Smoky roasted delicata squash (On a pizza, on a salad)

Roasted delicata squash

Roasted delicata squash

I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking about the word “ardent,” as one does. It’s a word we should use more often, it’s a way we should feel more often. The next morning I looked it up in the good old OED. I was delighted, dee-light-ed, to discover that “ardent” once meant “burning” and “glowing,” and these are the roots of the word. I love anything that glows! I love the idea of people glowing with an emotion. It feels too easy to go through each day half asleep, especially if you have a job you don’t love. Because every day is so full of things that need to be done–cleaning and shopping and chores. It’s impossible to face everything with fervor and ardor.

I thought about this:

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I agree with Calvin! But in a world where you can’t always be enthusiastic about everything you have to do, you can at least be passionate about everything you choose to do: the music you listen to, the books you read, the walks you walk, the meals you cook.

And I thought about The Idiot (which I am still reading). People in The Idiot are in a state. They’re excited, they’re ecstatic, they’re rapturous, they’re ardent. They all glow with their desires and even with their worries and their confusion. They’re ardent in their affection, love, admiration, friendship. They seem so alive. The Idiot suffers from epileptic fits, as Dostoyevsky himself did, and the description of the ecstatic moments before a fit is both frightening and beautiful:

He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments….His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning.  His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light.  All his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding…

I fainted once, many years ago, and I felt something like this just moments before I fell. I wouldn’t like to feel this way all the time, obviously I wouldn’t, but it’s such a strange change from the stupor I feel most of the time going about the days. And obviously it’s not practical or even desirable to be as invested in every emotion as the characters in the Idiot are. It would be exhausting! But you know what else is tiring? Feeling half-alive all day long. Feeling “meh” about everything you do, as time flies by on its strong swift wings. As in all other things, I guess we have to find some balance, and to be as passionate about the people and occupations we love as we can, and to find as much joy in our chores as we can muster. Or at least to find some moments in each day that set us afire, that glow for us.

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

Pizza with pistachio herb pesto and roasted delicata squash

We got some lovely delicata squash from our CSA farm a few weeks in a row. I found a way to roast it, thinly sliced, and then season it with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and I kind of ran with that! I put it on a pizza with a pistachio-sage pesto, and it was almost like pepperoni. (Not that I really remember what that was like!) This was a late summer-into-autumn pizza, with pretty golden tomatoes to go with the pretty roasted squash. I put it on a salad layered with red rice, smoked basmati rice and farro, and with french lentils, and topped with a bright lemony pine nut sauce. I’ve included a bunch of recipes after the jump. You can mix and match! Or you can make the squash and do whatever you like with it!

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Salad with roasted delicata squash

Here’s The Wailing Wailers with Who Feels it Knows it.

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“Mediterranean” white bean “chili” with avocado corn salsa and pesto

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

Godard’s 1967 film La Chinoise is full of words. The characters talk constantly, the walls of their apartment are painted with giant phrases and mottos, and the screen flashes with intertitles in a strange and jarring rhythm. And, of course, we don’t speak French, so we were also reading subtitles, as all of the dizzying layers of text were translated for us in rapid succession. The film is a loose adaption of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed, and it tells the story of five university students intent on violent revolution. They discuss ideology, they discuss art, they’re very well-read, and they talk about literature and theater and music. They discuss their plans, and for most of the film we suspect they’ll be all talk and little action. They discuss their love for one another, or their lack of love. They talk about class struggle, they talk about the workers, but they never work. Except for Yvonne, one of two women in the group, who is constantly cleaning, and tells of her part-time work as a prostitute so that she can afford things. The film is shot mostly in the claustrophobic world of their apartment and their minds, both teeming with ideas and words so beautifully layered and confused and constant that they start to make a strange sort of sense. I think the film must have been one of Godard’s first color films, and he’s beautifully aware of color. Everything is red, white and blue, with Mao’s Little Red Book appearing in shifting stacks and patterns, becoming almost a character. The film is full of humor, it’s an affectionate satire. The students are foolish, even frighteningly so at times, but Godard loves them even as he disparages them. In one long beautiful scene, which finally breaks out into the world beyond the apartment, Veronique meets her old philosophy professor, a former revolutionary for the Algerian national liberation movement. She talks about her deeply-held political beliefs and she sounds like a child: she wants to close the universities, but she talks about how her one summer of actual work caused her to do really well on her exams. She talks about using bombs, and she says the word like a child would. As in Masculin/Feminin, the violence is off-screen, botched, dreamlike. It’s hard to know if it really happened or if it’s all in their heads. The whole film is like a dream, floating away with humor and words and sixties pop style, but grounded with the idea that these students are discussing real people and real problems that continue to affect people around the world.

avocado corn salsa and pesto

avocado corn salsa and pesto

Do you like all the quotation marks in the title?!? It’s because this isn’t really mediterranean, and it’s not really chili. It seemed mediterranean because it has olives and beans and rosemary and pesto and harissa. It’s like chili because it has chili paste and beans and it’s a spicy sort of stew. Whatever you call it, it was very tasty. The chili is warm and rich and savory, and the salsa is light and sweet, and the pesto adds a real kick of flavor. We ate this with zucchini corn bread, but you could warm up some tortillas and eat it as tacos instead.
White bean chili

White bean chili

Here’s Mao Mao, a poppy punky song by Claude Channes from La Chinoise, which pretty much sums up the whole film.

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Beet, arugula and French feta salad with pine nut, lemon, rosemary sauce

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Most years we just grow a few tomato plants and a few herbs, basil mostly. We have a small yard and rambunctious boys and a berserker dog and it never seemed wise to pin our hopes on healthy intact produce. Last year we didn’t grow anything at all. The ground lay fallow. This year we have the best garden ever, entirely thanks to David. He built raised boxes and we have a summer’s worth of beautiful things growing in our yard.
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It feels so hopeful, to look out at it and imagine the days unfolding and the vegetables ripening. Herbs to eat now, in large quantities, tomatoes and eggplant to ripen with the full roundness of the summer days, salsify and scorzonera to eat in the fall. I love our garden! And because I’m a lunatic, I think of the vegetables almost as people, with separate personalities of their own. We planted fava beans, and David made a trellis of twine for them to wind around. We don’t know how tall they’ll get, and we wanted to give them plenty of distance to travel, plenty of encouragement, our full faith that they’ll reach all the way to the top, but we didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations for them. The salsify and scorzonera seem very social, standing together in long graceful lines, sharing the light that glows through them. The cilantro started sad and timid, but now it’s just taken off, it’s bolted into tall, feathery, beautiful flowers, and maybe in the fall we’ll figure out what to do with the coriander seeds. The pepper plants seem like underachievers; they haven’t grown much since we’ve gotten them, but they’re working so hard on making beautiful vivid little peppers. They’re concentrating on their art. The eggplants generously share they broad leaves with some little bug that repays the favor by turning them into lace. The tomatoes are full and frank and happy standing together in the sun.

Tarragon

Tarragon


And then there’s the tarragon. I love the way tarragon grows. It spreads along the ground in a pretty fragrant sprawl. If you weigh down a sprig so that it touches the earth, it will take root and form a new plant attached to the original. It moves and travels, it has an unruly wildness to it, but it sets down roots everywhere it goes, it makes a new place to start from, and it stays connected to its roots as well.

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

We got some more beautiful beets from our CSA. I thought I’d make them into a pretty salad, with their best friend arugula, and some mildly delicious French feta I splurged on at a local market. I also added half an avocado, because I’m putting avocado in everything this summer, and a scattering of pine nuts. I made a tarator sauce to drizzle over the top, with lemon and rosemary, a bit of dijon, a few capers. You could use any herbs you like in this. Tarragon would be nice!!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Root Down (and get it)

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Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans, spring rage, fresh mozzarella and herbs

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

It’s movie week here at The Ordinary! I seem to be talking about a different film every day, and today will be no different. Today’s installment features Le Corbeau made by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1943. The film is about a small town plagued by anonymous poison pen letters, which threaten to tear the very fabric of the town to pieces. Everybody feels guilty about something, everybody tries to blame somebody else, everybody becomes plagued with fear and suspicion. It’s a fine film, in many ways, beautifully shot in black blacks and white whites. It’s suspenseful and mysterious, almost Hitchcockian. It’s still oddly relevant considering that the internets are full of anonymous trolls. But the thing that really stuck with me, strangely, is the way the setting is described in the very beginning. A small town, “ici ou ailleurs.” Ici ou ailleurs! Here or elsewhere! This phrase has been stuck in my head for days. I love the sound of it and the meaning of it. It makes any story into a fable or a myth, showing how our fears and hopes and passions are the same no matter where or when we live. It makes the story Ordinary by showing that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Ici ou ailleurs. Of course Jean-luc Godard beat me to it, he made a film called Ici et Ailleurs. He made it with Anne-Marie Mieville, and it’s a reworking of footage they shot for Jusqu’à la victoire, a 1970 pro-Palestinian film. I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer juxtaposes “simple images” of French children watching television with shots of Palestinians, and a woman’s voice tells us, “We should learn how to see here in order to be able to hear elsewhere. Learn how to hear yourself speaking in order to see what the others are doing. The Others, the elsewhere of our here.” Godard! Ici ou ailleur.

