Pizza with grilled mushrooms, french lentils and roasted potatoes

Pizza with french lentils, grilled mushrooms and roasted potatoes

Pizza with french lentils, grilled mushrooms and roasted potatoes

“Do you want to hear something that doesn’t make sense?”

“Yes I do.”

Isaac and I are walking to school on a spring morning that’s warm on the inside and cool on the outside, on a morning that makes you shiver. The day will warm up, the year will warm up, but it’s all on the edge right now. He’s got one finger hovering softly on my spine just between my shoulder blades as we walk along, which is a thing that he does lately that pretty much knocks me out with the sweetness of it.

“I’m a non-evil demon wizard who is 999 years old, and Malcolm is a 13-year-old fire wizard…”

This is not the thing that doesn’t make sense. So far, this all makes perfect sense. The thing that doesn’t make sense is that Malcolm says Isaac’s not allowed to use fire against him, or is vulnerable to Malcolm’s fire, which…

“Now you’re just making fun of me!”

I wasn’t, I swear, but I was laughing so hard I might have missed the crux of the problem. I said maybe they could work together to make something out of fire.

“I don’t make things out of fire,” replied Isaac indignantly, “I live in cities of fire!”

Well! They do this a lot. They make up worlds, and those worlds have rules, and those rules are constantly shifting. Their place in the world changes with the rules, as do their powers and abilities, their actions and their fates. Usually it’s Malcolm, with his older-brother-power, making up most of the rules, which means his character has more power and “wins.” But Isaac can hold his own, he’s got a fierce imagination too. Or he can just stop playing. I’ve been thinking that this is not something we outgrow, though the older we get the less fun and funny it is. It’s still people with more power making all the rules and telling us that our actions are useless and our abilities are worthless. Telling us that we’re powerless against their fire. And that’s when we summon our fierce imaginations and change the rules so that it works out better for everyone. Or we just stop playing their game.

Pizza with french lentils, grille mushrooms and roasted potatoes.

Pizza with french lentils, grille mushrooms and roasted potatoes.

This pizza was a good way to use up some leftovers. Leftover french lentils, leftover roast potatoes, leftover grilled mushrooms. But it was also delicious! Smoky from the pine nuts and grilled mushrooms, earthy and sweet from the lentils. Nicely crispy and soft.

Here’s You Can Never Hold Back Spring by Tom Waits, because I love it.

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Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

This week, the Guardian UK had this bit of advice from a teacher to any and all parents. “Your kids are not your mates. Something I’m starting to hear with worrying frequency within the primary school setting is ‘my daughter’s my best friend.’ Often, this rings alarm bells. Your kids aren’t your mates. You’re their parent, and your responsibility is to provide them with guidance and boundaries, not to drag them into your own disputes. Your nine-year-old doesn’t need to know about your bitter feud with his friend’s mother, or which dad you’ve got the hots for at the school gate.” Well, I’m sorry, Guardian UK, you’re still my best newspaper friend forever, but I think this advice twists the issue and gets it wrong. First of all, the real problem is that a parent is telling anyone about their bitter feud with his friend’s mother or about which dad they have the hots for. Or that they have a bitter feud with their kid’s best friend’s mother in the first place. Some things are best kept to yourself! Secondly, this is such a strange definition of friendship! A friend is not necessarily someone you complain to or to enlist in your feuds. (Unless we’re all in some tawdry reality show and I’m blissfully unaware of it!) For me a friend is somebody who you enjoy spending time with, who you’re comfortable with, who you enjoy talking to, who you’ll take care of when they’re sick or down or need help with anything, and who you know will take care of you, too. And why am I bothering to get all huffy about a random article from the Guardian? I suppose it’s because just last week I was thinking happily about what good friends my boys have become for me. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life, thinking about what good people and good friends they’re becoming. Walking with them, talking with them, cooking with them, reading with them, playing frisbee or basketball or some strange hybrid game that Malcolm invented that involves playing basketball with a frisbee while walking like a penguin. Even playing video games, which I do so badly that Malcolm laughs the whole time, is a good way to spend an afternoon. All of these are a joy to me, and more so every day. Of course I know that I’m the parent, I make the most basic rules, I tell them when it’s time to stop playing penguin ball and come and do some homework. I make them eat (at least some) of their dinner, I tell them when it’s time to go to bed. Or rather David and I do, because he’s a friend, too, and we’re all in this together. And of course I don’t expect them to take me to the doctor when I’m sick, or make me toast or decide what medicine I should take, like I do for them. But I do think it’s crushingly sweet that when I don’t feel well they bring me water, or try to be more quiet so that I can rest. And I think it’s important for them to feel needed, to feel as though they can help take care of somebody that they love. I think it’s important for them to know that we enjoy talking to them, that conversations with them are as entertaining and enlightening as with anyone else I know. From when he was very little, Isaac has said, “You’re fun to be with.” And I think it’s important for them to know that they’re fun to be with, too. The Guardian’s preachy teacher warned that being friends with your children might lead to social alienation for them later in life, but I believe the opposite. I believe they’re learning how to be a friend, and how good it feels to have a friend, how good it is to care. Or so I dearly hope!

