Roasted beet, mushroom and butterbean galette with walnut crust

Roasted beet, mushroom and butterbean galette with walnut crust

Roasted beet, mushroom and butterbean galette with walnut crust

Today we’re going to do a cheater’s version of Saturday storytelling time. I didn’t actually write a story this week, but I’ve thought about it a lot. Incessantly, so surely it’s only a matter of time before it pops out of my head fully formed. So this is a story I wrote a few years ago. In honor of Halloween, it’s a monster story! It’s a story for children (childrens’ book publishers form an orderly queue) about a boy and his monster. Here are some pictures I did for the story. The text is after the jump.
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flying-monster

And, as ever, we have a recipe, too! This is an autumnal galette. The crust has walnuts and black pepper, and the inside has roasted beets and roasted mushrooms, as well as butterbeans sautéed with chard. It’s all topped off with smoked gouda. Lots of warm, sweet, earthy, smoky flavors!

Here’s The Boogie Monster by Gnarls Barkley

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Roasted butternut, pecan, & mushroom pies

Roasted butternut French lentil pies

Roasted butternut French lentil pies

This weekend marks not only the second anniversary of The Ordinary, but the first anniversary of Clio’s stay in our house, as well. She’s lived with us a whole year! I remember when I went to get her. She was an hour’s drive away, and I was so nervous I felt sick. After weeks of begging for a puppy like a spoiled child, and nights of being sure someone else would adopt her first, I had gotten my way and I was plagued by saucy doubts and fears. Clio had met twenty other prospective families, or so her foster mother had said, and none were right for her. Would she like me? Would I like her? There was another family there to meet another dog. This dog was older, very calm and quiet and frightened, and the foster mom said, “Yes, she’s very good, you’ll have no problems with her.” And then she said, “But I’m not sure about this one,” and let Clio out of her cage. She bounced with joy! She jumped in my lap and licked me madly! She jumped in the lap of every member of the family there to meet the calm dog! She tried to kiss the man behind the counter! And that was that, she came home with me, and she’s been here ever since. People who know me get sick of hearing me say all the things I like about Clio, but it’s her anniversary, so I’m going to tell you here. I love her paws!! She’s a rough and tumble dog’s dog, but her paws are surprisingly elegant. They’re white and silky, and she holds them like a dancer. When she lies down she crosses them, and she’s got many different styles of cross-paws. There’s demure cross paws, and ballerina cross paws, and the extreme, one-arm-slung-over-the-other-I’m-so-glad-you’ve-joined-me-in-my-library-for-a-cognac-in-our-dressing-gown cross paws. Her paws are very speaking, she grabs hold of you and tries to make her wishes known, but we’re so slow! I love the way she sings when she’s nervous. I love the way she hugs–she stands and hovers for a moment and then puts one paw on either side of your waist and squeezes and whuffles. I love the way she cuddles, and especially the way she waggles her head contentedly when she lays it on your arm or leg, as if to get as close and comfortable as possible. I love her sweetness…she loves every dog she’s ever met, even though she’s been bitten badly twice. I’ve never heard her growl at another dog. And she loves most people, unless they’re wearing sunglasses or excessive cologne. And I love the way that she’s leapingly happy, jumpingly joyful. So, in honor of the anniversary of her stay here, today’s Sunday interactive playlist will be on the subject of jumping, leaping, hopping, bounding, bouncing.
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This is the dinner I made for David’s birthday. It’s a very fancy Ordinary dinner. It employs some Ordinary staples, such as french lentils and roasted mushrooms. It’s autumnal, because it also has roasted butternut squash, smoked gouda, and pecans. I made it in big muffin tins, with large holes in them, but if you don’t have those, you could make little free-form galettes and they’d be just as tasty.

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist. Keep bouncing!
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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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Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

I have a shocking admission to make…I’ve never read On the Road! Terrible, I know! But now I’ve seen a movie version, so I feel that I can speak about the book with complete authority. It is, of course, the story of young men traveling about (on a road) seeking hipness, wildness, and adventures to write about. In the film, at least, I didn’t really love these guys. They seemed self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, self-aggrandizing, and humorless. The poor dears were trying so hard to be crazy-cool that they wound up slogging through a heavy luke-warm slurry of their own invention. But I haven’t read the book. In keeping with my Andre Bazinian belief that it’s best for a critic to write about films that they like, I’ll stop talking about On the Road, and tell you instead about something wonderful we discovered because of On the Road. In one scene in the movie (and apparently in the book as well) the boys happen upon a performance of musician Slim Gaillard. Well! David looked him up, and he’s remarkable. He was genuinely hip, wild, and funny, and he not only had more than his share of adventures to write about, he invented his own language with which to write about them! The details of his biography are a bit fuzzy, but he was born in Florida or Cuba, on or around 1916. His father was Greek and his mother was Cuban. He grew up in Cuba cutting sugar cane and picking bananas, maybe. His father, who was a ship’s steward, took him on a tour of the world, but accidentally left him in Crete when he was twelve years old. He eventually moved to Detroit and worked in an abattoir, or at Ford, or as a mortician, or all three. He spoke 8 languages, as well as Vout, his own language, for which he wrote a dictionary. I’m just getting to know his music, but his songs are crazy-wonderful. Lively, contagious, thoughtful, and with a poetry all their own. Yep Roc Heresy, which sounds like nonsense lyrics, is actually a recitation of the names of middle-eastern food, and he does this with food from other nationalities as well. Others, which sound like nonsense syllables are in Vout. And listen to this, Travelin’ Blues, a perfect story with a hot dreamy background. I think Tom Waits heard this! What a discovery! How did I not know about this artist until I was 44 years old? Sigh, if only I’d read On the Road when I was a youngster, like I was supposed to…

We grilled up a lot of mushrooms and red peppers the other night. And it’s been so nice and cool lately, that my thoughts turned to soup. I combined the grilled vegetables with black beans, herbs and a little smoked paprika, and made a smooth, tasty soup. Very easy, very quick. If you don’t have leftover grilled vegetables, you could easily roast the mushrooms and peppers in the oven. I marinated the mushrooms in a little balsamic and herbs, but all of those things are in the soup as well. One of the drawbacks to black bean soup, to me, has always been that it’s a little dull in color. I added a small amount of olive oil steeped with annato seeds, and it brightened the whole thing up.

