Moroccan spiced chickpea, tomato and pepper stew & couscous, & semolina bread

Morrocan chickpea stew

Malcolm wanted to go to the river. Isaac didn’t. It’s not the first time this has happened. After another epic struggle, we persuaded Isaac to walk down with us. As we walked, Malcolm declared that he was an outdoors swimming animal, and Isaac was an indoors curl-up-in-a-nest-of-fur-and-feathers animal. We laughed, cause it’s funny and it’s sort of true. But I felt uneasy. We try very hard not to label the boys a certain way. Not to say… Malcolm is a man who does this, and Isaac is a man who does that; or Malcolm’s good at this, and Isaac’s good at that. Because when somebody decides that you are a certain way, you can get stuck. I find it interesting, and a little frightening, how readily people take to a certain description of themselves. The boys like being defined in certain ways. We all do…everything’s such a confusing muddle, and it makes it easier if you have a semi-solid notion of yourself from which to make sense of it all. As an example…Malcolm is the boy who will try any food, Isaac is the boy who refuses to taste a thing. This is a thing that’s been decided, and Isaac is almost proud of it. But it’s just not true! In fact, I’d go even farther to say that the idea that children like bland, pale foods, and we should start out feeding them tasteless things, and trick them into eating anything else, is also, just not true. We fed tiny Malcolm oatmeal and yogurt and bananas. Then, one day, on a whim, we gave him orzo with pesto on it. Who turned the lights on? Flavor! Strong, sharp flavor! (Tiny little pasta that squishes through your fingers and drives the dog crazy when you scatter it ont the floor!) I think all children like strong flavors – Isaac likes olives and goat cheese – he always has. They both love capers, which they call flavor dynamites. We just have to give them a chance to try these things! Tapenade baby food, anyone?

Isaac eats a chickpea

So when I made this Moroccan-spiced chickpea stew, Isaac refused to try it, because that’s what he does. Then I gave him a chickpea. He ate that, and helped himself to more. I gave him an olive. He ate that, and spooned a few more onto his plate. By the time the rest of us had left the table, I looked out the window and saw that he’d pulled the whole serving plate toward him, and was eating everything together, hungrily. So we’ll take Isaac swimming, and Malcolm will curl up on the couch with a good book.

The stew was really tasty, and it’s a good way to use up all your tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, if you’re sick and tired of ratatouille. It’s not authentically Moroccan-spiced, of course. It’s just that it’s a pleasing mixture of savory spices and herbs, and “sweet” spices and herbs. And the bread! Well, I’d been reading fascinating accounts of Moroccan flatbread, that generally contain semolina, and are folded into all sorts of beautiful fashions. I decided to play around with these ideas, but in one big loaf. It turned out very nice! With a lovely texture and flavor – crumbly, chewy, and satisfying. If you don’t feel like doing all the crazy folding, you could just shape it into a nice round, and leave it at that.

Here’s Peter Tosh’s beautiful I Am that I Am.

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Beet dogs

Beet dogs

I love sleeping. I’m not very good at it – I never have been! I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and my brain will start buzzing, and I can’t quiet it down. It’s like the little people in my brain that have the middle-of-the night shift are working over time. I used to panic that if I didn’t get enough sleep I’d go crazy. I mean, there’s only so much of being with myself that I can take! I need a break, man! Of course, panicking about not being able to sleep is a rookie mistake; all the seasoned insomniacs know that it only makes things worse. Having children has put some sleepless fears to rest. I get along fine without much sleep. Yes I’ll be tired and blurry, but it won’t last forever. But a good night’s sleep, or even a good few-hours of sleep, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I don’t consider this a lazy attitude, because with sleep comes dreams, and dreaming is one of the most active and creative activities that a mind can engage in. I love dreaming! Perhaps because I’m a filmmaker that hasn’t made a film in over a decade, I consider every dream like a short film – I’ve even have a dream that I make a film, and it’s always a perfect and beautiful film, which I lose when I wake up. David’s alarm goes off at 6, and I’ll sleep for another hour or so, and this is when you have all the best dreams – or at least you remember them best. Dreams about old clothes, dreams about flying, dreams about falling, dreams about houses that have unexpected rooms and passages, dreams about climbing trees, dreams about my dog, dreams about people I’ve never met, dreams of swimming, dreams of drowning, dreams about water, dreams about glass, dreams about darkness, dreams about school, and about schools with unexpected rooms and corridors. And lately, of course, dreams about food. This recipe came to me in a dream. And part of me, upon waking, thought, you’re not really going to try that, are you? And another part of me thought, why the hell not? These are a sort of version of vegetarian hot dogs. They’re made with beets, pinto beans, garlic, smoked paprika, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice. They have some flour and eggs in them. They’re very simple and easy to make. They look funny and a bit embarrassing while you’re making them, so if you have boys in your house I suggest you banish them from the kitchen, unless you’d like to hear rude jokes and titters. The jokes stopped when they tasted these, though! Everybody was dubious, but everybody loved them. We all ate more than we planned on. Isaac sat with his chair tilted back, one beet dog in each hand, talking and gesturing, and ate every single bite. (Being allowed to eat them with their hands was part of the appeal!) Malcolm declared them better than store-bought not-dogs. I tried them two ways. First, I just fried them in butter (which is the way I make not dogs.) Second, in a flash of inspiration, I had the idea to boil them first, like gnocchi (which they resemble in some ways!) and then fry them in butter. I thought these came out better. Less dry, with a nice sort of chewy texture. They really are unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, but in a good way. Try them! Why the hell not! They’re very easy to make. I think that the boiled ones would be grillable, too. I’ll try it and let you know!

Here’s Big Mama Thornton with Hound Dog
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