Dark chewy smoky brownies

Dark, chewy, smoky browines

Dark, chewy, smoky browines

I’ve started to notice a certain phrase popping up all over the place, lately. That phrase is “home cooks.” The first time I saw it was in the Guardian, describing a contest for said home cooks. I felt slightly, inexplicably annoyed, but I berated myself for being such a curmudgeon and got on with my life. Then the TV at work was on the food network and there were not one, but two shows about home cooks. Eager, tail-wagging home cooks who couldn’t believe they’d get to meet a celebrity chef. And now, there was no denying it, I felt annoyed. “Home cooks.” It sounds so patronizing and dismissive, doesn’t it? It sounds as though they’re talking about ladies in house dresses exchanging recipes for casseroles made with spam and velveeta clipped from their women’s magazines. (Now I’m sounding dismissive! There’s nowt wrong with spam and velveeta!) It really seemed as though they’d come up with a new demographic of people to sell things to, and I was in that demographic. I hate being in a demographic! Well, I walked around feeling irked about this development for a few weeks. And then, yesterday, I had a breakthrough. Whilst driving my sons to the supermarket to pick up supplies to do my home cooking, we listened to the Clash. (Lord they’re good!) And, once again, The Clash had all the answers, this time, in the form of their song Garageland. I don’t want to be a called a home cook, I thought, I want to be a garage cook! And then I realized how unappetizing that sounds. I want to be a garageband cook! A punk rock cook! I want to combine flavors in a way that might seem novel and jarring at first, but makes sense when you’ve tried it a few times, and makes you feel exited and energized. I want to be brimming over with creativity and new ideas, even if it seems sloppy at times! And I don’t have much respect for “celebrity chefs,” I’ve never been all that impressed by their recipes or their ideas, and

    I don’t wanna hear about what the rich are doing
    I don’t wanna go to where the rich are going
    They think they’re so clever, they think they’re so right
    But the truth is only known by guttersnipes

(I read a profile of a certain well-known chef, and all the interesting things he’s doing, and all the interesting places he’s going, and I learned that “food bloggers and women over fifty are his most boring customers.” Double stab in the heart! I’m not a woman over fifty yet, but I hope to be one someday!) Who needs that? Not me! (Heh heh, let’s see if I can find an interesting recipe to use up all of my sour grapes!)

Of course, I also very much like the idea of being a home cook. Part of the beauty of cooking is that you create a home. By combining foods you like and feeding people you love, you make a home, no matter where you are or what your living situation. It’s all part of the warmth, the nourishment, and the love. Let’s just hope that home has a spacious garage where you can make some noise!!

These brownies were ridiculously, addictively good. They’re dark – made with bittersweet chocolate chips and very dark cocoa. They’re chewy inside, and very dense and heavy, the way brownies should be! Nice and crackly on top. And they have a haunting, smoky flavor, because I grated in a little black cardamom, and added some smoked sea salt. It’s subtly, but quite lovely! Black cardamom is a funny-looking beetle-y spice. I grated a little of the husk on a microplane, just a touch, and it added its nice smoky almost savory flavor. If you don’t have black cardamom or smoked sea salt, make these anyway, because they’re really good!!

Here’s Garageland, by The Clash

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Spicy smoky zucchini & tomato tart

