Green spring tart (with pistachios, pine nuts, asparagus, olives, brie…)

Green spring tart

Green spring tart

AMERICAN MYTHOLOGIES #6. SUPER HEROES

I love all the “real” myths. The ancient stories, as old as humanity, which resonate and repeat around the world, answering questions about the origins of everything: how did the world begin, how do we make our place in it, where did we come from, where are we going? They answer the earliest questions, questions of conception, birth, creation. In the grand scheme of things, America is a very young nation. We’re teenagers, maybe. Or maybe we’re at that age just past adolescence when our swagger starts to falter, and we try to relive our glory days and we regret the insouciance of our youth. Accordingly our own mythological figures, our superheroes, have more adolescent concerns. These are the stories we all know, as Americans, these are the tales of valor, the epic struggles, the characters with godly speed and strength, with more-the-human abilities. And they help us to address, as a nation, all of the anxieties in our teeming teenage brain. How do we explain the changes in our body, which we can neither understand nor control? And these changes bring about a strange new power, which we can neither understand nor control. And, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility, and if there’s one thing teenagers hate, it’s responsibility. Superhero myths help us to work through anxieties about the source of our power–the science and technology that have changed our lives faster than we can compute. They helped to make us a super power, but they made us dangerous, too, and our morality didn’t always develop at an equivalent rate. The older myths tried to make sense of the justice or lack of it that people faced every day, and our superhero stories do this, too. When our authority figures mete out unfair punishments, just as in the earlier myths, super people and lesser gods try to trick the most powerful. Our superhero stories help us to understand evil, the dark side, and that it’s sometimes part of ourselves, confusing and strangely compelling. And they reflect a strangely American optimism: anything is possible, ordinary people are capable of great things. My boys have known the superhero stories almost sense they could talk. They seem to have learned them by osmosis. And as long as they could talk they’ve imagined powers for themselves, they’ve invented “guys,” who are capable of weird and wonderful things. They give them a history, an origin story, they draw them and sing songs about them, and they become them as they fly down the street, leaving all the worries of the real world behind.

I tried to put every green thing I could think of in this tart! So it’s got spinach and arugula and tarragon inside, and it’s got bright castelvetrano olives, asparagus and pistachio nuts on top. It was a nice combination…juicy and bright and nutty all at once.

Here’s MF DOOM’s Beef Rap, with the spiderman samples!

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Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

Tarragon pesto pizza with salsify and asparagus

American Mythologies, #4: Catcher in the Rye is a sophomoric over-rated novel about teen angst.

