- Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;everyday; ordinary; commonplacePeanut Butter Cream: I can hardly stand the wait.Off-the-cuff summer supper.Nectarine galette.Fruit face.A cute wee box of veggies.And a few more.We aren’t the only ones benefitting from our daughter’s farm job.The college guys heard we had one hamburger left over from supper.Setting up my new phone for me: I (literally and accidentally) composted the old one.He understands things I don’t.
My husband, three younger kids, and I left home for DC in the dead of night, arriving just as the sky was beginning to lighten. As the sun rose over the Potomac, we gathered with the other marchers to listen to a recorded message to our group from Al Sharpton, a spoken word piece titled Mississippi The Microcosm from Genesis Be, and a message from the pastor of St John’s Episcopal Church.photo credit: my younger daughter
Then the group, now swelled to about a hundred, set off on the walking trail that would take us the eight miles into the city.photo credit: my older daughter
Once there, we went directly to Lafayette Park where we spent some time looking at all the wall of photos of Black victims of police violence on the fence along the perimeter.
Our group had had a permit to gather in the park, but then it was revoked at the last minute so we gathered on the street instead, just a half block from St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was also closed to the public.
Different church leaders spoke briefly, focusing specifically on Biblical texts about justice (of which there are no shortage). One pastor shared what had happened when she’d eagerly asked one of her staff, a black man, if he would like to join them on this march.
“He exploded at me,” she said. “He told me, ‘I’ve been doing this work, and I’m tired. Don’t ask me to do more. It’s your turn now.’”
A singer-songwriter from South Bend, Indiana, Daniel Deitrich, sang a song he wrote to the church of his childhood: A Hymn for the 81% — the eighty-one percent being the number of evangelicals who voted for Trump. It was beautiful and raw and painful, and listening to it I cried. I’m so glad my younger daughter had the presence of mind to record it.
The Walk the Walk presentation over, we split from the group and headed to the Lincoln Memorial. My husband and I estimated the crowds were about 90% Black, which surprised me. I’d thought there’d be tons of whites present to show solidarity, so their absence made me second guess our choice to be there — were we overstepping? But then I spied this sign:
This wasn’t about us, and yes, we were welcome.
The grounds were packed — after months of physical distancing, the precense of so many people felt almost surreal! — so we sat on a little knoll edging the reflecting pool.
Hungry and dehydrated (we had to ration out the last of our water and then crossed our fingers we’d be able to find more, hopefully before we perished), we dozed in the shade — oh glorious shade! —while people made speeches.photo credit: my younger daughter
When the keynotes began, though, we all sat up. (We were far enough back that we couldn’t see the jumbotrons, but we could still hear.) Martin Luther King III, his twelve-year-old daughter, Al Sharpton, the family members of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. To have all those people gathered together in one place — so much pain, so much love and hope — felt momentous, was momentous. This week I want to re-listen to the speeches, and watch them so I can put faces to the words I heard.
For the actual march, we stayed on the edges as much as possible.by the time we reached the steps of the Memorial, the area had mostly emptiedphoto credit: my older daughter
At the end of a long field, we happened upon a small group of people clustered in front of a stage. Minutes later, Al Sharpton appeared, along with Martin Luther King III and Representative Ilhan Omar. So we got to see some of the speakers up close after all!
And then we trekked back across town to join our group in front of the Federal Justice Building to protest the federal execution scheduled for four o’clock that day.
While the execution took place in a federal prison in Indiana, we kept vigil — people took turns speaking and singing — and then, once we received word that it was over, we climbed into shuttles and headed back to the hotel.
And just in time, too, because then the heavens opened and the rains poured down.
P.S. Here’s a sweet little video clip, with some familiar (masked) faces and sneakers!
On Sunday, my younger two kids, my husband, and I drove over the mountain (a bear crossed the road in front of us! with her cub!) to Culpeper to join with the marchers for day four of Walk The Walk 2020.me and my sonphoto credit: my younger daughter
My husband doesn’t like these sorts of things — I’m not an activist, he says (though he’s been doing more anti-racist reading than I have recently) — but the next day was our anniversary and I’d told him that I wanted him to come walk for a day for my present. Not that we’re in the habit of giving each other anniversary presents, or even really celebrating the day, but apparently my husband feels a certain level of guilt over our non-celebratory habits because he came, yay.twenty-four years, togetherphoto credit: my younger daughter
I thought the traffic might be lighter because it was Sunday, but no. At one point, traffic was backed up eight miles. (“Inconvenience is not injustice,” one of the marchers wrote on his Facebook page.) Also, it felt like the antagonism was worse. So much cursing. So much rage.
