Kale and chickpea flour gnocchi pakoras

kale and chickpea flour croquettes

kale and chickpea flour croquettes

Thirteen is a ridiculous age. How can a person be so achingly sweet one moment and so sassy-bordering-on-cruel the next? How can a person be sunny and confident one second and in tears over some imagined slight the next? How can a person be mature and wise, as good a friend and advisor as anyone could hope for, and turn into a childish menace because someone got more pizza than he did? I’m sure I was a piece of work when I was thirteen. Moody, disagreeable, constantly saying things I regretted the second I said them. And now we have a thirteen-year-old in the house, and it all comes rushing back, that feeling of being helplessly unable to control what you think or feel or say. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and remembering, and remembering makes me feel anxious all over again, lying awake worrying. And then one night we were in the car and the boys were bickering. I sighed and said, “It gets me down when you do that.” And Malcolm said, “Everything gets you down! I hate it when you’re depressed. But when you’re happy it’s the best thing in the world!” Well! That hit me like a ton of bricks! 46 is the most ridiculous age! One minute you’re feeling happy and hopeful, and the next you’re walking around the house sighing and sad, bringing everyone in the family down with you! But that’s not okay. I’m the adult. I’m the parent. It’s my job, my responsibility, to make the boys feel better when they’re down. Or to recognize that I can’t make them feel better, and to give them the space they need to be cranky, to ignore the things they say that they probably instantly regret. It’s my job to recognize when I’m being miserable and childish and to snap out of it. I was thinking about all of this and feeling a little bad, feeling a little irresponsible.

Apparently there was a slight chance we could see the aurora borealis from our part of the world. We knew we wouldn’t see the lights, but we took a drive above the town anyway, because when it gets dark an hour earlier you take any excuse to get out of the house after dinner. We parked next to the cemetery on the hill and looked down at our town, surprisingly noisy, and so beautifully bustling and bright we’d never see anything spectacular in the sky. Malcolm lay on his back and stared up at the stars, while in the town below him most of the people he’d known most of his life went about their lives. It must have been a little dizzying, and just the thought of it set me reeling. When he stood up I hugged him and he said, “I love you, too.” And that’s hopeful! That’s heartening! I don’t even need to tell him, and he knows!

kale pakoras

kale pakoras

I thought of these as being a combination between pakoras, which Isaac likes, and Gnocchi, which Malcolm likes. They have chickpea flour in them, and they’re fried in olive oil so they’re very crisp on the outside, but they have an egg and a little cheese in them, and they’re nice and soft on the inside. They have kale, but the boys loved them anyway.

Here’s Beginning to See the Light by The Velvet Underground.
Continue reading

Advertisements

Chard, raisin, and pine nut tart with chickpea flour crust

IMG_6054I drove Malcolm to a middle school dance. We were listening to the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack, we were driving through some of the prettiest countryside in the world, up and up winding roads to the school itself. It was a soft rosy 8 o’clock on the edge of an unseasonably warm day. I felt a little stale in the head, because I hadn’t slept too well, what with one thing and another, partly worrying about Malcolm being gone all day on a chorus/band trip to an amusement park. I’d weirdly missed him in the 4 hours after school we would usually spend together, despite the fact that the 4 hours after school the last two days had been fraught and difficult at times. In the scant time between the field trip and the dance we’d walked to buy two slices of pizza, and Malcolm said that it feels good to eat pizza when you’re walking down the street. So when we go home I made him watch the opening to Saturday Night Fever. And it’s not a bad thing to go to a middle school dance with the bee gees in your head. In the car on the way to the dance he didn’t seem tired, he was cheerful, and he asked me to tell David something when I got home. And I said “sure, sure” but I was lost in thought, and I didn’t hear him, and he knew it. I asked him to repeat what he said and he did, and then he said, “Don’t forget!” And put one finger from his right hand on his head, and one finger from his left hand on my forehead. We drove a little more and I said, “Can you do that again? With the fingers on the foreheads?” He said, “Why?” I said “I want to feel as bright and smart as you are.” He said, it works better like this…one hand, pinky on his head, thumb on mine. I leaned towards him, so we’d all fit, and the song playing on our radio said,