    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.The novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, and although ordinarily I would eschew Wikipedia as a less-than-scholarly source, when dealing with American mythologies, it is the authority, the ultimate collection of all of the opinions that have gathered over the years to become myth. Whether or not you like Catcher in the Rye, I think we can all agree that it has achieved mythic status in the pantheon of American literature. And Salinger’s legendary reclusiveness has only added to the mysterious air of cool that clings to the novel. I would argue that, over the years, our ideas of what the novel is about have taken on a life of their own, so that now they seem more real in some ways than the original story, and they bear little relation to it. Now we think of Holden as a rebel, a maverick, and if they ever made the book into a movie (which, mercifully, they never will) it would star James Dean or a young Marlon Brando. Wikipedia tells us, “Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States,” because Holden was a bad role model, further adding, “Often the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.” No less than three shootings have been somehow associated with the book. Of course none of this has anything to do with anything that actually happens in the book. The very phrase, “teen angst” is disparaging; it suggests that the nature of the angst is trivial and misguided, a self-centered foolishness to be outgrown, born of boredom and a bratty hatred for everything and everybody. Teen angst is all about ME, and why I’m so unfortunate. And I think Holden is thinking about everyone around him: his elderly teacher, the ducks in Central Park, his kid sister, his old friend, his dead brother, children in some mis-heard song, some miserable kid prostitute in a green dress. I think that’s why it’s beautiful. I don’t think Holden hates anyone, I think his problem, the source of his pain, is that he loves everyone he meets. Even with the people he doesn’t like he finds something to love. The kid who is a terrific bore is an excellent whistler, “So I don’t know about bores. Maybe you shouldn’t feel too sorry if you see some swell girl getting married to them. They’re don’t hurt anybody, most of them, and maybe they’re secretly all terrific whistlers or something. Who the hell knows? Not me.” He loves everybody: the mother he meets on the train, the nuns he meets in the station, the grippey teacher who yells “good luck” at him, the girl whose roller skate he tightens. He’s not the scowling kid who scrawls “Fuck You” every where he goes, he’s the kid who gets depressed when he sees that somebody else has done that. He doesn’t hate school because he’s too cool for it, it’s just the opposite, he hates the fact that people are forced to be more cool, more contained, to dim their enthusiasm. “What I mean is, lots of time you don’t know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most. I mean you can’t help it sometimes. What I think is, you’re supposed to leave somebody alone if he’s at least being interesting and he’s getting all excited about something. I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.” He doesn’t mistrust adults or authority figures, unless they’re hypocritical or tyrannical. I think he recognizes that they’re as confused as he is, that you never really outgrow the bewilderment caused by human connection, by sex, by loss, by loneliness. I think Holden is a teenager in the way Calvin is a six-year-old, his age allows him to say things we’re all feeling, as does the fact that he keeps calling himself a moron and a madman. There’s a passage in the book in which he’s talking about Laurence Olivier’s performance of Hamlet and he says, “He was too much like a goddamn general, instead of a sad, screwed-up type guy.” And I think Holden is that sad, screwed up type guy, too, not a fighter, not a rebel. And he’s got good reason to be sad. In Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the title characters go through the long list of woes that have afflicted Hamlet, and then they say, “And why are you behaving in this extraordinary manner?” It’s like that with Catcher in the Rye, too. His brother died at the age of eleven, when Holden was only thirteen. Three short years prior to the time that the story is set. He’s been in one boarding school after another since that time, alone, lonely, homesick, mourning. It’s Christmas time and he’s afraid to go home because he’s failed out of another school. Why would he behave in this extraordinary way? Why would he have a breakdown and become sick and sit in the park thinking he was going to die? Why would he talk aloud to his dead brother, wracked with regret over the one time he didn’t let him ride to his friend’s house years ago? How could he not! He’s searching for some sort of meaningful connection, and he’s disappointed by people who pretend to be something they’re not, or hide who they really are. But he loves them anyway. I know I quote this passage too much, but he reminds me of Alyosha in Brothers Karamazov, “Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” Holden feels sorry for people a lot, and I think that’s a form of love. At the end of Franny and Zooey, when Zooey, as an adolescent, says everybody is a moron, his brother Seymore tells him to shine his shoes or be funny for the fat lady, and then Franny and Zooey get this idea of a cancer patient somewhere, listening to them talk, and then Zooey says the fat lady is christ, which means that everybody is christ, but they’re Jewish, so it’s not in any Christian sense of the word. It’s about loving everybody that you meet. And I think Holden does that. In Brothers Karamazov Ivan talks at great length about the suffering of children, and he asks Alyosha if he would kill one child to bring peace to the entire world. Alysosha wouldn’t, he would save the child, and Holden, standing on the edge of a cliff, would save all the children if he could, as they come running through the rye.

I’ve gone on and on, and I could go on even more! I could write a book about this book. But I won’t. I’ll tell you about this pizza instead. I think it had nice flavors, sort of nutty from the salsify and asparagus, and bright from the tarragon. We grew salsify in our garden this summer, and we’re just harvesting it now. It’s a funny sort of root, with a mild sweet nutty flavor. It’s quite hard to find in stores. You could replace it with parsnips if you can’t find salsify. It’s similar, and much easier to clean. Or you could leave it out altogether. This would still be tasty.

Here’s Just One of Those Things by Art Tatum, because it’s a song Holden likes.

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Butter beans with chard, asparagus, fennel, and castelvetrano olives

Butterbean and spring vegetables

Butterbean and spring vegetables

I’m always in a hurry when Isaac and I walk to school. He’s an ambler, and he’s not concerned at all about the dire consequences of tardiness. One of us has to be! As a mother, I think the responsibility falls to me. So I’m always rushing him along, yelling, “With me!” as if he’s a dog I’m teaching to heel. Not this week, though. It’s the last week of school. Monday morning the air was just right, like water of a perfect temperature. In a sleep-deprived daze following a weekend of insomnia, it seemed as though we were swimming serenely through the air. It felt perfect to walk along, holding Isaac’s hand, answering true and false questions about matters big and small. I didn’t want the walk to end.
“True or false, the universe has a universe.” True!
“True or false, all bats are scaly and rough.” Well, that’s complicated, because all bats are different. “Wrong! It’s false, all bats are incredibly soft and furry.” Wait a minute, just because your brother touched one bat and it was incredibly soft and furry does not mean that every bat in the whole world is soft and furry. That’s faulty reasoning. “Nope, Malcolm said so. All bats are soft and furry.”
“True or false, when a bat flaps its wings, the vibrations can be felt on the other side of the world.” Um, true? Short pause. “Dad said it was false.” Well, where did you hear it was true? Longer pause. “Batman. Why are you laughing?”

I’ve been feeling like a literary magpie, lately. Or maybe just an airhead. I’ll happen across a small passage that intrigues me, and then I’ll buy the whole book from the magical used book store across the street, which has every book you can ever think of, precisely when you’re thinking of it. Then I’ll read a chapter, be completely charmed by it but understand it not at all. I’ll read a wikipedia entry on the text, feel slightly more informed and slightly guilty, and then some new passage will capture my gnat-like attention, and I’ll chase after that like Clio chases after dried leaves. A bit of Aristotle, a bit of Hobbes, a bit of the Mahabarata…maybe a few pages of Tintin to clear the palate. And of course I want to talk about whatever I’m reading, I want to discuss it and try to understand it, but my lack of comprehension combines with my inability to string words together to form a sentence and I sound like a complete idiot. But I think I’m okay with that. I’m not in school, I don’t have to write an essay or pass a test. I don’t even have to finish a book if I don’t want to! Although I usually do want to, if only for a feeling of completion. I like to read books about other people trying to figure things out, even though I don’t believe it’s possible to do so. I love the language, particularly in the very old books, I like the perfect parallel between my inability to understand a concept and the strangeness of the words themselves. I’m fascinated by the connections between books from around the world and throughout history, by the patterns that form, and the way everybody was influenced by somebody else, their thoughts echo the thoughts of those who wrote before them. In a poem Isaac described himself as “a thinker.” I’m so glad that he is, and that he knows that he is! I like to see Isaac and Malcolm make sense of everything, everything that teachers tell them, and friends tell them, that they tell each other, everything they read, and yes, even all the important scientific facts they learn from a batman cartoon. They’re processing it all, and learning to doubt and to reason, and it’s a beautiful process to watch. There’s a beautiful portrait of young Francis Bacon by Nicholas Hilliard with an inscription that translates as, “If only I could paint his mind.” I know what he means!

UPDATE! This was our conversation on the way home from school, and it seemed relevant, and I want to remember it, so here you go…

Isaac: I frequently think about what was there before space.
Me: Do you frequently think about that?
Isaac: Yes.
Me: And what do you think was there?
Isaac: Well, I get frustrated, because I think there was nothing, but then I think about what color nothing would be.

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

This was a green meal! A spring green meal. We kept it fresh and simple, with a saucy sauce of white wine and lemon. We used greens and fresh herbs from the CSA, and a special treat of castelvetrano olives from the market up the road. The boys ate this over gemelli pasta, and I ate it over a mix of lettuces from the farm, and arugula and fresh spinach, as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

