Roasted butternut, spinach, raisin and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

I’m writing a novel. If you’ve spent any time with me you know this fact, because I go on and on about it to the point of tedium; ad nauseam, ad infinitum. I talk about it frequently, I think about it constantly, I dream about it every night. What I don’t do all that often is write it. I spent all day yesterday–all day–writing two scenes I’d thought about for ages, and I wrote…a couple of pages, maybe, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I wake up every morning determined to get on with it. I have a picture in my head of myself, in a frenzy of writing, spewing out page after perfect page. This doesn’t happen. I’m so easily distracted and discouraged. I’m so often plagued by saucy doubts and fears. I could write it now, but if I tried, instead, to write it in fifteen minutes, I’d write completely different words! I’d have completely different ideas! How do I know it wouldn’t come out better if I waited an hour, or a day, or a week. Maybe something would happen between now and then that would alter the course of history (in the world of my novel.) Well this morning, when I thought about writing my novel, I kept finding a song in my head, and I’ve decided that this is my new novel-motivational track. It’s Precisely the Right Rhyme, by Gang Starr. It’s about knowing that what you say is the right thing to say, and that you’re saying it at the right time. It’s about confidence. I’ve been thinking about confidence a lot lately. It’s not something I possess great quantities of, it’s not something I’ve passed down to my boys. Instead I’ve got a bizarre mixture of crippling insecurity and bafflingly misplaced arrogance. Confidence is not even something I admire, necessarily. I don’t respect people who are all cockiness and swagger. I’m attracted to humility and moved by human weakness. And yet, and yet…I’m starting to recognize confidence as an essential part of the creative process, if not of life. On Malcolm’s basketball team it was never the tallest or most agile kids that played best, it was the kids who acted like the ball belonged to them, the basket belonged to them, the whole damn court was theirs and everybody else was in their way. So that’s how I’m going to write, with “everybody else” being the twin demons of doubt and distraction who fly at me from every side. This understanding applies to all things. So maybe you’re not trying to write a novel (although, honestly sometimes it seems that most people are!) But whatever you’re trying to do, tell yourself you’re doing it just right, at just the right time. Tell yourself till you believe it! In the words of Troy McClure, “Get confident, stupid!”

And the words of Gang Starr,

    My subject matter and context are blessed
    Vocal inflection connects, it’s a slugfest
    Ladies approach to hear quotes from the spokesman
    Thoughts are like oceans for my lyrics to float in
    I’m absolutely astute so salute

    Just get with the words and the way I command ya
    Cause you’re in the right place, and luckily it’s the right time
    And since I’m inclined, I’ll kick precisely the right rhymes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love greens, pine nuts, raisins and garlic. It’s the perfect combination for me. In this instance I’ve packed all that into a pie with some grated roasted butternut squash and some mozzarella cheese. I made this pie for a bunch of people to eat standing around without plates or utensils, and it worked well in this regard. It would be nice for a party or a picnic, I think, for this reason.

Here’s Gang Starr with Precisely the Right Rhymes.
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Butternut, nut, chard, and french lentil pie

Butternut, nut and french lentil pie

Butternut, nut and french lentil pie

HAPPY NEW YEAR, ORDINARY FRIENDS!! I’m feeling light of heart and weighty of thoughts, which seems in keeping with the situation and the season. Clio and I took our scamper on the towpath this morning to our favorite field, where the sky arches overhead in bright clouds, and the field bows underfoot in a gentle slope to a rushing singing creek, and that’s how my spirits feel. Buoyant and grounded. Castles in the air with foundations on the ground. I’m feeling resolutionary. As I mentioned last year, to me, “resolve” doesn’t mean to give something up, but to come into focus, to become harmonious, to be solved, or healed. And this year, for some reason, I’ve been thinking about how many typical New Year’s resolutions face inward, they’re about ways to change yourself and make yourself healthier or more successful. We got a message from a fortune cookie recently that said “Only when free from projections, we can be aware of reality.” Well, I’d like to respectfully disagree with the fortune cookie. I believe it’s all projections. It’s all images and moments that we create and collect: the sunshine and shadow, the bright vivid colors and the dusky quiet times. And just as we’re the authors of our own stories, we’re the auteurs of our own film: we decide how everything is connected. We connect all the flickering moments. And I’d like mine to be inspired by Ozu and Berri and Tati. Quiet and thoughtful, humorous, beautiful within each frame and from frame to frame. Celebrating the oddness and worth of ordinary moments. With just the right music and just the right movement at exactly the right time. Of course “projection” also means casting our ideas and our stories outside of ourselves. Sharing them with others, and creating an understanding of everything else through the experiences and lives of others. Empathy. So that will be part of it all, too. We’ll focus, and then we’ll project. We’ll share a cup of kindness, a draught of good will. In the days of alchemy, “projection” described the process of throwing a stone into a crucible to create change: change from base metals to gold, originally, but eventually it described any change. “I feele that transmutation o’my blood, As I were quite become another creature, And all he speakes, it is projection.” So on this day of new beginnings we’ll think of this, too. We’ll think of focussing, reflecting, projecting, in the glowing hopeful lengthening days. Oh, and I will learn to play ukulele!

Roasted butternut, french lentil and nut pie.

Roasted butternut, french lentil and nut pie.

If this seems a lot like last year’s New Year’s pie, that because it is! Same butternut squash, french lentil and chard. And yet, it’s completely different. I’ve been playing around with savory nut custards, lately, and this is further evidence of that. It has more eggs, and I whizzed them with hazelnuts, almonds and pecans until they everything was quite smooth. The butternut was roasted in halves rather than small pieces, and then blended right in with the nut mixture. The chard and lentils provide a nice difference in texture, and smoked paprika and smoked paprika add a nice savory to the sweetness of nuts and squash.

Here’s Feeling Good, by Nina Simone.

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Roasted butternut, chickpea, & apricot pies

Roasted butternut, chickpea, and apricot pies

Roasted butternut, chickpea, and apricot pies

Malcolm is an owl and Isaac is a ghost bat. They’ve been home from school for two days and they’ve been wearing two-year-old halloween costumes most of that time. Like Max in his wolf suit, they’ve been bad. Like Max in his wolf suit, they’ve chased the dog around the house. A manic owl and a screaming bat. Or maybe it was the dark day of cold november rain and homework and no fun. Some of us tackled each other, some of us whined and shrieked, some of us yelled. We all feel bad about it now. This morning we had to get out, we had to leave the house.
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It’s a golden day. A wintery white-gold glowing day. Really the only leaves left on the trees are the golden ones, and they fall all around you in a bright shower. The boys flew out of the house, gleaming, a bat and an owl with fiendish expressions and madly flapping wings. They chased each other down to the towpath where fallen leaves of every color trail along the surface of the fast dark water like strings of christmas lights. Isaac loves this weather because he was born in this weather. I tell them about the day they were each born, unseasonably warm for November, unseasonably cool for July, both perfect perfect days. When we got to the part of the towpath where the trees have brown-paper leaves that smell like burnt sugar, a whole pack of teenage girls ran by. A track team, maybe. They were very serious, staring straight ahead. I know they know Malcolm, they’re not much older in actual chronology, but they didn’t say hello. He was quiet and thoughtful in his owl suit, for a minute or two. I thought nothing gold can stay, nothing gold can stay. And then he raced ahead after Isaac. Clio pulled me ahead and the boys fell behind, lost in serious conversation.
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I looked back at them, with their bright heads bent together, and I wondered what they were talking about. It was what they would do if somebody took Daddy and me away. They’d walk miles to Dad’s shop and get a bow and arrow. They’d buy a thousand nail guns. They’d save up their money for a paintball gun and fill it with pebbles. Then they’d find us somehow. We got to where we were going, a big field, and heavy indigo clouds rolled in, and the trees were bright like fire against the dark sky.
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Everbody flew around the field, and Isaac gave me hugs to knock me over. His skin smells beautiful, like sunshine and summer. I told Malcolm it wouldn’t rain, but of course he was right and it did rain, a fine cold rain. Isaac put up his ghost bat hood. We made it home, and the boys filled the house with the scent of clementines while they waited for warm lunch. Just a bat and an owl sitting together and resting a moment, before they return to their dizzying flight.

Roasted butternut chickpea and apricot pies

Roasted butternut chickpea and apricot pies

My friend treefrogdemon (yes that is her real name) happened to mention that she ate a chicken and apricot pie. It sounded so good! I resolved at the time to try a version with chickpeas and apricots. And when it came right to it, I decided to add roasted butternut squash, pecans, sharp cheddar and some spices…ginger, nutmeg, coriander and allspice. The result is a pretty, tasty, autumnal pie. A nice holiday meal for vegetarians, I think!

Here’s Park Life, by Blur, because my boys are completely obsessed with it at the moment.

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Butternut tart with caramelized fennel

Butternut tart

Tart pan, tart pan
Who’s got a tart pan?
I do, that’s who.
Salty or sweet,
messy or neat,
Who can make tarts now?
I can.

Did I tell you that I got a tart pan? I did? I’m totally not excited about it at all. I’m, like, pfffft. Tart pan, whatever.

I used it last week to make a sweet tart. And I used it this week to make a savory tart! I wanted it to be a bit like a pumpkin pie – with the butternut squash roasted, pureed and mixed into a sort of custard. And I thought the fennel would be pretty AND tasty, it’s bright distinctive taste mellowed by a bit of caramelization in white wine and balsamic vinegar. I put some lemon zest in the crust, to tart up the tart, because squash and fennel are quite sweet. I thought very hard about the seasoning, because I’m making a real effort to keep it simple – to choose two or three herbs and spices that go well together. I chose nutmeg and sage – both very nice with butternut squash, and quite lovely together!

Here’s Art Pepper with Nutmeg
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