Every moment
Every moment
Every moment
Every moment

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

I said, while we were eating this that it could be the national dish of some country, and David said, “Claironia.” It’s true, this dish combines a lot of my favorite flavors. They just seem to go perfectly together. It’s juicy, a little smoky, a tiny bit sweet and a little nutty. The crust is crispy on the outside and soft and almost bready inside.

Here’s Every Moment by Rogue Wave from the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack.

Continue reading

Peppery chickpea flour flatbread

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

I have to be at work early, so we’ll keep it mercifully short today. This week’s Sunday interactive playlist will take the form of a short and completely inane quiz. If, like me, you’re really too indecisive to choose your favorite anything, or if you think the concept of picking a favorite anything is childish and futile, just go with the first thing you think of. If you find any of the questions particularly stupid, feel free to skip them (I could skip the whole damn quiz if I liked! I can hear you saying.) Anyway, here goes. You can add the songs to the list yourself (it’s interactive!). Or you can leave a note in the comments, and I’ll add them myself.

Let’s have…

A song about your favorite animal
A song about your favorite color
A song about your favorite number
A song about your favorite food
A song about or from your favorite era in history
A song about your favorite abstract concept.

And….GO!

Peppery chickpea flour flatbread

Peppery chickpea flour flatbread

I’ve made yeasted chickpea flour flatbread before, I realize that, and I’ve already told you all about it. But this version is different. It has an egg in it, and some baking powder. This makes it more like a pancake, and makes it both lighter and richer. It has a nice lacy soft texture. I made it to go with some collards and roasted sweet potatoes, but sadly I burnt them, so we ate it with pasta and red sauce, which Malcolm made for us.

Here’s a link to the interactive playlist.

Continue reading

Yeasted chickpea flour and sage flatbreads

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

On Saturday evening a restaurant gets cacophonous. The people at the bar get louder with each drink. Children who have missed their naps are crying for their dinner. Conversations cover conversations till all you hear is a sea of noise. At one point last night we stood in the wait station craving a pocket of quiet, and a waiter said, “Do you ever just stand here and get lost in the noise?” Letting it wash over you is your best defense, trying to make sense of it only gives you headache. There’s a festival in town this weekend, and it’s noisy from morning to night. Caravans of cars and trucks, bringing in booths, engines idling as they set up. Hordes of chattering tourists. Yard parties that stretch into the night. It leaves you wanting some peace and quiet. It makes you yearn for Sunday morning. Waking slowly, speaking quietly or not at all. Whether you go to church or not, maybe remembering times you did, remembering times you had to be calm and good. Maybe nursing a headache lingering from the raucous night before. So this morning we’re looking for Sunday songs. Songs about Sunday, songs that make you feel like Sunday morning, or songs that you like to listen to on a Sunday morning. As ever, the playlist is interactive. So add what you like, or leave a song in the comments and I’ll add it for you as soon as I get a chance.

What? Another flatbread recipe? That’s right! This time of year my favorite way to eat is lots of little dishes that you eat with your hands, so I’m constantly concocting some sort of flatbread to use as a utensil and a sopper-upper. This is a sort of version of socca, the french chickpea flour flatbread. I love socca, but I find it very difficult to make, so in an attempt to limit the amount of cursing I do in front of the boys, I like to develop less frustrating methods. I’ve added eggs, and that helped. But in this case, I added yeast and some regular flour. It’s still vegan, but it’s not gluten free any more. It was simple to work with, though! It all came together like a charm–easy to roll out and bake. And tasty, too!

Here’s the Sunday Songs playlist. Have a peaceful Sunday, everyone!

