Crostini with roasted red pepper/hazelnut sauce, capers, and olives

Red pepper and hazelnut crostini

Red pepper and hazelnut crostini

Malcolm yelled “Good luck!” to the bald eagle. Before work on Sunday, the first and only really lovely spring day this year, Malcolm and Clio and I went for a “run.” It was more of a fast walk, because he’d just eaten pancakes, but that suited me exactly. We came to the place where a bald eagle had built a nest across the canal. A big, random-looking pile of sticks on the top of a huge metal tower.
The tower last year, before the nest was built. What are these things called?

The tower last year, before the nest was built. What are these things called?


I hadn’t actually seen an eagle there, but I stopped to look every time we passed. This time I saw a big hulking bird farther down the tower, and I asked Malcolm if it had a white head, because I couldn’t see that far, and it could have been a vulture. It did! It did have a white head! We walked back on the other side of the canal, to get a closer look. Malcolm was talking cheerfully about his schemes for the future, and I was thinking how good it felt to go for a walk with him again, and hear his zany chatter, after a long, shut-in winter. When we got to the tower, the eagle was gone, but we stood for a moment looking up into the bright blue sky. You could feel the earth getting warmer all around us, waking up and coming to life. And then the eagle flew up out of the river, and landed very low on the tower, where we could see it perfectly. It was a stunning moment, it’s not an exaggeration to say that it felt as if my heart soared up with the eagle. We watched it for a while, sitting there so beautiful and impossibly large and completely cool, and then Malcolm yelled, “Good luck,” and we walked home. It felt so sunny, to hear him say that, to think about Malcolm encouraging this huge unruffled raptor. It seems so precarious to try to raise chicks on the top of a tower that holds power lines, in a world full of people, it feels like such a hopeful thing to do. I’ve been feeling vaguely anxious lately about equally vague events that may-or-may not happen. Worried about the future more than usual, troubled by time passing though I know there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. It feels good to take a walk, and see the eagles and the geese sitting on their nests in the sunshine, everybody is doing what they have to do, getting on with their lives, waking with the spring. Isaac recently showed me the sign for “All you need.” You hold your hands together in front of you, and then spread them to your sides. It’s a beautiful gesture, particularly as performed by a serious eight-year-old. It seems like a good gesture to make when you’re feeling anxious, to remind yourself of what you have, and that all you can do is what you have to do, and try feel good about what you’re working on and where you’re going. It’s a gesture like spreading wings in the sunshine.

Isaac likes crostini. I made these last week after he’d been sick for a few days and eaten nothing but toast. These were like a step up from toast, and Isaac ate quite a few. The sauce itself is inspired by romesco sauce, and it’s sweet smoky nuttiness goes well with the sharp saltiness of capers and olives. It made a nice meal with a big salad.

Here’s All I Need by Radiohead.
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Summer squash “jam” with olives and pine nuts

summer squash jam with olives and pine nuts.

summer squash jam with olives and pine nuts.

Well alright! Wh’apen? Hey ya! Gabba gabba hey! I’m not sure what you’d call these sayings…catch phrases, maybe? But they’re all the titles to some very good songs, and they’re the subject of this week’s playlist. The rules are quite flexible, but what we’re looking for is some collection of words that stands on it’s own in a conversation or greeting, that’s more than just the title of a song. Here’s the start of the playlist. I’m sure there are a million more, but I’m late for work!

This is a good dish for people who are looking for something different to do with summer squash. It’s not just sliced and sautéed, it’s grated first, and then cooked for a while with scallions and fresh herbs, so that it turns soft and saucy, almost like a jam. Then olives and tomatoes and pine nuts are added for a bit of texture and a kick of flavor. This would be nice on the side like a condiment, almost, but I think it’s best on toasts or crackers or spread on crusty bread.

Here’s that playlist again.

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Roasted grape tomato crostini, and penne with zucchini, spinach, olives, capers and almonds

