These are the days...
I was seven when my sister went to college in Chicago. I'd visit sometimes (back in the days when children traveled alone) and when I did, she'd take me to the Art Institute for an adventure. It was fascinating on it's own, but with her it seemed alive and wild and exciting. Sometimes it scared me (Those Joseph Cornell boxes still make me uneasy) but usually her exuberance made my eyes widen with wonder.
On one bright and noteworthy afternoon, we were there again, standing in front of Van Gogh's The Bedroom, and with the dazzling authority of a 19 year old Poli-Sci major in an Art History class, she explained what I was looking at. She told me it was painted by a man who was lonely. Look at how the door is blocked. Notice the floor slopes. The colors are muted she said. I don't know if I knew what muted meant, but her reverence was evident and seeped into my psyche. This was important art. It meant something. It was when I realized art had more to it than just pictures on the wall.
Years later, when I was living in Birmingham, England I flew in for a visit before she had her twin babies. We went to the museum and wandered around as we always did, chatting and catching up and me marveling at her beautiful life. How she was glowing, how the light in the museum was following her giving her an ethereal halo, and how completely wonderful it was to be there with her.
We stopped in front of the Van Gogh's and I told her how her understanding of the piece had shifted the way I saw the world. How I saw art. How I saw her. She was (and still is) the smartest most incredible woman I know. She's my sister and her greatest gift is her ability to share her love and excitement about anything and everything. Including art. The day she explained that painting to me was the day my world shifted for the better.
I miss her so much in these times. I can't wait to see her again and hug her and maybe even give her a big bouquet of sunflowers.
In the mean time, I saw a tweet from the inviting people to submit a work inspired by Van Gogh. I do love a prompt (oh do I ever) so I made this. It was so, so easy and tasted, so, so good. The crust is like dark Danish bread and the filling is just hearty and vibrant and worthy of your time. I was inspired not by The Bedroom, but by The Potato Eaters, another one of Van Gogh's paintings that's always fascinated me. I used potatoes and sun chokes (okay, that's a reference to Sunflowers) with turmeric in a Dark Bread/French inspired tart crust made from sunflower seeds and hazelnuts with rye and buckwheat. It's earthy and textured and has a certain mid-winter feeling. What could be Van Gogh than that?
Now try this my lovelies, rejoice and devour
Makes: Six, 4-inch tarts or one large tart
Takes: 1 hour
Skill level: 3 out of 5 (Lots of dishes maybe, but nothing hard to do except some cutting.)
Restrictions: Vegan and parve. Has nuts and gluten.
You'll need six fluted mini tart pans or one removeable bottom 9 inch tart pan
For the crust
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1 large carrot, trimmed
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
Water as needed
Large pinch of salt
For the filling
8 medium sun chokes, scrubbed clean
8 small potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt, to taste
Non vegan addition: 1/2 cup plain chevre
Preheat your oven to 400F (Gas mark 6). Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
To make the crust, pulse the nuts, seeds and carrot in a food processor until chunky. Add the flours, thyme and pepper and pulse a few times to combine, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. It should come together as a ball. If not, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it does.
Put the dough in a bowl, cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
To make the filling, cut the sun chokes, four of the potatoes and the shallots into large, equal sized (ish) pieces. Toss in a bowl with a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper then arrange on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until browned, turning once.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining potatoes and simmer in 2 cups of water with some salt and the turmeric. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough to be pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Drain, add to another bowl, toss with some olive oil and set aside.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and let cool while you make the tart crusts, by pressing the dough evenly in to the fluted tart tins, letting it come up the sides.
Bake the empty crusts for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, fill with (a bit of goat cheese if using and) the vegetables. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool until ready to serve at room temperature with a garnish of flakey sea salt.