I will miss the smell of my baby’s head. He’s hot as 100, asleep in the crook of my arm. I’m pretty sure it’s the flu everyone’s in a panic about. John’s had it for a good four days, and I have the sense I’m just waiting my turn (that’s the farmer’s pessimism in my bones talking), glad at least I’m well enough to take care while John’s so ill. And I hate for G to be sick like this, but I’m grateful for this chance to hold my forty pound electric blanket of a baby while he sleeps. I type with one hand, just as I’ve done so many times nursing the boys. From the next room I hear John and Jonah watching the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow fight the forces of evil. The roar of it vibrates the couch.
His hair smells like lavender and almond oil. My arm is damp and salty. Together we steam like warm tortillas. He moans as he wakes, clearly miserable, but Jonah gets a laugh out of him by repeatedly running forward and backward across the room. In his striped pajamas (and the fast-forward way he moves) he could be straight out of a silent movie jailbreak scene. When his show devolves into a full out manic crash-for-all, I suggest a walk.
Because I’ve been confined to the house and its vicinity, needing to be near, we’ve been eating slow-cook soups; I even found it in me to bake, which I haven’t done for awhile. The credit goes to Martha Rose Shulman at the New York Times for coming up with this outstanding recipe. It only has a cup of gluten free flour mix and includes almond meal (I make my own in the mini food processor) and buckwheat flour. Chocolate Banana Muffins you’d never know were gluten free. I bet you could even just swap out the GF flour for wheat and they’d make just as tasty a (semi-nutritious) treat. I used the approximate cup measures because I don’t have a scale, and they turned out just fine. Dense (in a good way) and rich but not too sweet. The chocolate chips are key.
These dark chocolate muffins taste more extravagant than they are. Cacao—raw chocolate—is considered by many to be a super food. It is high in antioxidants and an excellent source of magnesium, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, and copper. It is also a good source of omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin C.
75 grams (approximately 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
75 grams (approximately 3/4 cup) almond powder (also known as almond flour)
140 grams (approximately 1 cup) whole grain or all-purpose gluten-free flour mix*
32 grams (approximately 6 tablespoons) dark cocoa powder
10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder
5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
3.5 grams (rounded 1/2 teaspoon) salt
100 grams (approximately 1/2 cup) raw brown sugar or packed light brown sugar
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
120 grams (1/2 cup) plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk
5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
330 grams ripe bananas (peeled weight), about 3 medium, mashed (1 1/4 cups)
115 grams (about 2/3 cup) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate
*For the gluten-free flour mix I used 98 grams (about 2/3 cup) rice flour and 42 grams — about 1/3 cup — of a mix of cornstarch and potato starch)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter muffin tins. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour in any bits that remain in the sifter.
2. In another large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment beat together the oil and sugar until creamy. Beat in the eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the yogurt or buttermilk, the vanilla and the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed or whisk gently until combined. If using a mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Fold in the chocolate chips.
3. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes, until a muffin springs back lightly when touched. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and place on a rack. I like these best served warm, but if they don’t release easily allow them to cool, then remove from the tins.
Yield: 16 muffins (1/3 cup capacity)
Got so excited about sharing those muffins that I forgot to tell you about the soup. It’s easy peasy simple. The only thing you have to remember is to soak the garbanzo beans the night before. The soup is called revithosoupa (in Greek: ρεβιθόσουπα, pronounced reh-vee-THOH-soo-pah) and consists of about six ingredients. Good olive oil is key (I think I used a little less than the cup called for), and the amount of lemon juice depends on your taste (or the degree to which your head cold is affecting your judgment). Use dried garbanzo beans if at all possible. They are essential to the integrity of the broth, which is simply bean juice, olive oil and lemon. So far it’s kept the flu off, though I’d also attribute that to the mercy of God knowing what I can (can’t) handle. Speaking of, I’ve been informed by a source in the know that revithosoupa is a staple in Greek monastic cuisine, and Greek cuisine in general. There’s a myriad of recipes out there. This is what I came up with, borrowing from several.
1 lb. of chickpeas
2 finely chopped onions
6-8 cloves minced garlic
Leaves of one bunch of celery, chopped
2/3 –3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
*optional: several strands of saffron
The night before, soak the garbanzo beans in a bowl with plenty of water (they will double in size). Drain and rinse well.
Place the chickpeas in a large pot and cover with water (water should be one inch or so higher than the beans—you can always add more water as you go) and bring to a boil. As the water boils, skim off the foam that forms on the top. Reduce heat and simmer.
1. Heat 1-2 T. olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onions until soft. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Add oregano, celery leaves and saffron*.
2. Add sauté mix to garbanzo beans. Cover and simmer until tender (1–2 hours, depending on how fresh your garbanzo beans are), stirring occasionally, until beans are soft and tender. Note: you may need to add some more water if you have to cook them longer than 2 hours as previously dried chickpeas generally take longer to completely cook through.
3. Add remaining olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve hot (or cold if you like) with parsley garnish.
Don’t be fooled by appearances. What this soup lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste. Toothsome, brothy, rich and nourishing. Here’s to simple food and simple days of wiping noses, holding babies (“Need a hug mama! I want to sit on yo wap!”) and watching the snow fall and fall (we won’t think about shoveling just now)…