Grilled polenta with chard, black beans and pepito-sage-goat cheese sauce

Polenta with smoked gouda and sage

Polenta with smoked gouda and sage

This morning on the way to school, Isaac informed me that after tonight there will be two days to three weeks to Halloween. This boy loves Halloween, he really gets it. Not just the candy and costumes, but all of the darkness, too. He loves the skeletons and ghosts and ghouls. He’s going to be a devil captain (spoiler alert!) if anybody will give him nine dollars so he can buy the mask that Malcolm told him about which he’s never seen but is completely obsessed with. So, as devil-captain, he’s going to drive the boat that takes people to hell. Instead of “Land, ahoy!” He’s going to shout, “Hell, ahoy!” Not in school you’re not, I said. He knows. The other day he made an origami grim reaper first thing in the morning, and the whole way to school he said, “Death is upon us!” (just like it says in the origami book.) I have to admit, it’s a little disconcerting to hear my bright cheerful boy say things like this! (We’ve always said that his first album should be called “Little Mister Sunshine and His Dark Thoughts.”) But on our bike ride this morning everything slid into a different perspective. The spooky Halloween mist burned off to reveal all the birds doing their best Audobon poses in the raggedy glowing golden trees. The trees dying for the year and they’re more beautiful than ever, more fragrant than ever, and the birds are in tizzy getting themselves ready for winter. Halloween marks the real death of summer, the end of the harvest, a time of darkness and cold. But this is also a time when the spirits of the dead come back to visit us, when it’s easier for them to make their presence known. This is uncanny, in the sense that we can’t know it or understand it, but it’s not necessarily frightening. It’s all part of the cycle of death and rebirth, light and darkness–Isaac’s bright delight in the darkness of the day, the goblin-glow of jack-o-lanterns, the walnut trees dropping their seeds with gentle thumps in the dusty towpath, where they’ll split and rot and shed their sharp-sweet green fragrance, and someday grow again. Everything will come back in the spring, and Isaac will love that time, too.

Polenta, chard, black beans and pepito sauce

Polenta, chard, black beans and pepito sauce

I made polenta! Although it’s a well-known vegetarian staple, I don’t make polenta very often. I added some smoked gouda, smoked paprika, and sage, and then I put it under the broiler until it was smoky and crispy. It wasn’t grilled ON a grill, it was grilled under a grill, in the oven. Although you could try grilling it the regular way if you like. So I cut it in wedges, broiled it till crispy, and then topped it with chard sauteed with red peppers and black beans, a pumpkinseed-goat cheese sauce and some more smoked gouda. Fancy. A nice combination of earthy, smoky, sweet and tart.
Pepito goat cheese sauce

Pepito goat cheese sauce

Here’s Mikey Dread’s Pre-dawn Dub. It’s spooky!
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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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