01 November 2009

Autumn, More Proust and a Zucchini-Feta Tart

En français ici.

Nous oublions toujours qu[e la beauté et le bonheur] sont individuels et, leur substituant dans notre esprit...une sorte de moyenne entre...les plaisirs que nous avons connus, nous n'avons que des images abstraites qui sont languissantes et fade parce qu'il leur manque précisément ce caractère d'une chose nouvelle, différente de ce que nous avons connu, ce caractère qui est propre à la beauté et au bonheur. Et nous portons sur la vie un jugement pessimiste et que nous supposons juste, car nous avons cru y faire entrer en ligne de compte le bonheur et la beauté, quand nous les avons omis et remplacés par des synthèses, où d'eux il n'y a pas un seul atome.

Towards the beginning of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Proust writes a stunning passage about the particular and surprising quality of beauty and happiness -- you all didn't realize you were signing up to read along, did you! -- about how we are pessimistic about life because we remember beauty as some sort of synthesis or average of "beautiful things" we've seen, when instead it is something that is new and different each time we come across it.

This is how I feel about fall. I remember I like it all the year round, and yet the particular red of a climbing vine or the bright golden of a certain tree always surprises and stuns me when the actual season comes around, no matter how many times I've seen it.

For the past three years, living in a city, (and a warmer climate than I'm used to,) I've spent my autumns pining for New England in a very active, heart-wrenching sort of way, wishing to walk in the woods there and bathe in the river of colors. Although some part of my heart will probably always be in New England, this year I decided it was time to stop whining and start appreciating what was around me. Hopie, I said to myself, you don't live in New England. You live in Montmartre. And that's a pretty darn cool place to be if you'd stop to appreciate it.

So that's exactly what I did. I took my camera and went for a long leisurely walk up through the gardens below the Sacre Coeur and then down through the streets of Montmartre and I stopped to appreciate every color, every vine, every pretty fall leaf, and, you know what? It was stunning. And I wanted to share the experience.

Today's recipe is perhaps a bit late, given the season. It's one I made quite a bit at the beginning of the fall when there were still way too many zucchini to know what to do with and my window box was overflowing with basil (which I still haven't completely harvested and better do quickly before it gets too cold!). Still, you can give it a try or hold on to it for next year when it might jump out and surprise you like all wonderful things :-)

Zucchini - Feta Tart
(based loosely on this recipe)

1 butter puff pastry
2 med-sized zucchini, thinly sliced
150g (or about 1/2 cup) feta, crumbled
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Pierce the puff pastry with a fork in the tart pan and prebake 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, feta, basil, lemon juice, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste and lay out in the tart pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Nice autumnal pictures! That tart looks really scrumptious! A delicious flavor combo...



giz said...

Autumn in France looks beautiful and Hopie...you're not in Kansas anymore :). Your camera saw beautiful things. And...the tart - exceptional - really love it.

Ivy said...

We don't get these lovely autumn colours in the part of Greece where I live, in Athens and all the trees are quite green yet. We get these only in some parts of Northern Greece. Lovely tart.

Hopie said...

Rosa - Thank you!

Giz - Thank you for your appreciative and thoughtful comment. I'm glad I bothered to look at the beautiful things over here in Oz ;-)

Ivy - Do your trees lose their leaves in the winter? You probably get nice weather longer though, and that's pretty cool too.

Katharine said...

How wise of you to "love the one you're with" and what beauty you found! Nothing shabby about Montmartre in the fall... Your photos certainly testify to that. And the tart looks delish. Thanks, Hopie.

David said...

Leave it to you to find such natural beauty in the midst of the city, even at a sidewalk curb. The leaves may be more vivid in New England some places - in the hills of Vermont, though not in trash-strewn Boston. And France may have cut down more trees than New England (hey, ya gotta have enough pasture for all those cows to graze and make cheese, n'est pa?) But anyway, man does not live by leaf-peeping alone by by every word from the mouth of the living God. And France has the wine and food with which to best sit outdoors and appreciate His handiwork!

Karine said...

Your tart sounds delicious! Merci de partager!

I love the color of the leaves at this time of the year :)

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos - I think Fall in Paris has been particularly beautiful this year.

I bet that tart could be easily adapted for the colder months, maybe with some winter squash and sage or rosemary.

Hopie said...

Mom - Thanks! As Camille says, fall has been particularly nice this year. But I'm glad I took the time to appreciate it!

Dad - I'm still missing those sugar maples by Skidmore and the acres and acres of woods that I used to be able to walk through right out my back door... BUT it's true that if you take time to look, fallen leaves on the sidewalk have their charm, even the brown and damp ones we've had lately with all the rain make pretty patterns and smell like fall. Oh and wine and cheese DEFINITELY have their charm, so I think I'll survive ;-)

Karine - Thank you - me too! Fall's my favorite!

Camille - I think you're right about fall this year. Also about the tart. I love the flavors of squash and sage.

Alyssa said...

Hopie, your photos are gorgeous! Although I don't live in Europe, merely in a different state than the one I spent my childhood in, I can understand the nostalgia. You've managed to capture lovely autumn colors in your new home. Delicious looking tart.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Have a great Friday!



Hopie said...

Alyssa - Thanks! Yeah, I don't think nostalgia has to do with distance, just with change. Glad I''m not the only one!

Rosa - You too :-)

Sam said...

I love your photos, I really like Autumn too. Not so keen on Winter though!

The tart sounds fantastic, I still get Zucchini in my veg box occasionally, I might just try this next time I do.

Hopie said...

Sam - I know what you mean. I used to like winter when I lived in a place where it snowed a lot because even though it was cold, it was the sort of dry, biting cold, whereas in Paris most of winter is damp and miserable! Hope you like the tart!

Katharine said...

Rereading this post as it's one of your favorites, according to your recent interview. And I am enjoying the writing this time as well as the photos as the recipe. I was struck this time also by how nonchalantly you say in your ingredients: "one butter puff pastry" - hahaha. I'll just run down to Stop and Shop and take my pick! I'm happy for you that you are appreciating and making good use of what's around you! Love, Mum