Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When Life And Used Car Salesmen Give You Lemons, And A Tomato-Corn Pie

Okay. Seriously. I have not gone off blogging, I swear. In fact, I really missed sharing food with you. This last absence from posting was totally not my fault. I'm not even sure who to blame. Our 1997 Jetta with 'Party Mix' patterned seats, or the shyster who sold Husband a faulty vehicle.

There we were, Husband and I, driving back to the city from our long weekend in Sauble Beach. Sauble Beach, with all its humble charms, is my version of heaven on earth. Yes, I know. There are hundreds of gorgeous European towns or tropical islands that could fight Sauble and easily win the title of "Paradise" in the hearts and minds of most folks. But Sauble Beach has always been that place that slows me way down and gets me quiet and still inside; that place where even the most everyday sort of experience gets honeyed. A box of fresh, hot fries from Dobson's, where Husband used to work as a surly, noodly pre-teen. The dense sound of crickets at night, as numerous as the stars visible in the night skies draped over all those pitch black country roads and majestic pines. The endless stretches of beach that almost entice a non-swimmer like me to play in the water like a kid. And the feel of sand under my feet.

Apparently though, the magic of the Beach has rather limited boundaries. Once outside the perimeters of Paradise, the simple traveller is entirely vulnerable to the cruel hands of Fate, who obviously drives a much higher status vehicle than our lowly VW Jetta. Because it was in Owen Sound that the transmission took its last stand against Husband's gentle and then not-so gentle cajoling and refused to switch gears as we tried to ascend a rather steep hill. The car rolled backwards. "EEEEeep!" I screeched, digging my nails into poor Husband's arm. He fought the stubborn transmission one more time, and again, we rolled backwards, down the hill. I nearly peed myself. Husband, much calmer than me, or in a weird state of calm rage, manoeuvred us into someone's driveway, where we sat, and let life's unfairness wash over us.

I am not as good as I thought in a crisis. In fact, I was embarrassingly helpless in this crisis. Thankfully, Husband's lovely family stepped in and rescued us with various acts of simple yet deeply felt acts of kindness. And I learned that, for one, don't underestimate the cliches of used car salesmen. I'm sure there are loads of really decent, honest ones out there, but for every one of them, there are, I fear, schools of corrupted dealers who couldn't care less about you once the cheque is written. I also learned not to underestimate the importance of family, because they are there when Luck and Good Fortune go out for a pack of smokes and take a long time coming home.

Barring car trouble, we did have a lovely stay in the country. We lazed on the beach. We read and played Yahtzee a lot. We took a few long walks with the dog. We did some shopping at local food stands, buying potatoes, green beans, eggs, green onions, peppers, vegetables with the soil and roots still attached. We ate and ate and then ate some more of these:

Husband's father had told us that the cookie-making factory, the one that makes the really good Speculaas cookies, had burned down. And there were no more being made until a new factory was built. So we stockpiled. And ate them accordingly, only to find out a few days later that the new factory had in fact already been built, and our gluttony was in vain. I think if I'm to have any fondness for Speculaas cookies ever again, I must take a break from their spicy, crumbly, crispy goodness.

We'd picked up some fresh sweet corn from a roadside stand, so I knew I wanted to do something with it. I had also been delighting in the photos of heirloom tomatoes in my Eating Well magazine, so when we finally got back to the city, I went out and bought some, and photographed their gorgeous little guts. I think I even had an American Beauty 'plastic bag' moment with these brightly coloured gems. They were so beautiful, I almost couldn't stand it.

When I was cutting the corn off the cobs to pan fry them with some green onion, I tried valiantly to pluck every last strand of corn silk off the kernels until I realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing. Is the editor of Bon Appetit coming over to sample my pie? Is anyone but me going to be picking corn silk out of their teeth?

So I stopped.

I whipped up the custard-like filling and after pre-baking the crust, layered the ingredients and poured the custard over top. It baked up perfectly, although it's still a slog trying to make a light, buttery pastry, so the crust was just the tiniest bit too crusty. But it tasted wonderful. The tomatoes were slightly tart, the corn just sweet enough and I was surprised at how little salt it needed! A chronic over-salter, I reigned myself in this time and it was just perfect.

With Husband's chemical accident, the car bellying up, and the various other little irritations and insanities I have no control over carving chips into my shoulders, it's so lovely and restorative to get back to my kitchen, where I am the reigning monarch. In my domain, wonderful food accidents and mistakes and triumphs mingle with solitude, thoughts, sunlight. Lemons, both real and metaphorical are turned into lemonade. And I imagine that somewhere out there, that corrupt used car salesman will sit next to Bad Luck and Misfortune, and get paid his dues.

Tomato-Corn Tart, inspired by/adapted from Eating Well Magazine, August 2010:


3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I only had regular whole wheat flour, so that's what I used)
3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
5 tbsp cold water


1. Combine flours, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add the oil and water and gradually stir them together to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350/400 degrees F, depending on your oven. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer (they make this sound easy) to a 9 inch pie pan, preferably deep-dish, and press into bottom and up sides. Line the dough with parchment paper large enough to lift out easily and fill evenly with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment paper and let cool for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour.


3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I had this on hand, but you can use regular milk)
1/3 cup goat cheese (the recipe calls for sharp cheddar, so whatever you prefer)
a hearty pinch of dried basil
a hearty pinch of dried oregano

1-2 cobs of corn, kernels shaved off
1 large green onion
2 medium tomatoes, or an assortment of heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
coarse salt


1. In a blender, combine the eggs, buttermilk and goat cheese, dried basil and oregano. Pulse till well combined and set aside.

2. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and saute the corn and green onion over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. You just want to soften them a bit.

3. Pour the corn-onion mixture over the crust bottom. Pour in the custard filling and layer the tomatoes over top (there may be some extra liquid left over) Take a small pinch of coarse salt and sprinkle it over the unbaked pie; there's not much salt in this recipe, so you can indulge in a few lovely grains of it with each bite.

4. Bake the pie for about 40-50 minutes, or until the custard has set. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.


  1. What a wonderful read! I have the day off from work and I can't think of a better way to have started it than reading this post. I want to make this tart immediately! And I want to be running my toes through the sand on Sauble Beach too (never been there!)

    The sound of crickets at night does me in every time.

  2. I agree with JRA - I was nearly late for work because I was entranced by this post! You're wickedly funny and once again, found the perfect words. Perfection.

    xo mrsbs

  3. great story! sounds like you had fun despite the car troubles. and i have to try these cookies you're talking about ..

    lovely looking tart! if you ever have corn, tomatoes and scallions in your fridge all at once again, try this pie:


    it's soooooooo yummy!

  4. JRA, your comment was a lovely way to start MY day! I hope the rest of your day off was delightful!

    Noodle, bless your cotton socks; I could just eat you. But I'm going to eat more of this pie instead while pondering how lucky I am to have such a wonderful big sister.

    Leslie, yes, thanks, we did have a good few days regardless of the Le Jetta going kaboom. And while I'm pretending to stay away from the Speculaas, I'm in actuality still eating them, they're THAT good. You're in Toronto, right? You can get them at Dutch Dreams, an ice cream shop at St. Clair a little west of Bathurst, on the North side. Also, they have the best ice cream!

    And I will check out ELS's pie too, since I still have lots of the ingredients!