Kale with capers, walnuts and fresh basil

Kale, walnuts and capers

Kale, walnuts and capers

Here at The Ordinary, we’ve decided to revive a worship of ancient Greek deities. We’ve been building oracular shrines and temples in our back yard…making little piles of stones for hermes, eating pomegranates for Hera, and worshipping owls for Athena. We’re sending the boys to vacation Zeus camp. I’m kidding, of course, but I have been reading the boys’ copy of D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and I’m completely smitten. The stories are so rich and strange, and yet so familiar. They’ve got a flood, with one couple building a boat that carries them safely through it. They’ve got people being made from other people’s body parts. They’ve got an all-powerful god who is strangely incapable of avoiding death and misery for everyone around him. The scope and balance of Zeus’s power and his limitations is so fascinating to me. He wants to change certain situations, but he can’t, because it’s against the rules. But which rules? Who made them? Who is more powerful than Zeus, to dictate what he can and cannot do? He can’t stop himself from killing his mortal wife by revealing himself to her in all his deadly, brighter-than-the-sun-glory (he promised!). But he can take her unborn son from her burnt body and complete its gestation in his leg, and he can eventually bring her back to life and give her a home on Mount Olympus. He’s powerless against the jealous anger of his godly wife Hera. In one story, he falls in love with a mortal named Io, and when Hera comes down to investigate, he turns the woman into a cow. She’s a very pretty cow, though, just as she was a very pretty mortal, and Hera is jealous. So she asks for the cow as a gift, knowing that Zeus won’t be able to turn her back into a real girl. She has her servant Argus watch over the cow. Argus has hundreds of eyes all over his body. So part of him can sleep while part of his watches the pretty cow. Zeus sends Hermes down to take care of Argus, and Hermes bores him to death! He tells such dull stories that half of Argus’ eyes close, and then he continues to tell such dull stories that the other half of Argus’ eyes close, and he dies! And Hera puts all his eyes on peacock tails! How can you not worship gods with stories like this?

This is a completely simple preparation of kale, but it’s quite pleasant as well. This time of year I love mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil (I know, I know, everybody does.) This sees that combination piled atop kale that’s tender but bright and tossed with capers and walnuts. A little crunchy, a little tangy, and satisfyingly fresh and green.

Here’s Hermes Tri by Jorge Ben, I think there’s a connection to Hermes the god, but I’m a little confused by the story, since I don’t speak Portuguese.

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Savory cake with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Have you ever discovered a wonderful new way to start a story? Cause I have, and I’ll tell you about it. Did you see? Did you see what I did there? I asked a question and then I told you that I’m going to answer it for you! Where did I discover this ingenious new rhetorical method? Why, in the piles and piles of paper Malcolm brought home on the last day of school, of course. I love going through all the boys’ papers. It’s so funny to see their odd ideas and their mad doodles. Sometimes I think all of the little notes and drawings, which are probably dire signs that they aren’t focussing, are my favorite part of their work. And I love to learn what they’ve been thinking about–that Isaac’s major interests this year were bats and his big brother, and that his heart murmur makes his heart have an echo, and that makes him feel special. Malcolm’s writing journal is a treat. It’s a chaotic pile of ripped pages and tiny pictures of his favorite recurring character, a fez-wearing fellow named madman. But it gets neater as it goes along. The writing is more even, the stories are longer and more carefully formed, but the spelling is as erratic as ever, which is definitely a sign of genius, right? Towards the end of the journal, all of the stories start with the “Have you ever…? I have, and I’ll tell you about it” pattern, which I actually love. I’m never going to sit around worrying about how to start a story again! This technique, so confiding and conversational, pulls you right into the story. My favorite of his essays begins like this. (Spelling and grammar have been cleaned up to ease comprehension.) “Have you ever had a favorite window? Cause I have and I’ll tell you about it. It is a green window that has a radiator next to it so when I look out I am warm. Speaking of looking out, I always see a white parking lot or [unintelligible] normal [trails off here]. I feel happy Jumpy when I look out that window…” And that’s pretty much it. It’s an unfinished work. I love it though, and I’m going to tell you why. First of all, I love windows in literature, and in photographs and films, and I’m proud to think of Malcolm joining this fine tradition. Furthermore, I know which window he’s talking about, and I like it too. I like to think of Malcolm, warm in his room, looking through the cool green window with his big green eyes, watching the world go by. I like that he feels happy-jumpy, whatever that means. Malcolm is a boy who will go anywhere with you. He never needs persuading, he’s ready and out the door in a flash, and I like to think about him sitting there thinking of all the places he’ll go. And funnily enough, I’d made a little film of this very window as part of my series of small videos that I’ve told you about in the past. They’re like Ozu’s pillow shots without the film all around them. “I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) There was nothing brilliant about the videos, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be.” One night about a month ago, when we were putting the boys to bed, I was very taken with Malcolm’s green window. It was a cooly glowing spring dusk, and the light in the room was warm and creamy, and the light outside the window so cool and evening-blue green.

