s more butter than juice. Either way, if you’re using it, add the lemon juice and zest to the pan before scraping its contests over the asparagus. Done. Perfect. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cheater Chicken Confit

Oh, spring! It is my favorite season. Yes, by the time it arrives it is already ending, but these weeks of bright, fresh dandelion faces and dewy violets and dawn chorus, the birds awake and singing, the sky already lightening at four? Heaven on earth.

I wish I'd gotten a fairy to photo bomb, for scale.

We have been listening to Purple Rain, which I bought in 1984 after seeing the movie with my (persistently dead) friend Ali. Loss compounds loss, it turns out. Maybe you already knew that.
Plus it is, as you may know, a big foraging season for Birdy and me, which I have written about here and here and here

Birdy asked me to cut her hair, and I was happy to have the excuse to touch and smell her head. "Does it have to take so long?" she said, and I said, "It does."
We’ve been heading out with our bags and books to see what’s coming up, and what’s coming up is loads of stuff! Sweet, slippery violet leaves; pungent, invasive garlic mustard; sour sorrel and bitter dandelion. And something new to us this year. “What are you picking?” a friend asked, when we ran into her on the trail. And I said, “Solomon’s Seal shoots! Or maybe False Solomon’s Seal shoots! We’re not sure which.” She looked alarmed, but both are edible, I swear to God.

Mostly, foraging is an excuse for being outside in the spring air with Birdy, girl of my dreams. Hunting for wild food lends a shape and purpose and treasure-hunt-y feeling to our wandering, and we both love that.
They taste a little like asparagus, which is the forager’s equivalent of saying something tastes like chicken. Everything tastes a little like asparagus, but dressed with, you know, just a little dash of strychnine.

Steamed, with butter and lemon? I mean, seriously. "The more you eat, the less bitter they are!" I said, and then worried briefly that it would be the last thing I ever said, but no. Fully edible!
Anyhoo, speaking of chicken! I was inspired to confit chicken legs for a number of reasons: 1) We had one in a restaurant, on a kale salad, and it was excellent. 2) It seemed (correctly) like a way to cook chicken where I wouldn’t have to handle it very much while it was raw, which is good because I’d practically sooner cut off my own leg and handle that than spend too long fondling poultry. 3) It seemed (correctly) like a way to cook the legs that would dissolve all the weird things in the legs that I don’t like to eat.  And maybe most significantly, 4) Whole Foods was having one of those crazy madness sales such that a package of 13 chicken legs was just over four dollars. Right?

This came out just like I wanted it to: the chicken is fragrant and salty and luscious, and when you so much as look at it, all the meat falls off the bone in velvety, yielding shreds. It also keeps well and is super-versatile: we ate some plain, some on salad, and some cassouleted. 

Cheater Cassoulet. Criminally insanely good.
Plus, I took the meat off of the bones of about half the legs and stored it in a jar of its own fat in the fridge, whence we unorthodoxly dug it out to fry up with our matzoh brie all week. Yummmm! (The picture of the chicken in the fat in the jar turned out to be really too forensic-specimen-y to post.) I will be making this again and again—at least before the turning on of the oven ends for the season. It is ridiculously easy and so wonderful.

Ben, taking a break from driving and music and xbox and calculus to help build our raised garden bed. "I'm kind of surprised to see you out here!" I said, and he said, "Not as surprised as I am!"

Chicken Confit
Makes 13 chicken legs! (Or some other number.)

This is not a true confit, which usually refers to duck cooked in its own fat but would, in this case, refer to chicken cooked in its own fat. The legs contribute tons of fat while they cook, but you are going to start them off with a hefty pour of olive oil. You will need to begin this recipe at least 24 hours before you want to eat it, but you will mostly be ignoring it during that time.

Edited to add: If you make this with whole leg quarters, the chicken will give up enough fat that you only need 1/2 cup or so of olive oil, just to get it started. You probably don't even need that, to be honest, but that's what I do.

12-14 chicken drumsticks (if you use the whole leg quarters, scale the recipe up or down accordingly)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Other seasoning (see note)
3 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 cups extra virgin olive oil (I used a kind of cheap, mild Trader Joe’s one, and I would use it again)

Pack the legs in a glass, ceramic, or enamel baking dish that holds them snugly (I used a lasagna pan). Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the salt and seasonings, and nestle in the bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate overnight, if possible, or until the evening, which is when I think it makes the most sense to put it in the oven. (You can refrigerate it for longer, if you like—at least up to two days.)

