Saturday, August 14, 2010
"I've always thought the least I could do with every novel is to give people something useful, ideally a recipe." Barbara Kingsolver
My sister and I aren’t the best of friends—we lead very different lives. One place where we connect is over our father. These days, it isn’t always the easiest of connections—at 88, he’s getting old and that presents his daughters with certain challenges. Our kitchen connection is less fraught. If you ever get the chance to taste Beth’s cheesecake, you’ll never forget it.
The other day I needed to make something for my Wednesday evening writing workshop. Some people come to write, some to eat. And though I wanted to make something lovely with the fresh nectarines and peaches I’d gotten from Tuesday’s Farmer’s Market, I had other things to do with my day such as desk work and a long Jacks Peak walk. I couldn’t spend hours in the kitchen. Beth gave me her recipe for a fresh fruit tart.
First I walked and then I baked, so when my students came over there might be a lingering scent of baking tart crust in the air. On the trail I noticed fallen pine cones everywhere, the result of this summer’s unusual winds caused by the challenged relationship between fog and sun, remembered the pine cone that fell at my feet instead of on my head, and felt grateful much of my life has been just like that.
I love the pine cone patterns. Their called Fibonacci Spirals—two sets of spirals occur in each pine cone. One spiral turns one direction and the other goes the opposite way. These spirals get wider by a particular factor for every quarter turn. I’m no scientist, far from it, but am fascinated by pattern—in poetry, nature, human relationships and daily life. It gives me pause and comfort to know that these spiraling patterns occur in much of terra firma—from a single cell to pine cones to bee hives. Might I design my tart thusly? I don’t think so, but I could make it pretty to look at and good to eat.
In an interview about her book The Lacuna, novelist Barbara Kingsolver said, “Food speaks directly through the back of our brains to our hearts....The best way to relay experience is through all the senses....”
When I walk at Jacks Peak, I always bring my nose along though rarely my tongue. I love best the scent of sage on a hot day, not that we’ve had more than a handful of those this summer. I rub the sage between my fingers and that way bring it home with me.
But back to my kitchen. I’ve never been one to take a recipe on face value, I made a few revisions.
“Home Is Where the Tart Is”
Crust: Almost 1 cup flour, fill the balance of the measuring cup with corn meal
1/2 cup butter (There’s no getting around this; I’m sorry)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Soften butter and combine with sugar and flour till course crumbs form or a ball forms (depends on the weather). Use your hands for this; it’s the only way! Press dough into tart pan and bake at 325 for 15-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool.
Topping: 4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
zest of one lemon
Cream together until all lumps are gone, well, almost all, anyway.
Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on tart crust. Cover with sliced fruit. A mix of peaches and nectarines works really well in summer. If I’d made this tart in July, apricots would have been best.
Lastly, melt some dark chocolate in a double boiler (one pot inside another with a bit of boiling water in the bigger one is my d.b.), stir in a wee bit of honey. Drizzle on top of the tart. Chill, serve.
Beth’s métier is the sweet kitchen, mine the savory one. So I appreciated the recipe’s last words: “Good luck.” And, whether you need it in the kitchen or elsewhere, I wish you some too.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 7:31 AM