In which I post a recipe

It happens a lot that I will, on the fly, look through the piles of vegetables that I have pulled – in great armloads – from my garden and heaped onto my table and try and try to figure out what the hell I’m going to cook for dinner. Fortunately, I have kids who are adventurous eaters. Because I swear to god, otherwise they would surely starve.

As a vegetarian, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how the flavors of the plant world come together, how they compliment one another. One of the wonders of cooking is that we really do take a narrative approach to the pleasures of eating – we think about dynamic starts, of foreshadow. We play with conflicting tastes, allowing that conflict to linger and build, playing each against each, until in an acquiescence and a surrender, the flavors meld and marry and we swallow.

*fans face*

Anyway, because we don’t eat meat, then vegetables really are the main story around here. So color matters and texture matters. The complexities of the bitter greens. The comforts of root vegetables. The slick of oil. The bright sweetness honey and the life-giving nature of bread. And so I’ll pull something together on the fly – I made a spaghetti sauce the other day of ribbon-cut kale sauteed in olive oil and lemon zest and garlic, tossed with cannelli beans cheese and scattered with chopped herbs (and it was gorgeous) – and then I’ll totally brag about it on Twitter.

Because that is my favorite thing about Twitter. Totally bragging about what I’m eating so that people will come over and visit me. I’m not shy and I have no shame. So sue me.

But the thing is, I’m not really a recipe person. I’m bad at following directions, so I don’t use them, and I have a hard time remembering what I’ve done, so I don’t remember them. Each meal is an organic experience. Each meal responds to the moment in which it is conceived, and the moment that it is brought to fruition.

However.

Yesterday I totally bragged about the fact that I had harvested a bunch of Swiss Chard leaves and stuffed them with quinoa and mushrooms and walnuts and lemon juice, and people said WILL YOU POST THE GODDAMN RECIPE ALREADY? So here it is. As best as I can remember it. And my kids dug it and ate it all up. So I win.

KELLY BARNHILL’S SWISS CHARD ROLLS

8 0z mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large red onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
lemon zest, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 can drained garbanzo beans, mashed
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup walnuts chopped fine
14 medium sized swiss chard leaves, bottoms trimmed
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water

Mash the garbanzo beans and the juice of half a lemon in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat a deep sautee pan and add onions and cook dry for 90 seconds. Reduce heat and add olive oil. Cover and allow to cook for another five minutes. Uncover and add garlic, lemon zest and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are wilted and fragrant. Add the chopped walnuts and cook for another two minutes.

Transfer vegetables to the bowl with the garbanzo beans and lemon.

Put the sautee pan back on the flame and add the quinoa and the water, stir a couple times to allow the flavors to combine. Once the quinoa boils, cover it tightly and reduce heat. Cook until the water has been absorbed, adding more if needed.

Turn off heat.

Add the vegetable and garbanzo mixture with the quinoa. mix together and add a ton of salt and pepper until it tastes right. Allow to sit for fifteen minutes.

Set up your workspace with a clean towel, and a frying pan pre-oiled with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.

Put swiss chard leaves into a bowl and cover with hot water. Once they are soft enough to handle, take out a leaf and lay it on the towel. Spoon the quinoa veg mixture into the leaf and roll it up, tucking in the ends as you do so. Lay it in the frying pan and repeat. As you lay your rolls in the frying pan, make sure that they fit together tightly and that you are alternating the direction of your rolls. This is important for getting them *out* of the pan.

Once your rolls are made, add water to your frying pan- enough so that the bottom half of your rolls are submerged in water. Sprinkle salt and the juice from the other half a lemon over the whole thing. Put it on the stove at medium-low heat, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Now, if you’re WAY MORE TALENTED than me, you’ll be able to flip this out onto a plate. I’ve seen it done with other roll-type recipes. I did not have the balls to do this, so I just transfered them with a spatula on everybody’s plate. The kids snarfed them and so did I.

I don’t have pictures of course, because we ate it all. But I assure you it was delicious.

And now that I’ve shared, does anyone have a recipe story to share with me? A triumph? A failure? C’mon! I know you got ’em!

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Today’s Poem: “Evening, By The Lake”

Evening, By The Lake

The sky poured down
onto the water,
colors spilling
from shore to shore –
red
gold
midnight blue
the glinting of stars
the drape of clouds –
rippled by waves
and the night-cooled wind.

A thousand birds
floated on the sky
wings tucked tight
heads nestled
in feathery pockets
dreaming dreams of migration
and summer
of a world made of water
and cloud
and glinting star
and endless sky.

My kid is made of rubber. Or titanium. Or self-healing plastics.

