Sweet potato and eggplant tart with pine nuts and pistachios
Last night I had trouble sleeping, as I often do, and I started thinking about thoughts. I thought specifically about how some thoughts are like mosquitoes. They buzz around your head, flying with sudden noise into your ears and eyes. You know they don’t do anybody any good. They’re impossible to ignore, and just when you think you’ve shooed them away, they’re in your ears again. And if you let them land, if they’re with you any time at all, they’ll leave angry welts, which will fester and grow the more you scratch at them. You can tear at them with your nails until you bleed, and they’ll only plague you more, with their fiendish itching. It’s best to leave them alone, to ignore them, but it’s so damned hard. There’s nothing valuable about these thoughts; they’re not worth pondering. You won’t figure anything out, you won’t arrive at any truths. They’re the lesser of Pandora’s evils, rising insubstantial and weightless in lazy persistent circles from her box, they’re lies, deceit, scolding, accusation, envy, gossip, scheming, self-doubt. They arrive in the evening, particularly this time of year, when the light fades and the chill steals in, the darker it grows the more they swarm. And these prickly devils, like mosquitoes, breed in stagnant water, in the festering ooze of a lazy mind. So the thing to do, of course, is to keep the waters running clear and cool, to keep your brain full of things worth thinking about, which will feed on the larvae of your mosquito-thoughts. Of course this is hard sometimes, in the middle of the night. It’s hard to steer your mind away from the angry buzzing, but it can be done, and it’s important to stock the waters with a ready supply of thoughts that can dart through the moving current, or hang rippling in pools of sunlight. You can think of a story you’re writing, a poem you can almost remember, a film you once enjoyed, a long ago conversation that made you happy once. When you finally sleep, these thing will weave through your dreams and become something new, something alive. If thoughts are going to keep you up all night, they should at least be worth thinking about.
Eggplant and sweet potato tart
Of course, if you’re me, you’ll spend some of your ample insomnia hours thinking about how to cook the eggplants you picked from your garden, and how to use up all of the sweet potatoes from the farm. And eventually you’ll make this tart, which I thought was really delicious! Perfect for this time of year. I made eggplant the way I generally do, marinating, dipping in egg, breading and baking in olive oil. This is a good recipe to use up leftover eggplant that you’ve made this way a day or so before. I have very thin sweet potatoes from the farm, and I liked the idea of them looking like pepperoni, so I roasted them with a little tamari and smoked paprika. And I topped everything with some lovely crunchy pistachios and pine nuts.
Here’s Benjamin Booker with Have You Seen My Son, because I’m obsessed with this album at the moment.
1 t sugar
1 t yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl combine the sugar, yeast and warm water. Leave to get frothy for about ten minutes. Add the olive oil then stir int he flour, salt and lots of black pepper. You should have a balance of dry and wet now to make a soft dough. If not, add more warm water or flour. Knead for about four minutes, till everything is combined and soft and elastic. Put a little oil in your large bowl (cleansed and dried). Roll the dough around so it’s coated on all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave somewhere to rise until doubled in bulk, a few hours.
4 or 5 sweet potatoes of a medium size, preferably thinnish
1 t tamari
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 T olive oil
2 small eggplants, made like this
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
handful of fresh herbs…rosemary, thyme, and tarragon, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
handful toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
handful toasted pine nuts
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Scrub or peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into 1/4 inch rounds. If your sweet potatoes are very fat, you might want to cut them in halves or quarters lengthwise. Mine were about one inch wide at the thickest. Toss the slices with olive oil, tamari and smoked paprika, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until they’re browned and sizzling, crispy outside but soft inside. Set aside.
Lightly oil a cake pan or smallish baking pan with sides about 1 inch high. Press the dough into this and up the sides. Prebake the crust for five or ten minutes till it loses its shine.
Combine the eggs, milk, and grated cheddar. Pour this into the pre baked shell. Spread the eggplant and sweet potatoes over the custard, so that you have a single layer of vegetables. They’ll sink into the custard, and this is just fine. Scatter herbs over the vegetables and the goat cheese and mozzarella over that, and the nuts on top of everything. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake about 20 minutes, till everything is puffed and golden. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve