Yeasted chickpea flour and sage flatbreads

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

Yeasted chickpea flour flatbread

On Saturday evening a restaurant gets cacophonous. The people at the bar get louder with each drink. Children who have missed their naps are crying for their dinner. Conversations cover conversations till all you hear is a sea of noise. At one point last night we stood in the wait station craving a pocket of quiet, and a waiter said, “Do you ever just stand here and get lost in the noise?” Letting it wash over you is your best defense, trying to make sense of it only gives you headache. There’s a festival in town this weekend, and it’s noisy from morning to night. Caravans of cars and trucks, bringing in booths, engines idling as they set up. Hordes of chattering tourists. Yard parties that stretch into the night. It leaves you wanting some peace and quiet. It makes you yearn for Sunday morning. Waking slowly, speaking quietly or not at all. Whether you go to church or not, maybe remembering times you did, remembering times you had to be calm and good. Maybe nursing a headache lingering from the raucous night before. So this morning we’re looking for Sunday songs. Songs about Sunday, songs that make you feel like Sunday morning, or songs that you like to listen to on a Sunday morning. As ever, the playlist is interactive. So add what you like, or leave a song in the comments and I’ll add it for you as soon as I get a chance.

What? Another flatbread recipe? That’s right! This time of year my favorite way to eat is lots of little dishes that you eat with your hands, so I’m constantly concocting some sort of flatbread to use as a utensil and a sopper-upper. This is a sort of version of socca, the french chickpea flour flatbread. I love socca, but I find it very difficult to make, so in an attempt to limit the amount of cursing I do in front of the boys, I like to develop less frustrating methods. I’ve added eggs, and that helped. But in this case, I added yeast and some regular flour. It’s still vegan, but it’s not gluten free any more. It was simple to work with, though! It all came together like a charm–easy to roll out and bake. And tasty, too!

Here’s the Sunday Songs playlist. Have a peaceful Sunday, everyone!

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Beet green, black bean, pumpkin and cashew curry with roasted beet kofta

Roasted beet kofta

While we walked to school the other day, Isaac told me that recess isn’t fun anymore because two of his friends won’t play with him. He said “sometimes I feel like I don’t exist at all.” It gave me such a pang! I used to feel that way all the time. I used to feel insubstantial and empty. But I was a teenager! He’s so young to feel that way. I suppose sometimes you’re so close to yourself – literally inside, looking out – that you can’t see yourself at all. I used to get all confused about that. I felt sort of dull and colorless, and it seemed as though everybody around me was brighter and louder – more visible, more easy to hear and understand. I still feel that way sometimes, when I’m with people who are charming and vocal, but I’m not so worried about it any more; I no longer struggle to make myself heard, because so often it just doesn’t matter. I used to try to make myself disappear, in some ways. I wanted to be small and weightless and invisible. I feel so much more solid, now. I feel as if gravity has much more pull on me, these days. But I’m fine with that, it’s a way to feel rooted and real. It’s a way to make shyness and self-consciousness immaterial. The funny thing is that Isaac is so vivid, so vibrant – he’s not shy at all, he’s the sort of boy you can imagine walking into a room and throwing up his arms and yelling, HERE I AM!! He’s like sunshine, but he’s got a seriousness and depth to him as well. We sometimes laugh that if he had a band it could be called “Little Mr. Sunshine and his Dark Thoughts.” I just hope he knows how brightly he glows!

Of course beets grow upward but they’re rooted. They’re beautiful and bright, and covered in dirt beneath the earth. We just got a big lovely bunch from the farm, with the greens attached, and I wanted to use every part. So I made a curry with the leaves, in a sauce of cashew and pumpkin purée. And I grated and roasted the beets themselves, and mixed them with chickpea flour and spices to make kofta. If you don’t have beet greens, this curry would work equally well with spinach, chard, kale, or any other kind of green you have!

Beet green curry

Here’s Linton Kwesi Johnson with Age of Reality, which, upon reflection, doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I like it.
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Chickpea flour chard frittata-cake (with olive sofrito)

Chard & chickpea flour cake

I’m not very good at sitting still. I’ve tried doing yoga or meditating once or twice, but as soon as I try to clear my head, it fills with silly thoughts and petty anxieties. When I try to sit and write, I find myself jumping up every few minutes to do something that doesn’t actually need to be done. Yesterday, I attempted to master the art of being still. I’ve written the underdog’s theme song, and absolved lack of competitive instinct and lack of ambition everywhere. At the moment I’d like to champion a brief spell of staring into space. It’s been a spate of immaculate weather. We were trying to think of the perfect thing to do after dinner – homework all done, but still a school night. We weren’t organized enough for a walk of any kind. Maybe we’d sit around a fire in the backyard. But I found myself sitting in a chair by the front door. The sky was bright as day, but the room was filling with darkening blue light at an autumn pace – always surprising and even slightly worrying. The boys were playing kickball in the backyard. They were giggling maniacally – beautiful, but I’m sure they were hitting the window and the recycling bins on purpose. David was in the kitchen sneezing, and covering Malcolm’s text book with a brown paper bag, the way humans have covered textbooks for all eternity. The boys ran in and out of their showers, cool, pale and giggling. They disappeared into the backyard, as the sky finally deepened outside the window, and in the room it became too dark to write. The smell of smoke and the sound of loved voices pulled me into the backyard, where the sky was still palely glowing.

Chard and chickpea flour frittata

And before all of this activity? I made the best meal! I’m really proud of it! I think I may have invented it! I’m not even sure what to call it! It’s like a frittata, but it has chickpea flour in it, which gives it a lovely substantiality and flavor. It’s also got sauteed chard, mozzarella, some garlic, some rosemary, and some basil. We cut it into thick wedges, and ate it with sofrito (spanish style). I’d made a big batch with all of the paste tomatoes I picked last week. I froze some of it for winter, and I set some aside, and added olives and a roasted red pepper (also from the farm!) You could make a simple tomato sauce instead, though. (Both recipes below) And we had a nice, simple heirloom tomato salad as well.

Olive & red pepper sofrito

The cool, blue sounds of Jackie Mittoo’s Evening Time.
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Fried green tomato pakoras and cilantro, tamarind, almond sauce

Fried green tomato pakoras

September 11, 2001 was a perfect golden day, just like today. We had just moved to the town we now live in from Boston. It felt like coming home. I felt as glowingly hopeful as the weather. And then, of course, everything changed. So much has been written and spoken about that day – I feel like there are no more words for it. Everybody has a story of where they were, and how they heard, and friends that they lost. It’s impossible to forget the dizzying feeling of standing in a bright green world, with a vast, clear blue sky overhead, thinking about the horror occurring so nearby. And what a tangled mess in the years that followed, when the tragedy was cynically exploited to keep us in a constant state of fear, to build support for a war that caused so much more death. Our world changed, and it kept on changing, with all of the lies, and mistrust, and disappointment. And little did we know, in our own small world, how soon our life would change – Malcolm was born exactly ten months later. And, to be honest, half of his class was born around the same time. September 11 babies. Because it’s also impossible to forget the feeling of clinging to life and love and hope. It sounds trite and saccharine now, as I write it, but it was such a strong, renewing feeling at that time. It’s discombobulating to think about Malcolm’s life, sometimes, to think about his bright, strong, creative spirit, and to think that his whole life we’ve been at war, or preparing for war.

Little Malcolm

Phew, I was not going to go on like this! There are no more words, she says, and then she rambles on and on! I was going to talk about tomatoes. Tomatoes – they have such a lovely life cycle, where we live. They grow all summer, the little sweet ones ripening early, a delightful promise of more to come. The weighty, ripe, beautiful late summer tomatoes come all at once, so warm and sweet and juicy, and they continue on into autumn, as their leaves wither around them, and the fruit glows like bright stained glass. I went picking last week, and I got a lot of green tomatoes, because I find them an inspiring challenge. As I was picking I got very excited with the idea of making these fried green tomato pakoras. Hooboy they were good! The batter perfectly crisp and tasty, the tomatoes inside soft and just the right amount sweet. The sauce was good too – cilantro and jalapenos from the farm, brightened by tamarind and tempered by almonds.

Cilantro almond tamarind sauce

Here’s Talib Kweli’s The Proud, which is one of the most honest and intelligent songs about 9/11 and how complicated it was (and it samples Nina Simone!)

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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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Parsnip and ginger pakoras

Parsnip pakoras

Parsnips and ginger taste so wonderful together. So bright and sweet and fresh! Here they find themselves grated, thrown together in a sea of chickpea batter, and dunked unceremoniously in hot olive oil till they crisp up nicely. I was once again plagued by indecision on how exactly to spice the batter. Coriander, obviously, because it has it’s own distinctive bright sweetness. And I’d thought of adding cardamom, which I also think of as sweet, but I decided to add things that balance the sweetness rather than add to it. So a tiny bit of cumin and tumeric, earthy and pretty, a very small, very finely diced garlic clove, and a pinch of cayenne for heat. In the end a nice combination, with all the flavors blending to a harmonious whole, just as they should. This isn’t a traditional pakora batter – I added some white flour, and I used beer rather than water, to make it nice and bubbly. The pakoras turned out perfectly crispy on the outside, light and crunchy. The inside was a little denser and softer than it tends to be in restaurants, but it seemed like a nice contrast. I wanted the batter to be vegan, but I think if I’d added an egg, the inside would have been less dense. I’ll try it sometime and let you know!

Of course you have to have a dipping sauce with pakoras! I wanted something sweet/spicy/savory/tart, (don’t I always!) So I made a kind of smooth chutney of apricots, raisins, tamarind, shallots and garlic.

Here’s MF DOOM with Coriander.
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