Pistachio, almond and tarragon “mayonnaise”

Pistachio tarragon mayonnaise

Pistachio tarragon mayonnaise

We have another storm predicted for tonight, with the snowing and the blowing and the icy raining and the cries of near impossible travel conditions! and temperatures well below zero! I suspect they make it sound more dire than it will be because they want you to watch the news, but I feel mildly panicky anyway. I’m scared we’ll lose power, because I didn’t deal with it very well last time, and that was autumn, it wasn’t even all that cold yet. We’ve had a long winter and I’d love to see a few blades of grass, or step out of the house and feel the warm sun on my face. But it hasn’t been so bad. I don’t mind staying inside and writing and baking and reading and snoozing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about accounts I’ve read of storms in the midwest back in the days of pioneers and homesteaders. Letters home of blizzards that last for days and bury entire flocks of cattle, entire houses and towns. Snow that makes its way into houses made of sod or held together with mud or dug into a hillside. They didn’t fear losing power, because they didn’t have it to begin with, and it must have been hard to keep their fire going and their wood dry for days and days on end. I think of The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn’t read the Little House on the Prairie books until I was an adult, but when I finally came to them I fell for them hard. I read them at a strange point in my life–I was feeling a little lost and lonely and down, and something about the simplicity of the tales appealed to me. Their work was so hard and so endless and they faced it with such energy and thrift and cheerfulness. When they had nothing they found something to be thankful for, they found a way to make themselves what they needed. I love the straightforward language and the detailed descriptions of everyday activities, so fascinating to us now, though they must have seemed dreary and dull enough at the time. I love Laura, so funny and strong and smart and flawed. But mostly I love the unexpected poetry in the stories. I love the moodiness and mystery the sense of some force that comes from nature, but is bigger than anything we understand. I love Laura’s strange thoughts and the beautiful way that she expresses them.

    Outdoors the sun-glitter hurt her eyes. She breathed a deep breath of the tingling cold and squinted her eyes to look around her. The sky was hugely blue and all the land was blowing white. The straight, strong wind did not lift the snow, but drove it scudding across the prairie.

    The cattle were standing in sunshine and shadow by the haystacks—red and brown and spotted cattle and one thin black one. They stood perfectly still, every head bowed down to the ground. The hairy red
    necks and brown necks all stretched down from bony-gaunt shoulders to monstrous, swollen white heads.
    “Pa!” Laura screamed. Pa motioned to her to stay where she was. He went on trudging, through the low- flying snow, toward those creatures.

    They did not seem like real cattle. They stood so terribly still. In the whole herd there was not the least movement. Only their breathing sucked their hairy sides in between the rib bones and pushed them out again. Their hip bones and their shoulder bones stood up sharply. Their legs were braced out, stiff and still. And where their heads should be, swollen white lumps seemed fast to the ground under the blowing snow.

    On Laura’s head the hair prickled up and a horror went down her backbone. Tears from the sun and the wind swelled out her staring eyes and ran cold on her cheeks. Pa went on slowly against the wind. He walked up to the herd. Not one of the cattle moved.

    For a moment Pa stood looking. Then he stooped and quickly did something. Laura heard a bellow and a red steer’s back humped and jumped. The red steer ran staggering and bawling. It had an ordinary head with eyes and nose and open mouth bawling out steam on the wind.

    Another one bellowed and ran a short, staggering run. Then another. Pa was doing the same thing to them all, one by one. Their bawling rose up to the cold sky. At last they all drifted away together. They went silently now in the knee-deep spray of blowing snow. Pa waved to Laura to go back to the shanty, while he inspected the haystacks.
    “Whatever kept you so long, Laura?” Ma asked.
    “Did the cattle get into the haystacks?”
    “No, Ma,” she answered. “Their heads were . . . I guess their heads were frozen to the ground.”
    “That can’t be!” Ma exclaimed.
    “It must be one of Laura’s queer notions,” Mary said, busily knitting in her chair by the stove. “How could cattle’s heads freeze to the ground, Laura? It’s really worrying, the way you talk sometimes.”
    “Well, ask Pa then!” Laura said shortly. She was not able to tell Ma and Mary what she felt. She felt that somehow, in the wild night and storm, the still-ness that was underneath all sounds on the prairie had seized the cattle.

    Laura’s future husband Almanzo also sees the world around them as almost a living thing,

    “But he had a feeling colder than the wind. He felt that he was the only life on the cold earth under the cold sky; he and his horse alone in an enormous coldness.

    “Hi-yup, Prince!” he said, but the wind carried away the sound in the ceaseless rush of its blowing. Then he was afraid of being afraid. He said to himself, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He thought, “I won’t turn back now. I’ll turn back from the top of that next slope,” and he tightened the reins ever so little to hold the rhythm of Prince’s galloping.

    From the top of that slope he saw a low edge of cloud on the northwestern sky line. Then suddenly the whole great prairie seemed to be a trap that knew it had caught him.”