Heat the oven to 200. Uncover the chicken, pour the oil over it (it should come about halfway up the chicken), push the garlic cloves into the oil, and pop the pan in the oven. Leave it for 12-14 hours (it’s fine to peek at it now and then, to make sure the oil is just barely bubbling—turn the oven up or down a hair as needed to make this happen) until the chicken, when you poke it, is inclined to collapse. Leave it to cool in its oil.

Now do one of four things:
1) Eat the chicken now. I like to broil the whole legs briefly to crisp the skin, or shred the meat off the bones and fry it in its own oil until crisp. Either of these is a wonderful way to turn a green salad into a meal. Or use it in a recipe, such as the cassoulet below.
2) Put the whole cooled pan in the refrigerator, covered, where it will keep well for a few days, given all the salt and oil.
3) Shred the meat off the bones and put it in a jar, then cover the meat with the oil from the pan (separate the oil from the juice first—and use or freeze the juice, which is delicious). If the chicken is fully submerged, it will keep for at least a couple of weeks. Dig out the meat and use it as you like.
4) Freeze it. I put four legs in a container in the freezer, and it froze and thawed beautifully.

When you are done eating the chicken, strain the oil and freeze it for the next time you make confit! Or use it now to fry potatoes. Likewise, the juices will make a beautiful soup or gravy.

Note: For other seasonings, I used a scant tablespoon of juniper berries that I ground in a mortar and pestle and mixed with the salt. Other great options include rosemary, thyme, or nothing at all but the garlic, bay, and pepper. You could even just use salt and pepper and it would be wonderful.

Cheater Cassoulet
This is not a real cassoulet—which is the famous French bean/duck/pork/sausage/breadcrumb dish—but it is so good that I thought I’d mention how I made it. In a deep  cast-iron skillet, I sautéed a chopped onion, a large chopped carrot, 3 chopped stalks of celery, 2 garlic cloves, a sprig of dried thyme, and some chopped-up Canadian bacon in olive oil and butter. (I could also have used regular bacon and cooked everything in the bacon grease. Ham and/or other pork things would work too, and I would have added a couple of cut-up hot dogs or some kielbasa if I'd had them. For pork-free smokiness, add a teaspoon of smoked paprika with the tomato paste.) When the veggies were tender, I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the pan, stirred and fried until I could smell it, then ½ cup red wine, which I cooked off. I added a cup of the chicken confit juice (you could use stock) and brought it to a boil, then I stirred in 4 or 5 cups of cooked pinto beans with enough of their liquid that the whole thing was fairly soupy (You could use white beans, which is more traditional, but I love pintos. Also, if you’re using canned beans (3 cans), rinse them off and add extra broth to make up the liquid. ). You will want to salt as needed, depending on your beans / stock, then I nestled in a bay leaf and the 4 chicken legs (I would have used more if I’d had them) and cooked the whole dish at 425 for an hour, with the broiler on for the last 3 or 4 minutes to crisp the skin. Served with a sharp arugula salad = perfection.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Catastrophic Self-Promotion

Come get your book signed, and I will laugh and laugh, and you will be stuck there for the rest of your life!
My darlings! Thank you so much for loving me up and buying the book and coming to readings, and supporting me in the millions of ways that you do including bearing with me while I waffle on and on about this. Please know that I am so grateful for anything you can do to help me promote the book: Amazon and Goodreads reviews (pretty please), blog posts, social media mentions, and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Also: I am reading in Wenham, MA this Thursday (scroll down on this page for details). Will you please come, or tell your Eastern MA friends??? Otherwise it will be just me and the museum ladies, which is fine too. 

I will post a real post soon, with a recipe, and actual content, and not just this endless self-promotion. In the mean time (she wrote, self-promotingly), I have these new pieces online:

"My Son's Catalogue of Grievances" at the Washington Post
and "The Gift of a Lost Coat" on the New York Times Well Family blog.

Also, for Dinner: A Love Story Fans (all of you, I trust), please see Jenny's perfect post on Catastrophic Happiness. (Also, one post earlier, please see the poke bowls I made for dinner this past Sunday night. Yum.)

And for you long, long, long-time readers, please check out the lovely Joyce Slaton's short history of my entire career, including links to the old Ben and Birdy columns via the way-back machine!

Finally, I should mention: the audible version of the book? I read it myself! (Please let me know how it is. I can't quite bear to listen to it.)

I almost wrote "Have a good weekend!" Um, yeah.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Catastrophic Happiness

Cat-astrophic Grouchiness
So, my loves, today is the publication date for Catastrophic Happiness! Which I yesterday, in an email, referred to accidentally as Claustrophobic Happiness. [sighs]

I hope you will buy it for yourself, and buy it for your pets and friends and family, and review it on Amazon and Goodreads, because those reviews really, really affect book sales, and they make your marketing and publicity people like you, and I am, as you know, persistently desperate to be liked.

If you want a sample (because you've only known me for 13 years) there's a depressing little excerpt from the book here, at The Manifest-Station.

The generous and brilliant Lindsey Mead reviewed it generously and brilliantly over at Brain, Child, and I am thrilled. I won't spoil it for you, but there is a line with fireflies in it.

And if you want to feel all kvelly and/or indignant, because you are part of my kvelling and indignant family, then you can read the review in the New York Times. (To quote Michael's step-mom: The New York mother-f-ing Times!!!) No, you may not refer to me as "artisanal coop mom," but yes that is a good line.

Meanwhile, in parallel news, it is also the pub date of my friend Asha Dornfest's book Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, which you should also buy and review, because it is so funny and stylish and helpful. The book is packed full of real-life, tried-and-true fantastic problem-solving ideas for parents from parents, because who else but us even knows what our problems are? Like how to clean up glitter! (With play-dough.) Or how to guarantee that your child's lovey will never be lost forever! (Buy the book and see.) This is going to be one of my go-to new-baby presents, and I only wish I'd had the book myself when the kids were younger.

Birdy read it cover to cover, fascinated and grossed out (maxi-pads have a few too many off-brand uses for her comfort), and she reminded me so much of myself at her age, dorkily reading Heloise's House-Keeping Hints.  
Of course I still have it!

One last thing. I made this Tartine Berry Almond Breakfast Cake for Easter, like a good Jew, and it was perfect. I used frozen cherries instead of berries, and did need to bake it much longer, but man oh man. It costs about $1000 to make, and it weighs about 15 pounds. So worth it. Dense and buttery and marzipany and fruity, with a thick, crunchy crumb topping to weep over. Mm.

This is an unflattering angle.
Enjoy your week, darlings. Thank you for being here with me.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Butter-Basted One-Pan Green Beans

They don't look like much, but they are perfection. 
 I feel like there’s kind of a backlash against the crisp-tender vegetables we all learned to love in the 1990s, when we were recovering from the grey-mushy vegetables of our 1970s childhoods. Living on our own, we learned to undercook our vegetables, and it was a revelation: bright broccoli that resisted your fork; green green beans that squeaked under your molars; crisp asparagus that had shared only a whispered moment with steam; planks of eggplant zebra-striped from the grill (ew, my least favorite). Vegetables were colorful and crunchy, and we loved them like that! Until we didn’t. Until, at some Ma and Pa Greek place, we ordered the long-braised green beans in a pool of oily tomato sauce and thought, “Yum.” Overcooked was the new undercooked! We learned to roast broccoli until it went black and soft. We learned to braise it “forever” in a salty bath of olive oil. We learned to make hollandaise sauce for our asparagus, as if we held in our buttery hands the first edition of the Joy of Cooking. Fat was the new fat-free! (Although my philosophy has always been that fat in the service of vegetables is a fine thing.)

And it was good.

I mean, I still don’t want to be served grey peas or stinking boiled cauliflower. I still want my sugar-snaps raw or just barelybrightened in the steamer. And I still only briefly cook green beans if I’m serving them with dip. But this recipe turns out the most perfectly tender, perfectly buttery beans you can imagine. Basically, by the time the water’s gone, they’re cooked through (But you can adapt this to make them how you like.) I make them like this all the time now, using cheater pre-prepped beans from Trader Joe's. And even our Ben, who has some sort of bean-squeaking ISSUE, loves these beans. And I love that they’re pan-to-table—no colander, no serving dish. Because I am the laziest person who ever lived.

Cheater beans. You'll need two bags of these. I promise I'll switch to local and organic when the season changes.

Long live the just-right vegetable! Just don’t be shy with the butter or salt. But you knew I was going to say that.

p.s. Book news! Please come to one of these Catastrophic Happiness readings, if you can! All free and open to the public.
4/7 8:00 p.m. Amherst Books Amherst, MA
4/10 7:00 p.m. Book Court Brooklyn, NY
4/28 8:00 p.m. The Ashfield Lake House Ashfield, MA

Butter-Basted One-Pan Green Beans
Serves 4. It should serve 6, but we always eat them all.

Adapted from this genius Food52 Genius Recipe. They use stock instead of water and (even) more butter. Feel free! Also, they recommend optional parmesan for serving, and how could that be bad?

1 ½ pounds haricot verts or regular green beans, stem ends pinched off if they’re still on
3-4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup water
2 cloves crushed garlic, peeled
¾ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Lemon juice and zest, to taste (optional)
Snipped dill, chives, or tarragon to taste (optional)

Put everything but the lemon and herbs in a very large, lidded skilled over medium-high heat, and cover it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it simmers steadily, and use tongs to mix the green beans around occasionally, so that everyone gets a chance to be where the butter is. Eventually, the liquid will evaporate and the beans will be buttery and done—start checking them at around 8 minutes and turn the heat off when they’re cooked to your liking. Add a squeeze of lemon, a scraping of lemon zest, and/or herbs, if you’re using them, and taste the beans for salt and other seasonings. Serve right away, or at room temperat

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Green, Green Pea Soup with Ginger and Cilantro

Spring! After a disturbingly anticlimactic winter that never quite fully arrived, the season of the long evenings is upon us. It is the best. As I've doubtless mentioned a million times, my favorite time of the week is Thursday night--everything stretched deliciously out ahead still, not one second of weekend yet passed by--which makes early spring my favorite time of the year. As soon as the trees blossom, I turn into the gloomy, dying Romantic poet version of myself: "Why hath lilac's bloom so short a moment when no sooner doth it unfurl in all its perfumed purpleness already the brown scent of decay is upon us! Oh death! Oh fleeting beauty!" And everyone has to be like, "Shut up and enjoy the fucking flowers." And I can, but only kind of. Because Ben is driving. He is practically packing up the car, waving merrily in the rear view mirror. "Bye, Ma! Thanks for the childhood!"Oh fleeting beauty! 

A dear friend of Birdy's slept over, and brought with him a dear friend of Strawberry's: Piggy the Pig-Shaped Pig.
Wait. Existential detour. Where was I headed? Pea soup. But seriously. Your kids are all driving too, doubtless, and/or turning thirteen, sixteen, bending to kiss your forehead consolingly on their way out the literal and metaphorical door. Who even knows what they're up to, these large and fragrant people. A friend and I were talking recently about our kids and sex and the internet, wondering if there was a website of kind of gentle, realistic, feminist beginner porn--more curiosity and exploration than normative grossness--you know, for the young people. (I'm reminding myself now of when the kids were little and debilitated by narrative tension, and I just wanted videos for them where nothing actually happened: like, a kid goes to a birthday party, gets a goody bag, and happily eats a piece of cake. The end.) Um, there's not. And I have regretted our Google search ever since. 

Sorry. An inside joke for longtime readers. (Ben's. . . fifth?. . . birthday pinata. It was shaped like a heart.)
Anyhoo. Pea soup. Because despite the feeling of spring, you still have to cheat on the produce for a while, unless what you're really craving is one-inch chives. That I can help you with. But otherwise, frozen peas are easy and delicious and they have a spring feeling about them, even though you can get and eat them all day long. Besides, though, some of the days are still cold and rainy--like today, for instance--and soup is a welcome thing. Especially this nice, easy one, with its velvety, aromatic deliciousness.

Green, Green Pea Soup with Ginger and Cilantro
Serves 4

Mint is the customary companion to peas, but this bright green soup is scented with ginger and cilantro instead. And a swirl of creamy-rich coconut milk boosts the yumminess even higher. Frozen peas are easy, good, and reliable.

2 tablespoons butter
1 smallish yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon each finely chopped ginger and garlic
Kosher salt
3 large sprigs cilantro (plus more for garnish)
1 fist-sized potato, peeled and diced
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth (I like Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon cubes, the plain sea-salt kind)
1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen petite peas
1 cup coconut milk or cream, shaken (plus more for drizzling)
Lime wedges for serving

Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat and sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic until the onion is just getting translucent, around 3 minutes. Add the cilantro, potato, and broth, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the potato is tender, around 20 minutes.

Add the peas and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, until the peas are bright green and tender, then stir in the coconut milk (save a few whole peas for garnish, if you like). Puree the soup with a stick blender or in batches, very carefully, in a blender (for a silky-smooth texture, you can pass it through a food mill). Taste the soup for salt and serve, garnished with the reserved peas, a few cilantro leaves and a drizzle of coconut milk. If the flavor needs punching up (it may well not), a squeeze of lime is a nice way to do it.