Grilled vegetables and pecan tarragon sauce

Roasted beets & mushrooms

We’ve been watching the Olympic trials at work, on a big television above the bar. The sound is turned all the way down, and for some reason, in this way, it becomes the most beautiful drama. The expressions on the athletes’ faces are so raw and honest – pure, distilled emotion. It reminds me of silent films, when the actors’ gestures and expressions had to tell the story, except that this is entirely unstudied. It’s hard to tell at first who has won and who has lost, because the faces are oddly similar – anguished, ecstatic, exhausted. Their faces are like children’s faces in delight and sorrow – undulled and unguarded. It’s very emotional! I have to stop myself from getting weepy right there at the host stand! I love the idea of working very hard for one thing, and putting so much emotion and energy into it. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – it’s good to have a grand project in your life.

When I was little we lived in England one summer, during the Olympics. To my shame, I remember being actually bewildered that the announcers spoke more about English athletes than Americans. Didn’t everybody in the world care more about our superior American athletes even than their own? Didn’t they? Heh heh. With independence day drawing on apace, it’s probably a good time to examine our place in the world as Americans and as human beings. Luckily for you I have to go to work in a short while, so I’ll talk about grilling vegetables instead. We grilled beets, mushrooms, and potatoes. Of course you could grill any vegetables you like, but I recommend this combination. The beets and mushrooms have a nice juiciness, everything is crispy, earthy, smoky and delicious. I like a simple marinade for grilled vegetables. Olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and garlic. I added some nigella seeds because I just got them for the first time and I’m very excited about them! But if you can’t find them you could live without. We also sauteed the beet greens with some chard, and I used zatar spices, because I just bought sumac, and I’m very excited about that, too!! And the pecan tarragon tarrator sauce is a lovely, creamy, vegan, subtly flavored sauce that goes very sweetly with the earthy grilled vegetables. Malcolm ate his grilled vegetables on toast, and he made it into Darth Vador’s Tie Fighter. (serving suggestion)

Beet tie fighter


Here’s a little film of Louis Armstrong playing Stuttin with some Barbecue, and dancing with Velma Middleton.

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Rice-flour crusted pastry with roasted chickpeas and broccoli

In which Claire begins a journey of discovery with gluten-free pastry crusts…

Rice flour crust

I had my first request! I’m so excited. I love a challenge! When I was little, I thought my cousin Becket was the coolest girl on the planet! I still do! Recently, she told me that her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease, and she wondered if I’d ever made a gluten-free-crust for a savory pastry. Well, I had not. Though I’d come close! The truth is that I’m fascinated by different kinds of flour – chickpea flour, semolina flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, buckwheat flour, barley flour – on and on it goes! And I have many of these in my cupboard at the moment. But, first of all…I wasn’t entirely aware that not all non-regular-flours are not gluten free. As it happens, semolina flour and barley flour, to name two, are not gluten free. (Or so I’ve been told). And second of all…I’d never tried using these flours all by themselves, I always mix them with some amount of “regular” wheat flour. I suppose just so I know what to expect – at least a little bit!

Becket’s question prompted me to take it to the next level. I was determined to make a pastry with a gluten-free crust. So here’s my first attempt. I used rice flour, and I tried, as a sort of control, to make it as close to ordinary pastry crust as I could in every other way. I was worried that it wouldn’t be workable. I was worried that it wouldn’t be crispy. Well…it was a little hard to work with. It was like feta cheese, in texture. Just imagine trying to roll feta cheese with a rolling pin and mold it into a pastry! But I worked that out. I had to be less daring with the shape of the pastry. And one thing that I discovered was that this dough works better when it’s not so cold. I had chilled it, as one would do with ordinary pastry. Not a good idea. I had to warm it up a bit and work it in my hands before I could cook with it at all. And then I found it best to use my hands to press it flat, and do that directly on the baking sheet, rather than trying to roll it out, fill it, and then move it. But once I’d let it warm up a bit, I took a small ball, put it on the baking sheet, flattened it to be about 1/4 inch thick, and then used a spatula and my hands to gather dough from all around, pull it over the filling, and seal it on top. I’d take a pinch of extra dough to fill the gaps. Then I turned it onto the seam side. It was actually fun once I got started. Like playing with play-doh. Then I brushed the tops with egg, because it was so pale I though it would be nice to see it get browned a bit.

And, guess what? It did turn out crispy! Very crispy on the outside! Quite nice! Not the prettiest shape I’ve ever made. My son said it looked like a dumpling, and I’m ok with that. I would gladly make this again! Once I got the hang of it, it was a pleasure to make, and to eat!

You could fill this with anything you like, but I filled it with roasted chickpeas that I’d cooked in some approximation of a zatar spice. This is a middle-eastern spice mix that seems to always contain thyme and sesame seeds, but…beyond that, is pretty open to interpretation. I added oregano and caraway seeds, which I’d learned was a typically Palestinian addition. Lovely!

This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but it’s so stuck in my head right now! I love it to pieces. It’s Sir Lord Comic with Wh’appen?
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