Pumpkinseed oil! (in a sauce with pumpkinseeds, almonds and lime)

IMG_5763The other day I went on and on about superheroes, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately. But it’s not my fault, I’ve been conditioned by society: Society is to blame. One day in the winter, Malcolm and I went for a walk on yet another snowy day, which is almost hard to imagine, on a day as warm and jewel-bright as this one. Malcolm started telling stories, as he does, and he came up with one of my favorite superheroes ever. This superhero, this guy, can only exercise his super power after he’s walked a mile! How perfect is that?! Inconvenient, maybe, but perfect. Malcolm came up with this idea because all of his best stories come to him when he’s out walking, which is a thing I’ve noticed too, for myself. If I go for a walk or a bike ride and don’t actively try to think about something I’m working on, sometimes that’s when the best ideas surface. But it also seems like a good idea to step away from the conflict, to take a walk and think about it, so you can respond rationally to the situation and not just wield your super power in the heat of the moment. How many super heroes have responded with excessive violence in violation of their self-imposed code, only to regret it later during long hours of heartfelt introspection? If you’re going to take justice into your own hands, you should probably be cool and collected about it. Maybe while you’re out walking you’ll come up with another way to resolve the situation, without using your super strength or weaponized tech or kung fu skills, or whatever your super power happens to entail. Perhaps you’ll think of a different way to end the story. Presumably you also get to freeze the moment when you’re out walking, which is a nice idea, too. You can take a moment of passion and urgency and hold it for a time–it’s almost like taking a photograph of the emotions. I also like this idea because the way Malcolm framed it, it almost sounded like his super power is telling stories. That’s a super power I would like to have! Especially if I needed to walk a mile before using it. While I’m on this meandering tale of superheroes, I’ll tell you about another super power I’d like to have. I thought of it this morning, when I sat on the couch and absentmindedly patted the cushion beside me. Clio heard it, wherever she was, and raced into the room and squashed herself next to me. It’s a super pat! Yes, that universal gesture that calls dogs and people to your side! You can wield it from miles away, to draw people to come and sit next to you, wherever you may be. The applications of this practical ability are endless!

My friend Neil, who lives in Germany, sent me a bottle of pumpkinseed oil. I’d never tried it before, but now I’m completely addicted! It’s so delicious, mild and nutty, with a kind of warmth. I’ve eaten some every day. Mostly on a salad of arugula and avocado, with a little balsamic and salt and pepper. But it’s good drizzled on warm greens, too. And I combined it with actual pumpkin seeds as well as some almonds and a little chipotle puree to make this pretty sauce. We ate it with tacos one night and empanadas the next. You could use it as a dip, too, or a salad dressing. You can’t really tell in the picture, but it was bright green. One of the most magical things about pumpkinseed oil is that in a thin layer it’s bright bright green, but when it’s thicker it’s a beautiful rusty red. Lovely!

Here’s Make the Road by Walking by the Menahan String Band

Continue reading

Advertisements

Spicy zucchini-corn risotto with toasted pumpkinseeds, and Risotto burgers

Zucchini corn risotto

Happy labor day! It strikes me as funny that many of the laborers in our workforce don’t actually get to call labor day a holiday, so I’d like to take a minute to thank the doctors, nurses, waitresses, cooks, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, shop clerks…anybody working this rainy monday. I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, because I’m looking for a job. Oh, I have a job, of course, but I need what they call a “real” job, because, as everybody knows, waiting tables is a completely surreal job. And everybody also knows that raising children doesn’t count as work, it’s more of a walk in the park, really. I’ve been thinking about what defines something as “work,” and it seems to be money. If you get paid to do something, it becomes work. And the more the work is valued, the more money you’re paid to do it. Some things that certain people do for fun, like playing baseball, making music, painting pictures, or writing, other people get paid to do, it’s their job. Some of them get paid quite a lot to do it. They’re very lucky! Sometimes I imagine an alien race drifting down to observe humans as we labor away in our wide array of jobs. I wonder if they would be puzzled to see that certain jobs are rewarded over others. If they’d scratch their bright green heads with their long frog-like fingers to see that, say, the CEO of a company that makes weapons that kill people is given much more money than the nurse that cares for us when we’re at our most vulnerable, scared and, probably fairly sickening, in our time of sickness. I videotaped a remarkable lecture, once. (I was paid to do it! It was a job of work!) The man speaking, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, said that the idea that there aren’t enough jobs, and there isn’t enough money to go around is a myth. If everybody worked the same hours – not a forty-hour work week, but a shorter one – and if we were all paid a more balanced amount for the work that we did…well, we could all live comfortably. Everybody could. That sounds nice to me. I wish it was possible. America has always been a country that values hard work, it’s part of our myth of who we are as a people. We work hard, we’re proud, self-sufficient, we are entitled to certain things, but only if we work hard enough to deserve them. The problem, of course, is that plenty of people work incredibly hard and still don’t get those things. Many of the jobs that require long, unforgiving hours doing work nobody else wants to do aren’t well-paid, don’t come with health insurance, paid vacations, job security, or any benefits at all.

Risotto burgers

Here’s a kind of work I call fun! Making risotto. It’s just the right amount of hands-on stirring and mixing. You feel involved! But it’s not finicky or incredibly time-consuming. You stir a bit, you wander away, you stir a bit more. My pet name for this particular risotto is “taco risotto.” It’s got oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, sage, and jalapenos – so it’s a bit smoky, a bit spicy. The zucchini is grated, so it blends in with the rice. The corn retains its bright sweet qualities. Risottos are soft by nature, so I thought it would be nice to add a bit of crunch in the from of toasted pumpkinseeds, which also bring their lovely and mysterious flavor. And I made some crispy toasted tortilla strips to scoop up the risotto.

The next day I turned the ample leftovers into big juicy burgers, which we ate on buns with tomatoes and lettuce. If I’d had an avocado, I would have sliced that to go along with it.

Here’s a playlist of work songs for labor day.
Continue reading

Tacos with chickpeas, black beans and pumpkinseed basil sauce

Chickpea & black bean tacos with pumpkinseed basil sauce

I’ve moaned many times about the death of American Independent cinema. The way I see it, the thrilling golden era of the seventies and eighties (Jarmusch! Lee! Sayles! Hartley!) gave way to an era of derivative, overblown hollywood-wannabes. American independent cinema is dead – killed off by two clever young men who made flashy little hollywood movies, and by the generation of filmmakers following them, whose knowledge of film history went back no farther than these clever young men. Independent filmmaking became an industry – the films were products, the filmmakers wanted to be stars. But the films were like fast food, at once too much and too little – insubstantial and unsatisfying. Rather than carry on with this cantankerous whinge, I’ll tell you that lately I’ve been very excited to discover that American independent cinema is alive and well – it’s just not living in North America.

We’ve watched a number of films lately from Latin America that give me so much hope – engagingly human, unforgettable, and inspiring. Despite being low-budget, and not containing celebrities, each of them achieve some level of perfection of production that I find thrilling. Acting, camera work, music, writing – all carefully combine to make films that glow on the screen, and in your memory. All of the films share a quality that made them especially dear to me. They are ordinary – stories of ordinary people, of their day-to-day-life, of the food they make, their mundane jobs, but they are so beautifully presented that they become extraordinary and compelling. Like a well-made meal, the films are simple, but the ingredients are exactly as they should be, and they’re sustaining and memorable.

I’ll tell you about a few! Duck Season has become one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the first feature by director Fernando Eimbcke, and it tells the story of two boys in a high-rise in Mexico. It’s Sunday, they’re stuck in their apartment, and the power is out. It’s a really ecstatic film, and we watched it twice in two days!

From Brazil, we have The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, by director Cao Hamburger, about a boy who goes to stay with his grandfather and develops an unlikely friendship with his neighbor. A perfect example of how attention to every detail of production can make a simple film resonate.

I’ve already mentioned Adrian Biniez’ Gigante, from Uraguay, because it inspired me to make pizza with faina! A lovely movie with an underwater glow about the lighting and the pacing. And Whisky, a disarmingly dry, touching, and funny movie from Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. The same directors made 25 Watts, a day in the life of three friends that’s low key, funny, thoughtful, and that you’ll think about long after you’ve seen it.

One more! From Argentina, the tale of a housekeeper and her over-bearing employer – Live in Maid, by Jorge Gaggero. It’s a quiet film, but the small telling details, which examine the routines that shape these two women’s lives, make them alive for us. The film is a very human and immediate way of describing what’s happening in the larger world of politics and economics.

All of these films are like little gems – it’s so wonderful to discover them. They allow you to travel to another part of the world, and give you such an intimate glimpse of the people that live there, and do so with such generosity, humor, and subtlety, that you feel fortunate to spend some with them.

Your song for today is from Lake Tahoe, another remarkable movie by Fernando Eimbcke. The song is La Lloroncita by Los Parientes de Playa Vicente, and it’s gorgeous.

And your meal for today is tacos made with black beans, chickpeas, yellow squash and corn. Everything is combined in a sauce of pumpkinseeds and fresh basil – a sort of pumpkinseed pesto, but lighter. We ate it with warm tortillas, chopped tomatoes, avocado, romaine, and grated sharp cheddar. I have to admit that it’s a little funny-looking (David laughed when I brought it to the table) but look beyond that! Because it tastes very good! Sweet, savory, a little smoky, a little spicy.

Continue reading

Zucchini, pumpkinseed & red bean galette

Zucchini & red bean galette

I was going on and on (and on) the other day about Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina, and it reminded me of an unanswered question floating about in my head for a few years. In Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger, there’s a scene in which Zooey wanders into his elder brothers’ bedroom and sees a white beaver board that they (the brothers) have filled with hand-written quotes from various sources. (At least that’s how I remember it – it’s been a while since I read it!) One of the quotes was from Anna Karenina, and since I’ve read Anna Karenina, I’ve meant to go back and see which it was. Well! We’re going through old boxes of books in our attic, and I pulled out a dusty copy of Franny and Zooey. Then I forgot about going through boxes of old stuff that was making me feel alittle queasy about time passing and trying to remember who this crazy person was who had saved all the old stuff, and sat down to read about Zooey going through old stuff that brought back his own strange memories. (I like Salinger a lot. I feel mildly embarrassed by this, and I’m not sure why. I think some people might think he’s sophomoric, but I love his evocative small details, and, of course, I love his questing quality. And that’s all I’ll say about that!)

