Ratatouille-style ratatouille (With potatoes and roasted beets)

Ratatouille-style ratatouille

Ratatouille-style ratatouille

We’ve decided to watch every movie made in 1967. It is for fun! We chose 1967 at random, after watching La Chinoise a week or so ago. We’re obviously not going to watch every movie made that year, but we’re going to do our best. Some we’ve already seen and loved: Le Samourai, The Two of Us, Cool Hand Luke. Some aren’t available on DVD yet. But we’ll do the best we can, and I’ll probably tell you all about each and every film. As I said, we picked the year at random, but upon reflection it seems like an interesting time. (And wikipedia agrees, “The year 1967 in film involved some significant events. It is widely considered as one of the most ground-breaking years in film.”) On the cusp of a new decade, at the end of a decade of great change and tension and upheaval. People have new ideas, and they’re finding new ways to tell their new stories, new ways to capture the images, new ways to arrange their narratives. Many directors are working in color for the first time, and we’re moving from the cool black-and-white stylishness of the sixties to the polyester polychrome neon of the seventies. And the French are still driving enviably cool cars. (Have you seen Le Samourai?) Some films deal with shifting ideas about marriage and family. Some films are experimenting with the shockingly entertaining qualities of violence, from Bonnie and Clyde to Godard’s Weekend. We have films to distract you from your troubles–The Jungle Book, Elvis Presley movies, James Bond Movies, and films that tackle the issues head-on, like the Best Picture-winning In the Heat of the Night. Some people are looking back, and others are looking forward to a new world when anything is possible and everything is allowed. The new wave isn’t so new anymore, and the rebellious exploits of the early sixties seem quite tame and adolescent compared to what’s to come. It’s the year my parent’s got married, and two years before the summer of ’69, when men walked on the moon and I was born. I was going to tell you about the first movie we watched, La Collectionneuse, but this introduction has gone on so long that I’ll save it for another post. Watch this space!

IMG_4059It’s squash, eggplant and tomato season, and we all know what that means! It means ratatouille! We thought it would be fun to try to make it like they make it in the movie of the same name. Lots of other people have already recreated that recipe as closely as possible, so we thought we’d mix it up a bit. We decided to pre-cook everything, so that it got a little crispy. We decided to add potatoes and beets, because they’re nice thinly sliced and roasted, and because we’ve had them in abundance from the farm as well. And I cooked the eggplant separately, because I like it best crispy and roasted breadcrumbs, nuts and herbs. I cut the eggplant in large rounds, and we used it as a sort of plate for the ratatouille. Delicious!

Here’s Lulu’s To Sir with Love, the top song from 1967 from the movie released in 1967.

Continue reading

About these ads

Almond cake with blueberry & chocolate filling

Almond cake with blueberry and chocolate filling

Almond cake with blueberry and chocolate filling

We went to look for eagle feathers though we knew we wouldn’t find any. As with most things in life, it was more about the journey–the walk on the towpath, over the old train bridge, down the hill through the tall ferns and prickly vines, up to the tower where the eagle had lived. Maybe we’d go farther past it, all the way to the river, maybe we’d see the eagles flying over the water, looking for fish. We didn’t see the eagles, we didn’t find any feathers, the prickly vines scratched our ankles, but it was a wonderful walk. The wild ferns and flowers and vines are taller than me down by the eagle’s tower, and it’s a strange bright green world with narrow paths, some that lead into the woods, some that lead to the river, and some that lead up the hill back to the path. Under the staring blue sky, with small white clouds and grasshoppers flicking across our path, this felt like summer. Is it the dog days? Because we’re living like dogs, sun dogs, dogs of summer, here at The Ordinary, with no plans. We snooze in the warm sun, and wake to eat or run to the river for a swim, or chase wildly through tangled ferny paths. Clio is the leader of our pack, she shows us how it’s done, and the boys are attentive pupils. We’re trying to slow down the days, with our lazy ways, but they’re flying by anyway. Evening falls earlier, and there’s almost a chill in the air in the mornings. So we’ll follow Clio into the sunshine, and soak it up, we’ll store it inside of us against the cold days ahead.

