Fried green tomato pakoras and cilantro, tamarind, almond sauce

Fried green tomato pakoras

September 11, 2001 was a perfect golden day, just like today. We had just moved to the town we now live in from Boston. It felt like coming home. I felt as glowingly hopeful as the weather. And then, of course, everything changed. So much has been written and spoken about that day – I feel like there are no more words for it. Everybody has a story of where they were, and how they heard, and friends that they lost. It’s impossible to forget the dizzying feeling of standing in a bright green world, with a vast, clear blue sky overhead, thinking about the horror occurring so nearby. And what a tangled mess in the years that followed, when the tragedy was cynically exploited to keep us in a constant state of fear, to build support for a war that caused so much more death. Our world changed, and it kept on changing, with all of the lies, and mistrust, and disappointment. And little did we know, in our own small world, how soon our life would change – Malcolm was born exactly ten months later. And, to be honest, half of his class was born around the same time. September 11 babies. Because it’s also impossible to forget the feeling of clinging to life and love and hope. It sounds trite and saccharine now, as I write it, but it was such a strong, renewing feeling at that time. It’s discombobulating to think about Malcolm’s life, sometimes, to think about his bright, strong, creative spirit, and to think that his whole life we’ve been at war, or preparing for war.

Little Malcolm

Phew, I was not going to go on like this! There are no more words, she says, and then she rambles on and on! I was going to talk about tomatoes. Tomatoes – they have such a lovely life cycle, where we live. They grow all summer, the little sweet ones ripening early, a delightful promise of more to come. The weighty, ripe, beautiful late summer tomatoes come all at once, so warm and sweet and juicy, and they continue on into autumn, as their leaves wither around them, and the fruit glows like bright stained glass. I went picking last week, and I got a lot of green tomatoes, because I find them an inspiring challenge. As I was picking I got very excited with the idea of making these fried green tomato pakoras. Hooboy they were good! The batter perfectly crisp and tasty, the tomatoes inside soft and just the right amount sweet. The sauce was good too – cilantro and jalapenos from the farm, brightened by tamarind and tempered by almonds.

Cilantro almond tamarind sauce

Here’s Talib Kweli’s The Proud, which is one of the most honest and intelligent songs about 9/11 and how complicated it was (and it samples Nina Simone!)

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Cherry chocolate coconut almond crisp

Cherry clafouti crisp

Here at The Ordinary, in our illustration division (located in a spacious and sunny atrium between the rooftop greenhouse and the outdoor swimming pool in the parpapets) we like to draw mixed up animals. You can find us hard at work, day and night, combining winged creatures, finned creatures and those with claws and tails. The best part of this fantastical exercise, is that the resulting mixed up creature is usually quite delightful. Let us present a few choice examples from our archives…
Malcolm’s fox-owl.

Isaac’s Ring-tailed Ouzel

Ring tailed ouzel

And my squirrel-giraffe

Squirrel giraffe

This dessert is a mixed up animal, too! Part cobbler, part crisp, part frangipane, part clafoutis. It’s fruity, soft, chocolatey, and crispy all at the same time! Here’s how it all went down: I had bought a bag of cherries. In general, cherries don’t last long in this house. However, we went away twice for a few days within a week or two, and before we knew it, the cherries were past their first blush of youth. Well! A chance to bake!! I wanted to make a cobbler/crisp type dessert. I also had clafoutis on my mind (the french cherry & baked custard dish) – specifically I was thinking about clafoutis with a frangipane type of custard. This combines all of those things. We have a layer of warm cherries splashed with rum, a layer of soft baked almond custard with bittersweet chocolate chips, and a crispy coconut topping. If I do say so, and I do, this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made! It has a lot of different flavors, it’s true, but they all go very nicely together. We ate it warm with lightly whipped cream flavored with maple syrup and vanilla.

Here’s The Kangaroo Rat from the Beastie Boys. I know that’s an actual animal, but they look so unlikely (perfect, but unlikely!) And the album is called the mix-up, so it’s double extra good.

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Apricot almond cake w/ apricot-cassis cream

Apricot almond cake

I love the idea of a cake with apricot glaze – I always have. It’s strangely associated with some childhood notion of sophistication in edible form. Strange, because I can’t remember the actual moment that I ate an elegant cake with an apricot glaze. I can remember plenty of battenburg cakes, wrapped in plastic like the block of modeling clay that they resembled. They had a layer of apricot glaze under their oddly chewy marzipan layer. I loved them! But I’m sure I never thought of them as elegant. The truth is, whether sophisticated or not, a layer of apricot makes sense in a cake! It adds a pleasant fruity tartness that offsets the sweetness of whatever else happens to be in the cake. This cake happens to have almonds – a classic match with apricots – and bittersweet chocolate, which adds its own version of bitter-with-sweet, to complement the apricots.

Inexplicably, I became semi-obsessed with making apricot-cassis cream. I thought about a million different things to make, but I kept returning to this. So I turned to my new BFF, the pastry cream, and I added a pur√©e made of apricots and cassis, and then folded in a little lightly whipped cream. I thought it was very nice with the cake – I don’t think I’ve ever had pastry cream or any of its subsidiaries alongside a cake before, but I thought it was a lovely combination of textures. You could easily eat the apricot cream on its own as a mousse, with some crispy cookies!

I just can’t not share this! It’s a song called Apricot, by the Armenian Navy Band, and it has my Malcolm dancing around the room in his pjs.
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Tart with pumpkinseed-sage custard and roasted butternut coins

Polkatart

There’s been such a nice frisson lately between winter and spring. The air is filled with the fragrance of flowers, but the evenings are cool enough for people to use their fireplaces, and the combination of smells is at once hopeful and nostalgic. This tart is like that a little, to me. Although slightly autumnal, there’s something about the combination of flavors and the very tart-shaped shape of it, that’s as suitable to early spring as to early fall.

It’s a polka dot tart! A polka tart! I think butternut squash and sage make such a perfect combination. The one sweet and mild, and the other strong and sort of earthy. (How would you describe sage? It’s indescribable!) When I made my pumpkinseed sage sauce, I thought it would be perfect with coins of roasted squash. And then I thought, why not take it one step further, and combine it all in one neat package? After all, I’d been thinking of this as a sort of pesto, and I love to use basil pesto in a tart. It turned out very delicious all together. The flaky crust added just enough crunch to the tender tart. A perfect spring meal with a big green salad.

Here’s Noble Sissle with Polka Dot Rag. Have a dance around the kitchen while you wait for your tart to bake!

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crispy lacy almond cookies

crispy almond cookies

I’ve always wondered if I could smell or taste or feel in a dream. It’s all a little vague, but I’m fairly sure I can see and hear. Exactly how much are dreams like movies, anyway? Surely since smell and taste are so closely related to memory, and dreams are fantastical jumbles of memory, these senses should play some part? I just didn’t know. Well, last night, my dream provided solid and concrete evidence that I have a sense of smell in my dreams. I dreamt that I was making black beans (as one does in one’s dreams, right?). In my dream, I went to sleep, but woke up hours later with the house on fire, and the terrible smell of burnt black beans in my nose. The panic! The guilt! Well, I woke up in real life, after waking up from the dream in the dream, and I was sure that I could smell smoke! But I couldn’t, and the sense of it passed, and I went back to sleep. Have you ever smelled or tasted anything in a dream?

The other day my friends Treefrogdemon and SpottedRichard asked about a thin crispy cookie. I made one, with rum and coarse salt. But Spotted Richard said she’d imagined something with almond. And so, to be honest, had I. So I tried again. I had two leftover egg whites, and I decided to use them to make a light, thin cookie with almost no flour. (I was worried that this would be one of those occasions that I waste a whole cupboardful of ingredients trying to use up two egg whites, but luckily these turned out very tasty!) They’re thin and lacy and crispy, almost like almond toffee.

Here’s Yellow on the Broom, by Jean Redpath, because I think Treefrogdemon and SpottedRichard will like it, and because springtime is here again!!
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