Chard, chickpea, and olive tart (with a citrus-quince glaze)

Chickpea & olive tart

Well, I was a little cranky yesterday! I had a small tantrum because we couldn’t find some place we used to go bird watching. I yelled at the boys everywhere we went. I yelled at them for making me yell at them. I yelled at them as we bought them giant cookies. And they weren’t being bad! They were happy, and noisy, and getting along with each other. But Isaac has this squeal – it’s very high-pitched, and it goes right through you. He resorts to it whether he’s very happy, indignant, or actually hurt. It signals panic either way. And Malcolm was being sweet and good, but why can’t he just walk? Why must he climb walls, jump off benches, press Isaac’s shriek & giggle buttons? Why! By evening-time I had to sit in the back yard and watch squirrels to try to rid myself of my cranky-induced headache. But I wouldn’t tell anybody about that! I’d talk about the good things – the Savory Spice shop we went to, which was completely wonderful! How sweet it was to see the boys excited about smelling all the spices! The beautiful place we found for a walk! The tart that I made for dinner, which I had literally dreamed of, which was a little odd, and which I might not have made if it wasn’t my birthday! Everybody being together on a beautiful day! How I got a beautiful new golden-amber bakelite watch and some perfectly claire-y pens and a blank notebook, which is the most inspiring thing ever! (From Modern Love)

I started watching a Masterpiece Theater version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray the other day, while I was exercising. (I jump around the living room holding two cans of beans while I catch up with The Daily Show on the computer. Isaac thinks this is hilarious! “You’re holding two cans of beans!!”) I love late Victorian novels – they’re so well-crafted and beautifully novelly. It was pretty well-done. It had Prince Caspian in it, and Mr. Darcy! And some guy named Ben who was familiar. It was a little dark and gloomy for early-morning-exercise-viewing. It had a lot of shocking Victorian nudity. (Masterpiece Theater wasn’t like that when I was a lass! When I was a lass, characters from televised versions of literary classics had the decency to keep their oddly-eighties-looking costumes on, thank you very much!!) When I thought about how cranky I was yesterday, but how I wouldn’t write about that part of the day, I had an idea for a modern version of Dorian Gray. What if there was somebody who had one of those mommy-blogs, or an advice column about parenting. What if they talked about their own lives in glowing, unrealistic terms. And then…all of the bad stuff they don’t write about manifests itself doubly in their real lives, until they all descend into a spiralling vortex of depravity and despair!! Bom bom bommmmmmmmmm.

So! This tart! I was quite excited about it. I had thought of having a tart with a base of chard and goat cheese and fresh basil, all mixed together till smooth and bright green. This would be poured into a crust which contained some zesty lemon zest and white pepper. And it would all be topped with chickpeas and olives, which would become, as it were, roasted, as they cooked. And poured over the whole thing would be a provocative glaze of quince jelly, lemon & lime zest, and lemon and lime juice, for a sweet/tart surprise. It was surprising, and I thought it was quite good – very summery. I mixed some sumac and smoked paprika in with the chickpeas, because I had just bought them at the savory spice store, and I was little-kid-excited about it. Isaac said he tasted three layers of flavor, which I thought was very bright and perceptive for a six-year-old.

I also roasted some potatoes, and we had them with lots of pepper and my new alderwood-smoked sea salt. (SMOKED SEA SALT!!) it was delicious!!

Here’s Bob Marley singing Corner Stone (a rare acoustic version!) I’ve been listening to this a lot lately, driving around, getting lost looking for bird watching places. I love it so much!
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Arugula salad with apricots, pecans and french feta

As you are no doubt aware, I am the esteemed authoress of a wildly popular series of books about the marked similarities to be found in the writings of Tolstoy and the rappings of many rappers. Weighty volumes. I am, of course, also the producer of the soon-to-be-a-smash hip hopera version of War and Peace (would you look at the date on that? I’m making very…slow…progress on this novel!) Okay, I’m prepared to admit that none of that is true. However, ever since I spoke of Dostoyevsky and Talib Kweli yesterday, I’ve had a yen to chat about these same similarities. Which I will do after the jump. You’ve been warned!
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Lettuce – pumpkinseed pesto AND lettuce, hazelnut & white bean bisque

Or, two ways to prepare lettuce that don’t involve the word “salad.”