IMG_4205

IMG_4207

You know what I’ve been making a lot this summer? Flat wide cakes with fillings inside. Almost like a gateau basque. This one had blueberries and chocolate chips. (They almost always have chocolate) I’ve made some with ground almonds or almonds and pistachios, and I’ve filled them with jam or other kinds of fruit. Sometimes they’re soft, sometimes they’re crispy like big cookies. This one was quite soft inside, and a little crispy on top. It was very juicy, you can’t turn it out of the pan or anything, because it will fall apart. David said it’s like blueberry fudge. I’ll tell you about the other cakes another time.

Here’s Summertime by Sam Cooke.

Continue reading

Zucchini and cornmeal croquettes

Cornmeal and zucchini croquettes

Cornmeal and zucchini croquettes

Malcolm and I have an ongoing joke. He’ll show me something–a picture he’s drawn, something he’s made out of legos, a frog, a handful of sweet ferns. And I’ll cry, “look at your fingernails!” Yeah. Actually Malcolm doesn’t think it’s a very funny joke. Malcolm is growing fast, and so are his fingernails. Moments after he cuts them they’re already a quarter-inch long and caked with dirt. This is only a slight exaggeration. The thing is, I never used to mind dirty fingernails. I used to say they were a sign that you’d had a good day, that you’d gotten out of the house and climbed a tree or played in the dirt. How much more true is this for a boy in this age of video games and nonstop screen-related entertainment. He could spend the whole day indoors staring at flickering glowing surfaces of varying sizes and never move at all. So I should be glad when he has a little dirt under his fingernails, or when he has mud on his shoes that he’s tracking all over the house. I’ve never been a super-tidy person or a stickler for cleanliness, so why did I become a person who sees the dirt on the hands and not what they’re holding? I resolve to change the situation from this moment forwards. I won’t see the dirt for the ferns. I won’t be distracted from the truly important things by trivial matters of personal grooming. I will fully appreciate the gesture of somebody raising cupped hands towards me to share something that is remarkable or precious to them. I will see the beauty of the outstretched palm. When I see muddy prints on the floor, I won’t grab the broom, I’ll ask for the story instead, I’ll ask where he was walking, where he gathered this mud, and what he was thinking about as he walked, who he was talking to, where he was headed.

It’s the season of summer squash and tomatoes. What a wonderful season! I like zucchini croquettes. I wasn’t sure what to call these, in point of fact, because they’re almost like dumplings. They’re soft inside, crispy outside, with a pleasant denseness. They’re very flavorful with golden raisins, sage, oregano, garlic, pine nuts and a bit of sharp cheddar. They’re nice dipped in or covered with a sauce, and this time of year of course it’s going to be a tomato sauce! We ate them one day with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic, and one day with a simple cooked fresh tomato sauce. Good either way!

Here’s Dirt Dauber Blues by Memphis Minnie. We found such a large blueblack wasp in our store today! Nearly two inches!!

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Pistachio-almond-cherry-chocolate cookies

Pistachio cherry chocolate cookies

Pistachio cherry chocolate cookies

Here at The Ordinary, we get a lot of spam comments. Several a day. I confess I feel almost sorry for the spammers, because we’re such a small concern, here in our little Ordinary world. I want to tell them that they’re wasting their time, and that their heartfelt words won’t reach all that many people. But I must also confess that I like some of the spam comments that I get. They’re charming. And to continue the theme of found-poetry-of-the-modern-technological-world that we started yesterday, I’ll share some with you here. They’re generally very generous comments, very complimentary, enthusiastically positive. And this is nice to read when you’re feeling discouraged, as I have been, even if you doubt the absolute sincerity of the commenter. And they’re often strangely but appealingly constructed, with an unexpected rhythm, and a brand new use for words you’ve heard a million times, which is where the poetry comes in. You want to read it twice, you want to share it. It’s not honest enough to be enduring, or soulful enough to be genuinely touching, but many of these comments transcend their original purpose to become something more beautiful than a means to sell diet pills. And here we go…

