Cinnamon buns with apple cider glaze


I like a day that starts out cool and ends up cool but warms in the middle. I like a day when the light changes so fast you feel dizzy, and I don’t mind that evening comes before you expect it, and that the surprisingly deep cool shadows bewilder you with their soft blue sledgehammer. I like that the changes in the light and the warmth gently bruise you with anticipation and regret. I like a late-summer day.

On several of these warm-middle-of-the-day days lately we’ve gone to see Malcolm’s cross country meets. In the ever-increasing list of things that make me weepy, this would be right near the top. The event begins with groups of teenagers from different high schools milling about, warming up and chattering and organizing themselves. What’s the collective noun for a group of teenagers? A contrariness of teenagers? An insecurity of teenagers? Except that they don’t seem insecure, these teenagers, these stars of track and field. They seem sunny and happy and enviably comfortable in themselves. And though they’re chatty and cheerful before the race, when they’re running they’re so serious and focused, in a world by themselves. The face of each one of them, the ones I know and the ones I don’t, just knock me out with the glowing beauty of their intensity. They’re all so vulnerable and so strong, whether they sprint across the finish line or walk across it long after everyone else has finished. They’re all doing something I have never done and could never do.

The first race was on a hot hot day, and Malcolm passed us, sweating and clutching his side, before puking his way across the finish line, never breaking his stride. Well! I wanted go to him, of course I did, but he’s fourteen and was surrounded by his friends. The next race was far from home, much farther than we expected, in a land of dairy farms, small strip malls, vacant buildings. By the time we arrived the day had cooled. Bright clouds and black vultures circled overhead and the darkly purple clouds on the edges of the fields piled high and deep. Behind us the yellow fluorescent glow of empty high school hallways was strange and familiar. It felt like rain but it didn’t rain. David and Isaac and I were tired and hungry and thinking about the long ride home. After the race they ran some more, a cool-down run. And after all of this running, when we got to the car Malcolm took off again, by himself, to find a feather he’d seen in the woods during the race. It felt like a long while later that he came back over the hill, running, clutching a huge beautiful tattered brown and black feather, as if he could take off flying.

I got us lost on the way home in the maze of small houses with Trump signs on small lawns, making the long ride even longer. By the time we got back it was dark. The boys and David set the table outside and lit the lamp, and I walked to get the pizza. The moment I got home the rain came, but we sat outside anyway, under our umbrella in the glow of our lamp, with our two bright boys, collecting any little bits of information about the first weeks of school they would let slip.

img_2683Yesterday Malcolm informed me that we were going to make these, and I was more than happy to oblige! I made a soft, sweetish dough and let it rise while David and Malcolm were off spray painting furniture. While these were cooking Malcolm helped me make dinner. I haven’t cooked with him in a while, and I forgot how fun it is. Anyway! It was Malcolm’s idea to put apple cider in the glaze, and he made it himself, and they turned out delicious! If I made them again, I’d probably add some cider to the dough itself, as well.

Here’s Stars of Track and Field, by Belle and Sebastian


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Lacy crispy nutty chocolatey malt cookies and malted chocolate chip ice cream

Lacy chocolate-nut-malt cookie

I bought some malted milk powder on a whim the other week, and for a few days I put it in everything I made. I’ve always liked malted milk. I’m fond of mild, distinctive flavors. We have a small brewery in our town, and some days the air is full of malt and hops, which I find lovely! And, of course, the words “malted milk” made me think of Robert Johnson! King of the Delta Blues. Such a fascinating figure, as everybody knows. I can’t get my mind around his story, somehow. It’s so shadowy and full of myth, so full of beautiful, odd details that make him the legend that he is. He sold his soul to the devil; he learned to play guitar on dark nights in graveyards, aided by ghosts; he played facing the wall, away from the other musicians; he died young, in mysterious circumstances; he used a different name everywhere he travelled. It’s the real, human details of his life that kill me, somehow – if they’re true, and that we’ll never know. His mother was born into slavery. He was sent from home to home, as a child, and given a different name each time. His sixteen-year-old wife died in childbirth. And he travelled – he went from town to town, staying with a different, frequently older, woman everywhere he went. They must have cared for him, and taken care of him, in so many different ways. I’m fascinated by the idea of a rambler – of a person who can’t stay in one place for too long, who needs to be rootless and wandering. I just can’t imagine a life like that, which is what makes songs on the subject so appealing.

