Monday, December 26, 2016

Assassin Photo

On December the 19th at a gallery in Ankara Turkey, Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was attending an exhibition entitled, From Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, from the eyes of travelers that featured photos from Russia's Baltic region to the Kamchatka Peninsula. He was giving a speech about his love of country when a young man, dressed in a suit and tie shot him from behind, killing him.

The image above was taken at this event and it popped onto my computer screen when I went on The New York Times website and when I saw it, it made me gasp aloud. The image shows the true horror of this event but the image itself startled me more then just that reason alone. It made me think about ‘art’, not only because the setting is in a gallery but because of its composition and the affect that images have on art and within larger dialectic and philosophic thought.

The image is not a reproduction, it is a photograph of an actual event. It is an actual body on the floor and the gunman is a real person, not a simulacrum. So why then does this image feel like ‘art’ in such a bizarre and knowing way? Some people have written poorly crafted responses to this image in relationship to art and art history but I think that there should be deeper evaluation. This image is evocative not just as a tool for comparing old masters or corporate Americana within art historic contexts in relationship to current events. Rather it can be used as an example of a larger meaning of how an ‘image’ functions and how that infers a larger condition within art and culture.

An obvious starting point is to think about Walter Benjamin’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936). This is still a cornerstone in how we think about art and the dissemination of the images. There is an unpublished second introduction to this book from 1935-36 that holds compelling overlaps to his larger concepts within that book and I will use it as a beginners text to talk about this image further.

What makes this image so startling? One, the composition, two, the pristine clarity of focus and setting, three, the position of the viewer via the photographer. These three factors can be dissected excessively but for the sake of this format I will condense them. Essentially this image has all the elements of the postmodern image. It is a perfect sort of image in that it looks directed but it is not. It is everything that we expect of an image that is replaying this sort of scene but the fact that it is not a staged act but the actual makes the uncanny feel surreal. 

Surreal – this is the word of the year as declared by Mariam Webster Dictionary and this image gives another notch onto why that is so. Looking at this image is like an echo chamber of all the visual keys and knowledge that you have been trained to decipher. For people who are especially tuned into the act of critically looking and dissecting art, this image is even more unsettling because it is beyond cliché, it is real. That reality is unsettling because it both undermines yet confirms how overlapping farce and reality truly are. Without the lack of clear irony, the conditioned responses we are familiar with employing when faced with such an image dissipates, leaving us nothing to grasp firmly onto.

Let's think about this in regards to Benjamin. He speaks about the idea of the authentic, “In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking: the here and now of the work of art – its unique existence in a particular place.” (21) He goes on to discuss how through the idea of reproduction the veracity of what is “authentic” is displaced as it is detached from the real aka place and time. This also links to his idea of the art object having an “aura” as he describes it, “What, then, is the aura? A strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be.” (23) So, let’s think back to this image. This is set in real time and space and the dissemination of this image and the facts and the events surrounding it are located not in a distanced time or space but in a near immediacy. Yes, there are perhaps minutes to hours delays in the transmission of the facts surround the event/image but as soon as the image is shared it is concrete.

The image acts as a fact in a deeper way and it flips the way Benjamin, in some ways, posits the idea of a reproduction. This image is not a reproduction but a form of evidence. But this image does not stay attached only to the contextualizing details of words. As soon as the words overcomes the image, the evidence that is the image can detach itself and have a second life as a form of a reproduction. “By replicating the work many times over, it substitutes a mass existence for a unique existence.” (22) This is why this image resonates with us because it is so familiar. It reminds us of other things we have seen reproduced in the form of art and images. This replication is collectively recognized and becomes a script for behavior for the fictional (movies, TV, art) and the actual.

The young man who shot Karlov had a name, Meulut Mert Altintas. This hasn't been discussed much in the news because what mattered more were his image and his words. He was an off duty Turkish police officer and the quoted words he is said to have said were, “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” These are the words that explain motivation. Before he shoots Karlov, there is a video showing Mert Altintas pensively standing behind Karlov in the gallery space. He is trim, young, clean-shaven, handsome and wearing a well fitting black suit, white shirt and slim black tie. He looks like he belongs there. Perhaps he is a bodyguard, perhaps he works for the gallery. He looks official yet unthreatening because he looks modern, calm, patient. There are other photographs and videos that reveal what happens but throughout, and this image as well, there is a sense of embodiment of character. He is an assassin. He knows he is going to shoot this man. He knows that he will have some time right after he does this to say words he means to say. He knows that he will die because of this.

I am not implying that this act was done for the sake of performativity. Mert Altintas wanted to enact a form of justice that had impact and meaning for him. He killed a life and lost his own in exchange. These are real people. Real bodies. Real lives. But even in this violent act there is the requirement for the audience, the news, the photographer ready for the shot.

Here is another name not being discussed much in the news, Burhan Ozbilici. He was the photographer that took this image and others surrounding this event. He is interviewed here and he talks about why he took these images. What is also unsettling to think about is the nature of the photographer’s role. In many reprints of this image the caption does not even mention his name but rather it simply says “AP” meaning Associated Press.

This idea of authorship being owned not by the person photographing but property of a larger organization is also bizarre. This speaks back to the idea of the collective and how image, reproduction and the narratives of culture and history are constructed. “Just as the entire mode of existence of human collectives changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception.”(23) Is taking images of assassinations, war, trauma, and death a monopoly of image hording and luck? Was Mert Altintas’ objectives made more potent and more ‘successful’ in his intentions because ‘AP’ photographer Ozbilici happened to pop into the gallery because it was on his way home? “The cameraman’s performance with the lens no more creates an artwork than a conductor’s with the baton; at most, it creates an artistic performance.” (29) Again, this is not saying both held these intentions but our understanding of these strategies makes the even unintended feel prescriptive.

So, let’s look at this image again. It is fascinating because it is morbid. It is fascinating because it feels so fake but is so real. It is fascinating because we know it is reality but it feels surreal. Looking at this image makes the act of looking and the ways of thinking about how one perceives reality and perception via images feel like a mirrored upside-down world. We keep looping, looping, looping back into ourselves and we no longer know what began it all and where it will end. This very feeling of the gyroscopic is forcing us to freeze. Freeze from shock, freeze from nausea, but freeze nonetheless and hopefully it will make us who look and think about the meaning of art, images, violence and culture with even more criticality and analysis.

I will leave you with some unsettling words by Marinetti in his Futurist manifesto about war:

For twenty-seven years, we Futurists have rebelled against the idea that war is anti-aesthetic…We therefore state…War is beautiful because- thanks to its gas masks, its terrifying megaphones, its flame throwers, and light tanks- it established man’s dominion over the subjugated machine. War is beautiful because it inaugurates the dreamed-of metallization of the human body. War is beautiful because it combines gunfire, barrages, cease-fires, scents, and the fragrance of petrification into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like those armored tanks, geometric squadrons of aircraft, spirals of smoke from burning villages, and much more… Poets and artists of Futurism, remember these principles of an aesthetic of war, that they may illuminate…your struggles for a new poetry and a new sculpture!

Think clearly and deeply my friends. The image is a powerful thing and so is art. The things we inherit are the things we become and repeat.

Benjamin, Walter, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, second version, in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings, trans. Jephcott, Edmund, Livingston, Rodney, Eailand, Howard, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2008.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Yeah, I Want Presents

Even though I act like I don’t care about the holidays, I’m no Scrooge. I love giving presents and tapping along to holiday music and going to holiday parties and being ‘festive’ and all that. I’m literally wearing flannel right now. Flannel. Yuck usually but today it makes me feel like a winter hiker even if it’s being accessorized with heeled boots and a fuzzy faux fur vest. The holidays make socializing even denser then usual but it also puts into stark light the coupled hole that is my dating life. Yup, still single and actually sort of into it but it would be really convenient to get some more gifts if I had a romantic plus one. Materialistic, possibly, but who doesn’t like getting gifts? No one.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive, but they require exchanges of time. Time to think about them, time to get them, time to do them etc. Labor, time, and affection are inextricably linked. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of doing this but in the end it does have meaning and value. 

With that in mind I’m going to share with you my wish list. These aren’t only gifts that a lover would give but everyone around me, myself included, are poor lil’ babies at the moment so these are wishes for when times get more swish and monies more disposable. Enjoy the act if giving and of receiving and whatever you do, try to wrap it with love.

Cleaver – A cleaver knife is the most underrated knife in the knife box. They are versatile and you look extra unhinged when yielding it while you pretend to be a psycho.

