Friday, June 23, 2006

Make New Friends...

June23d

Once upon a time (or, Back in the day, as my students tend to say), I spent hours in the kitchen cooking. I poached, I pureed, I preserved, I pickled. When not actively engaged in cookery, I pored over my collection of recipes or leafed through one of the many culinary magazines to which I subscribed. Sometimes I loitered at the Williams-Sonoma store, lusting after 20-quart stockpots and Le Creuset sauciers as a dipsomaniac might ogle a magnum of Cristal. While all this seemed perfectly normal to my husband and me, most of our friends and family considered my behavior slightly odd. I was often described in hushed tones as A Gourmet.

I had plenty of time to devote to this obsession because back in the day I was not figuring out how to transport two children to orthodontist appointments, cello lessons, hip-hop classes and swim meets while simultaneously grading 38 freshman essays, trying to complete a novel, and attempting to keep ipods out of the spin cycle of the washer.

These days my life is complex and my meals are simple. While I haven’t yet resorted to instant mashed potatoes and canned tamales, I’d be willing to wager that my friends long ago rescinded my gourmet status.

I do, however, still make pie.

This week’s featured recipe is a byproduct of my Gourmet Period.

The scene: a picnic on the lawn of the Long Beach Museum of Art, a twilight jazz concert underway, the grassy knolls jam-packed with blankets and revelers. Our picnic basket is likely filled with a Silver Palate tarragon chicken salad that I’d made earlier, along with a loaf of homemade bread, and heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese bathed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Nothing you couldn’t have whipped up, say, in a mere 4 hours or so.

Throughout the night, as I gradually unpack the basket, I observe a trio of picnickers adjacent to us staring wistfully at our meal. (I can’t remember exactly what was in their basket, but I suspect it involved The Colonel.) Finally, as I extract dessert -- a blueberry-buttermilk tart -- I glimpse threads of drool hanging from the corners of their mouths.

I am suddenly aghast. One big tart just for the two of us! How greedy. How shameful. How. . .American. Impulsively, I lean over our crumb-strewn blanket and ask the trio if they would like to try the tart.

They would.

And that’s how Robert and Raquel and Jonathan became our good friends and the tart re-christened, “Blueberry Friendship Pie.”

Maybe it will work its magic on you, too. While I can’t say that I’ve made a new friend each time I’ve served it, I haven’t gotten into any fist fights, either.


Blueberry Friendship Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

Although this may appear complicated due to the number of steps involved, the recipe is actually quite simple. To save time, you can make the tart dough and let it rest overnight. Or, you can pre-bake the tart shell several hours ahead. Most importantly, although the presentation of the tart seems more…umm…refined…than that of a pie, it’s easier to make if you take advantage of food processor and blender. And there’s a special bonus for all you crust-a-phobes: Ignore the rolling pin for this recipe, and simply press the dough into the tart pan with the heel of your hand.

For tart shell:

1 1/3 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
½ t. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 T. ice water

For buttermilk filling:

1 c. buttermilk
3 egg yolks
½ c. sugar
1 T. grated lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
½ stick (1/4 c.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1t. vanilla
½ t. salt
2 T. flour

2 ½ c. blueberries

powdered sugar for garnish

Make shell: In food processor, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter, while pulsing, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Continue pulsing and add yolk and water mixture. Form dough into disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least one hour.

Place dough inside 10-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim. Using the heel of your hand, work dough across the bottom of pan and then, using fingertips, press dough all the way up sides of rim.

June23a

Holding a knife horizontally, slice off excess dough from top of rim.

June23b

Chill shell at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, rice, beans, (or in a real pinch, popcorn kernels.)

June23c

Bake shell on middle shelf of oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake 5 minutes more. Cool shell.

Make buttermilk filling: In blender or food processor, blend together filling ingredients until smooth. Spread blueberries over bottom of tart shell. Pour filling over blueberries and bake in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until filling is just set. Carefully remove rim of pan and let tart cool completely on rack.

Sift powdered sugar over tart and serve at room temperature.


June23e

8 Comments:

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Majesty, you know what you need to do, yes? You and your husband (The King? Nah.) quit your day jobs and go into pies full time.

As an aside, don't you think that last picture is a little provocative and sensuous for a family blog? I like it!

Mark

 
At 12:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to be a total curmudgeon, really I'm not. I'm sure the blueberry tart was splendid. But, there were five blueberry bushes in the back yard of the house in which I grew up (okay, I never really grew up, but just aged, and in this house I spent my teen years). Anyway, my mother forced me (I think she used a pointed stick) to pick blueberries every other day all freaking summer every freaking year we lived in that house.

To put it as politely as I can, I really do not care for blueberries. I will condescend to eat a blueberry pancake if the only alternative is hunger. But that's about it.

Ummmmm... so, can I substitute any other berries or something?

Oh, and I don't really like raspberries either -- too many seeds. And we had about 80 row-feet of raspberry bushes in the back yard of that same house.

signed,
grumpy in berrytown

 
At 6:53 PM, Anonymous princely/sum said...

Ms. Tart,

I beg for you to review, Sunday, June 25,06, New York Times Magazine, Page 63. Competition or imatation or flattery.

True the portion re judging a person by approach to pie consumption, sort of along the line of pot of honey to a bear, tempting vixion?

I do not agree with issue of Shortening in Crust, The Bard says LARD, if one is going to do veins in go natural, no vegtable concoction!

All should hail the Queen of Tarts on each Piedayfriday!

Signing off, PrincelySum

 
At 7:41 PM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

Mark, A "family blog"? How insidious! So sorry if I've misled you; pie, while pleasurable and tasty, need not be tame. Henceforth, the Queen will do her best to satisfy with more...er...spicy content.

Grumpy, You could try sliced grapes or pitted and halved sweet cherries. The brief baking time doesn't allow most firm fruits to cook sufficiently. Cranberries would work, but you'd need to compensate with extra sugar. It sounds to me, though, that you might have issues -- the pointed stick?!! -- that transcend the simple goodness of pie. Might I suggest www.Dr.Phil.com?

PrincelySum, A benevolent monarch, the Queen welcomes all bakers into the Kingdom of Pie. She does, however, prefer all-butter crusts.

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummmm... does Dr. Phil have a pointed stick?

-Grumpy

 
At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Princely, I checked with my rabbi, and he said o-nay to the ard-lay. But it would be okay to use schmaltz (chicken fat) if you could make all of the other ingredients non-dairy.

 
At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

edit: Yours truly, Mark.

 
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