Rosemary crepe stack with CSA medley filling

Savory crepe stack

Today marks the beginning of my live-blogging olympics broadcast. Ready? Begin. We’ll start with ping pong. He shoots the ball across the table! He shoots it back across the table. He shoots it back, he shoots it forth, back, forth, back, forth. Wait! What’s this? Could it be? No, it’s back. Forth, back forth. I’m kidding, of course, and I don’t mean to poke fun at ping pong, which is a perfectly honorable sport. We watched a bit of olympics at work over the weekend, and I really do enjoy the games. I’m strangely moved by large gatherings of people, united in one cause. I get weepy at political demonstrations and concerts and parades. I’ve never been sure why – it’s an irrational and inexplicable response. I find the olympics particularly thrilling. All of these people coming from all over the world, so full of energy and hope and skill. Despite my gospel of under-achievement, and my support for mediocrity everywhere, I’ve always thought it would be fun to be very very good at something. To be, perhaps, the best in the world. I’d love to be passionately focussed on something that I was actually good at doing. I’ve said I’m not very competitive, and it’s true that I’m not, but I can imagine that it would be wonderful to be around other people who have concentrated their life and energy on the thing that you’ve concentrated your life and energy on, even if you’re competing with them for medals. At work over the weekend, some of my co-workers were laughing at the people who had fallen so far back in the race that they didn’t show up on the screen any more. But I thought…they’re in the Olympics, for chrissake!! They’re possibly the best in their country, among the best in the world, they’ve probably trained all of their lives, and they’re here! They should be flying, and glowing, and ecstatic!! They should cross the finish line and laugh and cry with joy! Of course it’s not that simple. I know that. But all of the complexity and drama are part of the beauty of it.

If this dish was an olympic sport, it would be that race in which the swimmers do a different stroke every couple of laps. Why? Because there’s a different filling between each crepe! If this dish was the olympics opening ceremony, it would be that part when they go through the whole history of the host country. Why? Because the fillings are OOTO favorites, and making them was like taking a walk through the history of this blog. How did it all come about, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It was a sultry Friday night. Delivery of the next box share of vegetables was imminent upon the morrow. But, what’s this? We still have beets and zucchini and basil and lord-knows-what-else from last week? Let’s cook them all up, I say!! What grows together, tastes good together! And so it does. I made a stack of rosemary and black pepper crepes. And then I made toasted beets, sauteed zucchini and capers, I made some pesto, I had some caramelized onions leftover, I roasted some mushrooms. I grated some mozzarella. I made a light and simple but smoky tomato sauce to go on top. And that was that! You could obviously use whatever elements you have on hand to make fillings for the layers. And you can arrange them in any order that you like. It’s very fun to put together. It does take a while to make everything at once, but if you happen to have some of the stuff leftover – pesto, or caramelized onions, or sauteed zucchini, it all goes together in a snap.

Crepe stack cross view

Here’s Jurassic 5 with The Game

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Crispy beet & caper wontons with port wine sage sauce

Beet & caper won tons

I’ve always loved stories (usually children’s stories, but you sometimes find it in Dickens as well) in which a character is subjected to terrible cold and hunger and discomfort, but somehow finds themself, in the next scene, basking in humble fireside warmth and nice things to eat. On our spring break, we went into the mountains. We went for a hike, despite the chilliness, and the predictions of rain or even snow. We were in a place we’d been before, and the paths always wound back to the beginning. They were all only a mile long. We could do that! Isaac got tired and wanted to turn around. The weather worsened. We thought – we’re in a loop, if we turn now, we would have been minutes from the beginning. So we trudged on. Finally we came to a map. The woods chilled and quieted, and a cold pelting hail rained down with purpose. The map said, “Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of this trail. Now turn around and trudge back the miserable 1 and half miles, with a tired 6-year-old and a 9 year-old who has twisted his ankle.” It was an oddly panicky moment! One of those, “who said I could be a mom, because moms are supposed to know exactly where you’re going and how to get there” moments. But we walked back, and for five minutes the sun came out, and it was nice talking to the boys while we walked. We got to one spot where somebody had obviously made a campfire. The dirt was wet and sweet, and the charred wood was equally fragrant. Don’t think I’m crazy, but it really made me want to eat beets!! Then the hail came back, and we were so grateful to see the end of the trail, and go back to David’s mom’s lovely cabin and sit in dry warm pjs by the fireside!

