travel

Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)




When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement. 
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota. 
Or Wisconsin. 
It's just not. 
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris. 


So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself. 
A piece of me I didn't even know I had. 
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away. 

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote: 

“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
too.”

And I know and love this now as well. 

I am home now. 


I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog. 
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again. 
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year. 


So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas. 

And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris. 
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it. 
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle. 


Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love." 
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor. 

So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas. 
But mostly, I thought about you.

This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made. 


xoxo


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours 

Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate. 

For the Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. 
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 


Sweet Tart Dough 

NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 


To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. 
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.) 

Chicken and rice


No one told me how much of life is just saying goodbye. 

Because I was in a plane today, and then on a bus, and somewhere in between the two, I saw the ghost of my face reflected back at me. And I thought. 

My god. 
I'm not a child anymore. 
I'm not a kid.
I'm not a even a teenager. 
I'm somewhere. 
Maybe close to being a woman, but still so, so far. 
(It is a long way, to being a woman.)

And I realized all over again, that my sandbox sand castle days, and the shallow end of the swimming pool, and pretend and not having hips and going to piano lessons with my brother and never doing laundry because my mom did it and dolls and falling in love with books instead of boys and not knowing about things like funerals and pain-- without knowing it, somewhere, I said goodbye. 
And maybe it's because of that very specific goodbye, that I cling so fiercely to second chances. 

Because I have to believe I will see you again. 
Because I have to believe I will come back. 
Because it's too hard otherwise. 
And because, the thought of not eating the chicken and rice I had at this little place in Portugal, the thought of never eating that again completely undoes me. 
To never eat that chicken and rice again would be tragic. 
It would be the worst. 
I cannot handle a reality which does not have a repeat of that chicken and rice. 

So I believe in second chances and third chances and returns and surprise encounters. 
I believe in circularity and the stupid/fun/funny part of life that makes for good stories and plot twists and romance and mystery. 
I have faith in this. 


I'm looking forward now.  
Looking forward towards maybe being a woman someday. Sort of. 
But more than that, I look forward to owning a long, rectangular kitchen table, that maybe I build myself. A kitchen table I build myself, with lots of candles on it. And there are all the people I love, who have come back and second-chance-miracle-surprised me, sitting at this table. 
And then we will eat chicken and rice. 


XOXOXO


Chicken and Rice
From SmittenKitchen.com who adapted from Gourmet 

This my darling, is the recipe I want to make when I get home. 


Chicken
3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
4 chicken breast halves with bone, halved crosswise
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs

Rice
3 ounces Spanish chorizo (cured sausage), skin discarded and sausage cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, preferably the hot stuff, plus more to taste
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 12-ounce. bottle beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice (14 ounces)
1/4 cup drained rinsed bottled pimiento or roasted red pepper strips

Marinate chicken: Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano.

Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, then toss chicken with marinade until coated and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour.

Cook chicken and rice: – Cook chorizo in olive oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot (12 inches wide) over medium-high heat, stirring, until some fat is rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, oregano, paprika, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add chicken with marinade to chorizo mixture and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, beer, broth, and rice and bring to a boil, making sure rice is submerged. [Deb note: I actually had a really hard time keeping the rice underneaththe chicken so that it would cook evenly. I'd suggest that you use tongs to temporarily remove the chicken from the pot, mix the rice in with the other ingredients in the pot, and then replace the chicken, pressing it into the broth a bit before going onto the next step. I will definitely do this next time.]

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover mixture directly with a round of parchment or wax paper and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Discard parchment paper and bay leaves, then scatter pimiento strips over rice.

Do ahead: Chicken can be marinated up to 2 hours in advance.


Turkish Coffee

Usually, I know what the story is. 
Life seems to segment itself sort of naturally, and so you collect experiences and anecdotes that define what's going on, with you, for those weeks or months. Little stories of who you are and where you're at. 
I've been thinking about March. 
And what a weird, potent, transition month it is. 



The March right after I turned nineteen was magic. I wore a red dress that was too short and too tight. Everyone lived for the weekend. I stood up and tried to hug the wind through the sunroof of Alison's station wagon, like they do in that book, only I had never read that book. And we got drunk and went swimming at three am and afterwards I sat, shivering and braless in the diner that played heavy metal, and ate hashbrowns and migas, feeling so happy it hurt. 

The following March was dismal. My heart was fragile as an egg. In an effort to un-slump myself I drank buckets of coffee, ate doughnuts every day, and rode my bike late at night. It felt like nothing was ever going to happen, and actually, that March nothing did. 

This March is like Turkish coffee. 
It tastes a little wild. 
The first sip lasts for only an instant. 
But in that instant, the coffee tastes like an ancient pine tree, or a whole cabinet of spices that sit soft and dusty on your tongue before melting away. 

The other night, I picked up two random German boys on the street, and then Julián came and we ate sunflower seeds and drank cheap beer and went to look for a party on a rooftop terrace, but got lost instead and knocked on a random door and ended up in the apartment of a group of Americans from Maryland. An experience that pretty much sums up my story of March so far, i.e., strangeness and spontaneity, the instability that comes from moving constantly, and always running away from and also sitting with, a specific deep kind of loneliness. 
That is what March feels like. 

I want to wring a story from all this randomness, and give it to you with a cup of Turkish coffee. 
And we'd taste the ancient trees and the dusty spices, but only for a second, and you would maybe smile, maybe cry while I told you the distilled version of this March, the one with a beginning, middle and end. 
But I can't. 
Because March isn't over yet. 

I love you. 
I love you. 
I love you. 

Xoxo

orecchiette

You know the days, when you try to walk away from yourself? 
Rome let me do that. 
Rome let me pound the pavement until I was just tired bones encased in tired skin, with only a hungry stomach and nothing more. 

So I ordered orecchiette. 
Orecchiette in broccoli sauce, with flakes of sausage. 
"It's good?" I asked. 
"It's ok." The waiter smiled down at me. 

So I said that's fine, and some kind of white wine please, whatever is the best. 
And the waiter smiled down at me, and brought olive bread that was pretty but dry, and wine that was good, and then pasta that was better. 

The pasta. 


Hot and fresh and simple. 

I melted. 

Lately, my soul has been in need of melting. 

Something about traveling, and constantly moving, is that I'm constantly adjusting and readjusting to fresh places and fresh people. It's fascinating and lovely, but extraordinarily intense, and often a little drunk. These spontaneous and fleeting connections-- some of which last for no more than a few hours, often leave me gasping for air. 
Like a punch of personality to the gut.

I vascillate between vulnerability and abrasiveness: constantly being aware of strangers eyes crawling down my legs, hair, the small of my back, and the fear of being whistled at or followed. 
And then also letting people in-- tell me your story, let me tell you mine, do you want a bite of this? Sharing sharing sharing in the limited time frame that being in a place for only 48 hours allows you to share. 


But every now and then, something undoes me-- and I find myself forgetting about the fear, and forgetting about how much I'm telling, and the protective shell around my heart softens. 

Have you ever had a song that leaves you seeping and weeping everytime you listen to it in the car? Or a person who leaves you joyous and raw? Or an experience that left you empty and whole at the same time? 

This is what the food of Italy does to me-- like it's so good nothing can really be better, which is, really, quite tragic. 

And that orecchiette-- oh lover. 
It undid me. 

And despite all my tired bones and tired skin--

I melted.