Hazelnut sage cracker fans stacked with roasted mushrooms, french lentils and chard

Hazelnut cracker stacker

Hazelnut cracker stacker

Isaac gave me a card for valentine’s day. It’s got a three-dimensional heart made of red tissue paper flowers, and it says “my heart belongs to you.” Sweet. A fairly traditional valentine’s day sentiment. Nicely made card. It undid me! I get weepy when I think about it! The thought of my Isaac’s heart – so sweet and generous, odd and contrary, so singularly Isaac – the thought that it’s mine, at least in part, threw me for a loop. The gift and the responsibility of being loved by both my boys is almost overwhelming, if I stop to think about it, and my lovely card made me do just that. I like the word, “unmanned.” It’s an old-fashioned term, I know, but I like to think about men striving to be manly, working to be strong and just and mature. And I like the idea that, in an instant, some emotional force can dissolve all of that, and leave him feeling like a boy, raw and bewildered. Sometimes I feel “unwomanned.” I don’t walk through the world thinking about being a woman or a mother. Honestly, despite my advanced and advancing years, I don’t really feel old enough, most of the time. Being a mother is a fairly common pastime. Everyone in the world has one. But when you take a moment to consider motherhood, it’s awesome, it’s terrifying, it’s wonderful. Isaac’s heart belongs to me, and I made that heart! And I’m responsible for keeping him healthy, and feeding him good foods that will help that heart to grow. I work to be strong and just and mature – to be worthy of the boys’ love; to be a good example for them; to give them some core of conviction and kindness. But sometimes it feels as though all of that falls away in a moment – not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me feel more awake, more keenly aware of my power and privilege in being important to the boys. Last summer Isaac had an echocardiogram. I sat with him for an hour in a darkened room, while we watched the workings of each inch of his beautiful beating heart. It was almost too much information. I felt undone, but I had to be collected when the lights came on – I had to listen attentively, ask relevant questions, reassure Isaac, and answer his sweet anxious worries. It’s such a strange world! We all walk around each day with our hearts working so inexplicably and so persistently, and with those hearts we love people, so inexplicably and so fervently. And we can’t even think about it, or we’d be so overwhelmed we’d never get out of bed!

Hazelnut crackers stacked with chard and roasted mushrooms

Hazelnut crackers stacked with chard and roasted mushrooms

Last night, for valentine’s day, we took some time off. I made a special, strange meal. We ate together and talked together, and we let everything slide. We missed a basketball game and a meeting. We cuddled on the couch and watched a movie, and decided to skip the showers and the evening reading. It feels good to be irresponsible, some times! And, guess what? I’m a mother, so if I say it’s okay, it’s okay!! It was a really nice night. And the dinner was strange! I wanted to make something a little fancy, and less pedestrian than my usual fare. So I made some large fan-shaped crispy crackers, flavored with sage and smoked paprika, and crunchy with hazelnuts. I piled these with layers of sauteed chard, roasted mushroom & french lentil puree, cheese, and whole, small roasted mushrooms. It was very fun to make, and very fun to eat, too! I thought all of the flavors and textures were nice, altogether. I used my 8-ish inch tart pan ring to cut the dough into fluted circles, and then I cut those into quarters. You could use a medium-sized bowl with a thin edge. Or just cut it freehand with a knife. Or make circles instead of fans, by cutting with a large glass. Whatever, man!

Here’s My Heart, by Louis Armstrong. It’s bright and cheerful and serious and thoughtful at the same time, like my Isaac.
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Malcolm’s peppery pepper crisps

pepper crisps

The boys were home all last week for spring break, bringing their own little whirlwind of boyish joy and drama. Do I look frazzled? We had a nice week, though. We went away for a few days, which we never do. And I got to go on lots of walks with Malcolm. He’s good to walk with because he talks and talks. You can just walk next to him and listen. He talks about how he gets all his best ideas right before bed, he wonders if I’d like yoshi from some game we don’t have, he thinks that everybody thinks that we’ll have flying cars some day, he had one lamb’s ear that we bought that died, and one he dug up that lived a long time till some kid at a party tipped it out of its pot. And he came up with the idea for these peppery crisps. He wanted them to be very spicy and very crispy. He wanted them to have lots of different kinds of pepper in them. Sweet red peppers, red pepper flakes, cayenne, black pepper, and smoked paprika. He wanted to make the red peppers themselves crispy, but I couldn’t think how we’d do that, so we made the roasted peppers into a puree, and mixed it into a sort of pastry dough. Then we rolled the dough out quite thin, cut them into diamonds, and fried them in olive oil. They got nice and puffy and crispy, and they didn’t take too much oil to make. Everybody loved them! Isaac ate them by the fistful (and he’s a hard boy to feed!). Malcolm was a little disappointed that they weren’t spicy enough, so we’ll up the red pepper flake content next time.

I made some ginger and basil red bean dip to go with them. Very quick to make and tasty. But they were quite flavorful all on their own!!

Red bean dip

Here’s Desmond Dekker with Mother Pepper
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Isaac crackers

hazelnut crackers

Well, you may have noticed that I make many many dinners that involve savory pastries. Funnily enough, I have 2 boys. One boy always likes the filling and one boy always likes the crust. I’ve taken to making some extra crust, rolling it out, putting it on a greased tray, adding some black pepper and coarse salt, and baking until it’s toasty and crispy. My little one gobbles them up! I may have mentioned that in my philosophy of savory pastry crusts, the crust is so tasty by itself that you could make it into crackers. So that’s what I’ve been doing! I recommend it to anybody, whether you have finicky children or not. The crackers are so good! These are white pepper hazelnut crackers. A preview of coming attractions!

Here’s one of Isaac’s favorite songs…Clint Eastwood by the Gorillaz

Chickpea & spinach dumplings (with a black sesame seed crust)

chickpea & spinach dumplings

These aren’t the kind of dumplings you float in a stew! Rather, this is how I imagine the dumplings that Kung Fu Panda fights over. They have a light crust, studded with black sesame seeds, black mustard seeds and black pepper. (I love this combination just because they’re so pretty in the pan together!) And a simple filling of spinach, chickpeas, cilantro and a bit of cheese. They’re fun to make and fun to eat! I have to admit that I completely messed up this crust at first, but, proving that crust is forgiving, I added a few ingredients, gave myself a day to get over the frustration, and it worked perfectly.

Here’s Ken Parker singing Sugar Dumpling.
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