Savory puffy pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Some faces are more symmetrical than others. Some lips are fuller, some eyes are bigger, some skin is smoother or paler or tanner. (And, yes, some girls are bigger than others, and some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.) And in some decades or some centuries paleness or tan-ness is valued, sometimes society dictates that full lips are aesthetically pleasing, sometimes it’s rosebud lips, sometimes it’s plumpness, sometimes it’s skinniness. Fashion is fickle, society is fickle, and as individuals our ideas about human beauty are mysteriously linked to the aesthetic preferences of society-as-a-whole. And of course everybody knows about inner beauty. Intelligence, humor, kindness, compassion, all shine in a person’s face and make them more beautiful; it’s (probably) a scientifically proven fact. But somehow this notion still implies a judgement from without, and it removes the spirit from the body, it sets aside the physical. I’ve been thinking about a different definition of beauty that’s both physical and even more deeply inner than the cliché that the phrase “inner beauty” has become. It’s a definition of beauty that we own, ourselves. I think our bodies are beautiful because of the pleasure that they give us. And this pleasure comes in many forms: it could be in tasting food, or hearing music, or making something with our hands. It could be in running or dancing or feeling the strength of our muscles. The mind is part of the body, too, so we can take pleasure in thinking, even in something as simple as that. And, of course, it could be in “the great joy that they had expected, and countless little joys of which they had never dreamt,” to borrow a phrase from EM Forster that I’ve always thought and hoped was a euphemism for physical love. Your body is beautiful because it is capable of doing these things and feeling these things, and you can walk through this world glowing with this knowledge. And the real beauty of this definition of beauty, is that though it comes from inside of you, and it is yours, all of these things are more pleasurable and more beautiful and more glowing when they are shared with somebody else.

This beauty doesn’t change with the seasons and the fads. This beauty is strength against insecurity bred by cruel comments and the constant bombardment of images of people who look different and supposedly better than you. Certainly your body changes as you age, but you will find new ways that it brings you pleasure. You will be beautiful forever, and your beauty is yours.

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

My oven is broken! It’s the strangest thing. It gets to a certain temperature, and then it just stops. It decides that’s quite hot enough, thank you. So I’ve had a nice time the last few days thinking of ways to cook things without it. The stovetop still works, and the broiler. So I decided to make this sort of puffy savory pancake to cook over sautéed vegetables. I cooked it first in the skillet, with the lid on, and then I put it under the broiler for a minute or two to brown up. I suppose it’s not all that different from a yorkshire pudding, except that it’s not baked at all. And it’s similar to socca, because it has a bit of chickpea flour in it. We had some beautiful chard from the farm, and I love chard, tomatoes and chickpeas, so that seemed like a nice under layer for the whole project. You could add olives or capers, I think they’d be nice here, but I’ve been putting them in everything lately, so I left them out.

Here is, of course, The Smiths with Some Girls are Bigger than Others.

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Spinach and mozzarella cake

Spinach mozzarella cake

Spinach mozzarella cake

“I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright.”- James Baldwin
Well, I love this quote! I’d been thinking about these things – the mutability of morality, the shifting quality of truth, the unreliability of words. It struck me as so similar to Emerson’s “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day” (Thank you, universe, for making everything connect.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a very vague person, I’m blurry at the edges, and I see the world this way. I think it’s dangerous to decide the world is a certain way, and that we have to act in a certain way in the world, according to a strict set of rules. The idea that morality should come from within – that we need a core of strength despite the fact that the outlines are shifting – is so hopeful about humanity, but it’s a little frightening, too. It would be a comfort to believe that there’s some larger system to decide right and wrong – to reward the good and punish the wicked. But how often have these ideals been corrupted by the people that claim to interpret them for us? How dangerous it is to stubbornly hold onto conclusions to the point where we act out of habit, thoughtlessly, without consideration. How much better to constantly question, to actively seek answers, even though they might not exist in any definitive form, or they may shift and change the moment we catch up to them. And to struggle to express ourselves and share our thoughts, even though the words themselves are as transparent and mutable as water. The world is constantly changing, time is streaming by us, we’re never grown-up, we’re never done. It’s a silly notion, but I have a dream-like image of people as spirits, moving through the world, with some sort of light of truth inside of them, burning strong. What nonsense I’m spouting today! What extra-special foolishness! Happy shrove tuesday! A day that we confess our sins and eat pancakes! I like the idea of pancakes as absolution. I know it doesn’t quite work that way, but it’s a nice notion, anyway. I believe the original habit of pancake-eating on shrove Tuesday began as a way to use up all the fat and sugar in the cupboard before then lenten fast began. Or, more likely, it was because it was February, and everybody wanted something simple and comforting. Like this Seussically green, fat, cheesy pancake! We had some saucy chili left over, and I wanted something to eat it with. Something the boys would like, that would contain vegetables and protein, but in a non-objectionable way. And so we have this cake. It has some almonds, for flavor, texture and protein. It’s got flavorful herbs, it’s got a bit of cheese. And it’s BRIGHT GREEN for spring. After all, supposedly “lenten” comes from the old English for long, because the days are getting longer at the moment, and have such a hopeful light about them!

