Fate has a thousand wiles when it chooses to impose on us its incomprehensible whims. A temporary blackout, a moment of inattention or blindness is enough to insinuate an act between the Scylla and Charybdis of decision. Afterward, with hindsight, we may endlessly ponder that act, explain our motives, try to discover our true intentions; but the act remains irrevocable.
-Bruno Schulz (“Father’s Last Escape“)
Finally, after 68 pages, 100 footnotes and a long, winding analytical discussion of 9 Russian authors and more episodes of 30 Rock than you would believe is possible to watch in the course of a week, I am back. I know that I’ve neglected the blog recently, but I suppose that the sad truth is that sometimes there’s only enough time in the day for one project. The good news, however, is that Chapter 2 is done and, even though I can’t help but feel a little nervous about the two meetings I have with my committee members tomorrow (there is the possibility that they may hate it, after all), I also believe that this may be the best work I’ve ever produced. It turns out that 3-4 hours a day of writing creates its own “zone”–that perfect place you have to be in to feel that you’re saying what needs to be said about the topic at hand. It really got to the point that I was “living” my material, but that kind of closeness with your material (healthy or not) has, in my experience, made all the difference between quality work and so-so work. And let us not forget the requisite night in the library with a granola bar for dinner that shows that you’ve really suffered for your craft and have the tenacity to keep on going even when you want nothing more than to stop looking at the computer screen and move on with your life (i.e. the moment when the typos happen and you don’t even care).
But to return to the good news, even though all has been quiet on this western front, I’ve nevertheless been cooking, eating and planning posts. I’ve got several desserts to tell you about, as well as a great and simple vegetable recipe, but that’s all for another day. Tonight I give you the Caramelized Garlic Tart, courtesy of Ottolenghi’s Plenty. While I don’t own this book myself, a friend and fellow blogger has told me nothing but good things about it; I thought it would make a good Christmas gift for the Greek’s mother and, when I was perusing the table of contents to see the book’s offerings, I saw the recipe for this tart. As a garlic lover, I knew I had to make it and immediately. My immediately, however, is often a few months down the line. I do what I can. And, as with most things, I believe that it’s better late than never.
Thursday evening, after a triumphant day of leaving copies of my chapter in all the committee members’ boxes, eating lunch in the sunshine with a friend and reclaiming by existence and dignity by finally doing some laundry, I got around to assembling first the puff pastry (although I have fantasies of one day making my own puff pastry–I’ve heard it’s quite easy–I used the frozen stuff) and then the caramelized garlic topping. All I can say is this: even if you claim you don’t like garlic and find its taste to be excessive and overly potent, you would never even know that garlic is in this tart. By first blanching the garlic, then frying it in olive oil and, only after all that, adding balsamic, water and some spices and sugar, you’re taking the garlic to some super (as in above) state of being. It transcends its normal potent self and becomes something soft, sweet and luscious. Not even a vampire would be scared to approach….
Encased in the puff pastry and surrounded by goat cheese and a creamy, quiche-like filling, the garlic is the true star of this dish. I’ve started to imagine a world in which I roast all kinds of vegetables and top them with the caramelized garlic. This place may just be my paradise (let the image of the kite from today’s hike speak for my glee–at both the end of the chapter and the fact that I finally got around to making this tart).
Caramelized Garlic Tart
Adapted from Ottoglenhi’s Plenty via the interwebs
Serves 8 celebratory slices