Chard, raisin, and pine nut tart with chickpea flour crust

IMG_6054I drove Malcolm to a middle school dance. We were listening to the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack, we were driving through some of the prettiest countryside in the world, up and up winding roads to the school itself. It was a soft rosy 8 o’clock on the edge of an unseasonably warm day. I felt a little stale in the head, because I hadn’t slept too well, what with one thing and another, partly worrying about Malcolm being gone all day on a chorus/band trip to an amusement park. I’d weirdly missed him in the 4 hours after school we would usually spend together, despite the fact that the 4 hours after school the last two days had been fraught and difficult at times. In the scant time between the field trip and the dance we’d walked to buy two slices of pizza, and Malcolm said that it feels good to eat pizza when you’re walking down the street. So when we go home I made him watch the opening to Saturday Night Fever. And it’s not a bad thing to go to a middle school dance with the bee gees in your head. In the car on the way to the dance he didn’t seem tired, he was cheerful, and he asked me to tell David something when I got home. And I said “sure, sure” but I was lost in thought, and I didn’t hear him, and he knew it. I asked him to repeat what he said and he did, and then he said, “Don’t forget!” And put one finger from his right hand on his head, and one finger from his left hand on my forehead. We drove a little more and I said, “Can you do that again? With the fingers on the foreheads?” He said, “Why?” I said “I want to feel as bright and smart as you are.” He said, it works better like this…one hand, pinky on his head, thumb on mine. I leaned towards him, so we’d all fit, and the song playing on our radio said,

Every moment
Every moment
Every moment
Every moment

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

chard, raisin, pine nut and chickpea flour tart

I said, while we were eating this that it could be the national dish of some country, and David said, “Claironia.” It’s true, this dish combines a lot of my favorite flavors. They just seem to go perfectly together. It’s juicy, a little smoky, a tiny bit sweet and a little nutty. The crust is crispy on the outside and soft and almost bready inside.

Here’s Every Moment by Rogue Wave from the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack.

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Chard and fresh mozzarella tart with raisins and shallots

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

Chard and fresh mozzarella tart

I always feel like I’m waiting for summer to start and then one day I’ll wake up and realize we’re already well into it. These days have been like that. It’s July! It’s sweltering! The boys are rolling around the house laughing and screaming and making each other crazy. We go to the river almost every day and have the most beautiful fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. We have arrived! It’s a funny thing because I generally approach summer with a slight feeling of dread. I’m nostalgic for spring, I miss walking Isaac to school, I miss the sense of purpose I had when I was working on my novel. And all of the fun things a person looks forward to in summer strike a chord of anxiety into my strange and always-anxious heart. I love to see Malcolm happy in the water, which is his natural element, but I worry about riptides and sharks and river currents and copperhead snakes. Sunshine makes me dizzy and more confused than usual. I’m scared of thunderstorms. It’s so stupid, I know! Sometimes I even miss the simple icy indoor days of winter. Crazy. But today I was thinking that I like my house in the summer, I like my town, I like my garden, I like being with my boys all day. I like just being here. I can almost imagine this place as our summer house, where we spend long lazy days swimming and reading and writing and cooking, drinking wine and talking. I like to think of it that way. In my imagination, our home is our home away from home, and I love it here. After all, summer passes so very quickly these days. We’ll slow it down by staying still.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the combination of chard, pine nuts and raisins. And I’ll find anyway I can to combine them. Here they are in a sort of tart. I made a jam of shallots and raisins and garlic, and I spread this on a yeasted crust. Then I topped that with a custard made with chard, fresh mozzarella and pine nuts, and of course lots of fresh basil, which is one of the best things about summer. And I put some slices of fresh mozzarella and more pine nuts on top.

Here’s Summertime by Billy Stewart.

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Ricotta chard tart with roasted peppers, olives, and a yeasted cornmeal crust

