Butternut ricotta kofta with pistachio-pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Here at The Ordinary we’ve had two snow days and two delayed opening in one week. This means lots of stir-craziness, an increasing amount of crankiness, and a lot of legos. We decided that life is like a box of legos. (I’m not saying it’s not like a box of chocolates, but I’m not a fan of the “You never know what you’re going to get,” part of that statement. I think you’ll find that you have a fairly good idea of what you’re going to get with a box of chocolates. It’s going to be sweet and chocolate covered, you might not know the specific filling, but there are only so many options. Often there’s a diagram, telling you exactly what you’re going to get.) Anyway, life is like a a box of legos. You can never quite find the piece you’re looking for, but you’ll find a similar piece that you’ll throw back into the box, only to realize that it’s exactly what you wanted all along. You can never find the piece you’re looking for, but you might find something totally unexpected, which works even better and sends you off in a new and wonderful direction. Some people need to open the box right away and put it together all in a rush, others take their time, and do it as the mood strikes them. Some people need to follow the directions to the letter, and go carefully to make it look just like the picture. Others throw the rules away, and put together something nobody has ever made before. Some people have a plan, they know what they want it to look like in the end, and others make make it up as they go along. This week Malcolm instructed us all to make “habitats,” and they were trying to make theirs as full of nature as possible. In the end they had a treehouse, the ruins of a castle, and lots of little storm troopers milling about. If life is like a box of legos, I have high hopes for the way theirs will turn out! Full of imagination and creativity. Unexpected but inspired.

As poet R. Lee Sharpe tells us, we’re all give the tools to work with, we’re all given the lego starter set, and what we do with it is up to us…

R. Lee Sharpe
“A Bag of Tools”

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make- ere life is flown-
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone.

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

Butternut ricotta kofta and pistachio pumpkinseed sauce

This is my idea of a fun meal! While we were eating I gave myself a little pat on the back, because I don’t think anyone else would think of combining these particular ingredients in this particular way. Grated roasted butternut squash, ricotta cheese, chickpea flour, raisins and sharp cheddar? Delicious! The kofta were plump and pleasant and sweet, and the sauce earthy and a little tart-sweet. We ate these with warm tortillas, lightly cooked kale and spinach and chopped tomatoes and olives. You could eat them with pita bread, or just as they are, dipped in the sauce. They’re gluten-free, too, if you leave out the tortillas.

Here’s The Heptones with Book of Rules, based on R. Lee Sharpe’s poem.

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Roasted butternut semolina cakes with cauliflower pumpkinseed puree

Roasted butternut semolina cakes

Roasted butternut semolina cakes

Two brothers sit on a grassy patch below an elevated walkway. Behind each of them, in the far distance, stretches a long bridge that seems to connect the boys to the real, busy world. But they don’t care about that. The boys are in their stocking feet, comfortably eating rice with their fingers, and drinking tea out of the tea kettle lid or their cupped hand. “Messy, isn’t it?” “Yes! Fun, isn’t it!” Minoru and Isamu have run away from home with their teakettle and rice cooker, because their parents won’t buy them a television set. They’ve decided not to speak to anyone until their demands are met. This is, of course, Yasujiro Ozu’s tenderly beautiful film Good Morning. The film tells the story of a small suburban community and the havoc cast upon it by gossip, suspicion, and two small boys on a silence strike. The film was shot in 1959, and it reminded me of Tati’s films of the same period – full of grace, generosity and gentle humor. It’s about ordinary people going about ordinary lives, but it’s completely captivating. The boys decide to stop speaking because grownups talk so much and say nothing worth hearing…it’s all just a lot of meaningless talk. “Good morning, good evening, a fine day, where to? Just a ways, I see, I see.” The brothers can talk to each other, if they show the right sign. And they have a shared language of gestures and expressions that are full of meaning, and beautiful to see. Of course their gestures don’t always translate to the rest of the world, and when the little one, Isamu, tries to ask permission to speak in class, nobody knows what he means. The adults in the film, including the boys’ aunt and their English tutor, are amused by the boys’ assessment of grown-up conversation, but they recognize that there’s some truth in it.The film is full of misunderstandings and half-spoken thoughts and desires. The gossip that travels from small house to small house is a perfect example of meaningless words gone awry and striking out with their own destructive pattern. And yet, the real joy of the film is the moments of understanding between people, and in those moments when we recognize ourselves in the characters, our lives in their lives. They speak Japanese and a bit of English (“I love you!”). They talk in niceties and don’t say what they mean. But we know what they mean, whatever language they speak. Ozu is famous for defying Hollywood’s rules for creating melodrama in a film, not just by his quiet use of still, low-angled shots, but also because he utilized narrative ellipses. He doesn’t show the big events, he shows the spaces between them. In famous “pillow shots,” he gives us beautiful small poems of transition, static, but full of quiet, gentle motion within the frame. In the same way, we understand that what’s important in communication isn’t the words, but the spaces between them, and the meaning that they convey through gesture and expression and a universal understanding of human nature. In the last scene, the boys’ aunt and their English tutor stand at a train station talking foolishly about the shape of a cloud (“Yes, it does look like something…”) But from their barely contained smiles, we know that they know they’re saying so much more to each other. Throughout the film, there’s a running series of fart jokes. The boys eat pumice so that they’ll be able to produce a fart on demand when they push each other on the forehead. One of the housewives repeatedly mistakes her husband’s fart for language. During a callisthenic session, two boys admire the flatulent prowess of an older man, and say he has a lot of practice because he works for the gas company. The boys decide that farting is okay, as a form of communication, and doesn’t constitute a breach of their silence strike. This is more than a spate of fart gags, this is a nod to the things that connect us all…our humor and our humanity.

Grating and roasting butternut squash is my new favorite culinary technique! I use my food processor, which makes it super easy and fast. You might find you have a huge mound of grated squash, but it cooks down. I had mine piled about 2 inches deep on the baking tray to start, but it cooked down to about one cup in the end. Just keep stirring the outside pieces, which brown first, into the center of the tray. I added my grated butternut squash to a batter that was very similar to that for semolina dumplings or Roman gnocchi, which have quite a comforting consistency. I flavored it with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika, and a bit of cinnamon and cayenne. Delicious! To go with these big cakes, I made a puree of cauliflower and pumpkinseeds, with a little roasted garlic and spinach thrown in. It was creamy and smooth with a mild nutty flavor, and was very pretty with the butternut cakes.

Here’s Memphis Minnie with Good Morning.

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