Monday, June 16, 2008
J-U-N-E spells Relief
It was a busy spring semester: prepping kids for the AP exam, getting married, catching up after honeymooning. It was a long last month of school: getting the seniors to raise their grades in order to graduate, contacting lots of parents of kids who weren't making the grade, and many, many meetings. It was a hard last week: finishing up grades and all the tying-up-loose-ends of the schoolyear, a long day ending in graduation, and clearing out the entire classroom.
But now, all of that is done. Whew.
Every year, I finish the year running primarily on caffeine and the fear of not completing everything I need to complete by the time grades are due. It seems like the year starts slowly rolling along, a gradual movement towards learning and skill growth, but by the end, it careens madly and I can barely keep the paperwork, meetings, and grading in check. But, somehow I do, and I survive each year. Mid-June rolls around, the seniors graduate, and everything stops.
Except this year, the seniors weren't the only ones to graduate. This week, two friends graduated from very different, but both very vigorous masters programs. So Friday night, the night I usually cry with the relief of everything finally being done, E celebrated her graduation with a bowling party. The next day, I attended RWWs graduation during the day and his early-evening-into-the-early-morning barbecue.
Saturday night was a warm night, and the Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) heralded RWWs graduation with its sweet melody of perfume.
Behind the Angel's Trumpet, we sat around a picnic table, and ate the marinated lamb skewers and grilled vegetables that RWW had prepared. We topped everything with cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, and yogurt all mixed together with a swirl of olive oil and sea salt. We smeared hummus on fresh pita, and we drank wine. Everything was wonderful, but what was beyond wonderful, beyond the heady sweetness of the Brugmansia and the buzz of the good wine, but just shy of the joy of finally completing school (for the summer for me, perhaps forever for RWW), were the chickpeas and chard.
Did I just say chickpeas? And chard? Oh yes, I certainly did. RWW's chickpeas and chard are amazing, made from the last of the chard from his garden and alliums collected from his own yard; he's taken this simple recipe and made it simpler, more his own.
Roasted Chickpeas and Chard
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Almost meaty in its savory combination of chewy and tender, this is a side-dish (or main-dish, if you prefer) for people, like the graduates you know, who have earned a very good meal. The addition of fennel seed adds an essential sweetness and cuts the richness of the olive-oil-doused, earthy greens and beans.
For the beans:
2 15.5 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed OR 3 cups of garbanzo beans you've cooked yourself
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large shallots
3 bay leaves, preferably fresh (or 1 1/2 torn California bay leaves collected from a local canyon)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the chard:
2 bunches Swiss chard, washed well and still wet, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the side dish:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the first five ingredients in a 8x8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast the mixture until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes.
Just before the beans finish up, begin the chard half of the dish. In a large dutch oven or other large pot, dump the damp Swiss chard. Cover the pot and cook on medium high until the chard is tender, about 10 minutes. (You should have enough residual water left on the leaves to cook them, but if you're in doubt, you may want to add a splash of water to prevent scorching. You need just enough to steam the greens, but you don't want it to be at all soupy.)
When the garbanzos are finished, drain the beans, reserving the oil. Dump the beans into the large pot where you cooked the chard. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of the reserved oil into the pot as well, and toss everything together until the mixture is evenly combined. Taste the mixture for salt, pepper, and oil—add as much of any of these ingredients as taste buds demand. Serve the mixture hot or at room temperature, whatever the weather requires.
Eat this on a warm night when you have nothing better to do than to enjoy the company of friends and family.