Sunday, July 4, 2010
A lot of people say that when folks start coupling off, they tend to stop socializing as much with their friends. They become more insular, happy to shrink their universe down to two. Well, there are lots of ways to be a couple, I suppose, and none of them are wrong. Husband and I have never really subscribed to the universe-shrinking practice, though. We have some separate friends and interests and we don't really believe we've become 'one mind, one heart' or morphed into a singular organism now that we're married. We've always been keen to maintain not just a tiny sense of personal autonomy within our relationship, but a small sense of belonging to the world beyond the 'Us'.
But as expansive as this makes our lives seem, we're curiously underactive when it comes to socializing with others. It's not out of lack of want. It's just that miraculously, two lone wolves found each other and formed a pack, where the love of one's own company was no longer a personality flaw or social disorder. It was a trait indicative of an independent streak and an imagination vivid enough to cure any fever of boredom. So our default location is home. And our default company is our own.
For Canada Day, we had a plan to go and hang out with some acquaintances of Husband's whom he'd known over the years through a mutual love of music. One of them was in a band that was playing a free concert at a park in the east end. The day before, we'd surprised ourselves by accepting the invitation, a preventative action taken to avoid becoming Crashing Bores Who Never Do Anything. We'd both been looking forward to it, but as the hour of departure approached, I found myself doing that thing, that "I'm tired, and my stomach feels funny...maybe we should just stay in?" thing. That I do every time there's a social engagement, because I'm shy and can't help getting nervous.
But somehow, we found ourselves in the car, driving on a road that seemed designed for car commercials, with canopies of tall trees overhead and smooth asphalt curves to glide around. We arrived at the house of the musician friend, only in time to drink half a beer and head over to the park; the band was going on shortly.
A brief walk later and we were there. And wouldn't you know it; the Lone Wolves separated from everyone else. We found a spot near the bandstand and sat on the damp grass, taking in our surroundings as the country music started. Teenagers walked several paces ahead of their parents, the girls flipping their hair incessantly and tugging their tops down over their midriffs, wondering if anyone was noticing them. A group of toddlers held hands with each other and jumped up and down to the music, unbearably endearing in their pure expressions of delight. The smell of hot dogs, burnt sugar and fried dough mingled with the fresh air as the setting sun gilded everything in its wake.
I was near-drunk on the wholesomeness, the beauty, the innocence of it all. I felt weepy with joy.
We left shortly after; Husband was getting cold and Home, Home as always, beckoned us back. But the best had yet to come. After a dinner of hot dogs and beer, we stood out on our balcony watching the neighbourhood fireworks, our heads turning this way and that, trying not to miss any of the colourful sneezes being fired from all different directions. And then, suddenly, as we looked to our left, there it was. A clear view of the professional fireworks show down by the lakeshore; a half hour spell of the most spectacular explosions the night sky could hold. Husband put his arms around me, and we felt like kids again, oohing and ahhing at the magnificent display. It was a night I suspect will forever linger around the edges of my memory.
In the spirit of finding myself one of the two peas in a rather content little pod, (and also, for getting a huge pile of fresh peas in my Good Food Box) I decided to make a pea tart from a recipe I found here at 101 Cookbooks, with a few additions and changes of my own.
I wasn't as adept at shelling those peas as I thought I'd be. It took a while. And peeling the skins off canned chickpeas? Never. Again. When I whirred the peas and green onions, chickpeas and pistachios together in the food processor and poured the mixture out into a bowl with a light dusting of cayenne, well, I discovered something:
Blue, you've been bumped as my favourite colour. Green has stolen my heart away from you.
I used puff pastry for the first time ever. I asked myself why it was the first time ever. It's so easy! You just thaw and unroll a sheet, singular! No bumbling about with a billion delicate layers, butter and damp towels! (that means you, phyllo) I grated a generous handful of Parmesan and Swiss cheese, smoothed the pea mixture out onto the dough and surveyed my handiwork...Not bad.
Despite sweltering temperatures inside the apartment, I popped the tart in Demonic Oven and sipped a glass of white wine as I waited. And what came out was a sublime taste combination of flaky, buttery crust and a salty, earthy, nutty filling with a tiny bit of heat. I loved every bite. As I dusted the pastry flakes off my chin and top and skirt, I wondered whether there were lots of other homebodies out there like me. I wondered if I'd be able to pick you out on the street, from a tentative smile, or maybe a radiant sort of quietness.
I think I could. And I bet I'd like you.
Fresh Pea Tart, from 101 Cookbooks, with some adaptation from me:
Approximately 1 1/2 cups of fresh shelled peas
Approximately 3/4 cup of chickpeas (I used canned, rinsed and skinned)
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachios
zest of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
a pinch of cayenne pepper
loads of fresh ground pepper, a touch of salt to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely grates Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Swiss, Emmenthal or Gruyere cheese
1 sheet of thawed puff pastry
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Add the peas and boil for about 30 seconds - they'll all start floating to the top of the pan. Remove from heat and drain. Put in the food processor with the chopped green onions and the juice of 1/2 a lemon and pulse till well combined. Add the pistachios and pulse till they're in small pieces. Add the juice of the other half lemon, along with the olive oil and pulse till the mixture is smooth. Turn out into a bowl.
2. In the food processor, pulse the chickpeas till they're coarsely chopped. Add them to the bowl and stir till well combined. Add the cayenne pepper, salt and fresh ground pepper and taste. When it's seasoned to your liking, add the egg and stir till combined. Then put in the Parmesan cheese.
3. Unroll the sheet of pastry and place gently on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Fold the edges up a bit, so they make a bit of a barrier for the filling. Smooth the pea mixture onto the pastry and top with the Gruyere cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is firm and the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven, top with more cheese and a few pieces of chopped green onion if you like. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve!