Greens, potatoes, & tomatoes AND patatas bravas with almond aioli

Patatas bravas

My friend Laura recently posted a picture of her son jumping into a swimming pool. He looks wonderfully happy, as boys do jumping into swimming pools. You can see his shadow on the water. He’s in the air! I love photographs like that – especially old, pre-digital photographs. How thrilling it would be to get your photos back from the lab, or develop them yourself, and find this impossible shot in which you’d captured someone that you love floating in the air. Your dog, leaping happily. Your child, jumping from one thing to another, so proud of their ability. Children love to be off the ground, between one thing and another, dizzyingly suspended between worlds – jumping on a bed, jumping into water, jumping from a tree branch. It feels like capturing an ecstatic moment. In Charles Burnett’s remarkable movie Killer of Sheep, there’s one beautiful scene that shows children jumping from rooftop to rooftop over head. The whole sequence is one of the most striking I’ve seen on film. And Mos Def used a still from the movie for the cover of The Ecstatic! It’s such a perfect picture for a perfect title for a perfect album that I can’t really add anything! People and animals in mid-air! Photos that capture youth, and happiness, and motion – they catch time while it’s passing.

There’s something very summery about the photos, maybe because, like summer, they seem to last forever and they’re over in an instant. If a recipe can capture a moment of summer, and I like to think that it can, surely it would have tiny potatoes and tomatoes and basil! And here we have two very easy, very summery side dishes. One is straight out of the CSA box – beet greens, chard, green garlic, tomatoes, and tiny potatoes. Is there anything more pleasing than small potatoes, boiled whole, and tossed with butter and herbs, and seasoned with salt and plenty of pepper? We used tarragon, because it’s nice with potatoes and we have it growing in our garden. But you could use any mix of herbs you like. This is a good way to use up the beet greens when you make beet dogs. I used a mix of beet greens and chard (very pretty, both!) and made a quick summery sauce of fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic. While it’s hot you toss it with boiled potatoes, little cubes of mozzarella and pine nuts. The heat from the greens melts the cheese, and it’s all very nice. The other dish is my version of the Spanish tapas dish patatas bravas, which is crispy potatoes over a spicy tomato sauce, topped with garlicky aioli. Ever since I made almond aioli, I’ve wanted to try it with this, and it turned out really good! I made a slow-cooked tomato sofrito as the base, and you can use fresh or canned tomatoes for this.

Here’s Faye Adams Shake a Hand, from Killer of Sheep.
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Beet dogs

Beet dogs

I love sleeping. I’m not very good at it – I never have been! I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and my brain will start buzzing, and I can’t quiet it down. It’s like the little people in my brain that have the middle-of-the night shift are working over time. I used to panic that if I didn’t get enough sleep I’d go crazy. I mean, there’s only so much of being with myself that I can take! I need a break, man! Of course, panicking about not being able to sleep is a rookie mistake; all the seasoned insomniacs know that it only makes things worse. Having children has put some sleepless fears to rest. I get along fine without much sleep. Yes I’ll be tired and blurry, but it won’t last forever. But a good night’s sleep, or even a good few-hours of sleep, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I don’t consider this a lazy attitude, because with sleep comes dreams, and dreaming is one of the most active and creative activities that a mind can engage in. I love dreaming! Perhaps because I’m a filmmaker that hasn’t made a film in over a decade, I consider every dream like a short film – I’ve even have a dream that I make a film, and it’s always a perfect and beautiful film, which I lose when I wake up. David’s alarm goes off at 6, and I’ll sleep for another hour or so, and this is when you have all the best dreams – or at least you remember them best. Dreams about old clothes, dreams about flying, dreams about falling, dreams about houses that have unexpected rooms and passages, dreams about climbing trees, dreams about my dog, dreams about people I’ve never met, dreams of swimming, dreams of drowning, dreams about water, dreams about glass, dreams about darkness, dreams about school, and about schools with unexpected rooms and corridors. And lately, of course, dreams about food. This recipe came to me in a dream. And part of me, upon waking, thought, you’re not really going to try that, are you? And another part of me thought, why the hell not? These are a sort of version of vegetarian hot dogs. They’re made with beets, pinto beans, garlic, smoked paprika, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice. They have some flour and eggs in them. They’re very simple and easy to make. They look funny and a bit embarrassing while you’re making them, so if you have boys in your house I suggest you banish them from the kitchen, unless you’d like to hear rude jokes and titters. The jokes stopped when they tasted these, though! Everybody was dubious, but everybody loved them. We all ate more than we planned on. Isaac sat with his chair tilted back, one beet dog in each hand, talking and gesturing, and ate every single bite. (Being allowed to eat them with their hands was part of the appeal!) Malcolm declared them better than store-bought not-dogs. I tried them two ways. First, I just fried them in butter (which is the way I make not dogs.) Second, in a flash of inspiration, I had the idea to boil them first, like gnocchi (which they resemble in some ways!) and then fry them in butter. I thought these came out better. Less dry, with a nice sort of chewy texture. They really are unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, but in a good way. Try them! Why the hell not! They’re very easy to make. I think that the boiled ones would be grillable, too. I’ll try it and let you know!

Here’s Big Mama Thornton with Hound Dog
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