Beet, arugula and French feta salad with pine nut, lemon, rosemary sauce

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Most years we just grow a few tomato plants and a few herbs, basil mostly. We have a small yard and rambunctious boys and a berserker dog and it never seemed wise to pin our hopes on healthy intact produce. Last year we didn’t grow anything at all. The ground lay fallow. This year we have the best garden ever, entirely thanks to David. He built raised boxes and we have a summer’s worth of beautiful things growing in our yard.
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It feels so hopeful, to look out at it and imagine the days unfolding and the vegetables ripening. Herbs to eat now, in large quantities, tomatoes and eggplant to ripen with the full roundness of the summer days, salsify and scorzonera to eat in the fall. I love our garden! And because I’m a lunatic, I think of the vegetables almost as people, with separate personalities of their own. We planted fava beans, and David made a trellis of twine for them to wind around. We don’t know how tall they’ll get, and we wanted to give them plenty of distance to travel, plenty of encouragement, our full faith that they’ll reach all the way to the top, but we didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations for them. The salsify and scorzonera seem very social, standing together in long graceful lines, sharing the light that glows through them. The cilantro started sad and timid, but now it’s just taken off, it’s bolted into tall, feathery, beautiful flowers, and maybe in the fall we’ll figure out what to do with the coriander seeds. The pepper plants seem like underachievers; they haven’t grown much since we’ve gotten them, but they’re working so hard on making beautiful vivid little peppers. They’re concentrating on their art. The eggplants generously share they broad leaves with some little bug that repays the favor by turning them into lace. The tomatoes are full and frank and happy standing together in the sun.

Tarragon

Tarragon


And then there’s the tarragon. I love the way tarragon grows. It spreads along the ground in a pretty fragrant sprawl. If you weigh down a sprig so that it touches the earth, it will take root and form a new plant attached to the original. It moves and travels, it has an unruly wildness to it, but it sets down roots everywhere it goes, it makes a new place to start from, and it stays connected to its roots as well.

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

We got some more beautiful beets from our CSA. I thought I’d make them into a pretty salad, with their best friend arugula, and some mildly delicious French feta I splurged on at a local market. I also added half an avocado, because I’m putting avocado in everything this summer, and a scattering of pine nuts. I made a tarator sauce to drizzle over the top, with lemon and rosemary, a bit of dijon, a few capers. You could use any herbs you like in this. Tarragon would be nice!!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Root Down (and get it)

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Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans, spring rage, fresh mozzarella and herbs

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

It’s movie week here at The Ordinary! I seem to be talking about a different film every day, and today will be no different. Today’s installment features Le Corbeau made by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1943. The film is about a small town plagued by anonymous poison pen letters, which threaten to tear the very fabric of the town to pieces. Everybody feels guilty about something, everybody tries to blame somebody else, everybody becomes plagued with fear and suspicion. It’s a fine film, in many ways, beautifully shot in black blacks and white whites. It’s suspenseful and mysterious, almost Hitchcockian. It’s still oddly relevant considering that the internets are full of anonymous trolls. But the thing that really stuck with me, strangely, is the way the setting is described in the very beginning. A small town, “ici ou ailleurs.” Ici ou ailleurs! Here or elsewhere! This phrase has been stuck in my head for days. I love the sound of it and the meaning of it. It makes any story into a fable or a myth, showing how our fears and hopes and passions are the same no matter where or when we live. It makes the story Ordinary by showing that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Ici ou ailleurs. Of course Jean-luc Godard beat me to it, he made a film called Ici et Ailleurs. He made it with Anne-Marie Mieville, and it’s a reworking of footage they shot for Jusqu’à la victoire, a 1970 pro-Palestinian film. I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer juxtaposes “simple images” of French children watching television with shots of Palestinians, and a woman’s voice tells us, “We should learn how to see here in order to be able to hear elsewhere. Learn how to hear yourself speaking in order to see what the others are doing. The Others, the elsewhere of our here.” Godard! Ici ou ailleur.

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

It’s so much fun to make dinner when you just return from a CSA with your arms full of fresh vegetables! Yesterday I made them into this sort of warm salad with potatoes and butter beans for substance. The potatoes, beans, and broccoli rabe were warm, the tomatoes, mozzarella and herbs were cool, and they all melted together when combined. I picked some bronze fennel, which was new to me and very lovely, and I minced that and added it for a nice mellow anise-y flavor. We ate it with a loaf of crusty bread, and Malcolm made it into a big sandwich.

Here’s Eddie Harris with Listen Here.
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Chickpeas, black beans and spinach with lime, ginger and avocado

Chickpeas, spinach, black beans and avocado

Chickpeas, spinach, black beans and avocado

“We have a mom to cut our pineapple! We have a mom to cut our pineapple!” Malcolm sang as he and Isaac danced around the kitchen in their pajamas. They’d been in their room for an hour, and they’d piled all of their blankets and pillows around the edge of their bed. They were protecting someone from something: they’d drawn a map and some diagrams, they’d written notes. They weren’t Malcolm and Isaac. They weren’t even Malcolm and Isaac’s longtime alter egos Charlie and Harry. They were friends of Charlie and Harry. And they had just decided that whoever they were, they had a mother because they needed her to cut up pineapple for them. And just like that I’d become part of their story. I love their ability to wander through the world making a story of their lives. It’s so raw and fresh and funny when they do it, but I think it’s something everybody does, only we’re so close to it we don’t notice. We all write a story for ourselves as we go along, we make a world for ourselves, we make patterns and meanings from all the small moments of our lives. We could probably take a step back and write scholarly theses about the symbols and metaphors unfolding all around us. We can let other people into our lives as characters just by deciding they’re important and taking the time to learn about them and letting them cut our pineapple. We can decide where we’ll go next when we turn the page, we can choose between a taut drama and a meandering pastoral just by the way we respond to all of the little plot points and conflicts of our lives. It’s a lot of responsibility, really! I’ve been thinking about stories lately, because I’ve decided this is going to be a year of stories. Another year of stories. David gave me three blank books last year and I filled them up! They’re crammed with notes and rambles, words I like, short fiction, recipes, doodles, plans. And he gave me a package of pens, and they’re used up, they’re all dry! He gave me six blank books this year, and a pen that’s meant to last seven years. And I’ve started on them already! I’ve got stories in my head and they’ve got to come out!! And I hope to make these stories and my story as bright and focused and beautiful as it is in my power to do! After all, by my own befuddled logic, I’m the author, I’m writing this story. And that’s my grand plan for a sleepy snowy new year’s eve.

Beans and veg and spices. What could be better than that? I thought of this as a sort of warm salad, but it became more of a sauce as it went along. Because it has ginger and lime, it’s very bright and flavorful. The beans and chickpeas are grounding, the avocado is fresh, and the spinach and tomatoes are warm and saucy.

Here’s Boogie Chillun by John Lee Hooker.
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Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and walnut tarator sauce

Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

Here at The Ordinary’s home for over-used and worn-out metaphors, we’ve been visiting an old friend. We’ve been thinking of a metaphor, and we’re driving that tired horse the extra mile down well-traveled roads. It all started the other day when I described Malcolm’s mind as a vivid, teeming, beautiful place. I began thinking of it as a garden, I started to imagine what Malcolm’s garden would be like. I pictured it as a wild mix of different styles. In some parts it would be carefully planned and cultivated, and would yield delicious herbs and vegetables. In others it would be wild and unruly, full of raspberry bushes, say, delicious but prickly and hard to control. There would be gaps in the walls, hidden behind bushes or clever doors that Malcolm had fashioned from objects he’d found. These doors would open to secret passages, beautiful and rambling, which run for miles to unexpected places, alongside clear creeks. And Isaac’s garden would be bright and sunny, full of vibrant flowers and sweet smells. But there would be shadowy patches of skeleton flowers, or ghostly weeds or crazy jaggedy monstrous plants that look scary but would never really hurt you. His garden wouldn’t be hard to walk in, it would have plenty of paths, but they’d be meandering and twisting, and you’d never end up where you expect to. And my garden would be a miss-matched jumble. I would have started out carefully enough, drawing detailed plans in a little notebook, I would have chosen strange aromatic herbs and obscure fruits. I would have started with energy and good intentions, but somewhere along the way I would have gotten distracted or discouraged, and the flowers would never be as beautiful or the fruit as fruitful as I’d hoped. And I’d constantly be surprised by what I found in my own garden, forgetting that I’d planted something, or bewildered by some plant that had found its own way in and grown with wild gusto almost without me noticing. And sometimes this unexpected unremembered thing will be more beautiful than anything I’d planned. Like all gardens, ours will be dormant sometimes, seemingly bare under a layer of frost or snow, but beneath the soil all of the roots will be growing and alive. And like all gardens, we’ll have to be careful what we plant and what we allow to grow, and we’ll try to pull away the vines that choke everything healthy and vital. But we’ll never reject a plant because it’s not bright or showy enough or because somebody else calls it a weed. And we’ll understand that it’s good when our gardens are wild and alive and teeming, but it’s important for us to take care of them, and make plans for them, and forge paths through the brambles, so that we can share them with other people. We’ll revel in all the different moods and seasons, the sun and warmth and rain and frost, because we’ll know we need them all. Yeah. It’s an old metaphor, but the soil’s still good, it’s still got years of crops to harvest.

beet-sweet-plateBeets and sweets from the local farm! The season’s almost over, so we’ll make the most of it while we can. I sliced the beets and sweets and a few regular potatoes quite thinly. Then I roasted them till they were crispy. I lay these on a bed of baby arugula, and then piled them high with fresh tomatoes and basil (from the farm) and mozzarella, and then I drizzled the whole thing with a creamy vegan walnut tarator sauce. A sort of warm salad, perfect for this season of unexpectedly warm days and unexpectedly chilly nights.

Here’s REM with Gardening at Night.

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Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

Roasted beet and red pepper salad with pistachios and goat cheese

People rarely ask me what I do. At the parties we attend–the fairly constant stream of casual gatherings, galas, brunches and luncheons—very few people say, “And what do you do, Claire.” Perhaps this is because I’m so obviously a bon vivant. One look at me and you instantly know that I spend my days composing bons mots and drinking champagne cocktails, watching the bubbles float upwards from a bitters-soaked sugar cube with a dreamy look on my face. Or maybe it’s because I dress like a giant five-year-old ragamuffin, and it seems cruel to ask, because I so obviously do nothing all day except make songbirds out of legos and nap with the dog. I think my tax return describes me as a homemaker. It’s a nice word, I suppose…much better than “housewife.” It’s got an active, creative element, and home is certainly one of my favorite words and one of my favorite concepts. It’s a big responsibility to make a home, and I’ll take it! I only think of myself as a waitress when I’m actually waiting tables, or sometimes when I realize that I can’t enter or exit a room without something in my hands, generally as many things as I can carry. And of course I’m a mom all the time, but that’s bigger than what I do, that’s what I am, among so many other things. I’ve decided lately that it’s important to decide what I do, not so that other people can define me by my employment or by the way that I make money, but as a way that I can decide for myself what it is that’s important for me to do. In the unlikely event that somebody asks me what I do, I’m almost fairly certain that I would say “I write.” If they ask me what I write, would I wander away, babbling awkwardly and incoherently? I don’t think I would, because I’ve also decided that I’m working towards something bigger than I’d realized. I realized this by deciding it, and it feels good (most of the time, if I can keep self-doubt and criticism and inertia at bay). I’ve incorporated all of the other things I do into this one bigger thing, because of course I’ll write about my sons and my customers at the restaurant, I’ll write about making a home, and all the ways that people do that. With this decision it’s become okay that I walk around the world with a constant stream of words flowing through my head. I no longer feel as crazy about this, because I can now give that stream a focus and direction; I’ve made a little pile of rocks to channel it, just like the boys do in the creek in summertime. I’ve made a little rivulet of thoughts which will grow wider and stronger and stretch its tired riverbanks, and eventually reach the sea! All by deciding what I do…what I can do, what I must do, what I will do.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

Roasted beet and pepper salad.

I’ve said it was beet season again, and here’s more proof. It’s coldish today, but we had a lovely warm week last week (people were complaining about how hot it was! I bet they miss it now, though!) I think there’s nothing nicer on a chilly-warm fall day than a warm salad. I roasted the peppers and beets, and then piled them on a bed of arugula, tomatoes from the farm, and fresh basil. I rolled some small pieces of goat cheese in chopped pistachios, and then warmed those, as well, so they were soft and melty. Very nice, altogether. As with any salad, use what you have and what you like, whatever you’ve picked from your garden or farm or grocery store shelves. I’ve left the amounts vaguer than usual even, because you can use whatever proportions you like!!

Here’s I am I be, by De La Soul.
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Butter beans with chard, asparagus, fennel, and castelvetrano olives

Butterbean and spring vegetables

Butterbean and spring vegetables

I’m always in a hurry when Isaac and I walk to school. He’s an ambler, and he’s not concerned at all about the dire consequences of tardiness. One of us has to be! As a mother, I think the responsibility falls to me. So I’m always rushing him along, yelling, “With me!” as if he’s a dog I’m teaching to heel. Not this week, though. It’s the last week of school. Monday morning the air was just right, like water of a perfect temperature. In a sleep-deprived daze following a weekend of insomnia, it seemed as though we were swimming serenely through the air. It felt perfect to walk along, holding Isaac’s hand, answering true and false questions about matters big and small. I didn’t want the walk to end.
“True or false, the universe has a universe.” True!
“True or false, all bats are scaly and rough.” Well, that’s complicated, because all bats are different. “Wrong! It’s false, all bats are incredibly soft and furry.” Wait a minute, just because your brother touched one bat and it was incredibly soft and furry does not mean that every bat in the whole world is soft and furry. That’s faulty reasoning. “Nope, Malcolm said so. All bats are soft and furry.”
“True or false, when a bat flaps its wings, the vibrations can be felt on the other side of the world.” Um, true? Short pause. “Dad said it was false.” Well, where did you hear it was true? Longer pause. “Batman. Why are you laughing?”

I’ve been feeling like a literary magpie, lately. Or maybe just an airhead. I’ll happen across a small passage that intrigues me, and then I’ll buy the whole book from the magical used book store across the street, which has every book you can ever think of, precisely when you’re thinking of it. Then I’ll read a chapter, be completely charmed by it but understand it not at all. I’ll read a wikipedia entry on the text, feel slightly more informed and slightly guilty, and then some new passage will capture my gnat-like attention, and I’ll chase after that like Clio chases after dried leaves. A bit of Aristotle, a bit of Hobbes, a bit of the Mahabarata…maybe a few pages of Tintin to clear the palate. And of course I want to talk about whatever I’m reading, I want to discuss it and try to understand it, but my lack of comprehension combines with my inability to string words together to form a sentence and I sound like a complete idiot. But I think I’m okay with that. I’m not in school, I don’t have to write an essay or pass a test. I don’t even have to finish a book if I don’t want to! Although I usually do want to, if only for a feeling of completion. I like to read books about other people trying to figure things out, even though I don’t believe it’s possible to do so. I love the language, particularly in the very old books, I like the perfect parallel between my inability to understand a concept and the strangeness of the words themselves. I’m fascinated by the connections between books from around the world and throughout history, by the patterns that form, and the way everybody was influenced by somebody else, their thoughts echo the thoughts of those who wrote before them. In a poem Isaac described himself as “a thinker.” I’m so glad that he is, and that he knows that he is! I like to see Isaac and Malcolm make sense of everything, everything that teachers tell them, and friends tell them, that they tell each other, everything they read, and yes, even all the important scientific facts they learn from a batman cartoon. They’re processing it all, and learning to doubt and to reason, and it’s a beautiful process to watch. There’s a beautiful portrait of young Francis Bacon by Nicholas Hilliard with an inscription that translates as, “If only I could paint his mind.” I know what he means!

UPDATE! This was our conversation on the way home from school, and it seemed relevant, and I want to remember it, so here you go…

Isaac: I frequently think about what was there before space.
Me: Do you frequently think about that?
Isaac: Yes.
Me: And what do you think was there?
Isaac: Well, I get frustrated, because I think there was nothing, but then I think about what color nothing would be.

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

Butterbeans and spring vegetables

This was a green meal! A spring green meal. We kept it fresh and simple, with a saucy sauce of white wine and lemon. We used greens and fresh herbs from the CSA, and a special treat of castelvetrano olives from the market up the road. The boys ate this over gemelli pasta, and I ate it over a mix of lettuces from the farm, and arugula and fresh spinach, as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

And here’s The Pixies with Where is my Mind??? Which has been stuck in my head, for some reason.
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Roasted grape tomato crostini, and penne with zucchini, spinach, olives, capers and almonds

