Beets glazed with tamari, lime, and hot pepper

Beets glazed with tamari

Beets glazed with tamari

On the local news they were running a story about the demolition of an old hotel…a historical landmark. A fresh-faced local reporter informed us of the traffic problems we might expect, and about proposed plans for the site. Then they told us our “backyard” weather report, before returning to the national morning program, on which a group of plastic-faced plastic-haired individuals cheerfully and ignorantly speculated on the murder of a sad-seeming “reality” TV star. Later we drove home through miles of winding mountain roads covered with pine forests. We passed small towns and farms, and almost more churches than houses. I always feel a little lonely driving through strange neighborhoods, getting small glimpses of people’s lives there…a couple of kids playing volleyball without a net, a line of people waiting for a bus (where are they going?), an unchained dog ambling back to his place in a service station. Something about the pines and the veering hills makes this part of the world seem unusually wild, and it’s obviously a place people have travelled to for some time to escape the cares of the world. It’s beautiful, silent, pitch black at night, and desolate. We passed by huge strange buildings from the last century–giant resort hotels and spas, in crumbling disrepair or transformed into apartments. We passed abandoned resort towns from the sixties and seventies, where trees grow out of the tennis court, and the bright groovy colors welcome the ghosts. We passed colonies of small houses–cabins or shacks, really–they must have been for families roughing it for a week or two, or for artists’ gatherings or religious retreats. And now they’re dilapidated, missing doors and windows and crumbling apart, but judging from the possessions strewn over the front lawn, there are people living there, people with dogs and children and worries just like mine. It’s so strange to think about the people who have come here for vacation, maybe year after year, until the buildings were boarded up and the business closed down. It’s strange to think about the people who live here now, in these small towns and old cities and ex-resorts, all connected by the morning show piped into their televisions, with its gruesomely breezy jolliness, its forced fake stories that have nothing real about them, nothing that touches anybody’s life, not enough substance to even crumble and decay. Humans are so strange, sometimes.

Beets glazed with tamari

Beets glazed with tamari

Almost everything in this dish came from the farm! The beets, scallions, garlic, hot pepper, basil, cilantro. It’s simple, but with nice strong flavors, sweet, salty, hot and tangy. You could toss it with rice or pasta to make a meal, or eat it on the side with all the other good summer vegetables.

Here’s Who Cares, Michelle Shocked’s ghost town song.

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Zucchini-corn-basil soup and herbed semolina biscuits

Zucchini corn soup

When last we’d left our intrepid explorers, Claire was yelling at Malcolm and feeling bad about it. CUT TO…several days later. Claire’s walking home from work. She’s tired, and if we’re being honest, she’s a little cranky and discouraged. Suddenly, through the shifting crowd of tourists, she sees two beaming faces bobbing towards her. It’s her boys! Isaac stops at the corner, and leans cooly against a lamppost; Malcolm charges across the street and nearly knocks her over with the force of his hug. Back in their paint-peeling, disordered, yet charming home, Claire makes a quick and delicious dinner. Then she and Malcolm set out to get a cup of coffee and a quart of milk for their breakfast. The air is cool and sweet, it’s a peach of an evening – a perfectly ripe, sweet, peach of an evening. So they take the long way, they walk down to the tow path. Malcolm says he wants to swim, but the air is like water, and it feels good when he flaps his arms like wings. Claire loves him so much she could cry, at that moment, but they walk along the towpath, both flapping their arms slowly like big strange birds. They meet friends who had a beagle that died the same week Steenbeck did. They have a new beagle puppy, who’s boundingly happy. They all seem happy, and they remark that Malcolm is almost as tall as Claire. “I know!” she replies, “and he’s only ten!” When Malcolm and Claire reach the main street, the shop is closed, so they keep walking. Somehow, Malcolm catches Claire’s hand…and holds it! Claire feels as though she’s caught a rare, sweet toad, that might jump through her fingers. This won’t happen much longer, she knows that. On the way home, they pass a boy they knew when he was Malcolm’s age. Now he’s a teenager, a big, lanky, laughing teenager, walking with his friends. Malcolm eyes them appraisingly. In the house, David and Isaac are playing a game with bug-inscribed tiles. Claire passes through the house to the backyard, because the air is so delicious. She listens to the katydids and the whirring evening insects. David joins her, and they hear a screech owl. He calls to it, and it calls back. They watch the day change into night, they feel the summer change into autumn. The boys come out, and Isaac curls up in Claire’s lap, his smooth cool/warm skin glowing milkily in the dusky light. They don’t want to go inside, they want to listen for the owl. It’s hard to make them go to bed, at this moment. CUT TO…

Herbed semolina biscuits

But wait a moment, you’re asking yourself! What was the quick and delicious dinner that Claire made? Well, I’ll tell you. It was a soup with zucchini, corn, scallions and lots of basil. Malcolm said it tasted like winter, and David said it tasted like something we’d eat in winter to remind ourselves of what summer tasted like. And we had biscuits made partly with semolina flour, with fresh sage, thyme, and oregano, and freshly ground black pepper in them. Isaac loved the biscuits. Everyone else liked everything together.

Here’s A Tribe Called Quest with Excursions. “I said, ‘Daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles.'”
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Zucchini fritters with goat cheese and pine nuts

Zucchini Fritters

With a ringing of bells, a man entered our store. He was slim and elegant and quite dapper in an understated 60s Greenwich Village way. He wore some of the coolest sneakers I’ve seen in a while. He walked straight to me, without looking around, and he clutched something under his arm. My heart sank. We have more people come into our store trying to sell things than the other way around, sadly. I was late to meet someone, we can’t afford to buy anything at the moment – but he held a book of photographs, and I took the time to look. They were beautiful – black and white, quite dark in tone and mood. He explained that they were of Bosnia, his home country, during the 70s and 80s. I told him we weren’t in the financial position to buy anything, however much we liked it. He turned to leave, but halfway along, he stopped. He told me he loved the store. He said that “they” were trying to squash craft and art and creativity, but that a wave was coming that they couldn’t stop. He said it would wash right over the bunkers that they build out of all the crap that they make us watch and eat and read. He was very eloquent. He said we would be okay because of a good way of life (he rubbed his belly) and a pure soul (he put his hand on his heart). It was like a strange benediction. When he left I felt a slight trace of regret – that I didn’t have more time to talk to him, maybe, or that I couldn’t help him by buying his prints.

My favorite cooking utensil – the one I use for absolutely every meal I make, is a wooden stirrer-scraper that David made. It’s made from curly maple, and it’s the perfect combination of beauty and function. It’s long-handled, but the handle is tapered, so it doesn’t fall into your pot, or fall out of your pot and clatter in a big mess on the floor. Its straight beveled edge is absolutely perfect for scraping the bottom of the pan when you add white wine, to get all the lovely caramely tasty bits mixed into the sauce. I love that David made it, and that I use it to make meals for the family. I love that it takes on the colors of the food I cook, and that, as it does, its beautiful, rippled grain becomes more visible.

Of course I used it to make these zucchini fritters!! They’re fairly simple – crispy outside, soft in, melty with goat cheese and crunchy with pine nuts. (My god they’re good! I haven’t splurged on them in a while and I’d forgotten how delicious they are!!) The fritters are lightly flavored with fennel, lemon, and basil – summery! Malcolm invented the dipping sauce. We’d been eating salted limes, and he thought that if limes were good with salt, they’d be good with tamari. The sauce is full of flavor – ginger, garlic, lime, tamari and hot pepper. It’s unusual with the fritters, but really lovely. You could, of course, make any other sort of sauce you like with them.