Lettuce, white bean, hazelnut soup

We’re watching Blues Brothers with the boys. It’s rated R, but we can’t remember why, so we’re watching it cautiously, with the remote nearby. Is it the non-stop swearing and the incredibly destructive car chases? Pshaw, my boys are used to that! We drive recklessly through a couple of malls a day around here. Actually, it might be a little rough for them, but I think they’re well aware that they can’t say all of the words that they’re hearing and that they can’t drive cars through store windows. What a pleasure to watch them watch the dancing and the singing, and all of the wonderful, contagiously happy music. It’s such a joyful movie! And I’d forgotten how sweet it is, in parts, and how good it looks. There are a few moments that have such a lovely, quiet grace about them, in the midst of all the raucousness. And, oddly, these moments seem to involve toast. In one scene, Elwood has just toasted a piece of bread in his small room in the home for itinerant men. His brother fell asleep, and he covered him with a blanket, and then sat in the window and looked out at the trains rumbling by in a watery blue light. Beautiful! Now, I love toast. I think it’s such a comforting, restorative food. The very smell of bread toasting can make you feel better. And I happen to have made a meal last night that revolved around toast! And lettuces, lots and lots of lettuces. We got about 7 heads of red leaf lettuce from the CSA, and I’m actually very excited about it. I love salad, as I’ve said many a time, but I also like the challenge of turning lettuce into a non-salad meal. We happened to eat two in the same meal last night, but they were both very tasty, so nobody seemed to mind.

Lettuce pesto

I made a soup with lettuce, hazelnuts and white beans. I seasoned it with tarragon, chervil, and lovage, and it was very flavorful. It was smooth, but not velvety, although you could certainly make it that way if you liked. I floated a small, plain toast in it, and it was delicious. The other non-salad lettuce item on the agenda was a lettuce, pumpkinseed, goatcheese pesto. It turned out very nice! Much milder in flavor than a traditional basil pesto, but it has the lovely, indefinable flavor of toasted pumpkinseeds, and a bit of creamy tang provided by goat cheese. We ate it with toast (again!) and a little bruschetta topping made from tomatoes, basil, french feta, and capers.

Here’s Shake A Tail Feather, with the Blues Brothers and Ray Charles. Doesn’t it make you happy?

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Thin-sliced potatoes, 3 ways

Potatoes with rosemary, sage & smoked paprika

This is my 300th post! Considering I post a recipe almost every time, and sometimes more than one per post, that’s gotta be nearly 300 recipes. Phew. I’m simultaneously giving myself a little pat on the back and wondering why I spend so much time on this! For my 300th post, I’ll talk about something simple and enduringly good. Potatoes. I love potatoes. I don’t remember always loving them, but in the last few years, I feel like I want to eat them every night! They’re so comforting, and versatile, and they have a wonderful, subtle flavor all their own, but they’re so generously accommodating to other flavors. I like them roasted – any size. Cut into large chunks and tossed with rosemary; cut into nice thin roasted slices; cut into tinsy pieces, and then roasted till they’re little crispy nuggets. I love them mashed. Mashed potatoes are as fun to play with as they are to eat. You can make mountains and moats and volcanoes, with little pools and rivulets of melted butter. I’m something of a mashed potato purist, (butter, salt, pepper) but tarragon-roasted garlic mashed potatoes are very nice, too. I crave french fries, sometimes. I don’t drink beer, very often, but sometimes I like the idea of going to a bar in the afternoon and having a big plate of french fries and a pint of beer. David and I have a small tradition of going into New York and finding a place to have french fries, hummus, and a glass of red wine. There’s nothing better after a day of walking and looking. I don’t have a deep fryer, but I oven-roast french fries from time to time. I like them with a savory vanilla sauce. It’s my tribute to fries and a vanilla milkshake.

One of my favorite ways to eat potatoes is to slice them quite thin (1/4 inch-ish) parboil them, and then layer them in a dish with herbs, herb-infused milk, or butter, and bake them till they’re crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside. In this scenario, the possibilities are endless. You can use any herbs or spices that you like. You can always add cheese, if you’re in the mood. One elaborate version is this with sofrito and fennel. I’m going to suggest a few versions here, but your imagination and your taste are the limit.

I’ve never heard this song before! Bob Marley sings Milkshake and Potato Chips!! How wonderful!
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Roasted beet & fiddlehead tart

Roasted beet and fiddlehead tart

Here at the test kitchens of The Ordinary, we have teams of mad scientists working night and day to recreate recipes based on nostalgic tastes and aromas. Is there some smell that transports you to the time you were ten years’ old and you lay in a field with grass stains on your knees and the remnants of a butter brickle ice cream cone clinging to your sticky hands? Do you remember eating wasabi peas at a party in a beer-soaked attic that smelled of sun-baked wood and incense? Do you remember the time you carried a basket of tomatoes from your garden, on your lap, all the way to your seaside house, and the bright green smell of their leaves and vines mingled with scents of salty air and coconut sunscreen when you rolled down the window two blocks from your new home-for-the-week? We’ve got a recipe for you.

A few months ago we made a soup that tasted like the moment you wake up from camping. Viz…

Imagine, if you will, that you’re camping. You wake up in the morning and step out of your tent. Everything is damp and fragrant, and vividly glowing green. The ferns and grass and weeds are sweet and sharp, lemony and herbaceous. The smell of wet earth mingles with the smokiness of the embers from your fire of the night before.

Well, there was one thing missing from the occasion, and when we recently found bright beautiful fiddleheads at a local market, we knew we had to revisit the memory-of-camping. Let’s say this time it’s dusk. You’ve just been swimming in the river in the last warmth of the summer sun. You walk back along rapidly darkening trails, trampling ferns and weeds under foot, raising impossibly sweet scents that seem to surround you and cling to your wet skin. All around you the woods murmur with the secret life of busy summer bugs. A shivering breeze tugs at your damp clothes, so that when you reach your camp ground you’re glad to sit by a crackling fire that seems to smoke the changing light out of the damp earth.

We made that tart! It has a puree of roasted beets and garlic, mixed with all the spring (and summer) herbs we could find – thyme, rosemary, chervil, basil, summer savory. And smoked paprika warms the mixture. The fiddleheads are lightly boiled, and they add a lovely flavor and a little bit of texture to the tart. Delicious!!

Here’s The Ethiopians with Well Red. It doesn’t really have anything to do with beets, but I can’t get enough of them lately, and this tart is well, red!
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Asparagus & Spinach quiche

Asparagus quiche

We had this for dinner on St. Patrick’s day, and, I swear to god, I didn’t know it would be so green! It was not a calculated move! As it happens, green is my favorite color, so I’m exceedingly pleased that it turned out so green. I can’t really think of anything interesting to say about asparagus quiche at the moment, so I’ll just relate a few salient points. Firstly, I made this in an hour. One hour, start to finish! As it happens, I had some crust dough leftover, but even if you added dough-making time, it would still be, maybe, one hour 10 minutes. So it seems quite fancy (doesn’t it?) but it’s quick and easy. Second-of-all, I think it’s very pretty (and green). So it makes a nice spring-y meal. Even for a special day like Easter, I’d say. It’s flavored with a little basil and rosemary. And with nutmeg, because nutmeg belongs in a spinach quiche! I added some goat cheese, for freshness and tang. And now I’ll stop talking about it, or I’ll have gone on longer describing it than it takes to make it!

asparagus quiche

Here’s Nutmeg, by Art Pepper
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Cousous, sweet potato, goat cheese croquettes

couscous croquettes

For these tasty croquettes I repurposed some lovely vintage articles that had been artisanally handcrafted a couple of days ago. That’s right, I used leftovers. Red beans left over from the stew, sweet potatoes left over from the fries, and couscous left over from a meal I didn’t even tell you about! The advantage to this, of course, is that everything’s already made, so you can throw these together when you have very little time after work, which is exactly what I did. Plus, everything already has its own seasoning from the previous meal, and they all happen to taste wonderful together. I think this would work well as reverse leftovers, if you know what I mean. You could make a batch of fries, a batch of couscous, and open a can of beans, make these lovely little croquettes, and then use the remaining ingredients for different meals in the weeks to come. You can always throw couscous and beans into a salad the next day, if you’re looking for an easy way out. Any way that you do it, these are worth making! They’re subtly sweet, because of the sweet potatoes, but this is balanced by the goat cheese, which has its own way of tang-ing up a dish, doesn’t it? We had these with warm tortillas, grated sharp cheddar, chopped romaine, the leftover stew, and with a nice spinach cashew sauce I’ll tell you about later. But I think they’d be nice with a simple tomato sauce, or romesco sauce, or chermoula sauce, or even BBQ sauce! I’m going to tell you how to make these as if I’d started from scratch, and the couscous and sweet potatoes will make a little extra for another time.