Because my birthday is in June, it has become a tradition to make a dinner of bread, tomatoes, mozzarella and olives. Just to sit and snack and have a slightly nicer bottle of wine than usual. This year, because it’s a sweltering and humid 95 degrees every day, I thought it would be a good idea to bake something. But I wanted to retain the basic idea of tomatoes, olives and cheese. I’m savory-cake mad at the moment, so I made a yeasted, herbed chickpea flour batter, and then I piled fresh tomatoes, herbs, mozzarella and castelvetrano olives in the middle, and then I baked it all. Delicious! We had it with tiny boiled potatoes from our CSA and some bright sauteed pattypan squash and asparagus. The boys liked it, too, because it resembles pizza. I actually left the batter in the fridge over night, but you could just do an ordinary afternoon-rise, if you like.

Here’s Brianstorm, by the Arctic Monkeys, which is Malcolm’s favorite song.

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Every kind of tomato tart, with a semolina crust

Every kind of tomato tart

Is there any anxiety in life more pleasant than that of having too many tomatoes? I think not! I look forward to this moment all year long. I went to the CSA last week and picked the beautiful little golden tomatoes, the tiny bright orange tomatoes, the big green sauce tomatoes. The next morning we picked up our CSA box and … even MORE TOMATOES! My counter is overflowing with tomatoes, the garden is overgrown with basil, and I’m overjoyed at the over abundance. Isaac dispatched the cherry tomatoes in no time – he eats them like candy. I have so many fiendish plans for the rest of the tomatoes. Be warned, I’ll be pelting you with tomato recipes all week!

Fresh tomato tart

The tomatoes are so pretty, in all their various shapes and sizes and colors, that the first thing I wanted to make was a simple tart to showcase them in all their glory. The wondrous trinity of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is combined here, elegantly packed into a crunchy semolina crust. I kept everything very simple and spare, so that the tomatoes themselves would really shine. They’re lovely here – cooked long enough to be soft and juicy, but not so long that they’re mushy. You can taste the subtle difference in each type of tomato in every bite of this tart. This tart was a breeze to put together. I made the crust before work, and it cooked in about half an hour. Simple, quick, pretty, and delicious. And gone! We ate the whole thing in one sitting.

Here’s Freddy McKay with Love is a Treasure. And so are september tomatoes! (I love this song!)