Still, the support far exceeded the negativity. One woman leaning far out her car window, frantically blew two-handed air kisses at us. Another woman, this one Latinx, the wind whipping her hair, her body slowly turning to look us in the eyes as she passed, chanted, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over, her face serious, her voice fervent, like prayer.photo credit: my younger daughter
*One of the organizers, a former homicide detective with the Baltimore police, filled me in on the behind-the-scene work that goes into a march like this: communications with VDOT, state police, organizational leaders, safety precautions, death threats (for real!) and the intel that’s required as a result (or maybe regardless?).
*A retired officer with the Baltimore police — “You ever watch The Wire?” he asked me. “It’s all true.” — recounted some of the police shootings that have been in the news, breaking down the video footage to explain his take on where things went wrong. There are a lot of good cops, he said. But the system is overloaded. It needs to be reworked.
*A pastor said I surprised him. “I thought all homeschoolers were conservative,” he said, “but here you are with your kids and it confuses me.” I laughed and then filled him in on homeschooling’s wild diversity, but then I was left wondering: Are most homeschoolers conservative? In my world they’re not, so I’ve always assumed that belief is a myth, but maybe it’s actually accurate?
With no shade and no cloud cover, the sun was brutal. After lunch the heat became a real battle. My daughter felt like throwing up, so I pressed a cold water bottle to the back of her neck, and at the next break we iced ourselves down … literally. But then a couple miles from the end, her legs started cramping up so she hopped in the van and met us at the finish. And then my younger son kept doubling over from stomach pain — I think he ate too much at lunch? — and one of the leaders got so worried he put a van on standby. But my son claimed he was fine and actually ended up running the last little bit, ha.
The next day he wasn’t even sore.
The 16 miles completed, we debriefed with the group at an ice cream joint, and then split for home, feasting on junk food all the way. (Strangely enough, it wasn’t until two days later that my 42-miles-in-three-days walk caught up to me — I could not. stop. eating!)
One of the perks of working at Magpie is that I get to order a meal per shift. (I also hear we’re allowed one beer per shift, but I’ve yet to do so — what is wrong with me!) When I start getting hungry, I just write what I want on a take-out bag and run it over to the line cooks and a little later they pop into the bakery, my plate of food in hand. It’s kind of dreamy.
Here are a few of the meals I’ve ordered…
Chilaquiles: tortilla chips in red sauce topped with fried egg, crema, cilantro, etc.
Tomato Toast: a piece of toasted sourdough bread topped with both roasted tomatoes and fresh, soft mozzarella, basil, and balsamic.photo credit: coworker Lydia
Chicken Milanesa: Breaded chicken on a milk bread bun, with greens, house pickles, and a creamy sauce. Afterward, I was stuffed.
Egg Sammy with Sausage: such an easy, fast meal, and deeply satisfying. I want to try it with bacon next.
Rainbow Bowl: dressed greens topped with beet hummus, quinoa, and assorted veggies. It’s insanely delicious — my favorite so far — and it makes me feel fantastic.
Not pictured: egg scramble with bacon over toast. Turkish eggs (that I sampled from my daughter’s plate, and which are enormously popular). A BLT. Fries. The Green Goddess sandwich (which they no longer offer, much to my older daughter’s vigorous dismay) (yes, my kids like to eat at the diner!). Countless cups of coffee. Buttered heels of sourdough (my usual mid-morning snack). Croissant tastings.
Chocolate croissants are my fave.
Another perk of the job is that I occasionally get to take home scraps: failed bakings, dough scraps, leftovers, etc.
All day long, we throw dough scraps on a baking sheet and then, at the end of the day, we pop the pan into an oven and bake it off with the residual heat. The baked scraps get dumped into the “pig buckets” that a local farmer periodically stops by to pick up. Except sometimes one of us might grab a hunk of the still-warm scraps to take home for supper…pastry dough, pre-laminating
Stale loaves of sourdough are fabulous for toast, grilled cheese, baked egg casseroles.toasted with olive oil for tomato bread pudding with sausage and caramelized onions
One time I took home a tray of croissant cuttings to play with. By the time I got home, the scraps had overproofed wildly in the hot car, so I raced around, slicing peaches into a pan, adding some sugar, flour, and lemon juice, and then tossing on the top crust of pastry bits.
