Crispy spicy semolina-crusted sweet potato fries

Semolina crusted sweet potato fries

Semolina crusted sweet potato fries

Here at The Ordinary, they call me “oblivia.” I’m not the most observant person on the planet. I’ve been known to watch the same movie twice and not even notice until I was halfway through. I feel as though I’m reasonably observant about people and books, but when it comes to music or art, I tend to let it wash over me, so I get the full effect, but I often miss the details. Some songs, though, I pay closer attention to. This is because they have one part, one moment, that I find very exciting. It could be a strange instrument, a strange rhythm, a sample, a noise. Usually it’s not throughout the whole song, which is why it gets my attention. So this week’s Sunday interactive playlist is a little complicated. We’re looking for songs with a particular unexpected moment that you look forward to, that you pay attention to. For instance, the bagpipe in Belle and Sebastian’s Sleep the Clock Around. The clanging noises in 16 shells from a 30.6 (honestly, listen for it, it makes no sense but it makes perfect sense.) The xylophone at the end of Gone Daddy Gone, when it gets all synchopated (that is a xylophone, right?). All of Nina Simone’s little asides in Nina’s Blues. The Jaws and Psycho samples in Beastie Boys’ Egg Man. This list will take a little thought and a bit of explanation. Especially for me, because as well as being oblivious my memory is useless. So I know there are more songs, but they’re not coming to me just at the moment. Add songs if you like (the list is collaborative) or leave a comment, and I’ll try to remember to add them for you.
Semolina crusted sweet potato fries.

Semolina crusted sweet potato fries.

I like sweet potato fries, but often they’re mushy and disappointing. Not when they’re crusted with spices and semolina flour!! This way they’re crispy outside and soft inside. Perfection. I used a blend of “sweet” and “savory” spices, but you can use any blend you like. And you could use herbs instead of spices, if you want. I also used a mix of white and orange sweet potatoes, but either would do.

Here’s a link to that playlist, as it stands so far. I’ll be thinking about it all day at work, so I’ll have more to add later.

Continue reading

About these ads

Roasted rosemary fries and spicy tomato hummus

Roasted fries & tomato hummus

When I was in high school, I used to come home from school, heat up some frozen french fries and read Tintin. The bright, beautifully drawn world was such a perfect escape from the confusion of reality. I loved those books, from when I was little, with a sort of attachment I don’t feel for inanimate objects any more. I loved the perfect ink-lines – they’re so pleasingly precise – exactly where they should be. I love the colors – the various blues that Hergé uses resonate like few other colors in my memory. I loved the way Tintin dresses. I’m ashamed to think how much time I’ve spent trying to decide if I prefer the short-sleeved yellow shirt and black sock combination, or the one with blue sweater and white socks. I love Snowy – so smart and funny – the perfect comic foil to Tintin’s earnestness. I like Tintin himself, and his little pale apartment. He’s a boy, but he has his own place, his own job (he’s a journalist, but he never writes anything, does he?) He’s so calm, and kind, and curious, and fearless, and surprisingly strong! He’s such a rational, average sort of person in many ways, but he’s surrounded by a universe of eccentric friends. The disappointingly racist and xenophobic books weren’t available when I was younger (or maybe my parents wouldn’t let us have them) so that didn’t cloud the lovely clarity of the pictures and stories. I love the light, deft style and subtle humor, so thoroughly stomped on by Spielburg’s gruesomely heavy-handed, Hollywood platitude-laden mess. He shouldn’t have done it!

Well! I have to get to work, so I’ll stop chattering on about my lifelong affection for the boy reporter and his best canine friend. This is my sort of version of french fries and catsup, except that it’s a sweet and spicy and smoky hummus instead of catsup. Fear not! If you don’t like catsup, you’ll still like this (at least David did, and he won’t eat catsup!) It’s a little sweet, and it has some sweet spices (cinnamon & allspice) but it also has smoky savory smoked paprika, and garlic and shallots. Hummus and french fries is one of our favorite simple meals, with a big green salad. It’s sort of a tradition that when we’re out for the day, and we start to feel our energy lag, we’ll stop for a glass of red wine, and a plate of french fries and hummus!

Tintin catches a train

I don’t really know of any songs about Tintin, but one of the things I love about the books is the effortlessness with which he travels all over the world, so here’s Donald Byrd with Places and Spaces.
Continue reading

Moroccan spiced chickpea, tomato and pepper stew & couscous, & semolina bread

Morrocan chickpea stew

Malcolm wanted to go to the river. Isaac didn’t. It’s not the first time this has happened. After another epic struggle, we persuaded Isaac to walk down with us. As we walked, Malcolm declared that he was an outdoors swimming animal, and Isaac was an indoors curl-up-in-a-nest-of-fur-and-feathers animal. We laughed, cause it’s funny and it’s sort of true. But I felt uneasy. We try very hard not to label the boys a certain way. Not to say… Malcolm is a man who does this, and Isaac is a man who does that; or Malcolm’s good at this, and Isaac’s good at that. Because when somebody decides that you are a certain way, you can get stuck. I find it interesting, and a little frightening, how readily people take to a certain description of themselves. The boys like being defined in certain ways. We all do…everything’s such a confusing muddle, and it makes it easier if you have a semi-solid notion of yourself from which to make sense of it all. As an example…Malcolm is the boy who will try any food, Isaac is the boy who refuses to taste a thing. This is a thing that’s been decided, and Isaac is almost proud of it. But it’s just not true! In fact, I’d go even farther to say that the idea that children like bland, pale foods, and we should start out feeding them tasteless things, and trick them into eating anything else, is also, just not true. We fed tiny Malcolm oatmeal and yogurt and bananas. Then, one day, on a whim, we gave him orzo with pesto on it. Who turned the lights on? Flavor! Strong, sharp flavor! (Tiny little pasta that squishes through your fingers and drives the dog crazy when you scatter it ont the floor!) I think all children like strong flavors – Isaac likes olives and goat cheese – he always has. They both love capers, which they call flavor dynamites. We just have to give them a chance to try these things! Tapenade baby food, anyone?

Isaac eats a chickpea

So when I made this Moroccan-spiced chickpea stew, Isaac refused to try it, because that’s what he does. Then I gave him a chickpea. He ate that, and helped himself to more. I gave him an olive. He ate that, and spooned a few more onto his plate. By the time the rest of us had left the table, I looked out the window and saw that he’d pulled the whole serving plate toward him, and was eating everything together, hungrily. So we’ll take Isaac swimming, and Malcolm will curl up on the couch with a good book.

The stew was really tasty, and it’s a good way to use up all your tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, if you’re sick and tired of ratatouille. It’s not authentically Moroccan-spiced, of course. It’s just that it’s a pleasing mixture of savory spices and herbs, and “sweet” spices and herbs. And the bread! Well, I’d been reading fascinating accounts of Moroccan flatbread, that generally contain semolina, and are folded into all sorts of beautiful fashions. I decided to play around with these ideas, but in one big loaf. It turned out very nice! With a lovely texture and flavor – crumbly, chewy, and satisfying. If you don’t feel like doing all the crazy folding, you could just shape it into a nice round, and leave it at that.

Here’s Peter Tosh’s beautiful I Am that I Am.

Continue reading

Spicy smoky zucchini & tomato tart

Smoky zucchini and tomato tart

Here at The Ordinary, we have acquired our first real food processor. It didn’t come with instructions, but we are performing exhaustive experiments in our extensive underground kitchen-laboratories to determine its function and capabilities. We have puréed paper, grated legos, and julienned our entire DVD collection. We would like to inform you that from this point onward, every thing we cook will be diced and sliced to within an inch of its life. You have been warned!! I’m joking, of course, but I’m very excited to finally have a food processor. My friend Jenny gave me her old cuisinart. I brought it into the house and Malcolm said, “Oooooh, what’s that?” And then he and I gathered around our new toy, and tried to figure out how to use it. Did you know that every little piece has to be locked into place, in a certain order, or it won’t work? I didn’t! I kept loading it up, pressing the button, expecting a huge loud noise, and then….nothing! We finally got it all figured out, though. And before I knew it Malcolm had grated two large zucchinis. And then I had to try the knife-type blade, so we chopped up some basil, cilantro, tomatoes, almonds and hazelnuts. We made a chunky sort of sauce. Very smoky and flavorful, because I’d put every smoky thing I could find in … black cardamom, nigella seeds, smoked paprika. We ate it with saltine crackers, and it was very tasty! The next day, I decided to further test the abilities of my processor, and I pureed this chunky sauce till quite smooth, then added some eggs and milk, put it all in a biscuit-like crust with smoked paprika in it, added some fresh cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and made a tart! What with the nuts and all, it’s almost like a savory frangipane. We ate it with potatoes roasted with tomatoes and shallots, which were sort of saucy, and everything went well together. You could make this with a blender and a regular grater, if you don’t happen to have a food processor.

Smoky zucchini/tomato/nut sauce

Here’s Sly and the Family Stone with Thank You Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again to dance to while you puree, grate and julienne. Thanks for the food processor, Jenny!!
Continue reading

Beet dogs

Beet dogs

I love sleeping. I’m not very good at it – I never have been! I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and my brain will start buzzing, and I can’t quiet it down. It’s like the little people in my brain that have the middle-of-the night shift are working over time. I used to panic that if I didn’t get enough sleep I’d go crazy. I mean, there’s only so much of being with myself that I can take! I need a break, man! Of course, panicking about not being able to sleep is a rookie mistake; all the seasoned insomniacs know that it only makes things worse. Having children has put some sleepless fears to rest. I get along fine without much sleep. Yes I’ll be tired and blurry, but it won’t last forever. But a good night’s sleep, or even a good few-hours of sleep, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I don’t consider this a lazy attitude, because with sleep comes dreams, and dreaming is one of the most active and creative activities that a mind can engage in. I love dreaming! Perhaps because I’m a filmmaker that hasn’t made a film in over a decade, I consider every dream like a short film – I’ve even have a dream that I make a film, and it’s always a perfect and beautiful film, which I lose when I wake up. David’s alarm goes off at 6, and I’ll sleep for another hour or so, and this is when you have all the best dreams – or at least you remember them best. Dreams about old clothes, dreams about flying, dreams about falling, dreams about houses that have unexpected rooms and passages, dreams about climbing trees, dreams about my dog, dreams about people I’ve never met, dreams of swimming, dreams of drowning, dreams about water, dreams about glass, dreams about darkness, dreams about school, and about schools with unexpected rooms and corridors. And lately, of course, dreams about food. This recipe came to me in a dream. And part of me, upon waking, thought, you’re not really going to try that, are you? And another part of me thought, why the hell not? These are a sort of version of vegetarian hot dogs. They’re made with beets, pinto beans, garlic, smoked paprika, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice. They have some flour and eggs in them. They’re very simple and easy to make. They look funny and a bit embarrassing while you’re making them, so if you have boys in your house I suggest you banish them from the kitchen, unless you’d like to hear rude jokes and titters. The jokes stopped when they tasted these, though! Everybody was dubious, but everybody loved them. We all ate more than we planned on. Isaac sat with his chair tilted back, one beet dog in each hand, talking and gesturing, and ate every single bite. (Being allowed to eat them with their hands was part of the appeal!) Malcolm declared them better than store-bought not-dogs. I tried them two ways. First, I just fried them in butter (which is the way I make not dogs.) Second, in a flash of inspiration, I had the idea to boil them first, like gnocchi (which they resemble in some ways!) and then fry them in butter. I thought these came out better. Less dry, with a nice sort of chewy texture. They really are unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, but in a good way. Try them! Why the hell not! They’re very easy to make. I think that the boiled ones would be grillable, too. I’ll try it and let you know!

Here’s Big Mama Thornton with Hound Dog
Continue reading

Roasted mushroom, white bean, pecan burgers (grillable!!)

roasted mushroom burger

Here at The Ordinary, we are melting. The boys come down in the morning and throw themselves on the couch, their hot little arms and legs hanging off the edges of the furniture. They sit next together and melt into one another to become a languid needy lump of little boyishness, from which emanates demands for water and for the horrible sugary cereal we bought as a special treat. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and there’s no end in sight. The sidewalks are hot enough to cause blisters on bare feet, the streets are black and sticky, we’re all turning into wobbly mirages of our former selves. This summer is oddly like winter, in its cabin-fever inducing quality. I don’t mind so much, though. As with being snowed in, there’s something nice about finding ways around it – coming up with projects that take us from one cool place to another. Sitting very still and appreciating every slight breeze. And going to the creek!! This has been our summer of creeking. Sometimes we walk to the creek on the edge of town, sometimes we go farther afield, on creeking adventures. We take lunch, and we walk for a few hours in the shade, in cool water. Malcolm can swim in a few feet of water, and he’ll go along beside you like a sleek little otter, splashing and happy. Isaac walks slowly, his glowing little torso almost painfully beautiful with small sharp shoulder blades, xylophone ribs, and round belly. He fills his pockets with stones, which slows him down even more. He tells us he wants to live in mother nature, and so do we. These days glow like memory and anticipation. They feel like summer. And then I tripped on some sticks and slipped on some clay and dropped the camera in the water. Yup. “Lady graceful,” they call me. Sigh.

A while back we promised to try to make grillable burgers with roasted mushrooms. Yesterday, we did just that! They were super-tasty! We wanted to roast the mushrooms first, but we didn’t want to turn on the stove, the temperature being what it was. So we plugged the toaster oven into an outdoor socket and roasted them outside. Pretty clever, sis. Aside from roasted shallots and mushrooms, the burgers have white beans, pecans, and smoked gouda. They’re seasoned with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika, and a bit of tamari and marmite. They were slightly softer than the beet burgers, but they grilled up nice and brown on the outsides, and were very plump and juicy.

Here’s Jelly Roll Morton with Deep Creek
Continue reading

Chard, chickpea, and olive tart (with a citrus-quince glaze)

Chickpea & olive tart

Well, I was a little cranky yesterday! I had a small tantrum because we couldn’t find some place we used to go bird watching. I yelled at the boys everywhere we went. I yelled at them for making me yell at them. I yelled at them as we bought them giant cookies. And they weren’t being bad! They were happy, and noisy, and getting along with each other. But Isaac has this squeal – it’s very high-pitched, and it goes right through you. He resorts to it whether he’s very happy, indignant, or actually hurt. It signals panic either way. And Malcolm was being sweet and good, but why can’t he just walk? Why must he climb walls, jump off benches, press Isaac’s shriek & giggle buttons? Why! By evening-time I had to sit in the back yard and watch squirrels to try to rid myself of my cranky-induced headache. But I wouldn’t tell anybody about that! I’d talk about the good things – the Savory Spice shop we went to, which was completely wonderful! How sweet it was to see the boys excited about smelling all the spices! The beautiful place we found for a walk! The tart that I made for dinner, which I had literally dreamed of, which was a little odd, and which I might not have made if it wasn’t my birthday! Everybody being together on a beautiful day! How I got a beautiful new golden-amber bakelite watch and some perfectly claire-y pens and a blank notebook, which is the most inspiring thing ever! (From Modern Love)

I started watching a Masterpiece Theater version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray the other day, while I was exercising. (I jump around the living room holding two cans of beans while I catch up with The Daily Show on the computer. Isaac thinks this is hilarious! “You’re holding two cans of beans!!”) I love late Victorian novels – they’re so well-crafted and beautifully novelly. It was pretty well-done. It had Prince Caspian in it, and Mr. Darcy! And some guy named Ben who was familiar. It was a little dark and gloomy for early-morning-exercise-viewing. It had a lot of shocking Victorian nudity. (Masterpiece Theater wasn’t like that when I was a lass! When I was a lass, characters from televised versions of literary classics had the decency to keep their oddly-eighties-looking costumes on, thank you very much!!) When I thought about how cranky I was yesterday, but how I wouldn’t write about that part of the day, I had an idea for a modern version of Dorian Gray. What if there was somebody who had one of those mommy-blogs, or an advice column about parenting. What if they talked about their own lives in glowing, unrealistic terms. And then…all of the bad stuff they don’t write about manifests itself doubly in their real lives, until they all descend into a spiralling vortex of depravity and despair!! Bom bom bommmmmmmmmm.

So! This tart! I was quite excited about it. I had thought of having a tart with a base of chard and goat cheese and fresh basil, all mixed together till smooth and bright green. This would be poured into a crust which contained some zesty lemon zest and white pepper. And it would all be topped with chickpeas and olives, which would become, as it were, roasted, as they cooked. And poured over the whole thing would be a provocative glaze of quince jelly, lemon & lime zest, and lemon and lime juice, for a sweet/tart surprise. It was surprising, and I thought it was quite good – very summery. I mixed some sumac and smoked paprika in with the chickpeas, because I had just bought them at the savory spice store, and I was little-kid-excited about it. Isaac said he tasted three layers of flavor, which I thought was very bright and perceptive for a six-year-old.

I also roasted some potatoes, and we had them with lots of pepper and my new alderwood-smoked sea salt. (SMOKED SEA SALT!!) it was delicious!!

Here’s Bob Marley singing Corner Stone (a rare acoustic version!) I’ve been listening to this a lot lately, driving around, getting lost looking for bird watching places. I love it so much!
Continue reading

Roasted beet hummus with cumin, paprika & lime

Roasted beet hummus

Quite a few years ago, David and I took a feature film to the Independent Feature Film Market in NYC. Good times! Wandering around the area of New York that surrounds the Angelika, watching strange films during the day. Seeing my film at the Angelika. It’s an ideal week, in a lot of ways. Interesting, exciting, but strangely discouraging as well. I know, it’s a market, it says so right there in the title, but it was depressing that the entire focus of everybody’s frantic energy was selling selling selling. We had very few conversations about the films themselves – about their ideas or aesthetics. It felt like the death of thoughtful American independent film. The quality of the films suffered for it – they were made to be sold. How many knock-off Tarantino films can you sit through (when honestly his films aren’t that original in the first place, are they?) Sorry, I can get very boring and whiny on the subject of American Indies – I’m such a cranky old lady. As I was saying, it was a delightful week, in many ways. Days spent wandering around New York with David are always good days. One evening, physically and emotionally tuckered out, we wandered into a bar that used to be across the street from the Angelika. Match. It was nice inside, warm and glowy. We ordered red wine, hummus and french fries. Rarely has a meal seemed so perfect. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re in the mood for, but when you eat it you feel blissful, and you remember it long afterwards. Since then, it’s become a tradition, when we spend a day in the city, we do a lot of wandering and walking, and we always find a place to have red wine, hummus, and french fries.

Yesterday I got home from work quite tired, and we decided to have a simple meal – so I oven roasted some fries, and made some roasted beet hummus with smoked paprika, cumin, lime and fresh basil, and we had a big salad of farm greens, apples, hazelnuts and goat cheese. Perfect.

Here’s The Selecter and Dave Barker with What a Confusion.

Continue reading

Slow cooked canary bean and moong dal

canary beans and moong dal

I’ve been feverishly cooking my way through all the veg from the CSA this week. I was a veritable tasmanian devil of vegetable preparation. I paused for a moment, to peer in my vegetable drawer, and…it’s almost gone! Just a head of lettuce left! So I decided to take a day off from primarily-vegetable-meals and cook some beans. I generally use canned beans, to my eternal shame. They’re just so easy, and cheap, and good quality canned beans taste fine to me! But I bought some beautiful pale yellow dried canary beans, and I wanted to cook them up. I’m a big fan of any dish that combines lentils with larger beans. Like urad dal & kidney beans in dal makhani, for instance, so I decided to make a variation on that. I used canary beans and whole moong dal. Both so pretty uncooked, and so drab when cooked! You could use any slow-cooking lentil (whole moong dal and whole urad dal are the two I know of) and any larger, firmer bean that you like (kidney and navy being two contestants). If you used a quicker-cooking lentil, it would just get softer and mushier, but that’s not a bad thing, because it becomes part of the sauce the beans sit it. I decided to flavor the beans with cardamom and smoked paprika. It all started the night before, when I simmered some bok choy with these particular spices and then topped it with peanuts. Baby, it was so nice, I wanted to do it twice! Ahem, my train of thought seems to be derailed at the moment, so I’ll just get on with the recipes, shall I?

Bok choy & peanuts

Here’s Howlin Wolf, Goin Down Slow.

Continue reading

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!
Continue reading