Spicy coconut milk, cashew, & basil pesto

Coconut milk & basil pesto

Coconut milk & basil pesto

Hey, kids, it’s Saturday storytelling time! It’s summer sporadic schedule Saturday storytelling time!! As I’m sure you’ll recall, each Saturday we post a found photograph, a vernacular picture, and we write a story about it, and invite everyone else to write one, too. It’s edifying! It’s fun! It’s addictive. Here’s this week’s picture. Who is this boy and where is he going?
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As for this sauce, I’ve decided to write a cookbook called “Cement-colored sauces.” And it will probably have a chapter called “Concrete-colored dips.” I had the bright idea of putting spicy purple basil leaves in this, but somehow it all turned grey, so I added some green basil leaves, so that it looked like I’d done it on purpose. It was actually a pretty pale green by the time I was all done. And very tasty! A little sweet, a little spicy with the jalapeno, and rich and nutty with cashews. We ate this with crispy roasted eggplant and croquettes, but it would be good with any roasted vegetables, or on pasta or rice.

Here’s The Pogues with Sea Shanty.
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Semolina-pine nut crusted mushrooms and eggplant and goat cheese pesto dipping sauce

Crispy semolina-pine nut crusted mushrooms and eggplant

Crispy semolina-pine nut crusted mushrooms and eggplant

For the longest time we’ve talked about riding our bikes up the towpath to the next town to get breakfast. It’s been an adventure we would go on, someday. Well, today was that day. And a beautiful day it is, too. Seventy degrees, crisp, autumnal, sunny. In fact it was so chilly in the shade on the way out that Isaac said his legs were turning into icicles, so he pedaled extra hard to get into the sunshine. David and Malcolm rode on ahead, and I went at an Isaac’s pace. When I told him that he uses as much energy talking as pedaling, he was silent for a few moments, but when he’s silent he’s thoughtful, and then he has to talk about all of his thoughts. Why do flies like poop? Why do airplanes fly so high in the sky? Can you imagine how happy Clio will be when we get home? She’s going to lick us all over and tell us that we’re excellent. On the way out, this part of the path was all covered in shadows, and he was cold, but now it’s mostly sunny, and he’s warm. Did I recognize how much it had changed? He’s almost certainly beaten his record for farthest ever biking, but it felt like it only took a second. Didn’t it feel like it only took a second? Yes, yes it did. This whole summer felt like it only took a second. This morning we rode over dried leaves, and golden leaves fell in lazy circles all around us, spiraling around Isaac’s bright yellow helmet. A few weeks ago this path was teeming with flowers–honey suckle and wild rose–and it smelled almost unbearably sweet. Now it smelled sharp, like pine and lemon, like the tough green walnuts all over the ground. It’s only August but this morning felt like autumn, and I wondered as I always do how I can feel so much anticipation and regret all at the same time. I thought about Isaac talking and talking, and about how I know that when he’s anxious he talks more and more and his voice gets higher. And how I know that when Malcolm’s anxious he gets very quiet, and stares around with his big beautiful eyes, taking everything in. I thought about the fact that Malcolm knows why I never put anything in my right pocket, and it feels so strange that he knows something about me from my history, from before he was born. Isaac said he’s afraid of heights, and I thought about how he hasn’t ever really been anywhere very high. To him the view from David’s shoulders is dizzying. I feel like we should take him places, we should travel. But it’s nice for now that a trip four miles up the tow path is a momentous exploit.

Semolina and pine nut coated mushrooms and eggplant

Semolina and pine nut coated mushrooms and eggplant

This sauce was made by speedily combining goat cheese, milk, and pesto. And the eggplant and mushrooms were made by marinating them in olive oil, balsamic, and herbs, and then coating them with egg, and then coating them with a mixture of semolina flour and pine nuts. Deeeeelicious. I roasted them, and they got nice and crispy, but still tender inside. Even the boys liked them. We ate it as a meal with potatoes and chard, but I suppose it would make a good appetizer as well.

Here’s Sir Lord Comic with Dr. Feelgood, because we’ve been listening to it a lot lately.

