Beet and squash tart with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts

Beet and squash tart with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts

Beet and zucchini tart with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts

We went away for a couple of days for a very small vacation. I brought a novel to read and a notebook so that I could start writing a novel. And guess what I did instead? I read a field guide to insects and spiders. I’m completely charmed by the names of the various crawling and winged creatures. And this leads us, Ordinary friends, to another installment of our sporadic series on found poetry: the unconscious poetry of bug names. Who doesn’t want to read about worms and beetles on a food blog? As I read through the guide I thought about the people who had named these bugs. Some seem to have had a very good imagination and a sly sense of humor. Others seem appealingly earnest and literal. But the one thing that they have in common is that they all seem to have a real affection for the creature they’re naming. They’ve studied it and learned all they can about its form and its habits. Maybe they even take credit for discovering this tiny life form, and they’ve named it for themselves, with their own names. They name them for their appearance, they name them for what they once were or what they’ll become, for the way that they were before their great change, or the way they will be after it. They name them for the job that they do. They’re called after what they eat and where they live, their home and their sustenance. We have question marks and painted ladies, phantom midges, predacious diving beetles, darners and diggers and borers and pruners and skimmers and elaters (elaters!!) Cloudywinged aphids, snow fleas cat fleas human fleas, snow lice, hog lice and bird lice. Firebrats and jumping bristletails. Ferocious waterbugs and Eastern toe-biters. Treehoppers, leafhoppers, sharpshooters. You’ve got your eastern cone nose and your jagged ambush bug, your boll, pine, bean, alfalfa, rose and lesser cloverleaf weevils. And the beetles! O, the beetles! Elegant checkered beetles and their coarse cousins rough fungus beetles, spotless nine-spotted ladybugs, willow leaf beetles and harlequin beetles, fire beetles and blister beetles, iron clad beetles and patent leather beetles. You have both dainty tiger beetles and beautiful tiger beetles. Somebody loved tiger beetles! Dragon lubber grasshoppers, differential grasshoppers, toothpick grasshoppers and true katydids. Bearded robber flies, phantom crane flies, march flies, marsh flies, flesh flies. The moths are fairies and gypsies and sweethearts and witches and beauties, and the butterflies are wood nymphs and satyrs and elfin. What a world of characters we have flying around our heads and buzzing in our ears and crawling through the grass at our feet!

Beet and squash tart with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts

Beet and squash tart with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts

Who is hungry now?!? This has been a summer of beets, squash and tomatoes, as all summers should be. And we’ve made a lot of tarts, as everyone should do! We mix it up though. Sometimes the vegetables are in the custard, sometimes they’re on top. Sometimes we add nuts, and we almost always add cheese, but we mix it up a bit, we use different kinds. This tart had roasted yellow squash and beets mixed up with a pistachio/pine nut custard and topped with pretty multi-colored cherry and grape tomatoes.

Here’s Leadbelly with Boll Weevil.
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Chard and fresh mozzarella tart with raisins and shallots

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

I always feel like I’m waiting for summer to start and then one day I’ll wake up and realize we’re already well into it. These days have been like that. It’s July! It’s sweltering! The boys are rolling around the house laughing and screaming and making each other crazy. We go to the river almost every day and have the most beautiful fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. We have arrived! It’s a funny thing because I generally approach summer with a slight feeling of dread. I’m nostalgic for spring, I miss walking Isaac to school, I miss the sense of purpose I had when I was working on my novel. And all of the fun things a person looks forward to in summer strike a chord of anxiety into my strange and always-anxious heart. I love to see Malcolm happy in the water, which is his natural element, but I worry about riptides and sharks and river currents and copperhead snakes. Sunshine makes me dizzy and more confused than usual. I’m scared of thunderstorms. It’s so stupid, I know! Sometimes I even miss the simple icy indoor days of winter. Crazy. But today I was thinking that I like my house in the summer, I like my town, I like my garden, I like being with my boys all day. I like just being here. I can almost imagine this place as our summer house, where we spend long lazy days swimming and reading and writing and cooking, drinking wine and talking. I like to think of it that way. In my imagination, our home is our home away from home, and I love it here. After all, summer passes so very quickly these days. We’ll slow it down by staying still.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the combination of chard, pine nuts and raisins. And I’ll find anyway I can to combine them. Here they are in a sort of tart. I made a jam of shallots and raisins and garlic, and I spread this on a yeasted crust. Then I topped that with a custard made with chard, fresh mozzarella and pine nuts, and of course lots of fresh basil, which is one of the best things about summer. And I put some slices of fresh mozzarella and more pine nuts on top.