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

It’s so much fun to make dinner when you just return from a CSA with your arms full of fresh vegetables! Yesterday I made them into this sort of warm salad with potatoes and butter beans for substance. The potatoes, beans, and broccoli rabe were warm, the tomatoes, mozzarella and herbs were cool, and they all melted together when combined. I picked some bronze fennel, which was new to me and very lovely, and I minced that and added it for a nice mellow anise-y flavor. We ate it with a loaf of crusty bread, and Malcolm made it into a big sandwich.

Here’s Eddie Harris with Listen Here.
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chickpea guacosalsa or salsamole

Chickpea saslamole

Chickpea saslamole

This afternoon Clio and I walked to school to pick up the boys, as we always do. I looked down at her, and she seemed very serious, head down, ears bobbing as earnestly as ears can bob. Yes, she has a light elegant gait and shiny white socks, but at this moment her pace was very businesslike. She had somewhere to be, and she was determined to get there. Dogged, I thought, Clio is demonstrating the definition of dogged.
Clio

Clio


I know that Clio considers walking the boys to and from school her job. She knows by some mysterious internal clock when it’s time to get them, and if I make any move around that time, she follows me frantically, worried that she’ll be left behind. What a wonderful work ethic she has! She knows where she’s going and she heads there at a relatively steady pace. If you were, oh, I don’t know, writing a novel, say, this would be the equivalent of writing a little bit every day, forcing yourself to write a few pages so that you will get where you’re going in a timely manner. We don’t take the same route every time, but we always arrive in the same place. She’s happy to let the walk take her where it will as long as we’re headed towards the school, but if I try to turn in the wrong direction she stops. She looks at me with serious, wondering eyes, she won’t move. She’s goal-oriented, but she’s willing to explore different options in achieving that goal. She’s willing to let herself get distracted by important things, like squirrels or sparrows, she’ll gladly stop to greet a friend, but she always has one paw back on the path, ready to continue the journey. Most of all, Clio’s work is full of the weighty buoyant responsibility of love. She enjoys the walk, sure, and she doesn’t mind the wait at the other end, as long as she has a few sticks to chew on. But the real reward is leaping happily on the boys when they finally emerge from the school. Her love for them has brought her out, in every kind of weather, when the sidewalks were slick with rain or treacherous with slush and ice. She’s joyfully, bouncingly dogged. She’s a true amateur.

Chickpea salsamole

Chickpea salsamole

This is so easy, so delicious, and so versatile. It’s a little like guacamole, a little like salsa, and a little like a cool chickpea salad. You could add anything you want to this! Garlic, raw or roasted, onions or chives, jalapeños, olives, capers, hot sauce, cheese…anything! I used cilantro from our garden and beautiful golden oregano from the CSA that we belong to. I like this to stuff inside a pita or tortilla with some croquettes or beans and rice.

