Pumpkinseed, green vegetable, and cheddar soup

pumpkinseed vegetable soup

pumpkinseed vegetable soup

I spent the morning cleaning. Let me tell you why that’s interesting. It’s not! It’s not interesting at all, to anyone! Cleaning is dull and tedious and repetitive, and it’s only satisfying if you’re good at it, which I’m not. You wouldn’t walk into my house and say, “This place looks great, Claire must have cleaned for hours this morning!” You’d more likely say, “Jesus, what a dump! How can they live in such squalor?” Cleaning is the most sisyphean of tasks, you clean, it gets messy again, you clean, it gets even messier. Especially if you have children or dogs. Honestly, I think cleaning a house with two little boys in it is the definition of insanity. They stand in the yard and throw dirt at things because it’s fun. They throw paint (and other substances) at the walls and the floor. Of course they do! Who wouldn’t? I’m a good mom for little boys, because I like dirt, as long as it’s good clean dirt. If they eat some soil in their lives, it can only be good for them, to take a bit of the earth into their bodies, right? But I don’t necessarily like dirt on my windowsills, and that’s what we had, in large quantities. I could have planted some seeds in there and they would have grown. Today I cleaned the windows and cleared out some cobwebs (literally–We share our home with many spiders). And that does feel good in springtime. To have a clear and unobstructed view of the world coming to life outside your windows. To remove some of the clutter that confuses your picture of the world. I don’t enjoy cleaning, but there are things I like about it. I like the fact that we all have to do it (or hire somebody to do it). There’s something comforting in that–cleaning connects us and it’s humbling and grounding for everyone. I like the clarity that it can bring, and the sense of renewal. My mind feels fuzzy and confused, sometimes, as though it is actually wrapped in spider webs, and cleaning my physical space can feel like opening a window in my brain, and blowing away some of that dust. Because cleaning is very good for freeing the mind. I have some of my best thoughts while sweeping the floor or scrubbing the tub, and if I get stuck on something I’m trying to write, cleaning is more than a way of procrastinating, it’s a way to keep thinking about something without consciously thinking about it. You shift the focus and alter the angle of the shot, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Sometimes when you clean you find a toy that you forgot you had, and you can stop and play with it for a while. And I like to think about spirits everywhere – angry pee spirits, mischievous dust spirits, the ghosts of little boy hand smudges, or phantom dog nose prints on glass–they all hold a little of the history or their happening. Even the clever spiders and their fantastical mysterious webs seem other-worldly at times. I feel that I make a deal with them when I clean. I’ll disturb them only so much, and then let them be. I’ll stir them up and make them dance around in a flurry, but I’ll understand that they’ll settle again, that they’re part of this house and have probably lived here longer than I have. So I spent the morning cleaning windows and clearing clutter, and my mind and my eyes are a little clearer, a little more ready for spring, and already the dust is softly settling around me once again.

This soup felt a little like spring cleaning the vegetable drawer. I had a lot of green vegetables and some were past the first blush of youth, because I wasn’t around much last week, so I decided to make them into a soup. I used broccoli, spinach, kale and cauliflower (not green, I know! But it doesn’t look ugly with green vegetables, and it makes such a smoooooth purée). YOu could use any vegetables you have on hand that you like together. First I toasted some pumpkinseeds, because I love their flavor, and they make the soup nice and creamy. And I finished it by melting in some cheddar, which added flavor and substantiality. I seasoned it with cumin, sage, oregano and cilantro, because I wanted it to go well with our leftover kale and black bean cornmeal cakes, but you could use any herbs and spices you like!

Here’s Van Morrison. He’s happy Cleaning Windows.
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Pumpkinseed sage sauce & smokey masa harina crepes

Pumpkinseed sage sauce

I’m really taken with this sauce! I wish I had better words to describe food, because I’d love to tell you what this tastes like. Though I think perhaps the reason I like it so much is that it has a mysterious sort of flavor. That’s the pumpkinseeds! I think they’re just lovely. I was wondering if their indescribable taste is “umami.” That’s the fifth basic taste. It’s described as a “pleasant savory flavor,” quite distinct from salty, sweet, sour and bitter. That’s how this sauce tastes to me! It’s very simple and very easy to put together. It’s creamy, though vegan, and is actually another example of a nut sauce, which I seem to go on and on about. (I call them “tarator sauces,” but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.) I think the sage is just perfect with the pumpkinseeds (they’re similar colors, no wonder they taste good together!) And the cayenne adds just a little kick to what is quite a mild sauce. It’s extremely versatile! Good as a dip for crackers, chips, or veg. Good as a sauce for roasted vegetables. Or a sauce for enchiladas or tacos, or pasta.

And these crepes. I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to write about masa harina again for a while, a long while. I didn’t want to talk about it so much that people got tired of hearing about it. But if you cast your memory back, you might recall that I had some trouble making tortillas without a tortilla press. Well, a good cook doesn’t blame her equipment (or lack thereof!), she just reinvents the recipe.

Masa harina crepes

So I applied the cheater’s treatment to it – the same one I used to make socca more simple. I added a couple of eggs. It helps to hold them together and make them more flippable, and because it’s a batter rather than a dough, you don’t need to roll them out. So they’re still gluten-free, but I’m afraid they’re not vegan any more. I added some smoked paprika, because that’s another ingredient I can’t resist using, and it goes so well with the sage & pumpkinseed flavors.

We had these with my every kind of favorite meal, as Isaac would say. We had fat balsamic roasted musrhooms (with shallots); french lentils; some lightly dressed baby spinach (olive oil and balsamic); some tinsy crispy roasted potatoes with rosemary; and some grated mozzarella cheese. You take whatever you like, and use the crepes to wrap around little bundles of delicious food. Plus we ate at the picnic table outside, which makes me very happy!!

Here’s The Sage by The Chico Hamilton Quintet. So strange and beautiful!
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