Savory cake with mushrooms, chard, pecans & pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

“Mom? Someday? Can we go to a junkyard? And bring home junk? And make sculptures with it? What are those things called?”
“Sculptures?”
“Yeah.”
“Um, they’re called sculptures.”
“Yeah. You know a lot of people think junk is just junk, but it’s not!”
“What is it?”
“Art materials!”
I realize that lately the subtitle of Out of the Ordinary could be “Isaac and Claire talk on the way to school.” And I never intended it to turn out that way, but the truth is, I come home and I think about all of the odd things he’s told me. I think about them for hours, setting off a little chain of loosely connect thoughts which generally lead back to whatever he was talking about in the first place. Today I thought about junkyards, and I thought about the Gleaners and I and Vik Muniz’ Wasteland, and Agbobloshie, and aircraft boneyards. And I thought of the term “rag-and-bone,” which has been in my head for days, although try as I might I can’t remember what put it there in the first place. And of course that made me think of “Rag and bone shop of the heart,” so I had to look up the whole poem. The Circus Animal’s Desertion. What a name for a poem! What a poem! It ends thusly:

    Those masterful images because complete
    Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
    A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
    Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
    Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
    Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
    I must lie down where all the ladders start
    In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

And it’s so strange to think about Yeats lacking inspiration or feeling disappointed. It’s so strange to think about him looking back on his career with any kind of sadness or regret, or looking into his heart and feeling despair or disdain for what he finds there. I want to tell him what Isaac would tell him, that those old kettles and bottles and bones aren’t junk, they’re art materials. He can make himself a new ladder out of old iron and broken cans, a ladder that might be more true and stronger than his old one. But of course he knows that, he knows it all, because he found his inspiration, he wrote this poem, and it’s beautiful and he must have felt that in his deep heart’s core.

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

Savory cake with chard, roasted mushrooms, pecans and pistachios

I’ll blame it on the weather, on the seemingly endless winter, but I’ve wanted to make warm comforting bready meals lately. Last night it was this savory cake, which is a lot like a pizza with the toppings baked right into the dough. I made the dough rich and tender, with butter, milk and an egg (I think of it as brioche-like). And I filled that with my favorite combination of chard and mushrooms. I used pecans and pistachios, but you could use one or the other, whichever you have. We ate this with leftover asparagus pesto and with a pecan sauce something like this one.

Here’s Rag and Bone by The White Stripes

Continue reading

Advertisements

Cornmeal-spinach-goat cheese cake and chunky tomato sauce

cornmeal cake with goat cheese and spinach

cornmeal cake with goat cheese and spinach

Yesterday I foolishly went on and on about how if you Hergéed my name it became Assez, and about how much I like the word “enough.” And I closed with a joke about how Assez would make a good graffiti tag. It was all inane nonsense and probably not worthy of one post, let alone two. And yet, I’m sorry to say, today’s post is going to be a follow up. A part two. Because I became very taken with the idea of having Assez as a graffiti tag! I developed this whole fantasy in which I had a) artistic talent b) guts and gumption c) money and freedom to travel and d) the ability to stay up past ten o’clock at night, and in which I travelled the word leaving my mark. Because “enough” doesn’t just mean an amount that is right and needful, or a sufficiency. “Enough” is also a word you yell when you’re fed up with something, when something is depressing, discouraging, or just generally wrong, and you want it to stop. (You know, when you’re watching your programs, and your children are upstairs beating each other with sticks, and you don’t want to stop them right away because you don’t want to discourage their creativity or dampen their competitive spirit, but finally, the noise is just too much and you can’t hear what the people on the TV are saying so you stomp upstairs and yell, …well, you know.) I had this vision of going to all the places in the world where people are being cruel to one another or to animals, which, let’s face it, is pretty much everywhere in the world, and sneaking in at night to write ASSEZ! “Then I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look.” I’d go everywhere that people are breeding ignorance and creating hatred and suspicion to keep some poor while they themselves become rich. I’d go wherever men are waging war for profit. I’d go to all the fast food places where people are serving pink slime burgers and cover their walls with it. (“Assez” not pink slime…) I’d go to all the places where people are making dangerously stupid television programs or reporting lies as truth, and I’d write ASSEZ!! And today I went so far as to waste a ridiculous quantity of time playing with the spraypaint app on my phone. It’s not perfect, of course, because as soon as I realized how much time I’d spent thinking about it I had to sheepishly stop.
assez
But do you see what we have here? Tintin blue, of course, and golden tear-bubbles, and a glowy quality, and the same sort of font as my Atget book, and … I know, I know, that’s quite enough of that, Claire. Basta! Genug! ASSEZ!

Spicy chunky tomato sauce

Spicy chunky tomato sauce

So we came home from the farm with about ten pounds of tomatoes! We’ve been eating them for lunch every day with olive oil, basil, goat cheese and baguette. But of course I had to make a sauce! I made it light, quick, chunky and flavorful with capers, olives, herbs and a little hot red pepper. And then I made this cake to spoon it over. It’s almost like polenta, except that it has a lot more flavor and a more interesting (to me) texture. It’s soft and puddingy inside, and a little crispy on the edges. It was very easy to make–I mixed it in the processor and then poured it right in the pan to bake it. Even the boys liked it!!
Cornmeal, goat cheese & spinach cake

Cornmeal, goat cheese & spinach cake

Here’s KRS One Out for Fame, about graffiti writers.

Continue reading

Savory cake with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Savory cake with olives, tomatoes and mozzarella

Have you ever discovered a wonderful new way to start a story? Cause I have, and I’ll tell you about it. Did you see? Did you see what I did there? I asked a question and then I told you that I’m going to answer it for you! Where did I discover this ingenious new rhetorical method? Why, in the piles and piles of paper Malcolm brought home on the last day of school, of course. I love going through all the boys’ papers. It’s so funny to see their odd ideas and their mad doodles. Sometimes I think all of the little notes and drawings, which are probably dire signs that they aren’t focussing, are my favorite part of their work. And I love to learn what they’ve been thinking about–that Isaac’s major interests this year were bats and his big brother, and that his heart murmur makes his heart have an echo, and that makes him feel special. Malcolm’s writing journal is a treat. It’s a chaotic pile of ripped pages and tiny pictures of his favorite recurring character, a fez-wearing fellow named madman. But it gets neater as it goes along. The writing is more even, the stories are longer and more carefully formed, but the spelling is as erratic as ever, which is definitely a sign of genius, right? Towards the end of the journal, all of the stories start with the “Have you ever…? I have, and I’ll tell you about it” pattern, which I actually love. I’m never going to sit around worrying about how to start a story again! This technique, so confiding and conversational, pulls you right into the story. My favorite of his essays begins like this. (Spelling and grammar have been cleaned up to ease comprehension.) “Have you ever had a favorite window? Cause I have and I’ll tell you about it. It is a green window that has a radiator next to it so when I look out I am warm. Speaking of looking out, I always see a white parking lot or [unintelligible] normal [trails off here]. I feel happy Jumpy when I look out that window…” And that’s pretty much it. It’s an unfinished work. I love it though, and I’m going to tell you why. First of all, I love windows in literature, and in photographs and films, and I’m proud to think of Malcolm joining this fine tradition. Furthermore, I know which window he’s talking about, and I like it too. I like to think of Malcolm, warm in his room, looking through the cool green window with his big green eyes, watching the world go by. I like that he feels happy-jumpy, whatever that means. Malcolm is a boy who will go anywhere with you. He never needs persuading, he’s ready and out the door in a flash, and I like to think about him sitting there thinking of all the places he’ll go. And funnily enough, I’d made a little film of this very window as part of my series of small videos that I’ve told you about in the past. They’re like Ozu’s pillow shots without the film all around them. “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.) There was nothing brilliant about the videos, 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.” One night about a month ago, when we were putting the boys to bed, I was very taken with Malcolm’s green window. It was a cooly glowing spring dusk, and the light in the room was warm and creamy, and the light outside the window so cool and evening-blue green.