Here’s The Meters with Mardi Gras Mambo.

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Chickpea flour chard frittata-cake (with olive sofrito)

Chard & chickpea flour cake

I’m not very good at sitting still. I’ve tried doing yoga or meditating once or twice, but as soon as I try to clear my head, it fills with silly thoughts and petty anxieties. When I try to sit and write, I find myself jumping up every few minutes to do something that doesn’t actually need to be done. Yesterday, I attempted to master the art of being still. I’ve written the underdog’s theme song, and absolved lack of competitive instinct and lack of ambition everywhere. At the moment I’d like to champion a brief spell of staring into space. It’s been a spate of immaculate weather. We were trying to think of the perfect thing to do after dinner – homework all done, but still a school night. We weren’t organized enough for a walk of any kind. Maybe we’d sit around a fire in the backyard. But I found myself sitting in a chair by the front door. The sky was bright as day, but the room was filling with darkening blue light at an autumn pace – always surprising and even slightly worrying. The boys were playing kickball in the backyard. They were giggling maniacally – beautiful, but I’m sure they were hitting the window and the recycling bins on purpose. David was in the kitchen sneezing, and covering Malcolm’s text book with a brown paper bag, the way humans have covered textbooks for all eternity. The boys ran in and out of their showers, cool, pale and giggling. They disappeared into the backyard, as the sky finally deepened outside the window, and in the room it became too dark to write. The smell of smoke and the sound of loved voices pulled me into the backyard, where the sky was still palely glowing.

Chard and chickpea flour frittata

And before all of this activity? I made the best meal! I’m really proud of it! I think I may have invented it! I’m not even sure what to call it! It’s like a frittata, but it has chickpea flour in it, which gives it a lovely substantiality and flavor. It’s also got sauteed chard, mozzarella, some garlic, some rosemary, and some basil. We cut it into thick wedges, and ate it with sofrito (spanish style). I’d made a big batch with all of the paste tomatoes I picked last week. I froze some of it for winter, and I set some aside, and added olives and a roasted red pepper (also from the farm!) You could make a simple tomato sauce instead, though. (Both recipes below) And we had a nice, simple heirloom tomato salad as well.

Olive & red pepper sofrito

The cool, blue sounds of Jackie Mittoo’s Evening Time.
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Introducing…the Ooto!


Well, I said I was going to invent my own version of a flat bread/pancake along the lines of injera, tortillas, pita, roti, dosas, moo shu etc, etc. And I HAVE DONE IT!! *THUNDERCLAP* I feel like John Cleese in the brontosaurus sketch. This flat bread, which is mine, belongs to me and I made it.

But let’s start at the beginning… I’ve always loved foods you could eat with your hands. Indian, Ethiopian, middle eastern – any cuisine that involves lots of little delicious dishes you mix and match, and eat with a bit of bread that you tear off, or a big piece of bread that you wrap around. It’s the best, most enjoyable way to eat. I’ve made (or tried to make) injera, pita, roti, crepes, etc, with varying levels of success, but it’s never quite as good as you can get at the restaurant. And yet, I’d like to eat this way more often. And so I decided to try to invent a new type of bread of my very own. Here was my criteria… I wanted it to be crispy on the outside, but softer and chewier on the inside. I wanted it to be smoothish on one side, but have crumpet-like holes on the other. I wanted it to hold together well enough to be a useful utensil, but not be too dense. I wanted it to taste good all on its own, but not be too distracting from other tastes on the plate. I wanted it to be fairly easy to make, and not fall apart frustratingly when you tried to cook it. I wanted it to have little toasty patterns on it.

And here is what I came up with. I’m calling it the ooto (it’s an acroynm!) because I like the sound of the word. But I suppose I might reconsider that in days to come. It’s made with semolina flour and regular flour, which gives it a nice taste & texture. It’s got black pepper in it, but no other distracting herbs or spices. Black pepper goes with everything! The first pancake fell apart, but after that it was a breeze to make. Although it did smoke up my kitchen a little, since I used olive oil, which is tasty but does get smoky. And that’s pretty much the news about that. My family liked it. And it tasted good today toasted and crispy – nice with scrambled eggs.

Here’s The Ethiopians with ONE. Why? Because I love it, that’s why! And this post, which is mine, belongs to me!!
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