Ricotta tart with red peppers, chard and black olives

Ricotta tart with red peppers, chard and black olives

There’s a particular pleasure to watching Temporada de Patos that’s hard to define. As I was thinking about it this morning, it came to me…it’s like making a friend, or maybe even falling in love. Which is fitting because friendship and love and the blurry lines between the two are at the core of the film. From the opening credits you like the look of it–aesthetically it’s just your type. Simple, spare, a little bit rundown, but beautifully so. You watch it for a while, and it seems funny and smart, a little bit off-kilter, but in a way you like. And then you hang out with it, and have conversations, and everything it says is charming but sincere. Not “hey, baby, I’m so sincerious,” sincere, but honest and uncalculated and heartfelt. You get a peep at its music collection and it’s all kind of weird but good. Unexpected, but you feel it’s the absolute perfect thing at the perfect time. You keep waiting for it to let you down and say something off-putting, or start telling a story that’s overly dramatic or just doesn’t make sense, but that never happens. It all just clicks, softly and almost imperceptibly. And then you don’t want your time with it to end, you want to spend more time with it, and you think about it after it’s gone, and realize that it’s much more complicated than you realize. That’s what it was like with Temporada de Patos, the first feature from Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke. It’s one of those rare movies where everything seems to come together perfectly, every aspect is thoughtfully combined and there are no missteps. The plot is very simple. Two fourteen-year-old boys, Moko and Flama, have been friends since childhood. They plan to spend a Sunday together at Flama’s apartment when his mom is away. They have all their supplies, soda, video games, money for pizza…and then the power goes out. The pizza delivery man, Ulises, shows up, and they insist their pizza should be free because he didn’t deliver it on time, but he says the deal is off because the power is out and he couldn’t take the elevator. He won’t leave till they pay, and they won’t pay. Their neighbor, Rita asks to borrow their oven to bake a cake. And that’s pretty much it, that’s the story, the story of one beautifully ordinary but unforgettable day. People grow and change and learn about themselves, and forget and start over. Relationships shift, slowly and quietly, and then shift back again. It’s simple, it’s funny as hell, it’s sad but hopeful, and it’s one of the best new movies I’ve seen in years.

Ricotta tart with chard, roasted red peppers and black olives

Ricotta tart with chard, roasted red peppers and black olives

This tart is a bit like a fancy pizza, and a very delicious one! It has a yeasted cormeal crust, which is very crispy and flavorful. It has a ricotta custard, with mozzarella, and it has sauteed chard, garlic, shallots, and rosemary. Then it’s topped with roasted red peppers and black olives. Salty, sweet, comforting, cheesy, crispy, and flecked with greens. What could be better than that?

Here are a couple of songs from the movie…Puto – Molotov. O Pato by Natalia Lafourcade. And Panorama by Alejandro Rosso.

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Chard and artichoke tart with a crispy eggplant crust

Eggplant-crusted chard tart

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about, in a very confused fashion, for the last half a day (and night!) We all know the myth of Icarus – his father, Daedalus, fashioned him a pair of wings made of wax and feathers. He warned him not to fly too close to the sun, but he was so giddy with the joy of flight, that he forgot his father’s words, flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, he continued happily flapping his arms, but without feathers he could no longer fly. He fell into the sea and drowned. And we all know the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, attibuted to Bruegel. It’s a beautiful painting of a beautiful landscape, with people going about their business, unaware of Icarus’ fall, which is small and on the edge of the painting. And people have written poems about the painting. Auden’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, in which he describes how suffering “takes place/ While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.” And William Carlos Williams wrote a poem by the same name as the painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. So that’s the “evidence” and here are the questions… what does it all mean? Is Auden suggesting, as the word “dull” implies, that the ploughman and the angler are too coarse to take note of the tragedy of loftier men? Or is it that, simply, things go unnoticed. We’re so taken with our own lives and concerns that we don’t have the time or energy to commiserate with others? Is the original myth really a warning about excessive hubris? Or, was Icarus just enjoying the feeling of flight to such an extent that he forgot to be careful? People suffer all the time – ploughmen and anglers and painters and poets and master inventors. I suppose all the suffering is equally important (or unimportant) whether somebody paints a picture of it, or writes a poem or about it, or doesn’t notice it at all. The painting itself is so gorgeous, the people walking along with supposed dullness are so vibrantly portrayed. And, as the poets say, spring is in full glory, the sea is cool and pretty, the sun is hot and strong, and all of this will be true no matter what the fate of the men passing through the landscape. And then I can’t not think of Stephen Dedalus, with his suggestion that ‘The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.’ Surely not, Joyce. Surely not! That quote has always bothered me. I’d love to have a meal with Pieter Bruegel, and Williams Carlos Williams, and WH Auden, and maybe even Ovid, and drink some wine and talk it all over.

Chard tart with crispy eggplant crust

Maybe I’d make them this eggplant crusted chard and artichoke tart! I think it turned out quite pretty, and it certainly tasted good. The “crust” is made entirely of pieces of eggplant, dipped in egg, then dipped in pecans, breadcrumbs and a touch of flour, and then roasted in olive oil. I used a lot of bread crumbs and a small amount of flour, but if you used only pecans and gluten-free breadcrumbs, you’d have a gluten-free crust! The filling is soft and flavorful and savory, and the pine nuts add a nice toasty crunch on top. I served this with a smooth smoky, spicy, sweet sauce made with fresh tomatoes, green peppercorns, olives and raisins.

Tomato-raisin-olive sauce

Holy smoke! I forgot to post a song yesterday! Horrors. Here’s Alec Ounsworth with This is Not My Home (After Bruegel)
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