It is rare that a cookbook takes my breath away, rarer still that I feel inspired and compelled by its recipes. Yet that is exactly my response to a new book that landed on my desk a few weeks ago.
"Kenvin: An Artist's Kitchen," subtitled "Food, Art & Wisdom of a Bohemian Cowboy" (Gibbs Smith, 2013), was twelve years in the making and, sadly, was not published until after the death of its author, Kenvin Lyman, in 2011. It is a work of beauty on every level, from its appearance to its recipes and writing.
Lyman, also known as "The Utah Kid," was a visual artist, designer, early computer artist, singer-songwriter, gardener, farmer and so much more. For his book, he developed a font based on his own handwriting and created dozens of paintings. When the book first arrived, I tried to determine the medium used to create the paintings but couldn't. Some reminded me of early color Xerox art, others suggested oil or acrylic paint. As it turns out, all were created on a computer and the results are stunning.
The book is earthy and authentic, with roots deep in the Utah soil where Lyman was raised and where he developed an organic farm when he couldn't find the foods he wanted in Salt Lake City, where he lived. It opens with a chapter on butter, with a recipe and photographs showing his mother's technique for making it at home. At its core, the book is about living and eating close to the land, with a focused simplicity that so many people are struggling to achieve today. For Lyman, it was entirely natural and unforced.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It will appeal equally to wannabe cowboys, anyone who loves to hunt, anyone who can appreciate a delicate edible-flower broth, anyone who wants another reason to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of a shared meal around a common table. Buy yourself one and buy a second or third copy for someone or someones you love. You'll all be the better for it.
This soup, Kenvin Lyman writes in his book, is hearty and meaty, a quality imparted by the combination of chicken and leeks. He recommends using Pavel's yogurt, which is a great choice if you don't have access to our local yogurts. I use whole-milk yogurt from Straus Family Creamery because that is the one I always have on hand. This makes an excellent dinner on a cold weekday night, especially if you make the soup the day before so that there is little to do except reheat it.
<b>Chicken, Lemon and Leek Soup with Yogurt</b>
<i>Makes 8 to 12 servings
1 roasting chicken, 4 to 5 pounds, with giblets
2 medium garlic cloves
3 large leeks, white and green parts, split lengthwise, washed and cut into 2-inch diagonal pieces
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained, to taste
Whole-milk yogurt, for garnish
Wash the chicken and place it in a large stockpot with the giblets. Cover with water. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Do not allow the broth to boil or it will become cloudy. Lower the heat to medium-low. Skim off the foamy residue that forms on top several times until it subsides. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer about 1 hour more. At this point add the garlic and continue simmering until the meat is about to fall off the bone (15 to 30 minutes more). Turn off the heat and let the chicken cool slightly. Carefully lift the chicken out of the pot by inserting a wooden spoon into the tail-end cavity and steady it with a spatula or tongs. Place chicken in a large bowl. If the chicken falls apart, remove it in pieces with a large slotted spoon. After it has cooled some, cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the chicken from drying out. Let it cool until it can be handled comfortably.