The other little pieces I baked up and then brushed with a vanilla glaze.
My helter-skelter creations were nothing like the bakery’s tender, buttery pastries, but even so, they still got scarfed.
But the best yet was when I got to take home a whole paton of mis-rolled pastry dough. My older daughter and I made trays of chocolate croissants (I used a chopped-up bar of Godiva 53%), vanilla braids, and cinnamon rolls, and then I tossed some nectarines with brown sugar and bourban and capped them with a pastry lid.
We skipped the overnight proof in the fridge (no room), and after letting the pastries rise at room temp for a couple hours, baked them that evening.
The pastries baked up gloriously high, so I celebrated by front kicking my way across the kitchen and roaring, “TAKE — [kick] — THAT — [kick] — PASTRY — [kick] — SCRAPS — [kick].”
Several weeks back, our church’s weekly email had an announcement about a group of people who were planning to walk from Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington D.C. in a faith pilgrimage of race reckoning, resolve, and love. The core walkers — clergy, people of faith, and organizers from Vote Common Good, Red Letter Christians, Faith in Action, and some other organizations — would be walking the whole nine days, and day walkers were welcome.
The three younger kids and I signed up to walk for the first day.
I had no idea what to expect. Would we feel like outsiders? Would it be weird? Would we hate it? Maybe. But the march was relatively close to home and outside — a perfect with-people-but-not Covid activity. Plus, it was free, and it was only for one day.
If nothing else, at least we’d get some exercise.
So Thursday morning we drove over the mountain to Charlottesville where we joined a small group of people gathering on the steps of a church facing Emancipation Park. Organizers took our
temperatures and told us to grab a t-shirt. Leaders gave instructions and made speeches, and then we set off on a little learning tour of the city.
The church’s pastor shared what it had been like in during the Unite the Right Rally in 2017 when white supremacists had flooded the city with guns, hatred, and violence. Ahead of time, the church had tried to erect a boundary around the church to create a safe space, but the flood of Nazis (the speaker’s term) was so great that they had to bring out tables from the church and flip them sideways to create a barrier. Then, when the white supremacist drove his car through the crowd just a couple blocks over, the church’s parking lot transformed into a makeshift triage: children stripping their chemical-saturated clothes, EMTs tending to the bloodied and battered bodies, and community members surrounding the church to create a wall of protection between the victims and the white supremacists.
From there we walked to the site where Heather Heyer was murdered. We placed flowers along the wall and wrote chalk messages on the wall, sidewalk, and road.
A man who’d been there told us the story of what had happened, how the day had almost reached its end without serious trauma when, as a group of counterprotesters (the protesters, in this case, were the white supremacists) walked up the street, a car appeared at the top, revved its engines and then tore into the crowd.
It was like a bomb went off, the man said. Bodies heaped up. Blood everywhere. He watched as the EMTs worked to bring the life back into Heather’s body, and failed. Even now, he said, it’s hard to be here on this street.
Then we walked the couple blocks up to the courthouse where we were greeted by a statue of a Confederate soldier casually holding a rifle and flanked by two cannons, a pile of cannon balls on the ground at his feet.
Just around the corner from that statue, we gathered at the racial terror lynching memorial that, a project of the Equal Justice Initiative, was errected just last year for John Henry James who was murdered in 1898: a mob of 150 white men stopped the train he was on, and then hung him and shot him, leaving his body to hang for hours while “hundreds more white people streamed by, cutting off pieces of his clothing, body, and the locust tree to take away as souvenirs.”
Soil from the lynching site is now archived at the EJI museum.
Opposite the street was a human auction block memorial.
“Notice how we are forced to look up to see the statue of the Confederate soldier,” our guide said, “but in order to see the auction block memorial, one must stoop to read it. In fact, if you’re not looking for it, you might walk directly over it, missing it entirely.”
The tour over, we struck off out of Charlottesville and up 29N, our police escort — five vehicles! four motorcycles! — blocking off the right lane of traffic for us.