Tonight, as the sun set and the light waned and the sky leaked orange and gold all over the lake and the whole world shone, Leo and I walked back from his Tae Kwan Do class. Or I walked. Leo rode his scooter. It was a beautiful evening – warm and breezy and lousy with birds. Dry leave skittered across the park as the shadows deepened and darkness spread around us. Leo zoomed ahead, a brilliant flash of white in his uniform, his brand-new orange belt (and oh! he is so proud!) glowing in the growing dim.

“Be careful,” I called.

“I’m always careful,” he called back through the swirl of leaves.

That was a lie, of course.

And we talked about the gathering birds, and their plans for migration and southern skies. And we talked about other animals that migrate – whales specifically.

“I would like my best friend to be a whale,” Leo said.

I told him that sounded like a fine idea.

“I would like my best friend to be a whale AND I would like to be able to speak Whale.”

I told him that it probably wouldn’t be too hard to learn how to speak Whale, provided he studied very hard and practiced every day.

“I would like my best friend to be a whale AND I would like to be able to speak Whale AND I would like my whale best friend to be able to fly.”

“A flying whale?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “A flying whale IN SPACE.”

“A flying whale in space?”

“Yes. That I can talk to.”

“That’s a tall order,” I said.

He shrugged. “When things are hard, you just have to work harder,” he said. Then he whizzed away, his uniform glowing in the dark.

And I thought about this. There is a purity – a marvelous purity -in the association of action and consequence that little kids possess. For them, cause and effect are simple, straightforward and unambiguous. I do a thing, and it bears a result; end of story. When I do a good thing, the result is good. When I do a bad thing the result is bad. When I work very hard at something, the result is something very cool that not many people achieve.

Like a flying whale best friend in space, for example.

And I’d like to tell him the world works that way. I wanted him to live in that kind of a world. Hell, I wanted to live in that kind of a world. I wanted to tell him that if he worked very hard he really will have a flying whale best friend in space. I WANT that to be true.

“Be careful,” I called as he hit the turn and flew down the hill, the autumn-bright trees crowding their limbs together, making it hard to see. “Be careful, honey!”

Because he thinks that careful people can’t get hurt. Because he believes in the power of his own body.

And I didn’t see him fall right away. It happened fast, and it was dark. I called out. I reminded him that there are bumps and ridges in the path. I told him that the world was dark and the road was dark and that things will trip us up that we will never see and that even careful people get hurt sometimes.

He didn’t listen.

And he fell.

A flash of white against the dark torsos of the slim trees.

A glowing riot of arms and legs, pinwheeling against the sky.

And the boy flew, feet over kettle, over his scooter and onto the ground.

And oh! My baby!

And oh! Your arms!

And oh! Your legs!

And oh! Your neck!

And oh! my baby, my baby, my baby!

He made no sound.

“LEO!” I shouted. And ran over the dry, dry leaves.

Leo leaped to his feet. He looked at me. His crooked teeth flashed in the dark – a disembodied grin.

“That….was…..SO AWESOME!”

He picked up his scooter and ran back up the hill. “I’m TOTALLY doing that again!”

Today’s Poem: Wind

Wind

Open the doors
throw wide the windows
and let in the wind.

Goodbye dust
goodbye toys
goodbye mail
goodbye rugs
goodbye stairs
goodbye tables and chairs
goodbye paintings and dishes and walls and shelves
goodbye books abandoned and books twice read
and books scrawled in the margins
goodbye tablecloths and curtains
and closets and coats
goodbye cupboards and pantries and floorboards
and plumbing and plaster and beams.

A house made of wind
a roof made of sky
a mind clean as paper.

Today’s poem: “Love Letter”

Love Letter

Against a windswept darkening sky,
against the geometric bite of power lines,
against the muddy brown field,
bracing itself for snow –

Four turning trees
write a love letter to the sky.

Red maple trees,
and oh!
red
red
maple.

Each crisp, bright leaf
snapping like the flags
of countries undiscovered,
and countries long gone.

Today’s Poem: “Harvest”

Samuel Palmer, Harvest Moon, 1830s

“Harvest”

In autumn we make lists:
pumpkin soup and sweetened nuts;
tough winter greens; an armload of herbs drying at the hearth;
brussel sprouts, tubers, bright fleshed squash;
salted cheese curing in the basement;
casks of ale keeping cool underground.

We plan pies, freeze berries,
chant an endless litany of bread.

And you, my love, I shall feed and feed.
Here, I say as I seat you at my table.
Here, as I push in your chair.
Here is the bounty of the spinning world.
Here is food for the nose, food for the tongue,
food for the beating heart.

A seed placed in the earth becomes food – a miracle.
Food, gathered from gardens and heaped in kitchens
becomes palatable, irresistible – a narrative of pleasure.
And this is another miracle.
Love is a miracle, I say
as I slip roasted vegetables
into your open mouth,
as I lick the oil from my fingers.

Love is a miracle.
And so are you.