Roasted grape tomato crostini

Roasted grape tomato crostini

A while back I was standing in the kitchen at work waiting for food to run, and I chatted with the food runner, who was standing in the same place with the same intent. For some reason, I mentioned to her that you’re not supposed to be sarcastic in front of children because it confuses them. She laughed and said, “your kids must be confused all the time.” Well! This gave me pause. I hadn’t spoken often with the runner or even said much in her presence. How could she know about the sarcasm? Had my inner-sarcasm somehow seeped through the cracks of my professional and friendly demeanor? Because I don’t think you’re supposed to be sarcastic in front of bosses or customers either–they get confused, too. I started to think about what it means to be sarcastic in front of your children. It’s true that my boys get confused when you say something they know isn’t true. When Isaac walks into a room, don’t say, “Well, who are you? I’ve never met you before,” because he hates it as much as if your words could actually negate his existence. (Although apparently he’s allowed to say, “Mom, my right arm is attached to my left hand and my left hand is attached to my right arm, and both my arms are put on backwards!” and I’m supposed to take this alarming information all in stride.) Honestly, children ask a lot of questions. Sometimes you don’t know the answer, sometimes it’s too complicated, and sometimes it’s too dull, and like Calvin’s dad, you find yourself presenting a different version of the world. So when they ask you why the subway is so much hotter than the street, you might find yourself answering, “because it’s closer to the fiery earth’s core,” instead of the actual answer–that it’s the cumulative temperature of all the pee that’s been peed there, which can’t cool and evaporate so far under ground, because this is obviously too scientific an explanation for little minds. But surely this is just using your imagination to present an alternative view of the world, and surely the world is always shifting and mutable anyway, so that there are no constant and correct answers. Obviously, if your child is uncomfortable you abandon the joke, but most of the time they recognize a good story, and if nothing else, they learn to become very skeptical of everything they’re told, and that can’t be a bad thing. I did a little research on the subject of sarcasm and children. Apparently, you’re not supposed to be sarcastic at all, in front of anybody, ever, because it’s cruel and dishonest. Well! (again) this gave me even more pause, because I love sarcastic humor, but I abhor cruelty and dishonesty. Sarcasm comes from the Greek meaning to tear or cut the flesh, and I realize this does sound cruel, but like anything else in life, it’s how you use it. You can use sarcasm to be snarky and bullyish and make people feel bad about themselves, certainly. But why would you? You can also use sarcasm to cope with an unpleasant situation, to make fun of yourself, to express something that you’re not allowed to come out and say. It’s a coping mechanism, and it’s a tool I’d like my children to posses. I always admire people that can disarm a tense or nasty confrontation with a joke. At its most effective, sarcasm can demonstrate the absurdity of a predicament and help you to change it or wade through it. And, far from being dishonest, sarcasm, like all humor, is a way to speak truths that otherwise couldn’t be spoken, that wouldn’t be accepted in any other form. With sarcasm and irony you can turn the world on its head, and sometimes that needs to happen. So I’m not going to teach my boys that sarcasm is bad, I’m going to teach them that pettiness and cruelty are bad, however they’re expressed. And when they each inevitably develop a sarcastic sense of humor (they’re sarcastic on their father’s and mother’s side, so it’s only a matter of time), I’ll be glad to step back from the world with them, have a chuckle at the absurdity of it all, and forge back into life better prepared to shape it the way we like it.

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

Zucchini and spinach with olives and almonds

I’m combining these two recipes because we ate them together, but they’d each be fine on their own. They’re both super-simple, so this is a nice summer meal. I roasted some grape tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic and herbs (use fresh if you have them!) and piled this on little toasts spread with goat cheese. That’s it! A nice combination of flavors, though. And then I made a stir fry of zucchini with spinach, capers, olives, and topped the whole thing with almonds. The boys ate it with pasta as a sort of pasta primavera and I ate it over greens as a sort of warm salad. Good either way!

Here’s Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers with Hyena Stomp. Need a laugh? This has plenty.
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Roasted beet and butterbean salad with spinach, arugula and smoked gouda

beet-and-butterbeanWhen I was younger–shall we say early twenties?–I wrote a screenplay about a man who wouldn’t leave his front porch. He’d travelled the world, and then something happened, but I don’t remember what, or maybe nothing happened–I’ve always been a big fan of the anti-drama–and he sat in a rocker on his front porch and refused to leave. His mother fussed over him and consulted various experts to aid in his cure. She talked to ministers and doctors and wise neighbors. He chatted with the mailman and with small children that ran by the house. We worry about him, because he’s not behaving like everyone else, he’s not normal. But he seems okay. He’s a little confused, but he’s pleasant and cheerful. He’s alright. It turns out he’s trying to rid himself of fear and desire, based on some combination of ideas gleaned from several philosophies that I barely understood at the time and understand even less well now, all these many years later, seen through a haze of crumbling memory. I still think about this from time to time. Would I want to rid myself of fear and desire, assuming I had the strength to do so (I don’t)? In all honesty, I don’t think I would. Desire, like hunger, is such a part of being alive. Wanting keeps you wishing and hoping and trying. And fear is so closely connected with imagination and creativity and dreams. The idea seemed good at the time, I suppose. I was confused, myself, and so full of wants and worries. But in thinking about losing myself, I was doing the opposite, I was completely self-conscious and self-centered. We all look at the world through our own eyes, through the prism of our own fears and desires. As Hobbes so delightfully says…

    …for the similitude of the thoughts and passions of one man, to the thoughts and passions of another, whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc., and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions. I say the similitude of passions, which are the same in all men,- desire, fear, hope, etc.; not the similitude of the objects of the passions, which are the things desired, feared, hoped, etc.: for these the constitution individual, and particular education, do so vary, and they are so easy to be kept from our knowledge, that the characters of man’s heart, blotted and confounded as they are with dissembling, lying, counterfeiting, and erroneous doctrines, are legible only to him that searcheth hearts.

“Only to him that searcheth hearts”!!! I love that! Where was I? Ah, yes. I’ve been remembering my juvenile struggle with all of these muddled ideas lately because of all the memes! The memes and soundbites and super-designed quotes and quips and words of wisdom. It feels, sometimes, as though we’re taking little pieces of these philosophies that we don’t understand, and spinning them around to become something entirely new. Like all good twenty-first century Americans, we’re stripping them of their original meaning and making them all about making us feel better about ourselves. So that they’re no longer about losing ourselves, but about loving ourselves. We don’t have to rid ourselves of anything, cause we’re okay! Reduce a philosophy to a few pithy phrases, superimpose it over a rainbow or some flowers, and its meaning is distilled–it’s all about me! I know, I know, I sound hypocritical and hypercritical. But it seems as though if we’re going to appropriate ideas we should at least read enough of them to be confused by them, to let the words get us into a muddle, to struggle to understand something of the original wisdom, and not just swallow it down like some sugary pill that makes us feel better with no side effects. We should have more respect for the words than to make them into social-media-ready memes. That’s what kittens are for!

Springtime with its damp fragrant earth and unfurling ferns always makes me crave beets. So I bought a big bunch. My favorite method of cooking beets is one that Malcolm invented…grated, tossed with olive oil and herbs and roasted. So that’s what I did here. And I roasted some buttery butterbeans in butter. And I sauteed some spinach with garlic, and I mixed all of these things together, stirred in a little black truffle butter, added some ripe avocado, piled it into a nest of fresh wild arugula, and grated smoked gouda on top. Delicious! A warm, hearty salad with such lovely melty, smoky, sweet and buttery flavors.

Here’s Tom Waits with Just Another Sucker on the Vine, just because I love it.

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Roasted chickpeas and cauliflower with kale, raisins and almonds, and manchego cheese

Roasted cauliflower and chickpeas

Roasted cauliflower and chickpeas

Welcome to The Ordinary: Extreme sports zone! As you no doubt know, we have an extensive sporting complex, here at The Ordinary: from the pristine olympic-sized pool on the roof, to the climate-controlled underground basketball court, to the miles and miles of jogging track that wend their way through our orchards and vineyards. In all honesty, we’re not that sporty. I like playing tag, from time to time. And I like shooting baskets with the boys, although my prowess has earned me the nickname “misses Adas.” I don’t like professional sports at all – at least in America – and find them bloated, cynical and joyless. But the boys are both playing basketball, and this I love!! Malcolm is at such an age that the sport is starting to be taken very seriously, and some of the parents are depressingly aggressive in their court-side advice. Malcolm seems happily oblivious to all this. Strangely, my son – my son – doesn’t have a lot of competitive instinct. He likes running back and forth on the court, but he doesn’t feel particularly happy about beating friends on the other teams. And Isaac is playing, too, for the first time, and I can’t tell you how beautiful it is to watch a bunch of seven-year-olds play basketball! Isaac-basketballThey don’t understand the rules, they don’t keep score, they can’t keep track of all of the things they’re supposed to do at once. Either they don’t dribble at all, or they dribble with painstaking care, watching the ball as it rises and falls with such rapt attention that everything else fades into a colorful blur. They’re easily distracted, practicing dance moves or pulling up knee pads as the ball rockets towards them. Nobody knows who they’re passing to, least of all themselves, until the ball is lobbed through the air in no particular direction. And they hop around like popcorn, so excited and happy, bopping and dancing, dribbling themselves up and down rather than the ball. And then a coach will yell “hands in the air,” and all of them will throw their hands in the air as in joyous celebration! It’s a beautiful thing, I tell you! It’s a mother-flipping life lesson for us all!

