Spring herbs & greens tart

Garden

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Ferned grot–
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not–
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
-Thomas Edward Brown

I used to love this poem, when I was little. I know … it’s overblown, it’s stilted, it’s very Victorian, but I thought it was great. I learned recently that the poem spawned a word, “godwottery.” Godwattery refers to a) gardening in an elaborate and affected style, or, b) affected use of archaic language. I love that! I love the word, I love the idea, and the gentle teasing quality of the whole arrangement.

My parents gave me a small part of the yard to make a garden in. I used to plan it furiously. I had a little garden book. I drew pictures, I researched seeds. I visited the Cloisters in New York. I read overwrought victorian poetry about gardens. I was never quite as good at actually planting the garden, though, or weeding it, or taking care of it. I did make a nice little space, for a while. Where we live now, we have a tiny yard, and an even tinier space set aside for a garden. We grew tomatoes for a few years, but we’re giving the soil a break, and this year we’re planting herbs and small greens. I’m thrilled! I’ve always loved a tangled combination of greens and herbs in any food. Not carefully planned out, but all thrown wildly together, so you get a small taste of each, and it forms a beautiful, complicated whole. I love the way this works year round. In winter you have kale and spinach, winter savory and rosemary. In summer chard, more spinach, basil and thyme. In fall, small, bitter greens, sorrel and sage. In the spring – you have a big jumble of small spicy sassy plants. Chervil and tarragon, tiny beet greens, arugula, lovage, summer savory. (I was never the most organized farmer – this is more my bright idea about how things might fit togehter! The names are a pretty part of the plan!)

I love recipes that combine a wild mix of herbs and greens. Soup meagre, or small salads that combine a few herbs and greens. You can mix them with butter, or toss them with pasta or mashed potatoes. Or bake them into a tart! Which is what I did! I combined baby arugula, baby spinach, basil, summer savory, tarragon, chervil, parsley, bull’s blood beet leaves, lovage, and chives. Most of these things we’re growing; some I bought. It doesn’t matter! It all tastes good! You can use whatever you like – whatever you can find. The only other flavoring I used was a clove of roasted garlic. And the crust has some ground pecans – a nice nutty combination with the herbs. I think it turned out very nice – every bite has a new combination of flavors. It’s possible to distinguish one or two, now and again, or just to enjoy them as they come.

Here’s footage of Louis Armstrong with Royal Garden Blues
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Cornmeal crusted pies with roasted chickpeas

Roasted chickpea pies with cornmeal crust

I had a dream the other night about chickpeas roasted with thyme. I could pretend that this represented something else. Say the chickpeas represent my sons (in truth, when they were born we called them chickpea-head, because they had such lumpy little bald heads they looked like chickpeas!) and thyme represents time, which is running and passing, running and passing. But let’s face it, in reality I just dream about food! The nice thing about dreaming about food, is that if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, you can think about how you’d make the food in your dream. A good way to take your mind off the more stressful goblins you can’t help chasing down dark and winding alleys at three in the morning. So I thought about chickpeas roasted with thyme, and thyme is part of the jerk spice family, so I thought I’d add some allspice and cayenne (don’t have scotch bonnet peppers!) And then I thought I’d add something green, like spinach, and something fresh, like parsley, and put it all in a cornmeal crust. (I had to resist the urge to use masa harina again! I can’t use it every day, can I?) Not hard to make, and tasty and fun to eat. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because I have to be at work soon.

Here’s The Clash with Long Time Jerk, to go with the jerk seasoning. It’s strange, I’d never really listened to the lyrics to this before, but I just did the afternoon before I made this dinner. They seemed so strange and beautiful to me! About memory and desire and time passing.
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Turnip & pecan soup

Turnip & pecan soup

I think if turnips were people, they’d have a good sense of humor. They’d be sweet, but they wouldn’t be universally popular, because that sweetness would be hidden under a fairly sharp sarcastic edge. Now that I’ve personified turnips, I’m going to tell you how I chopped them up and ate them! Mwah ha ha ha!!

It might sound odd, but whenever I feel physically or emotionally low, I start to crave turnips. They’re not a traditionally comforting food, I don’t think, because of their edginess, but they always sound good to me when I’m not feeling well. Usually in soup form. So that’s what I made. This soup is simple but nice. The star of the show is the turnips, but there’s a pleasant nuttiness from the pecans, and a freshness from the parsley. It’s fairly easy to make – it has plenty of flavor without a broth, so you don’t have to take the time to prepare that.

To make it ultimately comforting, you’d serve it with cheese toasts made with sharp cheddar. We had a lot of leftover pizza to get through, so the toasts felt redundant, but I grated some sharp cheddar in mine, and it was very tasty!

Here’s Nina Simone with Nina’s Blues. One of my favorite songs ever. Why? Because it’s a little bit like turnips. Suprisingly comforting. She’s not doing well (she plans to lay her head on a railway track) but in the end she triumphantly declares that the sun will shine in her back door some day. Ba da ba!!
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Salubrious Parsley Soup

Parsley soup

The other day my friend Laura asked me if I’d ever made anything with parsley as the main ingredient. Guess what! I had just bought a large bunch of Italian parsley! Strange, right? I don’t usually buy parsley, for some reason. I enjoy it when it comes in our CSA box, but I usually pass it over at the store, in favor of it’s showier cousin, cilantro. But I’d been craving parsley. Something about the fresh green flavor seemed perfect for the time of year. So Laura’s question was very well-timed. I thought of a lot of different types of things I could make, which I will eventually. But for some reason my mind kept wandering back to tabouli. I thought of a sort of soup, with a clear, clean broth. One of those garlicky, lemony broths that people eat when they’re not feeling well. With flecks of parsley floating in it, and with herbily seasoned bulgur on the side, that you could add to your taste. So that’s what I made. I tried to keep it simple, and I was worried that it wouldn’t have enough flavor, but my son said it had too strong a flavor, so … who knows! I seasoned the broth with thyme and basil and the bulgur with zatar herbs and sesame seeds.

Here’s Lee Perry & Niney with Chase Them Down With Garlic.
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Remy’s soup

Remy's soup

Have you ever wondered what Remy puts in the soup that Linguini nearly ruins in Ratatouille? Of course you have! We all have. Well, here in the test kitchens of The Ordinary, we’ve done exhaustive research to arrive at the definitive version of the soup, with the precise ingredients that Remy used. Precisely definitive! We watched this scene dozens of times. We’ve listened to characters’ descriptions of the soup, and we’ve analyzed the inner workings of the kitchen to arrive at a soup that is a “spicy yet subtle taste experience.” Let us walk you through it. To begin with, when Linguini nearly knocks the pot off the stove, the soup looks like tomato sauce. We determined, decidedly, that it’s probably some sort of tomato soup. We kept that part simple, but we did add a spicy element, because nothing we saw Remy add could be described as “spicy.” Linguini adds tap water, an entire bunch of scallions, white wine, and salt, lots of salt. Noted. Remy adds broth, cream, garlic, thyme, black pepper, cubes of potato, leeks, parsley, chervil, more salt, bay leaves and, we believe, basil. He later states, when questioned by Linguini, that he DID NOT add oregano or rosemary, which they both identify as “spices,” although we, here at The Ordinary, would call them “herbs.” The soup turned out delicious! Spicy, yet subtle. My son, something of a Ratatouille scholar himself, ate three bowls, but declared that the color was too rosy. I’m not an imaginary french rat, for heaven’s sake! I’m not actually going to add an entire container of cream!

Here’s Souped Up from the Ratatouille soundtrack to listen to as you leap over the pot, gleefully adding ingredients.
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mushroom walnut dumplings

mushroom walnut dumplings

Inside: Roasted mushrooms, walnuts, parsley and cheese. Outside: a biscuit-like crust made with whole wheat flour, toasted oats, rosemary, black pepper and buttermilk. I called these dumplings because of their shape, but it might be more accurate to call them stuffed biscuits. They’re not soft and flaky, like anything made with paté brisée. They’re a little heartier-tasting, so they’re nice with soup or something saucy. Or even a sauce! Like the herbed walnut sauce, perhaps. Each bite has subtle flavors of baked rosemary and black pepper, and you can pick them up and eat them with your hands! Always a bonus.

Here’s Big Joe Williams with King Biscuit Stomp
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