Crepe stack with roasted mushrooms, romesco, spinach, and ricotta

Crepe Stack

Crepe Stack

The other day on the way to school Isaac said, “You know how we’re supposed to be as jolly on Christmas day as Clio is every day?…” as if it was a truth, universally acknowledged, a rule that we all accept. He is, of course, speaking of Clio’s tendency to love everybody she meets, even if they’re complete strangers (unless they’re wearing hats or sunglasses. Very supsicious! Very suspicious! What are they hiding?) He was talking about the fact that she makes you happy because she’s so happy to see you. She’s so easily pleased with small things…walks, a bowl of kibble, a warm lap. She’s not afraid to show she loves you, and this makes her nice to be around. Isaac’s kind of like that, himself, all year long. And so, in the light of all this Christmas Jollity, I’d like to propose a new business plan, based on this: “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” According to the specifications of my new business plan, the curriculum of our business schools will change somewhat. We’ll have courses examining the philosophical and practical applications of charity and generosity. We’ll learn how to combat ignorance and want. We’ll learn to share what we have and we’ll learn that we don’t want more than we need. Internships will be at shelters and soup kitchens or anywhere that people are in need of aid and support. Business acumen will describe the ability to sense when a person needs kindness or encouragement. Big business will mean that everybody is acting together as a community of epic proportions to spread happiness and good will. And even when we mind our own business, we’ll be minding the people around us, because they are our business! And business as usual will be benevolence, jolliness and cheer the whole year long; the whole year will be “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people around them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

It’s a crepe stack!! It’s layers of peppery crepes sandwiched with romesco sauce, roasted mushrooms, sautĂ©ed spinach, and ricotta mixed with mozzarella, eggs and artichokes. I thought it was very tasty…lots of nice flavors together. It looks quite complicated by it’s really not hard to make. You can, of course, alter the fillings that you use, and put anything you like in between the crepes. You could also make this as a lasagna, layering all the fillings between cooked lasagna noodles, if you don’t feel like making the crepes.

Here’s Tom Waits with God’s Away on Business.

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Roasted beets, mushrooms and butterbeans

Roasted mushrooms, beets, and butterbeans

Roasted mushrooms, beets, and butterbeans

Nonsense! Gobbledygook! Gibberish! Balderdash! Folderol! Some days this is all I feel capable of speaking. Today, for instance, I’m having trouble putting a whole sentence together in a sensible or intelligible way. Some people take nonsense to a whole new level, and it becomes a language all its own, articulate, even eloquent. And then they set it to music and it becomes a thing of beauty. And that is the subject of today’s Sunday interactive playlist…songs with a language all their own. We’ve been listening to a lot of Slim Gaillard, and he speaks Vout, of course, but songs with scat in them, songs in a language the singer doesn’t understand, any song that separates the sound of the words with any meaning, these are the songs we’re looking for this week.
Roasted beets, mushrooms and butterbeans

Roasted beets, mushrooms and butterbeans

We’re back to beet season! We got some pretty beets from the farm. I roasted them, and roasted some mushrooms, and then I sauteed the beet greens with big juicy butterbeans. Then we tossed it all together and ate it with some farro. Tasty.

Here’s a link to the interactive playlist. Add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.

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Tomme de savoie and roasted mushroom tart

Tomme de savoie and mushroom tart

Tomme de savoie and mushroom tart

Hogarth Hughes is very brave, but he’s not fearless. When he hears a strange loud noise, he’ll head out into the darkness by himself, armed only with a flashlight duct-taped to a BB gun. But when he finds out that the loud noise was caused by a giant robot, he sensibly runs screaming. And then he turns back. What made him overcome his fear? Compassion. The giant robot is stuck in electrical wires, he’s helpless and screaming in pain. Hogarth heads back to turn off the electricity and save the giant. The giant recognizes this act of compassion, he’s grateful for the kindness, and this is how they become friends. The Iron Giant, a beautiful film by Brad Bird was made in 1999, set in 1957, and based on a fantastical novel called The Iron Man, written by Ted Hughes and published in 1968. The film is set during the cold war, the novel was written during the Vietnam war, and I write about it now after years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and frighteningly on the brink of another in Syria. And, of course, on the anniversary of 9/11, a day of sickening grief and fear. Unlike most movies about giant metal weapons, The Iron Giant is a peaceful movie: anti-war, anti-gun, even anti-hunting. Almost unwittingly, Hogarth shows the giant that he has a soul, because he cares for this little human boy. Tim McCanlies, the screenwriter of Iron Giant, has said that they chose to make paranoia the enemy in the film, rather than any physical, bomb-able character or country. The threat is fear, and the threat is the violence that our fear provokes in us. It feels right on this anniversary to watch a movie that celebrates friendship, empathy, and the strength to resist the urge to act thoughtlessly and violently in the face of our fear.

