When we got two big bunches of radishes from the CSA, I was tempted to carve them all into radish rosettes, like Marge’s impressive aliens. Instead, I decided to roast them with beets. Both pink, both root vegetables, but one is sharp and spicy and one is sweet and earthy. I thought they’d be perfect together! I’ve never eaten roasted radishes before, so I tried to keep the salad very simple so I could really taste them. I added almonds and fresh basil. I think it would be good with feta or goat cheese as well – maybe next time. We ate this with some fresh arugula from the farm, and it was very good indeed!
Remember the Chekhov play The Three Sisters, in which one of the sisters longs to go to Moscow? It’s a theme! Well, here at The Ordinary, for the past few days, our Moscow has been the secret path that leads to the secret path on the other other side of the towpath. If you think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s because I have, and that’s because IT’S ALL I’VE HEARD ABOUT FOR DAYS NOW!! When will we go? Why can’t we go? Why shouldn’t we go just because a storm is raging around our house? On the very first day of summer vacation, way back in the glowing, hopeful, anticipatory month of June, Malcolm and I happened upon a small winding path that branched away from the towpath. He was ecstatic! We ran through it, leaping fallen logs, stooping under trees, racing through light and shadow. He’s wanted to return ever since, but with one thing and another, we’ve never made it back. Lately his yearning has reached a fever pitch, so today we braved spiders, ticks, stinging nettles, poison ivy, mosquitos and impending thunderstorms, and set out on our journey. (Who is an anxious mom? Who is?) It’s quite a long journey, as the Isaac walks, but it was worth it to see how happy the boys were. After a night of rain the ground was muddy, the leaves sodden and fragrant, the creeks fast-flowing. In June all the green things were small and pale and bright, but today they’re lush and dark and overtaking all the paths.
Funnily enough, we’d eaten this beet carpaccio the night before, and I’d remarked that prepared this way, beets didn’t taste like dirt. Huh? Asked Isaac (he’s a small boy, dirt is his medium). I’d replied that beets grow in dirt, so they taste like dirt, but in a pleasant way. In this carpaccio, however, they were juicy and sweet. This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s very delicious. The boys loved it!! I love goat cheese with beets – sweet and juicy meets a bit of creamy tartness. The pecans added crunch, and the sage added depth.
As you are no doubt aware, I am the esteemed authoress of a wildly popular series of books about the marked similarities to be found in the writings of Tolstoy and the rappings of many rappers. Weighty volumes. I am, of course, also the producer of the soon-to-be-a-smash hip hopera version of War and Peace (would you look at the date on that? I’m making very…slow…progress on this novel!) Okay, I’m prepared to admit that none of that is true. However, ever since I spoke of Dostoyevsky and Talib Kweli yesterday, I’ve had a yen to chat about these same similarities. Which I will do after the jump. You’ve been warned!
A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not–
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
-Thomas Edward Brown
I used to love this poem, when I was little. I know … it’s overblown, it’s stilted, it’s very Victorian, but I thought it was great. I learned recently that the poem spawned a word, “godwottery.” Godwattery refers to a) gardening in an elaborate and affected style, or, b) affected use of archaic language. I love that! I love the word, I love the idea, and the gentle teasing quality of the whole arrangement.
My parents gave me a small part of the yard to make a garden in. I used to plan it furiously. I had a little garden book. I drew pictures, I researched seeds. I visited the Cloisters in New York. I read overwrought victorian poetry about gardens. I was never quite as good at actually planting the garden, though, or weeding it, or taking care of it. I did make a nice little space, for a while. Where we live now, we have a tiny yard, and an even tinier space set aside for a garden. We grew tomatoes for a few years, but we’re giving the soil a break, and this year we’re planting herbs and small greens. I’m thrilled! I’ve always loved a tangled combination of greens and herbs in any food. Not carefully planned out, but all thrown wildly together, so you get a small taste of each, and it forms a beautiful, complicated whole. I love the way this works year round. In winter you have kale and spinach, winter savory and rosemary. In summer chard, more spinach, basil and thyme. In fall, small, bitter greens, sorrel and sage. In the spring – you have a big jumble of small spicy sassy plants. Chervil and tarragon, tiny beet greens, arugula, lovage, summer savory. (I was never the most organized farmer – this is more my bright idea about how things might fit togehter! The names are a pretty part of the plan!)
I love recipes that combine a wild mix of herbs and greens. Soup meagre, or small salads that combine a few herbs and greens. You can mix them with butter, or toss them with pasta or mashed potatoes. Or bake them into a tart! Which is what I did! I combined baby arugula, baby spinach, basil, summer savory, tarragon, chervil, parsley, bull’s blood beet leaves, lovage, and chives. Most of these things we’re growing; some I bought. It doesn’t matter! It all tastes good! You can use whatever you like – whatever you can find. The only other flavoring I used was a clove of roasted garlic. And the crust has some ground pecans – a nice nutty combination with the herbs. I think it turned out very nice – every bite has a new combination of flavors. It’s possible to distinguish one or two, now and again, or just to enjoy them as they come.
That moment of tension, the feeling of things changing, is what makes spring and fall so exciting – why they make you feel alive. And now, you’re wondering, how is she going to make this about potato salad? Well, friends, this potato salad is like an edible little mix of contradicting factors that work well together. Roasted potatoes are such a cool weather food, arugula salads so warm weather. The warmth of the potatoes contrasts with the coolness of the arugula, and even wilts it slightly. The potatoes are pleasantly soft, the pecans and roasted lentils delightfully crispy. And the mellow sweetness of roasted honey and balsamic plays against the peppery sharpness of arugula and water cress. Ta da!!
Here’s Cymande with Changes. A remarkable song!
I think asparagus is a little like that. It’s so vivid and slender and pretty. It tastes like early spring. You wouldn’t want to eat it all summer, but you do want to eat it now. I like it best lightly steamed with butter and lemon, but you can’t eat it that way every time! So I try different things. I’m not sure what made me think of this, and I’m not sure what it should be called. It’s not a custard, exactly. It reminds me of Stouffer’s Spinach soufflé. When I was a child, that was the special thing to have with our steak. It’s not a soufflé, because there’s no bechamel, and the eggwhites aren’t whipped. But it does feel special. It’s quite light, but substantial enough to serve in slices. It would be nice with a light tomato sauce or red pepper coulis, but it’s flavorful enough to serve as it is. And it’s quick to make!
In Blackalicious’ Green Light – Now Begin, they say,
No more of that sittin’ in a slump and uh
No more of that coulda-woulda-shoulda junk
No more of that waiting for the inspiration, innovation
Or a green light–now begin
Earlier in the week, whilst browsing in the bulk food section of the grocery store, as one does, these beautiful shiny green seeds caught my magpie eye. I had to have some! I’ve tried roasting pumpkin seeds every halloween, with the coating on, and they always turn out a little too tough to eat. Here was the tender core! Oh boy. Pepita. So pretty! I vaguely remembered that pepita are used in a certain kind of mole, so I hopped it back to the produce section and bought myself a jalapeno pepper.
Flash forward to the soup meagre. My one rule about soup meagre (and a very flexible rule it is, too!) is that everything that goes in there should be green. Well, guess what! Pepita are green! Jalapenos are green…can you see where this is going?
This turned out to be one of the better soups I’ve ever made. (And I’ve made a lot of soup!) The taste of pumpkin seeds is hard to describe. Nutty, savory, pleasant in every way! And they’re very good for you too, apparently! Full of iron, which is a big concern of vegetarian moms everywhere!
Here’s The Carter Family with When Springtime Comes Again. Sweet and yodelly.