Here’s Uncle Tupelo with I Want to be your Dog. I LOVE this cover!
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Butternut ricotta kofta with pistachio-pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Here at The Ordinary we’ve had two snow days and two delayed opening in one week. This means lots of stir-craziness, an increasing amount of crankiness, and a lot of legos. We decided that life is like a box of legos. (I’m not saying it’s not like a box of chocolates, but I’m not a fan of the “You never know what you’re going to get,” part of that statement. I think you’ll find that you have a fairly good idea of what you’re going to get with a box of chocolates. It’s going to be sweet and chocolate covered, you might not know the specific filling, but there are only so many options. Often there’s a diagram, telling you exactly what you’re going to get.) Anyway, life is like a a box of legos. You can never quite find the piece you’re looking for, but you’ll find a similar piece that you’ll throw back into the box, only to realize that it’s exactly what you wanted all along. You can never find the piece you’re looking for, but you might find something totally unexpected, which works even better and sends you off in a new and wonderful direction. Some people need to open the box right away and put it together all in a rush, others take their time, and do it as the mood strikes them. Some people need to follow the directions to the letter, and go carefully to make it look just like the picture. Others throw the rules away, and put together something nobody has ever made before. Some people have a plan, they know what they want it to look like in the end, and others make make it up as they go along. This week Malcolm instructed us all to make “habitats,” and they were trying to make theirs as full of nature as possible. In the end they had a treehouse, the ruins of a castle, and lots of little storm troopers milling about. If life is like a box of legos, I have high hopes for the way theirs will turn out! Full of imagination and creativity. Unexpected but inspired.

As poet R. Lee Sharpe tells us, we’re all give the tools to work with, we’re all given the lego starter set, and what we do with it is up to us…

R. Lee Sharpe
“A Bag of Tools”

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make- ere life is flown-
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone.

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

This is my idea of a fun meal! While we were eating I gave myself a little pat on the back, because I don’t think anyone else would think of combining these particular ingredients in this particular way. Grated roasted butternut squash, ricotta cheese, chickpea flour, raisins and sharp cheddar? Delicious! The kofta were plump and pleasant and sweet, and the sauce earthy and a little tart-sweet. We ate these with warm tortillas, lightly cooked kale and spinach and chopped tomatoes and olives. You could eat them with pita bread, or just as they are, dipped in the sauce. They’re gluten-free, too, if you leave out the tortillas.

Here’s The Heptones with Book of Rules, based on R. Lee Sharpe’s poem.

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Chickpeas, black beans and spinach with lime, ginger and avocado

Chickpeas, spinach, black beans and avocado

Chickpeas, spinach, black beans and avocado

“We have a mom to cut our pineapple! We have a mom to cut our pineapple!” Malcolm sang as he and Isaac danced around the kitchen in their pajamas. They’d been in their room for an hour, and they’d piled all of their blankets and pillows around the edge of their bed. They were protecting someone from something: they’d drawn a map and some diagrams, they’d written notes. They weren’t Malcolm and Isaac. They weren’t even Malcolm and Isaac’s longtime alter egos Charlie and Harry. They were friends of Charlie and Harry. And they had just decided that whoever they were, they had a mother because they needed her to cut up pineapple for them. And just like that I’d become part of their story. I love their ability to wander through the world making a story of their lives. It’s so raw and fresh and funny when they do it, but I think it’s something everybody does, only we’re so close to it we don’t notice. We all write a story for ourselves as we go along, we make a world for ourselves, we make patterns and meanings from all the small moments of our lives. We could probably take a step back and write scholarly theses about the symbols and metaphors unfolding all around us. We can let other people into our lives as characters just by deciding they’re important and taking the time to learn about them and letting them cut our pineapple. We can decide where we’ll go next when we turn the page, we can choose between a taut drama and a meandering pastoral just by the way we respond to all of the little plot points and conflicts of our lives. It’s a lot of responsibility, really! I’ve been thinking about stories lately, because I’ve decided this is going to be a year of stories. Another year of stories. David gave me three blank books last year and I filled them up! They’re crammed with notes and rambles, words I like, short fiction, recipes, doodles, plans. And he gave me a package of pens, and they’re used up, they’re all dry! He gave me six blank books this year, and a pen that’s meant to last seven years. And I’ve started on them already! I’ve got stories in my head and they’ve got to come out!! And I hope to make these stories and my story as bright and focused and beautiful as it is in my power to do! After all, by my own befuddled logic, I’m the author, I’m writing this story. And that’s my grand plan for a sleepy snowy new year’s eve.

Beans and veg and spices. What could be better than that? I thought of this as a sort of warm salad, but it became more of a sauce as it went along. Because it has ginger and lime, it’s very bright and flavorful. The beans and chickpeas are grounding, the avocado is fresh, and the spinach and tomatoes are warm and saucy.

