- Oscar Wilde
July. Approaching yet another wedding anniversary and my mind wanders back over 24 years of bliss and, well, truth be told, not so bliss. I am often astonished at the comments some friends make to me about my relationship with my husband, confounded that they somehow hold up my marriage as an object of desire, a model of the ever-elusive "perfect marriage". Nothing in this world is perfect and I am bound to concede my profound belief that everything is as one makes it. I try and hover around the truth in these pages, in the stories that I weave for my readers. Maybe my truth is kissed by the fairytale and filtered through a diaphanous veil of romance, but it is undoubtedly the world in which we live. 24 years is a long time to work on anything, whether sculpture, architectural creation or novel, a long time in which to hammer and chip away, write, erase and rewrite, mold and tweak and reshape. Throw into the formula two uncontrollable sons, several odd dogs, a Bohemian lifestyle, a passion for adventure and the unusual, 3 languages, 2 religions and an innumerable number of nationalities and cultures and you have quite a job cut out for you.
Life is a bumpy road full of potholes, unexpected detours, miles of unattractive strip malls and the occasional, disagreeable risk of being pulled over by the cops. Yet there are also long, luxurious stretches flavored with a spectacular landscape enjoyed to the dulcet strains of jazz floating from the radio or, better yet, the invigorating beat of our favorite rock-n-roll station. Hands firmly on the wheel, eyeglasses perched on the end of one's nose and window rolled down just low enough to allow for the warm breeze to sweep across one's cheek, we move briskly forward, no U-turns allowed, punctuated by the intermittent, impromptu stop for a lunch or coffee break or a refreshing nap. We follow the road and we follow the rules; we glance at the road signs and at the map spread out on the passenger seat. Not always quite sure where we are going or what we will find when we get there, we simply try and achieve our goal of reaching our destination in safety and happiness. Life is a wild ride, yes indeed, and JP and I have mapped out a route, a crisscross of highway and tiny side roads, traveling through cities and country towns both, often ad libbing when the mood strikes, certainly hoping for great adventure and a picturesque, soothing atmosphere and stress-free ride.
So as I sit and ponder this thing called marriage, and ours in particular, I wonder what makes this a success. From the very beginning, we spent more than the average amount of time discussing our children: education, language, religion, our place in society. We broke it all down into tiny pieces, analyzed and argued, pontificated, scrutinized and dissected each and every idea and thought. This didn't particularly make raising our kids easier, it gave us neither perfect children, nor did it make us perfect parents, but we can say with confidence that it made us more aware and opened up the door to creativity and innovation, alleviating the worries just a tad and kept us grounded as a family, unafraid to make unconventional choices.
you marry the person who you cannot live without.
After the first few bumps on the marriage trail, we began applying this process to our relationship and, truth be told, the harder the ride, the tougher the road, the closer we became and the more we realized that talking together and opening up to the other helped pad us from the brick walls and the tears. Then came the periods of closeness, long passages in which we found ourselves alone together full time, face to face, shopping, cooking, eating, working side by side on our individual projects and taking breaks hand in hand. As many friends have confided, staying home together, spending every waking and sleeping moment together within the same walls is one dangerous situation. There is the risk of stepping on each others' toes, pushing for space and messing up the others' daily routine leading to anger, frustration and fights. Or discovering that there is little to talk about and boredom sets in. Or restlessness. So how is it possible that we have avoided the discord and discontent, the indifference and strife? Or if not avoided it completely, at least accorded it its rightful place and no more.
Is it a secret that you are looking for? Look closely and you will see that it is no secret at all. He and I began this voyage in an odd and unusual way, unconventional from the get-go. And now we are once again on the threshold of starting over and finding ourselves here, reworking the itinerary of this grand voyage, ripping up the map and drawing our own. Home together full time. And it is the simplest of things that makes it work: enjoying each others' company; finding the funny side of everything and laughing as much as possible; sharing the same dream and dreaming big! "You are so lucky," friends tell me. No, luck has little to do with it. Destiny, fate, I am indeed a believer. But like a great recipe for a favorite dish, one must work awfully hard; select each ingredient thoughtfully; chop, blend, stir and simmer with love, care and attention; add lots of spice and pizzazz and serve it up with pride and pleasure. And, above all, enjoy every tiny bit. And don't be afraid to splatter a bit on the floor or down the front of your shirt (or his) every now and then.
One thing that I absolutely love about having him at home full time now is that he has taken over the kitchen, cooking almost all the meals. Unless, of course, there is a particular dish I am in the mood to make. This week I prepared these delightful, luscious and utterly delicious individual quiches just for the two of us. I so wanted to use up the last of my puff pastry for something savory and fell back on our favorite flavor combination: sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, tangy feta and the sharp bite of rocket (arugula, rucola, roquette). I blended it all into a creamy quiche batter and baked them in my delicate, buttery puff pastry. Tiny, individual quiches are the perfect portion served with a cool, crisp salad followed by fresh fruit. Side by side in front of a good movie, of course.
Have you reserved your tickets for the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans, August 25 – 28 yet? If not, don't miss what promises to be a fabulous weekend and experience. I am proud to be speaking about a subject very close to my heart: Food & Culture.
INDIVIDUAL ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES, FETA, ROCKET AND PINE NUT QUICHE
Follow the basic indications and my links to previously offered recipes and create your own.
One savory (unsweetened) pie crust recipe (recipe and directions here)
¼ (for 6) to ½ (for 12) recipe puff pastry (recipe and directions here)
Basic Quiche Filling: for 12 x 4 ½-inch quiches
(make 6 then refrigerate the rest of the batter for a day or two for a new batch with different flavors)
3 large eggs *
1 cup heavy cream, light cream or part cream/part milk *
Freshly ground black pepper
* for 6 quiche use 2 large eggs + ½ cup cream
Cherry tomatoes (2 or 3 per quiche)
3 ½ oz (100 g) feta cheese, coarsely crumbled or chopped (for 6 quiches)
Handful of rocket (arugula, rucola, roquette), coarsely chopped
Handful pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the individual quiche tins on a baking sheet.
Start by roasting the cherry tomatoes:
Stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in a glass baking dish or pie plate. Season with a little salt and pepper and add 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves. Toss the cherry tomatoes into the flavored oil and roast for about 20 minutes or until the skins are split and shriveled and the tomatoes start to show signs of roasting (a bit golden). Remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the rest.
Prepare the quiches:
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface and line the tins, gently lifting in and pressing down the dough. Trim the edges. Refrigerate the dough-lined tins until ready to fill and bake. This can also be done ahead of time.
Measure out the cream or cream/milk in a large measuring cup then whisk in the eggs until well blended. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Doing this in a measuring cup or glass with a spout or pouring lip is ideal for pouring into individual or mini quiche/tartlet tins avoiding a mess.
Sprinkle a layer of chopped rocket (arugula, rucola, roquette) then chopped or crumbled feta into each of the tartlet shells. Not too much as each is an overpowering flavor. Snuggle 2 or 3 roasted cherry tomatoes into the rocket and feta in each shell. Now whisk the quiche batter so it is blended and pour carefully into the shells on top of the rocket and feta, pouring around the cherry tomatoes to keep the tops of the tomatoes batter free. Fill up each shell only about 2/3 or ¾ full as it puffs up and rises as it bakes. Sprinkle each quiche with pine nuts.
Slide the whole baking tray with the filled quiche tins into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed up and set. The top – or at least the edges – should be a deep golden color.
Quiche are fabulous hot from the oven, warm or room temperature. Or even chilled. Perfect for dinner, lunch, picnic or brunch. I recently made 2-inch mini quiches for a cocktail party filling three ways: gorgonzola + apple, cherry tomatoes + goat cheese, bacon + gruyère.