Perfume – Wearing perfume is an art in a way. When you find a scent that you love, and loves you back, it’s like putting on fancy underwear. Scent and memory are animalistically linked and this is one tool that we can literally be a walking triggers for. Currently looking for a winter scent. Recommendations welcome.

Sheets – Fancy, white, insane thread count.

Food Jars – I buy from bulk bins at the food co-op and I like glass jars. I’m a secret crunchy hippy, always.

Diamond Ring – I have never had a diamond anything and I’m like so not getting married so I just want one to confuse people and to go ‘ohhhhh, ahhhh’ to while I type.

Radio – Vintage one that will perpetually be on WNYC or a new-fangled digital one that can stream music and WNYC.

Pans – Notice a kitchen theme here? Having really good, solid pans is life. Cooper ones are amazing but down for whatever.

Winter Hat – I want a big fuzzy, furry (not real fur) hat that makes me look like a snow princess who has magical powers and a really warm head.

Earrings – I can only wear 14k gold in my ears and I lose them all the time via romping in bed and it’s expensive and most 14k earrings are ugly and why is life so hard.

Cat Tower – Loving my cats = loving me.

Ikebana Vases – Can everyone I know who can make vessels/vases of any sort make me an ikebana vessel/vase? I’ll make you an arrangement and cook you food in exchange.

Winter Jaunt – Someone take me anywhere for a few days. Just arrange it all and let me caboose mindlessly and create adventures.

Michelin Meal – Still have not eaten at a Michelin star restaurant. :,,(

Lamps – Over the last few years I have realized how important lighting is to domestic interiors. So so important.

Watch – I haven’t worn a watch in ages but I think it would be nice. Dainty and efficient.

Money – So I can give to NGOs, non-profits, and friends in need.

Socks – So basic but how is it possible that you have a drawer of socks but feel like you have zero clean socks all the damn time?

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

Are you looking for a book to read during these coming holiday days? If so, I recommend reading Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince, [Penguin Books] which was first published in 1973. It is a bizarre love story but more then that, the way in which it is told, the construction of the narrative voice, is interesting and fresh. Perhaps ‘fresh’ isn’t the best word for it. It’s more like a slap of ice water or a wringing of sorts but nonetheless it creates a level of perplexity and piques questions of psychology.

The story is about Bradley Pearson and his cluster of friends and situations that spurn out of these relationships. The course of the story’s events is very short. There are no chapters and the events build into a staccato of climaxes. There are friendships, old loves, new loves, revelations of domestic interiors, horrors, and dramas. The players in the story are few. Bradley – writer of fifty eight who is an unactualized writer, happily unencumbered by familial obligations, self-taught intellectual. Arnold – Bradley’s friend and former pupil of sorts, a successful writer of popular but dull novels, father and husband. Rachel – Arnold’s wife, middle aged, lonely. Priscilla – Bradley’s sister, hysteric because of failed marriage, frail. Christian – Bradley’s ex-wife, successful and stylish, motives vague. Francis – Christian’s brother, failed doctor, becomes Bradley’s friend (in a way). Julian – Daughter of Arnold and Rachel, naive yet alluring, flighty.

These very few characters and their relationships with each other unravel a bizarre love story. It’s like Lolita but more English and claustrophobic. The story begin told is interesting in itself but as mentioned the way it is being told is what makes this novel have another quality. It is being presented as a book written by Bradley in confessional first person. He always speaks directly to the reader and goes into extreme nuances about his psychology. There is re-told dialogue but the whole time you are reading it you are ever aware that it is a retelling. The novel is built on the asides, the soliloquies that are Bradley’s interpretations.

The constancy of self-reflection and singular perspective would make one think that they would side or empathize with the narrator, Bradley, but this doesn’t necessarily happen. At times you can’t help but feel resentful of this narration and to see the flaws of the one who is relaying them.

This is even more compacted by the nature of the characters who are all squeezed into archetypes. This is not a new thing. We are all some variation of an archetype but the way in which the characters are conveyed, through the mind’s eye of Bradley, leaves little room for alternate complexities. The book fully reveals this though and uses this to make the viewer wary of what is being provided as proof throughout the story.

