Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Bruno is brash, buoyant, impulsive. He leaps into everything without thinking, he’s cheerful, likable, obnoxious. When we first meet him he’s zooming around a silent shuttered Rome in August; it’s a ghost town, everyone is gone already on vacation. He drives a sporty lancia aurelia, he drives fast and carelessly, even his horn is cheerful and obnoxious. He sees Roberto staring out his window and he calls up to ask a favor–will he make a phone call for him? Roberto invites him up to make the call himself. With the anxious self doubt of a man who spends a lot of time alone, he second guesses his decision to help, but assures himself that it will be okay. Next to Bruno, Roberto seems small, pale, quiet and serious, but somehow they hit it off, and Bruno persuades Roberto to go for a drink with him so that he can repay his kindness. What follows is the road trip at the center of Il Sorpasso, Dino Riso’s beautiful Commedie all’italiana starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Vittorio Gassman. The heart of the film is the unlikely friendship between Bruno and Roberto. On the surface it seems like a morality tale: light and dark, angel and devil, the moral man tempted by the immoral man. But it’s far more complicated than that, and this is what makes it more honest and beautiful. Bruno, affable and social, has an easy way with people. He’s friendly and flirtatious, and he impresses Roberto with his schemes to seduce many of the women they meet. But he always fails to do so. He’s alone at the beginning of the film, and alone again at the end. And he’s surprised by Roberto’s flashes of humor and insight, by the strength of his personality, though it be quietly expressed. As the story of their friendship unfolds, through the streets and cafes and nightclubs of 1960s Italy, the camera lingers on other people all around them. Not fleetingly but thoughtfully, a real wondering pause that treats the characters not as extras but as people with fascinating stories of their own, which we could discover if only we chose to follow them instead of Bruno and Roberto. Many times throughout the film Roberto nearly leaves Bruno, to make his own way back to Rome. But he always stays in the end, and they develop almost a brotherly relationship. They talk about keeping in touch when they return to Rome, and you wonder if it would actually happen. Bruno plays and talks and sings, Roberto watches and thinks, and they speed along the Via Aurelia, passing everyone in their way.

Beet and sorrel tart

Beet and sorrel tart

Beets and sorrel! They just make sense! One is tart and bright, one is sweet and earthy. I decided to combine them in this tart, which also uses the beet greens and a handful of other fresh herbs. The beets (from Sandbrook Meadow farm) are so pretty, I just sliced them and roasted them and scattered them on top of the tart. The crust has a little cornmeal in it for extra crispiness. My oven is still broken, so I actually cooked this in the toaster oven on the toaster tray!!

Here’s Peppino di Capri’s Per Un Attimo.

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Roasted beet, arugula and goat cheese tart

Beet, goat cheese, and arugula tart

Our little garden is so wild and tangled at the moment. We didn’t grow much, just herbs and a few peppers and two pretty bull’s blood beets. The herbs have all gone to seed, and curl around each other in a crazed tangled web, which catches Clio as she runs through the garden, to emerge the other end with herbaciously scented paws. David brought the beets home in spring, tiny and pretty, with shiny deep red leaves. I was going to use them then, in a salad, and I did pick a few baby beet leaves. But then I thought I should wait, and save them till they were more fully grown, and the beets were bigger. Of course it’s hard to tell when a beet is ripe, because it’s underground. So I kept waiting and waiting, watching the leaves get longer and thicker, watching the beets themselves swell out of the ground. And still I didn’t want to use them too soon. I wanted to save them for something really special. I do this with all sorts of things! People will give me blank notebooks, and I’ll set them aside until I have something really important to write. I buy vanilla beans, from time to time, and save them to make some remarkable dish, only to lose them in the cupboard. I’m like this with ideas as well – I’ll have a good idea for something to write, or a film to make, and I’ll set it aside till it’s just the right moment to act on it, only to lose it in the giant dusty cluttered room that is my head. I’ll find it in a dream, maybe, tucked away in some dim corner of my mind. But this past week, looking over the decadent mess that my garden had become, it became very clear to me that it was time to pick the beets. And they were lovely! A bit past it maybe, but so pretty inside, with rings of pink and rings of scarlet. I think my new motto will be EAT THE BEET!! Seize the moment! Don’t save it for a special day, because the very act of eating it will make a day special.

I wanted to do something to showcase their prettiness, so I roasted them and set them on top of a tart. I used the red leaves to color the custard. If you have regular beet greens, I think they’ll still work in this, but the custard will be greenish instead of pink – which will also look nice with the beets! I think the combination of roasted beets, arugula and goat cheese is a classic one, and that’s what we have here.

Here’s Pete Rock with What You Waiting For?

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