It’s a summery tart! The eggplant is from the farm, of course, which means it’s really really the middle of summer. This whole tart is quite light and fresh-flavored, I think. The crust has semolina in it, which makes it extremely crispy, and it has lemon in it, which makes it bright. I think olives, eggplant and goat cheese form a sort of perfect trinity of flavor. So there it is!
Here’s Up on the Roof by the Drifters
The roof is my world, where I can be myself by myself. I like the warm dusty tar on my feet. I like staring straight up into the vast reeling sky, into the fast wheeling birds. I like when the birds land and speak to me with gentle soothing voices. I like the soft sounds they make when they all settle together. I like to watch people from my roof, to see them washing over the sidewalk in waves—coming together, breaking apart. Sometimes I hear them yelling, but I don’t listen to what they say. And I like to watch people through their windows. I like to watch them walk from room to room and move in and out of the circles of light that their lamps make. When they go farther back into the house, into the darkness where I can’t see them, I’ll watch and wait until they come back
Sometimes I can make them do things, just by thinking about it. I can make them turn on lamps, open windows, call to each other from another room. From where I sit, people yell to each other all the time, but they don’t do much talking. They yell from the window down to the street, they shout at the cars going by, they shout at their busy televisions, which are all manic blinking lights and silence, to me.
They’re all swimming in my aquarium. The lady with the clocks and mirrors, who watches time passing. The man with rivers of cats to wade through and ice cream every day, the boy who spits out the window on people walking by, the girls who sing with their caged birds, the woman who piles all her mail on the table, till she has walls of yellowing letters to hide behind. The man with a different girlfriend every day of the week, sometimes two in one day. They dance and kiss in the light of his living room, and then disappear into the shadows, into his bedroom, into my imagination.
In the summer on hot evenings all the windows hang open, and the neighborhood is deafening and fragrant, with all the sounds and smells melting together in the heat. My feet stick to molten tar, and I have to put papers down to walk on. In the winter everything is icy and closed and silent and icicles hang from the edges and overhangs, and melt slowly in the cold sunlight.
In the springtime I watched a man die. Cat man put a bowl of ice cream on the floor for the cats and sat at the table with a bowl for himself. He raised the spoon to his mouth once, twice, and then he fell still. My arms and the top of my head prickled with electric fear. I waited for him to move, I willed him to move with all my strength. But he never moved again. I worried about his ice cream melting. I worried about who would take care of the cats, who would know that they liked to eat ice cream, who would keep them all together.
I watched him all through that day, until the sun went down. The blue became deeper and thicker all around my roof until you felt you could hold it, but you couldn’t see through it. The ice cream man’s home filled up with shadows. I lay in bed regretting him, and sorely sorry that I couldn’t save him.
In the morning I watched again. The cats rubbed against him, they ate his ice cream. In the afternoon they howled for food. Somebody finally came for him the next day. They carried him away. Then they came for the cats, they packed them hissing into crates. Some people came a few days later and wrapped everything in newspaper and put it all in boxes. When they found the freezer full of ice cream, they took a break and they each ate a bowlful. Then they washed the bowls and dried them and wrapped them in newspaper and fit them into boxes. The apartment lay empty for a while, with nothing to watch but the sun moving across the walls with the hours of the day.
Finally a man moved in. He was skinny with short hair and a blue suit, he was strange in all his movements, gentle and awkward, but I liked him. He didn’t have a television or cats, but he had dozens of photographs, and he hung them all over his walls. He sat and watched the pictures as if they might move. He watched out the window, too. On the lengthening spring days he sat in the open window and watched the people hurrying down below. He put crumbs and seeds out for the pigeons, and then he took pictures of them. He had cameras, and he took pictures of strange things, I couldn’t tell why, then he hung them on his wall and watched them.
When he would leave his home, I’d watch him. I’d wait for him to come out on the street, and watch which direction he walked, I’d watch as he walked off and turned away around a corner, and I’d wonder where he went. One day he left his apartment, and I watched the street door and waited, and waited. But he never came, and I froze when I saw him come out onto the roof. He was in his shirtsleeves, and his feet were bare. He walked all around looking down. He took off his shirt, and I saw his shoulder blades, his ribs, the hollows of his collarbone, he was pale and gleaming. He lay down and disappeared below the low wall of his roof. I got scared, and I went down below to my room, but I thought about him up on the roof and didn’t sleep for days.
