June 25, 2008
While in South Carolina, I got to spend one evening alone with my sister Sue and our dear friend Debbie Marlowe
, who is my wine guru. Sue and I found beautiful local corn, plums, and cucumbers at a roadside stand, and we pulled wood duck breasts from her freezer. Our architect friend Scott Anderson
had shot them last fall. Debbie brought a lovely 2005 Chateau Moulin Rompu, a Médoc whose Cab-Merlot blend was perfect with the unctuous duck and the tart and fruity sauce I made with the plums.
As I wrote in May, duck is my favorite red meat, and I love to serve the breasts rare. I simply place the breasts skin side down in a frying pan and cook them until the skin is crisp and most of the fat has rendered out. I then turn down the heat, flip the breasts over, and cook for a few mintues more. The sauce is a lowcountry classic of ripe plums cooked in a little port. (The recipe is on the May 1, 2008
, blog.) The best part of the dinner (other than the company), though, was the 2005 Louis Latour Beaune that Debbie also brought, which was everything you want Chardonnay to be and which was perfect with the just-picked, but not too sweet, corn.
June 23, 2008
I’ve been in South Carolina and Florida for two weeks with my family because my father has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I somehow cooked nearly every day. On the way down, we stopped in Elloree, South Carolina, where we left our dog with our dear chef friend, Philip Bardin, of Edisto Island’s Old Post Office restaurant (which will reopen later this year). Philip had a pot of butterbeans on the stove when we arrived, which, to a southerner, is like saying that he had tubs of caviar and Champagne chilling.
Peas and Beans
in the Lowcountry (and in much of the South) might be any of over three hundred varieties grown. These are not English peas — though we do grow them as well — but crowder peas, black eyes, butterbeans, Sieva (also Sewee, and pronounced “sivvy”) beans, field peas, and whippoorwills — all members of the Fabacaea family, the legumes. (see my entry on cowpeas
on July 7, 2007) Sieva beans are the smallest of the Lima beans, a delicious butterbean that has no equal. They are said to have been grown here by the Sewee Indians when Europeans arrived, though all lima beans supposedly originated in South America. Real Sandlappers know that the best beans of all are the volunteer field peas that come up in the soybean fields in the fall. Field peas (called cow peas when dried), black-eyed peas, and crowder peas — beans as well — are cooked, like butterbeans, with a piece of cured pork and served over rice. Made with dried peas in wintertime, the dish becomes Hoppin’ John
Peas and rice appear in equatorial cuisines around the world, and the complete protein it provides is legend. The West African slaves would have been familiar with pigeon peas and rice, an African dish which remains unchanged in the Caribbean, where the Cajanus genus, of which they are specific, will grow; it has been suggested that Hoppin’ John is a bastardization of the French “pois à pigeon.” In the Bahamas, “Hop and John” includes Guinea corn, or sorghum, as the grain and black-eyed peas as the legume. In the summer of 1989, I helped revive the Charleston Farmers Market, which has been a runaway success, the way nearly all inner city markets offering fresh, local produce have. The first crop of butterbeans and crowder peas comes in July (there is another crop in the fall); I gladly pay a premium for hand-picked and -shelled peas. Some I blanch for a few minutes and freeze in plastic bags for winter use, although I have found that cooking them fully first as described below and freezing them in quart-size bags gives better results. In Florida, my siblings and I bought a bushel of butterbeans and I cooked them and put them in 8 quart freezer bags for us to take home. I also cooked a pot of white acre peas (a type of blackeye also called cream peas) for my father.
For 2 pounds of shelled peas, I put two quarts of water and about a pound of cured meat in a pan and bring it to a boil. In summertime I use smoked neck bones, but in the winter I might use a hock or what we call butt’s meat. Butt’s meat is salt pork, from the jowl. If you use salt pork or streak-o’-lean or butt’s meat, you’ll need to cut it up, “fry it out,” then pour off some of the fat before adding the water. After the water comes to a boil, I cook it at a low boil for about a half-hour, or until the water is flavored by the meat. Then I add the peas, return to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about another 30 minutes. Seldom do I eat the peas on the same day that they are cooked. 2 pounds of peas yield 8-10 servings. The most typical Lowcountry meal of summer might include peas and rice, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, cornbread, and fried okra. Serve the peas over rice, with plenty of pot likker (the cornbread will sop up what the rice doesn’t).
