Chard, raisin, and pine nut tart with chickpea flour crust

IMG_6054I drove Malcolm to a middle school dance. We were listening to the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack, we were driving through some of the prettiest countryside in the world, up and up winding roads to the school itself. It was a soft rosy 8 o’clock on the edge of an unseasonably warm day. I felt a little stale in the head, because I hadn’t slept too well, what with one thing and another, partly worrying about Malcolm being gone all day on a chorus/band trip to an amusement park. I’d weirdly missed him in the 4 hours after school we would usually spend together, despite the fact that the 4 hours after school the last two days had been fraught and difficult at times. In the scant time between the field trip and the dance we’d walked to buy two slices of pizza, and Malcolm said that it feels good to eat pizza when you’re walking down the street. So when we go home I made him watch the opening to Saturday Night Fever. And it’s not a bad thing to go to a middle school dance with the bee gees in your head. In the car on the way to the dance he didn’t seem tired, he was cheerful, and he asked me to tell David something when I got home. And I said “sure, sure” but I was lost in thought, and I didn’t hear him, and he knew it. I asked him to repeat what he said and he did, and then he said, “Don’t forget!” And put one finger from his right hand on his head, and one finger from his left hand on my forehead. We drove a little more and I said, “Can you do that again? With the fingers on the foreheads?” He said, “Why?” I said “I want to feel as bright and smart as you are.” He said, it works better like this…one hand, pinky on his head, thumb on mine. I leaned towards him, so we’d all fit, and the song playing on our radio said,

Every moment
Every moment
Every moment
Every moment

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

I said, while we were eating this that it could be the national dish of some country, and David said, “Claironia.” It’s true, this dish combines a lot of my favorite flavors. They just seem to go perfectly together. It’s juicy, a little smoky, a tiny bit sweet and a little nutty. The crust is crispy on the outside and soft and almost bready inside.

Here’s Every Moment by Rogue Wave from the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack.

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Chard and fresh mozzarella tart with raisins and shallots

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

I always feel like I’m waiting for summer to start and then one day I’ll wake up and realize we’re already well into it. These days have been like that. It’s July! It’s sweltering! The boys are rolling around the house laughing and screaming and making each other crazy. We go to the river almost every day and have the most beautiful fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. We have arrived! It’s a funny thing because I generally approach summer with a slight feeling of dread. I’m nostalgic for spring, I miss walking Isaac to school, I miss the sense of purpose I had when I was working on my novel. And all of the fun things a person looks forward to in summer strike a chord of anxiety into my strange and always-anxious heart. I love to see Malcolm happy in the water, which is his natural element, but I worry about riptides and sharks and river currents and copperhead snakes. Sunshine makes me dizzy and more confused than usual. I’m scared of thunderstorms. It’s so stupid, I know! Sometimes I even miss the simple icy indoor days of winter. Crazy. But today I was thinking that I like my house in the summer, I like my town, I like my garden, I like being with my boys all day. I like just being here. I can almost imagine this place as our summer house, where we spend long lazy days swimming and reading and writing and cooking, drinking wine and talking. I like to think of it that way. In my imagination, our home is our home away from home, and I love it here. After all, summer passes so very quickly these days. We’ll slow it down by staying still.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the combination of chard, pine nuts and raisins. And I’ll find anyway I can to combine them. Here they are in a sort of tart. I made a jam of shallots and raisins and garlic, and I spread this on a yeasted crust. Then I topped that with a custard made with chard, fresh mozzarella and pine nuts, and of course lots of fresh basil, which is one of the best things about summer. And I put some slices of fresh mozzarella and more pine nuts on top.

Here’s Summertime by Billy Stewart.

