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Mini Tomato Tarts & Feeling Like Mush

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Last night I was reading “Tomato Pie”, an essay by Ann Hood that pays tribute to a recipe by Laurie Colwin for tomato pie. The story chronicles Ann’s history with this recipe, and its importance in bringing her back to summers spent at the beach with her family. It was beautiful and simple and deep. One paragraph towards the end of the essay made me “feel all the feels” as the kids say.

“In the two decades since then, I have found and lost love and found it again. It has turned me to mush. I’ve published over a dozen books. I’ve had three children, and lost one suddenly and horribly when she was only five. My heart has broken again and again, and miraculously it has healed. There have been so many things I didn’t take good enough care of, or hold on to tight enough, because we don’t really believe we will lose them, do we? Somehow we are always stunned that things go away, disappear, die. People, too. They leave us and, despite knowing better, their leaving is always a surprise.” – Ann Hood

 Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What lovely writing, and how deeply these words hit me. It has turned me to mush. This line rose and fell in my chest when I read it. Because you know what? I feel like mush. A mush of happiness and sadness and gratitude and anger and anxiety and regret.

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I made a decision this week. I don’t know if it was the right one, but I made it and now life goes on. It felt right and then it felt wrong and then right again and now I just feel like mush. And I don’t particularly want to feel like mush, so after I’m done feeling sorry for myself I will move on and be just fine.

I haven’t had a vacation since October (which was in Costa Rica with my man, boo-hoo no one feels sorry for me), but I have some time off work coming up and I plan to spend it in full blast staycation mode. Writing. Cooking. Reading. Taking photos. And lots of cuddles and sleeping in with Gayle (for new readers Gayle is my dog, not a great aunt – but I have one of those named Gayle too).

A little solo relaxation time always puts me back in the right state of mind, and will add some solid framework to my present state of mushiness. It’s summer after all, and the tomatoes are fresh and the wine is cold. There’s no crying in baseball or summer, and a mini tomato tart is just the way to celebrate the brevity of the season and of life’s choices.

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Mini Tomato Tarts, adapted from Laurie Colwin’s Tomato Pie (from Gourmet magazine), via Ann Hood’s essay (from Tin House) **This is tomato tart inception

Crust:

1 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

Approximately 1/3 cup milk

 Filling:

1/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 fresh tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped basil and scallions

2/3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter four ramekin dishes or stout mugs.
  1. Use a food processor to blend flour, baking powder, and butter together until it looks like wet sand. Slowly add milk and pulse until a dough ball forms. Knead gently and roll out. Cut into two sets of small circles for each ramekin, one that fits in the bottom and one that is slightly larger than the top.
  1. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with lemon juice. Blanch the tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for 20-30 seconds and transfer immediately to a sink full of cool water. Peel and slice very thin. Cover the bottom of the crust with two tomatoes slices. Sprinkle 1/3 of the herbs across tomatoes. Add another layer of tomato slices, sprinkle with 1/3 of the herbs and 1/2 the grated cheddar. Drizzle with 1/2 of the mayonnaise mixture. Layer the rest of the tomato slices on top and scatter remaining herbs over the last layer. Top with remaining cheddar and mayonnaise mixture.
  1. Place the three remaining dough circles on top of the ramekins, and press gently to the sides. Cut several steam holes in the top crust or cut a heart before places on the ramekin if you want to be cute. Bake the tarts for about 15 minutes on top of a cookie sheet, or until crust is golden and filling is just bubbling.  Serve with a crisp white wine, like Oyster Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc.
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