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Mango salsamole

mango-salsamoleThis morning Malcolm told us about a dream that started slightly scary and strange, but turned into a fun adventure. Isaac wanted to be in Malcolm’s dream, and he kept asking where he was during all of the action. Finally Malcolm said, “You were in your own dream!” And Malcolm was undoubtedly in Isaac’s dream, and before long Isaac would have scampered into Malcolm’s, if he hadn’t woken up. In my own dream, instead of tears, small bubbles came out of my eyes. They were sort of smoky amber colored, and about the size of marbles. They rose from my eyes into the air. In my dream I wrote a poem about the golden bubbles, and in my dream I loved the poem, it seemed perfect to me, and I was sure I would remember it when I woke up. I didn’t, of course, but I did feel vaguely hopeful, and happy to think about crying glowing bubbles rather than tears. It made me think about the story of Pandora, which I had read earlier in the day. When she opened the box, all of the evils flew out: drudgery, old age, gossip, distrust, envy, lies, deceit, accusation and despair. But she managed to close the box in time to keep hope inside. “Zeus had put hope at the bottom of the jar, and the unleashed miseries would quickly have put an end to it.” But they didn’t, so we mortals still have hope, which means we still have a chance to live and be happy.

Mango salsamole

Mango salsamole

I’m calling this “salsamole” because it seems like a combination of guacamole and salsa. I had a lovely ripe champagne mango, and a lovely ripe avocado, and I decided to combine them. I added cucumber for crispy crunch and some little yellow, orange, and red cherry and grape tomatoes from the farm. I kept it simple and bright, but you could easily add chives or roasted garlic or herbs, if you wanted to make it more complicated. This was very fresh and delicious, and didn’t last very long!

Here’s the Velvet Underground with Beginning to See the Light. I met myself in a dream, and let me tell you, everything was alright.
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Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Well my story isn’t done. It’s barely even started. Yesterday I wasted lots of time waxing eloquent about how I wanted to write a story, and it sounded like it was going to be a pretty good one, all glowy and underwatery. And I actually wrote one in my head, or part of one at least. And then I got home all eager to write it down, opened up my notebook, and…naw, that’s no good. And then I spent some time looking for another picture to write about, but I couldn’t even do that, I couldn’t pick one. And I started maybe three different stories, but didn’t like any of them, and I began to feel like Isaac, frustrated and angry, yelling at myself, “I HAVE TO WRITE A STORY! WHY WON’T YOU LET ME WRITE A STORY!” I fear my little writer’s block-clearing exercise is giving me a mean case of writer’s block. Or maybe it’s the heat, it’s probably the heat. Anyway, I thought I’d tell you instead about a storyteller that I admire very much (thanks, Saneshane!). His name is Jeffrey Lewis, and he tells stories with pictures and songs. His songs are musically simple but very sweet and compelling, and his lyrics are wonderful. He tells stories about moments of his life that might not seem all that eventful, but that become memorable and meaningful in his songs. He’s witty, pessimistic, hopeful, honest and philosophical, and all in a lovely confiding conversational style. He’s brilliant but self-deprecating, discouraged but full of life. He also writes comic books, and sometimes he tells stories with pictures and songs at the same time. In fact, he did a whole series of songs for the History Channel on subjects such as the French Revolution and the Fall of Rome.

Here are some songs I like by him.


I like them all, actually, but I’m late for work.

This recipe is super easy! It’s a great way to use up leftover grilled vegetables. You just purée them with some beans and spices, and you’re done! It’s great with crackers or chips or spread on crusty bread. Or serve it with oven-roasted fries and a salad as a meal. It would work really well with leftover grilled red peppers, too.
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Summer squash “jam” with olives and pine nuts

summer squash jam with olives and pine nuts.

summer squash jam with olives and pine nuts.

Well alright! Wh’apen? Hey ya! Gabba gabba hey! I’m not sure what you’d call these sayings…catch phrases, maybe? But they’re all the titles to some very good songs, and they’re the subject of this week’s playlist. The rules are quite flexible, but what we’re looking for is some collection of words that stands on it’s own in a conversation or greeting, that’s more than just the title of a song. Here’s the start of the playlist. I’m sure there are a million more, but I’m late for work!

