Moving to New York City solo (or, frankly, under any circumstances), you may have heard, is not for the faint of heart, the codependent, the wary-of-public-transportation types. Despite the endless number of people I encounter everyday, I have never experienced a living situation as profoundly lonely as life here. I’ve always considered myself an independent person, but existing here means I also have to be an entertaining one – to myself.
Many of you have heard the trials of city singledom, whether from me or from HBO's "Girls" or from "Sex and the City" or from the countless movies that portray Strong Female Leads Living in Metropolitan Areas (with absurdly, unrealistically large apartments) who are secretly desperately lonely. (Presumably because they have invested too much in their careers and not enough in their romances? Can we possibly try for new plotlines in 2013, please? There is not a small number of us who seek more than one objective in life and balance them all just fine.)
But if you haven’t heard about dating in NYC, I’m not going to regale you with the specific foibles and follies. It’s been covered, I think, and also my parents read this blog. I will say, however, that it is incredibly taxing despite what seems like overwhelmingly good odds. I mean, there are 8 million people in this city, and based on my very precise Algorithm of Eligible Bachelors Dwelling in the Five Boroughs, there must be a solid 10,000 who meet basic criteria.
As it turns out, though, basic criteria is not enough. Because as you can imagine, 10,000 men is a challenge to weed through. And every one I meet, I think “Oh yes, this is one is acceptable. But I bet I could find one who also understands my deep and sustained love for the emo music I listened to in high school.” (See: "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz.) (Also, that’s just an example. I definitely don’t listen to emo anymore! Seriously! I don’t!) I, too, am a victim of too much choice, the possibility of someone somehow better existing too tantalizing to pass up, as I found out recently after being rejected by an unemployed man who’s “too busy” for a second date.
So, more often than not, I find myself “stuck” with, well, myself.
Living in NYC solo means needing to enjoy dating the only person I can rely on 100 percent of the time. It means I take myself out to dinner, buy myself a nice new outfit, make myself an extravagant meal that, under circumstances involving another person, would be considered downright romantic.
I cannot recommend that kind of meal enough. Dining alone, living alone, traveling alone, is the kind of soul-satisfying, sometimes saddening/maddening, always reflective activity that reminds me that I am enough. That I will never be a lot of things, but I will always be enough things. At the very least, I crack myself up, especially toward the end of the night. I can’t always say that about my dates.
Last night, I made myself this tart. It’d be great with a side salad, but when you’re dating yourself, you hardly need to impress anyone with the number of vegetables you’ve consumed in a given day. In fact, the best way to show your appreciation for you is to cut yourself another slice.
Butternut squash and crispy sage savory tart
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water
1. Combine the flour and and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2. Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
1/2 butternut squash, peeled & sliced thinly width-wise
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of fresh spinach
1/2 cup of ricotta
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon of water
2 teaspoons of canola oil
About 15 sage leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay butternut squash slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt on both sides of the slices. Roast squash for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine the spinach, ricotta, and some salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. Once the squash is removed from the oven, lower the oven heat to 375 degrees F. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4. Spread ricotta cheese/spinach mixture over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1-1/2 inches. Place butternut squash slices in one layer over top of the mixture, again leaving a border. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
5. Fold the border over the squash layers to make a crust. Mix the egg and water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
6. Heat canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Place in a few leaves of sage at a time, fry for about 5 seconds each, then place on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle over the tart.