I like the idea of a collection of quotes all in the same place. Quotes that have nothing to do with each other, but that might give each other new meanings from being next to each other. So I’m going to put a few (completely random) quotes here, just for kicks, baby! Ready, begin…

To get straight to the worst, what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie, and those who have seen the footage have strongly advised me against nurturing any elaborate distribution plans for it.

-JD Salinger, Franny & Zooey

… moans could be heard, subdued by suffering and broken by sobs.
Hearing those moans Prince Andrew wanted to weep. Whether because he was dying without glory, or because he was sorry to part with life, or because of those memories of a childhood that could not return, or because he was suffering and others were suffering and that man near him was groaning so piteously- he felt like weeping childlike, kindly, and almost happy tears.
The wounded man was shown his amputated leg stained with clotted blood and with the boot still on.

-Tolstoy, War and Peace

Do not let anxiety override good judgement so that the oven door is opened unneccesarily.

-Mrs Beeton on cake baking.

As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.

Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamzov

The most immediately noticeable paradox in Renoir’s style, and the one which almost always trips up the public, is his apparent casualness toward the very elements of the cinema which the public takes most seriously: the scenario and the action.

André Bazin on Jean Renoir

Such field studies are recommended rather than the amassing of large numbers of hapless captives. The animals remain little disturbed in their natural setting. Since they are marked and under study, they appeal in much the same way as one’s pets, yet do not demand care. Information obtained is more likely to be reliable that that procured under artificial conditions, and there is always the excitement of the hunt, and the anticipation of meeting an old friend.

-A field guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians (1966)

Well, that’s it for now! I think I’ll start collecting quotes for another time, because that was my ridiculous idea of fun!!

Now…this galette. It has a yeasted crust with some basil to flavor it. And inside it has grated zucchini, toasted pumpkinseeds and red beans. You can start the crust early in the day, and the filling is actually very easy to put together. I flavored this with fresh basil and fresh marjoram, which are lovely sweetish summery flavors. And I decided to add a little ginger and a touch of cinnamon, which are sweetish wintery flavors, in my mind. I liked the combination a lot! If only because it was different from the spice/herb combinations I seem to return to again and again. And the galette was actually quite pretty – white and red and green.

zucchini & red bean tart

Here’s Coleman Hawkins and the Red Garland Trio with Red Beans.
Continue reading

Lettuce – pumpkinseed pesto AND lettuce, hazelnut & white bean bisque

Or, two ways to prepare lettuce that don’t involve the word “salad.”

Lettuce, white bean, hazelnut soup

We’re watching Blues Brothers with the boys. It’s rated R, but we can’t remember why, so we’re watching it cautiously, with the remote nearby. Is it the non-stop swearing and the incredibly destructive car chases? Pshaw, my boys are used to that! We drive recklessly through a couple of malls a day around here. Actually, it might be a little rough for them, but I think they’re well aware that they can’t say all of the words that they’re hearing and that they can’t drive cars through store windows. What a pleasure to watch them watch the dancing and the singing, and all of the wonderful, contagiously happy music. It’s such a joyful movie! And I’d forgotten how sweet it is, in parts, and how good it looks. There are a few moments that have such a lovely, quiet grace about them, in the midst of all the raucousness. And, oddly, these moments seem to involve toast. In one scene, Elwood has just toasted a piece of bread in his small room in the home for itinerant men. His brother fell asleep, and he covered him with a blanket, and then sat in the window and looked out at the trains rumbling by in a watery blue light. Beautiful! Now, I love toast. I think it’s such a comforting, restorative food. The very smell of bread toasting can make you feel better. And I happen to have made a meal last night that revolved around toast! And lettuces, lots and lots of lettuces. We got about 7 heads of red leaf lettuce from the CSA, and I’m actually very excited about it. I love salad, as I’ve said many a time, but I also like the challenge of turning lettuce into a non-salad meal. We happened to eat two in the same meal last night, but they were both very tasty, so nobody seemed to mind.

Lettuce pesto

I made a soup with lettuce, hazelnuts and white beans. I seasoned it with tarragon, chervil, and lovage, and it was very flavorful. It was smooth, but not velvety, although you could certainly make it that way if you liked. I floated a small, plain toast in it, and it was delicious. The other non-salad lettuce item on the agenda was a lettuce, pumpkinseed, goatcheese pesto. It turned out very nice! Much milder in flavor than a traditional basil pesto, but it has the lovely, indefinable flavor of toasted pumpkinseeds, and a bit of creamy tang provided by goat cheese. We ate it with toast (again!) and a little bruschetta topping made from tomatoes, basil, french feta, and capers.

Here’s Shake A Tail Feather, with the Blues Brothers and Ray Charles. Doesn’t it make you happy?

Continue reading

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!
Continue reading