Panna Cotta in Strawberry Soup with Thyme

Yesterday I had a couple of my friends over for lunch.  I made Ina Garten's Greek Panzanella - a recipe I have made many times, and for dessert I made panna cotta in strawberry soup with thyme - a recipe mostly of my own that I've also been making for years.

We chatted about The Goldfinch.  I just finished reading it yesterday morning, my jaw tense and my head aching from strained eyes.  I have blown off much of everything for the last four days and nights, this story took all of me along with it.  I will give nothing of it away in case you have not read it, but I will tell you that I loved it very much even though it gave me tears and anxiety and bizarre dreams.

We chatted about life and about gardening, of course.  We swapped seeds.  Speaking of, my seed starts have all sprouted; little green toothpicks with whales tales.  Inside, the light is spilling in throughout the day, casting a soft glow on everything.  And around five in the morning the robin's have begun chirping.

To say we're all so grateful for the longer days and warmer weather feels shallow to what we feel deep inside.  I keep reminding myself, you can wake up now; you can stretch now.

Panna Cotta in Strawberry Soup with Thyme

Panna Cotta
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste (or pure extract)

In a medium bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the milk.  Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and sugar.  Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until small bubbles appear around the sides of the pan.  Slowly add the cream mixture to the milk and gelatin mixture, stirring until smooth.  Add the vanilla.

Divide the mixture among four 4 oz. ramekins.  Cover and refrigerate for as long as five hours or overnight.  (I always make a day ahead.)

Strawberry Soup with Fresh Thyme

3 cups of fresh strawberries, greens cut off
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine (sparkling works too)
1 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. heavy cream
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Put all ingredients except for thyme in a blender and blend until smooth, or like "soup".

To serve, run a knife around the sides of the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta.  Turn panna cotta's out in a shallow bowl.  Spoon soup around the panna cotta and top with fresh thyme.

Serves four.


My Best

These two.

They're no longer growing on me, but up the length of my body with a thriving speed.  One stands by my side and I no longer have to lean down to meet his eyes.  The other is just below, squirmy, only at times steady and breathy and still.  I tell them to remind me to show them kudzu vine the next time we're in Florida, because you remind me of it.

At night we cuddle together in the center of the bed, a pile of softness and bones, and watch Kid President videos on YouTube. Always ending with the one where Kid President kisses Beyonce on the cheek, and then they toss and turn in a fit of eww!! giggles.  Then we catch our breath and steady into literature.  Currently, we're reading Charlotte's Web.

We've arrived to another stage of our life.  It is a place where independence isn't such a battle of wills they cannot find language for, but a place where they find words to tape to their thoughts and go on to converse - at times so maturely that I feel as if I'm choking on bubbles of air.  Like a few nights ago when Theo brought up slavery at dinner, mid-chew, and child slavery, and did I know it's still happening right now?

Sully walks around in his own world singing Irreplaceable by Beyonce.

You must not know about me.  You must not know about me.  I could have another you in a minute...to the left, to the left...

And I manage to swallow the bubbles.

When they were sticky-soft-sweet babes in my arms with gummy O mouths and nectar dribbles, I half believed anyone who'd tell me they'd grow up, they'd get bigger, and life with them would just get better and better.  In a continual state of equal parts slumber and extraordinary gratitude, I was weary then.  Now I'm just a believer.

We were in the kitchen a few nights ago.  Theo was slicing cucumbers for our salad, I was cooking dinner, and Sully was sitting at the island chatting with us.  Theo asked me if his name had a meaning.  Yes, I said.  Your name means "a divine gift from God".  Then Sully asked what his names means.  "One who dwells by the meadow."

Again, the bubble.  I swell.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I'll do my best.


The In-Between

I was sitting on my porch eating a bowl of yogurt for lunch yesterday, but before that I was out for the morning with my friend.  We chatted over breakfast and then strolled in the brilliant sunlight and warmth at the botanic gardens.  The morning was everything I set out to do: a walk and breathing space in fine company, an openness to create something purely for pleasure (the above photos), and to feel early spring's awakening.  Back on my porch, thinking about my morning, I had a moment of stark clarity: this life I've created for myself is a very good life.

Of course there is always work to do.  Daily soul chores.  They're tougher to chip away at during the solitary cold months, I find. Tucked away in a snowscape yesterday, my friend and I watched a blue jay bathing in a pool of melted snow.  Well look at that!  If there is a lesson to learn... 

Today I will set up in the yard and get to planting vegetable seeds, and even though the trays of potted seeds will come right back inside to borrow artificial light for many more weeks, a new season, new life will be growing which is good enough for me as we live out these last weeks of winter.  Soft, velvet tips will begin to appear on branches.  In the kitchen the aroma of zested lemon takes on new meaning and a roasted chicken once again goes down the gullet in something of delight instead of the need for warmth and survival.  Late weekend afternoons now get a glass of grassy sauvignon blanc because there is more time in the day and because I believe the sighting of nature's chartreuse is worthy of celebration.

My yoga teacher has the most beautiful way of saying things.  Although I cannot remember her exact words, she recently said something about lengthening ourselves in our own divine light.  The sentiment has stayed with  me.  Something of what I was thinking on my porch yesterday was about myself stretched in the abundance of light in my life.  Owning this.  Winter, if anything, makes me believe this is true.

"What is important now is to go very slowly; to stop in the middle of the flood; never to press on; to lie back and let the soft subconscious world become populous; not to be urging foam from my lips." 
 -Virginia Woolf