Empanadas with roasted golden beets, pistachios, raisins and greens

Golden beet, pistachio and golden raisin empanadas

Golden beet, pistachio and golden raisin empanadas

“Did you ever beam in Clio’s eyes?”
“Beam in her eyes? You mean shine a light in them?”
“No, you know, beam in them, you just look right in her face.”
“I suppose…”
“Hagrid and Dumbledore do it all the time.”
“They beam in people’s faces?”
“No, they just beam around. They’re always beaming around.”

At this point in the conversation it became obvious that Isaac was talking about a word Rowling frequently uses to describe an affectionate smile. But before that moment of comprehension, when I was in my early morning daze and enjoying the feeling of charmed confusion that Isaac’s observations often provoke, I had such a different picture of beaming. Just last week I wrote this sentence in these very virtual pages,
“I love to think about people having a light inside them, even being that light. I believe that this is something that every creature has, and as we grow and become jaded and mature, we learn to hide our light, we become closed and dark and careful. You can see it in dogs and children, though, everything they feel comes beaming out of them, unfiltered, unshaded, so bright and powerful you can warm yourself in their glow.” So as I pictured it in my mind, if you beam in someone’s eyes, you shed all the light and warmth of your love and spirit in their direction. You send all the glow of your hope and grace towards them. And probably they’re ignited by your beam, you help to kindle their beam, and then you have mingling beams, which flame higher and brighter than one beam alone. You’re a beamer, and now they’re a beamer, too. If ever I met a beamer, it’s our Isaac. From when he was very tiny, he would smile at people, even at complete strangers, and you could tell that their whole world had brightened perceptibly. He’s always beaming around, that Isaac. I’ve been feeling discouraged today, but I keep thinking about beaming. I keep thinking about people all over the world working so hard and hopefully, just to stay alive, to get by, to get ahead, to make something good; and about all of the rejection and discouragement that casts a dark shadow over everybody. And then I think about all of the beaming going on, all of the beamers in the world, spreading their lights around, breaking through the clouds with great rays and flashes of light. “For beamers came from around and counforted her, beaming that place of darkenesse wyth unspeakable cleernesse.” After all, we all have our own light, we’re all beamers.

Roasted golden beet, raisin and pistachio empanadas

Roasted golden beet, raisin and pistachio empanadas

These empanadas have a sort of golden glowing theme to them. Pretty golden beets, plump golden raisins, warm golden-brown crust. They’re a little sweet because of the raisins and beets, but they have earthy beet greens and spinach and delicious crunchy pistachios to set that off. They’re tender on the inside and nice and crunchy outside, because they have a little cornmeal in their crust. I grated the beets before I roasted them, which gives them a nice soft/crispy texture and a perfect roasty taste. My golden beets were tiny, so I decided to add some grated carrots to the roasting pan, which went nicely with everything.

Here’s Parliament with Flashlight. Everybody’s got a little light under the sun.

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Membrillo, manchego and spinach pie

Membrillo, manchego, and spinach pie

Membrillo, manchego, and spinach pie

Hello, extraordinary Ordinary friends, and welcome to your sunday playlist!! We treated ourselves, over the holidays to a few new CDs, and one of them was Stop and Listen by the Mississippi Sheiks. It’s a beautiful album! They play country blues – guitar and fiddle – but it has a real jazzy sophistication as well. I’d known about the Sheiks for a while, but I’d never heard a whole album, and we were completely delighted by it! Instrumentals, beautiful rhythms you can just imagine people stepping out to, and lovely, mysterious moody lyrics. Many of the songs will probably be familiar to you as covered by other artists, but these are the originals! One such track is Sitting on top of the World. I’ve loved this song for decades, and I wrote a story about it when I was in my early twenties. I can’t find the story or I’d share it with you – you’re spared the agony of wading through my juvenilia! I love the spirit of the song – the hopeful sense that trouble and worry are over, and he’s moving on. I’ve been thinking about these kinds of songs, and discovered that some of my all-time favorites fit this description. Maybe you’ve had hard financial times, bad relationships, or just unspecified trouble, but you’re moving past it, you’re not going to worry any more. I love the way that the songs themselves lift you out of the worry and woe. So that’s our subject this week – “I ain’t gonna worry no more.” Our poster child for this week, of course, is the song by Sleepy John Estes. Nothing says “I ain’t gonna worry no more” like a kazoo!! I’m just getting started on the playlist – I think it’s going to be a big one! And it is collaborative, so please add your own. As ever, instrumentals are welcome. If it sounds to you like the music is hope triumphing over trouble, it belongs on our list!!

And this pie – lovely flaky, savory, a touch of sweetness – is based on the classic combination of membrillo (quince paste) and manchego (salty Spanish cheese). I decided to combine them in a pie (everything tastes better in a pie!!). And I thought spinach would be nice with them, because I like spinach with an element of sweetness. The quince paste is quite sweet, so a little goes a long way, and be sure to chop it finely. I used my membrillo scallops. If you don’t have time to make membrillo or can’t find it, you could substitute guava paste, which is available in most grocery stores. Or you could leave it out altogether and the pie would still be delicious!!I made the pie in the shape of a rectangle, because I was thinking of the Spanish empanada gallega, but you could make it in a circle, or oval, or any shape you like!!

membrillo manchego pie

membrillo manchego pie

Here’s Our Playlist!!

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Pumpkin and black bean empanadas

We went to the Princeton art museum this week. In the downstairs rooms, they have sculptures from all over the world – from Japan, China, the Pacific Northwest, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Mayan, Incan – the room is full of spirits, pinned and labeled and living behind glass. Beautiful monsters that protect tombs, strange animals that protect the home or the harvest, odd creatures that have some function inexplicable to us today. The place is buzzing with life and mystery. My boys were very inspired! Malcolm has been drawing spirit wisps, spirit goblins and spirit angels for days. He told me that he sees spirit wisps all the time when we drive through the countryside on dark nights. They appear as flashes of blue in the trees. As I’ve said in the past, I love the idea of spirits, and I see spirits everywhere, so I’m delighted by the sight of the boys next to each other on the couch, bent over a table, scribbling furiously in little books and describing the powers that the spirits have. Inspired by totem poles and masks of the pacific northwest, and by the time of year, Isaac drew this pumpkin man. He’s made up of faces!

Pumpkin Man


Pumpkins are so perfectly suited to legend and myth. And they’re so delicious! They’re among my favorite foods. And empanadas are among my favorite foods. So together…well, it’s a perfect combination. I really loved these. They’re seasoned with sage and sweet spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. They’re comforting with melted cheese. They’re crispy with a masa harina crust. I made a zingy tomato sauce to go with them, spicy with jalapenos, and tart with lime.

Here’s Feel the Spirit by the Ethiopians.
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