Ricotta rosemary tart with two toppings: smoked gouda, pear and pecan or brie, castelvetrano olive and pine nut

Smoked gouda bosc pear tart

Smoked gouda bosc pear tart

Yesterday, in a characteristically glib and off-handed fashion, I started a discussion about fate and choices, and how they shape our lives and our history. My friend Tony responded with some thoughtful comments, which I thought about as we drove home late at night through fields so bright with full-moonshine they seemed snow-covered. A metaphor slowly developed in my slow brain, and as I mulled it over, the metaphor expanded and evolved, and it started to make more and more sense to me as a way to explain ideas I may have clumsily set out in yesterday’s post. Never one to shy away from stretching an extended metaphor as far is it can possibly go, I’ve decided to share it with you here. Tony brought the specter of Hitler to the discussion. Because nothing makes sense when you think about the scale of Nazi atrocities – neither fate nor free will. Here’s how I responded, and how this giant metaphor was born.

    The way I see it history is like a tapestry, and we’re all madly weaving away at our little portion of it, and making some sort of pattern that makes sense sometimes and makes less sense others. Sometimes we start out in wrong directions, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we can fix them and cover it up or make a new pattern, sometimes not. So Hitler is the result of an infinite number of choices that his ancestors made, for centuries and centuries, down to his mother and father. Every single tiny choice they made every day of their lives resulted in Adolph Hitler’s existence, and not one of them could have had any idea how that would turn out. They were weaving a pattern in their portion of the tapestry, and when we look at it from miles above the fabric, and many years on in history, we see the pattern and the tragedy of it, but at the time, even after Hitler’s rise to power and the millions of people that made stupid, scared, even evil choices to follow him or not question him, even after that, they might not have seen the pattern that was forming, so close in it, as they were, so busy making it as time flew by them. And so concerned with the millions of other choices in their day-to-day lives that distracted them from the bigger picture, as we see it so clearly now.

Well, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes to me–this idea of history or fate (depending on which way you look at it) being a sort of tapestry. From the beginning of time people have been weaving their own small portion, aware of people working nearby, but incapable of seeing the larger picture they’re all making together until much later in life. They know from the first that they have a pattern to follow, but there’s no clear plan for it, no diagram, they make it up as they go along, trying one thing or another until it makes sense. They might be following a pattern that their parents taught them, or copying from the people working close by. Various shapes and colors will come into and go out of fashion–some will notice and follow, others will not. My father is a historian, and I once did some work copyediting a textbook he cowrote–an overview of world history. It was remarkable to me the way that these sweeping events would overtake humanity every few hundred years: wars, natural disasters, famine, plagues. These formed huge, horrible changes in the pattern that everybody was weaving, but they couldn’t have known at the time. Most of this was beyond the control of ordinary people, struggling to make their part of the tapestry as beautiful as possible. It made it hard for them to weave, or stopped them weaving at all. Caught up in the struggle of keeping ourself and our family alive, so deeply close to it and inside of it, we’re caught unaware by these waves of change sweeping over the tapestry. And as people make a decision to use a certain color, or continue in a certain direction, they’re thinking what’s best for them at that time, they’re making narrow decisions based on survival and their idea of success. (Hitler is an interesting example of this, I think…the decisions he made might have been considered smart for him at the time, because in terms of his career and his ambition, he might have been considered highly successful, up to a certain point. In the view of people around him…well, I don’t want to go on about Hitler too much. I’m not sure he belongs on a stupid food blog.)
Looking back at my own little piece of the tapestry, it’s funny how it’s worn through in parts, so that I can’t even remember what the pattern was like there, when it was fresh. I just have some memory of the color of my mood at the time. Was I blue? Was I rosy? Was I working in golden thread or gloomy grey? And parts of it are folded up on itself so I see them as clearly as the patches I’m working on now, but it’s never the parts that I’d expect to have nearby. Patches that felt impossibly tangled at the time I worked on them, looked at from here are actually quite pretty. It’s a constant surprise.
Well, dear old extended metaphor, I think I’ve taken you about as far as we could go, in the time I now have.

Brie & castelvetrano tart

Brie & castelvetrano tart

It’s spring break, which means that I took Malcolm and Isaac to the grocery store with me. And they both got to pick out special things. Malcolm picked smoked gouda, Isaac picked brie and pears. I picked castelvetrano olives, and decided to combine everything in two different-but-the same tarts! The crust is simple. I added a little olive oil in a nod to the pizzaness of these tarts. The basic tart base is ricotta, a touch of mozzarella, lots of rosemary and eggs. Simple, but with a versatile flavor to show off the toppings. I think that brie and pears is a fairly classic combination, so I decided to mix it up a little and do pears and smoked gouda. Soooooooo good. Like bacon, somehow, as I remember it. And I combined the creamy tang of brie with the sweet brininess of castelvetrano olives. Nice! These would be good to make for a party of a special meal that lots of people were eating. You could vary the toppings any way you like to appeal to your various guests, and everyone would be happy!
Bosc and smoked gouda tart

Bosc and smoked gouda tart

Here’s Fisher Hendley with Weave Room Blues


2 cups flour
1 t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, frozen

Measure the flour into a big bowl. Add the olive oil, and stir with a fork till you have coarse crumbs. Grate in the frozen butter, stirring as you go with the fork. When you have a coarse crumbly texture, add just enough ice water to pull everything together in a workable dough. (Start with 1/2 cup) Form it into a smooth oval of dough, wrap in foil, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.


1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1 T rosemary
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Combine everything in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.


1 ripe but firm bosc pear, cut into thin slices
1 cup grated smoked gouda
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans


1/2 cup castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
8 to 10 thin slices brie cheese
1/4 cups pine nuts


Lightly butter two tart pans. (My round pan is 10 1/2 inches in diameter, and the long one is 4 x 14. They seemed to hold the same amount of filling, but I can’t do the math!)

Break the dough into two pieces, and roll each to fit the tart pan. Press in and crimp the edges a little so that they very slightly overhang the pan.

Preheat the oven to 425, and pre-bake the tart crust for about ten minute, till they lose their shininess. If the edges fall, carefully press them back up. (Don’t burn your fingers! Touch the dough, not the metal!)

Pour half of the filling into each tart shell.

Sprinkle smoked gouda on one, and then arrange the pears slices in a pretty pattern. Sprinkle the pecans over the top.

Arrange brie slices on the other, and fit the olives and tomatoes in between in a pretty pattern. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top.

Bake both tarts for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Allow to cool slightly, remove from the tart pan, and eat!


1 thought on “Ricotta rosemary tart with two toppings: smoked gouda, pear and pecan or brie, castelvetrano olive and pine nut

  1. Claire: I don’t want to drag this on indefinitely but I’d just say that I was responding to two specific statements that jumped out at me.
    1. “Once something has happened, it was obviously meant to happen”
    That triggered the Hitler/WW2 thought. WW2 happened!
    2. “I also believe that we control our fate, at least in part, by the smart and dumb choices that we make.”
    And that triggered the Warsaw Ghetto and Leningrad thought; No one in either of those situations had any of the choices that you describe.

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