Here’s Summertime by Billy Stewart.

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Pistachio tart with goat cheese, brie, fresh mozzarella and smoked paprika crust

Pistachio tart

Pistachio tart

I’ve been attempting to write query letters of late. I’m not very good at it. I’m not good at selling anything, especially if it’s something I made myself. I read a few rules for how to write a perfect query letter, and I’ve tried to follow them, but I just don’t know. I just don’t know. So I was imagining the letter I would write if I was trying to be more honest, and here it is.

Dear Literary Agent (I know I’m supposed to address this to a specific person, by name, and try to establish some sort of personal relationship or pretend that I know you, but I don’t know you, and you know I don’t know you. I’ve read about the things you like and don’t like, and they’re some of the things I like and don’t like. Maybe you’d like my novel. Maybe we could be friends.)

I’ll start by telling you that I know I can’t write a very good query letter. If I could, if I could sell my work, I wouldn’t really need an agent. Although of course I would, I know I would. I know enough about how the world works. I wish I could tell you that I’m always euphorically happy with my novel and sure that it’s great and enduring literature and that everybody should read it. But half the time I have the sinking horrible feeling that it’s dull or silly or even embarrassing. I can tell you that I always feel a warm sort of love for it, for the characters and the world they live in. I think about them sometimes as if they’re real, and thinking about them that way makes me happy. I can tell you that I have a million ideas, a million beautiful things in my head, and I will write them down with the most beautiful words I can find.

I can’t pretend that I’m familiar with the market. I read all the time, but I don’t read too much contemporary fiction. There’s a voice I don’t like, that I encounter often. A smug, clever well-wikipedia-researched voice. Or a coldness that I find unbeautiful. Of course I’ve read some modern novels that touched me very deeply, and I’ll tell you what those are, if you like.

I would love to say that I met you at a literary convention of some sort and that we discussed my work and you seemed very interested, but it’s not true, and you know it. I’ve never been to a literary convention, I’ve never been in an MFA program. I took part in some sort of novel-writing workshop once, but that was years ago, a lifetime ago, and I’m not sure the whole thing wasn’t some sort of scan. I’m not in any literary salon. You don’t know me, you don’t know my work. I guess I’m something of an outsider, but, as I’m sure you know, William Faulkner was an outsider, “[N]ow I realise for the first time what an amazing gift I had: uneducated in every formal sense, without even very literate, let alone literary, companions, yet to have made the things I made. I don’t know where it came from.” and yet, he says, “I am the best in America, by God.” Am I saying I’m as good as Faulkner? Am I saying I’m the best in America? Of course not, of course not.

I wish I knew some famous authors and they’d read my novel and had nice things to say about it. Or they hadn’t read it but said I could tell you I know them. But that’s not true either. But here’s what I imagine some famous writers might say. John Donne would say, “She stole my words for the title of her book!” And then he would say, “Of course she took them from my meditations on humans and sickness and religion, and that’s sort of what her book is about, so that’s okay.” And then TS Eliot would say, “You brat! You stole my source! You quoted the Countess Marie Larisch von Moennich, word for word! That’s not okay! Only I can do that.” And Zola would say, “Don’t think I didn’t notice you modeled a character on one of my characters, and you have him read my words aloud!” And Dostoyevsky would say, “Sure, go ahead and quote whole passages from one of my books. There’s not much I can do about it now, is there?” And Reverend Gary Davis would say, “I’m glad you like my songs enough put entire lines from them in someone else’s mouth.” And Ezra Pound would wander into the room and say, “Claire, sit on your knees to write and seal your query, And send it a thousand miles, thinking.”