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Chard and white beans with raisins, walnuts and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts and smoked gouda

If you’re following along at home, you’ll recall that yesterday found us, here at The Ordinary, seeking some solace from our busy thoughts in the form of quiet film scenes. David mentioned a film we’d watched last week, Le gamin au vélo, and I thought “ah, yes, of course.” I was going to add a scene from the movie to yesterday’s post, but in watching the scene, I realized that this was one I want to go on an on about, so that’s where we find ourselves today. The film is by the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, renowned for making emotionally and stylistically bleak and austere films, most notably La Promesse in 1996. They almost never use non-diegetic music–they don’t have a soundtrack. The sounds of the film are those that people make going about their day, and these sounds become oddly compelling as we become immersed in the rhythms of the character’s lives, as we learn their routine and become alert for any small change in the patterns. All of their films are quiet, they’re a succession of silent moments. And that’s why this scene is disarmingly beautiful. We’re given music! We’re given, specifically, a small, moving swell of music, like a warm gentle wave; a few notes from the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto. And then we return to the quiet world of this ridiculously beautiful expressive boy, to the sound of his breath, and of his madly pedaling feet. Throughout the film, in certain scenes, this music washes over us, just a few notes, and then recedes. You feel that you need to hear the rest, you want the notes to resolve themselves. You want the boy’s life to resolve itself, you want him to care for himself, you want him to let somebody take care of him. The Dardenne brothers’ films, though beautiful, are often hard for me to watch. The very honesty and rawness that makes them wonderful makes them painful. Their characters are battered by life, conflicted and rejected, and they spend a lot of time alone. We’re compelled to watch them in their solitude, drowning in the silence of their own company, facing rotten choices and making regrettable decisions. They raise all sorts of questions for me, as a film viewer, and as somebody that hopes to one day call herself a filmmaker again. You could make a film this revelatory of human nature as it actually is–you could, and you probably should, but why would you? Why watch something so depressing? The older I get, I find I have less tolerance for unrelentingly grim movies. When I was younger I could watch anything, but now that I have children, I just can’t–particularly if the movie involves kids the age of my boys, as this film does. I don’t need a happy ending. I don’t want to watch sickeningly sweet saccharine feel-good movies, but I do need some small hopeful sign. So I will admit to you that when we watched this film, we stopped halfway through, and I read about how the film ended, and only then did we watch the rest. But we did watch the rest. Because in being entirely honest about human nature, you have to include moments of warmth and generosity and connection, and that’s what this film does, quietly, slowly, without melodrama or judgement. The few notes of Beethoven that we hear throughout the film are full of sweet sadness, the music veers between hope and despair, light and darkness, but it’s so beautiful that we need to follow it to the end, which they finally allow us to do during the credits. And that is why you watch a movie like this one.

Chard and white beans with walnuts, raisins and smoked gouda

Chard and white beans with walnuts, raisins and smoked gouda

Greens are my favorite! This time of year is the best! We’re getting greens by the armful from our CSA–chard, kale, spinach, broccoli rabe. I love to come up with new ways to prepare greens, and this one turned out really good. It’s a twist on the old chard/raisin/pine nut combination that I love so much. This one adds white beans and smoked gouda, for extra substance and flavor. We ate this with whole wheat pearled couscous, which I prepared “according to the package instructions,” except that I cooked the couscous in olive oil and herbs at first. You could eat it with pasta, rice, millet, farro, a big bed of lettuces, or as a vegetable side dish. You could eat it in a box, you could eat it with a fox.

Here’s the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor piano concerto.

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Spinach raisin spiral bread

Spinach spiral bread

Wouldn’t it be nice to stuff everything you love in a spiral of rich pastry, so you can peel apart the layers and discover it as you go along?

Let’s see…there are several advantages to baking things in spiral rolls/bread/cookies. 1) they’re superlatively fun to eat. 2) the flavors are nicely distributed in lovely layers 3) You generally have a nice contrast of mild taste and texture with more intense fillings, which is really what it’s all about!

This bread pits a rich sort of herbed dough against a tasty filling of spinach, garlic, mozzarella and goat cheese with just a touch of sweetness from the raisins. And everybody’s a winner!

I dreamed this up whilst standing on a slope of snow. My little ones were red-cheeked, hot, and happy, flying down, climbing back up, flying down again. My toes were so cold I thought they’d never move again. Baking this warmed me right up!

Here’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread. I didn’t actually make 5 loaves, of course, and I’ll certainly never eat 2 little fishes, being a vegetarian, but it’s a killer song!
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