Cool tacos for a hot day

Black bean, pepper and avocado

Black bean, pepper and avocado

SUMMER JOURNAL

I haven’t had much time to write lately. It’s strange how summer days can fill up with delightful clusters of nothing-too-important but something you wouldn’t miss. Of course I’ve been thinking of writing, and I’ve saved up a million small summery ideas, and I’m going to share them with you now, summer-journal style. This morning I saw the baby eagle fly! As you’ll no doubt recall, his nest is at the top of a giant metal tower. He’s a hulking baby, nearly as big as his parents. For weeks now He’ll stand in his nest, testing his wings. This morning he stretched them out, and then he flapped them, and he flew! Only a few feet, he landed again in his nest. It was so beautiful my eyes filled with tears and I was trying not to foolishly cry outright in front of two men who had stopped in their bike ride to discuss features that all raptors wings have in common. I had told them minutes before that this was a bald eagle, they thought it was “some sort of hawk.” One of them was wearing a shirt for the Eagle Diner, and it had a nicely drawn picture of an eagle as its logo.

I’ve been having a hard time staying away from the local ice cream parlor. One day, after an especially hard day of work, Malcolm and I walked down. I waited outside with Clio and Malcolm went in. I told him I didn’t want any ice cream, and I almost believed myself. Luckily he didn’t and he walked out with the exact ice cream cone I would have ordered myself. We walked home in the warmsummerevening air, and when he got to the last half inch of his cone he gave it to me, as he always does, because he knows it’s my favorite part. It’s the part that makes you want more ice cream. And I always eat it, even though he has summer boy hands, which have handled frogs and toads and plenty of dirt, and probably haven’t been washed all day.

I love fireflies. I love their gentleness and their seeming modesty in the face of their own beauty. I love their seeming patience in the face of human hands reaching out to give them a place to land, over and over again. The other night we sat out in the yard and watched them fly all around us and I saw one lying in the grass, glowing. David says this is a thing they do. Some of them sit in the grass and glow, and some of them fly around looking for their glowing friends in the grass. Maybe I’d seen it before, but at that moment I thought I was seeing it for the first time and it struck me as a wonderful thing to be forty-five and see a firefly glowing in the grass for the first time. We imagined a scenario in which fireflies somehow bite you the way mosquitoes do, although of course it would be much gentler and completely painless. We imagined that instead of swelling and itching, the place where they bit you would glow. And then we thought that people would probably devise a way to get fireflies to bite them in patterns all along their skin, to make a glowing tattoo.

I love the fact that Malcolm will jump into any body of water we encounter, fully clothed, and instantly submerge himself. But Isaac, even for a water gun fight, likes to have a swim shirt and swim shoes and swim suit and goggles. I love that they’re different that way. We’ve been creeking a few times now, of course, because that’s what summer is all about. Malcolm’s in the middle of the creek in a moment, but Isaac hangs by the edge looking for frogs and toads. The other day he asked David, “What’s the biggest toad you’ve never caught?” Which I think is a beautiful question.

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

We’ve had a couple of blisteringly hot days, the kind when you don’t want to cook at all, and inspired by my new Ordinary friend Tom, I made these cool tacos. Tom makes his into quesadillas, which are vegan because he uses hummus instead of cheese to hold the quesadillas together. I think this is genius! It was too hot even to turn the stove top on, so we made them into soft tacos instead. I warmed the tortillas in the toaster and I made some rice for the boys, but other than that no heat was required to make these tacos. We’ve had them several times now. Once with black beans, peppers (hot and sweet) and avocado, once with red beans, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olives, and lots of herbs. You can make them vegan without cheese, or add feta or cheddar or goat or any cheese you like. I made a lemony herb hummus to go with them,
lemony herb hummus

lemony herb hummus

smoky pumpinseed sauce

smoky pumpinseed sauce


as well as a smoky toasted pumpkinseed sauce. All vegan if you leave the cheese out!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Summertime.

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Corn, avocado, french feta and cherry tomato salad

corn-and-avocado-saladWe’re just coming out of summer…floating up through the thick moist august air into the cool days of autumn, and I feel as though I’ve got the bends! I’m forgetful and moody and I’m having a hell of a time concentrating on anything. The boys are back in school, and my list of things I’ll get to it as soon as the boys are back in school is languishing in some pile of other things I’ve misplaced and forgotten all about. As the mornings and evenings draw in dark and chilly, I feel as though I’ve started casting out my silky and yet freakishly strong threads, and I’m winding them around everyone I love, pulling them home, where I’ll feed them warm food and keep them safe. I feel a bit like Clio, actually! Walking Isaac to school and meeting the boys at the end of the day are the highlights of my life at the moment, and everything in between is a confused blur. I’ll get back into a pattern, eventually, there’s so much I want to do. But for now, I’ll enjoy walking Isaac to school as a sort of meditation, a facet of my training as a student of Isaacstentialism. In my dazey half-awake state, I’ll put my hand out without looking, and know that his will be right there to take it in less than a moment. I’ll half listen as he talks and talks and says the sweetest things, and I’ll think about them for the rest of the day. Today he said that when he grows up he’s going to have a big field in his back yard, with grass in it that’s taller than his children, and they’ll play hide and seek in the grass, and Malcolm’s children will come over too, so all four of them (?!?!) will be there. And there will be a sort of maze in the grass, but a path through it, too, so they can all find their way home safely. And Isaac will have a porch above the grass so that he can see where his children are running, and he and Malcolm will sit on the porch and talk while their children play in the long green reeds below. Yeah. Next week everything will be clear and organized and I’ll get to work. This week, I’ll imagine myself like a child, running through long grass taller than me, all the world a beautiful shifting confusion of green, with a path to carry me safely home. “When a body catch a body coming through the rye…”

Leftover corn-on-the-cob is fun! Who knew!! This time I combined it with avocado, cherry tomatoes, french feta (but you could use regular feta or any crumbly cheese you like), fresh basil, fresh cilantro, pine nuts and lime juice. Fresh, sweet, salty, tart. Very nice indeed. I didn’t add any oil as a dressing, because I think the avocado serves that purpose. And the cherry tomatoes from the farm have been sweet as candy, so between those and the corn, I didn’t feel I needed to balance the lime juice with any extra sweetness, but you could always add a drizzle of honey. You could also add roasted garlic, hot sauce, or any other thing you like.

Here’s Whispering Grass by The Ink Spots.

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Beet & zucchini tacos with chipotle & queso blanco

Beet and zucchini tacos

Ever since the last time, I’ve been thinking of quotes to use this time. The last time, I chose the quotes at random, and was curious to see how they made connections with each other. This time, I’ve chosen quotes that have been stuck in my head one way or another over the years. And one from the book I’m currently reading. And one from Isaac, which he said while I was typing this up. Do you have quotes that get stuck in your head, and surface at the strangest times?

Mom, make your hand a fist and pretend it’s the world.”- Isaac.

He ain’t God, man.” – Chili Davis, on Dwight Gooden

Hwaet thu ece God !” – King Alfred

Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows
were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully
and gently held small children on the sills.
” – Franz Kafka, The Trial

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her
?” – Shakespeare, Hamlet

It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It’s probably the best drawing I’ve ever done.” – Napoleon Dynamite

The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Educated no, stupid yes,
And when I say stupid I mean stupid fresh
” – The Beastie Boys

And here are some tacos to use up some of the beets and zucchini you got from your CSA/garden!” – Claire
I was excited all day about making (and eating!) this. I bought some queso blanco at the grocery store. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for ages, but it’s a bit of a splurge. It wasn’t universally popular in my family. I like it – it’s mild, and salty. If you have feta, that would work well, too (it goes nicely with the earthy sweetness of the beets.) And, actually, grated jack or sharp cheddar would be tasty in this as well! I thought this turned out really pretty – the beets go so nicely with the dark kidney beans, and they color everything around them, but there are flashes of green here and there to set them off. The flavors were nice – smoky, spicy, sweet. The recipe calls for cooked rice. I definitely recommend basmati or something else with distinct grains – anything else would make the mixture too sticky. Wild rice or black rice might be even better! I just made a big pot of basmati, mixed some in, and left some separate for the boys, who like a higher rice to bean ratio. I think tacos are the most fun to eat! And the quickest and easiest to cook! I have some leftover beet/zuke/bean mixture, and I think it would make a nice bisque, if puréed with some good broth. Will I try it? I don’t know! It’s very hot, still!

Here’s Trenchtown Rock, from Bob Marley. There was a train bridge in New Brunswick, back in the day. A beautiful old train bridge. And somebody had painted in large white letters, “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” I mother flippin love that bridge, that quote, that song…

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Toasted hominy and avocado salad

Toasted hominy salad

It seems to me that we usually have a string of days in June that are perfect. The air is creamy and cool and full of sweet wildflower smells and sharp lemony grassy ferny smells. It’s a little warm in the afternoon, maybe, but in the morning and evening you want to sit and bathe in the sweet air. You want to be aware of how lovely the air is at this moment, because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s so easy to notice when it’s freezing, or broiling, or insufferably humid. But this unsurpassable perfection, this ultimate air, as my boys would say, is easy to overlook. For some reason, when the air is like this, it makes me think about flying. I think about flying a lot, actually. Not with my rational brain (precious little of that!) but in dreams, and now and then through the day. We went on a bike ride this morning, and that feels like flying. We ride on a towpath between the canal and the river. The towpath is raised considerably above the water on either side, in most places, so as you ride birds will swoop along next to you, and you’ll feel like you’re flying with them. This morning we saw a turtle in the glowing brown water – head out, rough, wrinkled legs swirling in the water. It looked like a remarkably pleasant thing to do. That’s what this air feels like! Sometimes, as I’m walking, I’ll sense the weight of the air on my arms, and I’ll swoosh them up slightly, feeling the air move all around them, and I almost feel as though I very nearly know what it might be like to take off in flight. I told David this and he asked if I’d been eating any of the unidentified herbs in the garden. Heh heh. Try it! Here’s a diagram…