Because my birthday is in June, it has become a tradition to make a dinner of bread, tomatoes, mozzarella and olives. Just to sit and snack and have a slightly nicer bottle of wine than usual. This year, because it’s a sweltering and humid 95 degrees every day, I thought it would be a good idea to bake something. But I wanted to retain the basic idea of tomatoes, olives and cheese. I’m savory-cake mad at the moment, so I made a yeasted, herbed chickpea flour batter, and then I piled fresh tomatoes, herbs, mozzarella and castelvetrano olives in the middle, and then I baked it all. Delicious! We had it with tiny boiled potatoes from our CSA and some bright sauteed pattypan squash and asparagus. The boys liked it, too, because it resembles pizza. I actually left the batter in the fridge over night, but you could just do an ordinary afternoon-rise, if you like.

Here’s Brianstorm, by the Arctic Monkeys, which is Malcolm’s favorite song.

Continue reading

Savory almond cake with toasted beets, beet greens, goat cheese and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Last night we went to Isaac’s poetry cafe. I’ve got to start wearing dark glasses and a veil to these things, because I find them so moving that by the end I’m a puddle, despite my cynical and cantankerous nature. The kids are adorable, obviously, but it’s not this that gets me. It’s the raw, pure emotion–they’re all so animated and nervous and happy it just kills me. They’re not used to reading at all, let alone reading aloud. They stand at the front of the room, glance at their teacher, take a deep breath, and then they dive into the river of words–their words! They paddle through, head down, voice low and hushed, in a barely audible muddle, and then they’re done, they reached the other side, they’re elated, they nailed it. And it’s all so beautiful! Even when you can’t distinguish the words, the poems are full of rhythm and emotion. They’re about what they love and who they are, and these things are so clear and certain when you’re little–constantly changing and evolving, but not yet muddied and confused. They’re seven years old, so the poems are sincere in the best sense of the word. These kids aren’t trying to sell anything, or prove anything, at this age they’re not even worried about getting a good grade. They’re just telling you how they feel, and it’s so joyful and funny and even disarmingly profound in spots that you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Or at least I do. How long before the boys forbid me to attend events at their school? The whole class read a song about keeping a poem in your heart and a picture in your head, so you won’t be lonely, and this is such a perfectly Ordinary idea–this is what it’s all about! Not that you memorize a poem and walk around reciting it to yourself, but that everything is a poem or a picture, if you take the time to notice and collect it in your head in a way that you’ll remember it–with words or images or memories. My beloved OED defines a poem as “A piece of writing or an oral composition, … in which the expression of feelings, ideas, etc., is typically given intensity or flavour by distinctive diction, rhythm, imagery.” This is it exactly! Everything in your life can be given intensity and flavor, if you wake up and live. It sometimes seems that “they” are trying to make us slow and dull and stupid, so we’ll buy more that we don’t need. So I say, don’t watch the dumb shows, don’t eat the fast food, make your own meals, think your own thoughts, with passion and creativity! Nobody can take this away from you. In my visit to the OED, I also discovered the word “poeming,” as in composing or reciting poems, and I will tell you that the children in Isaac’s class were engaged in “Loud Tawkings and Poemings.” Yes they were. And so should we all be.

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Savory almond cake with beets and asparagus

Yesterday at the flea market we met a French couple selling baking pans. I liked them so much, in an instant. They seemed so kind and friendly. We bought a half dozen pans of surprising proportions, and I’m excited to use them all. One was very large with straight sides about 1 1/2 inches high. I knew right away that I wanted to make a big savory cake in it. I’m fascinated by the idea of savory cakes, because I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere, and I wonder why. We have savory pies and savory pancakes, but not savory cakes. I’ve experimented a bit, with a cake with chard and chickpea flour, and one with cornmeal and beets. This particular cake had ground almonds, and I made it like a savory version of a gateau basque, so it had two layers, combined on the edges, and containing a filling of toasted beets, mozzarella, goat cheese, beet greens and asparagus. And the asparagus tips are on top for decoration. I thought it was really delicious. Unexpected, with nice flavors and textures. Not too soft, not too dry. I was happy with the way it turned out! If you don’t happen to have a big French cake pan, you can use a regular cake pan or a small roasting pan.

Here’s Bob Marley with Wake Up and Live
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading