Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The only known example of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force

Andy and I are both, to put it mildly, stubborn. And, to put it mildly, somewhat competitive, mostly with the standards we set for ourselves. But when you give us an opportunity to compete with each other... well, that's how we got started on our current workout regimen, which I like to call the Recipe for Pain. For the past six days, I've either gone to yoga, lifted weights, or both, motivated both by determination to build up my physical fitness level and provide a buffer against the onslaught that will be medical school and by determination to show Andy that I can, in fact, power-lift at 9 p.m. on Monday and get up at 5:48 a.m.* to do hot yoga on Tuesday. And then whimper as the backs of my thighs tell me how much they disapprove of what I'm doing.

Something, of course, had to fall by the wayside, and it was blogging. I could have written about how chopped dried cherries macerated in lime juice provided an excellent substitute for pomegranate molasses in this lovely Lebanese dish. I could have written about how sriracha, lime juice, mirin, and miso paste make a great dressing for a soybean and rice salad with steamed carrots and cucumbers (and cilantro and garlic). But that didn't happen. Instead, I'll just have to tell you about this zucchini and spinach tart with a cornmeal crust, served alongside whole wheat bread thumbprints and a pesto of cilantro, kale, and roasted garlic.

It was... uh, really good. I guess that's about it. Not as good as Freddy and Fredericka, though, which I've moved on to after completely exhausting myself with Celestial Harmonies. Mark Helprin continues to impress me with his wit. I tend to read past some of the most carefully and subtly crafted side-splitting similes** I've ever experienced, do a mental double-take, and start giggling uncontrollably. It's long, but oh, how the pages fly by.

Zucchini and spinach tart
*Note that this crust only goes on the bottom of the tart! If you want sides, too, you'll have to multiply it by 1.5 (I estimate)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil

Mix together the dry ingredients and stir in the olive oil with a fork. Gradually add ice water, stirring with the fork the whole while, until the mixture comes together in a ball. It shouldn't be sticky; if it is, add more cornmeal. Chill for 10 minutes. Roll into a 9-inch circle and line the bottom of a tart pan. Chill for 15 to 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 425 F. Prick the pastry with a fork, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until just turning golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.

5 oz goat cheese
1.5 cups spinach, steamed and chopped, with much of the water squeezed out
1 onion, cut into a large dice
1 zucchini
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize the onion in olive oil, deglazing when appropriate with the vinegar. Stir in the spinach at the end, cooking just until the mixture is no longer damp. In a bowl, use an immersion blender to whip the goat cheese and lemon juice, then add the spinach and onion mixture and blend until it's of the desired consistency (leave chunks if you want, or don't!). Salt and pepper to taste, then spread in the cooled tart shell. Meanwhile, use a mandoline or sharp knife to thinly slice the zucchini. Arrange the slices attractively on top of the filling, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle on a little more salt and pepper. Bake at 425 until the zucchini slices are done, broiling it at the end if you want a little extra browning.

*I have carefully calibrated this time such that I have enough minutes to haul myself out of bed, put on my contacts, make sure my yoga bag is assembled, and get out the door at 5:57, to arrive at yoga between 6:15 and 6:20, depending on whether or not the stoplights run in my favor. Life is in the details.
**As well as metaphors, but that would destroy the alliteration.

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