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French lentils with roasted beets and walnuts

French lentils and roasted beets

When I was a kid, people used to say, “that was beat.” That meant it was bad. I’m not sure if this was specific to where and when I grew up, or if it was more of universal phraseology, but it was quite prevalent amongst my peers. (When I was even younger, people used to say “feeling crunchy,” when somebody was put down or proven wrong. I’m fairly sure that was specific to my middle school! Ooooooh, feeeeeeling cruuuuuunchyyyyyy…”) So, if something was beat, it was bad. To use it in a sentence, “That party was so beat, because the music was beat, and the people were really beat, too.” I’ve decided to make it my life’s work, my raison d’etre, to bring the phrase back, but as a description of a good thing, and changing it slightly to “beet.” “That party was so beet, man, I never wanted to leave! My job is so great, it’s roasted beet. Awww, they’re my favorite band of all time…they’re golden beet.” Maybe I shouldn’t have been thinking about this before bed, because I had a dream about beet brickle, which I think we can all agree I shouldn’t try to make. I also thought of this recipe, which turned out deeeeeelicious. Totally beet. It’s got french lentils cooked with a little red wine, orange juice and balsamic; it’s got lovely little roasted beets and shallots; it’s got toasted walnuts, for crunch; it’s got fresh basil, sage, and tarragon, for spring-herb-garden-deliciousness; and it’s got tiny cubes of mozzarella, which get nice and melty when they hit the warm lentils.

Crusty bread

We ate it with some fresh black pepper bread, and I’m extremely excited about it. As you know, if you’ve been following along at home, I’ve been trying for some time to make a crispy-crusted bread that doesn’t have a dense crumb. I wanted big airy holes inside. Well…I think I’ve done it! I left the dough very very wet and soft. It was messy to knead, I tell you. And I let it rise the last time, in the pan I baked it in, for well over an hour. Oh boy!! Look at the airy crumb on this baby! It’s soooooo beeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Crusty bread

Here’s LL Cool J (and Adam Horowitz!) with I Need a Beet

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Tomato & basil toasts

The sky is flat, dark, slate grey, gathering over the roofs and trees to the southwest. The sky is bright on the other side of the horizon, but the rooms of our house are becoming dusky-dark. The bright green leaves are showing their pale undersides, and a spattering rain is edging over the house. The wind smells remarkable – cool and green and sharp, after a day of damp and heavy air. A storm is coming! I’m a little phobic about storms. It’s tedious for my family. I won’t leave the house if a storm is predicted. Well – that’s not quite true any more, because they predict storms every day from May to September in this day and age, and I do leave the house in every once in a while during those months. The truth is, though, that I love a good storm, if all of my people are safe and sheltered. Storms seem to capture so many seasons and hours of the day in their cycle of anticipation and relief. The heavy stillness that precedes them, which you can feel weighing you down; the drama of the storm itself; the clearness of the world when it’s all over. And storms are creatures of the summertime, of course. Warm and ripe and bursting – like summer tomatoes. We don’t have any summer tomatoes, yet, but we do have lots of basil! And half a ciabatta baguette to use up! So I made these tomato basil toasts. This could probably be called bruscetta, actually. And it’s one of those things that’s so simple, you feel silly posting a recipe. But it’s perfectly delicious. I add capers and roasted garlic, to the trinity of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. The juice of the tomatoes mingles with a bit of olive oil and balsamic to create a lovely juicy sauce to dip your bread in. And that’s about it!

Here’s The Storms are on the Ocean by The Carter Family. I really love this song! It’s so driving, in their understated way.
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Avocado, olive & basil salad

Avacado & olive salad

[I apologize for posting a couple of times today. We’re going away for the weekend, and I don’t want to fall too far behind!]

My boys have a book called Mixed-up Animals. Each page has a picture of an animal and is broken into three sections. You can turn a part of the page to line up another animal with the first. In this way, you can make a creature with platypus feet, an armadillo body, and a caribou head. A platadillibou. They’ve also always loved the game exquisite corpse, in which each person draws part of a creature without seeing what the others have drawn. Isaac still gets very excited when the paper is unfolded to reveal a mis-matched monster! This salad reminds me a little of that. It’s part tapenade (olives & capers) part guacamole (avocado & tomato), part pesto (nuts & basil), and part caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil). I had a just-ripe avocado, and a small bowl of nicoise olives. These got the rusty little wheels turning in my brain, and the rest just sort of fell into place!! So you end up with guacenade. Or tapamole. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! We had it with some crusty bread, but you could make it into crostini, or serve it with big chips. Or just throw it onto a pile of mixed lettuces and call it a mixed salad!