Here’s Boogie Chillun by John Lee Hooker.
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Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and walnut tarator sauce

Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

Here at The Ordinary’s home for over-used and worn-out metaphors, we’ve been visiting an old friend. We’ve been thinking of a metaphor, and we’re driving that tired horse the extra mile down well-traveled roads. It all started the other day when I described Malcolm’s mind as a vivid, teeming, beautiful place. I began thinking of it as a garden, I started to imagine what Malcolm’s garden would be like. I pictured it as a wild mix of different styles. In some parts it would be carefully planned and cultivated, and would yield delicious herbs and vegetables. In others it would be wild and unruly, full of raspberry bushes, say, delicious but prickly and hard to control. There would be gaps in the walls, hidden behind bushes or clever doors that Malcolm had fashioned from objects he’d found. These doors would open to secret passages, beautiful and rambling, which run for miles to unexpected places, alongside clear creeks. And Isaac’s garden would be bright and sunny, full of vibrant flowers and sweet smells. But there would be shadowy patches of skeleton flowers, or ghostly weeds or crazy jaggedy monstrous plants that look scary but would never really hurt you. His garden wouldn’t be hard to walk in, it would have plenty of paths, but they’d be meandering and twisting, and you’d never end up where you expect to. And my garden would be a miss-matched jumble. I would have started out carefully enough, drawing detailed plans in a little notebook, I would have chosen strange aromatic herbs and obscure fruits. I would have started with energy and good intentions, but somewhere along the way I would have gotten distracted or discouraged, and the flowers would never be as beautiful or the fruit as fruitful as I’d hoped. And I’d constantly be surprised by what I found in my own garden, forgetting that I’d planted something, or bewildered by some plant that had found its own way in and grown with wild gusto almost without me noticing. And sometimes this unexpected unremembered thing will be more beautiful than anything I’d planned. Like all gardens, ours will be dormant sometimes, seemingly bare under a layer of frost or snow, but beneath the soil all of the roots will be growing and alive. And like all gardens, we’ll have to be careful what we plant and what we allow to grow, and we’ll try to pull away the vines that choke everything healthy and vital. But we’ll never reject a plant because it’s not bright or showy enough or because somebody else calls it a weed. And we’ll understand that it’s good when our gardens are wild and alive and teeming, but it’s important for us to take care of them, and make plans for them, and forge paths through the brambles, so that we can share them with other people. We’ll revel in all the different moods and seasons, the sun and warmth and rain and frost, because we’ll know we need them all. Yeah. It’s an old metaphor, but the soil’s still good, it’s still got years of crops to harvest.

beet-sweet-plateBeets and sweets from the local farm! The season’s almost over, so we’ll make the most of it while we can. I sliced the beets and sweets and a few regular potatoes quite thinly. Then I roasted them till they were crispy. I lay these on a bed of baby arugula, and then piled them high with fresh tomatoes and basil (from the farm) and mozzarella, and then I drizzled the whole thing with a creamy vegan walnut tarator sauce. A sort of warm salad, perfect for this season of unexpectedly warm days and unexpectedly chilly nights.

Here’s REM with Gardening at Night.

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Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

People rarely ask me what I do. At the parties we attend–the fairly constant stream of casual gatherings, galas, brunches and luncheons—very few people say, “And what do you do, Claire.” Perhaps this is because I’m so obviously a bon vivant. One look at me and you instantly know that I spend my days composing bons mots and drinking champagne cocktails, watching the bubbles float upwards from a bitters-soaked sugar cube with a dreamy look on my face. Or maybe it’s because I dress like a giant five-year-old ragamuffin, and it seems cruel to ask, because I so obviously do nothing all day except make songbirds out of legos and nap with the dog. I think my tax return describes me as a homemaker. It’s a nice word, I suppose…much better than “housewife.” It’s got an active, creative element, and home is certainly one of my favorite words and one of my favorite concepts. It’s a big responsibility to make a home, and I’ll take it! I only think of myself as a waitress when I’m actually waiting tables, or sometimes when I realize that I can’t enter or exit a room without something in my hands, generally as many things as I can carry. And of course I’m a mom all the time, but that’s bigger than what I do, that’s what I am, among so many other things. I’ve decided lately that it’s important to decide what I do, not so that other people can define me by my employment or by the way that I make money, but as a way that I can decide for myself what it is that’s important for me to do. In the unlikely event that somebody asks me what I do, I’m almost fairly certain that I would say “I write.” If they ask me what I write, would I wander away, babbling awkwardly and incoherently? I don’t think I would, because I’ve also decided that I’m working towards something bigger than I’d realized. I realized this by deciding it, and it feels good (most of the time, if I can keep self-doubt and criticism and inertia at bay). I’ve incorporated all of the other things I do into this one bigger thing, because of course I’ll write about my sons and my customers at the restaurant, I’ll write about making a home, and all the ways that people do that. With this decision it’s become okay that I walk around the world with a constant stream of words flowing through my head. I no longer feel as crazy about this, because I can now give that stream a focus and direction; I’ve made a little pile of rocks to channel it, just like the boys do in the creek in summertime. I’ve made a little rivulet of thoughts which will grow wider and stronger and stretch its tired riverbanks, and eventually reach the sea! All by deciding what I do…what I can do, what I must do, what I will do.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