And here’s The Pixies with Where is my Mind??? Which has been stuck in my head, for some reason.
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Savory almond cake with toasted beets, beet greens, goat cheese and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Last night we went to Isaac’s poetry cafe. I’ve got to start wearing dark glasses and a veil to these things, because I find them so moving that by the end I’m a puddle, despite my cynical and cantankerous nature. The kids are adorable, obviously, but it’s not this that gets me. It’s the raw, pure emotion–they’re all so animated and nervous and happy it just kills me. They’re not used to reading at all, let alone reading aloud. They stand at the front of the room, glance at their teacher, take a deep breath, and then they dive into the river of words–their words! They paddle through, head down, voice low and hushed, in a barely audible muddle, and then they’re done, they reached the other side, they’re elated, they nailed it. And it’s all so beautiful! Even when you can’t distinguish the words, the poems are full of rhythm and emotion. They’re about what they love and who they are, and these things are so clear and certain when you’re little–constantly changing and evolving, but not yet muddied and confused. They’re seven years old, so the poems are sincere in the best sense of the word. These kids aren’t trying to sell anything, or prove anything, at this age they’re not even worried about getting a good grade. They’re just telling you how they feel, and it’s so joyful and funny and even disarmingly profound in spots that you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Or at least I do. How long before the boys forbid me to attend events at their school? The whole class read a song about keeping a poem in your heart and a picture in your head, so you won’t be lonely, and this is such a perfectly Ordinary idea–this is what it’s all about! Not that you memorize a poem and walk around reciting it to yourself, but that everything is a poem or a picture, if you take the time to notice and collect it in your head in a way that you’ll remember it–with words or images or memories. My beloved OED defines a poem as “A piece of writing or an oral composition, … in which the expression of feelings, ideas, etc., is typically given intensity or flavour by distinctive diction, rhythm, imagery.” This is it exactly! Everything in your life can be given intensity and flavor, if you wake up and live. It sometimes seems that “they” are trying to make us slow and dull and stupid, so we’ll buy more that we don’t need. So I say, don’t watch the dumb shows, don’t eat the fast food, make your own meals, think your own thoughts, with passion and creativity! Nobody can take this away from you. In my visit to the OED, I also discovered the word “poeming,” as in composing or reciting poems, and I will tell you that the children in Isaac’s class were engaged in “Loud Tawkings and Poemings.” Yes they were. And so should we all be.

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Yesterday at the flea market we met a French couple selling baking pans. I liked them so much, in an instant. They seemed so kind and friendly. We bought a half dozen pans of surprising proportions, and I’m excited to use them all. One was very large with straight sides about 1 1/2 inches high. I knew right away that I wanted to make a big savory cake in it. I’m fascinated by the idea of savory cakes, because I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere, and I wonder why. We have savory pies and savory pancakes, but not savory cakes. I’ve experimented a bit, with a cake with chard and chickpea flour, and one with cornmeal and beets. This particular cake had ground almonds, and I made it like a savory version of a gateau basque, so it had two layers, combined on the edges, and containing a filling of toasted beets, mozzarella, goat cheese, beet greens and asparagus. And the asparagus tips are on top for decoration. I thought it was really delicious. Unexpected, with nice flavors and textures. Not too soft, not too dry. I was happy with the way it turned out! If you don’t happen to have a big French cake pan, you can use a regular cake pan or a small roasting pan.

Here’s Bob Marley with Wake Up and Live
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Pistachio and tarragon tart with castelvetrano olives and asparagus

Asparagus, pistachio, castelvetrano tart

Asparagus, pistachio, castelvetrano tart

If The Ordinary was a TV program, (and it’s only a matter of time, really, when you think about it) this would be the moment when we’d saunter, smiling and chatting, over to a book so large it’s printed in dozens of volumes. Everyone in the audience would jump from their seats, screaming, “The OED! Yay! Tell us how some random word was used in the 13th century! And the 15th century and the 18th, and, if possible, give us an example from only a few years ago!! Yay!!” Yes, it’s OED time! Your word for today is “sigh.” Why? Because for some reason I found myself sighing a lot this weekend. And sometimes I would just say, “sigh,” instead of sighing. And then I wrote a story about a ghost who always has a sigh in his voice, and who can shake the whole room with his sigh. Strange, very strange. So on Monday I did the obvious thing and looked the word up in the OED. Turns out its meaning hasn’t changed dramatically over the years. It’s always meant something close to “A sudden, prolonged, deep and more or less audible respiration, following on a deep-drawn breath, and esp. indicating or expressing dejection, weariness, longing, pain, or relief.” It was oft used, ere this, by the supersensitive overwrought poets and lady novelists. And yet, I find it a very fascinating word! Because it’s not a word at all. It’s a space between words. Like the grunts I found so remarkable in Ozu’s Tokyo story, which rise or fall and contain a million different easily readable meanings in one small sound, it’s almost more expressive than any actual word. And a sigh is so full of variations and possibilities! A sigh can indicate exasperation, sadness, fatigue, resignation, comfort, satisfaction. One small sound, barely a sound! Just a breath, quieter than a whisper. And everybody sighs, often without meaning to or even being aware of it. It’s a universal language. My favorite sigher at the moment is Clio. She’ll make herself perfectly comfortable, and then she’ll settle her head on her paws and heave a great sigh, as though she’s just taken care of some very important business and now she can rest for a moment. Even the leaves and the grass and the wind sigh, especially in poems. “Whenever a March-wind sighs He sets the jewel-print of your feet In violets.” A sigh can express longing, you can sigh for something or someone. You can sigh something away…even your life, “Sapores..sighed out his affrighted ghost, at the age..of seventy one,” or your soul, “Hundreds of martyrs sighed away their souls amid the flames.” Maybe your sadnesse is sigh-swolne, your age is sigh-blown, or your tone is sigh-deepened. I love the idea of communicating without words, with something only slightly more audible than a gesture or an expression, with something as vital and intimate as our breath. I love the fact that “Some sighes out their woordes. Some synges their sentences.”

Asparagus pistachio castelvetrano tart

Asparagus pistachio castelvetrano tart

I think of this as my splurge tart. I spent more money than I should on castelvetrano olives and pistachio kernels, (yes, I’m a lazy spendthrift) and asparagus, which doesn’t seem to be getting any cheaper no matter how far into spring we get. So I decided to put them all together in one tart. I made a sort of frangipane of pistachio kernels, but I added asparagus and spinach, too. I wanted it to taste very green. And asparagus and castelvetrano olives are lovely together, juicy and fresh.

Here’s Dolcissimo Sospiro (I think it means “sweet sighs”) sung by the remarkable Montserrat Figueras
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Perciatelli pasta with brothy asparagus, roasted pepper & olive sauce

Asparagus and red pepper sauce for pasta

Asparagus and red pepper sauce for pasta

Well, I survived another mother’s day lunch shift as a waitress. Nine hours with no break at all, literally not one second to sit down. I’ll pause for a moment so that you can shed a small tear for my plight. Aw, it’s not so bad. This is a fairly typical shift for the restaurant business, and it certainly suits me better than a job at which you can’t do anything but sit! I like the non-stop pace, I like being active, I enjoy talking to people. But it was tiring, and by the end of the day I stood in the middle of the restaurant yelling, “I’M A MOTHER TOO, DAMMIT! SOMEBODY HAD BETTER BUY ME A GLASS OF WINE RIGHT NOW!!” And when I walked Isaac to school this morning, and joined a group of parents talking about their mother’s day celebrations, I said, “I spent nine hours serving mothers lunch, and let me tell you, mothers are horrible people.” Heh heh, I can say that, because I am a mother! I’m kidding once again, of course. Mothers are wonderful people, each and every one of them. But mother’s day is widely recognized in the restaurant business as a particularly difficult day. You walk away from it bewildered by just now needy everybody is. Why is this? You ask yourself, as you walk home on tired feet. Why do people seem so needy on mother’s day? Maybe it’s because mothers are as needy as everyone else, but we have to suppress that neediness 364 days of the year, and on the one day we’re told by the media and the greeting card companies that somebody should take care of us, we’re going to squeeze every drop of sympathy and attention we can get. Because mothering, though it is a gratifying and demanding job, is not a very well-rewarded job in the usual ways that jobs are considered rewarding. We have no pay, no awards, no performance-reviews, no gold stars, no bonuses, no free gifts, no paid vacations, no benefits, no gala luncheons. We do have people who don’t listen when we talk to them, who keep us up all night when they’re sick, who expect us to feed them even when we’re sick, who act embarrassed when we talk to them in front of their friends, who shudder visibly when we try to feed them delicious foods that we’ve worked on for hours. And most of the time, that’s fine. Isaac has had some sort of stomach virus the last few days, and I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep, but I’ve been thinking that it’s sort of perfect for mother’s day weekend, because it makes you realize how good it feels to be needed by someone, to actually make somebody feel better if you rub their back or cuddle with them, to love someone so much that you’re always glad to hear them call your name, even at 3 in the morning (and 4 in the morning, and 6 in the morning…). So if a mother wants to fuss a little when her family takes her out, and be sure the meal is exactly as she likes it, and that her water has precisely the right number of ice cubes and lemon slices, more power to her!! If she wants to send something back because it’s not just the way she ordered it, that’s fine–she should have the perfect meal. If she wants proof that somebody is actually listening to her, even if it’s a stranger in an apron and stupid white shoes, I’m okay with that.
For mother’s day Isaac gave me a hand-print flower glued into a flowerpot made of brown construction paper. It was quite a big flowerpot, and I believe he was supposed to fill the whole thing with a poem. In his usual wise and simple way, he wrote, “I love my mom because she’s my mom.” And that sort of says it all. It defies rational expectation, but it’s true–we love our moms because they’re our moms. Because in reality all moms aren’t wonderful people, and no mom is always wonderful, but children have a remarkably elastic and forgiving sort of love, and most of the time, that’s reward enough.

