Roasted turnip, spinach and walnut pie

Turnip, spinach and walnut pie

Turnip, spinach and walnut pie

Well, time is folding in on itself again. The boys had two days off school, and we went for a long walk to my favorite field, and I realized that this was the same weekend that we went last year, except last time they were dressed as an owl and a ghost bat. We’re all a little older and more serious now, it seems. The boys were dressed in normal civilian attire and I wouldn’t let Clio off-leash because now I know how it feels to lose her for a while. I just woke up and noticed that all the trees are nearly bare, and last time I looked summer was just ending. But there we were walking to my favorite field again, we had the sun on our faces and the wind blowing the cobwebs from our minds. And Malcolm told me the story of a remarkable new superhero he invented. His name is an inversion of Dr. Doom’s–that’s how it all started. So he’s Mr. Mood. And his power is that he can control his moods, and when he does, it gives him super powers. So when he’s happy (and he can make himself happy) he can fly and shoot lightening. And when he’s sad he’s heavy, and he sinks down, down into the water, where he can breathe easily. And when he’s scared, he turns into something scary–whatever his adversary is afraid of. When he’s angry he turns into an adult, and he can drive, and he can shoot fire. Yeah. And here’s his backstory. He’s thirteen years old (one year older than Malcolm now.) Where does he live? Not in New York, because too many super heroes live in New York. He lives in Trenton, because his last name is Trent, and he thought he might find his parents there. He lives in an abandoned building. I love Mr. Mood! I love asking Malcolm questions about his backstory and hearing his thoughtful unexpected answers. If there’s one parenting skill I’ve always lacked (of course there are a million parenting skills I lack, but it’s no good dwelling on this too much, listing them and trying to choose the biggest and best), so if there’s one parenting skill I lack, it’s the ability to control my mood; to be fun when I’m feeling down, to be patient when I’m angry, to not curse when I hurt myself. Malcolm’s always been a little short-tempered himself, but I’ve watched with great joy this year as he’s worked very hard to change that. I’ve watched him get so angry he obviously wanted to punch something, and then stop, and turn it off, and sit down and do his homework. I’m going to work on it, too, at my ripe old age. I’m going to work on controlling my mood, too, and I’m looking forward to the super powers that ensue.

Turnip and spinach pie

Turnip and spinach pie

It’s funny how all the vegetables seem to be a little more bitter in the fall. A little more strongly-flavored. Greens, lettuces, turnips. These turnips are just about the last of the produce we had from our CSA for the season. They’re pretty, but they have an edge to them. So I roasted them with a little brown sugar, to mellow them out somewhat. And then I combined them with spinach, walnuts, thyme and sharp cheddar and put them in a crispy soft brioche-style crust. And that’s that!

Here’s Dr. Doom with Charnushka.
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Roasted butternut, pecan, & mushroom pies

Roasted butternut French lentil pies

Roasted butternut French lentil pies

This weekend marks not only the second anniversary of The Ordinary, but the first anniversary of Clio’s stay in our house, as well. She’s lived with us a whole year! I remember when I went to get her. She was an hour’s drive away, and I was so nervous I felt sick. After weeks of begging for a puppy like a spoiled child, and nights of being sure someone else would adopt her first, I had gotten my way and I was plagued by saucy doubts and fears. Clio had met twenty other prospective families, or so her foster mother had said, and none were right for her. Would she like me? Would I like her? There was another family there to meet another dog. This dog was older, very calm and quiet and frightened, and the foster mom said, “Yes, she’s very good, you’ll have no problems with her.” And then she said, “But I’m not sure about this one,” and let Clio out of her cage. She bounced with joy! She jumped in my lap and licked me madly! She jumped in the lap of every member of the family there to meet the calm dog! She tried to kiss the man behind the counter! And that was that, she came home with me, and she’s been here ever since. People who know me get sick of hearing me say all the things I like about Clio, but it’s her anniversary, so I’m going to tell you here. I love her paws!! She’s a rough and tumble dog’s dog, but her paws are surprisingly elegant. They’re white and silky, and she holds them like a dancer. When she lies down she crosses them, and she’s got many different styles of cross-paws. There’s demure cross paws, and ballerina cross paws, and the extreme, one-arm-slung-over-the-other-I’m-so-glad-you’ve-joined-me-in-my-library-for-a-cognac-in-our-dressing-gown cross paws. Her paws are very speaking, she grabs hold of you and tries to make her wishes known, but we’re so slow! I love the way she sings when she’s nervous. I love the way she hugs–she stands and hovers for a moment and then puts one paw on either side of your waist and squeezes and whuffles. I love the way she cuddles, and especially the way she waggles her head contentedly when she lays it on your arm or leg, as if to get as close and comfortable as possible. I love her sweetness…she loves every dog she’s ever met, even though she’s been bitten badly twice. I’ve never heard her growl at another dog. And she loves most people, unless they’re wearing sunglasses or excessive cologne. And I love the way that she’s leapingly happy, jumpingly joyful. So, in honor of the anniversary of her stay here, today’s Sunday interactive playlist will be on the subject of jumping, leaping, hopping, bounding, bouncing.

This is the dinner I made for David’s birthday. It’s a very fancy Ordinary dinner. It employs some Ordinary staples, such as french lentils and roasted mushrooms. It’s autumnal, because it also has roasted butternut squash, smoked gouda, and pecans. I made it in big muffin tins, with large holes in them, but if you don’t have those, you could make little free-form galettes and they’d be just as tasty.

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist. Keep bouncing!
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Collards, roasted mushroom and pecan pie with a spicy smoky crust

Collard pecan pie

Collard pecan pie

Malcolm came home from school yesterday and lay on the couch and wept. I asked him if something upsetting had happened, and he said, no, he was just tired, and he really wanted some pineapple. We’d bought a pineapple on Monday, and I kept telling him it wasn’t ripe, because, honestly, I can never tell! The last time we bought one I prudently waited until it was moldy and disintegrating, just to be sure. So I gave him a dish of pineapple, and I got myself a glass of wine, and he got a blanket, and we cuddled on the couch and watched a dumb show about Merlin. And then snow began to fall, thick and fast – the prettiest snow I’ve ever seen. It sparkled! It looked like crystals falling from the sky and forming an improbably light, even blanket on the ground. And when David came home we went out to dinner. We almost never go out to dinner, just the four of us, maybe twice a year. It’s so nice when we do! I felt so happy being with my family, in our little booth, eating delicious and unexpected food. We always bring a blank book when we go out – the same book each time, and we all take turns drawing in it. We have quite a collection of crazy pictures, and each small sketch transports us back to the good meal we had and the good talks we had. Last night we talked about the things that might have been worrying Malcolm. We talked about a game his whole class plays, and he said that by the end everybody is mad at each other because they’re competing, and that doesn’t feel good. He leaned up against me. Both boys ate with good appetites, with glee, and Malcolm said, “I love food!” And, of course, I love that he loves food. We talked about all the places we’ll travel, when we’ve got the time and money. We talked about taking a plane somewhere with no plans, and just making it up as we go along. Finding a place to stay, finding a lovely restaurant, with little booths, where we can eat strange and wonderful food, and draw in our book, and talk. And then we drove home through a glittering white world to our old warm house. A good night!
Isaac's beautiful landscape from our restaurant book

Isaac’s beautiful landscape from our restaurant book

I love collard greens. I love their substantial texture, and their mildly assertive taste. I like to pair them with smoky crispy things. I thought of the crust in this as being almost like bacon – crunchy and smoky with smoked paprika. The pecans added a nice crunch, and the roasted mushrooms brought their lovely savory, meaty flavor.

Here’s Fox in the Snow by Belle and Sebastian.

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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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Turnip & leek pie

Turnip & greens pie

I like to try to eat local, seasonal vegetables, but I know in the winter it’s just not possible. Oh, sure, I buy winter squash and kale and other cold season veg, but I’m fooling myself if I think it’s grown any where near here. And that’s why I’m absolutely thrilled to belong to a CSA! In the summer I know my vegetables are local and seasonal! Veggies that grow together taste good together!

I love the idea of community gardens and alotments – shared patches of land that people work together to grow food. Eating is such a communal activity, it seems right that growing food should be as well. We get a box of vegetables delivered to us each saturday, and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning as I lift out all of our treasures. And then through the week we visit the farm to pick certain crops that are in season. The boys like to come, too (especially when it’s raspberry season) and they’re a big help in filling up my baskets. It’s a joy to watch them meander through glowing green rows of sweet peas and tomatoes, following the dizzy paths of bees buzzed on sunshine; so pleased with themselves when they find plump, warm vegetables. It’s wonderful to get vegetables I know we love, of course, but it’s a fun challenge to get some we’re not as familiar with, as well. I love dreaming up recipes that will make any vegetable taste good.

This first week wasn’t a challenge at all! I love everything we got – spinach, chard, kale, leeks and … turnips!! Turnips are among my favorite vegetables. And these were beautiful little spring turnips, creamy white and sweet. They didn’t need to be peeled. And their greens were in great shape, as well, which is something I almost never find at the grocery store. I think that turnips, thyme and sharp cheddar are a nearly perfect combination, and I decided to bake that combination into a pie. I like leeks with thyme and cheddar, too, so of course I added those. I wanted to cook the turnip greens into the pie, and I added a big helping of spinach, to soften their sharp flavor. I decided to make a buttermilk crust, just for a change, but you could easily use a regular pate brisée crust, if you wanted something flakier.

Turnip pie

Here’s The Coup with Heven Tonite, because he says, “let’s give everybody homes and a garden plot.” I love this song – it’s the prettiest revolutionary rap song ever.
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Eggplant pie with greens, quince, and hazelnut

Eggplant pie with greens, quince & hazelnuts

We started bird watching back in our courting days. We’d wake up as close to dawn as we could muster, we’d stop at Dunkin Donuts for some sweet coffee, and we’d listen to the Sudson Country radio show on the way out. Despite having been born in Kansas, I’d never listened to a lot of country music, and I’d never heard the classics. Kitty Wells, the undisputed queen of country; Lefty Frizzell, with his sweet, gentle voice; Hank Williams, with his twangy sass – they all seemed to fit, somehow, with our sleepy mood and the slanting morning light. Then we’d find our field or our trail, and we’d begin the slow, silent walk, stopping at every flutter of wings in the trees over our heads. It’s hard to describe the thrill of seeing your first yellowthroat, your first oriole, warblers, vireos…good lord – wood thrushes and veeries – with their hopeful, haunting songs. It boggled my mind that all of these birds had been here, all along. They weren’t new. I’d never bothered to look at them, I’d never taken the time to look up, and discover the teeming world in the tangled branches of the trees. We’d come home and write our finds in a little turquoise-covered blank book that I’d been saving for years for something special. Then we’d check each other for ticks. Birdwatching is a little like falling in love, in a way – you catch a glimpse of something bright and beautiful. You can’t believe it’s really alive, with its small warmth and its fast-beating heart. You’ve heard about it; you’ve read about it in your bird book. Other people claim to have seen it, but, frankly, you’re a little skeptical. You’re not convinced it even exists. Then when you’ve got it, you hold it in your sight, you know you’ll never understand it, but you try to identify it, this wild, fragile, lively thing.

We don’t have a lot of chances to go bird watching any more, what with children and real life and all of their demands. But we went on a lovely bike ride this morning, and it makes me happy to know they’re all still there. We can still catch a glimpse of a bird and know what we’re seeing. We’ll hear a sweet little song, or a hoarse call, and we know what we’re hearing. We’re still part of their world, and they’re still part of ours.

Eggplant pie

So! Eggplant pie! It’s got thin layers of crispy rosemary/balsamic-marinated breaded eggplant. It’s got layers of chard and spinach, sauteed with garlic and red pepper and mixed with quince jam. It’s got layers of crispy toasted hazelnuts, and it’s got layers of melted cheese. Odd combination, you say? Oddly perfect together!! All in a crispy crust. If I do say so myself (when have I not, eh?) it turned out really delicious. I think this would be nice for a party or a picnic, because it tastes good even when it’s not hot out of the oven, and it holds together well for carrying around with you. So you can take it for an evening-time picnic, and walk around with it as you look for all the birds that come out at in the gloaming!

Here’s Left Frizzell with I Love You A Thousand Ways.
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Moroccan pastilla – vegetarian style

Moroccan pastilla

“I made warka!” I cried, as I skipped around town. “Hello, man putting air into your tires! I made warka! Hello, woman trying to parallel park her enormous SUV on the wrong side of the street! I made warka! Hello, young mother hurrying by with your child and shielding her eyes from the madwoman singing about warka! I made warka!” And then all of the inhabitants of the picturesque little town joined me in a synchronized dance and a stirring rendition of the warka song. Okay, none of that really happened. But I was so excited about making warka that I felt like telling total strangers on the street.

Warka is a paper-thin dough, somewhat like phyllo but even thinner. It’s one of those things you don’t imagine anybody can actually make in real life. But it can be done! It’s not difficult, and it’s actually kinda fun. Here’s how it all began. I’ve been dreaming of making a vegetarian version of a moroccan pastilla for months. The combination of sweet & savory sounded so intriguing to me. The idea of eating pigeon did not! Well, the other day we had a street festival in town. As festivities were winding down and people were packing up, my two young children began playing with the children of the woman running a stall across the street. I started talking to their mom. She’s from Morocco. Being a crazy person, I (almost) immediately said, “Do you know how to make pastilla?” Of course she did! I told her I was vegetarian, and she advised me on the vegetables to use, and how to prepare them, and how to arrange all the layers. She suggested phyllo dough. But can’t I make my own? I asked. Ah yes, she said, and she told me how.

She suggested equal parts flour and water. I ended up using a bit more water, and added a bit of lemon juice and oil. I’d seen this post on making warka, and I tried to incorporate some of the methods contained therein with the advice of my new friend. I used a non-stick griddle. I put it right on the burners, though. The first one came out a little messy, but I got better as I went along. It doesn’t matter if they turn out super flaky, because after you pile enough of them on top of each other, they make a more cohesive whole.


The pastilla itself was very delicious, but there was a bit of a disconnect between my expectations of when you eat cinnamon sugar almonds, and when you eat garlic, turnips and shallots. The more I ate, the more I got used to it, and the better it tasted!

I’ve just been reading about Gnawa music. Fascinating!! Here’s Gnawa de Marrakech with Lalla Mimouna. I think it’s so beautiful!
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Pear, spinach, rosemary, bleu cheese galettes

Bleu cheese, rosemary, pear and spinach galettes

Maybe spring is to blame, but I feel as though I’m bursting with recipes I want to share, and recipes I want to make. I have about five things I’ve recently made that I want to tell you about. I’d save them up and tell you about one each day, but I also have about five things buzzing around in my head that I can’t wait to cook! It’s gotten really bad, I tell you! So I apologize in advance for posting more than once a day. As ever, feel free to ignore it all!!

I live in a sleepy little city on the Delaware. I’m no town historian, but our house is from 1850, and it feels as though most of the rest of the town was built up at that time. Lots of brick row houses. Narrow streets and small yards. More antique stores and art galleries than we know what to do with. (Delightfully so!)

One weekend of the year our quiet little town becomes crazy crowded – we have a street festival! Roads are blocked off, booths are erected. Hundreds of people walk by each day. We can watch it all from our store – just on the edge of the action. Our store is small and has a huge window in front, so we feel like we’re in a fishbowl, watching the crowds go by. It’s oddly quiet, despite the sudden population increase. Maybe from the lack of cars. Maybe with the hush that crowds sometimes have, when everybody seems to adjust the volume of their voices to form, all together, a low, incoherent rumble. It’s mesmerizing to watch everybody passing by, at a stately, regular pace. FIrst one way, then crossing back, in tempo, returning the other.

