Unexpected and often good things happen when you do something for someone else. Often true in life, this axiom is also the premise of Isabel Vincent’s book “Dinner with Edward”. Both the author and Edward are struggling as we meet them in the book – Isabel with a failing marriage and Edward with the death of his beloved wife. Through their frequent dinners prepared by Edward they came to see how dinner with a friend opens up new vistas and nourishment that “sustains us against the hungers of the world”, in the words of MFK Fisher, one of my favorite authors quoted in the book.
Isabel quickly grows close to Edward and takes courage from his words. He tells her, “You are a fine and talented woman whose potential is yet to be realized…. Where you lost the will to fight, where you gave away control of your life, is the mystery you are unraveling. When you get it back, hold on to it.” She in turn worries about who will tell Edward’s story and that he must not be forgotten. Edward was also a fine gentleman, who knew by instinct how to entertain with grace and ease.
The most enjoyable part of the book for me was perusing the weekly dinner menus, which were like eye candy, begging me to try mostly traditional dishes such as Herbed Roast Chicken in a Bag, Oysters Rockefeller, and Gran Marnier Soufflé.
In the end, I lost interest in the tale at about the time when Isabel discovered a new love and basically abandoned Edward for her new guy. This behavior I didn’t much like although I read through to the inevitable conclusion and suppose it was right that she get on with her life.
So in homage to Edward’s traditional dinners, I was inspired to prepare a soup not mentioned in the book, but surely part of his canon. Cream of Roasted Carrot Soup is nutritious and wonderful comfort food. Its vibrant color brightens up a winter evening, and laced with chopped chives it offers that welcome juxtaposition of creaminess and crunch.
Cream of Roasted Carrot Soup
1 ½ cup carrots peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
3 roasted garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth (or more for a smooth consistency)
¼ cup each heavy cream and half & half
½ tsp cumin
splash of hot pepper oil
½ to 1 tsp salt, ground black pepper
Optional: 1 tbs grated fresh ginger
Preheat oven to 400 or 450 degrees. Toss the carrots, onion & salt. Place a head of garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil, closing up the top. Place on parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet, spreading in an even layer. Roast till vegetables are browned and softened, about 25-30 minutes.
Transfer roasted vegetables and several of the garlic cloves to a large saucepan. Add ¼ cup broth and cook over medium heat until carrots soften further, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cumin, hot pepper oil & bay leaf, cooking until the wine has reduced by half. Add remainder of broth. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until soup is flavorful, about 5 minutes. Puree the mixture in a blender until smooth and return to saucepan. Add cream/Half & Half and warm over low heat, about 3 minutes. Season to taste. If you are adding the optional ginger, add when including the wine and follow directions otherwise.. Can be served hot or warm.
This is my contribution to the current round of Novel Food a culinary/literary event with a long history, going back to the fall of 2007. Hosted this time by the lovely Simona of Pulcetta.com Novel Food is a voyage of literary discovery and also a delightful banquet made up of the literary-inspired dishes contributed by the event's participants. This time I chose to write about Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent.
This is also my contribution to the current selection of Cook the Books. Our Hawaiian-Island dweller, Claudia of Honey From Rock is hosting this time, also featuring the book Dinner with Edward. Anyone can join by reading the next selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents and writing about it.