Both of my boys actually liked this meal! I made long tube-shaped pasta called perciatelli. Like spaghetti, but with a hole in it. I wanted to make a brothy sauce to go with it, so I made this concoction of asparagus, roasted red peppers, olives and capers. It’s got white wine and lots of herbs, and a little bit of tomatoes. The boys used the pasta like a straw to suck up the broth, but they ate all the vegetables as well, miracle of miracles.

Here’s Goody Mob with Soul Food

Looking to be one of dem days
When Momma ain’t cooking
Everybody’s out hunting with tha family
Looking for a little soul food

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Two spring salads

Asparagus castelvetrano salad

A big part of my brain is telling me to “just post the damn recipe, Claire!” But when have I ever listened to my brain? Rarely! So here we go…Yesterday I rambled on about nutella and sweets and American’s eating habits. Well, of course I have more to say on the subject. Let’s begin ten years ago. I worked in a bookstore. I was amazed at the number of diet books. And the number of weird diet books. Eat your colors, eat your horoscope, only eat carbohydrates, don’t eat carbohydrates, don’t eat green beans on Tuesday, eat only cheese and grapefruit, eat only chocolate chip cookies and cider vinegar. I joked, at the time, that I was going to write a book called “The DUH Diet.” There are some ideas about eating that just make sense (to me!), and they’re not new ideas or revolutionary ideas. They’re not eating habits that are difficult to live with. I love Satchel Paige’s Rules for Long Life, so I’m going to present a few of these commonplace, commonsense ideas in this form. (I should note that this applies mostly to Americans, because that’s mostly what I know.) Ready? Begin…

1. Enjoy every bite you eat. Don’t stuff something down your throat that you don’t really like the taste of–that you don’t really have a hankering for–just because it’s mealtime or you’re hungry or it’s sitting in front of you. It’s okay to feel hungry once in a while, as you wait for the food you really want. Most of us go through life snacking whenever our stomachs get a little grumbly. Let yourself feel hungry before a meal. It’ll wake you up! You’ll enjoy it more.

2. Drink lots of water. Good for every part of you.

3. Eat cookies and potato chips if you feel like it, but enjoy them. Eat a handful, not a bagful.

4. Satchel said avoid fried meats. I’d say avoid all meat, or try to go easy on it. Bad for the animal, bad for the planet, bad for your body, bad for your soul.

5. Never ever go to McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant, unless you need to use their toilet. Bad for the planet, bad for every part of you.

6. Enjoy rich foods, like buttery, cheesy savory pastries, but have that be a small part of your meal, and eat a big salad with it, or a big bowl of soup. Fill up on fruits and vegetables.

7. Satchel said “jangle gently as you walk,” which I love. Do it every day! Go for a walk, or a run, or jump around your living room. Get your heart beating, and your blood flowing.

I guess that’s it, for now. Sorry to get all preachy on you. But it’s all stuff everybody knows anyway, right? Duh.

Anyway, in the interest of loading up on vegetables, which is part of tenet number 6, let me tell you about these two salads. I make a salad almost every night, but I rarely talk about them because they’re gone before I can make a record of their existence.

These two seemed notable, though. The first had royal trumpet mushrooms. These had become a questing food for me ever since my friend Neil told me about them. Neil’s in Germany, and he called them “king trumpet.” I think the version we have in America is called “royal trumpet.” Either way, I found them, by accident, in a local market. The same market that had fiddleheads. It’s a magical market! I decided to keep it simple, this first time, so I sauteed them with rosemary and a bit of garlic, olive oil and balsamic. Then I put them on a salad with

Royal trumpet mushroom salad

spinach and arugula, and added a handful of chopped hazelnuts. And that was it! They were delicious. They became lovely and crispy. I’ll definitely be having these again. The second had bright green asparagus, bright green castelvetrano olives, capers, almonds and a little goat cheese. Simple and green and crunchy.

Here’s Louis Armstrong Tight Like That to go with the trumpet mushrooms. I think it’s such a perfect song!
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Asparagus & Spinach quiche

Asparagus quiche

We had this for dinner on St. Patrick’s day, and, I swear to god, I didn’t know it would be so green! It was not a calculated move! As it happens, green is my favorite color, so I’m exceedingly pleased that it turned out so green. I can’t really think of anything interesting to say about asparagus quiche at the moment, so I’ll just relate a few salient points. Firstly, I made this in an hour. One hour, start to finish! As it happens, I had some crust dough leftover, but even if you added dough-making time, it would still be, maybe, one hour 10 minutes. So it seems quite fancy (doesn’t it?) but it’s quick and easy. Second-of-all, I think it’s very pretty (and green). So it makes a nice spring-y meal. Even for a special day like Easter, I’d say. It’s flavored with a little basil and rosemary. And with nutmeg, because nutmeg belongs in a spinach quiche! I added some goat cheese, for freshness and tang. And now I’ll stop talking about it, or I’ll have gone on longer describing it than it takes to make it!

asparagus quiche

Here’s Nutmeg, by Art Pepper
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Spring stew with white beans and asparagus

Spring vegetable stew

I was thinking the other day that I probably talk about the weather too much. I know it’s a dull subject, and one that people resort to when they have nothing else to say. But weather matters! It’s fundamentally, life-alteringly, earth shakingly important. Of course what I’m really talking about, when I talk about the weather too much, is how it changes my mood. A crazy amount. I was feeling mildly discouraged, for a while. And then we had a few beautiful, sunny days in a row, and the light started to have that hopeful springtime slant, and the air had little pockets of warmth and flower-smells. And I felt hopeful! And happy! And full of energy and spirit! I felt good. And nothing had changed but the weather. And when the weather was nice, I wanted to make a dinner that was green and bright and glowing! Plus, I wanted to eat my lovely pencil thin asparagus, but in some form that wasn’t just steamed with butter and lemon (although that really is the best!) So I made this stew, with bright green vegetables and white beans, and a light broth of white wine and lemon. And I wanted only a few herbs and spices, but fresh, bright ones. So I added fresh thyme and fresh ginger, and a little parsley, with its green clean taste. Lovely! The boys ate it over gemelli, as a nice light pasta sauce.

Here’s Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. One of my favorite songs ever, and the best description of how alive a spring day can make you feel.
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Arugula salad with asparagus and herbed hazelnut crusted goat cheese

Asparagus Salad

You know how they’re saying now that certain stores secretly monitor your buying habits? I have a suspicion that the grocery store is spying on my vegetable-buying patterns! Last week I just couldn’t bring myself to buy “winter” vegetables. I love you, cauliflower and winter squash, but enough is enough! So I bought summer squash, and eggplant. Well, I went back this week, and asparagus was on sale! Highly supsect, highly suspect! In all seriousness, I try to buy veggies that are somewhat in season. But I’m kidding myself if I think that the winter squash I buy at the grocery store was grown anywhere near here, this time of year. Right? So I bought the asparagus. Lovely, bright green, pencil-thin! I bought some baby arugula, too. What lovely, nutty, green flavors, so nice together! I lightly steamed the asparagus, lightly dressed the arugula with olive oil and balsamic. And then I made these little goat cheese croutons. I flattened little discs of goat cheese, coated them in ground hazelnuts, rosemary and thyme, and I toasted them for a few minutes, till they were brown and bubbly on the edges. Yum! I sprinkled some leftover hazelnut/herb mixture over for a bit more crunch. Threw in some grape tomatoes for color and sweetness, and that was it! A spring fever salad for February. Green and glowing!

Here’s The Carter Family with When Springtime Comes Again. Sweet and yodelly.