1. stand with your arms at your sides, relaxed.
2. Press your hands backwards sllighty – maybe a foot – with a slightly curved motion
3. Swoop them slowly forward – not too far, just like a dog begging, maybe. It’s all about the swoop, I think.

Anyway – you don’t want to be inside too long cooking on a day like this, so you want to make a quick and delicious and substantial salad, such as this one. A perfectly ripe avocado is a thing of wonder, too. In this dish, we find such an avocado combined with tomatoes, cilantro, basil, salad burnet (which tastes like cucumbers – fresh!), hominy that’s been toasted with sage and oregano, and a chipotle balsamic sort of dressing. Toasted hominy is nice – it doesn’t get puffy or crispy, but it crackles and pops while it cooks. The warmth of it makes the tomatoes and olive oil lovely and fragrant and just a little soft. We ate this with basmati rice, fresh farm lettuce, and homemade tortilla chips (that’s a flour tortilla sliced in triangles and lightly fried in olive oil). But you could easily eat it with warm soft tortillas.

Here’s Flying Birds by RZA. It sounds like wings pulling through the weight of the air!
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Avocado, olive & basil salad

Avacado & olive salad

[I apologize for posting a couple of times today. We’re going away for the weekend, and I don’t want to fall too far behind!]

My boys have a book called Mixed-up Animals. Each page has a picture of an animal and is broken into three sections. You can turn a part of the page to line up another animal with the first. In this way, you can make a creature with platypus feet, an armadillo body, and a caribou head. A platadillibou. They’ve also always loved the game exquisite corpse, in which each person draws part of a creature without seeing what the others have drawn. Isaac still gets very excited when the paper is unfolded to reveal a mis-matched monster! This salad reminds me a little of that. It’s part tapenade (olives & capers) part guacamole (avocado & tomato), part pesto (nuts & basil), and part caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil). I had a just-ripe avocado, and a small bowl of nicoise olives. These got the rusty little wheels turning in my brain, and the rest just sort of fell into place!! So you end up with guacenade. Or tapamole. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! We had it with some crusty bread, but you could make it into crostini, or serve it with big chips. Or just throw it onto a pile of mixed lettuces and call it a mixed salad!

She’s Strange – she’s got two double heads, two left legs, and her nose looks like the knees of a nanny goat, but Screamin Jay Hawkins loves her!!
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Guacamole soup

guacamole soup

Coriander is an interesting herb, isn’t it? It shows up in so many different cuisines throughout the world. You can use every part of the plant, and the leaves and fruits taste quite different from each other. I’ve never encountered the root, but I’ll keep an eye out for it, because it sounds intriguing. Apparently, coriander was cultivated by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They’ve found traces it at various archeological sites. It’s hard to get my mind around that, in so many ways! Coriander is also fascinating, I think, because the leaves taste so different to different people. To some they have a lovely herby, slightly citrus-y flavor. To others they taste like soap or stink bugs. (I love stink bugs, I really do, I think they’re adorable, but I wouldn’t want to eat them. I’m a vegetarian for heaven’s sake!) It’s such distinct proof that humans experience the world differently.

This soup came about because I bought a job lot (as Thompson and Thomson would say) of avocados. Avocadoes? Avocadi? They were at that moment of perfect ripeness. The first night we had one on a salad, but I continue to be bitterly disappointed by lettuce and tomatoes this time of year. So the next day, whilst whiling away the hours at work, I had the idea to use them in a soup (the avocados, not the whiled-away hours. I wonder how whiled-away-hour soup would taste?). When I considered the various flavor combinations I could use, I kept returning to the seasonings I use for quacamole (I make a mean guacamole). Viz: Cilantro, cumin, chile, lime and honey. So that’s how we did it. I added cauliflower, because I seem to be incapable of making soup without cauliflower lately, and because I thought the puréed cauliflower would save the soup from a certain slimy texture that puréed avocados sometimes attain. (I’m sorry, avocado, but it’s true) Well, the soup came out very nice. A little of the warmth of summery flavors combined with the warmth of a wintery soup.

Here’s MF DOOM’s Coriander.
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