A Winter Dessert, Deep Dark Chocolate Almond Pear Tart

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The light goes early this late November. I catch the last few minutes as my tart comes out of the oven. Dark, deeper colors as the sun sets casting a winter mood.

Deep dark chocolate….ground almonds…6 ripe, yet firm fall pears. Strong and delicate flavors melded to become something magical in the waning light.

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Small Seckel Pears, sometimes called “sugar pears” due to their sweetness. are the perfect fit for this recipe. Pears are very abundant in markets these days with a great variety on offer.

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Carefully cored and peeled,  I used the stems to add a bit of style.  I love the way they look when baked on top of each little pear.

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Before and after baking….

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…up close, ready to slice and eat.

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Yum and yum.

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A Winter Dessert, Deep, Dark Chocolate Almond Pear Tart

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened + extra for brushing on tart pan
  • 6 firm, yet ripe Seckel Pears, cored, peeled, saving stems
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almonds, whole or slivered
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemons zest
  • powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brush tart pan sides and bottom with softened butter.
  3. Toss prepped pears with the lemon juice
  4. Process sugar and almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter, eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and zest until combined into a thick batter. Scrape batter into the tart pan and spread out evenly.
  5. Gently press pears into the batter around the edge of the pan evenly spaced. Insert the stems down into the pears. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake tart until puffy, for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out with a few wet crumbs attached. Take care to not overbake. Cool tart on a wire rack.
  7. Serve dusted with powdered sugar if desired.

Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts

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“April come she will, When streams are ripe, And swelled with rain…….” (Lyrics by Paul Simon “April Come She Will”)

Somehow the end of March sneaked up on me while I wasn’t looking! I have been very aware of the trees leafing out, the tulips starting to bloom, daylight savings time of course, but the actual dates…not so much.

March was a very busy month for food styling with many photo shoots that needed a lot of my attention as well as a few garden renovation projects that have been taking up the remainder of my time. This morning I realized there is only one more day in March. I felt happy as this is a week I can stay home for a few days,  and a little sad as it is all moving by so quickly. Alas such is life! Is that not April I see on the near horizon?

I made this Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts recipe a couple of years ago for a dinner party. Perfect for an Easter brunch or lunch. Enjoy.

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Small leeks just pulled from the garden…

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….thin, tender asparagus, shallots chopped & caramelized……

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…crispy bacon crumbled.

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Flaky buttery pie crusts with just a bit of cornmeal to add some crunch. I just love these rectangle tart pans with fluted edges & removable bottoms. 

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Varicolored eggs…perfect for Easter.

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A scattering of chopped leeks over the crusts, topped with a parmesan-egg mix….

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…caramelized shallots ….

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…decoratively arranged asparagus…one tart with bacon, one without.

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Puffy, warm and ready to eat.

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Spring Leek & Asparagus Tarts

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients:

  • For 2 crusts: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal.1 tsp salt, 1 cup cold butter cut into small pieces & ice water
  • 6-8 small Spring leeks (or 2 regular size leeks), trimmed & sliced
  • 1/2 lb thin asparagus spears
  • 8 eggs
  • 7 slices bacon cooked crisp & chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped & sautéed until caramelized
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a food processor place the flour, cornmeal & salt &  pulse a few times. Add butter pieces & pulse until mixture is crumbly looking. With processor running drizzle in ice water until a dough ball forms. Remove dough & divide in half forming two balls. Flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic & chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Roll out dough and fit into two rectangle tart pans with removable bottoms, trimming edges,  or 2 pie pans.
  4. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, yogurt & salt & black pepper until well blended. Set aside.
  5. Evenly scatter the sliced leeks over the bottom of each tart shell and ladle the egg mixture over the top.
  6. Sprinkle the top of each tart with caramelized shallots & chopped bacon. I added the bacon to one tart and made the other vegetarian.
  7. Decoratively place the asparagus spears over the tops of each tart gently pressing into the filling.
  8. Place filled tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and puffy. Remove to cool a few minutes before serving on a wire rack. Serve hot or at room temp.

“First Figs…a Savory Tart”

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First figs are always the sweetest. Much anticipated & coveted… to be eaten warm sun-ripen directly from the tree or added to simple recipes that highlight their rich earthy juiciness such as this savory tart.

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All over my neighborhood there are fig trees…some very old,  branches laden with ripening figs…others recently planted lightly adorned with just a few green figs. I do not have a fig tree in my yard  &  there is no need for me to add one to my landscape as my neighbors are very generous. Fig Tarts to Steal Your Heart, A Late August Four Letter “F” Word to Savor and Jam the Figs are some of my other fig posts here at Food on Fifth using the bounty of my friends.

