I’ve mentioned in the past that bird watching was a big part of our courtship. These days it’s mostly sitting in the backyard with our coffee before the boys get up, watching the sparrows and squirrels. But it’s nice to know there’s still a busy world going on above our heads. We might not be able to stop and look for a long time, but we can still hear them, and know them by their song. Once, many years ago, I asked David what kind of bird I would be, if I were a bird. He said maybe a warbling vireo. If you’re not familiar with a warbling vireo, I’ll tell you that it’s a small, green & grey bird known for its song, which is delivered in “…long melodious warbling phrases.” Heh heh heh. If there’s a warbling vireo around, you know it, because they never stop singing! They have a lot to say! Perfect, right? It’s a sweet bird, and very nice to be compared to. One of the qualities I admire in David is that he’s very economical with words. That seems like a rare quality in our loud world. Everybody’s talking and texting and making noise, and not listening at all. He doesn’t talk incessantly, but when he does talk, he says just the right thing. The right words at the right time. He’s very witty, but he doesn’t need everybody in the room to hear him. My boys think he knows everything, and it does seem that way at times, but he doesn’t need to tell you that he knows everything. (Like I do! If I know the answer I’ll be in the back of the room with my hand in the air saying “Ooh ooh ooh, call on me! Call on me!”) And when he does nice things for people, he doesn’t need them to know that he’s the one that did them. He doesn’t need anyone to know! I love that. So if he was a bird, maybe he’d be a veery. They don’t talk much, but when they do you want to hear them, because they have a remarkable song.
David really liked this zucchini bread! It’s basically a corn bread, but because corn bread can sometimes be quite dry, I added a grated zucchini to moisten it up. (And, let’s face it, it’s zucchini season – they’re going in everything!) I added a little brown sugar, some cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne. I think it turned out quite well! A little sweet, with the mysterious flavor of corn, and just enough cayenne that the flavor sort of pops in your mouth. It was also incredibly easy to make – you can mix it together in minutes.
Kale is not one of those shy and retiring greens that wilts away to nothing at the first sign of attention. I admire that quality. The presence of kale in this dish is probably what makes it a stew rather than a soup. The kale retains its curly, assertive texture to make this thick and hearty. The sweet potato and golden raisins add a touch of sweetness, and the chickpeas – well, you can’t go wrong with chickpeas, can you? The broth of this stew is a lovely mixture of flavors…it’s the broth that transforms humble, potentially stodgy ingredients into something exciting to eat. Smoky paprika, earthy cumin, spicy red pepper, and bright, tart lime. We ate these with pumpkin popovers.
These little popovers are very subtly spiced with cinnamon and cayenne. I wanted them to go well with our kale and chickpea stew (which they did!) but also to be good warmed up in the morning with butter and jam. It’s really sinking in that it’s winter, here, with icy drizzle and everlastingly grey days, and these are a good antidote. They have a nice warm color, a mild sweet flavor, and a lovely light soft texture. They’re also incredibly easy to make! I was reading Mrs Beaton’s cook book, the other day (as one does) and I think these are related to her chapter on “batters.” Which makes them also related to yorkshire pudding, perhaps the most famous of batters! Yorkshire pudding is cooked with a bit of dripping in the bottom of the pan, and these are cooked with butter. I let the butter get burnt, because I like the flavor, but if you don’t, just put the pan in the oven for a minute before you’re ready to cook.