Roasted pepper and tomato tart with almond-hazelnut crust

Pepper and tomato tart with hazelnut almond crust

Pepper and tomato tart with hazelnut almond crust

I fell asleep while watching cave of forgotten dreams. I regret it, of course, but at the time I was powerless against the great wave of sleepiness. I’d worked all day, and we’d been busy, and the film is so quiet and dreamy, Herzog’s narration so sweet and sleepy…well, that’s my excuse. I didn’t miss much, I didn’t sleep for very long. In a way, though, it seems perfect to have fallen asleep during this film, this beautiful film. It’s as though the film itself became a part of my dreams, dreams I will never forget because they’re marked on stone and captured on film. The movie has a sort of dream-like logic to it that I love: When faced with something that you don’t understand, follow it farther and deeper than you would have thought possible. Even as you’re exploring, and you realize that you will never understand, you keep looking, because the mystery itself is so beautiful. As circus performer-turned-archaeologist Julen Monney tells us, “it’s a way to understand things which is not a direct way.” This is exactly what I love. I love the idea of looking at something from the side, or from some angle we can’t even imagine. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a small glimpse into the Chauvet Cave in Southern France. These caverns contain the oldest cave paintings yet discovered, and they’re remarkable. They show bears and lions and rhinoceros and jaguars, creatures you can’t imagine living in the South of France. The pictures are layered one upon another in a marvelous design. The paintings are beautifully rendered, stylized but so well-observed you believe whoever painted them must have spent hours watching the animals. Their faces are wise and almost sweet, or so it seemed to me. They’re almost all in profile, except for one bison who looks right at you. Some are surrounded by layers of rippling silhouette as if to show movement. There are no paintings of human figures, and no human bones were found in the cave. The only sign that these marks were made by humans is a wall of palm prints, made by distinct individuals, and a footprint made by an eight-year-old boy. The boy’s footprint is next to that of a wolf, and we’ll never know if they were friends or prey. I think I must have fallen asleep through the part of the film in which they discuss the humans of the time in greater detail. I have glimpses of memory of this. But I’m almost glad to have missed this part, because to me a huge part of the wonderful power of the paintings is that they seem deeper than human achievement or understanding. Julien Monney went down in the cave for five days, and then he decided not to go down any more. He said it was too moving, too powerful. Every night he was dreaming of lions–real lions and painted lions. He wasn’t scared of them, but he had a feeling of powerful things and deep things. He said that we need to find a way to look at the cave paintings. Where would he start to look for this new way of looking? Everywhere. He tells the story of an archaeologist in Australia traveling with an aboriginal guide. They came upon some cave paintings that were thousands of years old, and fading and crumbling. His guide started to touch up the paintings. The archaeologist asked him why he would do that, and he replied that he wasn’t doing it, he wasn’t painting, it was only the hand of the spirit. You have the feeling, when looking at the Chauvet paintings, that this is the only explanation for this beautiful series of pictures. They were painted in the same style, but hundreds of years apart. Cave bears have scratched at the walls below the pictures and across the pictures, as though they were trying to add to them, or to make them disappear. I’ve always believed that humans aren’t the center of everything, that there’s some spiritual force in the earth and the air that we can’t control or understand. Maybe the animals understand it better than we do because they’re not always making noise like we are. In a strange way these cave paintings seem to reinforce these ideas. Whatever was captured in the cavern, we were part of it, but not the only part, not the most important part. And Herzog ends with shots of a nuclear power plant near the caves, and he tells us that in Lascaux, mildew formed by the breath of tourists caused the paintings to deteriorate. It gives you a powerful feeling that we have to stop destroying things, stop making noise, stop taking things apart in order to understand them. We have to keep silent, and watch and listen and feel.
Roasted pepper tart with tomatoes, olives, and hazelnuts

Roasted pepper tart with tomatoes, olives, and hazelnuts

This tart was loosely inspired by romesco sauce. The hazelnuts, almonds and smoked paprika are in the crust, and the garlic, roasted peppers and tomatoes are in the filling. And all the flavors blend nicely together. I also added some different kinds of cheese–goat cheese and smoked gouda, and some olives and capers for briny goodness.

Here are some songs from the soundtrack of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It’s very haunting!

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Goat cheese & caramelized onion tart with arugula & pine nuts

Tall crust goat cheese and arugula tart

Some days feel like time-outs. If life is like a giant game of tag, and “it” is pursuing you relentlessly, and you’re giggling, breathless, with that small edge of real fear that tag-playing elicits, and you’re miles from base: sometimes you have to call time-out. The last couple of days have felt like that. Isaac and I have been on a team, and we’re taking a little time out together. He’s under the weather. Monday we spent a couple of useless hours at the doctors’ office, and I got antsy, and thought, “Dammit, I’ve got important things I need to be doing!” Yesterday he had a fever, and the whole house was hot as hell except for his air-conditioned room. He didn’t want to be alone, so I lay on his bed next to him, and thought, “Oh dear, I’ve got important things I need to be doing!” And then I realized that I really don’t. It’s an interesting fact about a time-out, that sometimes from this point of view you see the game more clearly – everybody else running around frantically, in a red-faced tizzy. As I lay there besides Isaac, with his hot little head touching mine, I realized that I don’t really have anything important to do. The realization was a little sobering, a little liberating. I was very tired, because I don’t sleep much when there’s a fever in the house, and for the moment it felt good to lie next to Isaac, and listen to him explain Isaac-y things to me in his sweet serious way. Their room is bright, with sea-green trim and pale curtains that hold the light. It felt a little like floating in cool water for a short while. And, of course, this little glowing ripple of a moment is the most important thing I need to be doing.