Here are the ingredients for this easy savory tart:

1 pre-made pie crust or your favorite homemade crust, 2 eggs, 8 ounces goat cheese & 8 ounces ricotta cheese (both at room temp), 6 to 8 fresh figs, black pepper, crunchy sea salt such as Maldon

Here is how I made it:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press pie crust over the bottom & up the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom if you have one, if not, then use a regular 9″ pie tin.

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2. Cut figs into quarters lengthwise. Set aside. Using a mixer blend the eggs, goat cheese & ricotta cheese together until creamy.

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3. Spread cheese mixture over the pie crust.

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4. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until set & slightly golden. Remove from oven.

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5. Top with the quartered figs. Return to oven & bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. The figs cook just a bit in this last 10 minutes of baking in which they begin to caramelize. Sprinkle with crunchy sea salt right before cutting into servings. Great as an appetizer or as an entrée with a simple green salad.

Printable Recipe Here

Fig & Goat Cheese Tart

Have you ever enjoyed a fresh sun-warmed fig right off a tree?

Which do you like best, dried figs or fresh?

What is your favorite way to use figs in recipes?

When you think”figs” do you immediately think of The Garden of Eden…Adam & Eve…Michelangelo’s David?

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Fig Lovers Unite!

“Fig Tarts to Steal Your Heart”


These little easy-to-make tarts made me fall in love with fresh figs all over again.

I have shared my adoration of the mythic, Biblical and very down-to-earth tasting fig (“A Late August Four-Letter “F” Word to Savor” August 2011), but this year figs seem to be everywhere I look. Ripe, luscious, just a bit sexy figs…they really are, aren’t they? Hanging heavy from trees in my neighborhood, lovingly displayed at local supermarkets, beautiful greens, browns, purples softly shifting bruise-like colors.

Eaten raw is best for figs, just when they “give” when gently squeezed. Cut opened & sprinkled with a bit of brown sugar & sea salt.

Baked in a simple custard sprinkled with raw sugar & drizzled with honey brings out other more subtle fig flavors.

Ingredients:

Small (one or two bite size) tart shells (I bought these from the deli at Whole Foods, but you can make your own if you like)

Fresh Figs, stems removed & cut in half lengthwise

1 Egg, 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt, a splash of Vanilla Extract, 1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice, 1/4 cup Raw Sugar whisked together in a bowl

Additional Raw Sugar to sprinkle on top before baking & Honey

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully fill each tart shell with the Egg-Yogurt mixture.

2. Top each filled tart shell with half a fig, cut side up.

3. Sprinkle each little tart with raw sugar & a drizzle of honey.

4. Bake for about 12 minutes until custard is set. Remove from oven, let cool a bit before eating. Very good chilled or at room temperature. The slight crunch of the crust sets off the not overly sweet custard, fresh figs, raw sugar & honey.

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
   All on a summer’s day….


Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart

A very fine “Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart”

Recently a small package, neatly wrapped in brown paper arrived at my home. It was post-marked from Victoria, British Columbia. A bright red “fragile” sticker was prominently displayed on the front. I knew immediately that my “prize” had arrived. And indeed upon tearing open the box I found, nestled snuggly inside, cushioned with bright turquoise tissue paper, 3 beribboned jars of “Cardamom Blueberry Butter”. Two of favorite flavors melded into one knockout treat!

The lovely trio of jars was homemade using fresh Canadian Blueberries by another blogger-friend, Kristy Lynn, who has a great blog at: gastronomicalsovereignty@blogspot.com. I have been following and enjoying Kristy’s blog for a while now and recently she did a “giveaway” of three jars of her homemade blueberry butter & I was the lucky winner. British Columbia to Tennessee….a long trip for some little glass jars.

Lucky I was indeed! The first thing I did was grab a spoon, open a jar & eat it straight from the jar. Mmmmm. It was so delicious & unlike any fruit butter I’ve ever had.  Beautiful color & texture, a definite fresh blueberry taste with just a hint of the cardamom. I love thinking about how far these berries-turned-into-butter traveled….where they came from,  Kristy making the butter and canning them in her kitchen far, far away. Here I was in Nashville enjoying the flavor of British Columbia right in my own kitchen. Two degrees of delicious separation.

Next…a few days later, my toast test….slices of buttered toast with a smear of Kristy’s blueberry butter. Oh yes…the perfect venue. Kerrygold Butter & Blueberry Butter on hot toast…if it’s good on toast, then it’s good.

Not nice to hoard my treat not sharing with others…even though that thought went through my head. This week I used some of Kristy’s Cardamom Blueberry Butter as the main ingredient for a tart I developed. I had some sweet little ripe Seckel pears and a tub of Mascarpone cheese which seemed like a nice pairing with the butter along with a sweetened pastry crust.

For this recipe I used:

5 ripe Seckel pears, peeled & cored, cut in half lengthwise

1 (8oz) tub of Mascarpone cheese

4 generous tablespoons Cardamom Blueberry Butter (this recipe could be made with any really good homemade butter such as pumpkin butter)

1 pastry slightly sweetened

Raw or Turbinado sugar

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll pastry dough out  on floured board to about a 12 inch circle more or less. Fit into an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

                                                                      

2. Use a knife to cut away any pastry that overlaps the edge of the pan.

3. Spread the container of Mascarpone cheese over the bottom of the crust evenly.

4.  Top with Cardamom Blueberry Butter.

5. Peel pears with a sharp knife. Cut pears in half longways. Carefully remove core. I used the sharp edge of a small table-spoon to remove core as pears were very ripe and small. Place pear halves face down on top of the blueberry butter.

6. Sprinkle pears with a bit of the raw sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly, crust is a deep golden brown & tops of pears are starting to brown. Remove from oven. Let cool on a rack for about 30 minutes to serve warm. This tart is also delicious served at room temp.

7. Serve cut into wedges with an additional sprinkling of sugar to add just a bit of crunch to each bite.

There were a few friends…the tart was cut, it was shared, it was eaten with Relish, it was enjoyed on a fall day at the end of October.

 A Small All Hallow’s Eve Gallery

adios October, hola November…..

“The Last Pear(s)”

“after the fall”

I was told by a friend, Abby,  recently,  “You have this thing about pears” and it is true…I love the juicy taste, the sexy shape, the variety of colors & textures, how they work with both sweet and savory recipes…they complement, they enhance and they stand alone beautifully. It is mid-November, Winter in Nashville and I just picked the last pears from a tree on my street. Many from this tree have been food for the birds, many have fallen on the ground to beautifully rot, but I have the last of the edible pears and that is all there will be for this year.

“Dried Pears for Winter Dishes”

1. Wash & dry pears. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven temperature to 200 degrees.

2. Cut whole pears, stems, core and all into thin slices using a “mandolin” or sharp knife. I used one of my three mandolins to slice these pears for drying. This one is the most simple and inexpensive one I own, but works the best. You can pick up a mandolin at most shops that sell cooking supplies.

3. Lay thin pear slices out flat on parchment paper.

4. As you can see I put multiple trays of pears to dry in my oven at the same time by stacking them askew so the air could circulate throughout all the trays during the drying time. Turn your oven timer to 7 or 8 hours and walk away. During this drying time you might want to check pears, turning them over once. This is not necessary, but something I like to do. After this day of drying, check pears, if not dried out completely then leave in the oven for an hour or so more. Whether you have a dry day or rainy day will often affect the pears so keep this in mind. When pears are dried enough I just turn the oven off, leaving pears inside while oven is cooling down.

….perfectly dried pears…

5. Store dried pear slices in a container with an airtight lid for later use in your favorite recipes.

“The Last Pear Tart In a Cornmeal Crust”

Left photo: I really like these pre-made frozen “Vicolo” organic corn meal pizza crusts for quick and easy savory or sweet tarts. There is something about the idea of combining yellow cornmeal, pears & brown sugar that really appeals to my winter palate so I created “The Last Pear Tart” with these and a few other simple ingredients.

Right Photo Ingredients : One pre-made Vicolo, or other brand, corn meal crust; 1/2 cup plain yogurt; 2 eggs, 2 to 3 tbsp brown sugar; 3 or 4 thinly sliced, peeled, cored pears.

To Make: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.                                                                                                                       1. Whisk together the yogurt, eggs & brown sugar.                                                                       2. Arrange pear slices over thawed corn meal crust and pour yogurt                                            mixture over pears letting it run up under and around all pear slices.                                   3. Place filled crust on a baking sheet and pop into the oven. Bake for                                       about 20 minutes or until tart is golden brown, pears are softened and                                   edges start to caramelize. Remove tart from oven. Let cool a bit                before serving cut into wedges.

“….the last pear…..”