And Robert Johnson’s voice touches a nerve. It’s so plaintive, and somehow both human and haunting all at once. He uses it so beautifully – it’s wild but controlled. But it’s his lyrics which really throw me for a loop. Dark, mysterious, elemental, sexual, violent, cryptic, and oddly touching, all at once. I always feel like I know what they’re all about, but I have no idea what he’s saying. And, as with all great poetry, it’s that feeling of the words slipping in my brain that makes me want to hear more.

One of my favorites is Phonograph Blues, which starts

Beatrice, she got a phonograph, and it won’t say a lonesome word
Beatrice, she got a phonograph, but it won’t say a lonesome word
What evil have I done, what evil has the poor girl heard

And then, of course, there’s Malted Milk.

I keep drinkin’ malted milk, try’n to drive my blues away
I keep drinkin’ malted milk, try’n to drive my blues away
Baby, you just as welcome to my lovin’, as the flowers is in May

Malted milk, malted milk, keep rushin’ to my head
Malted milk, malted milk, keep rushin’ to my head
And I have a funny, funny feelin’, and I’m talkin’ all out my head

Baby, fix me one more drink, and hug your daddy one more time
Baby, fix me one more drink, and hug your daddy one more time
Keep on stirrin’ my malted milk mama, until I change my mind

My door knob keeps on turnin’, it must be spooks around my bed
My door knob keeps on turnin’, must be spooks around my bed
I have a warm, old feelin’, and the hair risin’ on my head

Malt chocolate chip ice cream

Which brings us back to malt powder. These cookies have almonds, hazelnuts, spices, chocolate chips and malt powder. They are very very crispy. The day I made them was extremely humid, and within an hour they melted. I’ve never seen anything like it! I put them in a warm oven for about 10 minutes, and they came out as crispy as can be. Both the ice cream and the cookies have chocolate chips that I processed for a minute or two, so they’re a little crumbly. Some chips stay whole, some turn to dust, and I like the contrasting textures.

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Moroccan spiced chickpea, tomato and pepper stew & couscous, & semolina bread

Morrocan chickpea stew

Malcolm wanted to go to the river. Isaac didn’t. It’s not the first time this has happened. After another epic struggle, we persuaded Isaac to walk down with us. As we walked, Malcolm declared that he was an outdoors swimming animal, and Isaac was an indoors curl-up-in-a-nest-of-fur-and-feathers animal. We laughed, cause it’s funny and it’s sort of true. But I felt uneasy. We try very hard not to label the boys a certain way. Not to say… Malcolm is a man who does this, and Isaac is a man who does that; or Malcolm’s good at this, and Isaac’s good at that. Because when somebody decides that you are a certain way, you can get stuck. I find it interesting, and a little frightening, how readily people take to a certain description of themselves. The boys like being defined in certain ways. We all do…everything’s such a confusing muddle, and it makes it easier if you have a semi-solid notion of yourself from which to make sense of it all. As an example…Malcolm is the boy who will try any food, Isaac is the boy who refuses to taste a thing. This is a thing that’s been decided, and Isaac is almost proud of it. But it’s just not true! In fact, I’d go even farther to say that the idea that children like bland, pale foods, and we should start out feeding them tasteless things, and trick them into eating anything else, is also, just not true. We fed tiny Malcolm oatmeal and yogurt and bananas. Then, one day, on a whim, we gave him orzo with pesto on it. Who turned the lights on? Flavor! Strong, sharp flavor! (Tiny little pasta that squishes through your fingers and drives the dog crazy when you scatter it ont the floor!) I think all children like strong flavors – Isaac likes olives and goat cheese – he always has. They both love capers, which they call flavor dynamites. We just have to give them a chance to try these things! Tapenade baby food, anyone?