Here’s Tom Waits’ Yesterday is Here. Yesterday’s dinner is, anyway!
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Pizza with faina

Pizza with faina

One of my favorite food-related scenes in movie history, is the moment when father and son go into a restaurant and share a bottle of wine and a mozzarella, in The Bicycle Thief. We recently watched Gigante, an Uruguayan/Argentinian film, that I promise to stop talking about soon. In one scene, our hero goes into a restaurant and orders pizza with mozzarella, a beer, and faina. First of all – it reminded me of that scene in Bicycle Thief to such an extent that I was sure it was a tribute to it. Second of all – what is a faina?!? I was so intrigued that I researched it the second the movie was over. Faina turns out to be a Uruguayan version of socca…a chickpea flour-based bread. It’s mixed with olive oil, herbs, sometimes parmesan, and tons and tons of pepper. And then it’s baked in a hot oven, till it’s crispy outside, though still dense and soft on the inside. And then it’s sliced and each slice is eaten on top of a slice of pizza. How strange but tasty does that sound!

I had to try it. I like making pizza anyway. It’s fun and easy and everybody in my family happily eats it, which is always a pleasure. I’ve been trying for some time to make pizza with a thinner, crispier crust – it had always eluded me. It worked this time, though…I used less yeast, more water and olive oil. The dough was quite sticky, but not hard to work with. I put lots of herbs in the dough, and I topped it with a roasted red pepper tomato sauce, dollops of goat cheese, and lots of fresh rosemary.

And the faina. It seemed such a strange idea to me at first, but when I took one bite, it all made sense! The texture was nice with the pizza, but more importantly, it seemed like a vehicle for the pepper and rosemary…flavors that are nice with the pizza, but tend to get distracted in the sauce were distilled into a perfect form.

Here’s The Bouncing Souls with The Pizza Song. When I was in my early twenties I lived across the street from these fellows, and they lived a few doors down from the legendary Tata’s Pizza. Is that what they’re singing about here? We’ll never know.
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Kale, carrots, couscous…

Braised carrots and kale

My nine-year-old son talks in his sleep. (Sometimes he even walks in his sleep, which scares the heck out of me.) He always says the sleepiest, sweetest, most nonsensical things. The other night, he called me, I went into his room, he said, “mommy, how do you cook dinner so fast?” and then he lay back down, asleep. He had no memory of it the next day.

By the harsh light of day, the truth is that I don’t always cook dinner so fast. Sometimes I make dinners that take all day, on and off. But, as it happens, some of the best dinners are dinners that take no time at all. This doesn’t mean they’re dull, it just means that we’re vegetarians, and the best vegetables are frequently lightly cooked vegetables. So, here’s a good meal for a night that you want something quick and tasty. Kale and carrots braised in white wine with thyme and caraway seeds, served with israeli couscous made into a sort of pilaf with apricots and pistachios and goat cheese. Simple.

Israeli couscous with apricots and pistachios

Here’s the Budos Band’s version of Sing a Simple Song, to listen to while you make this simple dinner.
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Toasted beet risotto with lime

Beet Risotto

Holy smoke, I’m excited about this one. Here’s how it all went down…we recently saw the fascinating film Beats, Rhymes and Life about A Tribe Called Quest. I was going on and on about it, and my friend Luke told me that Japanther, a band I like a lot, had just released an album called Beets, Limes and Rice! First of all – what a good name for an album! Second of all, what a good combination of tastes! Sweet, earthy beets and bright tart limes? Genius! So I decided to make a risotto (that’s the rice part) with beets and limes. I like risotto, but after years of encountering risotto as The Vegetarian Option at restaurants, I’ve become slightly disenchanted with it. Making this beet risotto brought all the magic back! For one thing, it’s really pretty. It’s lovely and ruby colored. For another thing, risotto is fun to make. It’s almost therapeutic. It requires attention, but it’s not really demanding, it can’t all go wrong for you. Well, it could, but it’s not likely to. And for yet another thing, risotto can be sort of mushy (I’m sorry, risotto, but it’s true). Which is why I decided to top it with pistachios and serve it with baby arugula, to be mixed in at the last minute, so it wilts slightly but retains its texture and bite. And the goat cheese, beside being a pretty white addition to go with all the scarlet and green, adds a nice touch of tartness to mingle with the lime and offset the beety sweetness.

beets, limes, and rice

And as it happens I’m completely enamored of the Japanther album. Here’s a track called Porcupine.
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