Spicy tomato coconut sauce; smoky basil pesto; collard “fettuccine”

collard fettucine with two sauces

collard fettucine with two sauces

The Hagakure is a practical and spiritual guide to warfare written by a samurai in the beginning of the 18th century. The word “hagakure” literally means “hidden by leaves,” or “hidden leaves,” and I believe this is because the writings, though seemingly about a warrior code, are filled with hidden meanings that shift and grow as you read them, as something viewed through shifting leaves and shadows. I know about the Hagakure because extracts from it are beautifully read in Jim Jarmusch’s beautiful Ghost Dog. One of my favorites is this advice for understanding a rain storm, “There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.” Every once in a while my boys will impart some wisdom they’ve gleaned from their travels, and it feels as though they should end it, “This understanding extends to all things.” Last night before bed and this morning on our towpath walk, I peppered them with questions, and I’ve compiled a short list of their advices.

    The Way of My Boys

    When walking through a forest, always think that a tick is biting you. In this way you will know when you have been bitten by a tick. This understanding applies to all things.

    If a bee stings you but you don’t know it, it will not hurt. This understanding extends to all things.

    When swimming in a pool, if you want to touch the bottom, go slowly so that you don’t hit your head. When swimming in murky water with a bed of sharp stones, go slowly so that you don’t scrape your knees. This understanding extends to all things.

    If you want to catch a firefly, don’t pinch it, hold your hand out and let it land, so that you don’t kill it. This is true of all things.

    If you miss a friend, play with things that you learned about with him. This understanding extends to all things.

    If you’re waiting on line and your legs get tired, think about something else and the pain will go away. This applies to all things.

    If you want something very badly but can’t have it, imagine that you have it, and that will be almost as good. This applies to all things.

    When eating a plum, take a big bite, pull out the pit at once, and you can have fun eating the rest. This understanding extends to all things.

Smoky pesto

Smoky pesto

I keep picking armfuls of basil each week, and I wanted to think of something different to add to pesto, so I asked Malcolm. He suggested smoked paprika, and then we decided to add smoked gouda as well, and to roast the garlic and toast the pine nuts. It turned out very good. It’s quite a subtle flavor, but nice. And I’ve been picking lots of tomatoes, too. I had some chunky sauce left over from the day before, and I decided to mix it with some cream of coconut and spices, and then add some fresh cherry tomatoes at the end.
Bright and spicy and a little sweet. And, finally, I’ve been thinking a while about cooking collards in long ribbons, and eating them as a person might eat pasta, with a sauce (or two!) on top. I thought it turned out very very tasty. Satisfying, like pasta, but with more flavor and texture. The boys just ate soba noodles, though, which is a perfectly acceptable substitute. collard-fettuccine

Here’s Flying Birds, from RZA’s remarkable soundtrack to Ghost Dog.


2 T olive oil
3 or 4 scallions, white parts mostly, minced
2 garlic scapes or 2 cloves garlic, trimmed and minced
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce or equivalent amount tomatoes, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t coriander powder
1 t tamari
1 cup cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, different sizes and colors, chopped
juice of one lime
salt and pepper
large handful fresh basil

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the scallions, pepper flakes, and garlic or garlic scapes and stir and fry until they start to brown. Add the tomatoes or tomato sauce, stir and cook until they’re soft, about five minutes. Add the coconut milk, spices and enough water to make everything saucy. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to quite low and simmer until the sauce is thick and fragrant. Add the tamari, cherry tomatoes and lime. Add a little water if you want it to be saucier. Season well with salt and pepper, top with chopped basil, and serve.

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
2 cloves garlic, roasted or toasted
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t salt
2 packed cups basil leaves, cleaned and trimmed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated smoked gouda
1 t balsamic
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the pine nuts, garlic, paprika and salt in a food processor. Process until coarse and crumbly. Add the basil leaves, process to incorporate. Add the olive oil and process till smooth. Add the cheese and balsamic and process again. Add salt and pepper and just enough water to make it as thin and smooth as you like it, and process until completely smooth.


6 or 7 large, smooth collard leaves
salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Cut the stem out of the collard leaves, and then roll them up, base to tip. Cut through each roll at 1/3-inch intervals, so that you’ll have spirals. Drop these in the boiling water. Repeat with all the leaves.

Boil until tender but bright, 15 – 20 minutes.

Drain, mix in a little butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve as is, or with any sauce you like.


1 thought on “Spicy tomato coconut sauce; smoky basil pesto; collard “fettuccine”

  1. Pingback: Red bean, potato and pine nut tacos…and croquettes | Out of the Ordinary

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