Beets are sweet! And beautiful! And so tasty! I can’t believe I ever thought I didn’t like them. They’re combined here with capers (or flavor dynamites, as they’re known in my family). The tart savory brininess of the capers is a nice relief from the earthy sweetness of the beets. The beets are grated and toasted, and they have a lovely, charred-sugar flavor, and an almost juicy texture. All of this is tucked inside a wonton wrapper (they’re so much fun!) and then quickly fried in olive oil. Making for a perfect little crispy pouch of juicy deliciousness. We had these as a meal with a big salad, but I think they’d be a fun appetizer or snack for a party with a bowl of delicious dipping sauce alongside.

What is that delicious dipping sauce, you ask? Well, it is rich and savory, made with port wine, balsamic, fresh sage, and shallots. It’s a bit like a beurre rouge, but it has a lot less butter in it.

Here’s Down the Dirt Road Blues by Charley Patton. Wonder if he was craving beets as well?

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Toasted beet risotto with lime

Beet Risotto

Holy smoke, I’m excited about this one. Here’s how it all went down…we recently saw the fascinating film Beats, Rhymes and Life about A Tribe Called Quest. I was going on and on about it, and my friend Luke told me that Japanther, a band I like a lot, had just released an album called Beets, Limes and Rice! First of all – what a good name for an album! Second of all, what a good combination of tastes! Sweet, earthy beets and bright tart limes? Genius! So I decided to make a risotto (that’s the rice part) with beets and limes. I like risotto, but after years of encountering risotto as The Vegetarian Option at restaurants, I’ve become slightly disenchanted with it. Making this beet risotto brought all the magic back! For one thing, it’s really pretty. It’s lovely and ruby colored. For another thing, risotto is fun to make. It’s almost therapeutic. It requires attention, but it’s not really demanding, it can’t all go wrong for you. Well, it could, but it’s not likely to. And for yet another thing, risotto can be sort of mushy (I’m sorry, risotto, but it’s true). Which is why I decided to top it with pistachios and serve it with baby arugula, to be mixed in at the last minute, so it wilts slightly but retains its texture and bite. And the goat cheese, beside being a pretty white addition to go with all the scarlet and green, adds a nice touch of tartness to mingle with the lime and offset the beety sweetness.

beets, limes, and rice

And as it happens I’m completely enamored of the Japanther album. Here’s a track called Porcupine.
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Toasted beets

My nine-year-old son invented this method of preparing beets, and it’s really tasty! Only slightly eclipsed by my five-year-old son’s suggestion that we have roasted cheese puffs for dinner.

I didn’t think I liked beets at all, but we got some from our CSA over the summer – I tried roasting them, and quickly became a convert. One day my son said, “Why don’t we grate them and toast them?” Well, we did. We grated them, tossed them with a little olive oil, and put them in the toaster oven, on “toast.” The result was wonderful! It really smells like burnt sugar as they cook, so sweet are beets. We stirred them around a little bit, and cooked them until they started to turn very dark and caramelize. They’re lovely, because you get little patches of bright, juicy beets, and little pockets of crispy, caramelized beets. We salted them and loaded them with freshly ground pepper, and tossed them in a salad. Last night I made a salad with lots of different greens, Malcolm’s beets, goat cheese, hazelnuts, tomatoes, olive oil & balsamic. Malcolm also had the bright idea of putting grated, toasted beets into a tomato sauce, which adds a nicely sweet and earthy element to the acidic sauce. If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can roast them in a hot regular oven, and it should work just as well.

Here’s one of my sons’ favorite songs at the moment, M.I.A.’s Hussel. Hello my friend, hello my friend, hello my friend, yes it’s me!