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.
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Spicy smoky zucchini & tomato tart

Smoky zucchini and tomato tart

Here at The Ordinary, we have acquired our first real food processor. It didn’t come with instructions, but we are performing exhaustive experiments in our extensive underground kitchen-laboratories to determine its function and capabilities. We have puréed paper, grated legos, and julienned our entire DVD collection. We would like to inform you that from this point onward, every thing we cook will be diced and sliced to within an inch of its life. You have been warned!! I’m joking, of course, but I’m very excited to finally have a food processor. My friend Jenny gave me her old cuisinart. I brought it into the house and Malcolm said, “Oooooh, what’s that?” And then he and I gathered around our new toy, and tried to figure out how to use it. Did you know that every little piece has to be locked into place, in a certain order, or it won’t work? I didn’t! I kept loading it up, pressing the button, expecting a huge loud noise, and then….nothing! We finally got it all figured out, though. And before I knew it Malcolm had grated two large zucchinis. And then I had to try the knife-type blade, so we chopped up some basil, cilantro, tomatoes, almonds and hazelnuts. We made a chunky sort of sauce. Very smoky and flavorful, because I’d put every smoky thing I could find in … black cardamom, nigella seeds, smoked paprika. We ate it with saltine crackers, and it was very tasty! The next day, I decided to further test the abilities of my processor, and I pureed this chunky sauce till quite smooth, then added some eggs and milk, put it all in a biscuit-like crust with smoked paprika in it, added some fresh cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and made a tart! What with the nuts and all, it’s almost like a savory frangipane. We ate it with potatoes roasted with tomatoes and shallots, which were sort of saucy, and everything went well together. You could make this with a blender and a regular grater, if you don’t happen to have a food processor.

Smoky zucchini/tomato/nut sauce

Here’s Sly and the Family Stone with Thank You Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again to dance to while you puree, grate and julienne. Thanks for the food processor, Jenny!!
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mushroom walnut dumplings

mushroom walnut dumplings

Inside: Roasted mushrooms, walnuts, parsley and cheese. Outside: a biscuit-like crust made with whole wheat flour, toasted oats, rosemary, black pepper and buttermilk. I called these dumplings because of their shape, but it might be more accurate to call them stuffed biscuits. They’re not soft and flaky, like anything made with paté brisée. They’re a little heartier-tasting, so they’re nice with soup or something saucy. Or even a sauce! Like the herbed walnut sauce, perhaps. Each bite has subtle flavors of baked rosemary and black pepper, and you can pick them up and eat them with your hands! Always a bonus.

Here’s Big Joe Williams with King Biscuit Stomp
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