I bought a bunch of tarragon. I put some in a tart, and I had a lot left. I love tarragon, but I can’t put it in every single meal! So I decided to use it all in this pesto. We ate it with flatbread, beans and greens. You could toss it with pasta, or spread it on a pizza, or even serve it as a dip with chips or crackers. Strangely, Malcolm has said in the past that he doesn’t like tarragon, but he loved this, an gobbled it right down. It is very tarragon-y. This is vegan, but if you wanted it to be more like a traditional pesto, you could add parmesan, if you liked.
If this dish was an olympic sport, it would be that race in which the swimmers do a different stroke every couple of laps. Why? Because there’s a different filling between each crepe! If this dish was the olympics opening ceremony, it would be that part when they go through the whole history of the host country. Why? Because the fillings are OOTO favorites, and making them was like taking a walk through the history of this blog. How did it all come about, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It was a sultry Friday night. Delivery of the next box share of vegetables was imminent upon the morrow. But, what’s this? We still have beets and zucchini and basil and lord-knows-what-else from last week? Let’s cook them all up, I say!! What grows together, tastes good together! And so it does. I made a stack of rosemary and black pepper crepes. And then I made toasted beets, sauteed zucchini and capers, I made some pesto, I had some caramelized onions leftover, I roasted some mushrooms. I grated some mozzarella. I made a light and simple but smoky tomato sauce to go on top. And that was that! You could obviously use whatever elements you have on hand to make fillings for the layers. And you can arrange them in any order that you like. It’s very fun to put together. It does take a while to make everything at once, but if you happen to have some of the stuff leftover – pesto, or caramelized onions, or sauteed zucchini, it all goes together in a snap.
Here’s Jurassic 5 with The Game
…and kohlrabi slaw with walnut and scallion dressing!We watched a remarkable movie the other night. Waste land, which is about Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s lengthy project of making portraits of catadores, garbage pickers at the Jardim Gramacho landfill in Rio de Janeiro, was engrossing, disturbing, inspiring and hopeful, all at the same time. The landfill itself was massive and horrifying, and the jobs of the pickers – sorting through mountains of garbage to collect recyclables – seemed too awful to imagine. Yet they were cheerful, if not happy, and they’d created a supportive community for each other. Muniz makes a series of portraits of catadores in poses borrowed from famous paintings, and he uses the recyclable materials from the landfill as his medium. Waste Land reminded me of a film by Agnes Varda called The Gleaners and I. Varda, who is wonderfully curious and engaging, shoots a documentary about gleaners, people who follow after the harvest has been collected, to pick the fruit that was left behind. Varda shows people who find food and other treasures in vineyards, fields, and urban markets. Some live on the food and money they make from the objects they find. Some turn them into art. The film is a history of gleaning, a portrait of gleaners, a meditation on aging, a subtle examination of the artist as a gleaner, of the documentarian as a person who collects treasures from the world around her. Both films are about excess and waste, beauty and love. They are about the strength and fragility of people – in body and spirit. In both films, many of the people we meet have been living in this way, literally on the outskirts of society, since childhood, even for generations. They’re bright and energetic and resilient, but both films are permeated with an atmosphere of mortality and decay. The stories of the catadores and the gleaners remind us that life is fragile, and our position in society is more so. In this country we talk about a “safety net,” which seems to have failed many of these people completely. And yet they’ve built their own community to protect each other, and care for each other, to feed each other – they’ve built libraries and learning centers. Aunt Irma has set up huge pots in Jardim Gramacho, and she cooks for the pickers, using food thrown away by grocery stores and restaurants, brought to her as fresh as possible. She seems so happy with her life, and her role of feeding her friends, that it made me weepy. I could go on and on! Both films contained layer upon layer of meaning and beauty and emotion. But I’ll move right along now, to tell you about a meal that we partially gleaned. We were walking home from rec camp, on a blisteringly hot day. We passed a table with an awning covered with baskets of vegetables. It was part of an outreach program from Fisherman’s Mark, a local organization, called Farmers, Families, and Fisherman’s Mark. Local farms bring their excess produce, or the produce that’s just nearly past it, and they teach classes on nutrition, and provide demonstrations of easy ways to prepare the vegetables. We stopped for a glass of ice water, a moment in the shade and a chat, and left with some burstingly ripe tomatoes, a few kohlrabi, and a loaf of day-old whole grain bread. It was nearly too hot to cook, even for me, so we decided to open a can of chickpeas, and toss them with tomatoes, toasted cubes of bread, pesto, and small chunks of mozzarella cheese. All to be served over fresh and crispy baby arugula. I decided to cook the tomatoes just for a second, because I like how saucy they get, and I like the fact that they melt the cheese a little bit, but you could leave this step out, especially if you have fresh mozzarella! And I made the kohlrabi into a sweet and spicy slaw with carrots and a walnut scallion dressing.
Something about the combination of bread, potatoes and vegetables evokes a peasant-ish meal. But a meal idealized peasants might have. I see peasants in the French or Italian countryside, and it’s constantly sunset or sunrise. They’ve got the wholesome goodness. I see a beautiful, spoiled American woman from LA, or NYC. She’s lost her way, she has no sense of purpose. All it takes is one bite of roasted vegetables with pesto and fried bread to make her realize how shallow her life is. She falls in love with a mysterious, swarthy fellow, who is secretly a count and a millionaire. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry!! You’ll buy the book and all the merchandise to go with it!
The night before I’d mixed some yeast and sugar and a little bit of flour – I’d made a starter. Then I’d gone to bed and thought about all of the interesting things I could make to go with my bread. The next morning I’d added all the other ingredients for the bread, and I had, almost simultaneously, made a brown butter caramel custard to turn into ice cream later in the day. For some reason, I cooked the heck out of everything in the house yesterday! I wanted to make everything from scratch. Bread, pasta, sauce, ice cream. Why? I don’t know! I was seized by some dormant Little House on the Prairie-longing, perhaps. But it all seemed so easy and pleasant. Everything was just a little bit of effort now, a little bit more later. I had fun kneading the dough, I didn’t panic whilst making the custard. I felt positively light-hearted!
Then things started to go wrong, as they usually do. But I couldn’t take it in stride, for some reason. The bread had a really nice crust, but the inside didn’t have the big holes I was hoping for. I really want to make bread with big holes. The pasta was fine, I think, but Isaac wouldn’t even try it. He always eats pasta, and he would not take one bite. Not one! Malcolm ate his pasta like a dog, which is probably normal behavior for a nine-year-old boy, but it did me in. He relented and ate with a knife and fork, but I’d gone to the dark side, by then. And then the mother-flipping ice cream wouldn’t freeze. I have a child’s toy of an ice cream maker from the 80s. It’s not ideal, but it does the job, usually. Not last night. Sigh.
I sat in the backyard enjoying the silence and the greenness and the smell of our lilacs and roses, and the sight of tiny little fireflies. (Why have I never noticed them before? Are they just young fireflies? They’re lovely!) The boys came out and asked for dessert. Goddamn dessert. Then came the cursing, the regret over wasted ingredients, the desire for one peaceful meal, the wistfulness for the ice cream that might have been. I threw squares of bittersweet chocolate at them, which they absconded with happily. Hopefully they’ll remember that, rather than be scarred for life by their mother’s moodiness.
This pesto is really tasty, though, I think! One of my all time favorite combinations is greens, raisins and nuts. (I’ve said it many times, I know!) I’ve baked it into savory pies plenty of times, and it was time to try something different. I thought to myself, why not put it all together? I love pesto, and I like to experiment with different kinds. So that’s what I did. You’ve got chard, pecans, almonds (because I didn’t have many pecans left), golden raisins, roasted garlic, rosemary and smoked paprika. Savory, sweet, and a little smoky.
Here’s Tom Waits with All the World is Green. I love this song, I’ve listened to it so much lately. And all the world is green, right now! And this pesto is a lovely, mossy sort of green.
Other than that, though, these are uncomplicated, comforting war-ration-we-can’t-afford-any-meat fare. I tried to make them very simple, so that my sons would eat them, so it’s just potatoes, breadcrumbs, pesto, and mozzarella. But there’s nothing in it that you don’t like!!
These are easy, pretty, and very green. A good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes! I served them with a bright red simple tomato sauce, that I made quite smoky and spicy with paprika and red pepper flakes.