Yeah. My novel is weird, but not in a clever or calculated way. I know that you receive millions of queries and many of them are from crazy people, and you must read such an odd assortment of nonsense that everything starts to sound like nonsense. I’m sure I sound crazy and awkward you’re going to read a few lines and toss me aside. I know I’ll never hear from you again, or I’ll get a polite e-mail telling me (and everybody else) that you wish us the best of luck with our project and our career. I understand that. And yet I’m hanging on to the small glimmer of hope that glows brighter every time I send a sample chapter out, that’s so hard to extinguish no matter how many rejections I receive, or how much blinding silence my words are greeted with.

So thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely in hope and promise,

Claire

Pistachio and goat cheese tart with brie and fresh mozzarella

Pistachio and goat cheese tart with brie and fresh mozzarella

Who is making lots of tarts lately? Who is? ME! I am! I did a ridiculously splurgy grocery shop before my birthday and got brie and pistachios and smoked mozzarella and pine nuts. Phew. So I combined them all in a tart. The crust has smoked paprika in it. The custard has pistachios and goat cheese and bronze fennel leaves. You could use regular fennel leaves of even tarragon, if you’d like to have that lovely anise-lemon flavor. The whole thing is topped with bits of brie, slices of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, casetlvetrano olives, pine nuts, fresh basil, and these beautiful little spicy shoots that make every picture prettier.

Here’s Please Please Please by James Brown.
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Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Bruno is brash, buoyant, impulsive. He leaps into everything without thinking, he’s cheerful, likable, obnoxious. When we first meet him he’s zooming around a silent shuttered Rome in August; it’s a ghost town, everyone is gone already on vacation. He drives a sporty lancia aurelia, he drives fast and carelessly, even his horn is cheerful and obnoxious. He sees Roberto staring out his window and he calls up to ask a favor–will he make a phone call for him? Roberto invites him up to make the call himself. With the anxious self doubt of a man who spends a lot of time alone, he second guesses his decision to help, but assures himself that it will be okay. Next to Bruno, Roberto seems small, pale, quiet and serious, but somehow they hit it off, and Bruno persuades Roberto to go for a drink with him so that he can repay his kindness. What follows is the road trip at the center of Il Sorpasso, Dino Riso’s beautiful Commedie all’italiana starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Vittorio Gassman. The heart of the film is the unlikely friendship between Bruno and Roberto. On the surface it seems like a morality tale: light and dark, angel and devil, the moral man tempted by the immoral man. But it’s far more complicated than that, and this is what makes it more honest and beautiful. Bruno, affable and social, has an easy way with people. He’s friendly and flirtatious, and he impresses Roberto with his schemes to seduce many of the women they meet. But he always fails to do so. He’s alone at the beginning of the film, and alone again at the end. And he’s surprised by Roberto’s flashes of humor and insight, by the strength of his personality, though it be quietly expressed. As the story of their friendship unfolds, through the streets and cafes and nightclubs of 1960s Italy, the camera lingers on other people all around them. Not fleetingly but thoughtfully, a real wondering pause that treats the characters not as extras but as people with fascinating stories of their own, which we could discover if only we chose to follow them instead of Bruno and Roberto. Many times throughout the film Roberto nearly leaves Bruno, to make his own way back to Rome. But he always stays in the end, and they develop almost a brotherly relationship. They talk about keeping in touch when they return to Rome, and you wonder if it would actually happen. Bruno plays and talks and sings, Roberto watches and thinks, and they speed along the Via Aurelia, passing everyone in their way.

Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Beets and sorrel! They just make sense! One is tart and bright, one is sweet and earthy. I decided to combine them in this tart, which also uses the beet greens and a handful of other fresh herbs. The beets (from Sandbrook Meadow farm) are so pretty, I just sliced them and roasted them and scattered them on top of the tart. The crust has a little cornmeal in it for extra crispiness. My oven is still broken, so I actually cooked this in the toaster oven on the toaster tray!!

Here’s Peppino di Capri’s Per Un Attimo.

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Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant

Yesterday we had torrential rain on and off all day. In the middle of the grey morning, Malcolm came home sick from school. We sat on the couch with his soft blanket and soft grey dog, and he ate a warm blueberry bagel, and asked if I’d read aloud to him from Go Saddle the Sea, one of my favorite books when I was his age. It’s the tale of a boy named Felix traveling through Spain on a beloved, bad-tempered mule. The boy is about Malcolm’s age, and he’s fair and strong and smart and resourceful, like my Malcolm is. It felt so perfect to sit with Malcolm on this icy wet day, warm and dry, reading this book, thinking about how, when I first read it and loved it, I could never have guessed about Malcolm, never have guessed that someday I’d have a boy so sweet and clever and complex. Malcolm is so strong and capable and level-headed that I’ve come to rely on him to help me with so many things, and it seemed so strange to see him miserable and sick, lying on the couch “crying without even trying.” I’ve probably mentioned it before, but one of my favorite quotes of all time is this one, “Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” It’s Alyosha from Brother’s Karmazov, who is kind and thoughtful to everybody that he meets. It might sound condescending, but I think the point is that we were all children once, and everybody gets sick sometimes. We’re all in it together, we’re all here to care for each other. I think about this passage sometimes when I’m waiting on tables, or talking to co-workers or teachers or total strangers, when I’m feeling bitter and ill-used, when somebody is rude to me. It’s hard sometimes, but with an effort I can remember that they were children once, they’re still somebody’s children, somebody cared for them as I care for my boys. I can remember that they have been sick, or imagine that they’re even in present pain, that they certainly have cares and worries that I’ll never know about. Yesterday I was thinking that being sick makes us into children again. It makes us needy and vulnerable. Everybody wants to be taken care of when they’re not feeling well, no matter how old and important they may be. Malcolm’s so strong and capable, he’s growing up so fast, he does everything so fast, he never stands still. It felt like a rare gift to have this rainy day with him, though I’m sorry he was so miserable. It’s like a rare chance to slow things down a little, to travel back in time to his (younger) childhood, to my childhood. It seems like a reminder that though we’re always looking forward, always looking inward, everything goes in cycles and turns in circles, and we can take an afternoon to sit under blankets and read an old book, watch cartoons, eat crackers and ginger beer, doze and wake. A day well-spent.

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded eggplant and mushrooms

Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded eggplant and mushrooms

This was really two meals. The first night I marinated and breaded some mushrooms and slices of eggplant until they were tender and crispy. We ate these over couscous, with a sauce of pistachios and castelvetrano olives. The second night, I made some pizza dough, spread the sauce over, topped it with a mixture of smoked gouda, sharp cheddar and mozzarella, and then scattered the leftover mushrooms and eggplant over that. Delicious!

Here’s A Tribe Called Quest with Excursions, “I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”

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Spinach, tarragon and ricotta quiche with a pecan crust

