Broccoli rabe and black beans with ginger and tamari (and tofu!)

black-bean-broccoli-rabeIn my dream I decided to legally change my name to Clairey the Observer. And in my dream this was my job (my dream job!), I was a professional observer. I just sat back and watched people and then I wrote about it. I made observations. I half-woke up and thought about what a nice job this would be in real life, I imagined myself on a high perch, taking notice of all that happened around me, and I thought about writing stories based on observations of people. I want this job! Unfortunately I didn’t dream about the part where you apply for the position, so I don’t know how to go about it. But then when I was fully-woken up, I looked up “observe” in the OED, as one does, so I’d be fully apprised of the job description before I undertake the employment. Observe. It’s such a rich and fascinating word. According to my understanding of the term in my dream, my main responsibility as an observer would be “To take notice of, be conscious of; to notice, perceive, see.” And then “To remark or make observations on.” If I was actually applying for this job, I would write in my cover letter, “I think I would be very good at taking notice and being conscious of things, because it’s very important to me to notice things, and not to just let them pass me by. I want to observe things and collect and keep them, and not just let life wash over me as though I was in a sleepy stupor. I want to be a keen observer, and notice even the small things and feel them, too.” Further duties of an observer would include acting “To watch over, look after, keep safe.” And I feel confidant that I could do this very ably. Just ask my dog or my sons, if anything I’m likely to keep too close a watch and generally look after too fondly and anxiously. I also understand that as an observer I might be called upon to abide by or adhere to or to maintain or uphold a mode of existence, a covenant, or a promise, and I assure you that in my day-to-day existence, I will strive to observe principles of curiosity, creativity, generosity, honesty, and, of course, verbosity and I will faithfully observe such small daily rituals as necessary to ensure a life fully lived and thoughtfully observed, as far as I am able. In summation, I would like to share the words of Francis Bacon, “If men will intend to observe, they shall finde much worthy to observe.” I hope that you will consider me for this position of observer, howsoever it shall be found and remunerated, yours sincerely and henceforth, Clairey the Observer.

Malcolm picked out some tofu at the grocery store. I only like tofu when it’s fried very crispy, and I don’t like the way my kitchen smells when I do that at home. So I had the bright idea to take it to work and ask the chef to put it in the fryer for a few minutes. And he very very kindly agreed, for which I am eternally grateful. I brought it home, and Malcolm and I made a sauce for it, consisting of tamari, honey, balsamic, and a bit of ginger. I decided to use this same treatment on some black beans, and pile these on some broccoli rabe as a backdrop for the tofu, so that is what we did. Quick and simple meal, but quite tasty, too. You could use broccoli instead of broccoli rabe, and just add it to the beans and cook until bright and tender.

Here’s Niney and the Observers with Blood and Fire.
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Trumpet mushrooms with chard, brie, and smoked gouda

Trumpet mushrooms and chard

It’s hot as hell, they’re doing construction on the house attached to ours, which apparently requires loud bad radio and lots of cigarette smoking, and the boys are trying to knock all the plaster off the walls and yelling about how mean I am. I’m going to give myself a time out.

Last night we started watching a film by Yasujiro Ozu. He uses these beautiful still “pillow shots” between scenes. They’re shots down hallways, of empty rooms, along an alleyway. They’re not entirely static – the camera is still, but there’s movement of light, or of people walking by, clocks ticking, curtains blowing. You sense that the story is playing itself out somewhere nearby. The shots are so cool, so quiet but not silent. I find them incredibly compelling. I’m a huge fan of stillness in films, and quiet moments. Whether they last the whole film long, or they form a small pocket in a louder busier film. I wish the word “moment” wasn’t overused in precious greeting cards and knick knacks and self-help-speak, because it’s such a good word. A few years ago I submitted a series of short videos to an online gallery run by the remarkable Peter Ferko, a New York artist. The series was called Now:Here:This, and it involved art made in a moment (or a few moments) by people all over the world at roughly the same space in time. I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) Children always want your attention most when you’re doing something else. When you’re on the phone, or making short videos, or writing about trumpet mushrooms on some stupid blog! I became very taken with making the videos – there was nothing brilliant about them, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be. And then Ozu went and stole the idea from me! I’d like to stop and look at my house, for moments at a time, from down a corridor, when nothing is happening. Of course it wouldn’t be quiet and clean and cool, like in Ozu’s films. It would be a warm messy muddle.

Segue! This meal is a sort of warm/cool combination. A warm salad, or a cool stir fry. I went to the Stockton market. I bought some trumpet mushrooms. They were ridiculously expensive. I felt a little foolish, clutching my brown paper bag of precious mushrooms. The meal turned out very tasty, though, so it’s okay, I think. I sauteed some chard with garlic, red pepper, castelvetrano olives and fresh basil. I mixed in some brie, smoked gouda, and goat cheese. (Three cheeses! So extravagant! They were very nice together, and gave the meal a warm, creamy, tangy smokiness that was lovely. But you could use what you have.) The mushrooms I sliced very thinly, and then sauteed in olive oil with fresh sage leaves. The mushrooms and sage leaves became nice and crispy. I said the mushrooms tasted like bacon, and David said…”better than bacon – like steak and bacon. Steakon!” The pine nuts added a lovely crunch. They always have a little bit of a smoky, bacony taste to me, too!! You could easily make this with portobellos, spinach, and whatever cheese you happen to have.

Trumpet mushrooms

Here’s Louis Armstrong with Tight Like This. Geddit? Trumpet mushrooms! Plus this remarkable piece is full of perfect moments.

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Black bean and broccoli tacos

Broccoli & black bean tacos

I worked a mothers’ day lunch shift yesterday, and I regret to say that it won. It beat me. It did me in. [Whiny rant alert!] Waitressing is really hard! You’re on your feet the whole shift (6 or 7 hours, usually for me). Literally on your feet – you don’t sit down! You don’t eat. You do drink lots of coffee, which might contribute to the post-work fatigue. You have to remember stuff! You have to be nice to people, and communicate with them in a way they understand!! And all for the princely sum of $2.13 an hour! So why do we do it? The glamor, I suppose. The prestige. Okay, whinge over.

Yesterday after work I was plenty tuckered out. I was stupid tired. So I wanted to make a quick and nourishing dinner. I fell back on my old standby – the soft taco. I make some basmati rice; I warm up some flour tortillas; I grate some sharp cheddar; I chop up some lettuce. That’s all the extras. And then I make a mess of beans and vegetables. This is where the creativity comes in. I like to make something saucy and spicy. Yesterday I did this with black beans, broccoli (which has a very nice texture for the inside of a taco, I think!), puréed roasted red pepper and tomato, chipotle, sage, oregano, cumin and smoked paprika. Easy & tasty!

Here’s Fugazi with I’m So Tired. I love this song!
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