Cashew-almond tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Cashew tamari sauce

Seibei Iguchi is a low-ranking samurai in mid-nineteenth century Japan, in an era when the notion of Samurai as a way of life is fading, confused, dying out. He’s employed as a bureaucrat in a grain warehouse, literally counting beans. His co-workers call him “twilight Seibei” because each evening at the close of the working day, when they go out and drink and consort with geishas, he rejects their invitation to join them and returns home instead. He’s a widower with a senile mother and two young daughters and he needs to be home to care for them, he can’t afford to go out. But this is not a hardship for him: he loves to be with his family, he loves to watch his daughters grow. He is content. This is Twilight Samurai, by Yôji Yamada, and it is a beautiful movie, and it is a very Ordinary movie! It’s not unique in showing samurai as displaced or unglamorous–Kurosawa’s nameless Samurai in Yojimbo is hungry and lousy. But I believe it is the first film I’ve seen to show a Samurai so quietly and contentedly engaged in ordinary everyday activities, going from day to day feeding his daughters, showing them how to make cricket cages, leaving for work and returning home, and noticing that the azaleas are in bloom. This is a quiet samurai movie with little (though beautifully filmed) fighting. Seibei Iguchi doesn’t hunger for glory or political advancement or financial gain. He’s full to bursting with the business of everyday life, with its pleasures and its responsibilities. Because twilight is more than just closing time, it’s the time of day when we become acutely aware of time passing, of the poignance and value of each moment, and we sense that Seibei Iguchi feels this aching beauty at all times.

My boys liked this sauce! It’s got a nice balance of sweet, tart and umami flavors. It’s good with steamed broccoli, with spinach, with carrots. It’s nice with rice or long noodles. And it’s very easy to make! We have quite a few basil plants outside, and this is a nice non-pesto use for the leaves.

Here’s a song from Twilight Samurai by Isao Tomita.

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Blackeyed pea pancakes and Chickpea & spinach in cauliflower cashew curry sauce

Chickpea and spinach in cauliflower cashew curry sauce

Chickpea and spinach in cauliflower cashew curry sauce

It may well be that you reach an age when you’re too old to say, “When I grow up.” And I undboubtedly passed that age many years ago. But I believe that I’ll never outgrow the feeling of “when I grow up.” I’ll never outgrow the idea that someday I’ll finish a novel or make another movie or have a career or even a steady well-paying job. I love when the boys talk about what they’ll be when they grow up. It’s so hopeful and nonsensical, sometimes, but possible and practical too. They can be whatever they want to be. Isaac might be an inventor who makes robots and toys and Halloween decorations, and Malcolm might be a mechanic who develops a floating car that doesn’t hurt the environment. There’s no reason in the world these things won’t happen if they really want it too. And I know they have time to figure it all out, and I look forward to watching them puzzle through it all. Of course at my advanced age the possibilities are much more limited. I’ll never invent a floating car. Sigh. I’ve come to terms with that fact. I have a long path behind me with turnings I didn’t follow. I have a recurring dream about clothes. In the dream I discover that I have closets or cupboards full of clothes that I’ve never worn or that I haven’t worn in ages. I’m excited at first to have new clothes to wear, but upon closer inspection I find that they’re dusty and filled with moths and weevils. They’re unwearable. I think this dream is about my career, or lack of one. It’s about foolish decisions and wasted opportunities and squandered potential. It’s about waking up to discover that you’re forty-four, and things haven’t worked out the way they were supposed to. But I have another recurring dream and in this dream I make a film. Sometimes I shoot the film in the dream, and it all falls together with the ease and oddness of dream logic. Sometimes I find footage I shot at an earlier time, and it’s perfect, beautiful footage, and in my dream I have a revelation of how to edit it all together, I know exactly what I need to add to complete the film. I had this dream twice in one night this week, and I woke up feeling so happy and hopeful. The line between films and dreams is so slight and easily blurred. And maybe this means that I’m working on something good. Maybe it means I have beautiful ideas in my head that have been there all along, and I just need to discover them and put them together. The memory of dreams can shade your life for days, but maybe it’s time to step out of these dreaming shadows, maybe it’s time to wake up and live! When I grow up…

Blackeyed pea cakes

Blackeyed pea cakes

This savory pancake recipe is loosely based on one I found in Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. I added a few things to make it easier to cook the pancakes, and I added different spices. These weren’t hard to make at all, although you have to plan ahead and soak the peas. Malcolm loved them, and Isaac thought they were a little strange, (which, admittedly, they are) but he ate them anyway. They seem like they must be full of protein! They have a nice, unusual earthy taste. Everybody liked the curry, which is smooth and full of flavor.

Here’s Bob Marley with Wake Up and Live.
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homemade paneer; green dal; tomato cashew curry

three curries

“This is my first sous chef job!” Said Isaac, brightly, as he stood on a chair before the stove, watching a pot of milk. It turns out watched pots do boil! What else have they lied to us about?

Isaac and I were making paneer. Here’s how it all went down…I felt a little bad that I hadn’t spent much time cooking with Isaac. It’s nice to have something special with Malcolm, but I was worried that Isaac might feel a bit left out. So I’ve been trying to think of something fun to make that Isaac likes. I noticed that whenever we get Indian food, Isaac goes crazy for paneer, the soft, white cheese. He’ll even eat spinach, if it has paneer in it. Paneer also happens to be quite fun and easy to make. So that’s how Isaac got his first job as sous chef. He made the sauce to cook the paneer in, as well. He chose all the spices, and the main ingredients, and described the taste and texture that it should have.

On the way home from school, Isaac said he couldn’t wait to get home and be sous chef. Malcolm said Isaac was the sous sous chef. Isaac said, “Mommy is the over chef.” Malcolm said, “She’s the ogre chef!” I can live with that title!

Homemade paneer

As you will no doubt remember, we just went to Patel’s Cash and Carry on our Super Bodega Traveling adventure, and I had some ingredients I wanted to try out! So we made a meal with lots of little dishes. Isaac’s sauce had peas and tomatoes and cashews. It was a warm, earthy sweet dish. To go with that, I made a light saucy dish with punjabi tinda (baby Indian pumpkin) and cauliflower; and a very green dal, with whole moong dal, bay leaves, curry leaves, jalapeno, cilantro, lime, and ginger. I added a little black salt to this one as well – it’s a volcanic, sulfur-y salt, that adds a very distinctive flavor! Everything went very nicely together. I tried to make dosa, too, with my new urad flour. Complete and utter failure. Curses and frustration! I’ll try again, sometime, once I’ve recovered.

My friend Chris is playing DJ for this post, and he suggested the perfect song (and video). As he said, it’s a saucy little number! It’s Asha Bhonsle singing a song from Jewel Thief, Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas.
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