When my husband heard that we’d be walking on the highway, he said dryly, “The drivers sure are going to love you.”
And it is kind of rude, taking up the road like that.* But out there walking, it occurred to me that this might be the kind of good trouble — necessary trouble — that John Lewis was talking about. If we want to make change — and that is what we’re calling for — we can’t keep barreling forward, our foot to the pedal. To pivot, we first gotta slow down, waaaay down.
And surprisingly enough, while plenty of cars zipped by, the drivers’ eyes glazed over, unseeing, and there were more than a few shouted “Trump 2020!” and “White lives matter” and F-bombs (or worse), the vast majority of responses were positive: Shouted thank yous! Exuberant waves! Horn honks (the dancing beep-beep-beeps were positive, the blaring uni-honks not so much)! Raised fists — black, brown, and white — punching through sun roofs and out opened windows! Cheers and applause! Enormous grins!
With all that affirmation, our little band of walkers didn’t feel so tiny anymore. People, lots of people, were with us. We were not alone.
I’ve never done distance walking before, and out there on the pavement, putting one foot in front of the other — my left hip aching, my calves knotting, the sweat pooling in my eyes and blurring my vision — I discovered there’s nothing glamorous about it. Walking — distance walking — is hard.
And yet the measured plodding is kind of zen, too. Outside of my comfort zone, removed from my routines, I feel present — to the people around me, to my thoughts, to my body — in a way that I rarely am.
As I trudged along, I thought about about all the other marches, both the chosen ones and the forced ones. I thought about whether or not I had to pee. I thought about deodorant and how mine wasn’t working. I thought about what it meant when Black clergy asked white clergy to please be more vocal on the behalf of Blacks.
I thought about how Blacks have been on these marches for centuries, and how this was my first one, and I thought about what it takes to drive people to march, to move. I thought about sunblock and how I really, really, really hoped it was working. I thought about our message of love and hope and justice, and I thought about how the shouted curses seemed to go hand-in-hand with the Trump bumper stickers.
I thought about all the important people I was walking with — the educated leaders, the movers and shakers, the writers and speakers and reformers — and I thought about how I did nothing in comparison. I thought about how tired I was.
I thought about how good it felt to be walking.
We walked about 11 miles that day and then, the walk over, I decided to come back the next day.
Yesterday, day two, I was the only day walker (the kids had to work, and they were exhausted). The group was smaller that day.
I enjoyed getting to know a little more about this band of walkers — people from California, Texas, Minnesota, Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona — who were crazy enough to do something as audacious as this.
This march is sort of silly, really, the leader told me at the end of the day.
And I agree. It is silly.
But is it?
Something I’ve learned from reading John Lewis’ books is that every little action on its own feels inconsequential — and maybe even is inconsequential — but together they add up. Sooner or later, change happens.
The important thing is to keep moving.
We walked 15 miles on Day Two. I’m taking today off to write, do chores (raspberries! tomatoes! nectarines!), and then back I go on Sunday, maybe even with some family members.
We’ll probably take a break then — the commute from home is getting progressively longer — but we hope to rejoin the group on Friday when they march into D.C. and end up at Black Lives Matter Plaza. Thousands are expected that day, I hear.
If you’d like to join us, register here!
*I later heard that the organizers wanted to walk on the back roads but the police said it’d be easier to protect us on a highway walk.
This same time, years previous: peach fruit leather, the quotidian (8.20.18), it’s what’s for supper, sun-dried tomato and basil pesto torte, kale tabbouleh with tomatoes and cucumbers, stewed greens with tomato and chili, grape jelly.
- Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;everyday; ordinary; commonplaceTomato tart: the search continues.Heirloom.First tomatoes, now peaches.Peach tart with almond cream.Eggplant bread!!! (with zucchini, walnuts, and dates)Eggplant-pressed tofu.Raggedy knee pads.Lit yolk.Monopoly and music: the deck at dusk.
This same time, years previous: a bloody tale, passion fruit juice, the Peru post, a new room, the quotidian (8.17.15), the quotidian (8.18.14), from market to table, the beach, lately, our life, barley and beans with sausage and red wine.
I’m sick of covid.
I’m sick of the heat.
I’m sick of masks.
I’m sick of politics.
I’m sick of screens.
I’m sick of feeling trapped.
At least I’m not actually sick. Silver linings, y’all.
So anyway. Here’s a cake.
I’ve made this twice now. What with all the layering of flavors — sour cream and butter; almond extract and almond flour and almond paste; Amaretto and orange brandy; vanilla and dried apricots — I feel like I’m building something. It’s fun.
The cake itself is huge, rich, dense, and exotic. It might look boring — dry, practically — but it’s actually tender and so silky-soft that it’s almost creamy.
It’s a dream to eat. The whole family goes nuts for it.
A couple pointers. The ingredients must be at room temp; this makes the mixing so much easier. Also, mix things well. Beating the hell out of the butter does transformative things.
And lord knows, I need all the transformative things I can get right now.
Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto
Adapted from Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray.
No almond flour? Grind 1½ cups toasted almonds until you do! (I buy mine at Costco.)
No cake flour? Make some!
At room temp, my almond paste is soft. If yours is still hard, you can grate it, or whirl it with the almonds and add it at the end.
1½ cups almond flour
3 cups, plus 3 tablespoons, sugar
1 cup butter, room temp
4 ounces almond paste, room temp
6 eggs, room temp
2 teaspoons almond extract
1½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup Amaretto
¼ cp apricot or orange brandy
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
⅔ cup chopped dried apricots
Stir the almond flour and 3 tablespoons of sugar together. If your almond flour has lots of hard lumps from being in the freezer like mine did (or you’re starting with whole almonds), whirl it together in the food processor.
Cream the butter and the 3 cups of sugar together for 4 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Add the marzipan and cream well (don’t worry if some of the little pieces don’t break up). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each and scraping down the bowl. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, Amaretto and brandy.
Combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt, and soda. Add the dry ingredients to the batter alternately with the sour cream and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not overbeat. Fold in the ground almonds and chopped apricots.
Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour and a half, and maybe even 15 minutes more. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
This same time, years previous: breaking horses, the quotidian (8.13.18), the quotidian (8.14.17), on getting lucky, knowing my questions, a piece of heaven, getting my halo on, there’s that, totally worth it.
Back when I wrote about my searing eye pain, you all were very clear: go see a doctor — a different doctor — NOW. Doc Number Two said my eyes did show signs of dryness, but nothing that would warrant the level of pain I was having, and she suggested a better over-the-counter cream.
The next week, the pain grew to unbearable levels (not because of the new cream — I hadn’t started that yet) so I dialed up the new doc and together we mounted a multi-pronged approach to fixing my eyes: steroid drops, allergy meds, an eye mask, eye cream, and anti-inflammatory meds. The relief was almost immediate (probably thanks to the steroids?), and now my remedies have been streamlined to just the special, extra-thick and sodium-laced eye cream, and the eye mask.bras for your face
Ah, sleep masks. When I put it on at night, it’s like pulling down the shades. Darkness — BOOM, I’m out.
Also, I have almost zero eye pain now. (Though sometimes, if the mask slips off at night, my eyes are sore when I wake up, so my hunch is that the fans in our room were drying out my eyes and the eye mask helps protect against the swirling, drying air.)***
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Amazon Prime) is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. (And it’s new (2019) and I’d never heard of it, what the heck?) My older son discovered it and said we had to watch it. Like, immediately. We persuaded him to wait forty-eight hours until our Sunday family movie night, but afterward I told him he gets the award, hands-down, for best movie pick.
From the same makers (or whatever you call them) of Little Miss Sunshine (and I detected O Brother Where Art Thou vibes, too), The Peanut Butter Falcon is delightfully quirky, heartwarming, funny, and real — exactly the sort of movie I’d happily watch over and over again.
And I will.***
A friend posted a photo of a cucumber salad on Facebook and I messaged her for the recipe. Since then, I’ve made it a bunch of times.
Reasons I like it:
*It uses a bunch of cucumbers.
*It easily absorbs other in-season veggies, like green peppers, red onions, and tomatoes.
*It’s a good make-ahead salad.
*It keeps well in the fridge so you can pull from it whenever you need a hit of veggies.
*It’s light, and tangy-sweet.
*It goes good with everything: beans and rice, mac and cheese, burgers, corn-on-the-cob, etc.
