Masa crusted potatoes with smoky red beans and greens, and honey-lime avocado cucumber salsa

Masa-dusted potatoes, red beans and roasted red peppers, and lime honey cucumber guacamole

Masa-dusted potatoes, red beans and roasted red peppers, and lime honey cucumber guacamole

One of the delightful things about my disintegrating eyesight is that when I read I’m no longer confined to the actual words on the page. When I read without glasses, who knows what the book really says? Not me! So I have a whole new world before me, in which the page contains whatever words I want it to–I get to choose! Sometimes at work I’ll overhear small chunks of conversations, and my brain will fill in the parts that are too quiet for me to pick up. Usually, the resulting discussion, in my head, is very funny (and frequently off-color). And now this effect has sidled over to my appreciation of printed matter. It says whatever I think it says. The other day I was reading the boys’ Rocks and Minerals books, as one does, and I came across a fascinating map of the world. It had little icons to show the various regions where people mine for things–I’m assuming coal and gold and the like, but I couldn’t tell you for sure because the writing in the legend was tiny. According to my eyes, one thing that people mine for throughout the globe is precious stories. Well! I like this idea a lot! I like to think of people traveling all over the world and mining for valuable tales, digging deep amongst the people that live in each region to come up with raw, beautiful chunks of legend. The icon for precious stories seemed to be in some very varied and interesting parts of the world, and in my imagination the stories are found in thick veins, running through all of the people there. People would come and set up camps, and they’d follow the story from one person to the next, probably never finding the end of it, because the myths would be as old as the rocks and would lie deep in the earth. Maybe they’d take it and refine it and polish it, or maybe they’d leave it in its original state, rough and strong. Farther along in the book, I misread a caption to read “metaphorical rocks.” And people would collect these, too, and string them together to make new stories. The metaphorical rocks would be prized and valued above diamonds and gold, which would be deemed pretty but relatively useless, when compared to a cherished tale. People would understand the value of a story to spark creativity, to heal, to transform, with these metamorphical metaphorical rocks.

Masa dusted potatoes

Masa dusted potatoes

I thought this was a really fun meal! First, I sliced some potatoes quite thinly, parboiled them, dusted them with rosemary and masa harina and then roasted them in olive oil. They came out with a nice texture–not super crunchy, exactly, but with more oomph. And they have the lovely subtle flavor of the masa harina. Then I roasted some red peppers, and combined them with red beans and spinach in a smokey sauce of chipotle and smoked paprika. And we added a bright light guacamole-salsa made with cucumbers, tomatoes and avocado lightly dressed with lime and honey. We topped it all off with grated sharp cheddar and pickled jalapenos, which my Malcolm loves! Any part of this meal would be good on its own, but it was very fun to eat all together as well.masa-potatoes-and-beans

Here’s REM with Maps and Legends.

Continue reading

Linden tea madeleines

Linden tea madeleines

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making these for some time! It all started when I discovered that Proust’s famous madeleine was not the memory-trigger so much as the lime-flower tea that he dipped it in. These cookies are made with linden tea, which is a sweet, subtle flavor. It tastes like a memory! It tastes like spring! And the madeleines are lovely – tender, soft, a little crispy on the outside.
Happy mothers’ day to all the moms of the world. And thanks to my mom, for all of the comfort and inspiration you continue to give me.

I go on and on about Proust, and being a mom, and have some pictures of my mother’s day bouquet, after the…JUMP

Here’s Goodie Mob with Guess Who. It’s about their moms. It’s beautiful!
Continue reading

Super bodega traveling – stop number 2

Urad coins & curry leaves

I can’t believe it’s been two months since our last super bodega travelling excursion! You know how it is, booking flights, finding hotels, packing… Of course I’m joking, but it’s amazing how hard it can be to fit even a short trip into a routine. The days fly by, and feel so full and busy, but when I look back I can’t remember what I’ve done! I’m not complaining, though! I like my days – I like thinking about cooking dinner, spending an hour at the playground after school, walking around this town in the advancing springtime. Tomorrow does creep at a petty pace, but I don’t think it signifies nothing. I couldn’t say what it signifies, but it feels wonderful to me. Sorry – sidetracked!