I’ve said it was beet season again, and here’s more proof. It’s coldish today, but we had a lovely warm week last week (people were complaining about how hot it was! I bet they miss it now, though!) I think there’s nothing nicer on a chilly-warm fall day than a warm salad. I roasted the peppers and beets, and then piled them on a bed of arugula, tomatoes from the farm, and fresh basil. I rolled some small pieces of goat cheese in chopped pistachios, and then warmed those, as well, so they were soft and melty. Very nice, altogether. As with any salad, use what you have and what you like, whatever you’ve picked from your garden or farm or grocery store shelves. I’ve left the amounts vaguer than usual even, because you can use whatever proportions you like!!

Here’s I am I be, by De La Soul.
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Farro with smoked sweet potatoes, french lentils and pinenut lemon aioli

smoked sweet potatoes with farro and lemon aioli

smoked sweet potatoes with farro and lemon aioli

Further Tales from the Towpath. Every morning since the boys have been back in school, David and I have been going for a bike ride on the towpath. Flying down this green tunnel with the man I love, on the bike he bought for me the year we got married, seventeen years ago, is an every day thing, but I don’t have to remind myself of how important it is, how valuable. You think about all the things that have changed and are changing every day, and all of the things that have not and will never change. Riding a bike still feels like flying, it’s still exhilarating, just as it was when I first learned. The air is colder every morning, the sun lazier each day to climb up and burn off the chill. This morning was the kind of cold that makes your ear-bones hurt and renders your fingers useless. As David said, it was miserable and beautiful at the same time. The mist rose off the water in small smoky tornadoes, and it revealed hundreds of spider webs all around us. It was as though we’d put on spider-sensing glasses. In the grass some webs are vague and formless, like tiny tactile clouds you could scoop up with your hands, and some look like small tents or funnels, as if a little circus had pulled into town. In the bushes and trees, the mist clung to Halloween spider webs in little clusters of light. Hundreds!! I like to think about this arachnid community, which is always there, though we don’t see it and think about it. I like to think about them busy with their lives, going about their business just as we are, all the humans on the canal, walking with purpose or ambling along, alone with our thoughts or deep in conversations. When we went camping one night, we discovered that if you shine your flashlight in the grass, a wolf spider’s eyes reflect back bright and green. It was as if the grass was full of sparkling emeralds! Full of them! Who knew there were so many spiders about! Earlier in the summer, we let a baby tree frog, raised from a tadpole, free in our back yard, and the other day, David found a big healthy tree frog, who clung to his hand like it was a warm and solid comfort. The same frog? We’ll never know. And that same night we saw screech owls wheeling around in the trees, and heard their tremulous song all night long. They live in our neighborhood! They hang out in our yard, whether we hear them or not. Well, I feel lucky that they’re there, grateful to get a glimpse of them from time to time, and glad to be reminded again that we’re not the center of everything, we’re not the most important, we’re part of a big teeming world at work all around us.
Lemon pine nut aioli

Lemon pine nut aioli

One day last week David made a fire in the back yard and the boys helped him burn up all the little twigs and sticks. Because I’m always thinking about food, I decided to try to smoke some sweet potatoes I’d gotten from the farm. I peeled them, wrapped them in foil, and buried them in the bottom of the fire, where I let them smolder for an hour or two. They turned out very nice! Soft inside, crispy outside, smoky and good. I made some french lentils and then cooked the farro in their broth. We had arugula under and tomatoes on top, like a big warm salad. My favorite part might have been the lemon pine nut aioli we drizzled over. Vegan, creamy, tart-sweet and delicious!!

Here’s Slim Gaillard with Sighing Boogie, just because I like it!
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