I decided I wanted him to have a picture of me. I waited all week for the photos to be developed, sick and excited and scared, making plans for how I’d give him the picture. When I went to the shop to pick them up, the lady at the counter shook her head at me, and looked sad. She had red-rimmed green eyes, large and watery, and soft, wrinkled, powdered skin. She smelled like powder and perfume, like a field full of flowers you’d never find on this earth. She looked kind and I was sorry she was sad, but too nervous about my pictures to worry much about her. She said, “Tsk tsk tsk.” I clutched my purse, waiting for the pictures, and thought about opening the envelope, and smelling the fresh filmy smell, and picking one picture. She said, “Poor girl.” I didn’t know who she was talking about, but I was sorry she was sad for the poor girl. I said my name, and looked to see if I could find my pictures. She had them in her hand, and she was worrying the edges, folding the corners. I felt nearly frantic. She said, “Did you see, dear, on your way in, that you passed some nice tubes of lipstick? Some cakes of face powder? Some hairbrushes? Did you … happen to notice?” I thought “Why why why?” But I said, “No, I didn’t, but thank you for pointing them out.” And I reached out for my pictures. She said, “Sometimes a girl likes to make herself…pretty. She likes to look…nice.” I smiled at her. I thought there must be something wrong with her, talking to me in this way, and I wondered how she got a job in the shop.
When she finally gave me the pictures I raced up the stairs, two at a time and came out in the squinting sunshine on the roof. I sat on my paper and looked at the envelope. I made myself wait. Then I took out one photo at a time: I saw one of a water tower, one of the staring sky, one of birds’ shadows, one of the secret edge of roof, one of skinny stripes of wires, one of bricks and one of cracked tar. And then I saw myself. I saw myself through tear-blurred eyes. I didn’t know this girl, with her strange sad face, her wild hair, her pale skinny limbs. In a blind white rage I stabbed angrily at this girl with colors. I made myself pretty, I made myself nice, I threw myself from the roof. I floated down in weightless silence, and landed foolish and forlorn on the sidewalk. I watched myself there, I watched myself crumpled under shoes, kicked to the curb, falling nearly into the street. And then I saw a blur of blue, a familiar blue suit. The man picked me up, he smoothed me out, he ran his fingers down my body. He turned his face up to me, pale and still and shining in the sea of moving bodies.
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup regular flour
1 t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
In a large bowl combine the flours and the salt. Grate in the butter and mix it in with a fork till you have crumbly lumps. Add just enough ice water to bring everything together into a ball. Knead for about a minute to be sure everything is incorporated. Wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
2 long thin eggplants
1 – 2 T olive oil
1 t balsamic
fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme
1 T whole wheat flour
2 – 3 T semolina flour
olive oil for the tray
Preheat the oven to 425.
Trim the eggplants and peel them just as much as you like. I generally peel long thin strips all around them. Put them in a single layer in a baking tray or roasting pan and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 – 30 minutes. With a paper towel or clean dish towel, wipe off the moisture that collects, and then toss them with balsamic, olive oil and herbs, leaving them in a single layer once again. Let them marinate for a while.
Break and egg into a bowl and whisk till frothy. Pour this over the eggplant, and gently toss them with it to be sure they’re all coated. Pour off any excess.
Sprinkle the two flours over the eggplant, and be sure each piece is evenly coated on both sides. Getting your hands right in there is probably the best way to do this.
Generously coat a baking sheet with olive oil, and spread the coated eggplant in a single even layer. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes until it’s crispy and golden on both sides. Turn the eggplant from time to time to ensure it’s crispy on both sides.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
1/2 cup goat’s cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 t chives, chopped
1 t each rosemary & thyme, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine everything in a food processor, and process until fairly smooth. Flecks of herbs are always nice, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly blended.
1 plum tomato, seeds squeezed out, thiny sliced
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
2 T pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 425.
Butter a tart pan or cake pan. Roll out the dough, and press it into the pan. The edges don’t need to be perfectly even. Bake the crust for about ten minutes till it loses its shine. If it falls, press it up again with a spoon or your fingers, but be careful not to burn yourself.
Pour the custard mixture into the pre-baked shell. Arrange the tomatoes over the custard, and then the eggplant over the tomatoes. Scatter the olives and pine nuts over the top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the tart is puffed and golden and firm to the touch. Let cool slightly, slice, and serve.