    Wow, this post is pleasant,
    my younger sister is
    analyzing these things,
    thus I am going to tell her.
    Buy to to rapidly dispose of surplus goods,
    they set prices,
    an irresistible work.
    Benjamin Blaire was a rounded and studious businessperson.
    Why not go to the Boracay beach and experience
    something more out of this ordinary?
    Halloween ghosts and goblins are
    on the brink of embark on our neighborhoods.
    Don’t blindly!
    We must
    believe
    ourself.
    You will see treasure in your journey
    as well as a better gear to use,
    once you have enough components and item
    you’ll be able to build your own items
    plus enchanted it with a lot
    more powerful attribute.
    Although Trade might have been a triumph,
    1970 had more to offer.
    You’ve done a formidable process
    and our entire neighborhood will
    probably
    be grateful to you.
    Thanks a lot
    for sharing
    this with all of us
    you really know
    what you’re speaking
    approximately!
    I to find it very bothersome
    to inform the reality
    on the other hand
    I will definitely
    come
    again
    again.

Well, I could go on forever, but I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you about these cookies. David came home from the flea market this morning with a new beautiful blue plate, and he said, “Good for cookies!” So I made cookies. We had some cherries that needed eating, and I always like cherries with pistachios and almonds, and I always like everything with chocolate, so there you have it! I added a little cardamom, because I thought it would go well with everything, and it did. I made quite a small batch…a half batch…because I’m still baking in my toaster oven. So double all of these ingredients if you’re going to make a real batch of cookies! If you cook them till they’re golden on top, they’ll be quite crispy on the outside, but if you stop when they’re just slightly browned on the bottom, they’ll be more soft and chewy. The choice is yours!

Here’s STEP RIGHT UP by Tom Waits.

Continue reading

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese “flan” (with chard, fennel and white beans)

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese "flan"

Chickpea flour, herb, and goat cheese “flan”

On Independence day I read an article about American Expats the world over. It had a picture of a little boy with his face painted like old glory, and the caption said something like, “I’m not a gun-toting unthinking patriot,” implying that people were fleeing the country because it was being taken over by gun-toting unthinking patriots. The caption turned out to be a little misleading. In fact most people had left the country because they fell in love with somebody from somewhere else. Which is why plenty of people leave plenty of countries, and even why many people come to America. People talked about eating burgers and drinking beer, and one fellow said, it’s just like any holiday, an excuse to take some time off and enjoy your family and friends. Which is what we did. It started drizzly and blustery, but in the afternoon the rain stopped and we walked to see our fledgling bald eagle, which seemed in keeping with the situation. When we reached his aerie the sun came out with perfect cinematic timing. And then we came home and drank beer and ate (french lentil and chard) burgers. While we were cooking, David put on a Tom Waits album, and I thought, this is what we should be celebrating today…our own unique brand of eccentric genius. What makes American eccentrics different from any other sort? I don’t know! Maybe nothing. But I think there’s a wildness to the madness, a roughness. We have none of the refined eccentricity of an Oscar Wilde. American eccentrics are ruggedly strange, maybe even ignorantly or naively so, at times. But we’re strange in many languages. We combine the foibles and superstitions of all the different nations that chatter across our land. There’s a freedom to our eccentricity, a freedom of odd speech. American eccentricity knows no class and has no class. So to honor the fourth of July, today’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of American eccentrics. You could nominate songs by an out-and-out eccentric, or just strange songs by a relatively normal artist. Add your songs to the playlist or leave a suggestion in the comments and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.

IMG_3697Speaking of eccentrics! Our local antiques flea market is a delightful collection of characters. This weekend I bought some beautiful flan pans and cake pans from a couple of lovely Belgian ex-pat bakers. I love their wares! I was so excited to use the flan pan that I put this together even though I got home from work late and exhausted. It was super-easy and super-quick and quite tasty! I used some of my favorite herbs from the garden, but you could use any herbs you like. We ate it with chard, fennel and white beans, and with a simple salad of arugula, tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella.

Here’s a link to your American Eccentrics interactive playlist.