Tall crust tart

I’m always a little crazy when the boys aren’t feeling well. I don’t sleep much, I get that weird tired-nervous energy. It makes me want to bake! In the winter time I’ll bake cookies with the boys. It was, frankly, a little hot for baking yesterday, even for me! But I’d had this thought in my head for a while of a tart that would be fun to make and fun to eat. I’m very excited about this one! I think it turned out really well. Really perfect combination of tastes and textures. I’ll tell you all about it. It’s a peppery hazelnut crust, and it’s a very tall crispy crust. Inside of that, we have a thin layer of goat cheese custard with thyme and caramelized onions. Simple. The whole thing is served slightly warm and inside is a mess of cool, lightly dressed baby arugula with pine nuts and fresh tomatoes! It’s like a salad tart! Perfect for a hot day, cause you can make the whole thing in advance. I love goat cheese with arugula. I love hazelnuts with arugula. (If you don’t have pine nuts, you can use toasted chopped hazelnuts instead.) This is a nice thing to eat when you’re taking a time out. Be it a summer-day time out, or a stop-and-enjoy-your-nice-dinner-and-glass-of-wine time out.

Here’s Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.
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Fruit & coconut tart AND applesauce with balsamic, vanilla and black pepper

Ripe fruit tart

Well, I may as well go ahead and tell you, because soon it will be household news. I am, as industry sources have been leaking for months, at work on an epic poem on the subject of The Passing of Time and all of its Sickening Crimes. It will span volumes. It already has spaces slotted for it on the top of the New York Times best seller lists (fiction, non-fiction, how-to, and children’s), and I’ve booked some time on Oprah. It will be composed, in its entirety, in alternating dactylic tetrameter and anapestic hexameter. It will open with a chorus of anguished souls, and will rely heavily on deus ex machina, dramatic irony, and chiaroscuro. In one beautiful flight of fancy, entitled “Tempus Fugit? Indeed!” It will describe time personified as actual winged creatures, evolving from pteranodons to futuristic winged monkeys. In another section, entitled “Ripe,” the vista will open on a Russian farmer, who falls asleep in his fields on a warm day, and has a nightmarish vision of perfectly ripe fruit, just out of reach, rotting as he watches. Heavy, man! I don’t mean to get ahead of myself, but a rock opera is in the works, although it would be a breach of contract to describe the pop stars who are squabbling over the rights.

In all seriousness, I was thinking about fruit as I scrubbed the bathrooms today. (No connection!) The life of fruit and vegetables is like a little parable of time passing. In broad terms, because you can measure summer’s sometimes everlasting, sometimes fleeting progress by the cycle of ripening produce. Spring is small, sweet greens, wild ramps, fiddleheads and peas. All bright green and young and hopeful. Midsummer is plump and bursting with an overabundance of fat tomatoes and juicy zucchini. And fall is sharp and bitter and colorful. And in narrower terms, in the life of each fruit and vegetable, ripe and perfect for such a small moment of time, and then withered and decayed, rotting on the vine. Or on my counter. I feel like I’m doing a good job keeping up with the veg, this year. I go through the CSA box fairly easily from week to week. But I keep buying fruit, because I love it, and the boys love it, and I want them to love it. And it’s summer! If not now, when? Of course I keep buying apples, because I’m addicted to them, and then I complain that they’re grey, and David reminds me that apples probably aren’t in season anywhere in the world at this time of year! So I had a glut of apples and peaches. What to do? When in doubt, I make a tart. This is a light and lovely tart. It has a hazelnut crust, a light coconut custard layer, a layer of fruit, and then a slight glaze of apricot jam. With the rest of the apples and peaches, I made a crazy-tasty applesauce with vanilla, balsamic and black pepper. It’s deep and rich and complicated – a little salty a little sweet. Nice with vanilla ice cream!

Apple sauce with vanilla, balsamic and black pepper

Here’s Barbara Dane singing Woody Guthrie’s song Ramblin’. One of the most beautiful songs I know!

Sometimes the fruit gets rotten
And falls upon the ground,
There’s a hungry mouth for every peach
As I go a ramblin’ ’round boys,
As I go a ramblin’ ’round.

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Greens & roasted butternut squash in a hazelnut crust

Greens & butternut squash in a hazelnut crust

It’s a big handsome pie! This is another good option for a vegetarian holiday meal. It’s pretty enough and satisfying enough. I love the combination of butternut squash, goat’s cheese and hazelnut. Something about the nuttiness, tartness and sweetness just blends perfectly together. The crust is crispy and delicious, with ground hazelnuts and white & black pepper. Inside we find layers of butternut squash roasted with sage and rosemary, alternated with layers of fresh ricotta mixed with greens, artichoke hearts, capers, and goat cheese. It sounds complicated, but it’s not hard to make. I love this particular shape of pie. I think I might have invented it! I think it looks nice, but it’s completely easy and forgiving and fun to make.

This is delicious served with romesco sauce or a simple tomato sauce.

Here’s Squash Dance, from the Anthology of Central and South American Indian Music
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