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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Saucy summer vegetables with lemon, basil, and ginger

Summery sauce with lemon, ginger, basil, and cilantro

Summery sauce with lemon, ginger, basil, and cilantro

We’re having a heatwave! It’s been one scorcher after another, with little relief even at night. I don’t mind it so much. I like to hole up in our one air-conditioned room and read or write, and then strike out in search of water for the boys to swim in. But it does make you feel a little weary, after a while, and leave you longing for crisp, energizing weather. You might expect this week’s Sunday interactive playlist to be about hot songs, right? But no! We’re going to cool it down with songs about coldness, winter, ice and snow. What’s cooler than cool? Our ice cold playlist to chill out to.

summery sauce with lemon, basil, and ginger

summery sauce with lemon, basil, and ginger

This is a light, bright way to use up some vegetables from the farm without heating up the kitchen too much. I used golden beets, pattypan squash, golden and red tomatoes and fennel, because I like the combination of flavors and that’s what we had, but you can use what you like. It’s very flavorful, with ginger, coriander, basil, cilantro and lemon. We ate it with soba noodles, and it looked very nice and colorful against their slate grey background, but you could eat it with rice, or over greens, or as a sort of side dish.

Here’s a link to the ice cold playlist. Add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll add it for you.

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Golden beet and pine nut purée

Golden beet and pine nut purée

Golden beet and pine nut purée

It’s my birthday!!! AAARRGGHHHH! And I’m only telling you this because…I’m telling everybody! I’m like a little kid when it comes to birthdays. Except that I’m not, really, I’m the exact opposite. I overheard Isaac telling Malcolm, “Mommy doesn’t want it to be her birthday,” which as a birthday-obsessed seven-year-old is a concept he can’t fathom. It’s not the birthday itself I have a problem with, of course, it’s the getting older part that’s hard, that’s putting me in a blue mood. I was thinking the other day that I might come across as a somewhat cheerful, hopeful person, here at The Ordinary. In truth, I’m a moody old cuss. I’m discouraged by the strangest slightest things. And it might seem like I’m a patient mother, but I yell at my boys more than I thought I ever would, and I’m short-tempered with them sometimes even when they’re sweetly trying to get my attention to tell me nice and funny things. Sometimes I just want some quiet to think my own thoughts. Sometimes I just want to look out the window. And my boys don’t like all the weird food I make, though they are almost always kind enough to taste it. They don’t always eat healthy meals, sometimes I just let them drink sugar water, not because they’ve persuaded me that they’re part hummingbird, although I might believe that, but because I’m powerless to stop them because THEY DON’T LISTEN TO A WORD I SAY! And I do genuinely want to love and care for all people, like Alyosha says to do, but I have a noisy foul-mouthed inner misanthrope fighting to get out. I do honestly believe that success should be measured not by good grades or a big salary, but by how happy you are with what you do, day-to-day, and by the way you make your life as creative as possible in all the small moments, and how you notice and remember everything. But I get in foul moods when all I can think is “everything I’ve ever tried to do has failed.” And where am I going with all of this downwardly spiraling self-pitying birthday confessionalizing? I dunno. I think I want to tell you that I woke up this morning and my foolish birthday blue funk had lifted. I feel sanguine and hopeful. I have a lot that I want to do–small things and big big projects, and I feel excited about trying, whether or not they get done. I feel happy about thinking about them, even just thinking about them. I feel good about writing, just writing, whether anybody reads it or likes it doesn’t matter, I feel good about putting thoughts in order, and stringing words together, and surprising myself with all the odd phrases that come out of my constantly surprising mind, which you think I’d know better after 44 years of constant company. Last night in the car I had thought myself into a despondent mess, and Isaac said, “Mommy!! Guess what? Somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s being born, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s coming home, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping, somebody’s sleeping…all over the world, right now!” And this morning Malcolm gave me a birthday letter that began “Have you ever wondered how the earth was created, God or science?” and ended, “P.S. Are crab apples edible? Because Charlie likes them and I want to try.” In the face of all of this blissfully cheerful existential information, How can a person stay cranky for long? Well, she can’t, and I won’t.

Beet greens with golden-beet pine nut sauce

Beet greens with golden-beet pine nut sauce

Golden beets, man. They’re pretty! And so darn tasty. We got some more from the farm, and I recently went on a ridiculously indulgent birthday shop and bought pine nuts and all sorts of other pricey items. So I decided to make this golden beet and pine nut tarator sauce. It’s got grated toasted beets, sage, rosemary, pine nuts, garlic, and a bit of balsamic. It was very tasty and surprising. Moreish, as the British say. We dipped fresh sweet peas in it, and crackers, and then I mixed it in with sauteed beet greens. It would be good with roasted vegetables, or tossed with pasta, or as a dip for chips, or any other way you can think of using a creamy flavorful sauce.

