Smoked mozzarella and mushroom tart (in a poppyseed buttermilk biscuit crust) & Vaccination Ruminations.

What’s down the road?

When we got the first shot I felt a little weepy. Partly it was the idea that more than a year of constant stress and worry could be on its way to some sort of resolution. But mostly it was seeing this coordination of humans working, through fear and worry, towards something for the better of each of us and all of us. For as long as I can remember the idea of big groups of people working together towards a common goal has inexplicably made me weepy. Political demonstrations, marching bands marching, cross country meets. I don’t know why it does but it does. And this time the sense of being part of something bigger than any of that, something global, well, that made me a bit of a puddle. We were at a drive-through clinic in an unremarkable suburban community center, but it glowed with all the concerned cheerfulness of the volunteers and nurses and medics and people about to get a shot. I thought about how several of my ongoing worries (Malcolm’s first year of college, the La Liga season) would be resolved by the time we got the second shot, their stories wrapped up: I didn’t know now, but I would then. (Malcolm’s first year of college very very good, the La Liga season not so good, if you’re wondering)

We drove to the second shot through sun-baked fields surrounded by trees shimmering with the songs of cicadas, out of the ground for the first time in 17 years. How the world has changed while they were underground growing, never knowing all the strange busy-ness of people above the ground.

To be honest I was worried about the side effects of the second shot. People would say, “I just started to feel like myself again” when they described recovering from the aches and pains and fatigue, as if being ill made them something other than themselves.

For me the only side effect from either shot was a sore arm and middle-of-the-night thoughts on the strangeness of time passing. The strangeness of the human body, of my own blood moving through my veins. The strangeness of disease, and how it has taken on a personality in this last year, become a character in a story: mercurial, unpredictable, ruthless. The strangeness of medicine, how the things we once believed to be true we no longer do, and the things we now believe one day we won’t. What we worry about now some day we won’t. Old stories will be resolved while new ones are begun, new characters introduced, for everyone, all over the world, humans and cicadas alike. We don’t know now, but one day we will.

Mushroom, ricotta and smoked mozzarella tart with a poppyseed buttermilk biscuit crust.

In my mind I invented this buttermilk biscuit crust. It’s got about half the butter of a regular pastry crust, so in theory it’s a little healthier. It’s more crumbly than flaky, but it’s tender and tasty, and very easy to work with. You can roll it out or just press it into the pan with damp hands. I added ground pepper and poppyseeds to this version because I thought it went well with the smokey cheese and smokey mushrooms, but that’s up to you. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make substitute milk soured with a bit of lemon or vinegar till it gets lumpy. In the olden days I would roast or pan fry the mushrooms first, but this time I just coated them in olive oil and piled them on top, so they would retain some of their juiciness.

Predictably, this makes me cry.

BUTTERMILK BISCUIT CRUST

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
fresh ground pepper (optional)
1 t poppyseeds (optional)
4 T cold butter, cut into little pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk –or–
1/3 cup milk mixed with 1 t. lemon juice or vinegar

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and pepper and poppyseeds (if using). Add the butter and mix with forks or your hands until you have an evenly crumbly mixture. Stir in the buttermilk and mix briefly with a spoon, then with your hands until you have a smooth even dough. It might be a little sticky, but that’s ok. Don’t overwork. Cover and leave in the refrigerator till you’re ready to use it.

THE FILLING

1 cup (+/-) fresh ricotta
2 eggs
about 1/2cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 t (or more) minced fresh herbs (I used rosemary and sage, but you could easily add thyme or tarragon)
Pinch salt
Lots of black pepper
pinch nutmeg

Combine everything in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine.

THE TOPPINGS

About 10 ounces white mushrooms, portobello mushrooms or baby bello mushrooms, cut in half and then into 1/8th inch slices (or to whatever thickness you like!)
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (+/-)
1 t Smoked Paprika
pinch salt and lots of black pepper

1 cup grated smoked mozzarella

In a small bowl combine everything but the cheese and mix till all the mushrooms are well-coated.

TO ASSEMBLE

Preheat the oven to 425 F

lightly butter a 10 inch round tart pan. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and then transfer to pan. If the dough is a bit sticky, you can just plop it in the pan and coax it to the edges with damp hands. Press into the pan and up the sides to form a little crust.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the crust to the edges. Heap the mushrooms in a single layer over the ricotta, and top everything with the smoked mozzarella.

Bake about 1/2 hour till the mushrooms are starting to brown and cooked through, and the cheese is melted, bubbling a little and slightly brown. Let sit for a few minutes before you slice and serve.

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