Here’s The Specials with Too Hot, because it’s close to 100 degrees here, and we’re melting!
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Black quinoa w/garlic scapes and lettuce/hazelnut/sage pesto

Black quinoa & lettuce pesto

The mulberries are ripening, and all the mulberry trees along the canal are dropping their fat purple berries. I find this oddly inspiring! It makes me want to write stories and draw pictures. I can’t quite explain the connection – maybe it’s just fruitful and springlike. One year, under the spell of mulberry-inspiration, I wrote a story called Meet the Mulberry Ducks. It was about young ducks that live along the towpath and eat mulberries. They laze around in the cool water, or on the warm dusty towpath, and wait for the berries to fall. They have purple poop. One day, two crows come along and laugh at them for waiting for the berries to fall. They show them a way they can shake the berries off the tree. The ducks follow their advice, and they eat so many berries they get stomachaches. Then they resolve, in future, to wait for the berries to fall. That’s it!! That’s the whole story. I was thinking about it the other day, as I rode over some plump mulberries on my bike, and it’s really a fable that encourages underachievement. And I felt a little bad about that – but not too bad. And I thought about how Malcolm asked me the other day what “ambitious” meant. I told him it meant trying really hard to be good at something, and to succeed doing it. But a big part of my brain was thinking about how it has negative connotations. I was thinking about Macbeth and Iago and their O’erweening ambition. I didn’t tell Malcolm that, though. I want him to be passionate about things, and try really hard to be good at something, and to succeed. But not to eat so many berries that he gets a bellyache!!

He’s more likely to eat too much quinoa, however. He loved this!! He said the quinoa tasted like Guisseppe’s pizza (that’s the place on the corner). He took seconds, and piled a big mound on his plate, with lettuce pesto on top of it, and scooped it up with bread. That’s my boy!! I cooked the quinoa for much longer than it needed to be cooked. For over an hour, probably, all told. I let it absorb all the broth, and then I liked how it got a creamy, pudding-like consistency, so I stirred in some butter and honey. It was still a little crunchy, though, cause it’s black quinoa, and that’s how it is. David just pointed out that our oven has a convection roast option, and I was eager to try it, so I cut up some potatoes and mushrooms in big chunks, tossed them with olive oil, tossed the potatoes with rosemary and the mushrooms with sage, and roasted them up. Very nice! Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. So we had them with lovely lettuce/sage/hazelnut mozzarella pesto. I used the spicy-sweet red leaf lettuce from the farm, and the mozzarella made everything get a little melty when it met the hot potatoes and mushrooms. A simple meal, but a good one!!

Here’s Take Back Your Duck by The Inspirations, one of my all time favorite songs. This duck is too skinny. Obviously, she should have been eating more mulberries!
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Delicious Radish Relish

(Plus reddish salad greens with roasted mushroom & sharp cheddar)

Radish relish

Some phrases just get stuck in your head. When I opened my prize box from the CSA this week, and saw a lovely rosy bunch of radishes, all I could think of was “delicious radish relish.” It’s a line from a poem by Calef Brown, a wonderful poet and illustrator – he’s a very refreshing pickle in the often saccharine and derivative world of children’s books. The poem, Clementown, describes a town where everybody is greenish, and tall and leanish, and the dogs bark loudish. All of the people eat reddish food, like delicious radish relish. You can hear Daniel Pinkwater reading the poem here. Well, I set about to make some delicious radish relish (if you make this, and serve it to friends or family, you’ll be required to refer to it as “delicious” radish relish). I consulted my mennonite cookbook, for tips on pickles, chutneys and relishes. Well! They put up pounds and pounds of vegetables in pickle or relish form. We didn’t have that quantity of radishes, here at The Ordinary. We did observe that every recipe called for sugar and vinegar, so we decided definitively that if we incorporated sugar and vinegar with our radishes, we’d have a relish. We decided to add carrots for sweetness, garlic and scallions for savoriness, ginger and mustard seeds for their gentle bite, red pepper flakes for heat, and fresh basil, because it’s mother-flipping delicious in everything.

When we sat down to eat yesterday, Isaac had a little fit. He didn’t want to eat his chard and olive tart (I’ll tell you about it later!). David, who has heretofore never been a big fan or radishes, told him that he was scared to try delicious radish relish, but he’d done it anyway, and he’d found it … DELICIOUS!!

Salad with cheddar and roasted mushrooms

While I’m at it, I’ll also briefly mention a salad we ate last night, because it was easy, and also delicious. We’d gotten some lovely, thin, flavorful reddish lettuces from the farm. They looked like they might be bitter, but they were actually quite sweet. I put a giant mound of them in a bowl, tossed it lightly with balsamic and olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I grated a fair amount of sharp cheddar on top. I added some still-warm roasted mushrooms, and they melted the cheese and wilted the lettuce just the tiniest bit. I added a ton more freshly ground pepper. Easy and delicious!!

