Well, I believe that there are certain flavors that go together perfectly, as well. When you taste them they just make sense, and they hum in your mouth. Frequently they grow together and ripen together, which almost makes you agree with Piero della Francesca’s assessment that there’s some divine pattern accounting for all of the harmonies in the world. Tomatoes and basil, for example. Perfect. And I like to think about my piano teacher’s idea of introducing one element of flavor that’s surprising and unexpected, and makes all of the other happily harmonizing flavors more exciting. Some flavors hum along together, some contrast pleasantly, to create a beat. Personally, I love chard and french lentils together. And I love chard and some sweet and tangy fruit. And I love them all together in a crispy crust. I really liked these empanadas! It’s one of my favorite meals I’ve made in a while. I combined chard, which had been sauteed with a bit of garlic and hot red pepper, with lentils, which had been cooked with nigella seeds and sage. I added some caramelized onions, for sweetness. And I added a spoonful of quince jam. I used queso blanco & mozzarella to make everything nice and melty, and bring it all together. I’d read that in argentina they make empanadas with quince paste and salty white cheese, and I guess this is my version of that. We ate these with my version of patatas bravas, which I’ll tell you about in a little while, and, I’m not saying it was a masterpiece, or anything, but it was very pleasing meal to have in out little green backyard on a cool summer evening.
Here’s LL Cool J (and Adam Horowitz!) with I Need a Beet
It’s a discombobulating experience, visiting Monticello. So much beauty, and cleverness – so many good ideas being exchanged, and important work being done. And literally hidden beneath all of it, so much pain and suffering.
Sorry to go on about it! It’s on my mind. I did buy some seeds in the gift shop, to plant in our garden. I’m very excited about our garden this year. We have about 8 kinds of basil, and that’s what I used to make this dish! Back in the Ye Olde Days, they used to have “potage gardens,” and the fruits and vegetables grown there would be used to make potage, a thick stew or porridge. The potage combined all of the different elements of a meal in one bowl, and was a staple in the diet of peasants. This particular potage contains 4 kinds of lentils – beluga, french, red, and split moong. The beauty of this, is that when they’re all cooked together, the quick-cooking varieties (I’m talking to you, moong & red!) melt into a creamy background, while the slower-cooking types (french and beluga) remain a bit al dente. So you have a nice mix of textures. If you can’t find beluga lentils or split moong dal, you could make this with french and red, which are both fairly easy to locate. I roasted the cauliflower separately, because I like that smoky flavor, and then pureed half with broth, and added half whole. This is quite a thick, satisfying dish, and it’s flavorful as well – seasoned with ginger, smoked paprika and tons of fresh basil. It’s funny, though – lentils are so pretty when they’re raw, and so drab when cooked. They make up for it with supreme tastiness, though!
Did I mention that we recently watched the Claude Berri film, The Two of Us? Oh, I did? I’ve told you that I loved the film, and some of the reasons why. But there was more to it than that. The film spoke to me, about things I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks. I saw myself in some of the characters in a way I don’t usually with most films. I wonder if everybody feels that way when they watch The Two of Us, because the film is so human and honest that it feels universal? Such specific things resonated, though. An old, old dog, loved more than anything in the world. A bright, energetic 8-year-old boy, who doesn’t quite understand why you’re upset by the way he acts. The father’s anxious-angry-loving face was so dear and familiar. And then there were the animals. Pepe is a vegetarian. Not a common or popular position in the French countryside at the time, it would seem. The rest of the populace was trying to find a way to scrounge some meat during the deprivations of WWII, but he proudly announced that he only ate vegetables. By choice. Not because that’s all the rations allowed. His wife raised, killed, and cooked rabbits. But to Pepe, that wasn’t an option, because he knew the rabbits. He loved the rabbits. Exactly in the way he loved Claude, though he was a jew, because he knew him. It reminded me of the film The Shooting Party, in which a parallel is made between children who save their pet duck from a duck hunt, as though she’s the only duck that matters, because she’s their duck, and the fact that the accidental shooting of an old man is only important because they know him. All this in the context of WWI, in which surely it was only possible to kill other humans in fear and ignorance, because you didn’t know them, and they were the enemy. In the way Claude, the little boy, would have been to Pepe, before he knew him.
Anyway…I wanted to make something to go with my couronne bread, and I decided to make something Pepe might eat. So I made a ragout, which as I understand it is a stew substantial enough to be a meal. This was hearty, because of the potatoes and french lentils, but they weren’t the stars of the show. We also had zucchini, broccoli rabe and tomatoes, and white wine and capers for brightness. So it had a certain lightness, despite being completely satisfying. Not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, but right up their with the tastiest.
Here’s Nina Simone with Turning Point. A devastating, complex song, told with the simplicity of a child’s voice. A revelation of prejudice that makes it all seem so idiotic and unnecessary.
Break it down, and this isn’t hoity toity at all. It’s two of my favorite flavors together – roasted mushrooms & french lentils – mixed with ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, a bit of cheese and some herbs. And all wrapped in a peppery, flaky crust. Now doesn’t that sound good? And healthy? This isn’t hard to make, and most of the components can be made ahead and saved until you’re good and ready for them. I believe there are pans devoted to the preparation of patés. I don’t have one of those! I do have a nice loaf pan from ikea. It’s a little longer and thinner than your average loaf pan. In truth, any such loaf pan would do. This serves quite a few people, and it does seem special, so it would make a nice dinner party meal. But we had a nice weeknight dinner of it- thick slices of this concoction, roasted rosemary potatoes and a big salad.
Times are hard. We know this because we hear it every time we turn on the radio. It’s been a rough year. It’s been a rough couple of years. Well, I’ve always enjoyed trying to make the most of the food I have – trying to think of something inventive to make with the contents of my cupboard, and trying to use every bit of food I cook, in one form or another. This hearkens back to the way people cooked during the first depression. The food was often vegetarian, and people found ingenious ways to stretch it to feed as many as possible, or to use simple leftovers to make a meal so good even meat-eaters didn’t miss their meat. Left-over mashed potatoes would become croquettes, leftover beans would go in a stew. Some of the most memorable dishes from around the world were initially devised as money-saving ingredient-stretching feasts. Over the years, I’ve developed a scheme for using leftovers creatively. It’s not just the dishes that are elegant in this scheme – although you’ll feel like you were dining at William Powell’s night club – it’s the way everything fits together. If, say, you make a big batch of french lentils on Saturday, and you make a dish with rice on Sunday…on Monday you can make a delicious mujadara-like dish. Add one beaten egg, and you have a tasty mujadara egg-fried rice. The flavorings are sage, rosemary and thyme, and are enhanced with shallots and onions. Very satisfying! On the night I made this, I also cooked some potatoes in a clay pot, and made brown-butter-roasted cauliflower, and a simple salad of arugula and goat cheese. Everything tasted wonderful together. And the roasted cauliflower and potatoes will show up another day in a soup, (stay tuned!) which will take a fraction of the time to cook, because they’re already roasted!
In which we outline a cooking plan for the new depression.
I’ve been reading up on foods that are considered lucky eating for New Year’s Eve. Seems that legumes and greens are consumed throughout the world in various guises. Fascinating! Green french lentils are deemed especially lucky in many countries. As it happens, french lentils and greens are among my favorite foods!! Fancy that! And round foods are also seen as fortuitous, for a variety of reasons. I happened to have a big box of large white mushrooms, so I decided to stuff them with a mixture of french lentils, greens, and cheese. And I made a sauce with the lentil-cooking broth and the leftover lentils. Yummy!
And here’s Grace Cathedral Hill, a beautiful song by the Decemberists. It’s about New Year’s Day, and it’s a lovely story of a day when nothing in particular happens, but everything feels significant. I love those days! And one of my favorite parts (of course it’s food-related) is when they’re both a little hungry so they go to buy a hot dog. It’s not the best meal you ever had, but you remember it, and it becomes important, and it fills you up when you need it.
recipe after the … jump!