Maybe you can relate, or maybe I need serious mental assistance (probably the latter), but I have been having the sense that we are living a falsehood. If you look at my Instagram (@lauranewt) you will see that we have had a pretty great summer. Boogie boarding, tomato gardening, trips to the Cape, my six year old licking an endless stream of mint ice creams. But this week we received the hybrid plan from our school district which includes hours a week of “remote learning.” I felt my stomach drop and a physical sense of revolt of returning to a place so dark as last spring.
I sit in our garden surrounded by towering trees and the sound of locusts humming in my ears and think to myself: nature just goes on. The trees wave on as we humans are scurrying, or cowering, in the face of a pandemic. Mostly, things look the same on the outside, but we all know differently. I even think that those people you see on the news who refuse to wear a mask and continue to carry on at large parties, they know. Deep down, we all know that things are not ok. It is a restless pit in our collective bellies.
Summer is such a time of freedom. I feel more free in my body, free of the constraints of coats and strangling scarves. I wondered back in May if this summer would provide the same sense of relief, and in many ways it has. Distanced days at the beach. A few visits to the more “big wave” promising beaches. Nature still seems to come through for us. Where sharks, not a virus, are a welcome warning.
I am going to try to hold on to the carefree spirit summer gives into the early fall. I keep telling myself that this difference in the school year is not as dire as it was in March. At least here in Connecticut, we have a handle on case loads and the tentative hope of school re-opening. In the mean time, I will don my cotton dresses and traipse through my kitchen to concoct meals where nature did most of the heavy lifting… tomato basil pastas, zucchini ribbons, pepper and tomatillo salsas…
Our own garden and the local farmer’s market at least are the perfect picture of health: the late summer bounty of mounds of zucchini, tomatoes, and sweet stone fruit. Here are a couple of recipes to keep the season going…
Zucchini Goat Cheese Tart
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold butter
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar ( I was out of this, so I used red wine vinegar, and it was fine)
5 Tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/8″ thick (I used a mix of green and yellow squash)
2 Tablesppons olive oil, divided
8 ounces plain creamy goat cheese, such as Chavrie, at room temperature
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or oregano
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Place the flour, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse in the food processor 12-14 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add through the feed tube the vinegar and the ice water just until the dough comes together. Dump the dough out on to a floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic or re-usable wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the sliced zucchini in a colander set over a plate or the sink. Toss with 2 teaspoons of salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Spread the zucchini out on a dish towel and dab dry with another towel, or loosely roll up and press the zucchini to remove moisture. Put zucchini in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat.
In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, herbs, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into an 11″ circle. I find this pretty impossible to do, so I used a 10″ cake pan and cut a circle around this (or of course you could wing it and not be OCD like I am!) Place dough circle on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the dough with the goat cheese mixture leaving a 1/2″ border. Lay the zucchini slices in concentric circles starting at the very edge of the pastry ( zucchini will shrink a bit when baking). Continue with overlapping circles until the tart is completely covered. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and bake for 40-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve hot or at room temperature. Voila!
I have been making this recipe every summer since it appeared in Gourmet Magazine back in 2002. It is simple, not too sweet, and is even better with a little vanilla ice cream. As the recipe states, this cake is best eaten the day it is made because the fruit makes it a little soggy after it sits.
Lord knows we all need a little laugh right now. My friend Kelly sent me this hilarious school re-opening “survey” published in McSweeney’s. “Rest assured no matter how you respond, it won’t matter whatsoever.”
Hang in there, especially to all my fellow parents who are desperately clinging to the vestiges of summer before we launch into “school.”
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