Cauliflower leek purée

Cauliflower leek purée

Cauliflower leek purée

Here at The Ordinary, we believe it’s time to bring our focus back to the ordinary. We’ve been watching the show Connections, and it’s fascinating. It follows James Burke, looking sharp in a white leisure suit, as he travels the world showing us how our history is a tangled network of invention and discovery and technological advances. The pattern is complicated and far-ranging, but as he unravels history, we see a clear trail leading from country to country and epoch to epoch. Sometimes we’re out at sea, sometimes we’re on dry land, sometimes we’re working within the protection of the church and sometimes we’re running from their inquisition. The thing that struck me as particularly interesting, especially ordinary, is the fact that most of the advances came at the hands of regular working people trying to make their job a little less tedious. Often we don’t even know their names, these clerks and craftsmen. And it’s never just one big moment of inspiration, it’s a series of small, unexpected steps, one discovery leading to another, until some smart man decides to put his name on the invention and take all the credit for it. It’s strange how nothing really changes: the aristocrats in 18th century France didn’t think about the tedious complicated process of weaving their fancy silks any more than I think about the intricate construction of my iPhone every time I use it. It’s inspiring to think that any of us, if we’re paying attention and awake to the possibilities, can create something new and useful: some new way of looking at the world, some device to make work a little easier, and give us more time to really live. Of course, Connections starts with an apocalyptic vision of the world in which we’re so completely dependent on technology that everything breaks down because of one faulty switch. And that was the seventies. So maybe we’ve come full circle, and we’ve come to the part of the tangle when we give it a pull and it all comes unravelled. Maybe the inventions we come up with should be about the really living part, and not the working. We should come up with new ways to hold on to the part of us that makes us alive and connected as humans.

I really liked this puree! It’s partway between a sauce and a vegetable dish, and it’s delicious. We ate it with the last pie I posted about, but you could eat it with just about anything. Or you could add some broth and make a tasty soup.

Here’s Bob Marley with Redemption Song
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Purple sweet potato and cauliflower purée

Purple sweet potato and cauliflower purée

Purple sweet potato and cauliflower purée

I decided to try a little game. As I wrote last week, I’m delighted by the random combination of words to make strange phrases, so I decided to combine whole sentences to make a strange story. Most of these sentences come from books on the shelves next to me. For the first I closed my eyes and picked at random. I happened to pick The Sauptikaparavan of The Mahabharata:The Massacre at Night, which is an apocalyptical tale. Not the happiest way to begin! In this story you’ll also find sentences from Faulkner’s Light in August, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Dostoevsky’s Brother’s Karamazov and a few other odds and ends. It’s a fun game, try it with the books next to you!

    Then, in a little while, the great tumultuous din–the roaring of men and other, lower moans–faded and died away. And that terrible swirling dust, my king, was in a moment absorbed by the blood drenched earth. We left the town in a panic, in a daze, blinded more by fear than by the dust itself. When we got to the road, as our eyes cleared, we could see what we had left behind. The sun died, too, and fell, gasping off the edge of the world, spreading long grasping crimson arms across the earth. And in this light we saw that the chaos was complete. Whole buildings had fallen, leaving only gaunt, staring, motionless wheels rising from mounds of brick rubble and ragged weeds. And let me tell you that we left with just the clothes we had on our backs. And they were tattered, they were rags, dirty strips of fabric matted to our wounds. We stumbled down the road, broken and bruised, charred and ruined, but always moving, trying to leave this day behind to fester in our nightmares where it belonged. In the distance on the road before us we saw a figure approaching, slouching towards us, with a long, strange stride, singing. He came nearer and we saw that it was a man, a large man with a perfect smile on his face. “Friend,” we said, “You must turn around, you must flee this place.” But he said, “I am done with running. Is it not better to be freed from cares and agues, from love and melancholy, and the other hot and cold fits of life, than like a galled traveler, who comes weary to his inn, to be bound to begin his journey afresh?” Well, we could not argue with that; what could we say to that, after all we had seen? We watched him on his way, and he raised a small rosy cloud of dust with each footfall, and soon we lost him in the sanguine whirl of everything. We turned on our way, and soon night, fresh and quiet, almost unstirring, enveloped the earth.

It’s a purple purée! Isaac was mystified by this dish, but he ate it anyway. It’s a combination of a purple sweet potato, a regular potato and half a head of cauliflower, all boiled till tender and then mashed together till smooth. It was really delicious. I seasoned it very simply with butter, salt and lots of pepper, but you could jazz it up with various herbs and spices, or even with cheese.

Here’s The Smiths with Cemetery Gates, because I’ve had these lines in my head all night…If you must write prose/poems
The words you use should be your own
Don’t plagiarise or take “on loan.”

And of course that’s exactly what I did, I took words on loan.