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Here’s another of my world famous pizza-like tarts. It has a yeasted crust with olive oil in it, which, let’s face it, is a pizza crust. But it also has an egg and cheese custard in the middle, which makes it like a big flat quiche. This one began as a way to use up leftover grilled portobellos and some cooked tiny potatoes. I decided to use them as toppings here. I also used smoked gouda, to accentuate the smokiness of the grilled mushrooms. And we have such an exciting variety of herbs in our garden, and I used them all!! I love a big medley of herbs together, with all of the unexpected and delightful flavors. Some herbs I think of as better cooked…sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano. And others I like best fresh and raw–basil, tarragon, cilantro. So I mixed some in with the custard and baked them into the tart, and others I scattered on top at the end.

Here’s The White Stripes with We’re Going to be Friends.

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Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

I have a shocking admission to make…I’ve never read On the Road! Terrible, I know! But now I’ve seen a movie version, so I feel that I can speak about the book with complete authority. It is, of course, the story of young men traveling about (on a road) seeking hipness, wildness, and adventures to write about. In the film, at least, I didn’t really love these guys. They seemed self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, self-aggrandizing, and humorless. The poor dears were trying so hard to be crazy-cool that they wound up slogging through a heavy luke-warm slurry of their own invention. But I haven’t read the book. In keeping with my Andre Bazinian belief that it’s best for a critic to write about films that they like, I’ll stop talking about On the Road, and tell you instead about something wonderful we discovered because of On the Road. In one scene in the movie (and apparently in the book as well) the boys happen upon a performance of musician Slim Gaillard. Well! David looked him up, and he’s remarkable. He was genuinely hip, wild, and funny, and he not only had more than his share of adventures to write about, he invented his own language with which to write about them! The details of his biography are a bit fuzzy, but he was born in Florida or Cuba, on or around 1916. His father was Greek and his mother was Cuban. He grew up in Cuba cutting sugar cane and picking bananas, maybe. His father, who was a ship’s steward, took him on a tour of the world, but accidentally left him in Crete when he was twelve years old. He eventually moved to Detroit and worked in an abattoir, or at Ford, or as a mortician, or all three. He spoke 8 languages, as well as Vout, his own language, for which he wrote a dictionary. I’m just getting to know his music, but his songs are crazy-wonderful. Lively, contagious, thoughtful, and with a poetry all their own. Yep Roc Heresy, which sounds like nonsense lyrics, is actually a recitation of the names of middle-eastern food, and he does this with food from other nationalities as well. Others, which sound like nonsense syllables are in Vout. And listen to this, Travelin’ Blues, a perfect story with a hot dreamy background. I think Tom Waits heard this! What a discovery! How did I not know about this artist until I was 44 years old? Sigh, if only I’d read On the Road when I was a youngster, like I was supposed to…

We grilled up a lot of mushrooms and red peppers the other night. And it’s been so nice and cool lately, that my thoughts turned to soup. I combined the grilled vegetables with black beans, herbs and a little smoked paprika, and made a smooth, tasty soup. Very easy, very quick. If you don’t have leftover grilled vegetables, you could easily roast the mushrooms and peppers in the oven. I marinated the mushrooms in a little balsamic and herbs, but all of those things are in the soup as well. One of the drawbacks to black bean soup, to me, has always been that it’s a little dull in color. I added a small amount of olive oil steeped with annato seeds, and it brightened the whole thing up.

Here’s a link to some of Slim Gaillard’s music.