Continue reading

Beet green, black bean, pumpkin and cashew curry with roasted beet kofta

Roasted beet kofta

While we walked to school the other day, Isaac told me that recess isn’t fun anymore because two of his friends won’t play with him. He said “sometimes I feel like I don’t exist at all.” It gave me such a pang! I used to feel that way all the time. I used to feel insubstantial and empty. But I was a teenager! He’s so young to feel that way. I suppose sometimes you’re so close to yourself – literally inside, looking out – that you can’t see yourself at all. I used to get all confused about that. I felt sort of dull and colorless, and it seemed as though everybody around me was brighter and louder – more visible, more easy to hear and understand. I still feel that way sometimes, when I’m with people who are charming and vocal, but I’m not so worried about it any more; I no longer struggle to make myself heard, because so often it just doesn’t matter. I used to try to make myself disappear, in some ways. I wanted to be small and weightless and invisible. I feel so much more solid, now. I feel as if gravity has much more pull on me, these days. But I’m fine with that, it’s a way to feel rooted and real. It’s a way to make shyness and self-consciousness immaterial. The funny thing is that Isaac is so vivid, so vibrant – he’s not shy at all, he’s the sort of boy you can imagine walking into a room and throwing up his arms and yelling, HERE I AM!! He’s like sunshine, but he’s got a seriousness and depth to him as well. We sometimes laugh that if he had a band it could be called “Little Mr. Sunshine and his Dark Thoughts.” I just hope he knows how brightly he glows!

Of course beets grow upward but they’re rooted. They’re beautiful and bright, and covered in dirt beneath the earth. We just got a big lovely bunch from the farm, with the greens attached, and I wanted to use every part. So I made a curry with the leaves, in a sauce of cashew and pumpkin purée. And I grated and roasted the beets themselves, and mixed them with chickpea flour and spices to make kofta. If you don’t have beet greens, this curry would work equally well with spinach, chard, kale, or any other kind of green you have!

Beet green curry

Here’s Linton Kwesi Johnson with Age of Reality, which, upon reflection, doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I like it.
Continue reading

Eggplant & chickpea flour croquettes

Eggplant and chickpea flour croquettes

I like strange people, I always have. I’ve been drawn to the eccentrics and outcasts. The self-proclaimed rebels that say, “If you don’t like my attitude, screw you.” The kids in choir and band and theater. The ones who wore black and listened to the Smiths (like everyone else who wore black and listened to the Smiths.) The kids who pretended they didn’t care about the prom and were witty and dismissive about school spirit day. They might not have been the most popular, but they were (almost) convinced that they were the most cool, and they had that familiar combination of arrogance and insecurity you never really grow out of. I’ve always been proud to be different, and felt that my strangeness was one of my most winning qualities. There’s always going to be somebody prettier and smarter and nicer and better at everything, but there will never be anybody strange in quite the way that I am strange. Like everything else in life, having children seems to have shaken me a bit, in this regard. The other day Isaac wanted money for a popsicle at snack time, because everyone else got one. And I said, “Well, we don’t do things just because everybody else does.” Which I firmly believe. But then I thought, maybe we’re different enough already. We’re vegetarians, we don’t have cable or a video game system or a microwave. Malcolm made my heart ache with his sweetness once, on a play date. I offered to make popcorn and he proudly announced, “My mom makes it from scratch on the stovetop!” How long before that embarrasses the hell out of him? I want them to be happy with themselves, and I want them to feel good about all the ways they’re unique. I want to encourage the rebel in them. But I don’t want to impose that on them. On a rainy morning last week, I dropped Isaac off at school, and I saw Malcolm at his safety post. I’m always tempted to go up and give him hugs and kisses, of course, but of course I don’t. I had this discombobulatingly self-conscious moment, completely foreign to me as a mom – this idea of him watching me walk away in the rain. It felt weird to be a person and a mom at the same time – it feels strange to me to worry about feeling strange. Luckily we live in a town that celebrates eccentrics, most of the time. My boys are strong! They’ll be what the need to be. And we’ll keep up with those things I’m passionate about, like being a vegetarian. But we’ll try not to be witty and deprecating on school spirit day, and we’ll try not to make snide comments about LMFAO. Because, after all, what a joy to watch them dancing to those silly songs!