Spinach, tarragon and ricotta quiche with a pecan crust

Spinach, tarragon and ricotta quiche with a pecan crust

Today is spring break! Just today. They were supposed to have a whole week, but after all of the snow days this winter they’re left with just this one day. So we’ve packed a whole week’s worth of fun and adventure into this day. To that end, we’ve … cleaned their room! Watched some cartoons! drawn some cartoons! Played with legos! Yes, it’s a vacation they’ll never forget. And we went for a walk. As ever, Clio pulled ahead, lunging at every squirrel and cat and bird, and the boys trailed behind, talking. I heard them earnestly discussing who they were going to be. They were deciding what creatures they would be in the world of their invention. How they would look, and what they’d wear, and how they’d get along with each other. They are telling stories as we walked. And then they caught up with me and told me they’d just downloaded themselves into the world my brother and I invented when we were little. All of our imaginary worlds are joining together to form one great world without end! It made me so happy to hear them talking, and all the more so because I myself was walking along ahead of them completely lost in the world of my novel, creating a world of my own. It’s become so real to me, and so complicated, and I’m so close to it that I only think I ever consider it rationally when I’m out walking, trying not to think about it. Then I catch glimpses of the whole world and all the characters in it, and I wonder what they’ll do next, I wonder how the whole thing will turn out. And it makes me so happy to catch these glimpses of the world I’ve created, most of the time, when it’s going well. I’m glad the boys have that, too. I hope they never lose the ability to create worlds for themselves and each other. I would wish that superhero skill for everyone I know, because sometimes this real world is a little too real. And now, a novel gets written one word at a time, it might be swirling around in my head in great waves, but it comes out one word at a time (and then that word gets erased and replaced with a few, possibly better, words, and then they get erased…) so I’d better get to work.

Spinach, ricotta, tarragon quiche

Spinach, ricotta, tarragon quiche

This is similar to a perfectly ordinary spinach quiche, except that it also has ricotta and mozzarella, which makes it juicy. And it has tarragon, which makes it very fresh and springlike. It’s simple, and made more interesting with the addition of the pecan crust.

Here’s Common with In My Own World

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Roasted butternut, spinach, raisin and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

I’m writing a novel. If you’ve spent any time with me you know this fact, because I go on and on about it to the point of tedium; ad nauseam, ad infinitum. I talk about it frequently, I think about it constantly, I dream about it every night. What I don’t do all that often is write it. I spent all day yesterday–all day–writing two scenes I’d thought about for ages, and I wrote…a couple of pages, maybe, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I wake up every morning determined to get on with it. I have a picture in my head of myself, in a frenzy of writing, spewing out page after perfect page. This doesn’t happen. I’m so easily distracted and discouraged. I’m so often plagued by saucy doubts and fears. I could write it now, but if I tried, instead, to write it in fifteen minutes, I’d write completely different words! I’d have completely different ideas! How do I know it wouldn’t come out better if I waited an hour, or a day, or a week. Maybe something would happen between now and then that would alter the course of history (in the world of my novel.) Well this morning, when I thought about writing my novel, I kept finding a song in my head, and I’ve decided that this is my new novel-motivational track. It’s Precisely the Right Rhyme, by Gang Starr. It’s about knowing that what you say is the right thing to say, and that you’re saying it at the right time. It’s about confidence. I’ve been thinking about confidence a lot lately. It’s not something I possess great quantities of, it’s not something I’ve passed down to my boys. Instead I’ve got a bizarre mixture of crippling insecurity and bafflingly misplaced arrogance. Confidence is not even something I admire, necessarily. I don’t respect people who are all cockiness and swagger. I’m attracted to humility and moved by human weakness. And yet, and yet…I’m starting to recognize confidence as an essential part of the creative process, if not of life. On Malcolm’s basketball team it was never the tallest or most agile kids that played best, it was the kids who acted like the ball belonged to them, the basket belonged to them, the whole damn court was theirs and everybody else was in their way. So that’s how I’m going to write, with “everybody else” being the twin demons of doubt and distraction who fly at me from every side. This understanding applies to all things. So maybe you’re not trying to write a novel (although, honestly sometimes it seems that most people are!) But whatever you’re trying to do, tell yourself you’re doing it just right, at just the right time. Tell yourself till you believe it! In the words of Troy McClure, “Get confident, stupid!”