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Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Grilled mushroom and white bean dip

Well my story isn’t done. It’s barely even started. Yesterday I wasted lots of time waxing eloquent about how I wanted to write a story, and it sounded like it was going to be a pretty good one, all glowy and underwatery. And I actually wrote one in my head, or part of one at least. And then I got home all eager to write it down, opened up my notebook, and…naw, that’s no good. And then I spent some time looking for another picture to write about, but I couldn’t even do that, I couldn’t pick one. And I started maybe three different stories, but didn’t like any of them, and I began to feel like Isaac, frustrated and angry, yelling at myself, “I HAVE TO WRITE A STORY! WHY WON’T YOU LET ME WRITE A STORY!” I fear my little writer’s block-clearing exercise is giving me a mean case of writer’s block. Or maybe it’s the heat, it’s probably the heat. Anyway, I thought I’d tell you instead about a storyteller that I admire very much (thanks, Saneshane!). His name is Jeffrey Lewis, and he tells stories with pictures and songs. His songs are musically simple but very sweet and compelling, and his lyrics are wonderful. He tells stories about moments of his life that might not seem all that eventful, but that become memorable and meaningful in his songs. He’s witty, pessimistic, hopeful, honest and philosophical, and all in a lovely confiding conversational style. He’s brilliant but self-deprecating, discouraged but full of life. He also writes comic books, and sometimes he tells stories with pictures and songs at the same time. In fact, he did a whole series of songs for the History Channel on subjects such as the French Revolution and the Fall of Rome.

Here are some songs I like by him.


I like them all, actually, but I’m late for work.

This recipe is super easy! It’s a great way to use up leftover grilled vegetables. You just purée them with some beans and spices, and you’re done! It’s great with crackers or chips or spread on crusty bread. Or serve it with oven-roasted fries and a salad as a meal. It would work really well with leftover grilled red peppers, too.
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Grilled veg, pigeon peas, lime, basil and pine nuts

Grilled veg and pigeon peas

Here at The Ordinary’s anti-boredom institute, we believe that you have to be taught to be bored. Babies are never bored. Give them a shaft of light and their little fingers and they’re happy for ages. Little children don’t get bored. It’s when you’re older, and somebody shows you that it’s cool to be bored, that it all comes crashing down, and you lose the ability to entertain yourself. Unfortunately it feels as if this is happening at a younger and younger age. One week into summer vacation, Malcolm announced that he was bored, and needed to watch a(nother) video. I lost it a little bit. I yelled, “you are not that boy – you don’t have so little going on in your busy brain that you need to watch television to keep from being bored!” He sighed, and may have rolled his eyes, my little nearly-ten-year-old-teenager. I’m a big believer in unstructured time, for little ones. Isaac likes to lie on his back in bed, one leg thrown over the other knee, singing and thinking. I always wonder what’s going on in his bright little head. The two of them together can spend hours on some scheme or another. Sometimes it’s better not to know what they’re up to! When I was growing up my mom used to say, “people who are bored are boring.” It’s a lesson that I took to heart. I truly believe that you should have enough inner resources to be stuck in traffic and not be bored – your thoughts should be able to keep you busy and happy. It’s mother-flippin hard sometimes, I know! Inertia, ennui, fatigue, 90+ degree weather – they weigh you down! But it’s what I wish for my bright boys. Now to keep them away from the damn DVD player! Of course it might help if I stopped writing about how I don’t want them to be bored, stepped away from the damn computer, and engaged! We live in such a noisy world! My friend Laura shared this article from the NYT that I found very validating!

OMG, you know what else is totally boring? Eating the same grilled vegetables two days in a row. Sheesh. Unless…you sautée them with pigeon peas, add a squeeze of lime, a giant handful of fresh basil, and a scattering of pine nuts. (Now that I have pine nuts, pretty much every thing I make will involve pine nuts. Until they’re gone. You’ve been warned!) This turned out really tasty. It was an after work – very tired – it’s too hot to cook meal, but it was actually quite special. It was David’s suggestion to use pigeon peas, and it was an excellent one. They have an earthy quality that went well with everything else. You could use any grilled vegetables you have leftover, but I have to say beets, potatoes and mushrooms were lovely. I stir-fried some zucchini, and with the beet juice and nigella seeds, it ended up looking uncannily like water-melon slices! You could, of course grill the zucchini. You could also roast all the veg, or even sautee it all, if that was easier for you, or you don’t have a grill, or it happens not to be summer as your read this. And you could substitute chickpeas for pigeon peas, if that’s what you have on hand. We ate this with basmati rice and some good bread.

Here’s Bob Marley with Lively Up Yourself. I can’t get enough of him, lately!

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