When you think about how one thinks about situations, events, people, moments lived and witnessed it is an act of complete self-absorption. The idea that all these things have a multitude of perceptions is understood conceptually but the practice of it in one’s actual life/mind is far different. We see what we see. We believe what we believe. We feel what we feel. As much as we are creatures who need and desire empathy and exteriority, in a strange way we are not built for it. Not fully. Not actually. The singularity of perception and the tools and manners in which we try to foil this by reading, listening, trying to understand another person is limited and perhaps futile. Even the idea of having a child or having someone that you truly love is just an extension of the ‘you’.

This book manages to reveal this while also taking you on a sort of emotional caper that is lilted with English quips and eccentricities. There are no heroes, villains or lessons learned. It is all reflections/retellings but from an unreliable source because that source is one voice, one memory, one point of view. The book is framed to be a meta-embrace of this as the ending will show and that makes the whole thing even more unctuous and clever.

What I am getting at is that this book was a thrill to read but also so dreary due to its fixative qualities. You felt wholly involved yet there was always this glass between you and the room, the smells, the people, the story. This created a sense of curiosity but also total disbelief of what and why you even cared in the first place.

To be able to do both, to be fully absorbed but also annoyed with a book is a real feat. Murdoch was a prolific writer of various forms. Her mastery of character and her wit of form is revealed in the complicating presentation of The Black Prince and it makes you wonder what else she is capable of.

Whatever was happening, I couldn’t put it down. If you want to read about love, murder and the quibbling’s of the heart, then read this and be satisfied and frustrated all at once. I will leave you now with a passage I found revealing and gives a glean into the way that Bradley enforces his perception on you as a reader and how you, although grudgingly don't want to admit it, totally and completely agree.

“Later, when I imagined I knew more about ‘love’, I decided that my feelings about Christian was ‘just’ overwhelming sexual attraction, plus a curious element of obsession. It was as if I had known Christian as a real woman in some previous incarnation, and we were now reliving, perhaps as a punishment, some doomed perverted spiritual pattern. (I suspect there are many such couples.) Or as if she had died long before and come back to me as a demon lover. Demon lovers are always relentless, however kind in life. And it was sometimes as I could ‘remember’ Christian’s kindness, though all now was spite and demonry. It was not that she was unusually, though she was sometimes grossly cruel. She was a spoiler, a needler, an underminer, a diminisher, simply by instinct. And I was Siamese-twinned to her mind. We reeled about joined together at the head.” (p.84)

Monday, December 5, 2016


Thinking not possible today. Here are recipes instead.

Share a meal with a friend this week if you can!

Pan-Baked Lemon-Almond Tart

4 eggs
½ to ¾ cup sugar (according to personal taste)
 Pinch of salt
½ cup ground almonds
½ cup cream
½ cup sliced almonds, more for garnish
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, ground almonds, cream, sliced almonds, lemon zest and juice.

Melt butter in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat; when foam has subsided, add almond mixture to pan, tilting pan to distribute batter evenly. Continue to cook tart on stovetop until edges just begin to set, then put pan in oven and finish cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

When tart is done, put it in broiler for about a minute or until just golden on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Serve.

Fish Stew With Mediterranean Flavors

4 large garlic cloves, cut in half, green shoots removed
4 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
 Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
1 quart water
1 pound small new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered or sliced
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper
1 to 1 ½ pounds firm white-fleshed fish such as halibut, tilapia, Pacific cod or black cod, cut in 2-inch pieces

Place the garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mortar and pestle, and mash to a paste. Add the anchovy fillets and mash with the garlic. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion, celery and carrot with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the pureed garlic and anchovy. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is very fragrant, about one minute, and then add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit and the mixture smells aromatic, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the water, potatoes, salt (to taste) and the bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Taste, adjust salt and add pepper to taste. Remove the bouquet garni.

Season the fish with salt and pepper, and stir into the soup. The soup should not be boiling. Simmer five to 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets) or just until it flakes easily when poked. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, taste once more, adjust seasonings and serve.

Vegetable Torte

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
 freshly ground black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
½ cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put a grill pan over medium-high heat, or prepare a grill; the heat should be medium-high, and the rack about 4 inches from flame. Brush eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms lightly with half the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; if roasting, grease 2 baking sheets with oil. Roast or grill vegetables on both sides until soft.
Coat bottom and sides of 8-inch springform pan with oil. Layer a third of the eggplant slices into bottom of the pan, then layer in half the zucchini, mushrooms, tomato, garlic and basil, sprinkling each layer with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat layers until all vegetable are used. Press the top with a spatula or spoon to make the torte as compact as possible. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and bread crumbs, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon oil.