And the words of Gang Starr,

    My subject matter and context are blessed
    Vocal inflection connects, it’s a slugfest
    Ladies approach to hear quotes from the spokesman
    Thoughts are like oceans for my lyrics to float in
    I’m absolutely astute so salute

    Just get with the words and the way I command ya
    Cause you’re in the right place, and luckily it’s the right time
    And since I’m inclined, I’ll kick precisely the right rhymes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love greens, pine nuts, raisins and garlic. It’s the perfect combination for me. In this instance I’ve packed all that into a pie with some grated roasted butternut squash and some mozzarella cheese. I made this pie for a bunch of people to eat standing around without plates or utensils, and it worked well in this regard. It would be nice for a party or a picnic, I think, for this reason.

Here’s Gang Starr with Precisely the Right Rhymes.
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Savory cake with mushrooms, chard, pecans & pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

“Mom? Someday? Can we go to a junkyard? And bring home junk? And make sculptures with it? What are those things called?”
“Sculptures?”
“Yeah.”
“Um, they’re called sculptures.”
“Yeah. You know a lot of people think junk is just junk, but it’s not!”
“What is it?”
“Art materials!”
I realize that lately the subtitle of Out of the Ordinary could be “Isaac and Claire talk on the way to school.” And I never intended it to turn out that way, but the truth is, I come home and I think about all of the odd things he’s told me. I think about them for hours, setting off a little chain of loosely connect thoughts which generally lead back to whatever he was talking about in the first place. Today I thought about junkyards, and I thought about the Gleaners and I and Vik Muniz’ Wasteland, and Agbobloshie, and aircraft boneyards. And I thought of the term “rag-and-bone,” which has been in my head for days, although try as I might I can’t remember what put it there in the first place. And of course that made me think of “Rag and bone shop of the heart,” so I had to look up the whole poem. The Circus Animal’s Desertion. What a name for a poem! What a poem! It ends thusly:

    Those masterful images because complete
    Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
    A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
    Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
    Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
    Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
    I must lie down where all the ladders start
    In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

And it’s so strange to think about Yeats lacking inspiration or feeling disappointed. It’s so strange to think about him looking back on his career with any kind of sadness or regret, or looking into his heart and feeling despair or disdain for what he finds there. I want to tell him what Isaac would tell him, that those old kettles and bottles and bones aren’t junk, they’re art materials. He can make himself a new ladder out of old iron and broken cans, a ladder that might be more true and stronger than his old one. But of course he knows that, he knows it all, because he found his inspiration, he wrote this poem, and it’s beautiful and he must have felt that in his deep heart’s core.

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

I’ll blame it on the weather, on the seemingly endless winter, but I’ve wanted to make warm comforting bready meals lately. Last night it was this savory cake, which is a lot like a pizza with the toppings baked right into the dough. I made the dough rich and tender, with butter, milk and an egg (I think of it as brioche-like). And I filled that with my favorite combination of chard and mushrooms. I used pecans and pistachios, but you could use one or the other, whichever you have. We ate this with leftover asparagus pesto and with a pecan sauce something like this one.

Here’s Rag and Bone by The White Stripes

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Empanadas with roasted golden beets, pistachios, raisins and greens

Golden beet, pistachio and golden raisin empanadas

Golden beet, pistachio and golden raisin empanadas

“Did you ever beam in Clio’s eyes?”
“Beam in her eyes? You mean shine a light in them?”
“No, you know, beam in them, you just look right in her face.”
“I suppose…”
“Hagrid and Dumbledore do it all the time.”
“They beam in people’s faces?”
“No, they just beam around. They’re always beaming around.”

