Crepe stack with roasted mushrooms, romesco, spinach, and ricotta

Crepe Stack

Crepe Stack

The other day on the way to school Isaac said, “You know how we’re supposed to be as jolly on Christmas day as Clio is every day?…” as if it was a truth, universally acknowledged, a rule that we all accept. He is, of course, speaking of Clio’s tendency to love everybody she meets, even if they’re complete strangers (unless they’re wearing hats or sunglasses. Very supsicious! Very suspicious! What are they hiding?) He was talking about the fact that she makes you happy because she’s so happy to see you. She’s so easily pleased with small things…walks, a bowl of kibble, a warm lap. She’s not afraid to show she loves you, and this makes her nice to be around. Isaac’s kind of like that, himself, all year long. And so, in the light of all this Christmas Jollity, I’d like to propose a new business plan, based on this: “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” According to the specifications of my new business plan, the curriculum of our business schools will change somewhat. We’ll have courses examining the philosophical and practical applications of charity and generosity. We’ll learn how to combat ignorance and want. We’ll learn to share what we have and we’ll learn that we don’t want more than we need. Internships will be at shelters and soup kitchens or anywhere that people are in need of aid and support. Business acumen will describe the ability to sense when a person needs kindness or encouragement. Big business will mean that everybody is acting together as a community of epic proportions to spread happiness and good will. And even when we mind our own business, we’ll be minding the people around us, because they are our business! And business as usual will be benevolence, jolliness and cheer the whole year long; the whole year will be “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people around them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

It’s a crepe stack!! It’s layers of peppery crepes sandwiched with romesco sauce, roasted mushrooms, sautéed spinach, and ricotta mixed with mozzarella, eggs and artichokes. I thought it was very tasty…lots of nice flavors together. It looks quite complicated by it’s really not hard to make. You can, of course, alter the fillings that you use, and put anything you like in between the crepes. You could also make this as a lasagna, layering all the fillings between cooked lasagna noodles, if you don’t feel like making the crepes.

Here’s Tom Waits with God’s Away on Business.

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Crepes with pretty roasted roots, castelvetrano olives, and black truffle butter

beet-crepesThe other night I was listening to Isaac read before bed. Bit of Dr. Seuss. He came to this passage:

    And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win? And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind. You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

Well! It struck me as very poignant (Yes! I am going to use that word in every post!) to listen to these oddly beautiful words read in Isaac’s sweet voice, and think about what they mean for each of us at our different times of life. Isaac’s future is so full of decisions, large and small. He can go anywhere, do anything, be friends with anyone! He’ll have to figure out the way the world works, what people expect of him, what risks are worth taking, which people worth meeting. And knowing my Isaac, he won’t race at a break-necking pace, he’ll wind slowly through weirdish wild space, singing an amiable song, and drawing pictures of the strange creatures he meets there. I don’t feel so vexed about some of these things any more. I’m not all that worried about how much I’ll lose or win or the right way to get in. I do think about the windows, though – some lighted, most darked. I realize that I’ve always thought about the world this way – as if I’m looking in at other people’s windows, and I hope the dark ones are full of sweet moonlight and silvery shadows and peaceful dreams, and I hope the lit ones are aglow with friendship and warmth. I do think about the weirdish wild space. I do hope the weirdness and wildness are the inspired, creative, inventive, kind, and not the reckless why-would-a-person-do-that-to-themselves-or-anyone-else kind. I worry about my boys going through the unmarked streets and I wish I could give them a map and a lantern. I guess I’ve been thinking about what it means to be in a slump, to be discouraged. (I searched for the word “discouraged” in The Ordinary archives – it’s a frequent visitor! I must be a moody old cuss.) To be discouraged means to be without courage, and when I’m in a slump, that’s what it feels like. I don’t mind a lazy or unmotivated spell, I suppose that’s part of the cycle of our day-to-day life. But it feels bad to be afraid to try. Afraid of failure, or afraid that it’s just not worth the effort. Honestly my ambitions are so small, it seems a silly thing to even worry about! To make a nice meal, write something I feel good about, be patient and cheerful with the boys…just a small handful of little things, but they fall through my fingers, sometimes, and I drop them in the darkness of the wild spaces. Of course, the opposite of discourage is encourage, which means to give courgage. Just thinking about the meaning of it lifts me up a bit! It’s like the word “comfort,” which means to give strength, it’s a powerful word! Comfort and encouragement aren’t just like a pill to make you feel better for a little while, they’re like good sustaining food, that gives you the strength and courage to go on today, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. And the strength and courage could come from anywhere around you – from the people in the lit windows, from discovering that you’ve gone into the right place and turned the right direction, from discovering that you just don’t care about sneaking in the back, you’ll walk right through the front door, or you’ll find another place, because there’s always another place, from walking to school with an Isaac who has new bright blue sneakers on his feet and a piece of cinnamon toast in his hand. Thinking about that lifts me up a little bit more. “This enables the birds to run lightly over the floating leaves of aquatic plants, by so much increase of breadth of support that they do not slump in.”

Golden beets, castelvetrano olives and truffle butter

Golden beets, castelvetrano olives and truffle butter

Another way out of a slump, of course, besides running over it on little bird’s feet, is to try something new and inspiring. This weekend David bought a small and wildly expensive tub of black truffle butter. He also bought some beautiful golden beets, and pretty carrots – pale yellow, bright crimson. And my favorite castelvetrano olives, as green as spring leaves. The whole time I was slumping my way through my discouraging job, I had the rosy picture of these ingredients in the back of my mind. When I got home I cooked them up like this…I roasted the carrots, beets and a couple of parsnips very simply with olive oil and rosemary. And then I tossed them while warm with a few spoonfuls of truffle butter and a handful of olives. I grated some sharp cheddar to be melted by their warmth, and made very peppery crepes to wrap it all together, because it’s fun to eat with your hands. Bright and warm and sustaining. If you happen not to have black truffle butter or castelvetrano olives, you could easily substitute regular butter and a bit of roasted garlic and kalamata olives (or any you happen to like!)

Here’s What’s Golden by Jurassic 5. What’s golden? My beets, that’s what!

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Pumpkinseed sage sauce & smokey masa harina crepes

Pumpkinseed sage sauce

I’m really taken with this sauce! I wish I had better words to describe food, because I’d love to tell you what this tastes like. Though I think perhaps the reason I like it so much is that it has a mysterious sort of flavor. That’s the pumpkinseeds! I think they’re just lovely. I was wondering if their indescribable taste is “umami.” That’s the fifth basic taste. It’s described as a “pleasant savory flavor,” quite distinct from salty, sweet, sour and bitter. That’s how this sauce tastes to me! It’s very simple and very easy to put together. It’s creamy, though vegan, and is actually another example of a nut sauce, which I seem to go on and on about. (I call them “tarator sauces,” but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.) I think the sage is just perfect with the pumpkinseeds (they’re similar colors, no wonder they taste good together!) And the cayenne adds just a little kick to what is quite a mild sauce. It’s extremely versatile! Good as a dip for crackers, chips, or veg. Good as a sauce for roasted vegetables. Or a sauce for enchiladas or tacos, or pasta.

And these crepes. I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to write about masa harina again for a while, a long while. I didn’t want to talk about it so much that people got tired of hearing about it. But if you cast your memory back, you might recall that I had some trouble making tortillas without a tortilla press. Well, a good cook doesn’t blame her equipment (or lack thereof!), she just reinvents the recipe.

Masa harina crepes

So I applied the cheater’s treatment to it – the same one I used to make socca more simple. I added a couple of eggs. It helps to hold them together and make them more flippable, and because it’s a batter rather than a dough, you don’t need to roll them out. So they’re still gluten-free, but I’m afraid they’re not vegan any more. I added some smoked paprika, because that’s another ingredient I can’t resist using, and it goes so well with the sage & pumpkinseed flavors.

We had these with my every kind of favorite meal, as Isaac would say. We had fat balsamic roasted musrhooms (with shallots); french lentils; some lightly dressed baby spinach (olive oil and balsamic); some tinsy crispy roasted potatoes with rosemary; and some grated mozzarella cheese. You take whatever you like, and use the crepes to wrap around little bundles of delicious food. Plus we ate at the picnic table outside, which makes me very happy!!

Here’s The Sage by The Chico Hamilton Quintet. So strange and beautiful!
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