Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Chicken...

Hi there.

(long pause)

It's been a while...

(long pause)

I'd like to reintroduce myself.


My name is Amanda Hawkins, and I love many things.

A little over a year ago I moved from Canada back to my childhood romping grounds in California's Central Valley. I moved with my husband, Kevin, my son, Cedar, and my cat, Tyrone from our funky, dark basement suite in Vancouver to a pink-walled, light-filled bedroom in my parents' house. To keep sane and reclaim my writerly personhood, I started this blog. I wanted to trick myself into writing consistently again. I wanted to write about food, my family, the land here, the beauty and awkwardness of moving home after a long absence. So I did.

After nine months we finally moved into our own place. It was beautiful--that house--with its blue ceilings and stained glass windows. Even the parking lot we had as a back yard was lovely. So was the pecan tree, and the barn owls, and the Great Horned Owl who hung out in the bell tower of Saint Mary's church across the street. We even had Christmas dinner there with close to thirty members of our family. I used that kitchen like I never thought I could. We had a lot of fun. But it got cold and unhospitable. The ants started invading my fabulous kitchen through the back door, Kevin's job became seasonally defunct, and in a odd moment of strength, wisdom and stupidity, we decided he should move back to Vancouver for three months to work.

Sometime after Christmas, I realized staying in that beautiful but seemingly empty icebox of a house was suddenly completely absurd. I mentioned this to my mother-in-law. She agreed. I mentioned this to Kevin, and, to my surprise, he was game for whatever. So the day after Kevin left for Canada, I started packing.

We have moved into the home of my parents-in-law. They have a blue kitchen. They also have a garden. I planted radishes. They taste very good. Maybe it sounds like we're walking backwards here, but really, life is turning up some good, new, hopeful things. It was definitely a little shaky for a while, but really, life is good. Productive even. Like, insanely productive.

Unfortunately I can't seem to move and do anything else at the same time. So its been a while. I've not only moved though. I found a Naturopathic Doctor I rather like and a dealer for raw goat milk. I planted those radishes. I've been working two days a week on a little writing project we'll talk more about later. And I've learned to cook the radishes I helped to grow. Doesn't that sound productive? I'm feeling pretty cool about myself.

As for this blog, well, I'm sorry I left you hanging. These last three months feel like a surreal black hole. What did I do? Did I cook anything interesting? It seems I lived it all inside my head.

So here, I'm breaking out again, and I want you to know more about these radishes. The cooked spring radish is a revolutionary discovery for me. The flavor is earthy like root vegetables always are, but it has this lightness, this clarity. It tastes like the root version of spring. That's how I must describe it. Anyway, I have been eating cooked radishes for lunch for the last two weeks. I am completely addicted. As are others, I've found. The little darlings are subtle, sweet, and surprising, reminiscent of turnip, in a good way. There are plenty of fancy ways to cook them, of course, but honestly, I just coat them in olive oil and a three-finger pinch of sea salt and cook them for about five minutes over medium heat. I like them tender all the way through, and I've found the center gets soft first, so make sure to wait long enough for the tougher outer rims to soften.

After you've fallen in love, you can make this soup. Simple, straightforward, and fresh. Eat it for lunch with a couple slices of crusty baguette spread with soft goat cheese. Yes, it is good to be back.

Spring Chicken Soup

I made the stock for the soup with a roasted chicken from last night. It was smothered in parsley and butter and then basted with white wine. I recommend this. If, however, you don't have this kind of roasted chicken stock sitting around, use some good-quality store bought stock, or whatever you have. Then, when you cook the leeks, add a couple splashes of white wine and a few sprigs of fresh parsley.

1/4 cup butter

2 medium leeks

1 bunch radishes

about 1/2 cup chicken shreds (from the roast, hopefully)

1-2 quarts homemade chicken stock

Wash the leeks and radishes thoroughly. Cut leeks in half lengthwise and chop in 1/2 inch half-moons. Set aside. Take off radish tops and set aside for another use. Cut radishes in 1 inch pieces. Set aside. Cook the leeks with half the butter and a three-finger pinch of sea salt in a medium pot over medium heat until soft, 5-10 minutes. Scrape out into a bowl and set aside. Cook the radishes in the same way with the butter and salt.

When soft, add back in the leeks, pour an appropriate amount of broth over them, and add the chicken. Add the optional, additional splash of good, dry white wine. Let come to a simmer and taste. The flavor should be delicate but not bland. Adjust seasoning, adding salt, and if you desire, more chopped parsely or another splash of wine. Enjoy!


  1. Sister, it's good to have you back! You have to make me the radish soup!

  2. very good to have you back!
    i like the sound of "life is turning up some good, new, hopeful things." that makes me want to have fresh eyes to see life with.
    ...radish planting...two days a week on a writing project... -oh, i want to hear about that!!