Colcannon Croquettes

IMG_2944Happy St. Patrick’s day. As far as I know, I’m not Irish in any way, so I probably have no right to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of green-beer-drinking Americans, so why should I let it stop me? Actually I don’t have any Ceilidhs planned, but I did spend some time Reading Yeats’ poems today, in keeping with the situation. I’d never noticed how preoccupied Yeats is with growing older, but now that I’ve started to become more preoccupied with the subject myself, it seems that his poems are suffused with memories and regrets of youth, and fear of growing old and of bodily decay. Many of them are filled with sadness and disappointment, and though they’re beautiful, they’re not easy to read. I love this one, though. I love the idea of thinking in a marrow bone.

A Prayer for Old Age

God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;

From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?

I pray—for word is out
And prayer comes round again—
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Colcannon is, I’m told “An Irish dish of cabbage and potatoes boiled and pounded.” I made this with kale, rather than cabbage, but they’re both brassicae, so I think that’s okay. Basically this is mashed potatoes with kale, cheese, eggs and herbs mixed in, and then baked in olive oil till they’re crispy outside and soft inside. You can use any herbs you like (or no herbs at all). I used tarragon, rosemary and basil, because I like them and that’s what I had. I made an olive hazelnut sauce to eat these with, but the boys actually at them with catsup!

Here’s The Sickbed of Cuchlainn by the Pogues.
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Kale with capers, walnuts and fresh basil

Kale, walnuts and capers

Kale, walnuts and capers

Here at The Ordinary, we’ve decided to revive a worship of ancient Greek deities. We’ve been building oracular shrines and temples in our back yard…making little piles of stones for hermes, eating pomegranates for Hera, and worshipping owls for Athena. We’re sending the boys to vacation Zeus camp. I’m kidding, of course, but I have been reading the boys’ copy of D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and I’m completely smitten. The stories are so rich and strange, and yet so familiar. They’ve got a flood, with one couple building a boat that carries them safely through it. They’ve got people being made from other people’s body parts. They’ve got an all-powerful god who is strangely incapable of avoiding death and misery for everyone around him. The scope and balance of Zeus’s power and his limitations is so fascinating to me. He wants to change certain situations, but he can’t, because it’s against the rules. But which rules? Who made them? Who is more powerful than Zeus, to dictate what he can and cannot do? He can’t stop himself from killing his mortal wife by revealing himself to her in all his deadly, brighter-than-the-sun-glory (he promised!). But he can take her unborn son from her burnt body and complete its gestation in his leg, and he can eventually bring her back to life and give her a home on Mount Olympus. He’s powerless against the jealous anger of his godly wife Hera. In one story, he falls in love with a mortal named Io, and when Hera comes down to investigate, he turns the woman into a cow. She’s a very pretty cow, though, just as she was a very pretty mortal, and Hera is jealous. So she asks for the cow as a gift, knowing that Zeus won’t be able to turn her back into a real girl. She has her servant Argus watch over the cow. Argus has hundreds of eyes all over his body. So part of him can sleep while part of his watches the pretty cow. Zeus sends Hermes down to take care of Argus, and Hermes bores him to death! He tells such dull stories that half of Argus’ eyes close, and then he continues to tell such dull stories that the other half of Argus’ eyes close, and he dies! And Hera puts all his eyes on peacock tails! How can you not worship gods with stories like this?

This is a completely simple preparation of kale, but it’s quite pleasant as well. This time of year I love mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil (I know, I know, everybody does.) This sees that combination piled atop kale that’s tender but bright and tossed with capers and walnuts. A little crunchy, a little tangy, and satisfyingly fresh and green.

Here’s Hermes Tri by Jorge Ben, I think there’s a connection to Hermes the god, but I’m a little confused by the story, since I don’t speak Portuguese.

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Thinly sliced potatoes baked with kale, artichoke hearts and pesto ricotta

Potatoes layered with kale, artichoke hearts and pesto ricotta.

Potatoes layered with kale, artichoke hearts and pesto ricotta.

It’s that time again, everyone! It’s Saturday storytelling time. As you will no doubt recall, each Saturday we post a found photograph, a vernacular picture, and we write a story about it, and invite everyone else to write one, too. And then, in theory, we all read each others’ stories and offer wise editorial advice. Today’s picture is quite cryptic. There’s no human in this one, no subject, so you can imagine the characters however you’d like. And here it is… Send me your story and I’ll print it here, or send me a link to share, if you have somewhere of your own to post it.

So, kale and artichoke hearts and tarragon pesto layered with sharp cheddar and thinly slice potatoes. A meal in a dish. I suppose it’s a little like lasagna with potatoes instead of pasta. It was very comforting and warm, but tarragon, artichoke hearts and sharp cheddar added some brightness. If you don’t have tarragon pesto, you can use regular old basil pesto, or you can just add some herbs as you like them to the ricotta.

Here’s Hey Hey by Big BIll Broonzy, my new favorite.

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Roasted butternut, kale, black bean and goat cheese enchiladas with a roasted red pepper/pecan sauce

Kale and butternut enchiladas

Kale and butternut enchiladas

Here at The Ordinary we have an institute entirely devoted to the study of time passing. We had thought, up until a few months ago, that we were mere moments away from complete understanding. Lately, however, our grasp is slipping, we are perplexed. We are, in point of fact, reeling. Surely it was August, only yesterday, the boys were home all the long day, and our greatest concern was finding a place for them to swim? Surely these mornings that we wake up and it’s dark and cold, and before you know it, it’s dark and cold and dusky, with just the winking suggestion of a pale wintery day in between, surely these days are just a dream, or a memory. Surely it’s not the middle of December. Did we have autumn? Did we have glorious fall colors and crisp, clear days? If so, we didn’t notice, which breaks our heart, because, here at The Ordinary Institute for the Study of the Passing of Time, noticing is our business! It’s what we do. We study each passing, perfect, irreplaceable moment, and then we capture it, and we put it in a glass jar with a filmy lid of wax. We study it and label it. We used to store all the jars on shelves in a darkened room, so that you could see how they glow, but this year we’re giving them away for christmas, because everybody is gifting with ball jars this year! Just everybody. We’ve known for some time, of course, that time travels at different rates for different people depending on the time of day. It goes quickest in the morning, when you’re lying in a warm bed, with the sun struggling weakly to light up the cold day, and all of your chores and worries swirling around your head. This time of year it travels faster for an adult, who has so much to take care of before Christmas, than for a seven-year-old, because no matter how many times he asks, each and every day, how many days are left until Christmas, it’s always the same answer, each day, all day long. Sigh. Time is running and passing, and I can’t keep up, so here I am by the side of the tracks, holding my baggage by my feet, watching it rattle and whoosh as it crashes by.

You know the seasons are changing because I just composted the last of my CSA produce. They’ve been in the vegetable drawer for a few weeks now. They seemed very precious, because they were pretty golden and peppermint striped beets. I had something very special planned for them. But never quite special enough, so I kept waiting and waiting. Until they were unusable. I have fun keeping up with the CSA veg, but there’s something liberating about buying whatever sort of vegetables you please in the grocery store. I try to stay mostly seasonable, but, let’s face it…nothing is growing in NJ in winter. I try to keep with a wintery mix of butternut squash, cauliflower, greens, mushrooms, fennel, things like this. And then I combine them all in a big beautiful enchilada!! These enchiladas have a lot of flavors, but they all go very nicely together. It’s not as complicated to make as it might sound, because you can roast squash, boil kale, and make a sauce all at the same time. I used goat cheese inside the enchiladas, because I love the flavor with butternut squash, and because I thought it might make for a lighter texture than wads of melted cheddar or jack. There’s melted cheddar on top, though! Wouldn’t feel like enchiladas without some type of melty cheese! I apologize for the picture, I know it’s not one of the best, but it’s really hard to take an attractive picture of an enchilada!!

Here’s Tom Waits with Time. I think I’ve probably posted it before, but it’s just that good!

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Kale “lasagna” with tomatoes & roasted red peppers

Kale “lasagna”

I’ve always had a habit of becoming irrationally fond of inanimate objects. An oddly shaped twig, a little sketch I made, a blank book, a pen, an acorn. The list goes on and on. I would imbue them with importance, with personality, with magical powers, almost. At the moment it’s a little quince. I’ve said in the past that I love everything about quinces, and that remains true. I love their flavor, their scent, their name, their name in french (coing), the fact that you need to give them a lot of attention to make them palatable, the fact that they start out quite drab, but become lovely and rosy when you cook them. We have a little quince bush in our backyard. It’s a cutting from a tree by David’s aunts old house. We didn’t think it would live, but it’s doing quite well. It even produced a few little fruits this year, its second year with us. The fruit didn’t ripen, though. It fell to the ground – tiny, pale and very hard. It smelled nice, so I held onto it. I put it beside me on the desk, and there it sat for a few days. I worked all weekend, and Monday morning I thought about the quince. I couldn’t see it anywhere, but I could smell it, unmistakable and sweet. David had moved it to the top of a nearby bookshelf to save it from the boys, who had been playing at my desk all weekend. The poor thing is smaller, shriveled, soft, starting to turn brown in spots. But it still smells intoxicatingly good! The uglier it gets, the sweeter it smells. And I’ve become fond of the wrinkled little thing. I feel like a swooning lady with her smelling salts, I hold it to my nose and it elevates my spirits. It’s like autumn in a tiny rotting bundle.