Continue reading

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with cherries, black currants and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with cherries, black currants and bittersweet chocolate

We’re watching L’eclisse at the moment, so today I’m going to wander around town in low-heeled but surprisingly noisy shoes, looking serious and wistful but bursting into laughter at life’s absurdities. Also, it’s my birthday, so I’m going to claim birthday privilege and write the most nonsensical rambling post ever. First of all, here’s a scene from L’eclisse that I like a lot. We haven’t watched the whole film so I’ll reserve judgement, but this scene I found surprising and beautiful.

Second of all, let me tell you about my lunch. I’m very excited about it. It was: a saltine cracker topped with brie, avocado, tomato, castelvetrano olives and lots of black pepper. I don’t usually eat lunch, but I’d been thinking about brie and avocado for a while now, and I had to try it. Everything tastes good on a saltine cracker.

IMG_3538

Finally, I’ll admit that this birthday is a hard one. 45. The only good thing you can say about turning 45 is that it’s better than not turning 45. For some irrational reason, birthdays ending in five or zero are harder than any other birthdays. So I’ve been in a blue mood all week. And then one evening after dinner the boys and I walked to the store to buy ice cream novelties. I was feeling heavy and tired and discouraged. We walked through a big open space in town, and Malcolm said, “Mom! Sky Dive!!” He grabbed my hand and flung his other arm out. Slowly, I caught on, and stretched my arm out, and then he took Isaac’s hand and Isaac stretched his arm out. We were flying and buoyant and weightless in the sweet air of a perfect June evening. And I feel alright, I feel grateful for all of it, for everything.

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Almond cake with blackcurrants, cherries and bittersweet chocolate

Our blackcurrant bush is bonkers. Full of fruit. You pick a bowlful in the morning, and it’s completely laden again in the evening. The berries seem to ripen as you pick them. So I boiled them for a long time with lots of sugar, and then pressed them through a sieve and ended up with a thick beautiful sauce. I added this to a custard one night and made ice cream. And yesterday I made a cake. I made a soft almond cake, and put a layer of blackcurrant sauce, fresh bing cherries and bittersweet chocolate chips. The whole thing is tart/sweet/soft and juicy. You have to eat it with a fork, though, cause it’s delightfully messy.

Here’s Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. Sounds like a June day, doesn’t it?
Continue reading

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans, spring rage, fresh mozzarella and herbs

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

It’s movie week here at The Ordinary! I seem to be talking about a different film every day, and today will be no different. Today’s installment features Le Corbeau made by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1943. The film is about a small town plagued by anonymous poison pen letters, which threaten to tear the very fabric of the town to pieces. Everybody feels guilty about something, everybody tries to blame somebody else, everybody becomes plagued with fear and suspicion. It’s a fine film, in many ways, beautifully shot in black blacks and white whites. It’s suspenseful and mysterious, almost Hitchcockian. It’s still oddly relevant considering that the internets are full of anonymous trolls. But the thing that really stuck with me, strangely, is the way the setting is described in the very beginning. A small town, “ici ou ailleurs.” Ici ou ailleurs! Here or elsewhere! This phrase has been stuck in my head for days. I love the sound of it and the meaning of it. It makes any story into a fable or a myth, showing how our fears and hopes and passions are the same no matter where or when we live. It makes the story Ordinary by showing that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Ici ou ailleurs. Of course Jean-luc Godard beat me to it, he made a film called Ici et Ailleurs. He made it with Anne-Marie Mieville, and it’s a reworking of footage they shot for Jusqu’à la victoire, a 1970 pro-Palestinian film. I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer juxtaposes “simple images” of French children watching television with shots of Palestinians, and a woman’s voice tells us, “We should learn how to see here in order to be able to hear elsewhere. Learn how to hear yourself speaking in order to see what the others are doing. The Others, the elsewhere of our here.” Godard! Ici ou ailleur.

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

It’s so much fun to make dinner when you just return from a CSA with your arms full of fresh vegetables! Yesterday I made them into this sort of warm salad with potatoes and butter beans for substance. The potatoes, beans, and broccoli rabe were warm, the tomatoes, mozzarella and herbs were cool, and they all melted together when combined. I picked some bronze fennel, which was new to me and very lovely, and I minced that and added it for a nice mellow anise-y flavor. We ate it with a loaf of crusty bread, and Malcolm made it into a big sandwich.

Here’s Eddie Harris with Listen Here.
Continue reading

Cashew-almond tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Seibei Iguchi is a low-ranking samurai in mid-nineteenth century Japan, in an era when the notion of Samurai as a way of life is fading, confused, dying out. He’s employed as a bureaucrat in a grain warehouse, literally counting beans. His co-workers call him “twilight Seibei” because each evening at the close of the working day, when they go out and drink and consort with geishas, he rejects their invitation to join them and returns home instead. He’s a widower with a senile mother and two young daughters and he needs to be home to care for them, he can’t afford to go out. But this is not a hardship for him: he loves to be with his family, he loves to watch his daughters grow. He is content. This is Twilight Samurai, by Yôji Yamada, and it is a beautiful movie, and it is a very Ordinary movie! It’s not unique in showing samurai as displaced or unglamorous–Kurosawa’s nameless Samurai in Yojimbo is hungry and lousy. But I believe it is the first film I’ve seen to show a Samurai so quietly and contentedly engaged in ordinary everyday activities, going from day to day feeding his daughters, showing them how to make cricket cages, leaving for work and returning home, and noticing that the azaleas are in bloom. This is a quiet samurai movie with little (though beautifully filmed) fighting. Seibei Iguchi doesn’t hunger for glory or political advancement or financial gain. He’s full to bursting with the business of everyday life, with its pleasures and its responsibilities. Because twilight is more than just closing time, it’s the time of day when we become acutely aware of time passing, of the poignance and value of each moment, and we sense that Seibei Iguchi feels this aching beauty at all times.

My boys liked this sauce! It’s got a nice balance of sweet, tart and umami flavors. It’s good with steamed broccoli, with spinach, with carrots. It’s nice with rice or long noodles. And it’s very easy to make! We have quite a few basil plants outside, and this is a nice non-pesto use for the leaves.

Here’s a song from Twilight Samurai by Isao Tomita.

Continue reading

Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herb sauce

Sorrel, honey, and lemony herb sauce

Sorrel, honey, and lemony herb sauce

Hello, Ordinary friends!! It’s been a while since we’ve had a Sunday interactive playlist, for the simple reason that we’ve been trying to observe screen-free Sundays. But I noticed a similar line in two songs that are on heavy rotation here at The Ordinary, and I decided to post the world’s first Saturday Interactive Playlist. The Songs were Doomsday, by Elvis Perkins, which I love love love, and Train to Chicago by Drink Me, which has long been one of my favorites. And the lines were…

    Man, I went wild last night
    O, I went feeling alright

and

    the train lurches left, lurches right
    drunk on the train to Chicago, I feel alright


I made this video!!

So I started thinking about the feeling of alright. It’s a good feeling, and I think it’s more than just okay, it’s more than a mediocre feeling of nothing bothering you too much. In fact, I think it’s a feeling of well-being despite the fact that things might not be going that well for you. It’s a feeling from inside of you, despite what’s going on outside of you. And it has a sort of memory-of-childhood comfort that despite your current woes, everything’s going to be alright. So today’s playlist is alright songs. Add them yourself, or leave a song in a comment and I’ll add it for you. Bonus points for songs that don’t have “alright” in the title. So far we have a lot of VU, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, and you can’t go wrong with a list like that!!

Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herbs

Potatoes with honey, sorrel, and lemony herbs

Sorrel! It’s delightful! It’s a little tart and lemony, but mellows when you cook it. It also darkens and thickens, which accounts for the strangeness of my pictures in this post! Our CSA, Sandbrook Meadow Farm has a plethora of lemony herbs, sorrel, savory, lemon thyme. I made a sauce of these with some white wine and honey. It’s a picante sauce, very flavorful, so I used it with some mild boiled potatoes. I think it would be nice with white beans or chicken or in an omelette. You can adjust the tart/sweet balance to your own taste. You could add shallots and/or garlic and I think capers would be nice, too, but I kept it simple this time.

Here’s a link to your ALRIGHT interactive playlist.

Continue reading