Spinach and Portobello tarts with a pecan crust

Portobello and spinach tart

Portobello and spinach tart

We both forgot it was valentine’s day. To be honest, I also forgot it was Friday or mid-February and I can barely remember my name. It’s all a big blur of snow and sniffles and boys home from school every other day. In truth it didn’t matter that we forgot Valentine’s day, because that’s sort of the point. When you’re in love you don’t need to remember Valentine’s day. After more than twenty years a lot of our pleasures together are of the everyday sort, but as much as I value and champion the ordinary, I know that these everyday pleasures, shared every day, are not ordinary at all. I fully realize that having somebody to share each day with, to share our odd sense of humor, our strange meals, our crazy boys, our comfortable silences, our worries and woes, our trips to the grocery store, our wine before dinner, our difficult decisions, our rare days off, our ramshackle house, our dreaming bed, our morning coffee and the cake to go with it, our newly discovered old music, our fondly remembered long-ago loved music, our inspiration, our down days, our photographs, our shared memories of nearly half our lives, our memories of before we met, our new ideas, our favorite films, our exhaustion, our sickness, our hope for spring, our lengthening days; I fully realize that having somebody to share all of this is a rare and wonderful thing. I fully understand this, and I’m thankful for it, every day. Happy Valentine’s day!

Spinach and portobello tarts

Spinach and portobello tarts

Of course, though I don’t need to remember Valentine’s day, I’m always glad of an excuse to think of some special meal to make. I made this a few days ago, and it seemed pretty special at the time. David had the idea of slicing the mushrooms the way apples and pears are frequently sliced on top of a fruit tart, and I think it worked very well. The custard is spinachy and smoky and pleasantly tender, and the mushrooms crisp and meaty.

Here’s Cee Lo Green with All Day Love Affair

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Hazelnut spinach tart

Hazelnut spinach tart

Hazelnut spinach tart

I seem to get a lot of calls and texts from people I don’t know, for people I don’t know. One woman in particular, a certain Lorraine, must have chosen my number at random to throw off the pack of people calling for her, none of them with anything nice to say. Last night I got a text from someone asking how my evening was going. It was a misdirected message, so I just ignored it, but we were thinking it would be funny if I wrote back. “Oh, you know, not so bad. I worked all day, and I’m strangely tired, even though we weren’t very busy. It’s all snowy here, it snowed most of the day. Now it’s rain upon ice upon snow upon snow upon last week’s snow. Very pretty and surreal in a glowing glittering pinkish-dawn light kind of way. I got home from work early because of the snow-slowness, but also because of the snow, the whole day felt like evening, and when I got home I just wanted to drink some wine, make dinner and go to bed, even though it was only late afternoon. I thought about times before electricity and heat. In the winter they must have shut their lives down when the sun went down. Especially if they couldn’t afford lamps or candles. I suppose I haven’t evolved much past that. Malcolm was at a guitar lesson when I left for work, and at a friend’s house when I got home. Isaac didn’t want to sleep without him, so he came down and watched Desk Set with us, and it was funny to think about him processing information about this huge ridiculous computer. Funny to think that computers have always been part of his life. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Spencer Tracy grabs Katherine Hepburn’s hand and says, “I bet you write wonderful letters.” I bet she does! It felt strange to be waiting up for Malcolm, a sort of premonition of things to come, and a strange discombobulating reminder that my parents probably waited up for me when I was out till all hours. Of course I was older than Malcolm is now, and it was disarming to think about what Malcolm will be like when he’s older. When he came home he was all rosy and bright-eyed from the cold, and he gave me two hugs and sat with his arm around me for a few minutes, which was especially nice after I’d been confusing myself with thoughts of the future and the past. He told me he ate raspberries and whipped cream for dessert, and he knew I’d be jealous. We made the boys go to bed, but we could hear them talking, and I like to think about Malcolm telling Isaac about his day. My throat hurts, so I’ll probably drink some orange juice before bed. And that’s about it, that’s how my evening’s going.” But of course I didn’t write that, I didn’t write a long letter to a compete stranger. I just left it. I miss writing letters, although I was never very good at keeping up a correspondence. I like email for the immediacy of it, but I feel like we sometimes get lazy with it. Obviously texts and tweets are the least likely to be thoughtfully composed, but they’re still words, they’re still writing. So today’s interactive playlist is the subject of written communication: Letters, tweets, texts, writs, notes, cards, telegrams, whatever you like!

Hazelnut chard timbales

Hazelnut chard timbales

The first night, I made these little timbales, if you like, or tiny flans. I was experimenting with the idea of savory hazelnut frangipane, or hazelnuts ground into a sort of quiche mixture. It was very tasty! The next night, I decided to put it all in a crust, a yeasted crust almost like pizza dough. And I arranged some artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes on top, for a change in texture and taste, and because it looked pretty and festive. And that’s that. I made enough dough for two small pies, and I used half of it to make a pizza for the boys, with simple red sauce and mozzarella.

Here’s your link to the interactive playlist. As ever, add the song yourself, or leave a note in the comments and I’ll add it for you.

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Membrillo, manchego and spinach pie

Membrillo, manchego, and spinach pie

Membrillo, manchego, and spinach pie

Hello, extraordinary Ordinary friends, and welcome to your sunday playlist!! We treated ourselves, over the holidays to a few new CDs, and one of them was Stop and Listen by the Mississippi Sheiks. It’s a beautiful album! They play country blues – guitar and fiddle – but it has a real jazzy sophistication as well. I’d known about the Sheiks for a while, but I’d never heard a whole album, and we were completely delighted by it! Instrumentals, beautiful rhythms you can just imagine people stepping out to, and lovely, mysterious moody lyrics. Many of the songs will probably be familiar to you as covered by other artists, but these are the originals! One such track is Sitting on top of the World. I’ve loved this song for decades, and I wrote a story about it when I was in my early twenties. I can’t find the story or I’d share it with you – you’re spared the agony of wading through my juvenilia! I love the spirit of the song – the hopeful sense that trouble and worry are over, and he’s moving on. I’ve been thinking about these kinds of songs, and discovered that some of my all-time favorites fit this description. Maybe you’ve had hard financial times, bad relationships, or just unspecified trouble, but you’re moving past it, you’re not going to worry any more. I love the way that the songs themselves lift you out of the worry and woe. So that’s our subject this week – “I ain’t gonna worry no more.” Our poster child for this week, of course, is the song by Sleepy John Estes. Nothing says “I ain’t gonna worry no more” like a kazoo!! I’m just getting started on the playlist – I think it’s going to be a big one! And it is collaborative, so please add your own. As ever, instrumentals are welcome. If it sounds to you like the music is hope triumphing over trouble, it belongs on our list!!

And this pie – lovely flaky, savory, a touch of sweetness – is based on the classic combination of membrillo (quince paste) and manchego (salty Spanish cheese). I decided to combine them in a pie (everything tastes better in a pie!!). And I thought spinach would be nice with them, because I like spinach with an element of sweetness. The quince paste is quite sweet, so a little goes a long way, and be sure to chop it finely. I used my membrillo scallops. If you don’t have time to make membrillo or can’t find it, you could substitute guava paste, which is available in most grocery stores. Or you could leave it out altogether and the pie would still be delicious!!I made the pie in the shape of a rectangle, because I was thinking of the Spanish empanada gallega, but you could make it in a circle, or oval, or any shape you like!!

membrillo manchego pie

membrillo manchego pie

Here’s Our Playlist!!

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