And we’ll keep eating strange vegetarian food like these eggplant and chickpea croquettes! I roasted and pureed the eggplant, so the croquettes were quite smooth. Like savory cookies, almost. Which is how we sold them to the boys, who liked them quite a bit. I made a fresh-tasting salsa of tomatoes, roasted peppers and tamarind to have with the croquettes, but you could use any salsa or sauce that you like.

Here’s Strange by Screamin Jay Hawkins.
Continue reading

Chickpea flour chard frittata-cake (with olive sofrito)

Chard & chickpea flour cake

I’m not very good at sitting still. I’ve tried doing yoga or meditating once or twice, but as soon as I try to clear my head, it fills with silly thoughts and petty anxieties. When I try to sit and write, I find myself jumping up every few minutes to do something that doesn’t actually need to be done. Yesterday, I attempted to master the art of being still. I’ve written the underdog’s theme song, and absolved lack of competitive instinct and lack of ambition everywhere. At the moment I’d like to champion a brief spell of staring into space. It’s been a spate of immaculate weather. We were trying to think of the perfect thing to do after dinner – homework all done, but still a school night. We weren’t organized enough for a walk of any kind. Maybe we’d sit around a fire in the backyard. But I found myself sitting in a chair by the front door. The sky was bright as day, but the room was filling with darkening blue light at an autumn pace – always surprising and even slightly worrying. The boys were playing kickball in the backyard. They were giggling maniacally – beautiful, but I’m sure they were hitting the window and the recycling bins on purpose. David was in the kitchen sneezing, and covering Malcolm’s text book with a brown paper bag, the way humans have covered textbooks for all eternity. The boys ran in and out of their showers, cool, pale and giggling. They disappeared into the backyard, as the sky finally deepened outside the window, and in the room it became too dark to write. The smell of smoke and the sound of loved voices pulled me into the backyard, where the sky was still palely glowing.

Chard and chickpea flour frittata

And before all of this activity? I made the best meal! I’m really proud of it! I think I may have invented it! I’m not even sure what to call it! It’s like a frittata, but it has chickpea flour in it, which gives it a lovely substantiality and flavor. It’s also got sauteed chard, mozzarella, some garlic, some rosemary, and some basil. We cut it into thick wedges, and ate it with sofrito (spanish style). I’d made a big batch with all of the paste tomatoes I picked last week. I froze some of it for winter, and I set some aside, and added olives and a roasted red pepper (also from the farm!) You could make a simple tomato sauce instead, though. (Both recipes below) And we had a nice, simple heirloom tomato salad as well.

Olive & red pepper sofrito

The cool, blue sounds of Jackie Mittoo’s Evening Time.
Continue reading

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!)

Continue reading

Cheater’s chickpea-flour crepes

chick pea crepe

Nice has their socca, India has their own version of chickpea-flour pancakes. Decidedly delicious, but something of a challenge to make. I have made them, and they turned out tasty, but I had to chase the boys out of the kitchen so they wouldn’t hear me curse at the mother-flippin pancakes that would not flip! That stuck to the pan! Or fell to pieces!! It’s the equipment, I tell you! I don’t have the right equipment!!

So now, when I make my own version of chickpea-flour pancakes, I cheat slightly, by adding some regular wheat flour and one egg. That’s it! Not so terrible! They’re still chewy, crispy, and they still have that distinctive chickpea-flour-taste. If they fall apart a bit, never fear! They’re still delicious, even in pieces. They’re lovely used to scoop up tapinade or humus, or sauteed greens. Or you can go more elaborate, and fill them and make them a sauce, as I will soon show you.

Here’s the Clash with The Cheat. Don’t listen if you’re offended by sweary language!!

Continue reading