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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Red bean, potato and pine nut tacos…and croquettes

Red bean, potato, and pine nut croquettes

Red bean, potato, and pine nut croquettes

We woke up this morning to grey and stormy skies, torrential rains, thunder, flood warnings. Everything was dark and slaty as far as we could see; grey upon grey upon grey. I’ve always liked a day like this in the summer time, a day to stay inside, to read and write and eat chocolate. (Of course that was before the boys and the stir craziness and the cabin feverish daziness.) I’ve always seen a lot of beauty in a grey day, and this seems like a good time to finish my small series of discussions of kitchen sink films, by talking about Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner. It’s a beautiful film despite the relentless smoky greyness of the industrial landscape, despite the gloomy wintery bleakness. The film tells the story of Colin, a poor boy from Nottingham played with characteristic brilliance by Tom Courtenay. He doesn’t have a lot of options in life, he doesn’t have a lot of hope, and he takes advantage of an open window to pilfer a cash box. It’s the rain that gives him away, washing all of the money out of its hiding place in a drain pipe to collect around his feet while he’s being interrogated by a policeman. He finds himself in a boy’s reformatory, and his only relief from the drudgery and degradation is running. He runs to escape, but you feel as though he runs to figure things out, too. He finds the space to think, in the solitude, in the regular rhythm of his feet. He finds joy and solace, and he finds enough hope and self-respect to quietly take a stand against the repressive authorities and the brutally condescending public school boys he’s pitted against in a race. As he comes to understand his life and his place in the world while he runs, so do we, we share in his memories to see what brought him to this place, and we share a bleak sort of hopefulness for his future. He might be stuck in a place he doesn’t want to live, but at least he can live with himself and his decisions.

Red bean, potato, pine nut tacos

Red bean, potato, pine nut tacos

This is two two two meals in one! I made tacos with potatoes and green peppers and tomatoes from the farm, with some crispy diced tomatoes and pine nuts. They were somewhat smoky, with smoked paprika and chipotle puree. We ate them with warm tacos, basmati rice, grated cheese, and avocados mixed with cherry tomatoes. The next day I combined the leftover bean mixture with the leftover rice to make croquettes, which were almost better than the tacos themselves!

Here’s Belle and Sebastian’s The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Runner. One of my favorites!

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