Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Nicoise Toast and Provisions: Going through the motions
"Food is your safety blanket." He says. "And history is mine."
He's not saying it with any sense of malice, it's more an observation, uttered without much thought or knowledge as to how significant those words will be to me. To the "us" we might have been if we weren't completely and utterly wrong for each other.
I stare out the window as I process his statement, my eyes ironically falling on Mozza as we drive toward Hollywood. It seems like a sign - my favorite restaurant, a place that I know he would never appreciate in the same way that I do.
Of course, if I'm going to be honest with myself, it's actually a sign of what I've known all along. On our first date when he strode in ten minutes late wearing a pink collared shirt and light jeans with decals on the pockets. When he'd gone on for 30 minutes about presidential history while I swirled my glass of Malbec and wondered how much longer I'd have to nod my head like I was genuinely interested in his theories about James Buchanan's sexuality.
When he'd showed up for drinks wearing a t-shirt that read, "100% Paleo, 80% of the time."
When he told me that he didn't want to go to the hot new barbecue restaurant because it wasn't… healthy.
Of course, I'd known. Of course, I'd acknowledged that it wasn't right. At least not right beyond the right now.
"A spring fling," I'd told my girl friends.
That somehow bled into summer.
It was easy to pretend in the moment. He was nice. It was nice. It, he, made me feel special in a way that I hadn't felt in a while - since the boy I actually could (and did) take to Mozza, my litmus test for relationship longevity.
I know he's just making conversation, making light of the fact that I get my kicks from knowing all the restaurants in town, and that he gets his from knowing the names and peculiarities of all the Greek and Roman gods.
I know, to him, it doesn't matter. Just as I know that to me, it does. That I don't want to go through life, or even another two months, nodding my head like I'm genuinely interested. That I'm done pretending, of trying to force something that isn't there and won't be there.
But we go to the movie. We hold hands over the armrest like a couple, because that's what couples do, and it's nice to feel part of something. Even if it isn't anything at all.
Even if it's never going to last beyond the final credits. Even if it's just going through the motions.
Plucking olives from the bowl. Spitting out the pits. With no desire to eat them at all.
Nicoise Toasts and Provisions
Serves however many you like
Notes: It's no big secret that I'm not particularly keen on olives. I've declared more than a few times that I consider them to be one of a handful of foods that I actually want to spit out immediately - save for a few presentations of cooked, high-quality Italian olives in certain dishes that may or may not be served at Osteria Mozza. Obviously. But Mozza manifestations aside, I've struggled to reconcile my distaste for olives with my status as someone who more or less enjoys food. I've tried desperately to like them, sampling them in myriad forms and formats because they seem like something I should like. Because everybody likes olives.
I developed this recipe with the hope that it might inspire a revelatory moment - that I might be able to come around to the putrid orbs, after all. Yet even in this form, even using olives procured from an actual olive bar, I still didn't enjoy them in the way that I felt I should. You know, head-over-heels, dizzy in… like.
But for someone else, for someone who loves olives unequivocally, these nicoise toasts and provisions would likely be just the right fit. With no need to just go through the motions at all.
It's not so much as a recipe as it is assembling ingredients to taste until it's right. For you, that is. Not me. Obviously.
Sourdough bread, grilled or toasted
Hard boiled eggs, sliced into quarters
High-quality tuna soaked in oil, drained and flaked
Vine ripened tomato, diced
Black olives, coarsely chopped
Pinch of fresh thyme
Pinch of fresh parsley, minced
Squeeze of lemon, pinch of lemon zest
Swirl of olive oil
Freshly grated pepper
For hard boiled eggs:
Place eggs in pot of cold water (enough to cover the eggs by an inch or so). Bring to a slow bowl, then turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for nine minutes. Remove from the pot and immediately submerge in a prepared ice bath. Cool for a good 15 minutes before attempting to peel and quarter as per the above.
In a bowl, combine whatever proportions desired of the tuna, tomato, capers, olives, parsley. Add a pinch of fresh thyme, lemon, lemon zest, a swirl of olive oil, and freshly grated pepper. Stir gently to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes or so for the flavors to meld.
Serve in a potted jar or bowl on a platter with sourdough toast and hard boiled eggs. Eat, according to taste.