Last night, while making Dover Sole en Papillote, I reached far back into my herbs, and brought out a huge bag of dried Herbes de Provence.  I open the bag and took a whiff – Yuck, dead herbs.  As per my rule of cooking thumb:  If it don’t smell, it don’t taste!

Years ago I was invited, along with my mother and Aunt Jessie, to a wedding shower, which is not where I shine brilliantly.  My sister-in-law grabbed me by the arm and told me to behave, and being a good woman, I quietly sat in the back while the dome of boredom surrounded my body.  We were at the worst part of the party; the party games.

Why in the hell do 20-something year old women and their mothers like these stupid games? And to make it worse, I’m suppose to join in and pretend I am having a great time.  What makes it really bad, is that if I really concentrate and play, I win EVERYTHING.  Then everyone hates me more.  So there I am, on a couch, wasting another beautiful California Saturday playing children’s games.  Then the hostess announces that the next game is Guess the Spices.  My spirits rally, I have a little fun playing this game since I know spices, and I have a great nose.

Proudly, the hostess brings out the unmarked bowls which were then passed around. In the corner, I start to hear the sounds of shock and low snickering.  The sound started to get louder and louder, and suddenly a large outburst of laughter came out of my mother, followed by my aunt (a very gentle and kind person), who said indignantly “How old are these herbs!  They’re dead.  Is this game a joke?”  Needless to say, the hostess, her daughter and my sister-in-law’s faces turned red.  They were terrible cooks who rarely used spices, let alone fresh ones. Well, all of a sudden the party got interesting and for once, I wasn’t in the hot seat.

So if you don’t want a red face or to be known as a terrible cook, throw out those dead spices and herbs and buy some new ones.  Spring is coming, plan an herb garden, and if you need herbs for the winter (mine grow year round), dry them or have fresh herbs growing by a window sill.  There are great on-line sites such as Penzey’s that sell wonderful spices, herbs and mixes.  There is no excuse for putting that dead crap in your wonderful meals.

Here’s Broccoli Soup – low fat, low cal, inexpensive and will satisfy most the picky eaters

BROCCOLI SOUP

6 large sprays of broccoli

2 quarts of water, chicken broth ($$) or chicken stock ($$$$)

2 heaping tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon (don’t use if you are using broth or stock)

4 potatoes – if you want a thicker soup

Salt and pepper to taste

Creme Fraiche, sour cream or parmesan cheese to garnish with a tab of butter

DIRECTIONS

In a large soup pot boil water with bouillon/water/stock, potatoes, and broccoli. Once soup has boiled, cover pot with a lid and reduce to a low flame for 45 minutes.  Once the potatoes are cooked, take out cooked and pulse thru the food processor, then return to soup.  Salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with a tab of butter and crème fraiche, parmesan cheese, or sour cream if available.

Okay, I’m a sucker for bargains and seem to have a jacket fetish.  When I saw this Adrienne Vittadini jacket dangling in front of my eyes at Ross (what was it doing there?), I thought it was darling, and then my eyes zeroed in on the price: 10 dollars.  Who could resist owning a little white jacket at that price?

My darling friend, Dee Dee Bowman was recently bemoaning the fact that in NYC, the high level stores have contracted with the city to DESTROY the designer clothing.  What a waste.  I understand that the designers don’t want every bag woman and man walking around in top of the line designer originals, but the idea is kind of intriguing.  Can you imagine panhandlers wearing outfits from “Sex and the City” or “Gossip Girls”?  They’d be out of business in no time (I think I’m being politically incorrect).  But instead of destroying these outfits, can’t we just have a national CHEAP BITCH on-line auction. OMG, the outfits I could stuff away in my closet. And the profits could go to charity, like Haiti or to the NYC needy. But on to soup, beautiful soup.

Watercress is a wonderful green that doesn’t get its due share.  All anyone thinks about, when they hear the word “watercress” is those damn tea sandwiches which take forever to make.  But watercress makes a wonderful soup.  My mother use to make it for us in the summer since it can be served hot, or chilled.  More elegant and delicate in flavor than Vichyssoise, add a little cream, a sliver of butter, garnish with freshly cut chives and a leaf of the watercress.

Watercress Soup – makes 4 – 6 cups.  10 minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking

32 ounces (1 quart) of water

Chicken bouillon – a soup spoon worth of Better than Bouillon (you can use chicken broth but reduce the water accordingly)

3 peeled white potatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 bunch of watercress, chopped and trimmed – save a few leaves for the garnish

Milk or Cream

Sweet butter – use Plugra if you can find it

Tablespoon of chopped chives

DIRECTIONS

In a soup pot, add water (or broth), bouillon (don’t add if you are using broth) and potatoes.  Come to a boil; reduce heat until potatoes are cooked (stick a fork into the potatoes to test).  Remove potatoes and put them through a pulse cycle of a food processor (a blender will make them too mushy) until they are finely mashed up.  Return potatoes to the pot.  Add chopped watercress and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer for 1 minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   In the soup bowl, put a little cream or milk, add soup and garnish with a sliver of fine butter and chives.  Serve cold in the summer.  And don’t forget to make a fresh salad using the SaladSuccess Dressing Shaker.