Savory cake with mushrooms, chard, pecans & pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

“Mom? Someday? Can we go to a junkyard? And bring home junk? And make sculptures with it? What are those things called?”
“Um, they’re called sculptures.”
“Yeah. You know a lot of people think junk is just junk, but it’s not!”
“What is it?”
“Art materials!”
I realize that lately the subtitle of Out of the Ordinary could be “Isaac and Claire talk on the way to school.” And I never intended it to turn out that way, but the truth is, I come home and I think about all of the odd things he’s told me. I think about them for hours, setting off a little chain of loosely connect thoughts which generally lead back to whatever he was talking about in the first place. Today I thought about junkyards, and I thought about the Gleaners and I and Vik Muniz’ Wasteland, and Agbobloshie, and aircraft boneyards. And I thought of the term “rag-and-bone,” which has been in my head for days, although try as I might I can’t remember what put it there in the first place. And of course that made me think of “Rag and bone shop of the heart,” so I had to look up the whole poem. The Circus Animal’s Desertion. What a name for a poem! What a poem! It ends thusly:

    Those masterful images because complete
    Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
    A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
    Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
    Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
    Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
    I must lie down where all the ladders start
    In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

And it’s so strange to think about Yeats lacking inspiration or feeling disappointed. It’s so strange to think about him looking back on his career with any kind of sadness or regret, or looking into his heart and feeling despair or disdain for what he finds there. I want to tell him what Isaac would tell him, that those old kettles and bottles and bones aren’t junk, they’re art materials. He can make himself a new ladder out of old iron and broken cans, a ladder that might be more true and stronger than his old one. But of course he knows that, he knows it all, because he found his inspiration, he wrote this poem, and it’s beautiful and he must have felt that in his deep heart’s core.

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

I’ll blame it on the weather, on the seemingly endless winter, but I’ve wanted to make warm comforting bready meals lately. Last night it was this savory cake, which is a lot like a pizza with the toppings baked right into the dough. I made the dough rich and tender, with butter, milk and an egg (I think of it as brioche-like). And I filled that with my favorite combination of chard and mushrooms. I used pecans and pistachios, but you could use one or the other, whichever you have. We ate this with leftover asparagus pesto and with a pecan sauce something like this one.

Here’s Rag and Bone by The White Stripes

Continue reading

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!
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading