Escapist literature

Those aren't limes. Really.

If I were any good at being a food blogger (“flogger”), there is no way that I’d subject you to these pictures.  I mean…aluminum foil?  And what ARE those green things?  Where is the lush lighting, the gleaming white china platter, the…the food porn??
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I used to read a lot of food blogs, at least during medical school.  I know a lot of people might find that weird (my mother definitely did), but that’s what I’d do between morning lectures and afternoon labs – I’d read food blogs while eating my mediocre, luke-warm lunch.
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If you think about it, cooking shows (at least the ones that they have now) and food blogs are kind of a form of escapist literature.  They certainly were for me, and still are, to some extent.  They always focus on people sharing delicious food and wine with good friends in gloriously beautiful locations.  On some of the TV shows, they will occasionally have an episode where people bring food to sick friends, but they’re never so sick that it can’t be cured with lovingly-made chicken soup.  The biggest worry is what to serve for dinner, or which dessert to make that will complement the entree.
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I love these shows/blogs.  They’re nothing like my life, and that’s why I love them.  When you leave the house when it’s dark, and then come home when it’s dark, spent your day talking to sick, overwhelmed, anxious patients, and your biggest worry is that you may have overlooked something and inadvertently killed someone, it’s kind of nice to read these blogs and watch these shows, and revel in a life that is free from these worries.
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So when I read about a 6 year old boy with cancer that wanted to meet with Ina Garten, I didn’t find it all that surprising.  Her TV show is the epitome in escapist food TV.  Her beautiful house in the Hamptons, her loving circle of friends, and appetizing food is something that many adults would drool over.  For a kid who spends a lot of his time in hospitals, probably doesn’t have a lot of friends his age (since he can’t go to school regularly or play outside that much, given how often he needs medical care), and may have wide fluctuations in appetite (again, the chemo and the nausea that it causes)….living her life, even for a day, would probably be a piece of heaven.
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(And no, I don’t find it strange that a 6 year old would be interested in these things.  The commenters who doubt that a 6 year old would care about Ina Garten have likely never interacted with that many children.  I’ve taken care of a lot of 6 year olds who have startling maturity and intellectual depth that people 5 times their age lack.  It’s a little condescending to assume that children lack the mental maturity to be interested in anything beyond SpongeBob.  And the people who have uncharitably said that they don’t know what the big deal is, ALL has a high cure rate in children….well, let’s subject YOU to 6 months of continuous chemo and see how well THAT treatment course went for you.  Yeah, it’s curable…but it’s one hell of a tough road to reach that “cured” state.)
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I don’t know, exactly, why Ina Garten couldn’t meet with him.  Maybe she really was busy, although that excuse becomes kind of flimsy when you see how many times Obama has agreed to meet with children.  Maybe, as others have suggested, she didn’t feel comfortable interacting with a child who was that sick – an understandable act of cowardice.  Either way, I’m sorry that the kid lost a form of escape.
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Zucchini Ricotta Tart

I had an extra zucchini from that risotto, and was looking for a way to use it up.  After looking at a couple of tart recipes, this is what I came up with.  The puffed pastry makes it really easy, and saves you from making your own crust.  Plus, it’s tasty.

1 square of frozen puffed pastry

1/2 cup ricotta (I used whole milk, because I didn’t want the filling to be watery.  You could probably use part skim and drain it)

1/2 cup pecorino cheese (and yes, I used the pre-grated stuff.  Judge away.)

1/4 cup mozzarella (ditto on the pre-grated stuff)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1-2 cloves garlic

1 large zucchini, ~ 8 ounces

1. Let the frozen puffed pastry sit out for about 45 minutes, or as the package directs.  Halfway through the thawing time, get started preparing the ingredients.

2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  In a bowl, mix the cheeses together.  Add in 1 tablespoon of oil, and then add in just enough extra oil to make it into a smooth paste.  Add in 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, taken off the stem.

3. Finely mince the garlic, and then add it to the cheese.  If you’re feeling rushed, you can use garlic powder instead, I guess.

4. WASH the zucchini (again, too many horror stories from unwashed produce during microbiology lectures have left me scarred) and thinly slice it into coins.  About an eighth of an inch thick – not too hard if you take your time, even if you have subpar chopping skills (like me).

5. When the puff pastry is sufficiently thawed, unfold it onto a lined baking sheet.  Pinch any cracks back together.

6. Spread the cheese over the puff pastry in an even layer, leaving a small (1/2 inch) border around the edge.  Arrange the zucchini over it in overlapping rows.  Sprinkle a light layer of pecorino over the zucchini before you put it in the oven.

7. Bake the tart for about 30 minutes.  It’s done when the pastry is golden brown, the pecorino layer has melted, and the zucchini has wilted slightly.

8. Let the tart cool for about 15 minutes before you cut into it.  When it’s too hot, it’s hard to separate the puff pastry from it’s foil lining, and the cheese is so molten that it doesn’t want to go onto a plate gracefully.  When it’s cooled, though, it’s much easier to handle.

Summary:

Cost: $$.  The cheese makes it a little expensive.

Active time: **.  About 30 minutes of active time, total.  It takes a little while to actually get the tart into your craw, so probably not the best option for nights when you come home so ravenous that you’d eat your own arm if you could.

Cleanup: **.  A cutting board and a bowl – pretty reasonable.

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