Isaac eats a chickpea

So when I made this Moroccan-spiced chickpea stew, Isaac refused to try it, because that’s what he does. Then I gave him a chickpea. He ate that, and helped himself to more. I gave him an olive. He ate that, and spooned a few more onto his plate. By the time the rest of us had left the table, I looked out the window and saw that he’d pulled the whole serving plate toward him, and was eating everything together, hungrily. So we’ll take Isaac swimming, and Malcolm will curl up on the couch with a good book.

The stew was really tasty, and it’s a good way to use up all your tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, if you’re sick and tired of ratatouille. It’s not authentically Moroccan-spiced, of course. It’s just that it’s a pleasing mixture of savory spices and herbs, and “sweet” spices and herbs. And the bread! Well, I’d been reading fascinating accounts of Moroccan flatbread, that generally contain semolina, and are folded into all sorts of beautiful fashions. I decided to play around with these ideas, but in one big loaf. It turned out very nice! With a lovely texture and flavor – crumbly, chewy, and satisfying. If you don’t feel like doing all the crazy folding, you could just shape it into a nice round, and leave it at that.

Here’s Peter Tosh’s beautiful I Am that I Am.

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Isaac’s sweet and spicy ice cream

sweet and spicy ice cream

“What kind of ice cream shall we make?” I asked Isaac. “Carrot ice cream!” He said with a giggle. Little does he know that I actually plan to make carrot ice cream some day! Watch this space! In the end, after considering the fragrances of lots of jars from the spice cabinet, he decided on a few sweet spices, plus some chocolate chips. Cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, and a touch of ginger. And we ground up the chocolate chips a bit, so they’d be nice and melty in the ice cream. Delicious! The words “ice cream” always makes me think of this scene from Down by Law. Jarmusch is probably my favorite American independent filmmaker, for reasons that should be obvious when you watch the clip. I could go on and on about why I like his filmmaking, but I’m late for work, so I’ll tell you instead about the music. In each of his films, I’ve discovered music that has become some of my favorite music ever. From Tom Waits in Down by Law, to RZA in Ghost Dog, to Mulate Astatke in Broken Flowers, watching Jarmusch’s films has added immeasurably to my musical library. So here’s a short playlist of songs I’ve discovered from his films, to listen to while you wait for your ice cream to freeze!

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Zucchini corn bread

Zucchini corn bread

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.

Here’s Talib Kweli’s beautiful Talk to You.

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Zucchini, walnut and raisin pastries

Zucchini walnut pastries

A few months ago, my friend Tony described something I’d written in these virtual pages as an “essay.” That idea was so pleasing to me, and it’s something I’ve thought a lot about since. I like the idea of writing essays. In school I used to love essay tests. I felt like I didn’t really understand whatever I was writing about until I started writing about it, and then connections would come flying out at me. I found it quite exciting (I was a weird kid).

On the one hand, essays feel so substantial and victorian. On the other hand – the smiling side of the janus face, if you will – is the fact that “essay” comes from the word “to try.” How lovely is that! You’re not succeeding (or failing). You’re not even worried about that! You’re just giving it a go. According to the highly reliable dictionary that pops up on my computer when I press a button (definitive source!) the “try” in “essay” doesn’t just mean “attempt.” It also means “test,” or “weigh.” As in “I tried the strength of the rope bridge that crossed over the fiery ravine before I commenced my journey upon it.” Interesting! If you’re following along at home, you’ll recall my infatuation with the word Selah, which also meant “to weigh.” I think of selah as being about feeling the weight of the words, and valuing that, and essay as being about testing the weight of the words by sending them out there and watching whether they sink or swim.

One thing I’ve been thinking about essays, as it directly relates to this collection of recipes, is that cooking is like writing essays. You have an idea, you try it. You weigh the possibilities, you weigh the ingredients. (I’m almost done, I promise! I’ve nearly followed this unravelling line of thought to its illogical conclusion.) You don’t know how it will turn out, and that’s why it’s fun to try. If you think that it might not come out well, you’ll won’t make the attempt. And there’s so much joy in trying!