This is a good dish for people who are looking for something different to do with summer squash. It’s not just sliced and sautéed, it’s grated first, and then cooked for a while with scallions and fresh herbs, so that it turns soft and saucy, almost like a jam. Then olives and tomatoes and pine nuts are added for a bit of texture and a kick of flavor. This would be nice on the side like a condiment, almost, but I think it’s best on toasts or crackers or spread on crusty bread.

Here’s that playlist again.

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Goat cheese and avocado purée

Goat cheese and avocado purée

Goat cheese and avocado purée

I got a ukulele for my birthday! I’m crazy about it! It’s so pretty and sounds so nice. But Claire, I hear you asking, how can you possibly have time for this in your busy schedule? How can you possibly fit in one more thing that you’ll do very badly and amateurishly and that will in no way further your “career?” Well, I’ll make time! I’ll shuffle around all of my other dilettantish pursuits. In point of fact, I’m very very happy about my ukulele. It has such a lovely sound…as David said, it’s sad but hopeful, and as my friend Blimpy said, even the minor chords sound cheerful. It’s wistful and melancholy. And I’ve been playing guitar badly for about 25 years (I can still only play about five chords), but ukulele feels brand new to me, and it feels good to learn something new at my advanced age. It makes my brain feel more nimble and limber. That’s right, limble and nimber. So today’s Sunday interactive playlist is ukulele songs! Simple! And I promise to learn each and every song that anybody suggests.
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This dish is simple, too. It was incredibly easy. I’m not sure what to call it. A dip? Goat cheese guacamole? A sauce? You could eat it with any kind of chip or cracker or smeared on bread or with the saltine nachos my boys invented or with roasted vegetables or with fresh vegetables. It’s soft mild goat cheese mixed with soft mild avocado with fresh chives (from the farm) and lime juice. You could add other flavors if you like…chopped tomatoes or cumin or cilantro or jalapenos, but we liked it simple, like this.

Here’s a link to the ukulele playlist.
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Fennel, walnut and ricotta paté

pate-smoked-gouda-toast“Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully and gently held small children on the sills. Other windows were piled up with bedding, above which the dishevelled head of a woman would briefly appear. People called out to each other across the street, one of the calls provoked a loud laugh about K. himself.” I read The Trial by Franz Kafka in high school. Now, decades later, I will admit to being a little fuzzy on the plot and themes, and whatever else we probably wrote our paper on. But for some reason this image, of a man leaning out the window in his shirtsleeves on a Sunday morning glows in my memory and my imagination. I could feel the air, morning-cool, but warming every moment. I could see the man’s shirt, it was white, with thin blue stripes, soft and light. I could even feel K.’s awkwardness, his sense that he wasn’t part of this busy world of people starting their day. I like to read about people at windows, and I don’t know why! But I’ve collected a few samples, for your delectation, and I expect a 5000 word essay on my desk tomorrow, explaining the significance of the window in each example vis-a-vis the tropes of subtexts signifying the microcosm of the other in the substantiality of the now. Or you could share some memorable quotes describing people leaning out of windows that have stuck in your mind half your life. Or you could say, “you’re crazy, man, nobody collects literary passages about windows. I’m out.” The choice is yours! Ready? Begin!

    Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
    And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
    Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?

(T.S. Eliot, of course! The lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock)

    It was to remember the streets of Harlem, the boys on the stoops, the girls behind the stairs and on the roofs, the white policeman who had taught him how to hate, the stickball games in the streets, the women leaning out of windows and the numbers they played daily, hoping for the hit his father never made.

(James Baldwin, Another Country, which has people leaning out of windows all over Manhattan and the South of France)

    ..while at times I feel that to be able to cross the Rue Saint-Hilaire again, to engage a room in the Rue de l’Oiseau, in the old hostelry of the Oiseau Flesché, from whose windows in the pavement used to rise a smell of cooking which rises still in my mind, now and then, in the same warm gusts of comfort, would be to secure a contact with the unseen world more marvellously supernatural than it would be to make Golo’s acquaintance and to chat with Geneviève de Brabant.

(That would be Proust)

    Young Woman At A Window

    She sits with
    tears on
    her cheek
    her cheek on
    her hand
    the child
    in her lap
    his nose
    pressed
    to the glass

(And our William Carlos Williams)

Fennel & walnut paté

Fennel & walnut paté

I wasn’t really sure where I was going when I made this pate, but I like where I ended up. This was delicious on small whole grain toasts, with a few sprigs of arugula and a thin slices of smoked gouda. It’s made by braising fennel and garlic in white wine with a bit of rosemary, and then pureeing this mixture with walnuts and ricotta, adding an egg, and baking until set but soft. It made a nice side dish warm, the first night I made it, but it was better the next day, at room temperature on toast.fennel-ricotta-pate

Here’s Woody Guthrie with Do You Ever Think of Me (“At my window, sad and lonely, often do I think of thee…”)

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Beet carpaccio with warm goat cheese, pecans and sage

Remember the Chekhov play The Three Sisters, in which one of the sisters longs to go to Moscow? It’s a theme! Well, here at The Ordinary, for the past few days, our Moscow has been the secret path that leads to the secret path on the other other side of the towpath. If you think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s because I have, and that’s because IT’S ALL I’VE HEARD ABOUT FOR DAYS NOW!! When will we go? Why can’t we go? Why shouldn’t we go just because a storm is raging around our house? On the very first day of summer vacation, way back in the glowing, hopeful, anticipatory month of June, Malcolm and I happened upon a small winding path that branched away from the towpath. He was ecstatic! We ran through it, leaping fallen logs, stooping under trees, racing through light and shadow. He’s wanted to return ever since, but with one thing and another, we’ve never made it back. Lately his yearning has reached a fever pitch, so today we braved spiders, ticks, stinging nettles, poison ivy, mosquitos and impending thunderstorms, and set out on our journey. (Who is an anxious mom? Who is?) It’s quite a long journey, as the Isaac walks, but it was worth it to see how happy the boys were. After a night of rain the ground was muddy, the leaves sodden and fragrant, the creeks fast-flowing. In June all the green things were small and pale and bright, but today they’re lush and dark and overtaking all the paths.

Secret path

Tree climbing

The way home

Malcolm looked for the spider sitting on a milk jug, that he’d seen in June, and was surprised to find the jug buried in weeds, and the spider gone. Isaac had heard of this milk jug! He was excited to see it. Isaac jumped off of a huge log, and said, “Mom, did I hop like a toad?” Yes, you did. “I toad-hopped it!” They climbed a tree in the strange wet palely glowing light, they hid in a hollow of vines and branches. Isaac asked about each thing Malcolm had described to him – the vine to swing on, the stump to jump off of, the dead tree to crawl under, and Isaac could never be disappointed by any thing that Malcolm showed him. The late-summer smell of wet steaming earth was all around us, and I can’t smell that lately without craving beets. I know that’s odd, but there it is!

Glowing beet

Funnily enough, we’d eaten this beet carpaccio the night before, and I’d remarked that prepared this way, beets didn’t taste like dirt. Huh? Asked Isaac (he’s a small boy, dirt is his medium). I’d replied that beets grow in dirt, so they taste like dirt, but in a pleasant way. In this carpaccio, however, they were juicy and sweet. This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s very delicious. The boys loved it!! I love goat cheese with beets – sweet and juicy meets a bit of creamy tartness. The pecans added crunch, and the sage added depth.

beet carpaccio

And here’s Modest Mouse with So Much Beauty in Dirt.
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Beet & goat cheese roulade filled with greens and pinenuts

Beet roulade

I’m feeling a little dull and blue today, for no reason whatsoever! It’s a funny thing about feeling blue, because it’s not really a bad feeling, as I use the term. It’s a contemplative, slightly melancholy feeling. But there are so many shades and moods of blue, and I love them all. Tintin blue is one of my absolute favorite colors – bight and clear. Bill Traylor’s high singing blue is exhilarating. Midnight blue is deep and mysterious. Indigo is dark and rich. Sky blue is light and floating. Flame blue is like a flickering soul or spirit. Vein blue is alive and poignant. Musically, the blues put you in a mood, but it’s not a depressed mood. A little sad, maybe, but joyful, too, just because they exist. To shake the dullness, I thought I’d post a few dancey scenes. Dancing always livens the party! There are so many good ones, and here are few of my favorites.

