Living With Poetry | The Kindness of Strangers + Pumpkin Hummus

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Living with Poetry is an occasional series where we explore how poetry infuses our everyday lives. Catch up with past features here.

The morning of October 18th, my alarm went off at 5:45 am. I washed my face and dressed in a rush, then started the car before the sun came up. I had an hour's drive ahead of me to the hospital where my mom was having surgery that morning.

When I saw her, she requested something healthy for lunch, so I strolled the farmer's market (conveniently located at the hospital) looking for a few things to pick up for her. A woman selling hummus gave me samples. I told her it was for my mom who was in surgery, and that I'd probably be back in a bit to choose something. 

When I returned, she asked how my mom was, and suggested tabbouleh because the parsley would be easy to digest. Also, a pumpkin hummus that would be healthy and comforting.  

A nurse standing at the hospital entrance asking if we'd gotten our flu shots yet. A volunteer reminding everyone in the waiting room that the market would close at 1 pm. And a woman selling more than 10 varieties of hummus on a typical Friday morning, sweet enough to ask how your mom is doing. 

There is poetry in kindness, don't you think?


You can make this taste more like pumpkin pie, but I prefer a lighter hand with the warm spices. Just a pinch is all you need. If you'd like to increase the spice, start small, taste, and add more until it tastes right to you.

2 cups garbanzo beans
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup water
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg

Add everything to the food processor and let it run for several minutes, until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

New York Times Haiku + Pepperonata and Goat Cheese Crostini


Earlier this year, The New York Times launched a haiku project. Have you seen it? Bravo to the computer coders who created an algorithm that scans the home page for phrases with 17 syllables, then uploads them to a Tumblr feed. The result is a playful take on the news that I've very much enjoyed browsing through.  

Several food haiku's have emerged, so naturally, I've been itching to feature one here. Last month, one of my very favorite food blogs, Rachel Eats, posted about pepperonata, a combination of peppers, onions, and tomatoes cooked until a rich and sweet sauce is created.

"There is a moment of stove top alchemy when you make peperonata. It’s when – having softened the sliced onion in butter and oil – you add the sliced red peppers and cover the pan. In just a matter of minutes the crisp, taut slices of pepper surrender their abundant juices and then proceed swim and soften in their own juices: a deep pool of cardinal red stock." -Rachel Roddy


I couldn't wait to make it, but there were still another five days until I could walk to the market, basket in hand, and gather my provisions. It was agony. 

The timing couldn't have been better, though, because this is how I like to eat this time of year. A platter of a few things set out before the sun goes down, a glass of rose nearby, perhaps some music playing. Just lingering. Nibbling on a bite of prosciutto or melon before walking back into the kitchen to give something a stir. 

Now that Sunday's meal was settled, I revisited my list of favorite haiku's, and the one below caught my eye. It's pulled from a recipe for mushroom bruschetta, lovely in its own right, but with pepperonata fresh in my mind, it paired perfectly.  

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Pepperonata and Goat Cheese Crostini

Last month I waited every so patiently for Sunday when I could go to the market and scoop up the peppers and tomatoes I needed for this dish. (I also picked up a silky, local goat cheese. The mild tang paired beautifully with the sweetness of the vegetables.

Tomatoes! They're finally here, and for their 2013 debut in my kitchen, I'd say we're off to a wonderful season. This recipe lends itself to a variety of adaptations, like using the pepperonata to top a pizza, or as a spread for a roast beef sandwich.

Adapted every so slightly from Rachel Eats

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, sliced
4 large red peppers, seeded and ribs removed, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 a baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2-4 ounces goat cheese

Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the onion. Give it a stir and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions have softened. Add the peppers, another pinch of salt, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are exceedingly tender and have started to melt into the rich tomato sauce. You'll know when it's done. The pepperonata will be deep red and glossy, and the tomato skins will collapse at the touch of a wooden spoon.

While the pepperonata cools, prepare the crostini. Heat an oven to 450 degrees and assemble the bread on a sheet pan. Drizzle with some olive oil, then bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp and the edges are brown.

Serve pepperonata alongside the crostini and soft goat cheese.