Tomme de savoie and mushroom tart

Tomme de savoie and mushroom tart

This recipe was inspired by another Brad Bird film…Ratatouille, of course! In the beginning of the film, Remy finds a piece of Tomme cheese, a mushroom, and a sprig of rosemary. He combines them all on a spit, and then he gets struck by lightning! The flavors combine to make a lightning-y delicacy. Well! I wasn’t going to actually get struck by lightning to make a tart! So I added some smoky flavor with roasted mushrooms and smoked paprika. I bought a little piece of Tomme de savoie cheese, and it was very lovely…semi-soft, creamy, mild but flavorful. If you can’t find it you could substitute any semi soft cheese–even goat cheese or brie.

Here’s Barbara Dane and The Chambers Brothers with Come By Here.

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Farro, mushroom and turnip croquettes

farro-croquettes-mushI can’t stop listening to the same three Nina Simone songs! As soon as they’re over, I go back and listen to them all again. It’s not just that I love them, but I feel as though I need to hear them. They happen to be the first three songs on our new album…My Baby Just Cares For Me, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free, and Ain’t Got No…I Got Life. I’ve been in such a strange mood, lately, and something about the strength and frailty of these, the doubt and joyousness, just feel perfect to me right now. And the boys have started liking them, so they ask to hear them over and over. It’s gotten to the point that the songs are stuck in my head (and David’s too!) all night long. They’re taking over! I feel as though I need to listen to something else for a while. This isn’t the first time this has happened…when the boys were little and I was feeling old and tired, I discovered the Arctic Monkeys, and played their albums till the songs wore a hole in my head. When I was in my twenties, I became obsessed with Old blues guys and Tom Waits, who has always sounded like an old guy. I think I needed some weight and gravity in my life, and I played these songs until I was in a blue mood, but it always made me feel better somehow. So this week’s playlist is songs that go beyond earworms to take over your life. Not just a pleasant song that gets stuck in your head, but songs you need to hear over and over and over and over. Does anyone else do this? Can you remember songs from various points in your life that have meant a lot to you at that time? That you listened to as you lay in awe on the bedroom floor? As ever, I’ve made the playlist collaborative, so add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll add it.

farro, turnip and mushroom croquettes

farro, turnip and mushroom croquettes

We had some leftover farro, so I decided to make farro croquettes. I used small, sharp asian turnips from the CSA and roasted mushrooms. This was very loosely based on something called “turnip paste,” I think, which is boiled turnips mixed with shitake mushrooms, steamed, sliced and fried. Someday I’ll try to make the real thing. The flavors were nice here…roasty, nutty, with just a bit of edge from the turnips.

Here’s your link to the collaborative playlist.

