Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love collards! I’ve never treated them quite like this, but I thought it was delicious. Collards have a textural assertiveness that went perfectly with the bright sharp flavors of capers and olives. This was very simple to put together. If you added some beans to the dish (white would be nice!) and served it with rice or pasta, you’d have a quick meal.
Let’s talk about collards instead. This is all part of my fiendish plan to make collards as popular as kale. Why does kale get all of the attention? Just cause it’s frilly and pretty? Well, collards are delicious, too, despite their dull surface and flat leaves! I do love collards, they’re so nicely substantial. I mixed them, in this instance, with walnuts and corn, for a little crunchy sweetness, and smoked gouda, for a little melty smokiness. I also used pomegranate molasses, which is just enough strange and sweet to lively up this dish! This is a good side dish, but if you ate it with some rice (and beans, even) it would make a good meal.
Here’s the Ink Spots with When the Sun Goes Down (you don’t get sunspots any more!!)
This meal was very comforting in its way. The masa harina bread was soft and dense inside, which is why I think it’s pudding like, and it has the lovely mysterious flavor of masa harina. I love collards! They’re quickly becoming my favorite green. I don’t know why they’re not as popular as kale, but I’d like to announce my campaign to make them so!! Here they’re sauteed with red beans, tomatoes, and lots of lovely spices, like ginger, smoked paprika, and cardamom, to make them spicy, smoky and a tiny bit sweet. Delicious!
I love collard greens. I love their substantial texture, and their mildly assertive taste. I like to pair them with smoky crispy things. I thought of the crust in this as being almost like bacon – crunchy and smoky with smoked paprika. The pecans added a nice crunch, and the roasted mushrooms brought their lovely savory, meaty flavor.
Here’s Fox in the Snow by Belle and Sebastian.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog! Our little Ordinary is growing up. I’ve rambled on from week to week, with no apparent purpose or direction. Sometime over the summer, on a warm, golden, unplanned day, the kind it hurts to think about now that it’s getting cold and every moment is scheduled, I sat beside a creek watching my boys catch water bugs. I thought about The Ordinary, and I realized that it has a pattern and a purpose. I’ve been struggling to define it in my head, but I think I do actually have a hidden agenda, and it all stems from the idea of ordinariness. I’d like to celbrate the ordinary, and the day-to-day, and to say that ordinary things, well-done and well-observed, take on beauty and value. When I realized this, in the summer, I got very excited like a little kid, and thought about writing a manifesto (which is something I would have done as a child). And then, like a little kid, I got distracted, and other concerns took over. But on this, the auspicious occasion of our one-year anniversary, I’d like to attempt to collect my addled thoughts in…
THE ORDINARY MANIFESTO
* We believe, as the Specials say, that nobody is special, which means that everybody is. Everybody is strange and surprising and capable of remarkable things.
* We believe that there’s great value in just being alive, staying alive, and keeping the ones you love alive, if you notice everything and question everything as you move through life.
* I joke a lot about championing mediocrity and lack of ambition, but I’m speaking of those things as they relate to our current definition of success. We believe that the way we define success, and the achievements that we value and reward in our society are skewed. Compassion, kindness and imagination deserve more recognition than wealth, fame, or salesmanship, and are worth passionately pursuing.
* We believe that there’s value in all jobs, if they’re done with love and care, and …
* … We believe that this includes the job of caring for a home and raising children. It’s a cliché to say that this is the hardest or most important job, but there is some truth to that old chestnut. Nobody should be criticized for maintaining a career outside the home while they raise children, but nobody should be deemed a failure if they decide to put that career on hold. We realize that it can seem like the most ordinary job at times, in its relentless everyday-ness, so it is important to notice everything, and to approach it with creativity.
* We believe that creativity is valuable – for each person and for all people in a society. This is true on a large scale – in the creation of books and films and music, (and the reception of those things), but it is true on the small scale of the ordinary as well. Day-to-day life can be elevated by the application of imagination and observation. Preparing meals, for instance, which seems like a tedious chore to many, can become a source of joy as well as sustenance. In all creative endeavors, as in life, soul, grace, and honesty are more important than cleverness or talent.
* We believe there’s great beauty in simple things, if they’re well-seasoned. This is true in art and food and life.
