Wednesday, September 7, 2011

inspiration- Alaskan boat harbor

When we were kids, my Dad used to take my sisters and I on walks down to the boat harbor. My father was a crab fisherman (still is) and we loved to accompany him to "check on the boat". I am not sure what we were actually checking but my little girl imagination liked to think of it as tucking the boat in for the night. We would walk up and down the rows of boats, asking my Dad which boat belonged to whom and picking out our favorites. My Dad would tell us stories about some of the boats, how they got their names or who used to own them. The fishing boats seemed like such characters.

During a recent visit home, my Dad and I took an evening walk and strolled down to the boat harbor. I particularly noticed the colors, lines, patterns and textures. Some of the rope and net details remind me of crochet patterns. It was a quiet, peaceful summer evening and the smooth-as-glass water mirrored back the boat reflections beautifully. I thought I would share a few of my favorite images.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

tomato tart

 When I think of summer, I think of tomatoes and my grandfathers greenhouse.

My grandfather was a phenomenal gardener. All summer long we ate radishes, swiss chard, and carrots. When my sisters and I would run along the rows my grandfather would remind us to take care not to step on the plants. I loved that my small feet were exactly the width of the walkways. They seemed to disappear between the foliage of the plants on either side.

On the far end of the garden was a large trellis where the sweet peas grew. My older sister loved the peas and we would help ourselves to what was on the trellis. She put such high value on this activity that each year I was supremely disappointed to realize that I still did not like peas. 

What I really remember from my grandfather was his greenhouse. It stood on the north east corner of the property and was separated from the house by row after row of his vegetable garden. Alaskan summers are not hot but they are full of light. The greenhouse was always warm, cozy. It smelled like soil, a fuzzy mineral smell. I used to love to go in there to see the first sprouts off the plants, watch the tiny shapes emerge. Mostly, I liked to go there because it was one of the places where I could be alone and I liked to sing to myself (I am pretty sure my older sister snuck in there to sing too.) With two sisters, it was hard to find a place at home to sing where I would not be overheard and feel self-conscious and embarrassed. I would sing songs from church, about God's great love, Jesus' sacrifice. To this day there is a little part of me that wonders if the tomatoes flourished because of all the songs and prayers.

When my grandfather passed away, my sisters and I sang the hymn "He Walks With Me" at the memorial service:

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses
and the voice I hear, falling on my ear
the Son of God discloses

And he walks with me, and he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
no other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing

And he walks with me, and he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
no other has ever known

I'd stay in the garden with Him
though the night around me be falling
but he bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And he walks with me, and he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
no other has ever known

This past summer, my husband and I planted our first tomato plants. We live in California now and do not have to build greenhouses. My husband did build two planter boxes and a friend gave us a couple gorgeous tomato plants. Despite my best efforts, the plants survived (sadly, I am known for my ability to kill plants.) The smell and texture of them brought me right back to my grandfathers greenhouse.

As we started to pick our tomatoes, my older sister called me up to ask if I had made tomato tart from Everyday Food magazine. She declared I just had to make it and that I would love it. She was right: the sweetness of the tomatoes with the savory leek filling and buttery crust. It is swoon worthy. 

The recipe calls for adding goat cheese at the end, but as you can see from the pictures, I omitted it. I like the simpleness of making it just about the tomatoes. I do not know if my grandfather would have ever eaten a tomato tart, but I think he would agree that nothing should get in the way of good tomatoes.

tomato tart

all purpose flour, for rolling
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large  
or plum or beefsteak tomatoes, sliced a 1/4 inch thick
or a combination of both
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or basil leaves

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12-inch square; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

2) In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Spread sour cream mixture evenly over pastry. Folder over 1/2 inch border on all sides and press edges to seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, halve leeks lengthwise; rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and slice 1/4- inch thick. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are very soft, 5 minutes.

4) Arrange leeks evenly over sour cream mixture on pastry. Top with tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

 5) Bake until pastry is golden brown and crisp, 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. (If using) top with goat cheese and herbs before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: You can substitute caramelized onions for the leeks.