Cannellini with kale, fennel and yellow peppers

Penne with chard, fennel and yellow peppers

Penne with chard, fennel and yellow peppers

    All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.
    Albert Camus
    At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.
    Albert Camus
    Don’t you stay at home of evenings? Don’t you love a cushioned seat in a corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?
    Oliver Wendell Holmes
    If you leave the smallest corner of your head vacant for a moment, other people’s opinions will rush in from all quarters.
    George Bernard Shaw

Maybe success is just around the corner. Maybe you’re sick of being stuck in a corner. Maybe you like being stuck in a corner, because your little corner of the world is your favorite place. Maybe you’re standing on the corner like just-got-in-town-Jasper, and you’re deciding which way to turn next. Maybe you’ll stop in at the corner shop for directions and gossip. Maybe you’re just standing on the corner, watching the world go by. Whether the corner is the center of all the action or a dusty forgotten place, today’s Sunday interactive playlist is songs about corners. Add your song to the list, or leave a comment and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.

This is a quick meal! But it has lots of flavor and good textures. Anise-y fennel, earthy beans and kale, sweet peppers and raisins, tart goat cheese. The boys ate it with penne, but I ate it with arugula and pecans, as you see in the picture.

Here’s a link to the playlist.
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Soba noodles with arugula pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Soba noodles with arugula-pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts

Soba noodles with arugula-pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts

Malcolm’s teachers talk about making “smart choices.” It’s something he needs to work on. Because I’m a terrible parent, the phrase seems to have lodged itself in my head as something almost funny, and I find myself using it in less-than-serious situations. I had to have a talk with Clio because she doesn’t make smart choices in the throes of separation anxiety, and she’s become a danger to herself and our furniture. (I’d like to state for the record, before I continue, that I agree with his teachers that “making smart choices” is something Malcolm needs to work on (as do we all!), and I respect their efforts to remind him of that!) I worry a little bit for him, because he’s my son, and I have a lifelong history of crippling indecision and poor choices. Why would a person drop out of Oxford a third of the way through? Why would a person apply to film school, get in, and then not go? Why would a person waste time and money on a second independent feature when the first was a big failure? Why would they do it? Although on paper it may seem that I have made dumb choices, I have no regrets. I think it’s impossible to harbor regrets once you’ve had children, because every single decision that you ever made your entire life–massive or minute, important or seemingly inconsequential–resulted in their creation. It boggles my easily boggled mind! It makes a person think about fate! I believe in fate in the sense that it’s the same thing as history looked at from the other end. Once something has happened, it was obviously meant to happen and it becomes part of the pattern that connects one life to every other life on the planet, as we all move inexorably in the same direction. But I also believe that we control our fate, at least in part, by the smart and dumb choices that we make. And we determine the quality of our lives, as we’re swept along on our fateful journey, by these choices as well. I’m fascinated by the word “fate,” which is closely related to the word “faith,” and to the words “fay” and “fey.” I’m comfortable with the idea that whatever we think about fate, generally, and our own fate, specifically, we have to understand that we’ll never fully understand it, and we have to accept that we’re frequently powerless to control it, as it rolls ceaselessly over us. I also believe that what may seem like a dumb choice if you’re looking at your life from a certain angle at a certain time, might seem like the smartest possible choice looked at any other way. (Hence the lifetime of indecision!) Although small choices have always rendered me a useless mass of anxiety, as I look back on my life I realize that the big choices, like being with David, were simple. There was only one option, only one wise choice. That feels like fate! That gives me faith! And I have faith that Malcolm will make good choices. They might not always be smart and practical choices, but they’ll be brave choices, and (hopefully) kind choices.

Soba with pesto, brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Soba with pesto, brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Malcolm loves soba noodles. He gets very excited about them. He likes them plain, with tamari, so that’s how we most frequently eat them. This week, I decided to augment their sweetly savory nuttiness with a pesto made from pecans and nutty arugula. I added some smoked gouda, because I thought that would be nice, too. And it was! The pesto also has a bit of sage and honey, to balance the sharp strong flavors. Brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives are pretty together. They’re so GREEN! And this pesto was very GREEN! This whole meal had a solid-earthy-wintery-melting-into-summmery flavor. If you know what I mean.

Here’s Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads, because it seems to fit!

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Noodles with broccoli, scallions and black beans

Broccoli, black beans, and scallions

My little Isaac has mastered the art of bicycle riding. It’s not just that he can ride a two-wheeler, but that he rides his bike exactly as a bike should be ridden. It’s all about the journey, with him. Isaac is not a practical man. He’s dreamy and glowy and delightfully meandering, and that’s how he rides his bike. He’s like a little gnat, flying along in dizzy spirals, darting unexpectedly at passersby, weaving happily from side to side. Sometimes he’ll take off at top speed for about half a block, and then he’ll stop to take off his itchy helmet for a moment, and ask me what my favorite dinosaur is, and if it has little yellow eyes. Then he’ll laugh and say, “You couldn’t know that! Nobody could know that.” Then he’ll get himself going again, and sway happily down the street. He has no sense of urgency about getting to school on time. I feel like such a traitor to the world of childhood when I hurry him along, and lecture him about lateness. I feel like the kind of person who would use the word “tardy,” I feel like I’m working for the man.

Isaac is not a very practical eater, either. He seems to live on fruit and sunshine. He’s a vegetarian who doesn’t like many vegetables. He’s not hungry at mealtimes, but he’ll be ravenous fifteen minutes later. He only likes certain shapes of pasta, and swears that every pasta has its own flavor. He does eat a lot of pasta, so maybe he’s preternaturally discerning. As David said, “fifty words for snow…” When Isaac does eat something of a substantial meal-like nature, with vegetables and protein, it’s like seeing a rare and wonderful bird. I’ll point it out to David with quiet gestures, and he’ll gesture back not to disturb the exotic creature at the watering hole, or he’ll bolt, and leave his meal uneaten. Last night I decided to cook up some scallions and broccoli I’d gotten from the CSA. I was extremely tired after a ridiculously busy shift at work. This was quick, and had a nice mix of salty, hot, and sweet. Isaac approached it slowly. First he picked out the broccoli. Then the beans, one at a time, then he began to eat everything together, by the forkful. Huzzah!!

I’ve been waiting to cook with scallions so I could post Booker T’s Green Onions.

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Chard, raisin, pecan pesto & black pepper pasta

Chard, pecan, golden raisin pesto

I had a little tantrum yesterday. It was not my proudest moment. It was about ice cream – I was like the kid that drops the ice cream cone, except that instead of tears there was lots of swearing and self-pity. Why did this happen? Let’s take it back. As they say in the TV shows, 18 hours earlier…

The night before I’d mixed some yeast and sugar and a little bit of flour – I’d made a starter. Then I’d gone to bed and thought about all of the interesting things I could make to go with my bread. The next morning I’d added all the other ingredients for the bread, and I had, almost simultaneously, made a brown butter caramel custard to turn into ice cream later in the day. For some reason, I cooked the heck out of everything in the house yesterday! I wanted to make everything from scratch. Bread, pasta, sauce, ice cream. Why? I don’t know! I was seized by some dormant Little House on the Prairie-longing, perhaps. But it all seemed so easy and pleasant. Everything was just a little bit of effort now, a little bit more later. I had fun kneading the dough, I didn’t panic whilst making the custard. I felt positively light-hearted!

Then things started to go wrong, as they usually do. But I couldn’t take it in stride, for some reason. The bread had a really nice crust, but the inside didn’t have the big holes I was hoping for. I really want to make bread with big holes. The pasta was fine, I think, but Isaac wouldn’t even try it. He always eats pasta, and he would not take one bite. Not one! Malcolm ate his pasta like a dog, which is probably normal behavior for a nine-year-old boy, but it did me in. He relented and ate with a knife and fork, but I’d gone to the dark side, by then. And then the mother-flipping ice cream wouldn’t freeze. I have a child’s toy of an ice cream maker from the 80s. It’s not ideal, but it does the job, usually. Not last night. Sigh.

I sat in the backyard enjoying the silence and the greenness and the smell of our lilacs and roses, and the sight of tiny little fireflies. (Why have I never noticed them before? Are they just young fireflies? They’re lovely!) The boys came out and asked for dessert. Goddamn dessert. Then came the cursing, the regret over wasted ingredients, the desire for one peaceful meal, the wistfulness for the ice cream that might have been. I threw squares of bittersweet chocolate at them, which they absconded with happily. Hopefully they’ll remember that, rather than be scarred for life by their mother’s moodiness.

This pesto is really tasty, though, I think! One of my all time favorite combinations is greens, raisins and nuts. (I’ve said it many times, I know!) I’ve baked it into savory pies plenty of times, and it was time to try something different. I thought to myself, why not put it all together? I love pesto, and I like to experiment with different kinds. So that’s what I did. You’ve got chard, pecans, almonds (because I didn’t have many pecans left), golden raisins, roasted garlic, rosemary and smoked paprika. Savory, sweet, and a little smoky.

Here’s Tom Waits with All the World is Green. I love this song, I’ve listened to it so much lately. And all the world is green, right now! And this pesto is a lovely, mossy sort of green.
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