I am so totally the opposite of Martha, I am like her antonym: I should have a magazine titled Julie Van Rosendaal Just Barely Subsisting. Or Keeping it Together the Best She Can. Or Julie Van Rosendaal: She Can’t Even Find the Vacuum Cleaner’s On Switch. (This one is for real: Mike bought a vacuum about a year ago – and last week W asked if he could vacuum. I thought I hit the jackpot – clean and play all in one? Well OK. But then the phone rang and I had no idea how to turn the vacuum cleaner off, because I had never used it before. And Mike wasn’t home. I had to ask W how to do it. In my defense, we have all hardwood floors… But still – we also have a large hairy dog. Even worse: about a month ago as I was chatting on the phone I noticed the clumps of dust up on the trim resembled cauliflower florets in size, and thought – actually thought – hey, that poufy thing on a stick I bought at the dollar store would probably reach up there perfectly! Yeah – the duster?)
So yes, I am severely cleaning impaired. I’m sorry if I’ve tarnished any positive images any of you may have had of me.
In my mind, because I still don’t know myself very well yet, I envisioned this idyllic, perfectly relaxing weekend in which I would sleep in, then go toodle around garage sales and farmers’ markets on Saturday with the boys and a coffee, then come home and spend maybe an hour in the kitchen assembling a perfectly simple dinner for some friends to come by and share under the lilac trees later, after my nap. Sunday I’d wake up and make strawberry-rhubarb blintzes for W to serve Mike in bed before we headed off to set up for Ramsay Rocks (our community festival of sorts we had helped organize and I was emceeing). As you can imagine, it didn’t quite go down that way.
Saturday was fine until I decided to do a sort of freezer-cleaning menu: marinated chicken thighs and shrimp, brown and wild rice salad, roasted chick peas with garlic and chard, grilled veg and a roasted tomato tarte tatin (typically done with apples, you saute them with butter and sugar in a heavy skillet, top with puff pastry and bake it, then invert it onto a plate), which I had attempted about a month ago with great success. When I went outside to grab some basil and chives, the birds had made a mess of the deck with birdseed shells, which I tried to brush off the steps with my bare foot. An hour before everyone arrived I was not cooking, nor cleaning, nor even napping; I was spending 45 minutes digging a giant sliver out of the most inaccessible side of my toe with a needle and tweezers. W was not sleeping. I ran downstairs with my bleeding toe and pulled the cast-iron skillet (I used the large one) out of the oven where it had been for over an hour, roasting tomatoes at 450°F, and wrapped the handle in a tea towel so I wouldn’t absentmindedly grab and move it. The towel fell off. I grabbed and moved it, branding myself squarely on the palm. I opened the brie I had bought at the market (the plan was to plank it) and it was covered with poisonous-looking florescent orange spots. I realized that I hadn’t actually sliced and baked the Raincoast Crisps I had made (you bake them as loaves first, which were still in the freezer) and everyone was supposed to arrive 10 minutes ago. I dropped peppered Boursin in spoonfuls over the tomatoes and when I unwrapped the thawed puff pastry to set overtop, it gummed together like floury paste I had to scrape off the waxed paper in a large, wet wad. I yelled at Mike to go order Inglewood pizza for the 6 kids who were about to show up hungry with their parents. Since the point of burning myself I was holding a frozen bag of chipotle chiles en adobo (they don’t freeze solid and conform to your hand – better than peas for burns and such) in my left hand, and only using my right. The baggie thawed and split and oozed red-orange chile sauce all over me. Julie Van Rosendaal: this is Your Life.
The gin & tonics helped. Mike got pizza, and another brie. (I’ll tell you all about planking it another time.) The chicken and shrimp turned out well. I spent the night holding baggies of various foods from the freezer. The tarte Tatin was not pretty (fortunately I took some photos last time, when I tested it for a City Palate article), but I’m always amazed by puff pastry’s ability to bake up all pretty even when it looks like hell as it goes into the oven.
I’ll spare you the details of fathers’ day – suffice to say we were in the backyard until almost 1am, and Mike was lucky to get a Tim Horton’s coffee and raisin bran muffin practically thrust at him with instructions to put on your pants, we have to go, like right now, and then he spent the next several hours moving tables, setting up tents and figuring out how to power two jumpy castles that kept spontaneously deflating. Dinner, after the event and the tear-down, was at my parents’ house – a nice mango curry Mom made for my Dad’s birthday that I didn’t photograph, having not considered bringing my camera along when I left the house at 8:30 am.
Roma tomatoes work well for this upscale pizza-ish tart, being meaty and not as juicy as beefsteak tomatoes, but you could use either. Roast them, then drop on spoonfuls of soft goat cheese or Boursin. I’m sure there a thousand other things you could do with it, as with roasted tomatoes: add garlic, or herbs, or caramelized onions. I may have to try all of them, just for research purposes.
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarte Tatin
This savoury take on a classic apple tarte tatin (in which the apples are caramelized, then topped with pastry and inverted) is reminiscent of pizza, only more refined. Slivered, it makes a great appetizer (try tearing some fresh arugula overtop), or serve wedges with a side of peppery greens for lunch.
8-10 Roma or plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, or 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
olive or canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 10 oz. pkg. soft goat cheese or Boursin, plain, peppered or herbed
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
In a large cast iron or ovenproof skillet, arrange the tomatoes cut-side up and drizzle with oil; toss with your hands to coat them well, rearrange them in a single layer (don’t worry about them being closely packed; they will shrink quite a bit as they cook), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for an hour at 400°F (alternatively, you could slow roast them for 4 hours at 250°F).
If you slow roasted your tomatoes, turn the oven up to 400°F. If your puff pastry is in a block, roll it out to approximately the same size as the pan you’re using. Crumble the goat cheese over the roasted tomatoes and top it with the puff pastry, crimping the edges underneath with your fingers (sloppy = rustic) or trimming the corners off to make a circle with a paring knife.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden. Let sit for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving dish; retrieve any goat cheese that has stuck to the bottom of the pan and put it back onto the tart. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 4-6.
One Year Ago: Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake with Berries