French lentil, roasted mushroom tart with savory almond topping

French lentil mushroom tart

I feel strangely excited, and of course I’m going to tell you why. It has to do with the election. Wait! Wait! Don’t tune out! I’m not going to tell you about my humble beginnings and how I love America more than anybody else does, and I’m not going to ask for a small donation. It’s a little hard to articulate, but I feel genuinely hopeful about this. It seems to me that, in some way, the needs of the people – the very human needs of all the people – is shaping the rhetoric of the election in a way that I don’t remember happening before on this level. (Of course that might be because my memory is full of holes and I’m politically dumb as a bag of flour.) Feminists have talked for decades about the personal being political, which is an idea that I embrace. This election cycle, (as they call it, which also makes it seem human and part of nature, somehow) it seems as though all of the politicians are struggling to connect with us by making the political personal. Maybe it’s the healthcare debate. Whatever your feelings on the subject, I think everybody agrees that healthcare is about us at our most human and most vulnerable. Of course it’s also about insurance companies and corporations, but at its most crucial, it’s about our life and our death, our bodies and our well-being. I think it’s hard not to become emotional when we consider this issue, which makes it difficult to discuss rationally, perhaps, but it’s important for us to learn this form of discourse – to learn to talk about personal emotional subjects. Maybe it’s because times have been so hard for all of us. We’re all hurting, and it makes us more insular, for better or for worse. We’re anxious about our homes, and our ability to keep them. We’re thinking about the food we put on our table. And this election is about women. We’re told over and over that the women are going to decide this election, and that’s forced a (sometimes uncomfortable) discussion about women’s bodies, and women’s work, and the value of that work. Of course, everything’s intimately connected. The “serious” issues of war, taxes, foreign policy – they’re all ultimately personal, they’re about our daily lives, our loves, our families, the chance to follow the path to old age that we all travel together. I always have this feeling, when I listen to politicians talk, that there’s a truth and sense that they can’t tell us with their words, that we hear anyway. Sometimes they try to hide it – when they tell us we need to go to war, with a barrage of words and falsified facts, I feel like most people understand the truth anyway – we know their motives. This year I feel the sense is closer to the surface under the muddle of words – the sense that we’re all in it together, and we’ll learn a way to talk about that.

Since the food we put on our table is an important issue, i’m going to tell you about this handsome tart! It’s actually quite simple. It’s a standard flaky pate brisee crust, with rosemary and black pepper added for deliciousness. On top of that we have a layer of french lentils sauteed in port wine and balsamic vinegar. Lentils might seem like an odd ingredient in a tart, but they add real substance and texture, and their lovely meaty flavor. And the mushrooms are chopped chunkily and roasted, so that when the savory almond custard is baked all around them, it’s almost like a savory clafouti or toad-in-the-hole. If I do say so myself, and I do, the whole thing turned out super-tasty. David liked it a lot, and said it’s a “birthday meal.”

Here’s Women’s Realm by Belle and Sebastian

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Crispy beet & caper wontons with port wine sage sauce

Beet & caper won tons

I’ve always loved stories (usually children’s stories, but you sometimes find it in Dickens as well) in which a character is subjected to terrible cold and hunger and discomfort, but somehow finds themself, in the next scene, basking in humble fireside warmth and nice things to eat. On our spring break, we went into the mountains. We went for a hike, despite the chilliness, and the predictions of rain or even snow. We were in a place we’d been before, and the paths always wound back to the beginning. They were all only a mile long. We could do that! Isaac got tired and wanted to turn around. The weather worsened. We thought – we’re in a loop, if we turn now, we would have been minutes from the beginning. So we trudged on. Finally we came to a map. The woods chilled and quieted, and a cold pelting hail rained down with purpose. The map said, “Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of this trail. Now turn around and trudge back the miserable 1 and half miles, with a tired 6-year-old and a 9 year-old who has twisted his ankle.” It was an oddly panicky moment! One of those, “who said I could be a mom, because moms are supposed to know exactly where you’re going and how to get there” moments. But we walked back, and for five minutes the sun came out, and it was nice talking to the boys while we walked. We got to one spot where somebody had obviously made a campfire. The dirt was wet and sweet, and the charred wood was equally fragrant. Don’t think I’m crazy, but it really made me want to eat beets!! Then the hail came back, and we were so grateful to see the end of the trail, and go back to David’s mom’s lovely cabin and sit in dry warm pjs by the fireside!

Beets are sweet! And beautiful! And so tasty! I can’t believe I ever thought I didn’t like them. They’re combined here with capers (or flavor dynamites, as they’re known in my family). The tart savory brininess of the capers is a nice relief from the earthy sweetness of the beets. The beets are grated and toasted, and they have a lovely, charred-sugar flavor, and an almost juicy texture. All of this is tucked inside a wonton wrapper (they’re so much fun!) and then quickly fried in olive oil. Making for a perfect little crispy pouch of juicy deliciousness. We had these as a meal with a big salad, but I think they’d be a fun appetizer or snack for a party with a bowl of delicious dipping sauce alongside.

What is that delicious dipping sauce, you ask? Well, it is rich and savory, made with port wine, balsamic, fresh sage, and shallots. It’s a bit like a beurre rouge, but it has a lot less butter in it.

Here’s Down the Dirt Road Blues by Charley Patton. Wonder if he was craving beets as well?

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