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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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.

WARKA!

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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Coconut-lime-vegetable soup

cocnut lime soup

The elegance of this light, bright soup belies its humble origins. In point of fact, this soup is the result of a very nearly empty vegetable drawer and a half-used can of coconut milk! I tend to save the white, hearty, wintery vegetables till the end of the week, and use the more brightly-colored, more easily-spoiled veg earlier. But I had carrots and peas, man! I could have added those! I made a choice to use only white vegetables! A conscious choice! I think they look nice with the silky tart-sweet coconut lime broth. As it happens, you could really use any vegetables you like in this soup – it’s eminently adaptable. Carrots and peas would have been pretty, actually. So would broccoli, or spinach, or sweet potatoes… You could also add basmati rice, if you wanted a heartier dish, or you could serve it over long, thin pasta, or you could add nuts – cashews or pistachios would be good, here. Or you could add red lentils. Or lots of cilantro. Go crazy, baby! I liked it in this simple manifestation, though – just what I was in the mood for. Sometimes vegetables and broth are all that are needed.

Here’s Louis Armstrong singing about being stranded on a Coconut Island. Now doesn’t that sound nice?
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