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Beet and kidney (bean) pies

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

It’s take your child to work day. The boys are at the shop with David, hopefully not routering their arms or circular sawing their fingers. Take your child to work day. It’s a little odd, when you stop to think about it, which for better or for worse I’ve just done. It seems to imply a certain neatness and regularity to the world that just doesn’t exist, as I see the world. Does every parent have a safe, child-friendly job? Does every parent have bosses and co-workers that will put up with an infestation of restless children? Does every parent have a job they can work at productively whilst entertaining a bored and or curious tyke? Does every parent have a job during school hours? Maybe they’re chefs or professors or rock stars or stage actors, and they work at night. Does every parent have a job at all? 399919_10200595609406883_2047603223_nI’ve just read that the day was invented by Gloria Steinem as Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and was intended to give girls a sense of possibility and purpose. This makes it seem even odder to me, almost as if it was subversively designed to illustrate the messiness of the world. How many children are bundled off to work with their fathers, because their mothers don’t work during the week because they’re home with children. Maybe they work at night or on the weekend so that they can be there to pick up their children after school. Maybe they have a job but its the kind of job many women have at some point in their lives–cooking or cleaning or caring for someone else’s children, and, strangely, this isn’t the kind of job you’d like to share with your own child. Maybe, like many women, you’re not treated with respect at your job, you’re not treated as an equal. A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not. Of course, all of this stopping-to-think-about-it has included some thoughts on my own life, my own work, my own ideas of success or failure and how they don’t quite fit into those of the rest of the world. Any thing you do is considered work if somebody pays you to do it. And the more they pay you, the more successful you are at your job. I’ve been doing a bit of pastry cheffing, and yesterday I made a cake for a restaurant. If the boys had stayed home and helped me with that, they would have been at work with me (and we would have had fun!). Today, I don’t have any commissions for cake, so if the boys stayed home from school and baked a cake with me, we’d be goofing off (and we’d still have fun!). If I sit around writing or cooking or conspiring to make a movie, I’m a shiftless slacker who should go out and get a real job (I know, I know…). If somebody pays me to do those things, I’m a person who has followed my dreams to find success (although I probably still can’t afford health insurance.) Everything is a little different looked at through the prism of parenthood. What seems brave and valuable when you’re a single person with only yourself to care for, seems irresponsible once you have children. We have our own small business. We work seven days a week, one way or another, and the truth is that the boys spend all weekend every weekend at work with David, watching him watch the store while I wait tables. This is life as they know it. We don’t have days off or weekends or paid vacations, and we still can’t afford health insurance. And all summer when they knock about the house with me, cleaning and cooking and keeping themselves happy and creative, waiting impatiently while I finish writing some dumb thing so we can go to the creek, they’re at work with me, whether they know it or not. It’s messy, it doesn’t fit into any tidy pattern of employment, but I think they’re okay with it. I think they’re proud of us, and have a sense of possibility and purpose. I think they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie! It’s ruddy! This was inspired, of course, by beef and kidney pie, or steak and kidney pie. It does have a certain meaty quality to it. It’s roasted beets and mushrooms combined with kidney beans in a saucy sauce of tamari, sage, rosemary, thyme and allspice. If you use vegetable shortening instead of butter in the crust, this would be vegan.

Here’s King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Workingman’s Blues.

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Warm salad with roasted mushrooms and tiny roasted potatoes and tarragon-white wine dressing

salad-isaacIsn’t it funny how big events seem to go so quickly in other people’s lives? They fly by in bright fleeting flashes of significant moments. You hear somebody is pregnant, and next you know they have a baby. None of the seemingly endless slow growth and change, the day-in-and-day-out joy and discomfort and bewilderment. To hear about somebody else’s trip abroad is planning, postcards, and stories when they get home; they’re back before you knew they were gone. They talk of going to college, you blink, and they have a degree and a job. I suppose our memories of our own lives are like this as well. You never remember the hard work and the tedium, the work to raise each day above the tedious. You don’t remember the hours of sitting and waiting, between events, soaked in anticipation or recollection. When my boys were little I was sure I would remember every single moment, every gurgle and wave of the chubby little fist. Of course I don’t! They’re all mixed together in a sleep-deprived slurry of good intentions. I mostly remember the moments we photographed, which is why we take photographs, after all. I love this quote about Rupert Brooke, “He was magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life.” Not me! I’m ready! This is one test I’m completely prepared for! I love the littleness of each day, the petty pace of each tomorrow! Because, honestly, that pace is picking up, it’s not creeping any more, it’s flying, and I’m limping after it, trying to catch up. I want something big to work towards, of course, but thank god for the small things to look forward to each day. The cup of coffee, the making of a meal, the eating of a meal, reading with the boys, Malcolm’s happy walk, Clio’s sweet grabby paws, David putting his arm around me in the middle of the night, Isaac’s lovely silly songs, walks to school and home again, Clio leaping at us with frantic kisses every single time we walk in the door, inevitable spring, day after day, season after season, year after year. I used to wish time away a lot when I was younger. I was so eager to get on to the next thing, and I’d wish away large chunks of days and weeks. I was thinking the other day that I don’t do that any more; there aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the foolish little things I want to get done. Where am I going with this? I don’t know!! Another incoherent ramble brought to your by your friends at The Ordinary. It’s a drizzly day, is all, and it’s January, and that’s the kind of mood I’m in!

mushroom-potato-saladWe’ve decided to eat mostly vegetables for a few weeks. I mean, we always eat mostly vegetables, because we’re vegetarians, but we’ve decided not to combine them with pastry and, you know, all that stuff, but to make them the stars of the show. So… soups and stews and warm salads like this one. This was delicious! So tasty that I couldn’t save any to photograph prettily the next day. It involves a bed of baby spinach and arugula topped with tiny roasted potatoes, crispy roasted mushrooms, crunchy walnuts, smoky smoked gouda, and a dressing of tarragon, shallots, garlic and white wine. Crunchy, soft, warm, cool, Yum!