* We believe there’s beauty in economy – in using every part of something – in having what you need and using what you have.
* We believe there’s beauty in the every day – in things that you do every day. There’s beauty in the rhythm and the pattern and the expected, and in the times that the pattern changes, even for a moment, which can make you step outside of your expectations and seem very perfect.
* We believe that there’s beauty in art that celebrates the ordinary, and in ordinary life lived as art. When something is captured and observed, when it is noticed, it can become important.
* We believe it’s important to find balance in your life – to find a way that you’re comfortable taking things from the world and giving them back to the world.
So that’s it, for now! These observations are subject to change and open to discussion!!
Collards, tomatoes, olives and pecans might seem like a simple dish with which to celebrate The Ordinary’s birthday, but I think it’s perfect. It’s made of fairly humble foods, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made in some time. It uses vegetables we’ve gotten from the farm, it’s very simply seasoned, but it turned out to have such a nice combination of flavors and textures. Sweet, spicy, salty, acidic, and soft and crunchy, all at the same time. It was a very delightful surprise.
Here’s a short list of ONE songs, to mark the occasion.
The very act of cooking dinner in the evening can be an expression of your artistry! And you’re sustaining your family! Double plus bonus points!! This weekend at work I didn’t make very much money, but I was allowed to take home some leftover cubes of pepper jack cheese. Score! And we got some collards from the farm. I’ve been dreaming about making some sort of savory pastry – crunchy outside, soft and warm inside, with lots of melting cheese (it’s started to get very cold here!). I love secret melted cheese! So I decided to make a cornbread crust, and inside have a layer of collards and black-eyed peas surrounding a big soft melty bit of spicy cheese. I thought these were so delicious, I was quite proud of them, and gobbled them up. They were fun to make, too. And as David pointed out – black-eyed peas and collards are both considered lucky foods!
Here’s a song David discovered that’s been stuck in my head (in a good way) ever since he played it for me. I find it quite moving! It’s Neneh Cherry and the Thing with Dream Baby Dream.
Oddly, I was thinking about honesty on the way to work this weekend. I remember discovering, when I was little, that telling a lie was a lot more trouble than it was worth, because you had to remember the lie that you told, and it generally spawned more lies, and you had to remember those as well. Oh, what a confusion! I value honesty in human beings, of the not-telling-a-lie variety. And I value emotional honesty, as well, in art, and music, and film, and literature. In my opinion, all of the cleverness and skill and talent in the world are worth nothing if they’re not backed by emotional honesty. It’s a difficult quality to define, but you know it when you see it. For me, it’s closely connected to soulfulness and grace – two other indefinable but necessary qualities. And, as I was thinking about it this weekend, I realized that part of the reason I love certain hip hop artists is that they contain high levels of these particular elements. It’s a fact. You might not agree with me, but you can’t dispute it, because it’s indisputable. They’ve done studies. So many studies.
For instance, Goodie Mob’s Soul Food, which I know I’ve mentioned before, is, to me, full of honesty and, well, soul. And they mention collards, which allows me to gracefully guide this train of thought into the station. We got some collards from the farm, and I was thrilled. I thought about preparing them in a similar style to a dish we have at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Flavorful, but simple, with soft, comforting boiled potatoes. So that’s what I did. I really loved this dish! I think I practically ate the whole thing all by myself, and growled at anybody that tried to take a spoonful.
Here’s Goodie Mob’s Soul Food. (again!)
In another lifetime, I might have gone to Gobelins, an animation school in Paris. They produce such clever, beautiful films. Here’s one called Rhapsodie pour un pot-au-feu, which I will share with you as a celebration of stew season…
This particular stew is a little spicy. It has collards, pink beans, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. It’s saucy and flavorful, seasoned with sage, smoked paprika, and cumin. If you can’t find pink beans, you could use red, pinto, or roman. I made the little crackers with masa harina, and they’re yummy, too. They have a little kick, because they contain cayenne. I fried half in olive oil on top of the stove, and I baked half in olive oil in the oven. The baked ones came out very crispy and quite hard – perfect for dipping in soup, although a little too hard to eat on their own – like rusks, I guess. The fried ones are nice as a snack, though – crispy outside, soft inside.