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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Ratatouille sofrito w/ crispy eggplant

Ratatouille sofrito

I love the movie Ratatouille. I think it’s well-made, of course, but beyond that, it makes me happy to watch it. I’ve talked before about my fascination with the connection between food and memory, so the scene in which Anton Ego takes a bite of ratatouille and rockets back to his childhood appeals to me in every way! And there is something about ratatouille – its simplicity, its distinctive flavors. Ratatouille seems like the embodiment of summer at its height, when everything is plump and ripe at the same time, and glowing with possibilities. The fact that everything that grows together and ripens together and tastes so wonderful proves that there is a pattern, there is meaning and sense!

I decided to make a sort of distillation of ratatouille. An intense concentration of the flavors and textures, which uses wintery ingredients to produce a memory of summer. Obviously, I don’t have fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden. I have a can of tomatoes and a jar of roasted reds- So I sofritoed it. In this way, you can still get a fix of warmth and sunshine to get you through the chilly months. I combined all the signature ratatouille ingredients – zucchini, tomato, red pepper and herbs – and I cooked them and cooked them until they were meltingly delicious and very very flavorful – almost like a chutney. I have to admit that I don’t really like mushy eggplant. I only like eggplant if it’s sliced thin and crisped up. Even in the summertime, when I make ratatouille – even if I get the eggplant right out of my garden – I don’t cook it with everything else. I slice it thin, bread it, and bake it in olive oil till it’s nice and crispy. And then it goes perfectly with the ratatouille!

So that’s the story about that. We ate it with slices of bread I’d baked with my OOTO spice mix (more about that later!) and some grated mozzarella. Malcolm made little sandwiches with eggplant on the outside and ratatouille and cheese on the inside. And we had a salad, of course! Baby spinach, baby arugula and some grape tomatoes.

Here’s a song from the ratatouille soundtrack. It’s a good soundtrack. No cheesy teen idols singing inane songs. Like on some other animated hits.
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Empanada Gallega – vegetarian style

This is the time of year for savory pastries! (somebody told me I say the word “savory” too often. And perhaps I do, but somebody’s got to!) They’re so warm and comforting, and they’re the perfect solution to the problem of trying to feed vegetarians a holiday meal. Or to feed non-vegetarians a meal special and satisfying enough that they don’t miss their meat.

Let’s start with the grandmother of all savory pies…the Empanada Gallega. This empanada is probably the source of empanadas all over the world. It hails from Galicia, in Northwestern Spain, and it’s a large flat pie that would be cut into pieces. I’ve never been to Galicia, and I’ve never eaten a genuine empanada gallega, but I’ve been so taken with the idea of it, and I’ve read so much about it, that I feel like I have! I’ve cobbled together a vegetarian version of my idea of an empanada gallega. It’s delicious, relatively simple to make, and it feeds a lot of people. I believe that seafood, specifically tuna, is used in the real version. I’ve experimented with different types of vegetables…mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, zucchini. The combination I like best, in the end, is artichoke hearts and zucchini. Baby spinach would work well in that combination, too, if you’re in the mood. If you’re not a fan of zucchini, you could stick with artichoke hearts by themselves. Whatever you like! We’re making it up as we go along, so it’s very adaptable. You know what would be good? Artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. I’ll try that next time!!

empanada gallega

In Galicia, the patterns on the pies help to identify what kind of filling is inside. Since I just make one at a time, we just have fun with them. My son made the owl!

Here’s Grant Green’s Empanada

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Potatoes, sofrito, fennel, mmmmmm

Potatoes, so mild-mannered and comforting, meet some spicy, vibrant friends in this very pleasing, intensely flavored dish. The potatoes are sliced thinly, and layered with sofrito, olives, capers and fennel, and they all combine to create wonderful tastes and textures.

I just discovered this song, but I really like it! Tony Touch, the Beanuts and D’Mingo with Sofrito Mama.
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Sofrito…it’s fun to say and delicious to eat. It’s also one of those foods that turns up all over the world in different guises. In Spain it’s a slow-cooked, intensely flavored tomato paste. Where different versions of sofrito show up – in the Carribean, latin America, the mediterranean – you’ll find different ingredients added or taken away. You’ll find green peppers, pork, cilantro, olives, capers, chilies, different seasonings. A sofrito is usually a base for another dish. You can add it to a soup or stew at the end to deepen the flavor, toss it with pasta, use it as a condiment. And it is the main ingredient of the empanada gallega, which is the mother of all empanadas.

paste tomatoes

I picked these paste tomatoes from our local CSA, but you can just as easily (well, more easily, really!) make them from a can of tomatoes. But use a can of good tomatoes – fire roasted is nice!

This is my version of a Spanish sofrito. I keep the seasonings simple (rosemary and beautiful smoked spanish paprika) because the sofrito will probably find itself in another dish, mingling with other flavors. I’m not sure this is authentic, but it is delicious!

Recipe after the jump.
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