Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rome, the Last Surgery, and Soup Season

I've been absent.  Bad me.  I know.  I guess that means we've been busy.  September was Vince's birthday and our anniversary and he took me on a lovely weekend trip to Rome.  I think it might take the prize of most beautiful city I've seen.  And I'm just getting started in Europe.  What other treasures there must be to see!  Around every corner in Rome, there is another beautiful plaza, or fountain, or building, or any combination of those.  Truly a recommended destination.
Vatican Museum Ceiling by Raphael

Even if you're not Catholic, don't skip the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel is but a speck of the grandeur... we didn't even photograph it.  The popes have been collecting artwork and having famous people (Raphael and Michelangelo) paint their ceilings since Catholicism began.  The buildings themselves are works of art and are filled with millions of artifacts: from the most well preserved Egyptian mummies I've ever seen to Salvador Dali and Paul Klee paintings.  Plus, St. Peters Basilica is one of the most impressive, awe inspiring, and peaceful  places I've been to.  With it's towering domes, beautifully carved gilded ceilings, giant statues, and intimate temples in every nook and cranny, I felt the same peace there as when I was in a Jain temple in India with some lovely praying ladies.

Vatican Ceiling Murals

Endless Hallways of Them   

Endless Hallways of Marble Hand Carved Statues
St. Peter's Basilica and Plaza

The Pope's Altar

Not to mention, I got to walk up the same steps as the gladiators in a building that's almost 2000 years old. Can you even imagine?!  2000 years old... unfathomable, and so cool.

The Roman Coliseum
Interior of the Coliseum

After a 10km run in the center of Paris that I finished in excellent time, for me, here we are today, my arm bandaged after surgery #5.
Post 10K and Still Smiling!
Before - Bionic Woman
After - Just a Few Holes Left

The good thing is that I'm typing this with two hands, and haven't taken a single Tylenol since the day after I got home.  Because I was afraid of the pain and handicap of having one hand,  because it's *already* really cold and rainy in Paris, and because I love soup, I went on a soup making frenzy before the surgery.  The freezer is stocked with veggie Ribollita and butternut squash leek soup.  Leeks are rampant here, almost every shopping bag has those unmistakable green leaves poking out the top, and they're cheap, but since Butternut, especially fresh tasty ones, are hard to find here, it's a real treat for me.  I won't share the Ribollita recipe as it doesn't have bacon, and we all know, everything's better with bacon.  But since I can't have you over for dinner (and honestly, i rarely make this dish for invitees since it's too good to share...) here's the recipe for the Butternut squash soup. Sadly, I don't have any photos of the butternut squash soup... they don't do it justice anyway.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup
serves 4-6

4 1/2 lbs butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
5 tbsp unsalted butter
4 large leeks white and tender green parts
1 tsp dried thyme or 7 sprigs fresh
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche
Chopped Chives
Cooked Crumbled BACON

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Place squash cut side down on baking sheet and cook until tender, around 40 minutes.  Remove from oven, let it cool a bit and remove the skin.
While the squash is cooking, clean and dice the leeks.  Melt the butter in a large soup pot, add leeks and thyme, and cook over medium heat around 40 minutes until soft and brown.
Add chicken stock and squash, cut into 1 inch squares, to soup pot.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper and blend with a handheld or upright blender (in batches).  Top with a dollop of cream, crumbled bacon and chives.
I usually serve mine with a good baguette and or a green salad.  Freezes very well.  

Butternut Squash
Leeks and Beautiful Black and White Beans from SF

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