Last night we started watching a film by Yasujiro Ozu. He uses these beautiful still “pillow shots” between scenes. They’re shots down hallways, of empty rooms, along an alleyway. They’re not entirely static – the camera is still, but there’s movement of light, or of people walking by, clocks ticking, curtains blowing. You sense that the story is playing itself out somewhere nearby. The shots are so cool, so quiet but not silent. I find them incredibly compelling. I’m a huge fan of stillness in films, and quiet moments. Whether they last the whole film long, or they form a small pocket in a louder busier film. I wish the word “moment” wasn’t overused in precious greeting cards and knick knacks and self-help-speak, because it’s such a good word. A few years ago I submitted a series of short videos to an online gallery run by the remarkable Peter Ferko, a New York artist. The series was called Now:Here:This, and it involved art made in a moment (or a few moments) by people all over the world at roughly the same space in time. I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) Children always want your attention most when you’re doing something else. When you’re on the phone, or making short videos, or writing about trumpet mushrooms on some stupid blog! I became very taken with making the videos – there was nothing brilliant about them, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be. And then Ozu went and stole the idea from me! I’d like to stop and look at my house, for moments at a time, from down a corridor, when nothing is happening. Of course it wouldn’t be quiet and clean and cool, like in Ozu’s films. It would be a warm messy muddle.
Segue! This meal is a sort of warm/cool combination. A warm salad, or a cool stir fry. I went to the Stockton market. I bought some trumpet mushrooms. They were ridiculously expensive. I felt a little foolish, clutching my brown paper bag of precious mushrooms. The meal turned out very tasty, though, so it’s okay, I think. I sauteed some chard with garlic, red pepper, castelvetrano olives and fresh basil. I mixed in some brie, smoked gouda, and goat cheese. (Three cheeses! So extravagant! They were very nice together, and gave the meal a warm, creamy, tangy smokiness that was lovely. But you could use what you have.) The mushrooms I sliced very thinly, and then sauteed in olive oil with fresh sage leaves. The mushrooms and sage leaves became nice and crispy. I said the mushrooms tasted like bacon, and David said…”better than bacon – like steak and bacon. Steakon!” The pine nuts added a lovely crunch. They always have a little bit of a smoky, bacony taste to me, too!! You could easily make this with portobellos, spinach, and whatever cheese you happen to have.
Here’s Louis Armstrong with Tight Like This. Geddit? Trumpet mushrooms! Plus this remarkable piece is full of perfect moments.
1/2 head fresh clean lettuce, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (or any kind you like!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 t sherry vinegar or balsamic
dollop of butter
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, cleaned and chopped
1/4 cup each grated smoked gouda, brie cut into small cubes, and crumbled goat cheese, or any combination you like
1/4 cup pine nuts
5 or 6 trumpet mushrooms, sliced lengthwise into 1/8 inch stips (or portobellos, sliced thin, if you can’t find trumpet)
2 T olive oil
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
salt and plenty of pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes. When the garlic starts to brown, add the chard and a few tablespoons of water. Cook till the chard is wilted but still bright. Five to ten minutes, maybe. Add the vinegar and butter if you’re using. Stir in the basil, olives, and the cheeses.
Wipe out the pan. Add the 2 T of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sage. Fry, stirring carefully until the mushrooms are browned and crispy on both sides. Add a splash of vinegar or a touch more olive oil if the pan gets dry.
In a large shallow bowl arrange a layer of lettuce. Top with the chard/ basil mixture. Top with the mushrooms, and sprinkle the pine nuts over the top. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve with a loaf of good bread.