Tangy Cucumber Salad
Adapted from Roveen’s Facebook message.
for the veggies:
cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled, and sliced thin
onion, sliced thin
peppers, any color, sliced thin (optional)
tomatoes, any kind, chopped (optional)
for the dressing, whisk together:
¾ cup water
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
black pepper and salt
Pour the dressing over the veggies and press them down to submerge. Refrigerate, stirring once in a while. Before serving, let set briefly at room temp until the oil de-solidifies.***
This podcast, On Female Rage (NYTimes), is powerful, and a must-listen. “This anger [is] … about necessity: what needs to boil us out of bed and billow our dresses, what needs to burn in our voices, glowing and fearsome, fully aware of its own heat.”***
When a friend mentioned that she had the boxset of March, John Lewis’ series of three graphic novels detailing his life, I immediately asked to borrow them.
My younger son devoured them — when he was partway through the first, and on the same day that Lewis was lying in state in the U.S. Capitol, he piped up, “I sorta wish John Lewis was alive right now so I could write him a letter” — and the girls are reading them now.
They say they don’t like graphic novels but I’m making the books required reading.
I just finished the second one which focused on the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington. What stands out to me most is that the civil rights movement was such a process. I tend to see the movement as inevitable — a series of obvious steps that had to be taken to get from Point A to Point B — but it was anything but.
Rather, the movement was riddled with changed plans, mistakes, conflicting opinions, strong personalities, difficult decisions, life-threatening risk, negotiations, compromise, and set-backs.
Nothing about it was inevitable. Absolutely nothing.
1. Change isn’t a given.
2. Uncertainty over how things will end is no excuse not to act.***
My local grocery store finally started carrying champagne and sherry vinegars! (Also, they’ve gone from not wearing masks to posting an employee at the door to hand them out, hip-hip!)
I’ve been on the lookout for these vinegars for years, but, unwilling to go out of my way to track them down, I just slogged it out with the basics — apple cider, white, and balsamic — all the while knowing that a little vinegar upgrade might seriously improve my cooking. And now I get to find out!
So far, I’m mostly just drinking (sipping) them straight and arm twisting family members into taking blind taste test. Which is actually quite entertaining. In fact, if you need a pandemic activity, I highly recommend pulling out all your vinegars and holding a tasting.
Pandemic Bonus: vinegar has antiviral properties and it beats drinking bleach anyday.***
When a real-live interview is more hilarious than a late-night comedy show.The emperor has no clothes indeed.
Watching Jonathan Swan deftly cut through the buffoonery is pure gold.***
And to conclude, two things:
*This chilling Fresh Air interview with Stuart Stevens, a GOP strategist. Brace yourself.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.12.19), Mondays, riding paso fino, fresh peach pie, tomato bread pudding with caramelized onions and sausage, the Murch Collision of 2015, spaghetti with vodka cream tomato sauce, the quotidian (8.12.13), grilled trout with bacon.
- Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;everyday; ordinary; commonplaceKachumber, aka the drink with the name that sounds like a sneeze.Purchased: because ours are for the birds (insects, chickens, worms, whatever).To skillet fry with oregano, feta, and tomatoes.Salsa making with a side of Schitt’s Creek.Another day, another load.Soft shelled.photo credit: my younger sonThe polar bear my older son is dogsitting.I accidentally (and literally) composted my cell phone.In hopes of cutting down on the ant problem.Sourdough: most goes to the diner, but we usually have two or three loaves for sale first thing.photo credit: Baker Rachel
One of the perks of having a child who works at a vegetable farm is that she brings home produce. Towards the end of the work day, my daughter will often call to see what I want and I’ll say, “Carrots, please, and two green peppers.” Or, “A couple of the red juice tomatoes, beets, and some red onions.” Or, “Nothing today, thanks.”
And then there are the days she calls and says, “When you pick me up, bring the van.” Because the haul — all the unused produce that she’s allowed to just take — is so great that it won’t fit in the car.
It’s incredible really. The bins and crates spread across the picnic table, we marvel at our good fortune. And then I take what we’ll use and we share the rest with friends.
The day she brought home a bushel of eggplant, though, I wasn’t sure whether to gloat or cry.
I hadn’t grown up eating eggplant (my only eggplant-oriented memory is of my mother “secretly” dumping her plate of eggplant parmesan under the picnic table), and besides a one-time foray into baba ganoush (which we liked), I really didn’t know how to use it. Or rather, how to use it in ways that my family would find acceptable.
So I posted on Facebook: “Best recipes for eggplant. GO.”
And the recipes and suggestions came pouring in. Turns out, people really, really, really like their eggplant! I had no idea.
Since then, I’ve cooked eggplant a bunch of different ways:
Grilled: I dipped each slice of eggplant in a sauce of olive oil, chopped parsley and oregano, salt and pepper, and raw garlic and then grilled them until golden brown. I also applied the same treatment to thick slices of sweet pepper and red onion.
To eat, I made a veggie stack: a round of eggplant, feta, eggplant, mozzarella, onion, pepper, tomato, salt and pepper. Then I grilled a hamburger bun, slathered both top and bottom with mayo, and added the stack of grilled, cheesy veggies.
It was amazing.
(The rest of the family ate their slices of grilled eggplant plain and stuck beef burgers in the buns.)
Moussaka: The Greek equivalent of lasagna, moussaka is made by layering a) roasted (or grilled) eggplant, b) a meat sauce seasoned with oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika, c) sliced potatoes, and then d) topping the whole thing with a creamy mixture of feta, ricotta, and yogurt.
While my family liked the flavor, they reacted to the big slices of eggplant in the bottom layer so next time I’ll grill the eggplant, chop it into small pieces, and add it directly to the meat sauce.
Barbecued lentils and eggplant: I served this on buns like sloppy Joe’s — aka Sloppy Judy’s — but we all agreed we’d prefer it over rice. (Later I ate some of the leftovers spooned over a cheesy burger patty atop buttered sourdough toast, swoooooon.)
My favorite, though, was the black pepper tofu and eggplant, tofu being another food that I’ve hardly ever eaten and thought I mostly didn’t like.
Which is kind of funny, really: that the combination of the two most un-like-ly foods combined to create something utterly delectable is why cooking never ceases to intrigue and amaze me. Hit it just right and it’s pure magic.
This afternoon I’m getting more tofu so I can make it again. My family wasn’t keen on this dish (inexplicably, they’ve never really taken to Asian flavors), but I don’t even care.
I’ll be more than happy to eat this for days on end.
Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (recipe recommendation from Anna via Facebook).
I got my tofu from our local co-op: the Wildwood brand.
Minced green onions would be a lovely and delicious garnish. Also, consider serving this with grilled onions and sweet peppers (ones that were dipped into herby, garlicky olive oil prior to grilling), as seen above.
A full half cup of soy sauce was too salty for my taste; thus the reason for subbing in with a bit of water.
This is one of those dishes that, while you can eat it immediately (and you will because it’s impossible to wait!), actually improves with time. After a day or two in the fridge, the flavors meld and intensify. Consider your menu planning accordingly.
I think I’m going to try oven roasting some extra eggplant and then freezing it so I can make this dish in the winter. Eggplant Experts: do you think it will work to roast, and then freeze, eggplant?
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into cubes
14-16 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup neutral oil, like canola, divided
4 tablespoons butter
1 red or yellow onion (about 1 cup), cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced sweet red pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons finely minced ginger
soy sauce and water to equal ½ cup (I used 6 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablepoons water)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, and maybe even more
Set the tofu on a paper towel-lined plate. Put more paper towels on top. Let drain for 5-10 minutes, partway through replacing the wet paper towels with fresh and setting a second plate on top of the tofu since removing all the moisture helps the tofu fry better. Cut the tofu into cubes. Toss with the tablespoon of cornstarch and a bit of salt.
In a separate bowl, toss the chopped eggplant with a tablespoon of oil and a bit of salt.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and put a large,sided baking sheet in the oven. Once the oven is hot, remove the pan and coat the bottom with 3 tablespoons of oil. Tumble the eggplant onto one half of the pan and the tofu onto the other half. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the pieces (try to get color on at least two sides of each piece, but it doesn’t have to be perfect) and roast for another 5-10 minutes.
For the sauce:
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and sweet pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and black pepper and simmer for several more minutes. Add the tofu and eggplant and cook for another couple minutes. Add more black pepper.
Serve hot over white rice. Pass the hot sauce.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.5.19), in the kitchen, the quotidian (8.6.18), Murch Mania 2017, knife in the eye, glazed lemon zucchini cake, cheesy herb pizza, the end, the quotidian (8.6.12), caramelized cherry tomatoes.