There are so many! I could go on and on and never stop! What are some of your favorite dance clips?

You know what else will cheer you up? A bright pink and green pinwheel! This roulade was very fun and easy to make, and tasted delicious! The roulade itself was like a big fat pancake (it’s actually closer to a flatter soufflé!). It was sweetish, because of the beetish, and a little tangy with goat cheese, and lovely and summery with thyme. The filling used the greens from the beets, in combination with some chard (you could use any green you like!) and was a nice savory contrast to the roulade. Pine nuts add a bit of smoky crunch. The nice thing about the roulade is that it’s very good at room temperature, so if you don’t want to heat your kitchen up before you eat (on a 100 degree day, say) – make this earlier in the day and set it aside till you’re ready! We had it with a no-cook sauce of tomatoes and avocados, chopped chunky-style, and tossed with olive oil, basil, and balsamic. Add a salad of crisp arugula and crunchy hazelnuts, lightly dressed with olive oil, sherry vinegar and some crumbled goat cheese, and you have a perfect summer meal!!

Here’s Jackie Mittoo and the Soul Vendors with Love is Blue.

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Zucchini fritters with goat cheese and pine nuts

Zucchini Fritters

With a ringing of bells, a man entered our store. He was slim and elegant and quite dapper in an understated 60s Greenwich Village way. He wore some of the coolest sneakers I’ve seen in a while. He walked straight to me, without looking around, and he clutched something under his arm. My heart sank. We have more people come into our store trying to sell things than the other way around, sadly. I was late to meet someone, we can’t afford to buy anything at the moment – but he held a book of photographs, and I took the time to look. They were beautiful – black and white, quite dark in tone and mood. He explained that they were of Bosnia, his home country, during the 70s and 80s. I told him we weren’t in the financial position to buy anything, however much we liked it. He turned to leave, but halfway along, he stopped. He told me he loved the store. He said that “they” were trying to squash craft and art and creativity, but that a wave was coming that they couldn’t stop. He said it would wash right over the bunkers that they build out of all the crap that they make us watch and eat and read. He was very eloquent. He said we would be okay because of a good way of life (he rubbed his belly) and a pure soul (he put his hand on his heart). It was like a strange benediction. When he left I felt a slight trace of regret – that I didn’t have more time to talk to him, maybe, or that I couldn’t help him by buying his prints.

My favorite cooking utensil – the one I use for absolutely every meal I make, is a wooden stirrer-scraper that David made. It’s made from curly maple, and it’s the perfect combination of beauty and function. It’s long-handled, but the handle is tapered, so it doesn’t fall into your pot, or fall out of your pot and clatter in a big mess on the floor. Its straight beveled edge is absolutely perfect for scraping the bottom of the pan when you add white wine, to get all the lovely caramely tasty bits mixed into the sauce. I love that David made it, and that I use it to make meals for the family. I love that it takes on the colors of the food I cook, and that, as it does, its beautiful, rippled grain becomes more visible.

Of course I used it to make these zucchini fritters!! They’re fairly simple – crispy outside, soft in, melty with goat cheese and crunchy with pine nuts. (My god they’re good! I haven’t splurged on them in a while and I’d forgotten how delicious they are!!) The fritters are lightly flavored with fennel, lemon, and basil – summery! Malcolm invented the dipping sauce. We’d been eating salted limes, and he thought that if limes were good with salt, they’d be good with tamari. The sauce is full of flavor – ginger, garlic, lime, tamari and hot pepper. It’s unusual with the fritters, but really lovely. You could, of course, make any other sort of sauce you like with them.

Here’s The Specials with Too Hot, because it’s close to 100 degrees here, and we’re melting!
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