Smoky zucchini and tomato tart

Here at The Ordinary, we have acquired our first real food processor. It didn’t come with instructions, but we are performing exhaustive experiments in our extensive underground kitchen-laboratories to determine its function and capabilities. We have puréed paper, grated legos, and julienned our entire DVD collection. We would like to inform you that from this point onward, every thing we cook will be diced and sliced to within an inch of its life. You have been warned!! I’m joking, of course, but I’m very excited to finally have a food processor. My friend Jenny gave me her old cuisinart. I brought it into the house and Malcolm said, “Oooooh, what’s that?” And then he and I gathered around our new toy, and tried to figure out how to use it. Did you know that every little piece has to be locked into place, in a certain order, or it won’t work? I didn’t! I kept loading it up, pressing the button, expecting a huge loud noise, and then….nothing! We finally got it all figured out, though. And before I knew it Malcolm had grated two large zucchinis. And then I had to try the knife-type blade, so we chopped up some basil, cilantro, tomatoes, almonds and hazelnuts. We made a chunky sort of sauce. Very smoky and flavorful, because I’d put every smoky thing I could find in … black cardamom, nigella seeds, smoked paprika. We ate it with saltine crackers, and it was very tasty! The next day, I decided to further test the abilities of my processor, and I pureed this chunky sauce till quite smooth, then added some eggs and milk, put it all in a biscuit-like crust with smoked paprika in it, added some fresh cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and made a tart! What with the nuts and all, it’s almost like a savory frangipane. We ate it with potatoes roasted with tomatoes and shallots, which were sort of saucy, and everything went well together. You could make this with a blender and a regular grater, if you don’t happen to have a food processor.

Smoky zucchini/tomato/nut sauce

Here’s Sly and the Family Stone with Thank You Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again to dance to while you puree, grate and julienne. Thanks for the food processor, Jenny!!
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Collards & black beans slow cooked with black cardamom

collards and black beans

On the last day of school, Isaac said, “Mom, for summer vacation I want to go to a big field somewhere and play tag.” And that was his whole plan! I love that idea. I love the simplicity of it. I can just picture our family, all summer long, in a big glowing green field, playing tag. I feel that I have less and less ambition to make big plans and take big trips. I’ve always had something of Moley about me. Or maybe Ratty – content to while away the hours in my riverside home. I do love to travel – just the other day I was thinking about how nice it is to walk around a strange city early in the morning. I do want to take the boys to other countries, and show them that their home is only the center of their universe. But for now, I’m happy spending long, slow summer days with the boys, not doing much of anything at all. Today we went creeking. They threw rocks in the creek, and found a spider the size of Isaac’s hand (biggest spider I have ever seen in real non-zoo life!) They built a pyramid of smooth creek rocks. And on the way back through the woods we found two little ponds. Malcolm waded through them, and spotted a frog. The plump bronzy-green frog swayed in the small waves made by Malcolm’s steps, his little froggy hand reaching toward the slick bank to ground himself. Malcolm made a dive for him, and he swam under a large rock. We decided to wait, as quietly as possible, for the murky water to clear, and the frog to reemerge. I’ve been trying to slow myself down, lately. I’m always impatiently on to the next thing, I can’t sit still. This is why I can’t do yoga, and I can’t enjoy sitting at the beach for hours and hours. I feel like I’m anxious to get things over with and carry on, even if I’m doing something I’m enjoying. I don’t know why. I’m always hurrying the boys from place to place like a madwoman, even though we almost never have anywhere we need to be, in the summer. So we stood very still, and listened to the wind in the trees far over our heads, and felt the warm dapply sun. You can’t hurry a frog!

In that spirit, I made beans from scratch, in the slow cooker. As I’ve said in the past, I almost always use canned beans. (I’m actually very loyal to goya as a brand, and I think their beans are fresh and tasty. My first product endorsment!) But it’s fun to make beans from scratch, sometimes. It’s nice to use the slow cooker, on a hot day, because it doesn’t warm up the kitchen too much. And I like collards in a slow-cooked scenario, because their flavor develops nicely and they don’t turn to mush. I’ve also been on a food-quest for black cardamom, lately, and I finally got a big bag, and I was extremely eager to try it out. They’re wonderful! Big wrinkly black pods, with the most amazing smoky-sweet flavor. I love them! Their taste is milder than their smell. If you can’t find them, you can use green cardamom, or cardamom powder, and add a touch of smoked paprika, if you have it. This would probably good with rice, but I didn’t think of that at the time!

Here’s Ken Parker with Groovin in Style. I love this song so much! This is what we’ll sing while we play tag in our big glowing green field.
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