Relishes are always served with peas and rice. Corn Relish
goes well with Sieva beans and rice; Peach and Coconut Chutney
(see August 7, 2007
) complements field peas and rice. With the fall crop of butterbeans, Artichoke Relish
(see December 31, 2007
) is more appropriate.
from Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking
This corn relish is very vinegary. I never add the sugar often called for in most corn relish recipes because I use not only sweet modern varieties of corn, but local Wadmalaw Sweet onions as well (see Pantry section). Use the sweetest corn and onions you can find to make this relish, and make a small batch the first time around. Small batches are not only easier to handle, but are also more readily seasoned to taste.
Serve this condiment with poultry, tossed into salads, or with beans and rice.
1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large sweet onion, such as a Wadmalaw or Vidalia,
chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh chili peppers, such as jalapeño
3 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 cups sweet corn kernels (about 12 ears) cut, but not
scraped, from the cobPut everything but the mustard, turmeric, and corn in a nonreactive pot and simmer for about 5 minutes. Put the mustard and turmeric in a small bowl or teacup and mix it together with some of the hot liquid from the pot, then add the mixture to the pot, along with the corn. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Pack the mixture in sterilized jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 6-1/2 pints.
Here’s a recipe that’s found on the Mediterranean, in Southeast Asia, and in the American South and Southwest. A quick dip of freshly picked squash blossoms in a tempura batter then into hot oil makes a quick and delightful summer appetizer. If the blossoms come from unsprayed plants are are picked early in the morning, you should not have to wash them. The blossoms of other squash, pumpkin, and melon plants — as well as sliced vegetables and shrimp — can be used in this tempura batter.
Blossoms can also be stuffed before frying. One of the best meals I’ve ever made was a spontaneous one on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When I went into the garden that morning, I found 10 perfrect blossoms, exactly the number of diners we were having for dinner. I stuffed them with crabmeat and served them with a dipping sauce made from all the peppers in their garden, roasted, peeled, and pureed with a little wine. But they’re perfectly delicious plain like this.
Peanut oil for frying
2 dozen squash blossoms with 2-inch stems
1 cup iced water
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Pour 2 inches of oil into a large deep skillet or Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. Preheat an oven to 200o. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.
Check the blossoms for bugs and sand. Wash and pat dry if necessary. In a wide bowl, mix the yolk well into the water, using a wooden spoon. Dump the flour into the liquid all at once, stirring quickly. The batter will be lumpy.
Fry the blossoms at 365o
. Holding the blossoms by the stem, drag them through the batter and drop into the hot fat one at a time, frying each one about 30 seconds on 1 side, then flipping it over and frying it until it has begun to brown, about 10 to 20 seconds. Remove each blossom as it is cooked to the prepared baking sheet in the oven. Continue until all the blossoms are fried. Salt lightly and serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8
June 9, 2008
Dear Readers, I’m off to South Carolina and Florida to visit my family and will probably not be blogging for most of the next two weeks. I did make a remarkable salade niçoise yesterday for Kate Pierson of the B52s, who stayed in town to visit after they played with Cindy Lauper on the True Colors Tour
. I’ll be posting the recipe soon. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the main plate, before dressing. Poached fresh tuna sits atop mixed greens from the garden, ringed by (clockwise from bottom) green beans, hard-boiled eggs, vine ripe tomatoes, roasted peppers, freshly dug potatoes, and pickled onions. For the dressing, I warmed 4 minced garlic cloves in olive oil, then added two boned and rinsed salt-packed anchovies until they melted. I then added 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and let each diner dress his own salad.
June 6, 2008 Hottern hell!
After the prettiest, and coolest, spring I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying anywhere, someone opened the door to hell here in Washington, to paraphrase my brother. The heat index is over 100! I made a classic Italian summer pasta dish last night, using the ripe Florida tomatoes I had found.
