Beet and kidney (bean) pies

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

It’s take your child to work day. The boys are at the shop with David, hopefully not routering their arms or circular sawing their fingers. Take your child to work day. It’s a little odd, when you stop to think about it, which for better or for worse I’ve just done. It seems to imply a certain neatness and regularity to the world that just doesn’t exist, as I see the world. Does every parent have a safe, child-friendly job? Does every parent have bosses and co-workers that will put up with an infestation of restless children? Does every parent have a job they can work at productively whilst entertaining a bored and or curious tyke? Does every parent have a job during school hours? Maybe they’re chefs or professors or rock stars or stage actors, and they work at night. Does every parent have a job at all? 399919_10200595609406883_2047603223_nI’ve just read that the day was invented by Gloria Steinem as Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and was intended to give girls a sense of possibility and purpose. This makes it seem even odder to me, almost as if it was subversively designed to illustrate the messiness of the world. How many children are bundled off to work with their fathers, because their mothers don’t work during the week because they’re home with children. Maybe they work at night or on the weekend so that they can be there to pick up their children after school. Maybe they have a job but its the kind of job many women have at some point in their lives–cooking or cleaning or caring for someone else’s children, and, strangely, this isn’t the kind of job you’d like to share with your own child. Maybe, like many women, you’re not treated with respect at your job, you’re not treated as an equal. A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not. Of course, all of this stopping-to-think-about-it has included some thoughts on my own life, my own work, my own ideas of success or failure and how they don’t quite fit into those of the rest of the world. Any thing you do is considered work if somebody pays you to do it. And the more they pay you, the more successful you are at your job. I’ve been doing a bit of pastry cheffing, and yesterday I made a cake for a restaurant. If the boys had stayed home and helped me with that, they would have been at work with me (and we would have had fun!). Today, I don’t have any commissions for cake, so if the boys stayed home from school and baked a cake with me, we’d be goofing off (and we’d still have fun!). If I sit around writing or cooking or conspiring to make a movie, I’m a shiftless slacker who should go out and get a real job (I know, I know…). If somebody pays me to do those things, I’m a person who has followed my dreams to find success (although I probably still can’t afford health insurance.) Everything is a little different looked at through the prism of parenthood. What seems brave and valuable when you’re a single person with only yourself to care for, seems irresponsible once you have children. We have our own small business. We work seven days a week, one way or another, and the truth is that the boys spend all weekend every weekend at work with David, watching him watch the store while I wait tables. This is life as they know it. We don’t have days off or weekends or paid vacations, and we still can’t afford health insurance. And all summer when they knock about the house with me, cleaning and cooking and keeping themselves happy and creative, waiting impatiently while I finish writing some dumb thing so we can go to the creek, they’re at work with me, whether they know it or not. It’s messy, it doesn’t fit into any tidy pattern of employment, but I think they’re okay with it. I think they’re proud of us, and have a sense of possibility and purpose. I think they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie

Beet and kidney bean pie! It’s ruddy! This was inspired, of course, by beef and kidney pie, or steak and kidney pie. It does have a certain meaty quality to it. It’s roasted beets and mushrooms combined with kidney beans in a saucy sauce of tamari, sage, rosemary, thyme and allspice. If you use vegetable shortening instead of butter in the crust, this would be vegan.

Here’s King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Workingman’s Blues.

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Cornmeal beet cake

Beet and cornmeal cake

I was up all night! Usually when I say that, I mean that I was up most of the night, but that I got a few hours of sleep towards dawn. Not last night!! No sleep at all! I’m tuckered. I’m likely to spew uncommonly inarticulate gibberish, if I try to put a sentence together. And I’m late for work, I have a long day ahead of me, sadly, because it’s a chilly, rainy, perfect-for-napping day. So I’ll just share a few things that I like.

One is this poem by Basho

Awake at night

Awake at night–
the sound of the water jar
cracking in the cold.

One is this photo of a Parisian kitchen by Atget. I love to look at this and try to figure out what’s in all the little bags and tins, and imagine the life of the people that cook here.

And finally, this recipe for a cheesy cormeal roasted beet cake. I felt like a warm, soft comforting meal, the other night, so I made this slightly odd dish. It’s savory, a little sweet, soft, slightly crispy, and delicious. The boys liked it too. We ate it with a tangy tomato sauce, but any kind of sauce you like would work here.