Stop number two in our super bodega travels brought us, on a warm and sunny day, to Patel’s Cash & Carry. Speaking of wonderful! The store felt HUGE! And so full of amazing and surprising food! I love Indian food. It’s one of those cuisines I feel like I know something about. I eat Indian take-out every chance I get. I’ve got two cookbooks! (Madhur Jaffrey and Julie Sahni, in case you were wondering). I’ve loved it since I was small, and my boys (still small!) love it, too. Walking into this store made me realize how incredibly little I know. Which is (part of) the joy of bodega traveling. You get to see, beyond the takeout menus, a glimpse into a rich and diverse history that the cookbooks only hint at. As David said, you could write a cookbook on the flour aisle alone.

whole moong dal

Here’s what we bought…Kulfi for the boys – rose and pistachio flavored. They couldn’t wait to eat it, and it melted in their hands as we walked around the store. Curry leaves. I’ve seen these before, but never cooked with them. What a remarkable smell! A little earthy and smoky, but still very green, if you know what I mean. Two chikoo fruits. (Very excited about these!) Urad flour, black salt (volcanic and sulfuric! rotten eggy), whole moong dal (beautiful!!), Tinda (in a can), which is called baby indian pumpkin, lotus root, and different kinds of snack mixes, which my little ones eat like hungry mice with their whiskers on fire from the spiciness! Then we couldn’t let the boys back in the car because their kulfi was so melted, so they ate on a grassy bank, and Isaac got rose-flavored kulfi on the tip of his nose and in his eyelashes.

For the next few days we’ll be cooking with these, and we’ll let you know how it goes. We’ve got big plans!!

Here’s Donald Byrd’s Places and Spaces. I love it, and, to me, it’s about traveling without going very far from home.
Continue reading

A bit of underdone potato v. banana water

Remember that line in Christmas Carol when Scrooge accuses Jacob Marley of being “a bit of underdone potato?” Ebenezer ate some bad food and it gave him bad dreams, very lifelike bad dreams, or so he believed. And I remember watching a scary show that examined the theory that the madness of the Salem “witches” might have been caused by some sort of rye mold. It’s fascinating to me that food sometimes has the power to make us not just physically ill, but a little bit crazy, too. I’ve noticed that when I eat very spicy food, like curry, I have strange and vivid dreams. (Or am I just imagining it?)

And on the other side of the coin we have the foods that we believe make us well. When you were little was there a food or drink you would have when you felt ill? Does it still make you feel better to eat it today? I still feel comforted by saltine crackers and ginger ale. My son believes that water makes him feel better – I wonder if he’ll feel that way when he’s grown.

Do you have a comfort food you turn to when you’re not feeling well? Have you ever eaten anything that made you feel…odd?

Here’s the Mellotones Banana Water. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to make them feel better. It’s a tonic!

And here’s Nina Simone’s Ooh Child, my musical version of a comforting tonic.

It’s your birthday

This week was my son’s birthday. His favorite food is pizza, so for three days, he literally ate pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I feel less guilty about this now that I know that pizza is a vegetable. My birthday is in June, and we always eat outside. We have a nice bottle of viognier, and good bread, good cheese, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, olives… you get the idea.

Another thing I like to have on my birthday is ice cream. Which made me think of this scene from Ghost Dog. It’s such a beautiful scene – and Isaach de Bankole’s character trying to persuade Ghost Dog that ice cream is really good for you (a nutritionist on the radio said it’s almost exactly like food!) reminded me of the current conversation about pizza. And Reagan-era catsup qualifications.

Is there something you like to eat on your birthday, or a special day? What’s your favorite meal?

The music that cooked you.

Everybody knows that you are what you eat. But I believe that you are what you listen to as well, and what you read, and what you watch. There’s a line from the Dungeon Family song On & On & On about remembering “…the music that took you, put you in a pot and cooked you.” I’ve always loved this notion. I think he’s talking about the music that made you “lie in awe on your bedroom floor,” and I think he’s also talking about the music that you heard as a child, that shaped who you are.

I was trying to think of a food from my childhood that feels significant, that had special value, and made me who I am in some way. I thought of crepes, or as we called them, flat pancakes. They were a special-occasion breakfast for us, so simple, and so pleasing. And now I feed them to my sons. They both ate them on their first birthdays, and for many many breakfasts (and dinners) since. And it makes me happy when they eat them.

And the music I listened to was mostly baroque or early classical. I remember holding the tune of Mozart’s Haffner Serenade in my head as a kind of talisman to ward off anything that made me anxious. My sons listen to very different music, but I love that they love what they love!

So… what are you made of? What food or music is part of your childhood, and became part of who you are?

As a bonus question for people who like thinking of songs on a certain topic (who could that be?) can you think of songs about your musical heroes recalling songs they listened to as a child? Like Talib Kweli’s Holy Moly, for instance.

Crepe recipe (written by my mother on an index card and memorized by me!) after the jump.
Continue reading