So when I made this Moroccan-spiced chickpea stew, Isaac refused to try it, because that’s what he does. Then I gave him a chickpea. He ate that, and helped himself to more. I gave him an olive. He ate that, and spooned a few more onto his plate. By the time the rest of us had left the table, I looked out the window and saw that he’d pulled the whole serving plate toward him, and was eating everything together, hungrily. So we’ll take Isaac swimming, and Malcolm will curl up on the couch with a good book.
The stew was really tasty, and it’s a good way to use up all your tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, if you’re sick and tired of ratatouille. It’s not authentically Moroccan-spiced, of course. It’s just that it’s a pleasing mixture of savory spices and herbs, and “sweet” spices and herbs. And the bread! Well, I’d been reading fascinating accounts of Moroccan flatbread, that generally contain semolina, and are folded into all sorts of beautiful fashions. I decided to play around with these ideas, but in one big loaf. It turned out very nice! With a lovely texture and flavor – crumbly, chewy, and satisfying. If you don’t feel like doing all the crazy folding, you could just shape it into a nice round, and leave it at that.
Here’s Peter Tosh’s beautiful I Am that I Am.
In keeping with the practicality of this post, we will give you two recipes at once, and both will be for practical things – bread and potatoes. This bread is the best bread that I have ever made! All the other loaves have been preparation for this bread. It is crispy, it has a big open grain – it has holes! It’s chewy, and tasty. I nearly killed my food processor making it!! I’ve been experimenting with wetter and wetter dough, these last few months – to the point that it became very messy to knead with my hands. I was thrilled to get my food processor, because I thought I could use it to knead the dough. It worked, but at some point it seized up! There was a bad smell of burning. The dough was stuck in the food processor, the blade wouldn’t move, the container would not be budged! I scraped all the dough out into a bowl, and everything worked out in the end. I must have left it too long. The other recipe is for a medley of different types of potatoes (from our CSA!) We have red-skinned, white fleshed, golden fleshed. We scrubbed them, cut them in half, boiled them briefly, combined them with olive oil, oregano, capers, olives and lemon juice, and broiled them. Perhaps the most delightful and unexpected part of this recipe is that the capers (or flavor dynamites, as my sons call them) got crispy. Crispy! They’re delicious.
I love a meal that takes a little bit of attention at various points throughout the day. You’ll start something in the morning. You’ll forget about it for a few hours and go ineffectively do some housework, or go on adventures in the secret passage that leads to the other secret passage on the other other side of the canal. You’ll go home and slice this and mix that, and then leave it while you take the boys to a creek or the river. And then just before dinner you’ll have a big glass of wine and start putting everything together. This is just such a meal! You can start the dough, and leave it for hours. You can slice and salt the eggplant, and leave that for a while. Come back, punch down some dough, make a marinade for the eggplant, go about your business. Plus it tasted really good! Crispy eggplant, fresh tomatoes, a soft but crispy cornmeal crust, a subtly flavored roasted garlic custard, smoky mozzarella, some briny olives, and some fresh basil. What could be better than all that? I actually roasted a whole head of garlic, in a little pottery garlic roaster, and used a few of those cloves. You can also toast a couple cloves in a toaster oven, or roast them in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes, to take the edge off. It won’t be quite as soft and delicious, but good nonetheless.
I’ll make something more special tonight, but in the meantime, here’s a dish that reminds me of a special meal we had on vacation long ago. We used to go to upstate New York every autumn, and we’d eat at a restaurant called The 1819 House. It was just our kind of place. They served something they called vegetarian paella, and we’ve been having different versions of it ever since. Here’s one version, which I call…vegetarian paella. And this new version has kale, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives, in a sweet/salty broth made with white wine, orange juice and tarragon. All of the flavors blend nicely, so you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. As David said, you don’t really taste the orange, you just taste a sunny, summery flavor.
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!
“My goodness, look at those!” She cried, jumping back in surprise. [Narrative grabber] “Castelvetrano olives! I never thought I’d find them in a market so close to my home.” She bought as many as she could afford, and then her eye was caught by a creamy white cheese. “What’s that?” she queried. [Try not to use the words “said” or “asked”]
“Well,” responded the vendor, a short, pleasant woman with dark brown hair, [describe all the characters in detail], “It’s French feta cheese. Would you like a taste?”
It was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten. [hyperbole] Creamy and juicy, with a nice salty edge, but much milder than Greek feta. She counted out her coins and bought a small slice.
There are several reasons I like castelvetrano olives. One is that they’re very pretty. They’re as green as serpents, as bright as spring grass, and as shiny as emeralds. [similes!] They taste so good, too. They’re have a very vegetable-y taste, they’re fresh and buttery and mildly salty. [List reasons and support with details and examples] I thought the feta would go very well with them, and as I drove home with little packets of each on the seat next to me, my mind whirred with the possibilities. I wanted to make a tapenade, but not puréed – I wanted to retain the taste and texture and pretty colors of the olives. I thought of all the things I could add. Tart cherries would add a touch of sweetness, chopped hazelnuts would add a bit of crunch, and tarragon and chervil would lend their intriguing lemon/anise zing. Plus they’re half of that band “Les fines herbes.” They’re the bassist and the drummer, I think.
To conclude, I love castelvetrano olives, and I was surprised to find them at a market near my home. I made them into a chunky sort of tapenade that had a lovely mix of flavors and textures. It was delicious on small toasted pieces of baguette. We ate every little bit, and I was tempted to lick the bowl! Who knows what we’ll have for dinner tonight? [The conclusion should restate what’s already been said, in a slightly different way, but try to leave the reader wanting more with a takeaway ending.]
Malcolm is writing an essay for school about what he wants to be when he grows up. I’m going to share some excerpts with you. Remember, this is still a work in progress – he’s at the prewriting stage. Here we go…
Bang! Pishhh! “Hey, chef I need 3 pies.”
In my opinion being a chef is very fun.
I want to be a chef because I like to cook with my mom and she says that I have great ideas for cooking. One of my favorite things to do is invent and cooking is like inventing.
I want to travel so I can go to Scotland and find out what they eat there. Then I will learn how to cook food all over the world.
I hope he will!
They have three kinds of greens – chard, kale and spinach, they have very green olives, and they have pistachios, which are green nuts! They also have ricotta, mozzarella and lots of herbs. I’m especially pleased with the texture of these. You never know how it’s going to go with greens and ricotta. Will they be watery and runny? Or mushy? This was perfect, though. Juicy, almost, but not soggy. It occurred to me that these were like large, baked, crispy ravioli, and in that spirit, I added a little semolina flour to the dough. (If you don’t have semolina flour, just leave it out. Or add 1/4 cup regular flour to replace it. Either way. )I made a sauce to go with these with roasted red peppers, almonds, tomatoes, paprika and chipotle. It turned out very spicy!