Pasta dell’Estate (Summer Pasta)
I learned to make this when I lived in Genoa in the early 80s, where we called it simply pasta dell’estate (summer pasta) or pasta alla salsa cruda (pasta with raw sauce). It’s a dish that both of my friends, Gianni (who had grown up in a peasant family up in the Appenines) and Alberto (who was a “city boy” from Santa Margherita), knew from childhood, so I was shocked to see that a famous Roman restaurant critic and historian credits the dish to a chef in Rome in 1972! In David Downie’s excellent Cooking the Roman Way (Harper Collins, 2002), he says that the dish disappeared along with the chef in the mid-1980s. I had lunch with the eminent art historian John Pope-Hennessy in Rome in 1983 and was shocked to see the dish offered on a menu as “pasta alla checca.” Downie explains that “Romans love making off-color remarks.” They even name some of their favorite dishes after body parts and functions. Actually, this is true throughout southern Europe: There are French cheese crottins, or turds; merda de can (dog shit gnocchi) in NIce, and all sorts of puffy foods called nun’s farts throughout the region. But the Genoese are very proper folks and I never heard any foods called by such vulgar names there.
I was surprised to see the dish in Rome called pasta all checca — faggot’s pasta. Downie quotes the historian Livio Jannattoni, who says that the name of the dish comes from the inclusion of fennel seeds in the recipe — semi di finocchio in Italian, explaining that “finocchio is also an old-fashioned and inoffensive way to say homosexual, and so is the term checca.” I think that Jannattoni, now deceased (his work on the culinary history of Rome and Lazio was published posthumously), is wrong on several points. Surely the dish evolved in kitchens throughout Italy on hot days long before 1972. Further, if you call a man — certainly a Genoese — a checca or a finocchio, he will definitely be offended, even if he is gay. And while other writers have translated checca as the perhaps less insulting “fairy,” I think that “faggot” is a more appropriate translation, particularly if you are to believe that fennel seeds are a necessary ingredient. According to the OED, a faggot in English originally referred to a stick, or bundle of sticks. specifically as for fuel — more at “kindling.” By the 15th Century, it had come to refer to the practice of burning heretics alive: “to fry a fagot” meant to be burnt alive. It then came to be used as a general term for the heretic. Later, it was applied as a term of abuse or contempt to a woman. But today it means but one thing: a perjorative term for homosexuals, who were burned at the stake, fired by burning twigs of fennel.
Downie’s version may be the original pasta alla checca, with its fennel seeds, olives, parsley, basil, capers, and an insistence on plum or cherry tomatoes, but my version, with tomatoes, oil, garlic, and basil, we’ll just call “summer pasta” and leave it at that.
Raw tomatoes and basil are chopped and added to cooked pasta; hot, garlic-flavored olive oil is poured over the dish to warm it all through. It is essential that you use firm, ripe tomatoes for this dish. The recipe feeds two, but you can multiply it without fear.
1/2 pound dried pasta of your choice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled, the tough bottom and any green shoots removed
1 firm, ripe tomato
fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 cup firmly packed basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
While you cook the pasta, put the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat and add the garlic cloves. They will begin to sizzle in the oil after a moment or two. Continue to fry them in the oil while you prepare the tomatoes and basil. You want the oil to stay very hot, but you do not want to burn the garlic or it will impart a bitter flavor. Turn down the heat when they turn golden or move the pot off — or partially off — the heat.
Core the tomato and cut it up into large dice. You should have about a cup of chopped tomato. Taste it for acidity and if it’s not the perfect summer tomato, squeeze a little lemon juice over the pieces. Sprinkle the basil with a small pinch of salt and coarsely chop it. You should have 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls.
Just before the pasta finishes cooking, put the oil back over high heat to get it very hot again. When the pasta is cooked, quickly drain, then transfer it either into a large bowl or back into the empty pot in which it was cooked. Distribute the tomato and basil over the pasta, then pour the sizzling oil over the pasta through a sieve so as to catch the garlic, which you then discard.
Toss quickly together and divide among two pasta bowls. Let each diner season to taste with salt, pepper, and, if desired, freshly grated parmesan.
: A really young and fresh Italian white such as Frascati.
June 5, 2008 Summer’s almost here!
