Fennel, walnut and ricotta paté

pate-smoked-gouda-toast“Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully and gently held small children on the sills. Other windows were piled up with bedding, above which the dishevelled head of a woman would briefly appear. People called out to each other across the street, one of the calls provoked a loud laugh about K. himself.” I read The Trial by Franz Kafka in high school. Now, decades later, I will admit to being a little fuzzy on the plot and themes, and whatever else we probably wrote our paper on. But for some reason this image, of a man leaning out the window in his shirtsleeves on a Sunday morning glows in my memory and my imagination. I could feel the air, morning-cool, but warming every moment. I could see the man’s shirt, it was white, with thin blue stripes, soft and light. I could even feel K.’s awkwardness, his sense that he wasn’t part of this busy world of people starting their day. I like to read about people at windows, and I don’t know why! But I’ve collected a few samples, for your delectation, and I expect a 5000 word essay on my desk tomorrow, explaining the significance of the window in each example vis-a-vis the tropes of subtexts signifying the microcosm of the other in the substantiality of the now. Or you could share some memorable quotes describing people leaning out of windows that have stuck in your mind half your life. Or you could say, “you’re crazy, man, nobody collects literary passages about windows. I’m out.” The choice is yours! Ready? Begin!

    Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
    And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
    Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?

(T.S. Eliot, of course! The lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock)

    It was to remember the streets of Harlem, the boys on the stoops, the girls behind the stairs and on the roofs, the white policeman who had taught him how to hate, the stickball games in the streets, the women leaning out of windows and the numbers they played daily, hoping for the hit his father never made.

(James Baldwin, Another Country, which has people leaning out of windows all over Manhattan and the South of France)

    ..while at times I feel that to be able to cross the Rue Saint-Hilaire again, to engage a room in the Rue de l’Oiseau, in the old hostelry of the Oiseau Flesché, from whose windows in the pavement used to rise a smell of cooking which rises still in my mind, now and then, in the same warm gusts of comfort, would be to secure a contact with the unseen world more marvellously supernatural than it would be to make Golo’s acquaintance and to chat with Geneviève de Brabant.

(That would be Proust)

    Young Woman At A Window

    She sits with
    tears on
    her cheek
    her cheek on
    her hand
    the child
    in her lap
    his nose
    pressed
    to the glass

(And our William Carlos Williams)

Fennel & walnut paté

Fennel & walnut paté

I wasn’t really sure where I was going when I made this pate, but I like where I ended up. This was delicious on small whole grain toasts, with a few sprigs of arugula and a thin slices of smoked gouda. It’s made by braising fennel and garlic in white wine with a bit of rosemary, and then pureeing this mixture with walnuts and ricotta, adding an egg, and baking until set but soft. It made a nice side dish warm, the first night I made it, but it was better the next day, at room temperature on toast.fennel-ricotta-pate

Here’s Woody Guthrie with Do You Ever Think of Me (“At my window, sad and lonely, often do I think of thee…”)


1 medium-sized fennel bulb
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
2 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 t rosemary, chopped
1 t balsamic
1 egg
salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

Remove the core and stems from the fennel bulb and discard any brown or damaged parts. Chop the rest to be about 1/3 inch dice.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the rosemary, and cook for about half a minute. Then add the fennel, stir and cook until the fennel and garlic start to soften and brown. Cook till the pan is quite dry, then add the wine. Stir and cook until the wine is syrupy, then reduce heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook until the fennel is quite tender, fifteen or twenty minutes. You can add a spoonful or two of water if you need to, to keep the pan from drying out.

In a food processor, combine the fennel, ricotta, walnuts and balsamic, and process until smooth. Taste for salt and season with plenty of pepper. Add the egg and process again.

Spread the puree into a buttered dish. You want it to be about 1 inch thick.

Cook for about 30 minutes, until the puree starts to brown and crack on top and pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool slightly, and then spread on toast or crackers.

We ate it with a few sprigs of baby arugula and some shavings of smoked gouda, and I recommend this way very much!

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9 thoughts on “Fennel, walnut and ricotta paté

  1. Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
    The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown:
    Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
    The same that oft-times hath
    Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas in fairy lands forlorn.

    Keats’ Ode To A Nightingale

  2. From Chaucer, The Miller’s Tale:

    The window she unbarred, and that in haste.
    “Have done,” said she, “come on, and do it fast,
    Before we’re seen by any neighbour’s eye.”
    This Absalom did wipe his mouth all dry;
    Dark was the night as pitch, aye dark as coal,
    And through the window she put out her hole.
    And Absalom no better felt nor worse,
    But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse

    Sorry…

  3. Trying to redeem myself:

    It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road

    ― E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

    • No redemption necessary! Your first suggestion was perfect. But I love this quote, too! It’s even more perfect. I bet Forster is full of window passages, but this is probably the best!

  4. The window is mentioned earlier in the poem. And her looking out of it is the whole point..

    She left the web, she left the loom,
    She made three paces through the room,
    She saw the water-lily bloom,
    She saw the helmet and the plume,
    She looked down to Camelot.
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror cracked from side to side;
    “The curse is come upon me,” cried
    The Lady of Shalott.

    I love the painting too – not the drippy one of her sitting in the boat, but the one with the mad hair by Holman Hunt. The Lady Of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

  5. Pingback: Savory cake with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives | Out of the Ordinary

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