Here’s Everyday by Yo La Tengo.
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French lentil, roasted mushroom tart with savory almond topping

French lentil mushroom tart

I feel strangely excited, and of course I’m going to tell you why. It has to do with the election. Wait! Wait! Don’t tune out! I’m not going to tell you about my humble beginnings and how I love America more than anybody else does, and I’m not going to ask for a small donation. It’s a little hard to articulate, but I feel genuinely hopeful about this. It seems to me that, in some way, the needs of the people – the very human needs of all the people – is shaping the rhetoric of the election in a way that I don’t remember happening before on this level. (Of course that might be because my memory is full of holes and I’m politically dumb as a bag of flour.) Feminists have talked for decades about the personal being political, which is an idea that I embrace. This election cycle, (as they call it, which also makes it seem human and part of nature, somehow) it seems as though all of the politicians are struggling to connect with us by making the political personal. Maybe it’s the healthcare debate. Whatever your feelings on the subject, I think everybody agrees that healthcare is about us at our most human and most vulnerable. Of course it’s also about insurance companies and corporations, but at its most crucial, it’s about our life and our death, our bodies and our well-being. I think it’s hard not to become emotional when we consider this issue, which makes it difficult to discuss rationally, perhaps, but it’s important for us to learn this form of discourse – to learn to talk about personal emotional subjects. Maybe it’s because times have been so hard for all of us. We’re all hurting, and it makes us more insular, for better or for worse. We’re anxious about our homes, and our ability to keep them. We’re thinking about the food we put on our table. And this election is about women. We’re told over and over that the women are going to decide this election, and that’s forced a (sometimes uncomfortable) discussion about women’s bodies, and women’s work, and the value of that work. Of course, everything’s intimately connected. The “serious” issues of war, taxes, foreign policy – they’re all ultimately personal, they’re about our daily lives, our loves, our families, the chance to follow the path to old age that we all travel together. I always have this feeling, when I listen to politicians talk, that there’s a truth and sense that they can’t tell us with their words, that we hear anyway. Sometimes they try to hide it – when they tell us we need to go to war, with a barrage of words and falsified facts, I feel like most people understand the truth anyway – we know their motives. This year I feel the sense is closer to the surface under the muddle of words – the sense that we’re all in it together, and we’ll learn a way to talk about that.

Since the food we put on our table is an important issue, i’m going to tell you about this handsome tart! It’s actually quite simple. It’s a standard flaky pate brisee crust, with rosemary and black pepper added for deliciousness. On top of that we have a layer of french lentils sauteed in port wine and balsamic vinegar. Lentils might seem like an odd ingredient in a tart, but they add real substance and texture, and their lovely meaty flavor. And the mushrooms are chopped chunkily and roasted, so that when the savory almond custard is baked all around them, it’s almost like a savory clafouti or toad-in-the-hole. If I do say so myself, and I do, the whole thing turned out super-tasty. David liked it a lot, and said it’s a “birthday meal.”

Here’s Women’s Realm by Belle and Sebastian

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Rosemary crepe stack with CSA medley filling

Savory crepe stack

Today marks the beginning of my live-blogging olympics broadcast. Ready? Begin. We’ll start with ping pong. He shoots the ball across the table! He shoots it back across the table. He shoots it back, he shoots it forth, back, forth, back, forth. Wait! What’s this? Could it be? No, it’s back. Forth, back forth. I’m kidding, of course, and I don’t mean to poke fun at ping pong, which is a perfectly honorable sport. We watched a bit of olympics at work over the weekend, and I really do enjoy the games. I’m strangely moved by large gatherings of people, united in one cause. I get weepy at political demonstrations and concerts and parades. I’ve never been sure why – it’s an irrational and inexplicable response. I find the olympics particularly thrilling. All of these people coming from all over the world, so full of energy and hope and skill. Despite my gospel of under-achievement, and my support for mediocrity everywhere, I’ve always thought it would be fun to be very very good at something. To be, perhaps, the best in the world. I’d love to be passionately focussed on something that I was actually good at doing. I’ve said I’m not very competitive, and it’s true that I’m not, but I can imagine that it would be wonderful to be around other people who have concentrated their life and energy on the thing that you’ve concentrated your life and energy on, even if you’re competing with them for medals. At work over the weekend, some of my co-workers were laughing at the people who had fallen so far back in the race that they didn’t show up on the screen any more. But I thought…they’re in the Olympics, for chrissake!! They’re possibly the best in their country, among the best in the world, they’ve probably trained all of their lives, and they’re here! They should be flying, and glowing, and ecstatic!! They should cross the finish line and laugh and cry with joy! Of course it’s not that simple. I know that. But all of the complexity and drama are part of the beauty of it.