At this point in the conversation it became obvious that Isaac was talking about a word Rowling frequently uses to describe an affectionate smile. But before that moment of comprehension, when I was in my early morning daze and enjoying the feeling of charmed confusion that Isaac’s observations often provoke, I had such a different picture of beaming. Just last week I wrote this sentence in these very virtual pages,
“I love to think about people having a light inside them, even being that light. I believe that this is something that every creature has, and as we grow and become jaded and mature, we learn to hide our light, we become closed and dark and careful. You can see it in dogs and children, though, everything they feel comes beaming out of them, unfiltered, unshaded, so bright and powerful you can warm yourself in their glow.” So as I pictured it in my mind, if you beam in someone’s eyes, you shed all the light and warmth of your love and spirit in their direction. You send all the glow of your hope and grace towards them. And probably they’re ignited by your beam, you help to kindle their beam, and then you have mingling beams, which flame higher and brighter than one beam alone. You’re a beamer, and now they’re a beamer, too. If ever I met a beamer, it’s our Isaac. From when he was very tiny, he would smile at people, even at complete strangers, and you could tell that their whole world had brightened perceptibly. He’s always beaming around, that Isaac. I’ve been feeling discouraged today, but I keep thinking about beaming. I keep thinking about people all over the world working so hard and hopefully, just to stay alive, to get by, to get ahead, to make something good; and about all of the rejection and discouragement that casts a dark shadow over everybody. And then I think about all of the beaming going on, all of the beamers in the world, spreading their lights around, breaking through the clouds with great rays and flashes of light. “For beamers came from around and counforted her, beaming that place of darkenesse wyth unspeakable cleernesse.” After all, we all have our own light, we’re all beamers.

Roasted golden beet, raisin and pistachio empanadas

Roasted golden beet, raisin and pistachio empanadas

These empanadas have a sort of golden glowing theme to them. Pretty golden beets, plump golden raisins, warm golden-brown crust. They’re a little sweet because of the raisins and beets, but they have earthy beet greens and spinach and delicious crunchy pistachios to set that off. They’re tender on the inside and nice and crunchy outside, because they have a little cornmeal in their crust. I grated the beets before I roasted them, which gives them a nice soft/crispy texture and a perfect roasty taste. My golden beets were tiny, so I decided to add some grated carrots to the roasting pan, which went nicely with everything.

Here’s Parliament with Flashlight. Everybody’s got a little light under the sun.

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Spinach and Portobello tarts with a pecan crust

Portobello and spinach tart

Portobello and spinach tart

We both forgot it was valentine’s day. To be honest, I also forgot it was Friday or mid-February and I can barely remember my name. It’s all a big blur of snow and sniffles and boys home from school every other day. In truth it didn’t matter that we forgot Valentine’s day, because that’s sort of the point. When you’re in love you don’t need to remember Valentine’s day. After more than twenty years a lot of our pleasures together are of the everyday sort, but as much as I value and champion the ordinary, I know that these everyday pleasures, shared every day, are not ordinary at all. I fully realize that having somebody to share each day with, to share our odd sense of humor, our strange meals, our crazy boys, our comfortable silences, our worries and woes, our trips to the grocery store, our wine before dinner, our difficult decisions, our rare days off, our ramshackle house, our dreaming bed, our morning coffee and the cake to go with it, our newly discovered old music, our fondly remembered long-ago loved music, our inspiration, our down days, our photographs, our shared memories of nearly half our lives, our memories of before we met, our new ideas, our favorite films, our exhaustion, our sickness, our hope for spring, our lengthening days; I fully realize that having somebody to share all of this is a rare and wonderful thing. I fully understand this, and I’m thankful for it, every day. Happy Valentine’s day!

Spinach and portobello tarts

Spinach and portobello tarts

Of course, though I don’t need to remember Valentine’s day, I’m always glad of an excuse to think of some special meal to make. I made this a few days ago, and it seemed pretty special at the time. David had the idea of slicing the mushrooms the way apples and pears are frequently sliced on top of a fruit tart, and I think it worked very well. The custard is spinachy and smoky and pleasantly tender, and the mushrooms crisp and meaty.

Here’s Cee Lo Green with All Day Love Affair

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