I have a lot of zucchini from my CSA, and I’ve been thinking for a while about combining it with raisins, walnuts, goat cheese, cinnamon and basil, in some sort of dish. I thought I’d try (segue!) rolling it into a pastry, because a crispy layer would be so pleasant with the soft zucchini and goat cheese. I put a bit of lemon zest in the pastry dough, for piquancy. And I wanted to have a couple of sauces to dip the pastries in, so I decided to shape the pastry like little christmas crackers, so that when you broke it in half, you have two little tabs to hold onto, while you dip, and then you have a nice, buttery-lemony crispy bite to end with. I think it turned out well! I’m going to make other stuffings for this shape of pastry, because it’s so much fun to eat with your hands and dip things! For dipping sauces I used two leftover from a takeout Indian meal (lazy, I know, but they’re so good you can’t just throw them out!) That’s the sweetish tamarind one, and the cilantro mint one. And then I made some good old-fashioned basil/pine nut/garlic/parmesan pesto. I mellowed it out a bit by adding a teaspoon of honey, and by roasting the garlic.

zucchini walnut pastry

Here’s James Brown’s Try Me, one of my favorite songs ever!

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Red velvet apricot & cherry upside-down cake


E.M. Forster

Apricot cherry upside down cake

Following on this morning’s post of quotes, (yes, it will be on the test, children!) I’ve been thinking about how the quotes connect in my head, when I think about them all together. I think about how they relate to each other in unexpected ways. And then I think about how it’s in our nature, as humans, to make connections. If you give us 3 random facts, we’ll put them together to make a story. That’s how we watch films – we connect still pictures (somewhere in the upside-down back of our brain) to make a coherent, fluid movement. And then we’ll connect those images to make a narrative, to give them meaning. Of course, Forster was talking about connections between people, and I love that idea as well. But I’ve been thinking lately about how a connection with a person becomes more solid when we share some random connection of ideas or images, and when they make sense to both of us. For instance…the other day we were listening to the Pogues in the car, and Malcolm asked if they’d written the theme to Sponge bob. (Which my boys don’t actually watch, as it happens.) I had a chuckle, thought “Who lives in a feckin pineapple under the sea, boys?” We came home, I told David about it, as a cute things the boys said. Then, days later, David took that funny connection, drew this picture… And I felt really grateful to have somebody to share silly things with.

So, when I showed David this cake, and he said, “bloody stumps,” I knew exactly what he was talking about! There was a show called Home Movies. We loved it!! It was about an eight-year-old that made art house films. Classic! One of the characters, McGurk, is possibly the worst soccer coach ever. When one of the children on the soccer team won’t run down the field, he threatens to cut his legs off. “Bloody stumps!” he yells. (It’s not a kid’s show!) Well, one night, after the boys were a-bed, we had a chuckle about McGurk witnessing the hand-cutting-off-scene in Star Wars, and yelling… (tee hee hee) “bloody stumps, Anakin!” The point is…this might not make sense if I explain it in this long and tedious fashion, but sharing some odd connection that makes you laugh, with another human being, is the best way to connect. And we’re passing the craziness along to our boys!

Another nice way to connect is to share food. I have a friend-mom at school named Jamie. She had a son in Isaac’s class. She’s a vegetarian, too! She gave me these beautiful red velvet apricots, and I thought they were so pretty, I’d bake them upside-down. I put them in a cake with cherries. And I’d read that they were apricots crossed with plums, which made me think about plum pudding, which made me think about cinnamon and ginger and spicy black pepper. So I put those in the cake. And I love cherries and chocolate, and apricots and chocolate, and sweet spices and chocolate, so I thought I’d throw some chocolate chips in as well. And these apricots are known for “bleeding” red into gold. And then…well, I’m going to stop talking now or nobody is ever going to want to make this cake.

Here’s Niney the Observer with Blood & Fire I love the surname “the observer.”
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Zucchini, pumpkinseed & red bean galette

Zucchini & red bean galette

I was going on and on (and on) the other day about Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina, and it reminded me of an unanswered question floating about in my head for a few years. In Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger, there’s a scene in which Zooey wanders into his elder brothers’ bedroom and sees a white beaver board that they (the brothers) have filled with hand-written quotes from various sources. (At least that’s how I remember it – it’s been a while since I read it!) One of the quotes was from Anna Karenina, and since I’ve read Anna Karenina, I’ve meant to go back and see which it was. Well! We’re going through old boxes of books in our attic, and I pulled out a dusty copy of Franny and Zooey. Then I forgot about going through boxes of old stuff that was making me feel alittle queasy about time passing and trying to remember who this crazy person was who had saved all the old stuff, and sat down to read about Zooey going through old stuff that brought back his own strange memories. (I like Salinger a lot. I feel mildly embarrassed by this, and I’m not sure why. I think some people might think he’s sophomoric, but I love his evocative small details, and, of course, I love his questing quality. And that’s all I’ll say about that!)

