Last week I was home in Arkansas again for a quick visit – too quick, in fact. The time I spend there goes by at warp speed, particularly in comparison to my days spent traveling to and from. My layover in one airport felt excruciatingly lengthy and the distance between my connecting flight and destination seemed to stretch agonizingly, even though I spent less than an hour in the air. There’s something about anticipating something good that makes time behave badly. It’s the same thing that makes it slip through grasping fingers like liquid when you want it to slow down, to savor something good that’s been a long time coming.
Flying into the regional airport always gives me a thrill, anticipation notwithstanding: the plane descends over patchwork pastures dotted with grazing cattle or tiny golden bales of hay, casting perfect replicas of themselves in their shadows. Corrals and ponds make crop circles in the fields. We come upon clusters of trees so vibrantly green, rises in the elevation so smooth as to seem like silk. I’m sure the other passengers think I’m a novice traveler because I’m like a little kid peering through the plane window, my eyes stretched wide to see it all and my smile barely contained.
It was good to be home.
It was good to see the familiar sights of the chickens, the tangle of garden growth, the way the sun slants over the hill and into the horse barn in the evenings. It was good to walk barefoot on the grass and to ride in the old truck without a seatbelt. It was good to navigate through a mess of junebugs, with their whirring wings like lawnmower motors, just to get at the juiciest wild blackberry. All these things come back to me quickly even though they’re no longer a part of my daily life. Then they stay there, lodged in my heart like the stubbornest of brambles.
My favorite part of the trip was my first night at home. My parents and I grilled outside on their patio and ate on the picnic table to the sound of peepers and the nudges of a begging puppy’s nose from beneath our seats. We had incredible steaks with truffle butter, grilled white asparagus and fresh tomatoes from the garden, seemingly still warm from the sun. We watched the stars come out from behind the trees and worked our way through a bottle of wine, as if to coax them out with toasts and clinking glasses. A few clumsy bats swooped over our heads. The insects of the night began to warm up their orchestra of wings.
That was what it felt like to be home – those moments of closeness, of jokes, of intimate conversation with two of my favorite people, with our animals around us and the land of my birthright beneath my feet. If only every meal could be that powerful, that delicious.
For the crust:
2 Tbsp. melted butter, coconut oil, ghee or lard
½ Tbsp. raw honey
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ c. almond flour
½ c. + 2 Tbsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch, if you don’t have any)
1 Tbsp. coconut flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. grated parmesan
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
Sift together dry ingredients. Beat together wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then combine, kneading until a moist dough forms. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic film – chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make the filling. After the dough has chilled, press it into a tart pan. Prick the bottom with a fork and then brush with a little egg white. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust begins to brown.
½ lb. fresh tomatoes, sliced thin
salt and pepper
Arrange tomatoes in par-baked crust. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, plus a good handful of fresh basil leaves. Cover the tart crust with a foil barrier and bake for another 15 minutes. After elapsed time, crank up the oven to 500 degrees for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes are beginning to broil. Make sure the crust doesn’t burn. The end result should be a crisp crust with tender, jammy tomatoes and an herbal flavor throughout.