When I was younger, I hated waiting (ok, I still do – I was born with a serious deficiency in patience). Every event in life felt like one slow tedious step to the next – must pass this test to get this grade, must advance through this year to get to this college, must do these things to get this degree, must get this degree to go back to school… and before you know it, a significant chunk of life has passed you by while you were so busy impatiently preparing for the next step. Having a vision and a plan is great – and for the most part, even something to be encouraged. As society we view aimless wandering as a detriment, and taking too long to accomplish a goal is indirectly punished by loss of opportunities and time. If we were all robots, this would be fine, however I think the human mind – the soul – needs a little bit of freedom (and fun!) in order to thrive.
Sometimes I was lucky enough to recognize those precious carefree moments in action – the ones where life just felt so alive, so real, where I felt comfortable and confident enough to actually let go and just be my true self, free of any insecurities or second guessing. Sometimes they consisted of a fun weekend out on the lake with friends, a backpacking trip along an empty beach exploring the nothingness with a childlike wonder at the complexity and sheer amazement of our natural world, or that romantic meal where I first realized I was falling in love with my husband. But what I have noticed as I have gotten older, is that the planning and structure of life tries very hard to thwart such moments. We worry about money, about jobs, about the future – we talk with friends and family who worry with us, and all of a sudden somehow it seems all of life is about waiting/hoping for something to occur again. We look back on those fun and free moments, and sadly just think fondly on them realizing that after all this worrying and planning we simply don’t have the energy to break out of our current paradigms on life.
But it is a tough balance, no?
How do you move yourself back into the present, embracing our time in this world as it comes, while still maintaining some sense of security for the future? How do you do one aspect of life without ending up regretting not doing enough of the other?
I don’t have the answers, humankind has been searching for the answer to this age-old dilemma since the dawn of time. But for me, I feel like the right direction is in learning how to step back mentally from the situations we find ourselves in, and try to give ourselves time to keep making those memories that we love and cherish so much. While living in Europe, my husband and I do this by traveling and exploring – tasting a culture, making new friends, and sometimes, just saying today it’s time to forget and go do something fun. It’s refreshing, although sometimes a bit difficult to work spontaneity into our lives (seems a bit oxymoronic, eh? trying to “schedule spontaneity”? this is part of the problem!). And while such trips are fun and I am certain we will cherish each time we get to drive off and walk among the famous vineyards and village streets of Burgundy, they are not always feasible whenever we need a little mental break.
And this is where the joy of cooking comes in. And for me, the joy of blogging (remember when people truly felt joy about food blogging, and didn’t have all those pressures of bringing in enough traffic or ad revenue that can bring out a bit of an uglier side of folks? – but that’s a different topic for another day…). Every time I cook from scratch, with real fresh produce and ingredients, I am reminded of the awesomeness of our world that nature could be so generous to produce such flavor. And when I combine those ingredients together and smell their roasted sweetness wafting through our home, I am giving myself a little moment each day to remember that life is about more than making plans and worrying about what comes next. Just with the mere scents and sounds of a home-cooked dish, I can stop myself right there, standing in my kitchen, and take a moment to breathe – to remember that life is about the present, and about seeing the purpose and magic in the moments we have, right here, right now. And I hope that as my little baby girl grows up she also recognizes this transformative power of the act of cooking food, so that she can learn that no matter what the daily stresses and pressures of life throw at us, there is always a little time to cook and savor the present.
This is a tart that showcases the ingredients in all their glory - so it's important to choose the highest quality ingredients for the best flavor - I like to use market tomatoes and freshly made sheep's milk ricotta to really add a richness to this dish. It can be served as an appetizer or a light main alongside other dishes.
Inspired by: Minimally Invasive
Note: It is most helpful to use a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom. It is still fine to bake this in a normal pie dish, but if you can get a flat pan where the bottom comes out it will help greatly in presentation. Also, this will make too much pie dough, feel free to use the extra for homemade mini tarts or quiches :)
- 2/3 cup tapioca flour
- 2/3 cup chickpea (or other bean) flour
- 2/3 cup white rice flour
- 8 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into cubes
- 8 oz. cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 Tbsp. Italian herbs
- 2 lb. ripe tomatoes, sliced evenly (between 1/4"-1/2" thick)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup of fresh pesto
- coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat an oven to 125ºC (250ºF). Combine the pie crust ingredients together in a food processor and pulse until it comes together into a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge at least 1 hr.
- Meanwhile, gently mix the tomato slices together in a large bowl with the olive oil with your hands, being sure to coat them all with oil. Lay them out on a baking sheet (you will likely need to use more than one sheet to lay them all flat) and sprinkle some salt and pepper on them. Place the sheets in the oven and roast about 3-4 hrs, or until they are all nicely shriveled and shrunken. It may take more or less time depending on the thickness of the slices, and if they were not all sliced evenly, be sure to check on the thinner ones first (and possibly take them out) so that they don't burn before the thicker slices are done. Once the tomato slices are roasted, remove them from the sheet keep in an airtight container - any extras that you don't use for the tart are fantastic on salads, in pasta, whatever you like.
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC(350ºF). Take the chilled dough out of the fridge and gently roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap until about 1/4" thick. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap, and gently flip the dough over as you transfer it into your tart pan. Gently press the dough into the sides and bottom of the pan making sure to eliminate any gaps between the pan and the dough. Now carefully peel off the (now) top layer of plastic wrap, allowing you to smooth and repair the dough if necessary.
- Since the filling will not be baked in the pie, the crust must be blind baked. In order to do this, use a fork to poke the bottom of the crust a bit - this will help allow steam to escape as it bakes and keep it from puffing up so much. Then carefully place a sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) on top, and weigh down the crust with about 1-2 cups of dried beans. Alternatively, you can use fancy pie weights, but beans (or even rice) work just as well and are a lot cheaper. I keep the same dried beans to use over and over again just for this purpose. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is dry. Then remove the parchment and beans/pie weights, and continue to bake another 10 minutes or until it starts to turn a golden color. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack until no longer warm to the touch, at least 30 minutes.
- To prepare the filling, mix together the pesto into the ricotta cheese. Spread this into the tart shell, and then top with the roasted tomato slices. Garnish with a little coarsely ground salt and pepper. Enjoy!