I like the idea of a collection of quotes all in the same place. Quotes that have nothing to do with each other, but that might give each other new meanings from being next to each other. So I’m going to put a few (completely random) quotes here, just for kicks, baby! Ready, begin…

To get straight to the worst, what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie, and those who have seen the footage have strongly advised me against nurturing any elaborate distribution plans for it.

-JD Salinger, Franny & Zooey

… moans could be heard, subdued by suffering and broken by sobs.
Hearing those moans Prince Andrew wanted to weep. Whether because he was dying without glory, or because he was sorry to part with life, or because of those memories of a childhood that could not return, or because he was suffering and others were suffering and that man near him was groaning so piteously- he felt like weeping childlike, kindly, and almost happy tears.
The wounded man was shown his amputated leg stained with clotted blood and with the boot still on.

-Tolstoy, War and Peace

Do not let anxiety override good judgement so that the oven door is opened unneccesarily.

-Mrs Beeton on cake baking.

As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.

Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamzov

The most immediately noticeable paradox in Renoir’s style, and the one which almost always trips up the public, is his apparent casualness toward the very elements of the cinema which the public takes most seriously: the scenario and the action.

André Bazin on Jean Renoir

Such field studies are recommended rather than the amassing of large numbers of hapless captives. The animals remain little disturbed in their natural setting. Since they are marked and under study, they appeal in much the same way as one’s pets, yet do not demand care. Information obtained is more likely to be reliable that that procured under artificial conditions, and there is always the excitement of the hunt, and the anticipation of meeting an old friend.

-A field guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians (1966)

Well, that’s it for now! I think I’ll start collecting quotes for another time, because that was my ridiculous idea of fun!!

Now…this galette. It has a yeasted crust with some basil to flavor it. And inside it has grated zucchini, toasted pumpkinseeds and red beans. You can start the crust early in the day, and the filling is actually very easy to put together. I flavored this with fresh basil and fresh marjoram, which are lovely sweetish summery flavors. And I decided to add a little ginger and a touch of cinnamon, which are sweetish wintery flavors, in my mind. I liked the combination a lot! If only because it was different from the spice/herb combinations I seem to return to again and again. And the galette was actually quite pretty – white and red and green.

zucchini & red bean tart

Here’s Coleman Hawkins and the Red Garland Trio with Red Beans.
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Brown butter caramel ice cream with chocolate chips

Brown butter – chocolate chip ice cream

This is a story of redemption! This is a story of ice cream that lost its way, somewhere on the journey, but found it again to become glorious. (And was then eaten.) It started out with so much promise. A lovely brown butter caramel was made, and it was worked into a custard that thickened and didn’t curdle. Good custard!
Obedient custard! And then it sat in the fridge all day in a spacious bowl, getting nice and chilled, just like you hoped it would. But when you tried to put it in your little antiquated ice cream maker, it was all, “Whatever, I’m not going to freeze! That’s so totally uncool!” You tried a few times. You coaxed it, you tried to talk its language. To no avail. So, in despair, you set it aside. And it spent some time in the cold dark underworld we’ll call your freezer. Hobnobbing with the ne’er-do-well frozen peas, the reprobate frozen waffles. Chilling story! The next morning, faced with the harsh light of day, the ice cream was a mess. Weirdly icy in the middle, with a strange sugary coating on top. Well, we’ve all been there. We all know what it’s like the next morning. But you gave it what for! You worked it up good! And what you had before you, after a rigorous workout, was a creamy, slightly icy confection that you really needed to eat three bowls at a time.

