Curried Broccoli and Greens Soup. Photo by David Rodwin
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
You wouldn't necessarily want to follow Alice in Wonderland's diet (at least outside the environs of Burning Man) but Lewis Carroll had it right with this paean to the steamiest, best food of winter. And it's a good reminder that broccoli and greens, cold weather's staples, can come to the table in another guise besides the endlessly repeated cycle of steamed, steamed, stir-fried, and steamed.
Carroll doesn't mention curry powder, but he should. Yes, that old pantry staple, yellow and dependable in its plastic jar or shiny little tin. You might even be embarrassed by its ongoing presence in your spice drawer, proof that you haven't graduated to six different regional garam masalas, aromatic evidence that you're not spending these long dark nights grinding your own fenugreek.
But really, a good spice mix is always a handy thing. Even when you know your idlis from your dosas, there's something comforting about the familiarity of that standard supermarket blend. For me, the smell instantly transports me back to the gourmet takeout shops of the '80s, where I earned my college-summer paychecks by mixing up big plastic tubs of curried chicken salad, dicing an endless parade of chicken breasts, glopping in the mayonnaise and sour cream, scooping in mango chutney and raisins and then adding curry powder until the whole bowlful turned a vivid Sahara yellow.