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Mindful : April 2014
April 2014 mindful 31 In the course of making leek- and-potato soup, Andrea Miller finds that ingredients—no matter how humble—sing when they get her full attention. Whether I’m making a new recipe or whipping up an old standby, I always begin with the same first step. And I don’t mean getting out the cutting board or preheating the oven or even washing my hands. All that comes later. For me, step one is dialing a friend’s number or tuning into a podcast. That is to say, I never just cook. Steaming, bak- ing, frying—they’re all opportunities for me to do something else simultaneously. Last month, I was preparing a meal while on the phone with a friend who was telling me about mindful cooking— cooking without distraction. It sounded like drudgery, like it would be lonely and dull. Yet there was something about the idea I couldn’t shake. So when I got my hands on the leek-and-potato soup recipe (see page 33), I decided to experiment. Chopping Away Distraction This time my first step was different. I inhaled a nd exhaled until I wasn’t in a hurry. Only then did I take the leeks out of the fridge. They felt cold. And also firm. It was like they were small onion- scented trees. I stripped off the outer layers, trimmed the ragged tops, a nd chopped. Traces of dirt were hidden in the green crevices, and this reminded me of where the leeks had come from and all the people who’d helped get them from the farm to my kitchen. Next, I selected three potatoes. The bag said “red” in big rosy letters, but holding one of the tubers up to the light, I decided it was closer to fuchsia. Peeling the skins, I liked how the flamboyant color looked against the creamy flesh. Meanwhile, I had two tablespoons of butter sizzling on the stovetop, and within five minutes the leeks were softening and shrinking. I cubed the naked potatoes and added them to the pot. Then the stock. The coriander stems. The bay leaves. A nd since I was paying attention, I noticed that my bay leaves did not actually smell like bay leaves. Having been too long in my spice cupboard, they smelled like curry and cardamom. I made a mental note to replace various small frag rant bags. After pureeing the soup and stirring in the crème fraîche, I ladled generous portions into two bowls a nd topped them with crumbled blue cheese. So far, the colors were subtle—the soup’s pale yellow-g reen and the cheese’s white and slate gray. But with the addition of freshly grated red peppercorns and bright-g reen cilantro, everything sud- denly popped. Leaning in to smell the soup, I picked up the dominant scent of pepper. Nice. Bringing a spoonful to my mouth, I enjoyed the full complexity of the flavors. This was comfort food brought to its edge with the punch of a sharp cheese. As my husband and I sat down for lunch with steaming bowls of soup, I realized that cooking without distrac- tion hadn’t left me bored or tired. Quite the contrary. That evening, when it was time to make dinner, I didn’t pick up the phone. ● Serves 4 32 small new potatoes or fingerlings 11⁄2 cups Greek-style yogurt 11⁄2 tbsp lemon juice 1 shallot (or 1⁄4 red onion), finely chopped 2 tbsp chopped chives Dash of ground cumin Sea salt and pepper 2 tbsp olive oil + more to drizzle Potatoes with Yogurt Sauce and Fresh Herbs In a pot, add the potatoes and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool before peeling them; set aside. In a small bowl, beat together the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, chives, and ground cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil. Serve the potatoes whole or halved, lukewarm, with the yogurt sauce and a drizzle of olive oil. Andrea Miller is the editor of the anthology Right Here with You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships. mindful eating