roasted-cauliflower-and-chiI started this meal before we left for the epic hour-long basketball game, and I put it all together when I got back. So it’s a good meal for when you’re distracted, it doesn’t take long to make, and it keeps well, either together or in its separate elements. You roast the chickpeas, cauliflower, shallot, garlic and herbs all together, and if they sit in a warm oven, they only become better. You boil the kale on top of the stove, and then you add the raisins, almonds and cheese at the end, with a squeeze of lemon. If you don’t have manchego, not to fear! Any cheese you like would work here, or no cheese at all! Similarly, if you don’t have kale you could substitute chard, spinach, or collards. The boys mixed this with basmati rice to make a sort of pilaf, and David and I ate it atop lightly dressed lettuce and arugula to make a sort of warm salad. Good either way!!

Here’s Jurassic 5 with The Game.

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Warm salad with roasted mushrooms and tiny roasted potatoes and tarragon-white wine dressing

salad-isaacIsn’t it funny how big events seem to go so quickly in other people’s lives? They fly by in bright fleeting flashes of significant moments. You hear somebody is pregnant, and next you know they have a baby. None of the seemingly endless slow growth and change, the day-in-and-day-out joy and discomfort and bewilderment. To hear about somebody else’s trip abroad is planning, postcards, and stories when they get home; they’re back before you knew they were gone. They talk of going to college, you blink, and they have a degree and a job. I suppose our memories of our own lives are like this as well. You never remember the hard work and the tedium, the work to raise each day above the tedious. You don’t remember the hours of sitting and waiting, between events, soaked in anticipation or recollection. When my boys were little I was sure I would remember every single moment, every gurgle and wave of the chubby little fist. Of course I don’t! They’re all mixed together in a sleep-deprived slurry of good intentions. I mostly remember the moments we photographed, which is why we take photographs, after all. I love this quote about Rupert Brooke, “He was magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life.” Not me! I’m ready! This is one test I’m completely prepared for! I love the littleness of each day, the petty pace of each tomorrow! Because, honestly, that pace is picking up, it’s not creeping any more, it’s flying, and I’m limping after it, trying to catch up. I want something big to work towards, of course, but thank god for the small things to look forward to each day. The cup of coffee, the making of a meal, the eating of a meal, reading with the boys, Malcolm’s happy walk, Clio’s sweet grabby paws, David putting his arm around me in the middle of the night, Isaac’s lovely silly songs, walks to school and home again, Clio leaping at us with frantic kisses every single time we walk in the door, inevitable spring, day after day, season after season, year after year. I used to wish time away a lot when I was younger. I was so eager to get on to the next thing, and I’d wish away large chunks of days and weeks. I was thinking the other day that I don’t do that any more; there aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the foolish little things I want to get done. Where am I going with this? I don’t know!! Another incoherent ramble brought to your by your friends at The Ordinary. It’s a drizzly day, is all, and it’s January, and that’s the kind of mood I’m in!

mushroom-potato-saladWe’ve decided to eat mostly vegetables for a few weeks. I mean, we always eat mostly vegetables, because we’re vegetarians, but we’ve decided not to combine them with pastry and, you know, all that stuff, but to make them the stars of the show. So… soups and stews and warm salads like this one. This was delicious! So tasty that I couldn’t save any to photograph prettily the next day. It involves a bed of baby spinach and arugula topped with tiny roasted potatoes, crispy roasted mushrooms, crunchy walnuts, smoky smoked gouda, and a dressing of tarragon, shallots, garlic and white wine. Crunchy, soft, warm, cool, Yum!

Here’s Everyday by Yo La Tengo.
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