Culinarily speaking, summer is officially here when the tomatoes are ripe. That’s true for many southerners, but folks north of the Carolinas have to wait much longer, of course. While returning from the Eastern Shore of Maryland on Monday, I stopped at one of the vegetable stands that line the roads that take city dwellers like me to the respite of coves, bays, and beaches that the coast offers. The first thing I notice are perfectly ripe tomatoes. I know they’re from Florida, but that’s fine with me. The basil that I grew from seed and that has been slow to get established in this gloriously cool spring we’ve had is just big enough for me to begin harvesting. I walk inside, and the stand has rock-hard, green tomatoes as well. I’m thrilled, for they are one of my favorite foods (see August 20, 2007
There are also baskets of potatoes. The sign reads, “Just dug. Local.”
I’ve been in several chats about potatoes lately, including with the experts Roy Finamore
(author of One Potato, Two Potato
) and Elizabeth Schneider
(author of Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini
potatoes” is one of the most misused terms in the food world. In his 600-page tome on the tuber, Roy writes, “New
is perhaps one of the most confusing terms used to categorize potatoes. To begin with, new
does not refer to any specific variety of potatoes but rather to any potato that is young and freshly dug.” The first, young potatoes of the season, he notes, “are always small, with fragile, papery, flaking skins that are somewhat ragged-looking…. You will often see small red or white supermarket potatoes labeled ‘new.’ Keep in mind that once they sit around for more than fifteen days, they have lost all the characteristics that made them new. If you can’t easily rub the skin off the potato with your thumb, it’s not a real new potato.”
Elizabeth adds, quoting the grower Jim Gerritsen, ”These tubers are conspicuously scruffy and soil-coated, because ‘the very thin skin makes them difficult to harvest without tattering and feathering.’ … Potates coated with a dusty layer or soil are likely to be in better condition than clean, shiny ones; soil protects the skin and helps keep it dry.”
I’m looking at the “just dug” potatoes and they don’t look so new to me. They certainly have been cleaned of any dirt. I ask the vendor, an older man I’ve been buying from for 3 years, if he can vouch for their newness: “Where’s the dirt?”
He tells me that folks won’t buy them if they’re dirty, so he wipes them clean with a towel. I pick one up and let my thumbnail scrape across the surface. The skin is easily pushed away and the spud is downright juicy. I buy a basket, along with several tomatoes, both red-ripe and green.
I still have some Royal Red Shrimp in my freezer (see March 10, 2008
), so I decide to prepare one of my favorite dishes, Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, which I first had at Upperline
restaruant in New Orleans. I’ll serve simple boiled potatoes and sliced red ripe tomatoes with basil alongside.
[In one of those odd twists of fate, I happened to have just received a call from my pal Ken Smith
, who is the talented chef at Upperline. He was calling to check on my ailing father and to offer his support to my family.]
The potatoes are simplicity themselves to make. Elizabeth says to figure on 1/2 pound per person, warning, “Some think that’s piggy — some think that’s paltry.” I simply count out 4 little spuds per serving, I choose small potatoes that are all roughly the same size, cover them with water, add some salt to the water, and simmer them until a sharp thin knife passes easily through the potatoes. It takes about 20 minutes. I pour off the water, add a dollop of the best butter I can find and a little freshly chopped parsley, and cover the potatoes. Just before serving, I gently swirl the pot around to coat the potatoes (but not so roughly that they fall apart), and pass the best salt I have at the table. I’m partial to Cyprus Flake Salt, but a good, crisp fleur de sel is nice as well.
Upperline’s Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade
(from The Fearless Frying Cookbook
)This recipe has been copied all over New Orleans, but I first saw it offered at JoAnn Clevenger’s marvelous Upperline
restaurant uptown, where updated Creole classics share the menu with traditional and bistro fare. JoAnn’s shrimp are peeled before they’re boiled; they are both unusual and delicious. The Remoulade Sauce is a red one, New Orleans style. The recipe follows.
For the tomatoes, try to find rock-hard, blemish-free green tomatoes with no red whatsoever. Fry them in a very small amount of vegetable or light olive oil. Ken and JoAnn dip their tomatoes in buttermilk. You can use regular milk mixed with egg. Or you can, as I did, since I had neither milk nor buttermilk, use cream.
This recipe serves 8, but you can cook it in batches or plate individual servings as they are ready.
The recipe also calls for you to cook the shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes in the court-bouillon, but I used royal reds, and they cook a little more quickly.
For the boiled shrimp:
3 pounds medium shrimp in the shell or 2 pounds of peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1 small white onion, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 celery rib
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
6 black peppercorns
Peel the shrimp and add the shells to the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook at a low boil for 30 minutes.
Prepare a bowl or sink of iced water. Remove the stock from the heat, strain out the solids, return the stock to the saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the peeled shrimp and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, cooking the shrimp until they are just done or are no longer translucent. Do not overcook. Strain out the shrimp, reserving the stock for use in a soup, and plunge the shrimp into the iced water to stop the cooking. Drain the shrimp, then place in a covered container in the refrigerator until serving.
For the Red Remoulade Sauce:
Sauce rémoulade is a mayonnaise variation that traditionally accompanies eggs and fried fish as well as cold meats, shellfish, poultry, and vegetables. In New Orleans it’s likely to contain some tomato and red pepper sauce rather than the tradition pickles and anchovies. You’ll need to double this basic mayonnaise recipe to make the 2 cups of remoulade needed for the green tomatoes.
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper, if desired, to taste
1 large egg at room temperature
1 cup peanut oil or a blend of peanut and olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Put the mustard, salt, cayenne, and egg in a blender and blend on high speed for about 15 seconds.
With the blender running, begin drizzling in the oil very slowly, in droplets at first, and blend until all of the oil is bound with the egg and the mayonnaise is thick and creamy.
With the motor off, scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula, then add the lemon juice. Blend quickly to incorporate.
Correct the seasoning if necessary before storing tightly covered in the refrigerator for no more than a week.
Variations: Mayonnaise can be varied with the use of different oils. The leftover oil from jars of sun-dried tomatoes makes an orange-colored mayonnaise that is delicious on crab cakes. Mayonnaise made with greenish, basil-infused oil is delicious with tomatoes. There are countless variations, such as shrimp mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and this luscious remoulade.
For the Remoulade:
1 1/2 cups Blender Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Creole or Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon prepared or freshly grated horseradish
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, chervil, and tarragon are traditional)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated white onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, white and green parts
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Tabasco or other bottled hot pepper sauce, to taste
Mix all the above ingredients well together then correct the seasoning to taste. You can leave the remoulade rough or puree it to a smooth consistency in the blender.
For the fried green tomatoes and serving:
1 pint Red Remoulade Sauce
1/4 cup vegetable or light olive oil
1 cup buttermilk or 1 large egg beaten into 1 cup milk
1 cup fine cornmeal or cornflour (known as “fish fry” in Louisiana)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (Ken says it’s “highly seasoned.”)
16 slices of green tomato, 1/2- to 3/4-inch each
1 recipe boiled shrimp (above), chilled
Make the Remoulade before you begin to fry the tomatoes. If you plan to serve all 8 portions at the same time, preheat an oven to its lowest setting. Place a rack on a baking sheet and put it in the oven.
Heat the oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Pour the buttermilk (or the egg and milk mixture) into a shallow bowl or pasta dish. In another shallow bowl, season the cornmeal to taste with salt and pepper. Dip each slice of tomato into the egg wash and then into the cornmeal, coating each slice well. Add as many slices to the pan as will fit, and cook them slowly until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the slices and brown on the other side. If you’re serving more portions than the sauté pan holds, move the slices from the pan to the prepared baking sheet in the preheated oven while you continue frying all the tomatoes. You may have to wipe out the pan between batches.
For each serving, place two slices of tomato next to each other on each plate, top each slice with 3 or 4 shrimp and top each slice with 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons Remoulade.
June 2, 2008 It’s cherry and strawberry-picking time again
I’ve been out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland picking cherries and strawberries. My friends have several varieties of strawberries, and while I don’t know its name, there’s one that’s small, with pointed ends, and is intensely flavored. It’s my favorite. It must be one of the Alpine varieties known for their superior taste. When I lived in Italy, we would pick wild white strawberries in the spring up in the Ligurian Appenines; they, too, are Alpine strawberries, and they packed powerful punches in each bite. I rarely do much with strawberries other than eat them out of hand. Their season will extend well into the summer.
