Recently, I have taken to wearing rubber on weekends. A full body suit in black and blue, matching boots, a skull-hugging hat. There is a knife around my left calf, and my hands are clothed in black. A large watch and some rather fetching fins finish the look.I have taken up scuba diving lessons and, hoo boy, does that entail more than I fathomed. There are the copious amounts of rubber (making me smell like a tire factory), there is a cumbersome metal air cylinder on a harness with assorted air hose and gauges. And then there is the lead you strap around your waist, transforming the outfit from bulky to plain uncomfortable. It takes a good twenty minutes to get suited up, and then I am expected to jump in the water and not sink like a brick. Scuba diving, my dears, is for people who like to defy the laws of physics.
Some are naturally suited to this. They have no trouble breathing under water, glide around smoothly with 25+ kg strapped to their back. Me, I ingest half the lake through my nose every time I go under and bounce around like a deranged puppy. Up, down, up, down. Down, down, sometimes, but then my man grabs my hand. It is a challenge, people. Still, I stick with it, because I hear there are excellent things to be seen under water and I don’t want to miss out. Sea turtles, here I come.
At least, I hope I will. There is a real chance I won’t, if my previous endeavors with complicated sports are anything to go by. I remember an attempt at canyoning aborted halfway through (I was right- people die doing that), summersaults while on a quad bike and a dislocated kneecap playing soccer. (Soccer is complicated, no?) Perhaps I should stick to cooking. That gets complicated and messy, but at least I can rely on the results.
Last weekend, I spent two hours making a tomato-corn pie per a SmittenKitchen recipe. It was work, and my kitchen can testify that it was messy.
I cut the kernels off three cobs of corn, minced a shallot, cut a handful of basil into ribbons.
Peeled, seeded and sliced five large, ripe tomatoes.
Grated a pile of cheese, mixed mayonnaise with lemon juice and piled everything together in a crust.
Then, I got results. Delicious, lip-smacking results. The sweet, zingy tomatoes and even sweeter, crunchy corn are married into something irresistibly good by the sharpness of the shallot (I prefer the slight edge of shallots to the more mellow chives the recipe suggests) and the tang from a lemony mayonnaise dressing. I know that sounds odd, baked mayonnaise, but it works. To round things out, there is a bit of salt and heft from mature Gouda (no good Cheddar around these here parts, but the substitution is certainly not a compromise). In fact, this high-summer pie is so tasty that I might make another one this weekend.
If I make it out of the water this afternoon.
Recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
75 gr cold butter
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 large, ripe tomatoes
3 ears of corn
100 gr mature Gouda, coarsely grated
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Combine the flour, ¾ tsp salt and the baking powder in a bowl. Add butter, and chop into small pieces with two table knives. When you cannot get the pieces any smaller, continue working the butter through the flour with cold hands (rinsing under cold water helps), until mixture resembles wet sawdust. Add milk (perhaps not all at once- I didn’t need all the milk and had to add extra flour to dry the mess that happened when I poured the whole amount in in one go) and stir until it just comes together. Gather dough into two equally sized balls, wrap in plastic, flatten to disks and refrigerate.
Cut the kernels from the ears of corn (cutting them upright in a bowl with high sides minimizes mess). Score an X in the bottom of each tomato, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a minute or two, rinse with cold water. Slip the skins off the tomatoes, slice into thick slices and remove seeds. Mince the shallot and cut the basil into thin ribbons.
Roll out one of the dough disks thinly, to cover bottom and sides of a 25 cm pie dish. Place dough in dish and pinch off any bits hanging over the edges. Arrange half of the tomato slices over the dough, sprinkle with half the corn, half of the minced shallot and half of the basil ribbons. Salt and pepper generously, then sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat, but hold the cheese. Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and pour over the top. Now sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Roll out the second disk of dough into a circle slightly larger than the top of the dish. Cover the pie dish with the dough and press top and sides of dough together. Cut vents in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake pie for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.