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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Moroccan spiced chickpea, tomato and pepper stew & couscous, & semolina bread

Morrocan chickpea stew

Malcolm wanted to go to the river. Isaac didn’t. It’s not the first time this has happened. After another epic struggle, we persuaded Isaac to walk down with us. As we walked, Malcolm declared that he was an outdoors swimming animal, and Isaac was an indoors curl-up-in-a-nest-of-fur-and-feathers animal. We laughed, cause it’s funny and it’s sort of true. But I felt uneasy. We try very hard not to label the boys a certain way. Not to say… Malcolm is a man who does this, and Isaac is a man who does that; or Malcolm’s good at this, and Isaac’s good at that. Because when somebody decides that you are a certain way, you can get stuck. I find it interesting, and a little frightening, how readily people take to a certain description of themselves. The boys like being defined in certain ways. We all do…everything’s such a confusing muddle, and it makes it easier if you have a semi-solid notion of yourself from which to make sense of it all. As an example…Malcolm is the boy who will try any food, Isaac is the boy who refuses to taste a thing. This is a thing that’s been decided, and Isaac is almost proud of it. But it’s just not true! In fact, I’d go even farther to say that the idea that children like bland, pale foods, and we should start out feeding them tasteless things, and trick them into eating anything else, is also, just not true. We fed tiny Malcolm oatmeal and yogurt and bananas. Then, one day, on a whim, we gave him orzo with pesto on it. Who turned the lights on? Flavor! Strong, sharp flavor! (Tiny little pasta that squishes through your fingers and drives the dog crazy when you scatter it ont the floor!) I think all children like strong flavors – Isaac likes olives and goat cheese – he always has. They both love capers, which they call flavor dynamites. We just have to give them a chance to try these things! Tapenade baby food, anyone?

Isaac eats a chickpea

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.

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Lemon-caper roasted potatoes and the best bread I’ve ever made

Lemon caper potatoes

Here at the naive political philosophy department of The Ordinary, we are sick and tired of worrying about money. And bills. And not having money to pay bills. We suspect that we are not the only ones who feel this way. We have been applying ourselves to solve the problem. Here’s how it will go… Everybody will work very hard doing what they love, and they will have as much as they need to live comfortably. We trust that everybody will love to do different things, so the jobs should be nicely distributed. If somebody feels that they don’t love any kind of work, they will go to school for a time until they figure it out. Education should prepare you for a career by helping you discover your passion, and that’s how it will work. The crappy jobs that nobody wants to do will be divided evenly by everybody, and performed a few hours a day or a few days a week – whatever is necessary and pleasant. Everybody! These jobs generally involve serving people, caring for people, or cleaning up after people, and when everybody has to take a turn at them, we will all develop a love and respect for humanity that will humble and elevate us. You cannot buy your way out of this. In this way, we will reconsider our societal notions of what is valuable, and of what is successful. If you isolate yourself with more riches than you can use, and accumulate more things than you need, you will not be admired, you will seem foolish. Children are taught not to be greedy, not to want more than everybody else, and we will remember these teachings as adults. Everybody will look into their own heart or soul or stomach – wherever they make important decisions – to decide what they need, including, of course, things that don’t seem strictly necessary, but give pleasure or inspiration. So you might say to yourself, “I would like a half pint of castelvetrano olives, but I don’t think I need an elevator for my car.” This is our plan, and I’m sure you can see that it is the essence of pragmatism, and that it will be extremely practical to implement, and will go off hitch-free, and that nobody can quibble with it in any way.

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.

Best bread I’ve ever made!

Here’s The Velvet Underground with Beginning to see the Light. Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right. Ain’t it the truth?
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Two summer salads with feta

Arugula salad with apples, pecans and feta

We find ourselves in the delightful position of having too much to tell you about! I can’t keep up! I’ve also been talking too much lately. So, first of all, I apologize for posting several times in one day. Second of all, these are salads. Salads should be quick to make and pleasing to eat, and you shouldn’t waffle on about them for hours and hours. So I won’t! I’ll give you some recipes, and some good music, and set you on your way.

Chickpea, tomato, olive, feta salad

My boys loved both of these salads and fought over the bowl. The first is green and light, with arugula, romaine, pink lady apples, feta, and pecans. The second is a little heartier and quite savory. It’s got chickpeas, feta, kalamata olives, capers, pine nuts and fresh juicy tomatoes. We ate it with crispy eggplant rounds, as a nice meal.

And here’s a playlist featuring songs with horns. Horn-y songs. I love songs with horns! If anybody would like to suggest other songs with horns to add the list, I’m all ears!
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Eggplant & olive tart with a rosemary-cornmeal crust

Eggplant & olive tart

I had a muddled quote in my head last week. I couldn’t remember the whole thing, and google wasn’t helping. Turns out it was Roland Barthes, from his essay “Upon leaving a movie theater.” The quote goes thusly…“The film spectator might adopt the silk worm’s motto: inclusum labor illustrat: because I am shut in I work, and shine with all the intensity of my desire.” I’ve been thinking about it a lot, before and after I finally discovered the precise words. (Horrors! She’s been thinking! Run for the hills!) At first I thought it was a glow worm, glowing with the intensity of his desire. (I’d asked for help with the quote, and a friend said it reminded him of Churchill’s quote, “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow worm,” which, obviously, I love on every level. I like things that glow. I believe I coined the term “glowy.” Glowy is a Clairey word.) I love film because it glows. Because it’s light through a lens that makes the film and exhibits the film – flickering glowing lights on screen. Of course, this isn’t really true anymore. Obviously video involves light, but it doesn’t glow the way film does. And Barthes’ quote is from a place and time inhabited by people who thought of film as an art, that they could shape by endless discussions, which sometimes resulted in beautiful films being made, and sometimes resulted in more discussions. I’m sure the conversations glowed, too, with the intensity of their words. Nowadays the film spectator isn’t always cocooned in a darkened theater. They are, as likely as not, watching on a television in their home, with familial chaos all around them. I thought about myself, when I was younger, talking about films, making films. Not shut in: filmmaking is collaborative, it requires confidence and lots of coordination, but you do spark off of the people you work with – you do create light that way. I thought about my life in the last ten years, as a mother. I believe I have slowly shut myself in. I have slowly pulled soft silken threads around myself and my family. I believe this would have happened even had I worked full time outside the house. It’s not that I don’t have friends and interests outside of my family, it’s that I have this space, this home, from which I look out on the world. And within my space nothing glows as much as my children, with their creative lightening, their immediate needs, their unshaded love. I’ve been thinking that the “work” I do, shut in pleasantly here, especially in the last year, has been cooking. All of the creativity, the fiendish plotting, the anticipation – it’s all become so important to me…it’s such a pleasure to do this work. And writing has become important to me again, too, whilst shut in with my beautiful sassy brats. The beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere, at any time, you can put words together in your head no matter what else you’re doing, and if you’re lucky they’ll glow for you. In the end, this work doesn’t confine us, it gives us the sustenance and the shine we need to venture out into the world.

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.

Eggplant olive tart

Here’s Nina Simone’s Work Song.
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Kale & chickpeas with orange and tarragon

kale chickpeas and tarragon

Today is our anniversary! David and I have been married sixteen years. It’s gone so fast! These years have become such a long, strong part of my memory, of my happiness, of my life – of who we are. I want to make something special for dinner tonight, and I’ve been thinking about memorable meals we’ve had. The first meal we ever ate together, David made for me – ravioli, red sauce, garlic bread and wine pilfered from his roommates. Still one of the pleasantest meals I’ve ever had! In our courting days we used to go on hikes and take picnics. We always brought bread, peanut butter, dark chocolate and fruit – oranges and apples. What an unlikely, perfect combination of flavors! We brought wine hidden in snapple bottles. The first time we’d ever visited the town where we now live, we went out to dinner on my birthday. I told the waiter, “I’m a vegetarian,” and David said, “So am I.” And that was that – no big announcement, he’d just quietly become a vegetarian, and that’s how we’ve continued our lives together. For a long time we’d share the same plate. We’d make a big mess of pasta or rice and beans and vegetables, and pile it on one big deep plate. And these days I feel grateful every night to live with a man who will happily eat all of the strange food I put on the table! Anybody who likes to cook will know that making food to share with people that you love is what it’s all about. I’m so happy to have somebody to share food with, and listen to music with, to watch films with, to look for birds with, to raise children with, to walk with, to talk with.

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.

Here’s a version of Bob Marley’s Mellow Mood, which is our song!
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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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Deconstructed tapenade (With castelvetrano olives and french feta)

Deconstructed tapenade

Malcolm has standardized testing all week. These last few weeks he’s been working on essay composition. I decided to write this using the methods he’s been taught. Here we go…
“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.]

Here’s Chunky but Funky by Heavy D, to listen to while you chop olives for your chunky tapenade.
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Pizza dumplings

Pizza dumplings

The other night we made dumplings loosely based on our vision of the dumplings in Kung Fu Panda. While we were eating them, we all talked about the different kind of things we could fill them with. Malcolm came up with the idea of pizza dumplings. He wanted them to be like the earth, with layers. An olive for the core, a layer of cheese, a layer of sauce and a layer of dough. So that’s what we tried to do.

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!

Here’s Desmond Dekker with Sugar Dumpling.
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Empanadas with greens, green olives and pistachios

empanadas with greens

I bought these beautiful little green olives. I can’t remember what they’re called, but I think they might have been castelvetrano olives. They were small and round and serpent green. Lovely! They were so pretty that it might have been a shame to stuff them inside of empandas – if the empanadas hadn’t been so mother-flippin delicious!

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!

Here’s REM’s Green Grow the Rushes, because I’ve had it going round in my head lately.
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