Freekeh! And chard, chickpeas and sweet potatoes

Chard chickpeas and sweet potatoes

Chard chickpeas and sweet potatoes

It’s strange how some moments can leave you feeling unexpectedly raw. Some days I’ll be walking along through the world, fully possessed of my maturity and composure and whatever other calloused armor lets us walk through this world in a capable and functioning fashion, and some small gesture will undo me. It’s usually something seemingly insignificant, something I could easily pass by without noticing at all (they do call me “oblivia” after all). But it will leave me a weepy puddly mess, for a minute or two. Sometimes on our bike rides we pass what seems to be an entire school out exercising (it’s a very small school.) This is always a somewhat touching scene, just to see the glowing happy running faces, and the reluctant trudging faces, and everything in between, just to see the way the children arrange themselves in little groups, or end up by themselves, and to remember what that felt like. One day the teacher had organized a different sort of exercise, and as one group of kids ran out, another was returning to the starting line. They had to slap hands with the kid they passed. That was it, that’s all that happened, and this gesture of children touching hands with other children as they ran by was enough to make me hope the kids wouldn’t look up in my red and tear-y face as they trotted by. Today I walked Isaac to school, like I do five days a week. Malcolm came running up, all bright-faced and happy. The power was out! They were being bussed to another school! They might have to have pizza for lunch! The excitement was palpable, and the noise was thunderous, as an entire school-yard full of children looked forward to the strangest, best day ever. Such a confusion! Such a botheration! Children large and small, making noise, tangling everywhere! No bell to get their attention, and the poor safety-patrol overwhelmed by children bouncing and bubbling all around them. It was chaos, I tell you! Cheerful chaos! And suddenly the remarkable music teacher walked out and clapped a rhythm. All the children around her clapped the rhythm, and then every child in the courtyard followed. Silence ensued. And what the heck, man, I’m suddenly the crazy mom standing on the edge of the courtyard with a mad grey dog, trying to think of an excuse for my red nose and watery eyes. I came home and told David about it and got weepy all over again! I’m weepy now, writing about it! What is wrong with me? Oh, I could go on, I could tell you about how last week when Malcolm went to his friend’s house for breakfast (with all of his other friends) I made him some apple sauce to bring, and he said it was so good he could have eaten it all by himself. And last night he asked me to make more, and I assumed it was to bring to breakfast at his friend’s house again, but he said, “No, nobody else would eat it,” which means that he was asking me to make applesauce out of kindness to me, because he liked something his strange mother made even if nobody else would try it! That kills me! And that’s it, that’s all it takes. I suppose it’s moments of connection, if I stop and look at it rationally, that strike such a tender chord; moments of communication or thoughtfulness. And they’re everywhere! They’re all around us! I feel crazy for getting so emotional about small things, but maybe we’re crazy for not being constantly undone by these moments, for not being constantly aglow with emotion set off by these small gestures. I don’t suppose we’d get much done, though, throughout the day.

Freekeh! I saw it at the grocery store in the bulk food bins. I’d never seen it before and it looked interesting, so I bought some! I did some research, and it seems to be the new, next super grain. I’m cutting edge! It’s wheat, but not as you know it. Well, it’s similar to bulgur, but it’s…well, I’ll let wikipedia tell you, “The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed.” The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur.” I cooked it like I cook bulgur, toasted it in butter with some herbs, then simmered it till it was fluffy. I made a sort of stew of chard, sweet potatoes, herbs, and tomatoes from the farm, threw in some raisins, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, smoked paprika and nutmeg, and that’s what we at with the freekeh. The next day I mashed up the leftover stew, stirred in the leftover freekeh, some pecans, some bread crumbs, and an egg, and made croquettes.

Here’s the Beastie Boys with B Boys making with the Freekeh.
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Chickpea & artichoke stew; chickpea semolina dumplings; olive pine nut sauce

olive and pine nut sauce

olive and pine nut sauce

A few years ago I threw my back out. I was just helping our old dog to stand, and she weighed nothing, she was all bones and sunken skin. And yet, somehow, in trying to help her up I pulled something or other and I couldn’t move without pain for a few days. I couldn’t walk, sit, sneeze, laugh, sleep. I felt as old and infirm as our poor dog. A couple of years later I asked a doctor about my back, because it never seemed to get completely better. She said, “You have to strengthen your core! Strengthen your core.” I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot lately, as I struggle to do one normal sit-up. I’ve been feeling a little lost and off-kilter. Partly because the boys are back in school, I suppose. And partly because I’ve been doing something for a long time, believing it was important–at least to me. And now I’m thinking about doing something else, which also seems very important but probably isn’t and now I’m all confused, and maybe nothing seems important, so why try to do anything at all? What does important mean, anyway? What does it mean to be important? Ack. In this scattered and bewildered state, I seem to need to strengthen my core. Not my core values or affections, because those are very unvaried, they’re constant. But the core beliefs that are hard to hold onto. Viz…it’s important to understand that you’re valuable to your children and your dog, even if you don’t feel all that good about yourself. It’s important not to let discouragement paralyze you, because time is flying. Don’t let yourself judge your work by what the world rewards with awards and praise and money (have you seen what the world awards with praise and money?) It’s probably good to take a pause and look at everything from the outside, but don’t let your doubts keep you from getting back into it, when the time is ripe, don’t feel foolish about working hard on something you know you’re good at. Don’t feel foolish about giving yourself meandering pep talks while you struggle to do sit-ups!! Strengthen your core! Strengthen your core!!

Chickpea and semolina flour dumplings

Chickpea and semolina flour dumplings

What we have here is a typical, Ordinary tripartite meal. A stewy sort of mix of vegetables, which becomes croquettes the next day, and a flavorful sauce to go with the croquettes. In this case, the stew has chickpeas, leeks, tomatoes, and artichokes. We ate it with plain couscous. The next day I combined the leftover stew and couscous with semolina flour (which is what couscous is made out of!), and some eggs to make the croquettes. And the sauce has olives, goat cheese, pine nuts, and a little maple syrup. The reason it’s this pretty color is that I made it with olive oil which I had steeped with annato seeds. You don’t need to do this…you can use regular olive oil.
Chickpea, potato, artichoke stew

Chickpea, potato, artichoke stew

And that’s that!

Here’s Hold On Be Strong by Outkast. Short and to the point!

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