My husband tells me that I am a risk taker. I’ve never thought of myself as one, but being in my late twenties with a few big decisions under my belt, I realize that I have a rather high threshold for taking things on and learning as I go. I think my relatively high threshold for risk-taking is buttressed by a strong amount of dogged persistence, which tends to carry me through. In fours of being a teacher, I’ve taught four different curriculums and consulted on a few more, I’ve worked retail, taught ACT classes, group fitness classes, and a little freelance writing… Hmm… what does this say about me? Sometimes I take pride in being able to juggle different things and sometimes I bemoan my lack of a single focus 🙂
The other day I happened upon Live to Write — Write to Live’s post on The Genius of Curiosity, and I thought, yeah, that’s me. I can’t seem to commit to a singular passion in life, so maybe, just maybe, I possess the genius of curiosity? 🙂 In chapter four of The Ten Things, called “Letting Go,” Kingma reminds us that
“As human beings, we are evolutionary animals. There is a push, a draw in us to move toward and become that which we haven’t become yet — more, better, wiser, more deeply loved, more deeply loving.”
The notion of personal evolution does seem to hint at what’s “genius” about living in a state of unfolding curiosity. It’s certainly hard to feel satisfied with yourself, much less stuck in a state of complacency, when you have multiple interests, or feel pulled to spend your time in different ways. And that’s a good thing, right? Writer Suddenly Jamie, in her post on The Genius of Curosity articulates it this way:
“Curiosity is more valuable than passion. Passion is blinding and consuming. It is biased and stubborn. Passion is exclusionary. Curiosity, on the other hand, is playful and open. Curiosity can learn through discovery. Curiosity expands your world; passion diminishes it, closing in around you like tunnel vision.”
I think our society collectively denies so many things that are interesting and valuable about a life that travels in a zig zag pattern, rather than a straight arrow. For example, we often deny that curious people, people that try different things and fail, who go through “phases,” well into adulthood, can lead some of the most passionate lives, despite how things look, in the sense that their lives are always in a phase of growth and expansion. On the other hand, there’s a palpable feeling of freedom that comes from placing limitations on our expectations of ourselves, picking a role or a goal or a direction and pursuing it narrowly, deeply, with passion. Oy.
You know what I’m feeling curious about these days? Tarts, sweet and savory. Somehow I have a hunch that in putting my perfectly symmetrical, perfectly fluted metal tart pan to good use, I’ll be refreshed, ready to gain insight about “next steps,” and all the necessary soul-searching involved. Today I find myself celebrating the end of a difficult summer, during which I spent considerable time indoors, by making a tomato tart filled with summer’s quintessential ingredient, a product of the SUN.
It started with being handed a heavy, generous bag of tomatoes by my father-in-law, and wanting to find a tart recipe that didn’t smother the tomatoes in cheese — though this tomato crostata still catches my eye — but showcased their fresh, juicy flavor in the form of pretty, roasted slices. I found what I was looking for in The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, simply, “Tomato Tart” on page 268. Speaking of curiosity, this book is an endless source — going through its recipes, cover to cover, could easily be my vocation for a while (oh, lookee here) It’s been my baking bible since college, the source of what I consider to be, hands down, the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, and true to Nigella Lawson’s conception of the “domestic goddess” baker “trailing nutmeggy fumes…” which I cited in my most recent post.
Matter of fact, I think I was gifted the book at some point during college, another time rich with curiosity and uncertainty and anxiety about where I was headed next, which proves Nigella Lawson’s other claim about baking, and cooking: It’s “a way of reclaiming our lost Eden… Cooking, as we know, of cutting through things, and to things, which has nothing to do with the kitchen.” ‘Nuff said — the process begins with the making of pâte brisée, which literally translates into “broken pastry,” used for savory pies and tarts:
Liquid measuring cup
Large mixing bowl (optional)
Pastry cutter (optional)
Small mixing bowl
(Makes 2 13-inch rounds)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water (4 tablespoons), plus more if needed
Head of garlic
Olive oil, 3 tablespoons
1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée
3/4 cup Fontina cheese
3-4 ripe but Roma tomatoes
Salt and pepper
- Dice the butter into small pieces and place it in a small tupperware container with the butter wrapping over the top. Place the tupperware in the freezer to get the butter really cold (it warms up as you’re dicing it). Put ice water in a liquid measuring cup and place it in the refrigerator.
- Measure the flour and salt into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Grease the tart pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a whole head of garlic on a small sheet pan covered with a medium sized piece of aluminum foil. Cover the head of garlic in one tablespoon olive oil. Loosely wrap the oily garlic in the foil.
- Take the diced butter out of the freezer and add all of it to the flour/salt mixture. Pulse to combine, about 10 seconds, or “until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining.” If, like me, you have a small food processor that “mists flour” when it’s full, use a pastry cutter (or two hands) to mix the dough by hand. Add 4 tablespoons of ice cold water in two batches, “just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky.” If the dough is still too crumby, add water by the tablespoon, until the dough holds when you squeeze it together.
- Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter and turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, shaping it into a disk with your hands. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top, and wrap the dough in plastic, refrigerating at least 1 hour or overnight. (You can freeze this dough for up to 1 month — before using it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator).
- Place the garlic in the oven and roast for 45-60 minutes while the dough sits in the refrigerator. Check the garlic after 45 minutes; it’s done when you can easily insert a paring knife into the side. (It took 60 minutes for me). Unwrap the garlic and allow it to cool. Set the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll out the dough into a large, 13-inch round, about 1/8 inches thick. Roll from the center out for even thickness. If like me, the consistency of your dough was less than perfect, cracking as you rolled it and yielding a lopsided circle, you can always cut off the longer parts and press pieces of the dough into the tart pan. If needed, you can grab a pinch of dough from the second pâte brisée, since the recipe makes two. I am still trying to perfect the art of not over mixing dough but getting it pliable and solid enough to roll out evenly… I like to err on the side of under mixed dough that requires some cutting and pressing into the pan (you can’t tell once it’s baked)…
- After pressing the dough into the tart pan, refrigerate the dough in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, once the garlic is cool enough to handle, press it with the side of a chef’s knife to loosen the cloves. Slice each clove at the top and squeeze the pasty, roasted garlic into a small mixing bowl. Mash it all into one paste with a fork. Slice a few roma tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. Grate and measure the cheese.
- Time to assemble the tart. Remove the chilled dough and using a small spatula, spread the roasted garlic paste all over the chilled pastry. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over the garlic paste. Then lay the sliced tomatoes in a circular pattern and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme (gently pull thyme leaves off the stem by pinching two fingers and running them down the stem).
- Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Ta da.