Roasted grape tomato crostini

Roasted grape tomato crostini

A while back I was standing in the kitchen at work waiting for food to run, and I chatted with the food runner, who was standing in the same place with the same intent. For some reason, I mentioned to her that you’re not supposed to be sarcastic in front of children because it confuses them. She laughed and said, “your kids must be confused all the time.” Well! This gave me pause. I hadn’t spoken often with the runner or even said much in her presence. How could she know about the sarcasm? Had my inner-sarcasm somehow seeped through the cracks of my professional and friendly demeanor? Because I don’t think you’re supposed to be sarcastic in front of bosses or customers either–they get confused, too. I started to think about what it means to be sarcastic in front of your children. It’s true that my boys get confused when you say something they know isn’t true. When Isaac walks into a room, don’t say, “Well, who are you? I’ve never met you before,” because he hates it as much as if your words could actually negate his existence. (Although apparently he’s allowed to say, “Mom, my right arm is attached to my left hand and my left hand is attached to my right arm, and both my arms are put on backwards!” and I’m supposed to take this alarming information all in stride.) Honestly, children ask a lot of questions. Sometimes you don’t know the answer, sometimes it’s too complicated, and sometimes it’s too dull, and like Calvin’s dad, you find yourself presenting a different version of the world. So when they ask you why the subway is so much hotter than the street, you might find yourself answering, “because it’s closer to the fiery earth’s core,” instead of the actual answer–that it’s the cumulative temperature of all the pee that’s been peed there, which can’t cool and evaporate so far under ground, because this is obviously too scientific an explanation for little minds. But surely this is just using your imagination to present an alternative view of the world, and surely the world is always shifting and mutable anyway, so that there are no constant and correct answers. Obviously, if your child is uncomfortable you abandon the joke, but most of the time they recognize a good story, and if nothing else, they learn to become very skeptical of everything they’re told, and that can’t be a bad thing. I did a little research on the subject of sarcasm and children. Apparently, you’re not supposed to be sarcastic at all, in front of anybody, ever, because it’s cruel and dishonest. Well! (again) this gave me even more pause, because I love sarcastic humor, but I abhor cruelty and dishonesty. Sarcasm comes from the Greek meaning to tear or cut the flesh, and I realize this does sound cruel, but like anything else in life, it’s how you use it. You can use sarcasm to be snarky and bullyish and make people feel bad about themselves, certainly. But why would you? You can also use sarcasm to cope with an unpleasant situation, to make fun of yourself, to express something that you’re not allowed to come out and say. It’s a coping mechanism, and it’s a tool I’d like my children to posses. I always admire people that can disarm a tense or nasty confrontation with a joke. At its most effective, sarcasm can demonstrate the absurdity of a predicament and help you to change it or wade through it. And, far from being dishonest, sarcasm, like all humor, is a way to speak truths that otherwise couldn’t be spoken, that wouldn’t be accepted in any other form. With sarcasm and irony you can turn the world on its head, and sometimes that needs to happen. So I’m not going to teach my boys that sarcasm is bad, I’m going to teach them that pettiness and cruelty are bad, however they’re expressed. And when they each inevitably develop a sarcastic sense of humor (they’re sarcastic on their father’s and mother’s side, so it’s only a matter of time), I’ll be glad to step back from the world with them, have a chuckle at the absurdity of it all, and forge back into life better prepared to shape it the way we like it.

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

I’m combining these two recipes because we ate them together, but they’d each be fine on their own. They’re both super-simple, so this is a nice summer meal. I roasted some grape tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic and herbs (use fresh if you have them!) and piled this on little toasts spread with goat cheese. That’s it! A nice combination of flavors, though. And then I made a stir fry of zucchini with spinach, capers, olives, and topped the whole thing with almonds. The boys ate it with pasta as a sort of pasta primavera and I ate it over greens as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

Here’s Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers with Hyena Stomp. Need a laugh? This has plenty.
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Deconstructed tapenade (With castelvetrano olives and french feta)

Deconstructed tapenade

Malcolm has standardized testing all week. These last few weeks he’s been working on essay composition. I decided to write this using the methods he’s been taught. Here we go…
“My goodness, look at those!” She cried, jumping back in surprise. [Narrative grabber] “Castelvetrano olives! I never thought I’d find them in a market so close to my home.” She bought as many as she could afford, and then her eye was caught by a creamy white cheese. “What’s that?” she queried. [Try not to use the words “said” or “asked”]
“Well,” responded the vendor, a short, pleasant woman with dark brown hair, [describe all the characters in detail], “It’s French feta cheese. Would you like a taste?”
It was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten. [hyperbole] Creamy and juicy, with a nice salty edge, but much milder than Greek feta. She counted out her coins and bought a small slice.

There are several reasons I like castelvetrano olives. One is that they’re very pretty. They’re as green as serpents, as bright as spring grass, and as shiny as emeralds. [similes!] They taste so good, too. They’re have a very vegetable-y taste, they’re fresh and buttery and mildly salty. [List reasons and support with details and examples] I thought the feta would go very well with them, and as I drove home with little packets of each on the seat next to me, my mind whirred with the possibilities. I wanted to make a tapenade, but not puréed – I wanted to retain the taste and texture and pretty colors of the olives. I thought of all the things I could add. Tart cherries would add a touch of sweetness, chopped hazelnuts would add a bit of crunch, and tarragon and chervil would lend their intriguing lemon/anise zing. Plus they’re half of that band “Les fines herbes.” They’re the bassist and the drummer, I think.

To conclude, I love castelvetrano olives, and I was surprised to find them at a market near my home. I made them into a chunky sort of tapenade that had a lovely mix of flavors and textures. It was delicious on small toasted pieces of baguette. We ate every little bit, and I was tempted to lick the bowl! Who knows what we’ll have for dinner tonight? [The conclusion should restate what’s already been said, in a slightly different way, but try to leave the reader wanting more with a takeaway ending.]

Here’s Chunky but Funky by Heavy D, to listen to while you chop olives for your chunky tapenade.
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