Isaac’s magic brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts, carrots, cashews

Brussels sprouts, carrots, cashews

Today’s Sunday playlist is on the subject of love. Not romantic love, but the deep, compassionate love of one person for all the people and the animals of the earth. The love that binds us in communities, and makes us part of one community the size of the whole world. The love that makes peace inevitable and war impossible. The love that makes us glow, together, so that we can keep out the darkness of ignorance, want, and cruelty. Love that makes us powerful as people, and as a people. It’s harder than it sounds, and I need your help!! I’ve made the playlist collaborative, so if you can think of a song, you can add it.

Speaking of love, Isaac loved these brussels sprouts. Yes, the boy who won’t eat anything ate three helpings of this. Never in the history of the world has a mother had to say to her son, “go easy on the sprouts, lad,” and yet I did, the night we ate these. I was worried he’d get a tummy ache, eating all of those tinsy cabbages! It’s quite a simple and quick preparation, and it would work for carrots alone, or for broccoli, or cauliflower, or spinach, or probably any other vegetable you can think of, if you have an intransigent sprout-hater. I used black sesame seeds and black mustard seeds, but you could easily use the paler kind, or leave them out altogether. Similarly, skip the red pepper flakes if you think your child will be put off by them. The important things are the tamari, honey, lime, and cashews. You could serve this with rice or pasta, and you have yourself a quick and tasty meal!! If you serve it over a bed of greens, you have a nice side dish or salad.

Here’s the LOVE playlist, as it now stands. It’s a work-in-progress.

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Roasted brussels sprouts with castelvetrano olives and walnuts

Brussel sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Brussel sprouts and castelvetrano olives

If The Ordinary had a poetical patron saint, it might be William Carlos Williams. I love so many of his poems and his ideas about poetry and art (as I’ve read and understood them) that I wish I could sit down and talk with him. Or maybe make a meal for him. I wonder if he likes brussels sprouts? I’d certainly serve plum tart for dessert! Williams was from New Jersey, home of The Ordinary. He was a pediatrician as well as a poet, and I’ve spoken in the past about how I like the idea of an artist having a grounding, regular job, and about how serving people as a profession seems to make one’s art more honest, warm, and resonant. Williams believed that poetry was important – necessary, even – to understand the chaos of life, and I’d agree that some form of creative outlet (as an artist or as an appreciator of art) is essential for a life well-lived. He chose as his subjects the ordinary and the every day, the regular people that he encountered as he moved through life. His language celebrates the rhythms of real speech as he heard it all around him, spoken by Americans, who were so close to the cadences and patterns of their words that they almost didn’t notice them. He was an innovator, not only in championing this entirely new, fresh form of American poetry, but also in introducing a variable foot and a triadic line break, based on his observations of the sound of the world around him – of his world. He was generous – he was a mentor to many younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg (also a Jersey boy!). He stressed the importance of the local – of appreciating and understanding your home and the ways that it shaped you – but he was not provincial. He studied and travelled abroad, and was fascinated by new ideas and new forms of art. I love poetry that seems simple, effortless and formless, but which is revealed, upon closer examination to be carefully, lovingly crafted, with attention to every small detail. I love the picture of Williams that I conjure as I read about him and read his poetry. He seemed a passionate, creative, warm and generous spirit. I love the fact that, in an era during which many artists thought of themselves as a superior, supersensitive class, he spoke about “common” people, and not in a deprecating, patronizing fashion, but as such a person himself, sharing his voice and his observations. His poems are spare and beautiful – frequently he describes a moment using images (not ideas but things) and odd particular details that convey far more meaning and emotion because we make the connections for ourselves.

Between Walls

the back wings
of the

hospital where
nothing

will grow lie
cinders

In which shine
the broken

pieces of a green
bottle

Salad of warm brussel sprouts

Salad of warm brussel sprouts

Speaking of bottle green, have you ever seen such a pretty salad? We bought a giant alien-looking sprig of brussels sprouts. I cut half of them from the stalk, roasted them, and tossed them with walnuts, arugula and castelvetrano olives, to make a sort of warm salad, or vegetable side dish. I dressed it with melted butter and balsamic. That’s right! A butter dressing for a salad. I thought it was ridiculously tasty – salty, juicy, and crunchy all at once. Even Isaac liked the brussel sprouts! I think they get a bad name, like many brassica, because they’re stinky if you broil them. But they’re lovely if you roast them!

Instead of a song, today, I’ll leave you with Williams reading his most famous poem.

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Trumpet mushrooms with chard, brie, and smoked gouda

Trumpet mushrooms and chard

It’s hot as hell, they’re doing construction on the house attached to ours, which apparently requires loud bad radio and lots of cigarette smoking, and the boys are trying to knock all the plaster off the walls and yelling about how mean I am. I’m going to give myself a time out.

Last night we started watching a film by Yasujiro Ozu. He uses these beautiful still “pillow shots” between scenes. They’re shots down hallways, of empty rooms, along an alleyway. They’re not entirely static – the camera is still, but there’s movement of light, or of people walking by, clocks ticking, curtains blowing. You sense that the story is playing itself out somewhere nearby. The shots are so cool, so quiet but not silent. I find them incredibly compelling. I’m a huge fan of stillness in films, and quiet moments. Whether they last the whole film long, or they form a small pocket in a louder busier film. I wish the word “moment” wasn’t overused in precious greeting cards and knick knacks and self-help-speak, because it’s such a good word. A few years ago I submitted a series of short videos to an online gallery run by the remarkable Peter Ferko, a New York artist. The series was called Now:Here:This, and it involved art made in a moment (or a few moments) by people all over the world at roughly the same space in time. I started making short, static videos. I gave myself some rules…they had to last about a minute. I couldn’t change the frame. The sound would be whatever naturally occurred for that minute. I focused on leaves, or water, or shadows, even dirty dishes in the sink. The sound generally involved my children yelling for me and trying to get my attention, which was an idea that I liked a lot. It captured my life at the time (and to this day.) Children always want your attention most when you’re doing something else. When you’re on the phone, or making short videos, or writing about trumpet mushrooms on some stupid blog! I became very taken with making the videos – there was nothing brilliant about them, but I liked the way that shooting them made me think about how long a minute lasts, how hard it is to be quiet and still, how my life sounded, how pretty small things could be. And then Ozu went and stole the idea from me! I’d like to stop and look at my house, for moments at a time, from down a corridor, when nothing is happening. Of course it wouldn’t be quiet and clean and cool, like in Ozu’s films. It would be a warm messy muddle.

Segue! This meal is a sort of warm/cool combination. A warm salad, or a cool stir fry. I went to the Stockton market. I bought some trumpet mushrooms. They were ridiculously expensive. I felt a little foolish, clutching my brown paper bag of precious mushrooms. The meal turned out very tasty, though, so it’s okay, I think. I sauteed some chard with garlic, red pepper, castelvetrano olives and fresh basil. I mixed in some brie, smoked gouda, and goat cheese. (Three cheeses! So extravagant! They were very nice together, and gave the meal a warm, creamy, tangy smokiness that was lovely. But you could use what you have.) The mushrooms I sliced very thinly, and then sauteed in olive oil with fresh sage leaves. The mushrooms and sage leaves became nice and crispy. I said the mushrooms tasted like bacon, and David said…”better than bacon – like steak and bacon. Steakon!” The pine nuts added a lovely crunch. They always have a little bit of a smoky, bacony taste to me, too!! You could easily make this with portobellos, spinach, and whatever cheese you happen to have.

Trumpet mushrooms

Here’s Louis Armstrong with Tight Like This. Geddit? Trumpet mushrooms! Plus this remarkable piece is full of perfect moments.

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Salad of warm greens, french lentils and wild rice

warm kale salad

We’ve had a reprieve in the weather lately. In the afternoons you actually feel the warmth of the sunshine, and there’s a hopeful light that makes you forget we’ve got all of February to get through. And then you buy lettuce or tomatoes, and the iciness comes back to you. Luckily we’ve still got warm salads! This is a very substantial one – with flavorful french lentils and wild rice tossed in, and a handful of almonds thrown on at the end to add crunch. I made a sort of dressing with plum tomatoes briefly sauteed in olive oil and balsamic. This salad is a meal, and this meal is vegan. Cheese would make it taste even better, in my opinion – goat, or fresh mozzarella, or some grated sharp cheese. But then it wouldn’t be vegan, obviously! Anyway, it was quick to make, so I’m going to keep it quick now. (Yup, I’ve got to go to work!)

And here’s Big Daddy Kane with Warm it Up, Kane to sing to yourself while you warm up your kale.
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Warm greek salad for a cold day

I love salad, it’s my favorite thing, and I want to eat it every night! But it can be so disappointing this time of year. Hard, flavorless tomatoes, pale icy lettuces. Bleh. So we’ve reinvented the salad to be a warm mix of lightly cooked vegetables mixed with olive oil, balsamic and herbs, and topped with crumbly, melty cheese. I decided to make a version of a Greek salad, because I had olives and feta, but you could do this with any mix of vegetables, herbs, and the cheese of your choice. It would be good with chard, fennel and goat cheese, or pears, walnuts and bleu. You could mix up the vinegars as well, if you’re feeling fancy. Or try nut oils. (I don’t have any, but I wish I did!) The trick is to cook the vegetables just as much as they need to be cooked…so they still have a bit of life and color and crunch. The cooking brings out the flavor of the winter tomatoes and the herbs. I used Kale, because it has such a nice texture and flavor once it’s cooked. Do the Kale a favor and cook it earlier in the day when nobody is around, then drain it and put it in the fridge till you’re ready to assemble everything. It tastes so much better than it smells when it’s cooking! And I added raw spinach right at the end, which wilts slightly as it meets the other warm vegetables, adding some brightness and crunch.

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Warm it up to Me
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