I always find crowds of people strangely moving. I don’t always love humanity in the abstract, but masses of people make me feel oddly affectionate towards us as a species. Small moments of human drama in the sea of people feel so poignant. A child who is over-stimulated and over-tired, with a crumpled, crying face that just happens to be painted like a happy tiger. Eccentric looking couples that seem so happy together, and make you happy that they met each other, even though you don’t know them at all. Straggling groups of teenagers wearing giant 70s sunglasses, who can’t suppress how excited they feel to be wandering without parents at the festival.

Anyway. We had some food in our store, for anybody that was brave enough to come in off the street. I made three kinds of savory pastries. And I’m going to tell you about all of them!! One at a time!! They all turned out really good!! Or so I think!! The nice thing about savory pastries (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again) is that although they’re probably best hot out of the oven, they’re also very tasty at room temperature. So they’re nice for parties, or picnics, or art openings, or to offer at street festivals. They’re easy to pick up and carry around, and they combine lots of good flavors in a manageable package.

The first I’ll tell you about is this little galette. It’s got a toasted oatmeal black pepper crust. It’s got fresh baby spinach, ripe pears, bleu cheese and rosemary. It’s very tasty!

I’ve got the Tom Waits song 9th and Hennepin stuck in my head, so I’ll post that here. Not because it describes my town, thank heavens, but because he’s watching people through windows, just like we were, and he’s rambling on to anyone who will listen. Just like I do!

And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen…
And I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen it all
Through the yellow windows of the evening train…

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Spice mix!

I love the idea of spice mixes. Berbere, zatar, Ras el hanout, garam masala, jerk seasoning. Even the names are wonderful! In the past I’ve tried to recreate some of these using the spices most available around here – but it’s sort of exciting that, when they’re at home, these mixes contain spices that are extremely hard to find where I live. Everything about spices appeals to me – the textures, the fragrances, the colors, and, of course, the taste. It’s no wonder that they were once considered precious.

I realized the other day, as I was typing up a recipe for this very blog, that I tend to use the same spices over and over. I’ve got different combinations I like to use, but there are a few that I use a lot. I decided to embrace that fact, and to try to distill the different spices into one perfect (for me) mix. So I did! And I’m very enamored of it, because I think it’s very pretty and smells very good, too. It’s smokey, a little bit hot…it combines some sweet herbs with some more piquant spices. I test-cooked it first with some roasted cauliflower, and that turned out well, so I decided to use it in these little pies. They’re stuffed with roasted mushrooms, white beans and hazelnuts, and seasoned with my spice mix. Very nice!

white bean hazelnut pies

Over the summer, my son Malcolm invented a spice mix of his own. So I decided to accompany the pies with sweet potato fries cooked with Malcolm’s supreme spicy spice mix. They went very well with the pies! And we had a fun time putting it all together.

Here’s Mix it Up by the Kingstonians. That’s the way I like it.

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Chard, pistachio & golden raisin tart

When I was in Spain quite a few years ago, I stopped at a place with only one vegetarian thing on the menu – spinach, raisins, and pine nuts. It was such a simple dish, and I had such a heaping mound of spinach on my plate, but somehow it was one of the most memorable and delicious meals I have ever eaten. The filling for this pie is loosely based on that memory. I used chard instead of spinach, because of the added depth of earthy flavor, and because it seems more substantial. And I added pistachios, quite frankly, because I had them! You could just as easily use spinach and pine nuts. The flavor would be different but equally delicious. I added lemon zest to this light yeasted crust, because I think the brightness of lemon zest contrasts nicely with the earthiness of the chard.

Here’s Swiss Chard, by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, a band we used to listen to when we lived in Boston. I hadn’t thought about them in a while. Thank you, swiss chard, for reminding me!!

Recipe after the jump…
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