So…kale! We got some kale from our CSA, and some red peppers, and some eggplant and of course, some more tomatoes! I decided to boil up the kale, and treat it like lasagna noodles. I washed it and removed the stems, but kept the leaves long. I boiled them for about twenty minutes, so they were quite soft, but still bright, and not falling apart. And I stretched it out like lasagna noodles, layering it with ricotta, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes. I had some leftover eggplant anyone can love, so I added a layer of that. It was delicious, but if you don’t have it, or have time to make it, this dish will still be very delicious! I broiled a red pepper, let it steam in a covered bowl, and then removed the skin and seeds. you want to be sure to let it sit for a while, and discard any moisture that collects. As with any lasagna that contains vegetables, you want to be sure the veggies are quite dry before you add them, or the lasagna will form a broth. This broth happens to be quite tasty, though, so if you have some bread to sop it up, you’re golden!

Here’s Bill Withers with Ain’t No Sunshine, because it’s a beautiful song, because it’s a rainy day, because I miss my dog.
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Kale & chickpeas with orange and tarragon

kale chickpeas and tarragon

Today is our anniversary! David and I have been married sixteen years. It’s gone so fast! These years have become such a long, strong part of my memory, of my happiness, of my life – of who we are. I want to make something special for dinner tonight, and I’ve been thinking about memorable meals we’ve had. The first meal we ever ate together, David made for me – ravioli, red sauce, garlic bread and wine pilfered from his roommates. Still one of the pleasantest meals I’ve ever had! In our courting days we used to go on hikes and take picnics. We always brought bread, peanut butter, dark chocolate and fruit – oranges and apples. What an unlikely, perfect combination of flavors! We brought wine hidden in snapple bottles. The first time we’d ever visited the town where we now live, we went out to dinner on my birthday. I told the waiter, “I’m a vegetarian,” and David said, “So am I.” And that was that – no big announcement, he’d just quietly become a vegetarian, and that’s how we’ve continued our lives together. For a long time we’d share the same plate. We’d make a big mess of pasta or rice and beans and vegetables, and pile it on one big deep plate. And these days I feel grateful every night to live with a man who will happily eat all of the strange food I put on the table! Anybody who likes to cook will know that making food to share with people that you love is what it’s all about. I’m so happy to have somebody to share food with, and listen to music with, to watch films with, to look for birds with, to raise children with, to walk with, to talk with.

I’ll make something more special tonight, but in the meantime, here’s a dish that reminds me of a special meal we had on vacation long ago. We used to go to upstate New York every autumn, and we’d eat at a restaurant called The 1819 House. It was just our kind of place. They served something they called vegetarian paella, and we’ve been having different versions of it ever since. Here’s one version, which I call…vegetarian paella. And this new version has kale, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives, in a sweet/salty broth made with white wine, orange juice and tarragon. All of the flavors blend nicely, so you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. As David said, you don’t really taste the orange, you just taste a sunny, summery flavor.

Here’s a version of Bob Marley’s Mellow Mood, which is our song!
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Kale with peanut sauce and spicy roasted black beans

Kale in peanut sauce with roasted black beans

The weather has been remarkably strange this week. People will walk up to one another and remark, “what a strange day!” We seem to go through several seasons in one day. The mornings are cool and damp and foggy. The chill stretches into the afternoon, so that you sit, shivering in your brick house (which stays cool till sometime in August) and piling on cardigans. Then, when you venture out around three o’clock, the sun burns through the haze and suddenly it feels like mid-summer. It’s hot. You feel dazed, dizzy and burnt in the unexpected sunshine. Then small showers pass by, when they’re not predicted, and a gentle thunder storms wake you at 4:30 in the morning. What strange days!

Malcolm and I went for a walk yesterday morning in the seashore mistiness. Everything was vividly green through the haze. We pilfered a lambs ear from the abandoned train tracks for Malcolm to plant in the back yard. Someone passing asked Malcolm if he likes lambs ear because it’s soft. “No,” he said matter-of-factly, “Because it smells like goat’s cheese.” That’s my boy!!

It’s been nice cooking weather. Lots of exciting produce – fresh and tender and new. But it’s not too hot to cook it yet, and if you’re lucky the day stays warm long enough that you can eat outside. The peanut sauce in this recipe was inspired by barbecue sauce. I find barbecue sauce fascinating. The mix of flavors. The fact that it often contains tamarind, which seems like an unexpected ingredient in a very American food. I thought a peanutty barbecue sauce would be tasty. So that’s what I made. The black beans are roasted separately, with their own complementary spices. They have a nice texture, not crispy, like roasted chickpeas, but pleasantly firm. They go nicely with the kale, which brings its own assertive texture to the bowl.

Here’s Beastie Boys with Peanut Butter and Jelly. I love it! I love them!

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Empanadas with greens, green olives and pistachios

empanadas with greens

I bought these beautiful little green olives. I can’t remember what they’re called, but I think they might have been castelvetrano olives. They were small and round and serpent green. Lovely! They were so pretty that it might have been a shame to stuff them inside of empandas – if the empanadas hadn’t been so mother-flippin delicious!

They have three kinds of greens – chard, kale and spinach, they have very green olives, and they have pistachios, which are green nuts! They also have ricotta, mozzarella and lots of herbs. I’m especially pleased with the texture of these. You never know how it’s going to go with greens and ricotta. Will they be watery and runny? Or mushy? This was perfect, though. Juicy, almost, but not soggy. It occurred to me that these were like large, baked, crispy ravioli, and in that spirit, I added a little semolina flour to the dough. (If you don’t have semolina flour, just leave it out. Or add 1/4 cup regular flour to replace it. Either way. )I made a sauce to go with these with roasted red peppers, almonds, tomatoes, paprika and chipotle. It turned out very spicy!

Here’s REM’s Green Grow the Rushes, because I’ve had it going round in my head lately.
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Salad of warm greens, french lentils and wild rice

warm kale salad

We’ve had a reprieve in the weather lately. In the afternoons you actually feel the warmth of the sunshine, and there’s a hopeful light that makes you forget we’ve got all of February to get through. And then you buy lettuce or tomatoes, and the iciness comes back to you. Luckily we’ve still got warm salads! This is a very substantial one – with flavorful french lentils and wild rice tossed in, and a handful of almonds thrown on at the end to add crunch. I made a sort of dressing with plum tomatoes briefly sauteed in olive oil and balsamic. This salad is a meal, and this meal is vegan. Cheese would make it taste even better, in my opinion – goat, or fresh mozzarella, or some grated sharp cheese. But then it wouldn’t be vegan, obviously! Anyway, it was quick to make, so I’m going to keep it quick now. (Yup, I’ve got to go to work!)

And here’s Big Daddy Kane with Warm it Up, Kane to sing to yourself while you warm up your kale.
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Deep pie with black beans, greens and pistachios

Beans & greens pie

Beans, greens, and … guava paste!?!?! That’s right! Guava paste! It lends a subtle sweetness and a mysterious flavor to this otherwise extremely earthy dish. I’m going to try to mix it up a bit with the bodega express ingredients. I might try one dish that’s a fairly traditional and accurate application of the star ingredient, and one that isn’t so authentic, but strikes me as a nice combination. That’s the plan at the moment, anyway. As it happens, it’s not unusual to find guava paste paired with cheese in an empanada, and this is sort of a giant, elaborately decked out version of that, I suppose. I would have made them as empanadas, and, in fact, I think the filling might work better that way – smaller and with a flakier crust – but I wanted to try out a new and improved version of my hot water crust pastry, so this tall handsome pie is the result. It contains black beans, kale, spinach, smoked gouda, pistachios for crunch, bread crumbs, sage, thyme, basil, allspice and nutmeg, and, of course, smoked paprika. The guava, which is bright and has a hint of tartness behind all of its obvious sweetness, added a nice balance for all the smokey savoriness. Actually, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of pouring jelly into the hole in the top of a pork pie (although meaty jelly isn’t the most appetizing idea, to me!) And I briefly considered melting the guava jelly down and trying this very practice! I chickened out, though. I think it would have been too sweet.

Anyway, this was very easy to make, and very nice with some mashed potatoes and a crispy salad, and I think it might be even nicer with a flaky paté brisée in smaller empandas. Someday I’ll try that and let you know!

Here’s Johnny Nash’s smooth cover of Bob Marley’s Guava Jelly. Still stuck in my head!!
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