Saturday, June 28, 2008

Queen of Tarts

Since I've been home, I've made 4 fruit tarts already. I guess you could say I've gone a little tart crazy, but I can't help myself with the abundance of summer fruits and berries.

I came across this recipe while watching my absolute favorite Food Network show, The Barefoot Contessa. Her lemon curd is delicious and really brings out the flavor of the lemons, which I had picked that afternoon from my grandmother's garden. I added a pint of fresh raspberries and substituted the crust recipe from the Balsamic Custard Tart (just because that one used a little less butter). The result was perfection--my family couldn't stop eating!

Lemon Curd Tart (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

For the tart shell:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

For the lemon curd:
4 lemons, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the tart shell:

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the lemon curd:Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature.

**Arrange a pint of fresh raspberries. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

I love tarts!


Is it Chocolate?'s Balsamic!

When my friend Terra brought this tart to our Cornell Gourmet Club potluck, I thought to myself, "Wow! Chocolate and berries! My favorite combination!" I eagerly took a bite and immediately realized the custard was not chocolate. It was a familiar flavor, slightly tart yet sweet, but I could not for the life of me figure out what it was.

When she told me it was balsamic vinegar, I thought "Of course!" and immediately asked for the recipe. The slightly sour custard enhanced the sweetness of the berries, making it a light and
lovely summer dessert. Everyone at the potluck loved it, including me! Here is the recipe:

Balsamic Custard Tart with Fresh Fruit

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon whipping cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (we generally just use regular baslsamic;
it just looks prettier if you use white)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

(I've also made this with other assortments of fruit (kiwis,
pears, what-have-you), and it seems to work well regardless)

2 large strawberries, hulled, sliced
2 1/2-pint containers blueberries
1 1/2-pint container raspberries
1 T orange marmalade (optional)

For crust:

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns, until coarse meal forms. Add egg yolk and cream. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Press dough evenly into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce dough all over with fork. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 22 minutes. Cool.

For filling:
Stir cream and cornstarch in medium bowl until cornstarch dissolves. Add eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla; whisk to blend.

Boil vinegar in heavy medium saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water, sugar, and butter. Stir until butter melts; return to boil. Gradually whisk vinegar mixture into egg mixture; return to pan. Whisk until custard thickens and boils, about 1 minute. Strain
into bowl; cool. Spread custard in prepared crust. Cover and chill tart at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

For topping:
Arrange berries as desired. Cover loosely and chill until ready to serve. (Can be made up to 6 hours ahead.)

I added a glaze to keep the berries fresh. Melt 1 T of orange or apricot marmalade in a saucepan. Brush onto the berries.

Fool your friends and family with this fool-proof, festive tart!


A California Twist on a Classic

In honor of my upcoming trip to San Francisco, I decided to try and recreate a salmon BLTA I had several years ago at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Even though it’s been ages since I’ve eaten that sandwich, it still stands out in my mind as one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had and a great example of Calfornia cuisine at its best.

For my rendition of the salmon BLTA, I used my friend Eli’s salmon recipe and made extra of his secret sauce (which is not so secret anymore, since I’m sharing it on the blog!). The sweet and spicy tang of the sauce went perfectly with the smokiness of the bacon, the delicate flavor of the salmon, and the freshness of the tomato and avocado. I also toasted the ciabatta bread to add a little extra crunch. This sandwich is perfect for lunch on a hot summer afternoon, with a tall glass of iced tea.

Salmon BLTA

(Serves 1)

Approx. ¼ lb. salmon fillet (can use more or less—depending on how big you want your sandwich to be!)

1 ciabatta (can be any type of crusty bread, i.e. baguette, sourdough, etc.)

2-3 slices center-cut bacon

Handful of romaine and/or red lettuce, washed and rinsed

1 tomato, sliced

1 avocado, sliced

Eli’s secret sauce: 1 T mayo, ¾ T BBQ sauce, 1 t brown sugar

For Eli’s salmon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. For Eli’s secret sauce, mix together the 1 T mayo, ¾ T BBQ sauce, and 1 brown sugar. (This makes enough for the salmon. For extra to spread on the salmon, I would double the recipe.)
  3. Spoon the sauce over the salmon. Roast in the oven for 7-10 min until center is light pink. Set aside and cool.

To assemble the sandwich:

  1. Cook the bacon in frying pan. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a separate pan, pour 1 t of extra virgin olive oil (and little bit of bacon drippings, optional). When oil is heated, put half of the ciabatta face down onto the pan for approx. 2 min. until lightly browned and crispy. Flip and toast the other side. Do the same for the other half of the bread.
  3. Spread Eli’s sauce onto both sides of the bread. (If you don’t have the sauce, you can substitute plain mayo).
  4. Place salmon, lettuce, sliced tomato, and avocado onto the ciabatta.
Enjoy this tasty California update of a classic--I know I did!