Here’s a lovely version of Clementown by what appears to be a Calef Brown tribute band called…Clementown!!
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Noodles with broccoli, scallions and black beans

Broccoli, black beans, and scallions

My little Isaac has mastered the art of bicycle riding. It’s not just that he can ride a two-wheeler, but that he rides his bike exactly as a bike should be ridden. It’s all about the journey, with him. Isaac is not a practical man. He’s dreamy and glowy and delightfully meandering, and that’s how he rides his bike. He’s like a little gnat, flying along in dizzy spirals, darting unexpectedly at passersby, weaving happily from side to side. Sometimes he’ll take off at top speed for about half a block, and then he’ll stop to take off his itchy helmet for a moment, and ask me what my favorite dinosaur is, and if it has little yellow eyes. Then he’ll laugh and say, “You couldn’t know that! Nobody could know that.” Then he’ll get himself going again, and sway happily down the street. He has no sense of urgency about getting to school on time. I feel like such a traitor to the world of childhood when I hurry him along, and lecture him about lateness. I feel like the kind of person who would use the word “tardy,” I feel like I’m working for the man.

Isaac is not a very practical eater, either. He seems to live on fruit and sunshine. He’s a vegetarian who doesn’t like many vegetables. He’s not hungry at mealtimes, but he’ll be ravenous fifteen minutes later. He only likes certain shapes of pasta, and swears that every pasta has its own flavor. He does eat a lot of pasta, so maybe he’s preternaturally discerning. As David said, “fifty words for snow…” When Isaac does eat something of a substantial meal-like nature, with vegetables and protein, it’s like seeing a rare and wonderful bird. I’ll point it out to David with quiet gestures, and he’ll gesture back not to disturb the exotic creature at the watering hole, or he’ll bolt, and leave his meal uneaten. Last night I decided to cook up some scallions and broccoli I’d gotten from the CSA. I was extremely tired after a ridiculously busy shift at work. This was quick, and had a nice mix of salty, hot, and sweet. Isaac approached it slowly. First he picked out the broccoli. Then the beans, one at a time, then he began to eat everything together, by the forkful. Huzzah!!

I’ve been waiting to cook with scallions so I could post Booker T’s Green Onions.

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Homemade noodles with black beans and tamari

Black bean noodles

There’s a special kind of joy in discovering a movie by accident. A movie you haven’t watched trailers for, or read reviews of, or looked forward to seeing. The other night we watched a Korean film called Castaway on the Moon. Knew nothing about it. What a nice surprise! A delightful mix of very human, and slightly but magically surreal. I’ll try not to give too much of the plot away, but here’s the basic story. A man jumps off of a bridge over a river in the heart of a bustling city (Seoul). He washes up on an island in the middle of the river. He might as well be in the middle of nowhere. He becomes an unlikely Robinson Crusoe. And he becomes obsessed with black bean noodles. To him they represent hope. Of course, after watching the movie, I, too became obsessed with black bean noodles. It turns out real Korean black bean noodles don’t have black beans as I know them, but a paste made of black soy beans. Too late! The idea of black beans and noodles was firmly implanted in my head. It seems they sometimes add meat or seafood to the black bean noodles, so I thought of my black beans in that capacity. Apparently the soy bean paste is mixed with caramel. So I made a sort of caramelized soy sauce with tamari and raw sugar. Malcolm, who is a big fan of noodles with tamari, helped me pick the spicy spices. We decided on garlic, ginger, basil, red pepper flakes and scallions. Delicious! Black beans and tamari are wonderful together. Why didn’t I think of it sooner?

We didn’t go to all the trouble that the man in the movie did, to make the noodles, but we did make them ourselves. It turned out to be very easy and very very fun. Not as easy as opening a cardboard box of dried noodles, but much more delicious. We’ll be making more noodles, soon. And different shapes, too. Watch out!

Castaway on the Moon.

Here’s Culture’s beautiful I’m Alone in the Wilderness.

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