Beet green and goat cheese timbales with braised golden beets

Beet green and goat cheese timbales

Beet green and goat cheese timbales

In the winter months we all live in much closer proximity to our household spirits. We’re all inside more often, with the doors and windows shut tight. We’re always around, being our clumsy noisy human selves, making messes and dust and unwittingly feeding our spirits. They can’t slip out into the open air for a spell, so they gather in the corners and stick in the cobwebs in the window wells. The dust spirits dance in irked agitation in the chilly sunbeams, tangle in the curtains, and bake behind the radiators, the pee spirits howl from behind the toilets, there’s nowhere for them to go! Nowhere to go! In the kitchen, the more benign food spirits hover in the air smelling like roasted mushrooms and boiled potatoes, lingering like the smell of a holiday. I love our Ordinary spirits, of course I do. They keep me company all day, but I think we’re all looking forward to a time when we can open the windows and doors and let them out for a while, let them fly up to the trees and cling to the bushes, let them explore the neighborhood. I’ve noticed, of late, that the spirits in the kitchen have become so desperate, so brazenly bold, that they’ve started to show their faces. Whenever I run hot water in the sink, or boil water on the stove or in the kettle, a beautiful oval of mist forms on the frosty windows. And in each oval a face appears! They’re funny, happy, mischievous faces, watching us as we cook and eat and talk.

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It’s nice to have their company in our warm home on dark cold nights, but I’m sure that they, too, are dreaming of a long late balmy evening, when they can slip from our windows into the sweet summer air.

beet green timbales with braised golden beets

beet green timbales with braised golden beets

I was quite proud of this meal! I bought a bunch of golden beets, which seem at once wintery and summery. I wanted to do something that used the greens and the beets, and this is what I came up with. I made a dense sort of quiche with the greens, using goat cheese and a little corn meal for texture. I seasoned it with rosemary, thyme and garlic. And I baked them in a muffin pan with large, shallow cups. I lined these with crumbs made from toasted pecans, corn meal and whole wheat bread. I didn’t know if they would come out properly, and I feared I’d have a burnt sticky mess, but they came out perfectly…crispy and buttery outside, and tender and tasty within. I made a sort of sauce for them with the beets sliced very thin, braised in white wine and balsamic and then stewed with tomatoes until the beets were tender crisp and the tomatoes were completely broken down and saucy. And that’s that! We ate them with small potatoes roasted with capers and lemon and a simple arugula salad.

Here’s Bob Marley with Put it On. Feel them spirit!
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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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