Here’s a link to some of Slim Gaillard’s music.

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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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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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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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Pizza with baby spinach, rosemary-roasted mushrooms and brie

Roasted mushroom, spinach and brie pizza

Roasted mushroom, spinach and brie pizza

I find it very beautiful and moving that people make connections–not just that we’re able to, but that we need to. We connect little bits of fact to make stories, because it helps us to understand and to share those little bits of fact. When an event occurs that’s hard for us to understand or explain, we find ways to connect ourselves to it, to make sense of it through our experiences. We do this almost without thinking, it’s our first reaction. And our second is to share those connections, to tell others about them, to talk and talk and try to understand. We’ll say, “I’ve lived in that place,” “I knew that person,” “I knew someone that knew that person.” We’ll make connections to other similar events that we’ve lived through, that we’ve survived. It’s tempting, in a less generous or a myopically hypocritical moment, to say, “We only talk about violence when it happens in a place where we love, to people like us!” Or even to shout, “It’s not about you!” But, of course, it is about you, whoever you may be. It’s about all of us. It’s our way to lend our strength to strangers we may never meet, to suffer with the sufferers and explain the inexplicable. It’s our way to give hope for a better time after a strange, sad time. It’s our way to connect ourselves not just to events but to people, our way to extend our sense of family, to create new bonds of responsibility and affection through compassion and empathy. It’s probably facile and foolish to say it, but it seems that if we could expand these connections to reach beyond similarities of geography or experience, if we could make a larger more universal connection–if we could sympathize with somebody not because we lived in the same place but because she, too, has a daughter, or is a daughter, or is human, or, simply, is alive–if we could do this then we would have fewer of these incomprehensible events to explain, and fewer people to mourn.

So this is what I’ve been thinking all morning, as I kneaded dough and rolled out dough and shaped quite a few tarts. Baking as comfort and therapy! Over the weekend we made some pizzas. I wanted to make something the boys liked to eat, that they’d actually look forward to, and pizza never fails. I made the dough before I went to work, and then when I came home we made all the toppings. The dough rose for quite a few hours, this way, but it turned out extra crispy! This makes two big cookie-tray-sized pizzas. I made one plain, with just sauce and cheese, and one fancy, with spinach and musrhooms and brie. I’ve given the toppings in amounts here to make two fancy pizzas, but do as you like! That’s the beauty of pizza!

Here’s Elmore James with It Hurts Me Too. One of the best songs ever ever ever.

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Double crusted pie with roasted mushrooms, french lentils and spinach: The ur Ordinary pie

Ordinary pie

Ordinary pie

It’s national pie day! Who knew? Not me. And yet, strangely, I made a big delicious pie, only last night. And not just any pie, but the ur Ordinary pie, the pie that started it all. I feel like the kitchen gods have left me, lately. They’ve fled the city with their suitcases in hand, not stopping to say goodbye or leave a forwarding address. It’s not just that things haven’t been working out culinarily (they haven’t), it’s not just that things I’ve made before aren’t turning out the way they did last time (they aren’t), it’s that I’m not in the mood. I still want to cook and eat, but I feel sort of foolish and despondent about it. I’ve lost some part of my appetite that’s hard to define. I know it doesn’t really matter – it’s just a dinner or a batch of cookies, there will be plenty other meals, thousands of other cookies, but it doesn’t help that it doesn’t matter. That’s part of the problem! It’s so easy to forget about the importance of ordinary tasks, about the extraordinariness of doing them, not well, but with a full heart. It takes an effort to make these tasks, these inherently necessary and essential tasks, significant as well. I haven’t had the energy to do that, lately, so I thought I’d start at the beginning. Go back to the comfort of making the first thing that gave me deep pleasure to invent and to share. Malcolm and Isaac are crazy, creative artists, but they both have things they draw over and over, that they return to and reinvent from time to time. Little figures, eccentric characters, that show up frequently in their work. They feel good about having invented these characters, they know they can draw them, and it seems to give them confidence to go back and revisit – from that safe place, they can venture off into unknown realms. I would imagine for a musician trying to learn something new, it would be heartening to go back and play the first piece you knew well, the first piece that made you feel confident enough to share with an audience. And so it is with this pie. In making it I remembered the joy of playing with dough, of combining flavors and textures. In serving it to an appreciative audience, I remembered the pleasure of sharing something I’m happy to have made. It’s not much, it’s just a meal, I know it’s trivial in the broad scheme of things. We have to eat, we have to feed our children. I’m starting to remember again why that matters.

Mushroom and fench lentil pie

Mushroom and fench lentil pie

This pie has some of my favorite flavors! The crust is simple, but there’s lots of pepper in it. It has french lentils, which I love.
french lentils

french lentils

And roasted mushrooms, which I also love. I combine these flavors a lot, because they’re my favorites, but this is them in one big package.
roasted mushrooms

roasted mushrooms


Here’s Train to Chicago, by Drink Me, which happens to be the only song I can play on the guitar and sing all the way through.
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