Cherries are another story. Since sour cherries are nearly impossible to find in markets, and since their season is so ephemeral, I try to pick and can as many as I can during their brief appearance in the spring. This year, in spite of the cooler weather, they ripened a full two weeks
earlier than last year.
I canned 12 jars of the bright red fruits, made a tart, and froze several packs of pie filling. The cherries will be gone from the trees in just a few days, so our time at the shore was serendipitous.
Working with cherries is not simple work because pitting them is tedious and time-consuming. Last year I found a spring-loaded German-made cherry pitter that has changed a process that used to take hours into one that takes mere minutes.
Made by Leifheit, It’s the white and clear plastic boxlike utensil on the far left of the table in the photo of me that Dana Downs
took last year when she was here during cherry season.
There are dozens of recipes for preserving sour cherries, but most of them are similar: Measure your cherries after pitting them, then add 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar to each quart of fruit. Heat slowly until the sugar melts and the cherries are warmed throughout, then ladle them into sterile jars, leaving 1/2″ of headroom. Place sterile lids and caps on the jars and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. My friend and editor Roy Finamore
adds cinnamon, star anise, and rum to cherries that he weighs, adding a cup of sugar to each pound of fruit. In France and Italy, they’re traditionally put up in brandy or eau de vie. If you don’t have enough liquid to come to within 1/2″ of the rims, you can add boiling water
or the alcohol of your choice to top them off. I wipe the rims of the jars carefully with a paper towel that I dip down in boiling water, then again with a dry paper towel, before I put the caps and rings in place. (Photos by Dana.)
There’s nothing like a pantry full of your home-canned goods, and I most often put the cherries to use in an Italian-style tart or crostata. I make a pasta frolla
, which is Italian pastry dough that is what most Americans would recognize as a simple sugar cookie dough. In the workbowl of a food processor, I put 2-1/2 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. I process it quickly in bursts, then add the zest of a lemon and 14 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) of unsalted butter, cold and cut up. I process again in bursts until the mixture is uniform, then pour in, while processing, 1 egg plus one yolk beaten with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let the mixture come together on top of the blade, but don’t let it become a ball. I dump it out onto the counter and knead it lightly into a ball, flatten the ball into a disk about 5 inches in diameter, wrap well in wax paper, and refrigerate for an hour. When I’m ready to cook, I preheat the oven to 400o
, butter a tart pan, and remove the dough from the refrigerator. I give it a good whack with the rolling pin, and divide the dough into two parts, one of which should be 2/3 of the dough. I roll the larger piece out with a rolling pin, in roughly the same shape as the pan (I have both rectangular and circular tart pans), a little larger, and lift the dough up onto the rolling pin and unroll it down into the pan, pressing it gently into place, and raising the edges up above the pan. I sometimes, but not always, bake the crust blind — that is, by filling it with weights and prebaking the shell a little, about 10 minutes. Sometimes I use an egg white to brush the inside of the tart shell,
especially if I think my filling will be very juicy. I fill the tart shell with fruit, jam, or a combination. Small tarts can take as little as 2 cups; I’ve used as much as 5 cups in larger ones. I then cut strips of the remaining 1/3 of the dough and make a lattice top, carefully pressing the dough into the raised edge of tart dough around the rim. Sometimes I brush the lattice with a beaten egg or with milk or cream. Sometimes not. I bake the tart until it is golden brown (about 30 minutes), then place it on top of a smaller can or cans and gently coax the side of the pan from the tart. I sometimes glaze the tart with apricot preserves melted with water or wine, and strained.
P.S. If you have leftover dough, use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and bake them on a separate cookie sheet while the tart is baking. They are delicately flavored and delicious with tea, sherry, or an apéritif. You can buy canned sour cherries packed in water in most supermarkets. For an 8″or 9″ tart, you’ll need two cans. Simply drain the cherries, place them in the tart shell, and add some — but not all — of the drained juice before adding the lattice top to the tart.