Roasted mushrooms & potatoes with sage & white pepper

Roasted potatoes and mushrooms

This year Malcolm and I read The Trumpet of the Swan. I hadn’t read it since I was little, and I didn’t remember it in great detail, but I knew I’d liked it. It’s such an odd little story. Nature-guide-worthy details of flora and fauna mix with flights of fancy in a lovely, matter-of-fact style, as if a swan’s ability to read, and play a trumpet, and be a good friend, are exactly the qualities we would expect him to have. As we got towards the end, there was a passage that was so surprising, and beautiful and unlikely, that it made me ridiculously happy. We’re given a glimpse into the thoughts of a minor character – a zoo “head man” who who only speaks a handful of times in the entire book. Nobody else gets this treatment! Sam, the young human hero of the story is describing how his friend, Louis the swan, would die if he were kept in captivity.

“The head man closed his eyes. He was thinking of little lakes deep in the woods, of the color of bulrushes of the sounds of night and the chorus of frogs. He was thinking of swans’ nests, and eggs, and the hatching of eggs, and the cygnets following their father in single file. He was thinking of dreams he had had as a young man.”

And later, when Sam tells him about money Louis is saving to pay for his trumpet, we see inside the Head Man’s mind again.

“The subject of money seemed to interest the Head Man greatly. He thought how pleasant it would be not to have any more use for money. He leaned back in his chair. … ‘When it comes to money,’ he said, ‘birds have it easier than men do…A bird doesn’t have to go to a supermarket and buy a dozen eggs and a pound of butter and two rolls of paper towels and a TV dinner and a can of Ajax and a can of tomato juice and a pound and a half of ground round steak and a can of sliced peaches and two quarts of fat-free milk and a bottle of stuffed olives. A bird doesn’t have to pay rent on a house, or interest on a mortgage. A bird doesn’t insure its life with an insurance company and then have to pay premiums on the policy. A bird doesn’t own a car and buy gas and oil and pay for repairs on the car and take the car to a car wash and pay to get it washed. Animals and birds are lucky. They don’t keep acquiring things, the way men do. You can teach a monkey to drive a motorcycle, but I have never known a monkey to go out and buy a motorcycle.'”

It just kills me!! The details of shopping list, and the way it all comes out in a mad, comma-less rush. I’ve only known the head man for about a paragraph, and he disappears from the story soon after, but I feel like I know him, and I’d feel like I’d like him.

I had such a rotten weekend of work. Discouraging, depressing, not-at-all financially rewarding. I wish money didn’t matter. I wish I could work hard on all of the things I love, and the deeply important projects we’re developing here at The Ordinary, and get by like that. Sigh.

Anyway! When I came home from work one night, I felt like making this fast, delicious, comforting, flavorful dish. We had it as a side dish with our summer tart. I love the idea of potatoes and shallots together – they seem like such earthy, pan-seasonal friends. And of course roasted mushrooms are one of my favorite things in the world. The combination has a lovely, savory meat-and-potatoes feel about it. I cut the potatoes quite small, and left the mushrooms quite big, so they’d cook at the same rate, and because I liked the crispy potatoes with the juicy mushrooms.

Here’s Blackalicious with Swan Lake. I love this song! It has samples of about 500 different versions of People Make the World Go Round.

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Zucchini with nicoise olives & almonds

Zucchini, nicoise, almonds

There’s a little market not far from my house. I love it! I have to stop going! It’s not like a regular farmer’s market, with local vegetables you can afford. It has irresistible, beautiful things that you can’t afford, but can’t not buy. I’ve gone the last three weeks, and I’m like a kid on christmas morning, with my trumpet mushrooms, fiddleheads, castelvetrano olives and french feta. But it has to stop! Yesterday, I stood clutching my bag of olives and my loaf of bread, my brain feverishly trying to catch up with the fact that I’d just spent nearly ten dollars on two kinds of olives, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out if it was worth waiting for the french feta to arrive on the scene. Sigh.

But I bought more castelvetrano olives, because I still have a big crush on them, and I bought some little nicoise olives, which are the cutest things you’ve ever seen! Small and perfect little purply-brown ovals. They’re firm and salty and meaty, and very easy to pit. I decided to add them to some quickly sautéed zucchini, with some garlic, summer savory and chervil, for a quick, light side dish. And I decided to fry some sliced almonds in butter to top it off, because they’re ridiculously tasty that way! (But you could toast them in a dry pan, if you’re vegan). Nice with an arugula salad, but it would be good tossed with pasta, as well!

Here’s Nat King Cole with This Side Up, to listen to while you make this side dish!
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