She’s Strange – she’s got two double heads, two left legs, and her nose looks like the knees of a nanny goat, but Screamin Jay Hawkins loves her!!
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Eggplant, roasted mushroom, red bliss, spinach bake

Eggplant mushroom bake

There are certain things in the world I like a lot. I think of these things as “Claire-y.” Otters, for instance, or green chairs with unexpected drawers, or boxes with little secret compartments and little bottles in them. These things are claire-y. I was trying to think of a way to describe this, and I kept coming back to the word claire-y. I love eggplant, mushrooms, spinach and potatoes. I love them cooked these ways, and I love them all together. I also seem to be drawn to odd dishes that defy definition and categorization. I’m not sure what to call this? Is it a gratin? A tian? A bake? A casserole? (For some reason a casserole seems like something my fourth grade teacher from the 70s would make. The one with the polyester suit and the glasses on a chain.) As I understand it, most of these words describe the dish it was baked in. But I don’t know what my dish is called! ACK! I decided to call it a bake. Because it’s baked. Here’s what it involves…thinly sliced vegetables, each prepared in a slightly different way, layered together with some cheese and baked. That’s about it. The potatoes are boiled, the eggplant is fried, the mushrooms are roasted, and the spinach is sautéed. It’s quite easy though! It sounds like a lot of steps, but they’re all pretty easy and quick. And then when it’s done, what is it? It’s hearty and satisfying enough to be a main course, but it also works quite well as a side dish. It’s whatever you want it to be, I guess!

Eggplant mushroom bake

Today friends, instead of finding a song about casseroles, tians or bakes, I’m going to post this song that has been haunting me. It’s so beautiful and plaintive. When a song like this is an earworm, it’s like having a little ghost howling in your head! It’s Tommy Johnson’s I Want Someone to Love Me.

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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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Beet risotto croquettes

Risotto croquettes

What do you do with all of your leftover risotto? Turn it into croquettes, of course! You could make these with any risotto, I think, but I had beet lime risotto left, so that’s what I used. They’re very very simple to make, and they make a nice meal with a big salad. I couldn’t decide if I should fry them or bake them, they’d be crispier fried, but they’d fall apart and smoke up the kitchen, so I decided to bake them. If I had a deep fryer, I probably would have used that. But I don’t! (As we discussed this conundrum, my husband and I came up with the idea of slow cooker deep frying. For maximum oil absorption! Yum!) Baking them also gives the special surprise cheese in the center a chance to melt. What’s better than melted surprise cheese? We had these with a sauce made of pesto, balsamic, and a little of the broth that I used to make the risotto itself, but you could vary the sauce to suit your mood or the risotto that you used. My son dipped them in barbeque sauce!

Here’s A Tribe Called Quest’s wonderful Ham and Eggs. That’s right, they say “nice red beets”!

Asparagus tips look yummy, yummy, yummy
Candied yams inside my tummy
A collage of good eats, some snacks or nice treats
Apple sauce and some nice red beets
This is what we snack on when we’re Questin’
(both: No second guessin)

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Broccoli and kale paté

broccoli and kale paté

Brassicaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! This paté brings the sexy back to your brassica. Yes, they smell funny when you cook them. Yes, they’re good for you. Yes, when overcooked they’re stodgy and horrible. But brassica can be really delightful – bright, green, flavorful, juicy! That’s how we find them in this delicious and simple paté. My sister-in-law, Christy, was over for dinner the night I made these. She doesn’t like kale or broccoli (I know, I’m a very considerate hostess!) but she asked for two helpings of this! We ate this on thinly sliced toasted whole grain bread with a bowl of soup, and it made an easy, satisfying meal. It would make an elegant appetizer, as well, or snack for a party.

Here’s Beirut’s brassy Gulag Orkestar to listen to while you boil your brassica.
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