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Archive for March, 2013

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I usually like to pair my recipes and food photos with philosophical musings (or perhaps “ramblings” is more accurate), which is why months tend to pass by before I have the time and inclination to write any new posts. But sometimes sugar is just sweet. Sometimes, dessert just tastes good. And this is one of those times.

Yesterday, I made a recipe that was so good, and so deceivingly easy that I just have to share it. So I’m breaking my own rules, sparing you the life lesson, and keeping it short and sweet with a great recipe and some pretty photos. (Also trying to follow my own advice to simplify. Can you break your own rules and follow your own advice at the same time?)

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I used this recipe for “Lazy Mary’s Lemon Tart” by dymnyno on Food 52. I was intrigued by the technique: no futzing around making lemon curd, just throw a whole Meyer lemon in a blender (peel and all) with eggs, sugar and a stick of butter and voila: tart filling that’s ready to pour into your tart shell and bake. You don’t even have to melt the butter. I did “go the extra mile” and remove the seeds from the recipe, even though the recipe didn’t specifically say to do so. I’m a perfectionist like that.

I made my own tart shell using the recipe below, which was also pretty easy, but if you really want to be “lazy” and just pick up a pre-made tart shell from Whole Foods, I fully support that decision.

Classic Tart Dough from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2  teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups AP flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ pieces and chilled

Whisk egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in a bowl. Process flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add chunks of butter, tossing to coat each one in the flour mixture. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15x. With machine running, add egg mixture and continue to process until dough just comes together around blade, about 12 seconds.

Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten to 6″ disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Can make ahead and store up to 2 days in fridge or 1 month in freezer).  Before rolling out dough, let it sit on counter to soften slightly for about 10 min. Roll out into 11″ circle on lightly floured surface. Loosely roll up onto rolling pan and gently unroll onto 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, letting excess dough hang over the edges. Ease dough into pan by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into corners with other hand. Press dough into fluted sides of pan, forming distinct seam around pan’s circumference. Crust should be 1/4″ thick all around. If some sections are too thin, reinforce them by folding the excess dough back on itself. Run rolling-pin over top of tart pan to remove any excess dough. Prick holes into bottom with a fork. Wrap dough-lined tart pan loosely in plastic wrap place on large plate and freeze until dough is fully chilled and firm, about 30 min. (Can be wrapped tightly and frozen up to a month).

Heat oven to 375. Set dough-lined tart shell on a baking sheet, line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dry rice or beans). Bake about 15 min, remove parchment and pie weights and bake for another 10 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before pouring in lemon filling and baking tart at 350 for 35-40 min.

Inspired by the lavender blooming in my garden I added a few drops of lavender extract to the whipped cream just for fun.

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Rolling Tart Dough

Nurture. What a great word. So many meanings, so much promise. Full of hope and faith in the future.

As I mentioned way back when, at the start of 2012, Matt and I have a tradition: in lieu of New Year’s resolutions, every year we choose a single word to live by. A mantra to remind ourselves what really matters. This year during our New Year’s Day hike, when I asked Matt what he thought our 2013 word should be, “nurture” was the first word out of his mouth. And it was perfect. At the time, I was about 6 months pregnant, (now only 7 weeks, yes I said weeks, left to go!), and just starting to feel the movements of a new life taking shape inside me. We had nurtured the hope of becoming parents for a long time, and now it seemed it was really going to happen.

For us, the word contained not only the obvious meaning of nurturing our child, and cultivating the types of values we want to pass along as parents, but also a reminder to nurture ourselves and each other. To steady ourselves against the all-consuming, life-changing event on the horizon.

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I found myself thinking about this promise last weekend, as I was preparing a meal to drop off for my friend Clare who just had a baby. Most of the time, nothing gives me more pleasure or satisfaction than cooking for the people I love. And going above and beyond with a few culinary details (homemade chicken stock for my soup, pie dough from scratch), especially for people who might not have the time to do it themselves, is a gift I love to give. But last weekend, as I was rolling out pie dough with my great-grandmother’s wooden rolling pin (we’ll get back to her in a moment) and rushing to get my tart in the oven, I discovered that at 8-months pregnant, standing in the kitchen for hours is not as fun as it used to be. As much as I wanted to make the meal of all meals to soothe the bodies and souls of a family with their hands full (newborn AND toddler!), what I wanted and needed even more was a nap. In my quest to nurture others, I had forgotten to nurture myself.

Gramma in the iris bed

Now back to my great-grandmother, Mary Blanche. She knew a thing or two about how to nurture. For Christmas every year, she gave us each a tin of homemade cookies and new flannel pajamas, lovingly sewn. And when I visited her as a little girl, we would make snickerdoodles and tapioca pudding, and serve it up on her finest china at tea parties for prestigious guests (my dolls, stuffed animals, and other dignitaries.) She would pull a step stool up to her kitchen counter so I could be her kitchen apprentice, kneading and mixing at her side. I loved her wrinkled hands, talcum-scented and soft as pie dough. But in addition to all the loving touches she doled out to those around her, Mary Blanche was really good at taking care of herself. Of hearty Michigan farm stock, she had a streak of independence and gumption that served her well all her life. She lived out her final days alone in her house, and as family legend has it, was making herself a pot of homemade chicken soup from scratch on the day she died, at age 96.

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When I finally arrived at Clare’s house with a basket of homemade goodies, flustered from rushing around all day, I was greeted with a very calming reality-check. The whole family–mom, dad, newborn, and toddler were settled in for a Sunday afternoon nap. Rosy-cheeked, and pleasantly tired from a hike, they greeted me in PJs and bed-head and invited me into their cozy cocoon. Invited me to slow down. Leading by example in the most nurturing way.

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I was really happy to share a lovingly prepared meal with this family, and I know they sincerely appreciated it. But I also know they would have equally appreciated a much simpler gesture. And so, after that visit, I vowed to give myself permission to simplify. And naps. More naps!

Thank you Clare and Mary Blanche for helping me remember to nurture myself.

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The meal:

Sausage & Kale Dinner Tart, recipe from Food 52, posted by My Pantry Shelf. (Whose blog My Pantry Shelf  is definitely worth checking out.)

This recipe is fantastic. I’ve made it before. This time around, I made a few minor modifications in an effort to reduce the guilt I feel about eating pie for dinner: used a lower fat turkey sausage and substituted 1/2 cup of the flour with whole wheat flour. But then again, I probably negated those efforts by adding slightly more cheese (ricotta AND goat’s milk feta) than the original recipe calls for. Oh well. Delicious either way.

Served with cauliflower soup (recipe from The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchenby Joanne Harris & Fran Warde) and salad greens from our garden, with a homemade Dijon vinaigrette.

At least I was “self-nurturing” enough to double the recipes so we could also enjoy the fruits of my labor!

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