Here’s Big BIll Broonzy, who has a birthday today, too, playing Hey Hey, which I know I’ve posted before, but, hey, it’s my birthday!
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Roasted beet and arugula salad with farro and smoky pecan-rosemary sauce

Roasted beet and arugula salad

Roasted beet and arugula salad

When my brother and I were little, we had our own country. It was called Bouse, and it was top secret, so don’t tell anybody about it. Bouse was shaped like our dog, Tessie (her eye was a lake.) All of the animals in Bouse could talk, and they were all very friendly and happy–we had feasts and dances and plays. There were no people, no cars, no factories on Bouse, but in neighboring Karnland, there were only cars, or everybody was part car, I can’t remember, and they were enemies of Bousishians. All animals go to Bouse when they die, and some kind humans do as well.I speak lightly of Bouse, but it was incredibly important to me growing up, and in many ways remains so to this day. It was formed by who we were and what we believed, and it informed our beliefs and our behavior as well. Now my boys have a world of their own. It’s called World Tenn, and the world is made like a giant tennis racket with water inside, and everybody has shoes made out of tennis balls. My boys have different names there, and they have sisters and a baby brother and a dog who can fly. At first I was charmed by the stories, they’re delightful and inventive, but lately it’s starting to feel more serious for them, and I can’t account for how happy this makes me. Yesterday Malcolm and I took a walk after dinner. Malcolm is fun to ramble through the woods with, except that he always has to have a stick, and he always has to hit things with it. He smashes trees, he slices through weeds and tall grass. We’ve told him a million times not to, that it’s better to leave everything as you find it, that he might be destroying the homes of animals, birds, or insects. But he did it anyway. Yesterday he told me that he’s not going to do it anymore. “Why is that?” I asked. It turns out that it goes against the prevalent morality of World Tenn. The enemy of World Tenn is a king that hates mother nature and spends all of his time trying to destroy plants and animals. My boys have the job of protecting nature. Ack! It just kills me that they share a world forged in the fiery furnaces of their imagination and their affection for each other. And they’ve invented a moral code that they need to live up to. They’ve made their own political philosophy, their own religion, just like my brother and I did. Like all good religions it contains myths and far-fetched stories, it borrows from older tales and legends, it contains strife and violence, it reassures them with an afterlife, and it suggests a way to behave in harmony with the creatures of the actual world around them. There are portals into World Tenn–one is a beautiful winding path that branches off from the secret passage on the other side of the other side of the canal. This morning Malcolm told me that there’s one on the roof outside of his window, because a squirrel sat there for a long time, and didn’t seem scared of Malcolm watching him. Of course the real doors into their world are in their minds, and they can take that with them wherever they go. Whatever they do, they have the comfort and strength of their creativity, of their love for each other as brothers, of their lives as heroes, of a world all their own. And nobody can take that away from them.

Roasted beet and arugula salad

Roasted beet and arugula salad

When I made this sort of warm salad of arugula, roasted beets, farro, goat cheese and pecans, I kept the farro separate. I thought it might be the only part of the salad the boys would eat. Silly me! They gobbled down the beets, goat cheese and pecans, and didn’t have much interest in the farro! So you could serve this with the farro as a layer below the arugula, or you could mix it right in with the arugula if you liked. We ate this with tiny new potatoes, boiled and tossed with butter, salt and pepper, and I recommend this. It’s a serving suggestion!!

Here’s My World by the Rascals

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Crepes with pretty roasted roots, castelvetrano olives, and black truffle butter

beet-crepesThe other night I was listening to Isaac read before bed. Bit of Dr. Seuss. He came to this passage:

    And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win? And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind. You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

Well! It struck me as very poignant (Yes! I am going to use that word in every post!) to listen to these oddly beautiful words read in Isaac’s sweet voice, and think about what they mean for each of us at our different times of life. Isaac’s future is so full of decisions, large and small. He can go anywhere, do anything, be friends with anyone! He’ll have to figure out the way the world works, what people expect of him, what risks are worth taking, which people worth meeting. And knowing my Isaac, he won’t race at a break-necking pace, he’ll wind slowly through weirdish wild space, singing an amiable song, and drawing pictures of the strange creatures he meets there. I don’t feel so vexed about some of these things any more. I’m not all that worried about how much I’ll lose or win or the right way to get in. I do think about the windows, though – some lighted, most darked. I realize that I’ve always thought about the world this way – as if I’m looking in at other people’s windows, and I hope the dark ones are full of sweet moonlight and silvery shadows and peaceful dreams, and I hope the lit ones are aglow with friendship and warmth. I do think about the weirdish wild space. I do hope the weirdness and wildness are the inspired, creative, inventive, kind, and not the reckless why-would-a-person-do-that-to-themselves-or-anyone-else kind. I worry about my boys going through the unmarked streets and I wish I could give them a map and a lantern. I guess I’ve been thinking about what it means to be in a slump, to be discouraged. (I searched for the word “discouraged” in The Ordinary archives – it’s a frequent visitor! I must be a moody old cuss.) To be discouraged means to be without courage, and when I’m in a slump, that’s what it feels like. I don’t mind a lazy or unmotivated spell, I suppose that’s part of the cycle of our day-to-day life. But it feels bad to be afraid to try. Afraid of failure, or afraid that it’s just not worth the effort. Honestly my ambitions are so small, it seems a silly thing to even worry about! To make a nice meal, write something I feel good about, be patient and cheerful with the boys…just a small handful of little things, but they fall through my fingers, sometimes, and I drop them in the darkness of the wild spaces. Of course, the opposite of discourage is encourage, which means to give courgage. Just thinking about the meaning of it lifts me up a bit! It’s like the word “comfort,” which means to give strength, it’s a powerful word! Comfort and encouragement aren’t just like a pill to make you feel better for a little while, they’re like good sustaining food, that gives you the strength and courage to go on today, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. And the strength and courage could come from anywhere around you – from the people in the lit windows, from discovering that you’ve gone into the right place and turned the right direction, from discovering that you just don’t care about sneaking in the back, you’ll walk right through the front door, or you’ll find another place, because there’s always another place, from walking to school with an Isaac who has new bright blue sneakers on his feet and a piece of cinnamon toast in his hand. Thinking about that lifts me up a little bit more. “This enables the birds to run lightly over the floating leaves of aquatic plants, by so much increase of breadth of support that they do not slump in.”

Golden beets, castelvetrano olives and truffle butter

Golden beets, castelvetrano olives and truffle butter

Another way out of a slump, of course, besides running over it on little bird’s feet, is to try something new and inspiring. This weekend David bought a small and wildly expensive tub of black truffle butter. He also bought some beautiful golden beets, and pretty carrots – pale yellow, bright crimson. And my favorite castelvetrano olives, as green as spring leaves. The whole time I was slumping my way through my discouraging job, I had the rosy picture of these ingredients in the back of my mind. When I got home I cooked them up like this…I roasted the carrots, beets and a couple of parsnips very simply with olive oil and rosemary. And then I tossed them while warm with a few spoonfuls of truffle butter and a handful of olives. I grated some sharp cheddar to be melted by their warmth, and made very peppery crepes to wrap it all together, because it’s fun to eat with your hands. Bright and warm and sustaining. If you happen not to have black truffle butter or castelvetrano olives, you could easily substitute regular butter and a bit of roasted garlic and kalamata olives (or any you happen to like!)

Here’s What’s Golden by Jurassic 5. What’s golden? My beets, that’s what!

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Black forbidden rice, black beluga lentils, roasted golden beets

Black rice, black lentils, golden beets

Sometimes, in life, you search for something. You look in all of the ordinary places your path takes you. You don’t find it. It becomes a quest. You go farther afield, you make special trips, just to find this thing. You ask the wise people you meet if they know where it can be found. You don’t find it. You find something similar, you tell yourself it’s the same, but in your heart you know it’s not. Then, one day, you’re looking for something else, perhaps in one of the places you’d already searched. And you stumble upon the very thing you were looking for all along. Thus it was with me and beluga lentils.

My friend Neil told me about them years ago. I’m a huge fan of all lentils, but these sounded exceptional, and I became determined to find them. To no avail. Neil lives in Germany, and it turns out that the Germans are several years ahead of us in lentil availability. I bought some urad dal, I thought it might be similar. Not so. Jump ahead a couple of years, and I found myself in Whole Foods. For me, Whole Foods is a forbidden land. Everything is too tempting and too beautiful and too expensive. I rarely go, and then only on precise pinpointed missions. I went this week to find golden beets (my new questing food!). Straight into produce, secure the beets, get out. But no – you have to walk all over the crazy store to get to the checkout. Of course I passed the castelvetrano olives. So pretty, so delicious. And then my greatest challenge. The bulk food aisle. Black rice! I haven’t had that since the Tibetan store closed down. The one with the nice man who used to give Malcolm little bags of black rice. Sigh. And then, a few bins down…BLACK BELUGA LENTILS!

As I walked to the checkout, grappling with all of my little bags of food and tubs of olives (I hadn’t gotten a basket. I wouldn’t need a basket, I was only buying one thing…) This recipe formed in my head. The colors! The flavors! The textures! We would have a sort of pilaf or warm salad, of black rice, black lentils, roasted golden beets, sauteed beet greens, castelvetrano olives and capers. (Malcolm’s first time knowingly eating a caper – he called them “flavor dynamite.”) All layered on a big plate of fresh baby spinach and topped with toasted hazelnuts. Part warm, part cool, a little smoky with Spanish paprika, a little sweet with oregano and basil, a little earthy with beets and sage. Finished with a tangy sweet balsamic and lots of black pepper. And rosemary roasted red bliss potatoes on the side. Delicious!

In the interest of keeping it ordinary, I should tell you that this would be very nice made with basmati rice and not-so-ugly-themselves french lentils and red beets.

I asked Neil to play guest DJ for this post. Here’s what he said…

“Recipe sounds big and brassy…so how about Bold and Black, an Eddie Harris composition played by Ramsey Lewis…from the album Another Voyage. Some smoky rhythm guitar, that sweet melody on Rhodes, and the wonderfully earthy drum riff which kicks off the groove section.” Perfect!!
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