And Laura’s father is the same way, he hears the strange voices, too, and he sees the sign. And he works hard to keep the darkness away from his family. Pa rose with a deep breath. “Well, here it is again.”
Then suddenly he shook his clenched fist at the northwest. “Howl! blast you! howl!” he shouted. “We’re all here safe! You can’t get at us! You’ve tried all winter but we’ll beat you yet! We’ll be right here when spring comes!” And there you have it…it’s been a long winter, but we’ll be right here when spring comes.

Pistachio tarragon mayonnaise

Pistachio tarragon mayonnaise

Speaking of spring, David said that this tasted like spring. And it does, it’s delicious, I could eat it with a spoon. It’s a little like mayonnaise, but it’s vegan. It’s only got pistachios, almonds, tarragon, capers, lemon juice and olive oil, but it’s creamy and flavorful and quite lovely. We ate it with asparagus, but you could have it with potatoes, or spread on a sandwich, you could dip chips in it or use it as a salad dressing. Pretty and green and tasty.

Here’s Footprints in the Snow by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
Continue reading

Chickpea & artichoke stew; chickpea semolina dumplings; olive pine nut sauce

olive and pine nut sauce

olive and pine nut sauce

A few years ago I threw my back out. I was just helping our old dog to stand, and she weighed nothing, she was all bones and sunken skin. And yet, somehow, in trying to help her up I pulled something or other and I couldn’t move without pain for a few days. I couldn’t walk, sit, sneeze, laugh, sleep. I felt as old and infirm as our poor dog. A couple of years later I asked a doctor about my back, because it never seemed to get completely better. She said, “You have to strengthen your core! Strengthen your core.” I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot lately, as I struggle to do one normal sit-up. I’ve been feeling a little lost and off-kilter. Partly because the boys are back in school, I suppose. And partly because I’ve been doing something for a long time, believing it was important–at least to me. And now I’m thinking about doing something else, which also seems very important but probably isn’t and now I’m all confused, and maybe nothing seems important, so why try to do anything at all? What does important mean, anyway? What does it mean to be important? Ack. In this scattered and bewildered state, I seem to need to strengthen my core. Not my core values or affections, because those are very unvaried, they’re constant. But the core beliefs that are hard to hold onto. Viz…it’s important to understand that you’re valuable to your children and your dog, even if you don’t feel all that good about yourself. It’s important not to let discouragement paralyze you, because time is flying. Don’t let yourself judge your work by what the world rewards with awards and praise and money (have you seen what the world awards with praise and money?) It’s probably good to take a pause and look at everything from the outside, but don’t let your doubts keep you from getting back into it, when the time is ripe, don’t feel foolish about working hard on something you know you’re good at. Don’t feel foolish about giving yourself meandering pep talks while you struggle to do sit-ups!! Strengthen your core! Strengthen your core!!

Chickpea and semolina flour dumplings

Chickpea and semolina flour dumplings

What we have here is a typical, Ordinary tripartite meal. A stewy sort of mix of vegetables, which becomes croquettes the next day, and a flavorful sauce to go with the croquettes. In this case, the stew has chickpeas, leeks, tomatoes, and artichokes. We ate it with plain couscous. The next day I combined the leftover stew and couscous with semolina flour (which is what couscous is made out of!), and some eggs to make the croquettes. And the sauce has olives, goat cheese, pine nuts, and a little maple syrup. The reason it’s this pretty color is that I made it with olive oil which I had steeped with annato seeds. You don’t need to do this…you can use regular olive oil.
Chickpea, potato, artichoke stew

Chickpea, potato, artichoke stew

And that’s that!

Here’s Hold On Be Strong by Outkast. Short and to the point!

Continue reading

Almond aioli

almond aioli

Memorial day gets me all confused. So full of mixed emotions. Part of me can’t stop thinking about how war is so horrible, in every way. Part of me can’t not dwell on the fact that we should have figured that out. Why haven’t we stopped it? How can we allow something so unspeakably evil to continue, seemingly perpetually? It’s impossible not to think about these questions, today, but I know this isn’t the place to address them, or the day.

And I do love the idea of taking a day to remember. Time is running and passing like a caravan freighter, and I love to think that, as a nation, we stop everything for one day, to remember. And to be grateful. And to celebrate being with our friends and our family. And, yes, of course I love the idea that the way we celebrate is by making a meal together, because, as far as I can tell, after the parade, that’s what memorial day is all about.

So, if you happen to be grilling anything this weekend, think about this almond aioli as an accompaniment! We don’t eat mayonnaise in my family. David had a supermarket deli job as a teenager, and that gave him a healthy aversion to mayonnaise from which he will never recover. I like it, but I don’t need to eat it. I’m okay without it. I make it, from time to time, and that’s nice, but I eat it all by myself. Well…I had the bright idea to make it with almonds instead of eggs. I think it turned out very nice!! It’s intensely flavorful, with dijon, capers, and roasted garlic. So you just need a bit. I’ve been putting it on everything!! Roasted veg, beans & greens stews, french fries. I think it would be lovely with grilled vegetables. It didn’t get quite as smooth as mayonnaise, but I made it in my blender. I wonder if you had a good food processor if it would get more creamy? It’s good, anyway, with a bit of texture.

Here’s Bob Dylan’s Two Soldiers. So sad and beautiful.

Continue reading