Here’s Lose this Skin, by the Clash, which was in my head all night. I love it, but it’s a doozy when you can’t sleep.

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Grilled vegetables and pecan tarragon sauce

Roasted beets & mushrooms

We’ve been watching the Olympic trials at work, on a big television above the bar. The sound is turned all the way down, and for some reason, in this way, it becomes the most beautiful drama. The expressions on the athletes’ faces are so raw and honest – pure, distilled emotion. It reminds me of silent films, when the actors’ gestures and expressions had to tell the story, except that this is entirely unstudied. It’s hard to tell at first who has won and who has lost, because the faces are oddly similar – anguished, ecstatic, exhausted. Their faces are like children’s faces in delight and sorrow – undulled and unguarded. It’s very emotional! I have to stop myself from getting weepy right there at the host stand! I love the idea of working very hard for one thing, and putting so much emotion and energy into it. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – it’s good to have a grand project in your life.

When I was little we lived in England one summer, during the Olympics. To my shame, I remember being actually bewildered that the announcers spoke more about English athletes than Americans. Didn’t everybody in the world care more about our superior American athletes even than their own? Didn’t they? Heh heh. With independence day drawing on apace, it’s probably a good time to examine our place in the world as Americans and as human beings. Luckily for you I have to go to work in a short while, so I’ll talk about grilling vegetables instead. We grilled beets, mushrooms, and potatoes. Of course you could grill any vegetables you like, but I recommend this combination. The beets and mushrooms have a nice juiciness, everything is crispy, earthy, smoky and delicious. I like a simple marinade for grilled vegetables. Olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and garlic. I added some nigella seeds because I just got them for the first time and I’m very excited about them! But if you can’t find them you could live without. We also sauteed the beet greens with some chard, and I used zatar spices, because I just bought sumac, and I’m very excited about that, too!! And the pecan tarragon tarrator sauce is a lovely, creamy, vegan, subtly flavored sauce that goes very sweetly with the earthy grilled vegetables. Malcolm ate his grilled vegetables on toast, and he made it into Darth Vador’s Tie Fighter. (serving suggestion)

Beet tie fighter


Here’s a little film of Louis Armstrong playing Stuttin with some Barbecue, and dancing with Velma Middleton.

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French lentils with roasted beets and walnuts

French lentils and roasted beets

When I was a kid, people used to say, “that was beat.” That meant it was bad. I’m not sure if this was specific to where and when I grew up, or if it was more of universal phraseology, but it was quite prevalent amongst my peers. (When I was even younger, people used to say “feeling crunchy,” when somebody was put down or proven wrong. I’m fairly sure that was specific to my middle school! Ooooooh, feeeeeeling cruuuuuunchyyyyyy…”) So, if something was beat, it was bad. To use it in a sentence, “That party was so beat, because the music was beat, and the people were really beat, too.” I’ve decided to make it my life’s work, my raison d’etre, to bring the phrase back, but as a description of a good thing, and changing it slightly to “beet.” “That party was so beet, man, I never wanted to leave! My job is so great, it’s roasted beet. Awww, they’re my favorite band of all time…they’re golden beet.” Maybe I shouldn’t have been thinking about this before bed, because I had a dream about beet brickle, which I think we can all agree I shouldn’t try to make. I also thought of this recipe, which turned out deeeeeelicious. Totally beet. It’s got french lentils cooked with a little red wine, orange juice and balsamic; it’s got lovely little roasted beets and shallots; it’s got toasted walnuts, for crunch; it’s got fresh basil, sage, and tarragon, for spring-herb-garden-deliciousness; and it’s got tiny cubes of mozzarella, which get nice and melty when they hit the warm lentils.

Crusty bread

We ate it with some fresh black pepper bread, and I’m extremely excited about it. As you know, if you’ve been following along at home, I’ve been trying for some time to make a crispy-crusted bread that doesn’t have a dense crumb. I wanted big airy holes inside. Well…I think I’ve done it! I left the dough very very wet and soft. It was messy to knead, I tell you. And I let it rise the last time, in the pan I baked it in, for well over an hour. Oh boy!! Look at the airy crumb on this baby! It’s soooooo beeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Crusty bread

Here’s LL Cool J (and Adam Horowitz!) with I Need a Beet

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Roasted beet hummus with cumin, paprika & lime

Roasted beet hummus

Quite a few years ago, David and I took a feature film to the Independent Feature Film Market in NYC. Good times! Wandering around the area of New York that surrounds the Angelika, watching strange films during the day. Seeing my film at the Angelika. It’s an ideal week, in a lot of ways. Interesting, exciting, but strangely discouraging as well. I know, it’s a market, it says so right there in the title, but it was depressing that the entire focus of everybody’s frantic energy was selling selling selling. We had very few conversations about the films themselves – about their ideas or aesthetics. It felt like the death of thoughtful American independent film. The quality of the films suffered for it – they were made to be sold. How many knock-off Tarantino films can you sit through (when honestly his films aren’t that original in the first place, are they?) Sorry, I can get very boring and whiny on the subject of American Indies – I’m such a cranky old lady. As I was saying, it was a delightful week, in many ways. Days spent wandering around New York with David are always good days. One evening, physically and emotionally tuckered out, we wandered into a bar that used to be across the street from the Angelika. Match. It was nice inside, warm and glowy. We ordered red wine, hummus and french fries. Rarely has a meal seemed so perfect. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re in the mood for, but when you eat it you feel blissful, and you remember it long afterwards. Since then, it’s become a tradition, when we spend a day in the city, we do a lot of wandering and walking, and we always find a place to have red wine, hummus, and french fries.

Yesterday I got home from work quite tired, and we decided to have a simple meal – so I oven roasted some fries, and made some roasted beet hummus with smoked paprika, cumin, lime and fresh basil, and we had a big salad of farm greens, apples, hazelnuts and goat cheese. Perfect.

Here’s The Selecter and Dave Barker with What a Confusion.

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Black forbidden rice, black beluga lentils, roasted golden beets

Black rice, black lentils, golden beets

Sometimes, in life, you search for something. You look in all of the ordinary places your path takes you. You don’t find it. It becomes a quest. You go farther afield, you make special trips, just to find this thing. You ask the wise people you meet if they know where it can be found. You don’t find it. You find something similar, you tell yourself it’s the same, but in your heart you know it’s not. Then, one day, you’re looking for something else, perhaps in one of the places you’d already searched. And you stumble upon the very thing you were looking for all along. Thus it was with me and beluga lentils.

My friend Neil told me about them years ago. I’m a huge fan of all lentils, but these sounded exceptional, and I became determined to find them. To no avail. Neil lives in Germany, and it turns out that the Germans are several years ahead of us in lentil availability. I bought some urad dal, I thought it might be similar. Not so. Jump ahead a couple of years, and I found myself in Whole Foods. For me, Whole Foods is a forbidden land. Everything is too tempting and too beautiful and too expensive. I rarely go, and then only on precise pinpointed missions. I went this week to find golden beets (my new questing food!). Straight into produce, secure the beets, get out. But no – you have to walk all over the crazy store to get to the checkout. Of course I passed the castelvetrano olives. So pretty, so delicious. And then my greatest challenge. The bulk food aisle. Black rice! I haven’t had that since the Tibetan store closed down. The one with the nice man who used to give Malcolm little bags of black rice. Sigh. And then, a few bins down…BLACK BELUGA LENTILS!

As I walked to the checkout, grappling with all of my little bags of food and tubs of olives (I hadn’t gotten a basket. I wouldn’t need a basket, I was only buying one thing…) This recipe formed in my head. The colors! The flavors! The textures! We would have a sort of pilaf or warm salad, of black rice, black lentils, roasted golden beets, sauteed beet greens, castelvetrano olives and capers. (Malcolm’s first time knowingly eating a caper – he called them “flavor dynamite.”) All layered on a big plate of fresh baby spinach and topped with toasted hazelnuts. Part warm, part cool, a little smoky with Spanish paprika, a little sweet with oregano and basil, a little earthy with beets and sage. Finished with a tangy sweet balsamic and lots of black pepper. And rosemary roasted red bliss potatoes on the side. Delicious!

In the interest of keeping it ordinary, I should tell you that this would be very nice made with basmati rice and not-so-ugly-themselves french lentils and red beets.

I asked Neil to play guest DJ for this post. Here’s what he said…

“Recipe sounds big and brassy…so how about Bold and Black, an Eddie Harris composition played by Ramsey Lewis…from the album Another Voyage. Some smoky rhythm guitar, that sweet melody on Rhodes, and the wonderfully earthy drum riff which kicks off the groove section.” Perfect!!
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