So! If you have a regular functioning way to make ice cream, you don’t need to go through all this drama. You can just make the ice cream. I started by browning some butter; added the brown butter to some brown sugar; cooked till it was bubbly (but not petrified); made that into a custard, with the slight addition of a tablespoonful of tapioca flour. To thicken and preserve against curdling. You could easily leave this out or add the same amount of cornflour. I added chocolate chips, but I processed them first in my tiny food processor. This meant that you had some solidly chunky chocolate pieces, and some pieces of flaky chocolate “dust.” I think this was one of the absolute best things about this ice cream!! You could also just chop the chocolate chips with a big knife, and be sure to include all the little gravelly bits, if you don’t have a processor.

Here’s Blackalicious with The Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown


3 T butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups milk
1 T tapioca or corn flour
pinch salt
1/2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1 T vanilla

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 t seasalt

Warm the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat till it’s toasty and brown. (Ten minutes?) You’ll have brown solids on the bottom of the pan. Strain through a paper towel, collecting the brown liquidy part in a clean bowl.

Put the brown butter back into a saucepan with the sugar, and heat again at medium heat till the sugar is melted and boiling away. After about 1 minute of boiling, take it off the heat.

In a small bowl, combine the tapioca flour with a bit of the milk. Whisk to mix well. Pour this mixture into the rest of the milk, and pour it all into the sugar/butter combination. Whisk it all together until it’s well combined, and add the vanilla and the salt and cinnamon.

In the same bowl, whisk the eggs till they’re light and fluffy. In a slow stream, add the warm milk, whisking the whole time. Then pour the whole mix back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking the whole time, for about 10 minutes. You don’t want to let anything boil, or the eggs will curdle everything. After 10 minutes, it will just leave a light coating on the back of your spoon.

Pour it into a cool bowl, cover, put in the fridge, and leave for 5 hours or over night.

When you’re ready to freeze it…process 1 cup of good bittersweet chocolate chips for about a minute, till they’re mostly in tact, but they have some flaky dusty bits of chocolate all around them. Stir this into your custard, stir in the heavy cream, and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. I shook a bit of sea salt in before freezing as well!

Moroccan pastilla – vegetarian style

Moroccan pastilla

“I made warka!” I cried, as I skipped around town. “Hello, man putting air into your tires! I made warka! Hello, woman trying to parallel park her enormous SUV on the wrong side of the street! I made warka! Hello, young mother hurrying by with your child and shielding her eyes from the madwoman singing about warka! I made warka!” And then all of the inhabitants of the picturesque little town joined me in a synchronized dance and a stirring rendition of the warka song. Okay, none of that really happened. But I was so excited about making warka that I felt like telling total strangers on the street.

Warka is a paper-thin dough, somewhat like phyllo but even thinner. It’s one of those things you don’t imagine anybody can actually make in real life. But it can be done! It’s not difficult, and it’s actually kinda fun. Here’s how it all began. I’ve been dreaming of making a vegetarian version of a moroccan pastilla for months. The combination of sweet & savory sounded so intriguing to me. The idea of eating pigeon did not! Well, the other day we had a street festival in town. As festivities were winding down and people were packing up, my two young children began playing with the children of the woman running a stall across the street. I started talking to their mom. She’s from Morocco. Being a crazy person, I (almost) immediately said, “Do you know how to make pastilla?” Of course she did! I told her I was vegetarian, and she advised me on the vegetables to use, and how to prepare them, and how to arrange all the layers. She suggested phyllo dough. But can’t I make my own? I asked. Ah yes, she said, and she told me how.

She suggested equal parts flour and water. I ended up using a bit more water, and added a bit of lemon juice and oil. I’d seen this post on making warka, and I tried to incorporate some of the methods contained therein with the advice of my new friend. I used a non-stick griddle. I put it right on the burners, though. The first one came out a little messy, but I got better as I went along. It doesn’t matter if they turn out super flaky, because after you pile enough of them on top of each other, they make a more cohesive whole.


The pastilla itself was very delicious, but there was a bit of a disconnect between my expectations of when you eat cinnamon sugar almonds, and when you eat garlic, turnips and shallots. The more I ate, the more I got used to it, and the better it tasted!

I’ve just been reading about Gnawa music. Fascinating!! Here’s Gnawa de Marrakech with Lalla Mimouna. I think it’s so beautiful!
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