Red beans in red wine & tamari sauce, with roasted mushrooms and potatoes

Nobody stands on the beach getting teary-eyed over the sea birds. That would just be silly. Certainly I would never do that! This week when we were at the beach, I saw something I’ve not seen in many decades of beach-going. The seabirds followed a school of fish so close to the shore that the lifeguards pulled everyone out of the water. The birds frantically ate, circling and calling – two kinds of terns, two kinds of seagulls, farther out large brown pelicans. Small silver fish leapt through the waves, where we had just been swimming. The dolphins had been following the fish, too, but they didn’t swim in as close to shore. It was a dizzying spectacle – the sun white bright on the sand, the horizon heaving and changing with each wave, the birds wheeling in fast flowing arcs, blurring your vision. I found it incredibly moving. The ocean moves me, anyway…literally, with each wave that sweeps me off my feet, high above the sand, and then sets me down again, where and when it chooses; and emotionally, with its vasty vastness and beauty and mystery. Somehow seeing the sea birds made me more aware of just how unaware we are of the life in the ocean. Their frenzied activity hinted at the world in the waves, but we’ll never know what’s in each smoky green swell of water, and what’s living where there are no waves, where the ocean is deep and dark. The birds know…they seemed to sense, as a group, when it was time to move on. (And it just killed me, that in the midst of all of this activity, a handful of gulls stayed apart, floating cooly on the water, not bothered at all.) By contrast, the humans on the beach suddenly seemed endearingly foolish – with our garish colors, our strange skin, our beach chairs and umbrellas and toys and snacks, our lumbering movements into and out of the waves. (I say this as somebody who gets knocked over by 2 feet of water!) We think we know, we think we’re in control, but we have no idea. I love that moment of recognition – I HAVE NO IDEA! – but it’s frightening as well.

And, of course, you love the birds and the dolphins, but you feel a little bad for the small silver fish, leaping through the waves. It’s the unavoidable cycle of life for the birds and the dolphins, but not for me, so when we got home, I cooked up some beans. But these are very very special beans!! They’re in a sauce made with red wine, sage, rosemary, and tamari. It’s a very savory, meaty, delicious sauce (umame-y?) I made it quite brothy. I served it over millet (we love millet!) which I’d made with the same broth that’s in the sauce, and I roasted some mushrooms and potatoes to mix in. I’d thought about cooking the mushrooms and potatoes with the sauce, as a sort of stew, but I really like them best when they’re crispy and flavorful, so this is how we did it. We topped the whole thing with fresh smoked mozzarella and fresh basil from the garden. A simple salad of baby arugula and walnuts was the perfect crunchy bright accompaniment, and a good loaf of crusty bread was on hand to sop up the juices. The broth was the star of the show, and I will make it again! But Isaac loved the beans, and ate them very sweetly one at a time, between spoonfuls of millet.

Red beans in red wine, tamari, sage sauce

Here’s J Dilla’s hypnotic Waves

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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.
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Vegetarian sausage (with red beans, pecans, and roasted reds)

Vegetarian sausages

I’ll start, if I may, with a quote from Wind in the Willows.

“…till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing…”

Well! I’ve been trying to describe something like that lately! (You might have discerned incoherent traces of it if you’ve been following along.) But not the last couple of days, because they’ve been positively february-y or novembery. Cold, rainy, grey upon grey upon grey. And Isaac has strep throat, which is a wintery worry, in my mind. I was stuck at work on Sunday, with Isaac home sick. I hate that! I really do! I just want to be able to sit next to him and kiss his hot forehead anxiously every other minute. Is that a lot to ask?!?! But I determined, while I was still at work, that I would make bangers and mash when I got home. It seemed comforting, for a cold drizzly day. Did I eat bangers and mash in my nursery, when I was a child, surrounded by talking teddy bears? I did not!! Did I think that my Isaac, even on a good day, would eat a “sausage” made from roasted red peppers, pecans and red beans? I did not! I knew he’d eat mashed potatoes, though, if I made it into a volcano of butter. And he did. And my Malcolm would (and did) like the idea of a roasted red pepper sausage. He helped decide what would go in. He helped mash the red beans. He helped mash the potatoes. I think this is a fun meal to make with little ones!!

Bangers and mash

The sausages were delicious! Smokey, a bit spicy, a nice flavor of fennel. They were softer inside than an actual sausage, lacking gristle. But there’s something quite pleasant about a crispy outside/soft inside bit of sausage.

Here’s James Brown with Mashed Potatoes. This is a nice one!
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Cousous, sweet potato, goat cheese croquettes

couscous croquettes

For these tasty croquettes I repurposed some lovely vintage articles that had been artisanally handcrafted a couple of days ago. That’s right, I used leftovers. Red beans left over from the stew, sweet potatoes left over from the fries, and couscous left over from a meal I didn’t even tell you about! The advantage to this, of course, is that everything’s already made, so you can throw these together when you have very little time after work, which is exactly what I did. Plus, everything already has its own seasoning from the previous meal, and they all happen to taste wonderful together. I think this would work well as reverse leftovers, if you know what I mean. You could make a batch of fries, a batch of couscous, and open a can of beans, make these lovely little croquettes, and then use the remaining ingredients for different meals in the weeks to come. You can always throw couscous and beans into a salad the next day, if you’re looking for an easy way out. Any way that you do it, these are worth making! They’re subtly sweet, because of the sweet potatoes, but this is balanced by the goat cheese, which has its own way of tang-ing up a dish, doesn’t it? We had these with warm tortillas, grated sharp cheddar, chopped romaine, the leftover stew, and with a nice spinach cashew sauce I’ll tell you about later. But I think they’d be nice with a simple tomato sauce, or romesco sauce, or chermoula sauce, or even BBQ sauce! I’m going to tell you how to make these as if I’d started from scratch, and the couscous and sweet potatoes will make a little extra for another time.

Here’s Tom Waits’ Yesterday is Here. Yesterday’s dinner is, anyway!
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Red bean hominy stew & little cornmeal “quiches”

red bean posole stew

I’ve been feeling super blechy the last few days. Headache, stomachache, sore throat, the ague. I’ve got the ague, I tell you!! So I wanted to make something spicy and flavorful to clear the sinuses and get past my dulled palate. So I made this stew…red beans, zucchini, hominy and some spices – lots of spices. Hominy is, as I understand it, corn kernels, skins removed, treated with lime. Round here, you can buy it in cans (Goya! Oh boya!). It has a mysterious taste and a lovely texture. Soft but firm. It makes a very very nice addition to a saucy spicy stew. This stew was so pretty when it first started cooking – red, green and white. Lovely.

cornmeal quiches


To go with it, I made these tasty little…good golly, I’m not sure how to describe them! They’re not popovers, not muffins. For all the world, they’re like tiny little quiches. They make their own crust…of cornmeal toasted in brown butter. And the inside stays very dense and eggy and ridiculously comforting and tasty. They’re quite magical! They’re not hard to make, and I think they’re gluten free. I might try them next time with some grated cheese stirred into the mix, to make them more quiche-y than ever.

Here’s Old Corn Liquor, by Joe Thompson. He’s remarkable! And this meal really did include corn in just about every form but liquor.
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