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Creamy vegan spinach & herb sauce

Creamy vegan spinach and herb sauce

Creamy vegan spinach and herb sauce

My favorite song at the moment is that of the white throated sparrow. It’s a simple little song consisting of four tones; apparently the second is a whole note lower than the first, and it ends a minor third below that. It sounds to some people as though the bird is saying “Po-or Jack Peabody Peabody Peabody.” And that is our clumsy, human way of describing this wild wistful little song. I asked Malcolm what it sounded like, and he said, “Sad but hopeful.” And that’s exactly how it sounds to me, too! It’s nostalgic and full of memories, but it sounds like spring and good thoughts for the future. I love the fact that birds have dialects and regional accents. Your knowledge of a white throated sparrow’s song will be different from mine if you live in a distant part of the country. I feel so lucky to have this particular song be my white throated sparrow-neighbor’s song. And a sparrow is such an ordinary little bird. If you saw sparrows in your garden you’d say, “Oh it’s just a bunch of sparrows,” and not even take the trouble to find out what kind of sparrow they are. They’re small and plump and drab and brown. But the white throated sparrow has dashing yellow spots on his head, and when he opens his mouth…glory! I love the fact that we can try to define the song according to our understanding, and describe the intervals between pitches and the rhythms of the notes, but in reality, the song contains subtleties beyond our human musical language. We can never pin down the specifics of melody or meter, just as we can never know what the bird is saying when he repeats his song over and over. And that mystery makes it even more beautiful. So this is the song stuck in my head, that I whistle over and over as I go through my day. This is my favorite song at the moment.

This week’s interactive playlist will be all of our favorite songs at this moment in time. I obviously need your help with this one, or it will just be a short list of songs that I like. Funnily enough, all of the songs I added to the list sound wistful to me. Must be springtime! I haven’t been listening to anything new lately. I’ve been playing some songs for the boys that I used to love, and I’ve had a few longtime favorites buzzing around in my head for one reason or another. What about you? What have you been listening to? Add your songs to the playlist, or leave a comment and I’ll add them myself.

This vegan sauce was very smooth and flavorful. I utilized two of my favorite creamy-vegan-sauce making tricks…cauliflower and almonds. They’re both quite mild flavors, but they blend up nicely. This sauce, as you can see, is lovely and GREEN!! It’s a good sauce for spring. I added grape tomatoes and capers, for a little juicy tangy kick, but you could use it as it is, or add any kind of vegetable or bean you like. White beans or chickpeas would be nice. We ate it over orchiette pasta. If you add less water, you’d have a nice purée as a side dish or base for a more substantial main meal. If you added more water or vegetable broth, you’d have a smooth velvety soup…a bisque.

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Cauliflower, spinach and tarragon faux-soufflé

Cauliflower, spinach and tarragon souffle

Cauliflower, spinach and tarragon souffle

Notice anything unusual about this sentence? A black cat dances – eerie, feline, ghostly – hanging in Jack’s kitchen like mist; newly opening people’s questions regarding spirits, till, utterly vexed, wraith Xavier yells, “Zounds!” No? No? How about this one: All birthday cards delight, even from George, housed in jail; katherine, living monastically near ottawa; Peter, quarantined respecting some terrible unknown virus, which … I couldn’t quite finish that one, actually. Ideas on a postcard to The Ordinary. I’ve been having a rough time sleeping the last couple of nights, and this is how I occupy my brain. It’s a very good way to avoid worrying! Unless it becomes worrisome in itself. Another thing I like to do is think of songs that are connected in my mind, and make a chain with them, and think about why I like them. For instance, I love John Lee Hooker’s Send Me Your Pillow. It’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s so immediate and raw and yearning, and musically so beautiful. It’s so intimate and human. A pillow full of her tears!! And it always reminds me of The Smiths’ Some Girls are Bigger Than Others, with the line, “Send me your pillow, the one that you dream on.” I think Morrissey is actually quoting a completely different song, but, to me, it has always seemed like an extension of the John Lee Hooker song, but ethereal, out-of-body, still desiring, but in the realm of the mind and the irrational – musically, too, sparking, fleeting, but grounded – like a train passing. And this song reminds me of Tom Waits’ 9th and HennepinAnd you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here
And I’m lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway…And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat…And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
. We watched Harvey, about the giant rabbit the other month, and this line is from that. I nearly fell off my chair. Everything’s connected! Everything makes a chain in your head! I could go on from there… Try it, some sleepless night, make us a chain of songs!!

So this started as a cauliflower puree, which is a thing I like a lot, but it needed a bit more oomph, so I added some eggs and cheese and baked it till it was golden and puffed and delicious. It worked out quite well! Not a souffle in the sense that I didn’t make a bechamel, or whip eggs or anything, but light, a bit crispy, and quite nice!!

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