Bake torte in oven until hot throughout and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing outer ring of pan, then let cool for another 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Pork Chops With Brandied Cherries
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick, about 1 pound each
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons brandy
2 cups fresh sweet or sour cherries, pitted and halved
4 sprigs thyme, plus thyme leaves for garnish
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar or honey, or more to taste (use the vinegar with the sweet cherries, the honey with the sour cherries)

Combine salt, garam masala, pepper and allspice in a small bowl. Rub mixture all over pork chops, covering their entire surface. Let chops rest for 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 24 hours, covered, in the refrigerator.

Heat a 10-inch skillet at medium-high. Add oil. Sear pork chops until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add garlic to pan, then sear the fatty edges of the chops, using tongs to hold them up, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute each. (Flip the garlic after it browns on one side.) If the pan starts to smoke at any point, lower the heat. Transfer the pork to a plate, and spoon off all but a thin layer of fat from pan. (Leave garlic in the pan.)

Add brandy to pan, let it simmer until the alcohol burns off (about 30 seconds), then add cherries, thyme and 2 tablespoons water. Let simmer for 1 minute.

Move cherries to the sides of the pan and return pork chops to the center so they can make contact with the metal. Cover pan and cook over low heat for about 7 minutes, until meat reaches 130 to 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (its temperature will rise as it rests). Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add butter and vinegar or honey to the pan, stirring until butter melts and coats the cherries. Taste and add more honey or vinegar, and salt as needed. Serve pork with cherries and more thyme on top.

Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
6 to 8 chicken legs and/or thighs, skinned
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice, pulsed in a food processor
½ teaspoon cinnamon
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
12 kalamata olives (about 45 grams), rinsed, pitted and cut in half (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pieces to a plate or bowl as they’re browned. Pour off the fat from the pan. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it is lightly browned and very soft.

Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly and fragrant.

Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and kalamata olives and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is just about falling off the bone. Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with grains, with the feta sprinkled on top if desired.

Greek Baked Beans With Honey and Dill

1 pound dried large lima beans or white beans, soaked if necessary for six hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water and drained (limas require no soaking)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, preferably a sweet red onion, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons honey, such as clover or acacia
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
 freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup, loosely packed, chopped fresh dill

Combine the drained beans and water to cover by 3 inches in a large, oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium size, heavy skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

After 30 minutes, drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the remaining olive oil, the tomatoes and the liquid in the can, bay leaf, honey, and 2 cups water or enough to just cover the beans. Stir in the onion, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven. Bake one hour, stirring often and adding water if necessary. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, until the beans are tender and the mixture is thick.

Stir in the dill, cover and let sit 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with thick slices of country bread.

Provençal Fish Stew

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
 Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup niçoise or oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 or 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound spinach
2 cups fish or vegetable stock, or water
 Pinch red chile flakes (optional)
8 ounces squid, roughly chopped
8 ounces shrimp, roughly chopped

Drain chickpeas. If you used dried, reserve cooking liquid; if they are canned, discard the liquid and rinse the chickpeas. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re crisp and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet; increase heat to medium-high. When oil is hot, add garlic, olives, capers and anchovies. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, a minute or two. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until it darkens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.

Start adding spinach a handful at a time; keep stirring until all the spinach fits in the pan and starts to release its water; sprinkle with a little more pepper, then add the stock, chickpeas and red chile flakes if you’re using them. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily, then stir in the squid and the shrimp. Cook until the seafood is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve.

Tarte Tatin

6 to 8 large, firm-fleshed apples, preferably Braeburn, or use a mix of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith
6 tablespoons/80 grams salted butter, very soft
 cup/135 grams granulated or light brown sugar
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 8 ounces (store-bought is fine)

At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small sharp knife to trim the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter; don’t worry about being too neat. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. (This key step reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.)

When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 if using convection). Thickly coat the bottom of a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.

Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.

On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet. Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry around the apple pieces, hugging them together firmly.
Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes (if the juices keep rising, spoon out as needed to remain level with pastry). If necessary, raise the heat so that the juices are at a boil. Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.

Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.

Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.