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.

Crepe stack cross view

Here’s Jurassic 5 with The Game

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Grilled vegetables and pecan tarragon sauce

Roasted beets & mushrooms

We’ve been watching the Olympic trials at work, on a big television above the bar. The sound is turned all the way down, and for some reason, in this way, it becomes the most beautiful drama. The expressions on the athletes’ faces are so raw and honest – pure, distilled emotion. It reminds me of silent films, when the actors’ gestures and expressions had to tell the story, except that this is entirely unstudied. It’s hard to tell at first who has won and who has lost, because the faces are oddly similar – anguished, ecstatic, exhausted. Their faces are like children’s faces in delight and sorrow – undulled and unguarded. It’s very emotional! I have to stop myself from getting weepy right there at the host stand! I love the idea of working very hard for one thing, and putting so much emotion and energy into it. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – it’s good to have a grand project in your life.

When I was little we lived in England one summer, during the Olympics. To my shame, I remember being actually bewildered that the announcers spoke more about English athletes than Americans. Didn’t everybody in the world care more about our superior American athletes even than their own? Didn’t they? Heh heh. With independence day drawing on apace, it’s probably a good time to examine our place in the world as Americans and as human beings. Luckily for you I have to go to work in a short while, so I’ll talk about grilling vegetables instead. We grilled beets, mushrooms, and potatoes. Of course you could grill any vegetables you like, but I recommend this combination. The beets and mushrooms have a nice juiciness, everything is crispy, earthy, smoky and delicious. I like a simple marinade for grilled vegetables. Olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and garlic. I added some nigella seeds because I just got them for the first time and I’m very excited about them! But if you can’t find them you could live without. We also sauteed the beet greens with some chard, and I used zatar spices, because I just bought sumac, and I’m very excited about that, too!! And the pecan tarragon tarrator sauce is a lovely, creamy, vegan, subtly flavored sauce that goes very sweetly with the earthy grilled vegetables. Malcolm ate his grilled vegetables on toast, and he made it into Darth Vador’s Tie Fighter. (serving suggestion)

Beet tie fighter


Here’s a little film of Louis Armstrong playing Stuttin with some Barbecue, and dancing with Velma Middleton.

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Choux dumplings with roasted mushrooms, pecans & chard (Plus herbed boiled potatoes)

savory choux pastry

I’m in such a funny mood. I feel like I want something good to happen. I want to hear some good news. I half feel as though I even expect something good to happen. Some unspecified good thing, which I really couldn’t name. Sometimes, as I go about my day, I’ll think of something that makes me happy. And then moments later I’ll forget the specific thing I was thinking of, but the feeling will remain. And then I’ll go back and try to remember the one specific thing, and in the process of remembering I’ll think of all sorts of things that could make me happy. It feels a little like that. Hopeful, but a tad disgruntled, too, and just a little impatient. Do you ever feel like this? I think I know what this mood is called. I think it’s called, “spring.” And while I’m waiting, I’ll just make some nice meals and share them with my family, and maybe eventually I’ll realize that’s the good thing.

This meal involves wrapping a version of choux pastry around a savory concoction, and then baking it till it gets a little puffy. It’s a little bit less eggy than regular choux pastry, so it doesn’t get quite so puffy, but it is lovely and tasty and tender. Wrapping anything in raw choux batter is fun but a little messy. It’s not like you can roll it out and keep it tidy. It’s a sticky sort of batter, but if you keep your fingers cool and damp, the batter won’t stick to them too much, and you should be able to make a relatively even coating. The filling we used was roasted mushrooms, toasted pecans, steamed chard, fresh sage and smoked paprika. Even Isaac liked it!

Herbed potatoes

The other day, when I was telling you about all my clever ways to use a medley of herbs and greens from the garden (in this tart, for instance), I mentioned that they were also good with potatoes. Well, I bought a few new herbs and greens yesterday to plant in the garden, so I thought I’d show them off by mixing them with some boiled chopped red potatoes. I mixed in salad burnet, chervil, lovage, several kinds of basil, summer savory, thyme and bulls blood baby beet leaves. I always boil my potatoes just a little too much, because I’m easily distracted, but I like them that way – almost smashed. The mildness of the potatoes is a nice background for the spicy herbs.

Here’s The Violent Femmes with Good Feeling. They remind me of being a teenager, when I felt like this all of the time!
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