Tarte Citron Mama

Tarte Citron Mama appeared in the June, 1979 Bon Appetit magazine. It was described as a 14th century French dessert and wasn’t quite like any other dessert I had ever seen or tasted – then or since. I have not been able to find anything like it online, although it does sound as if it may be similar to a recipe found in The Lutece Cookbook. Thankfully I wrote the recipe down years ago because I can no longer locate the magazine in my bookcase….

This is a lemon and almond tarte but without conventional pastry or custard. And while I am not normally a huge fan of meringue, when it is mixed with the ground almonds, I found it transformed. The resulting tarte is just a little bit sticky, a little bit chewy, incredibly moist, bright and light with the fresh taste and fragrance of citrus and almonds. Tarte Citron Mama is the perfect ending to a rich meal.

While it is easy to come by ground almonds these days, I like to grind my own for this recipe. The almonds won’t be quite as fine when I do it, but that is part of their charm. Making this dessert takes a bit of patience, but the steps are easy to follow. And unlike a lemon meringue pie, the meringue here is a relatively thin layer. On the day I made it, there is a little crispness to the meringue and each of the layers is easily discernible, whereas on the second day some magical alchemy takes place and all of the layers meld together. However you enjoy it, this luscious tarte won’t last long.

And while I made use of 21st century appliances, since this dates back to the 14th century it can be made entirely by hand – and with a LOT of elbow grease! So when you have a little time and you want to give your friends or family a delightful and totally surprising dessert, try this 14th century tarte.

I don’t know what lemons were like in the 14th century, but I find that most lemons these days – even organic ones – tend to have thick skins, a lot of pits and pith and not a great deal of fruit. Meyer lemons are sweeter, thinner skinned and less acidic, which is perfect for this recipe. It’s seeking them out if you plan to try this. And I encourage you to do so.

Recipe slightly tweaked by me

Yield: One 9-inch tarte (about 6 generous portions)

Ingredients

3 extra large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

grated zest of one lemon

1.75 cups raw almonds with skins, finely ground with 2 teaspoons of the sugar

1 Tablespoon of flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Approximately 6 lemons (Meyer lemons work best, in my opinion), with all of the skins and pits removed and cut into thin slices

2 extra large egg whites (Use the left-over yolks in your next omelette)

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

For garnish (Optional but really nice)

Strips of lemon peel with all of the white pith removed (I use a boning knife to achieve this) from 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons granulated or castor sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. VERY generously grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pay special attention to the inside rim.

Combine the 3 yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the yolks become very pale and will “ribbon” when you lift up the whisk. Add the lemon zest, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix through.

Blend in 1 cup of the ground almonds and the Tablespoon of flour.

Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of the whites into the yolk and almond mixture to loosen things up. Then carefully fold in the remainder of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned.

Remove the base of the tarte from the oven, but leave the oven on to maintain the temperature.

Cover the top of the tarte base with the lemon slices, overlapping them slightly.

Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the remaining ground almonds.

Using a spatula dipped in cold water, carefully spread meringue evenly over the top, covering the lemon slices completely.

Return the tarte to the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the meringue becomes golden.

Remove the tarte from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before trying to remove it from the tart ring. Don’t worry if the meringue cracks. When completely cooled you can add the garnish to the tarte.

For Garnish

Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in a small pot on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the thin strips of lemon peel and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. The peel should have softened.

Remove the peel from the syrup and roll the pieces in the granulated or castor sugar. Spread the sugared peel on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This same process can be used to candy orange peel. The remaining flavored simple syrup can be refrigerated to use later in a variety of mixed drinks or even added to homemade lemonade.

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Caramelized Corn and Tomato Tarte Tatin

After seeing four separate blog posts come up on my Google feed for Tomato Tarte Tatin, I figured I had to try one of them. The caramelized corn and tomato tarte tatin simply was too pretty not to try it. And as farmer’s markets and grocery stores are stocking a bounty of tomatoes and corn, this recipe seemed a natural to make.

The most difficult part of the recipe for me was lifting the heavy cast iron pan to turn out the finished tarte. My husband had to perform that task. But everything else really only took minutes to prepare and none of the ingredients is hard to find. Of course, I had to tweak it to my tastes. This particular version called for Everything Bagel Spice and I preferred to use Za’atar. You can make your own or buy very good ready-made versions online and in many grocery stores. It is a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be used in so many ways that I really recommend keeping it on hand. Lately I have been having farmer’s cheese on brown rice cakes with halved grape tomatoes liberally sprinkled with za’atar for breakfast and I’m not tired of it yet.

Next time you have pita or naan, brush it with some EVOO and sprinkle on za’atar. Pop in the oven for a couple of minutes and enjoy. It’s also great on grilled meats, over eggs and on yogurt.

The tarte is best eaten warm from the oven. And if it sits too long, the pastry will get a bit soggy from the tomato juices. It makes a great appetizer or summer luncheon or dinner with a green salad. The flavor is both sweet from the corn and tomatoes and savory from the cheese and spices. The corn lends a nice bite to each mouthful. This simple preparation is loaded with umami.

My husband and I did get distracted and we left my tarte in the pan too long before inverting so the tomatoes continued to cook. If you turn it out after only 5 minutes the result will be brighter looking than my finished product. It was, however, still delicious.

If you are looking for another wonderful use of summer’s bounty, check out the tomato and plum galette. This recipe seemed like a surprising combination to me and yet it worked perfectly. After all, tomatoes are fruits.

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon EVOOl
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ears yellow corn, kernels removed from cob
  • 1/2 cup shredded Havarti or provolone cheese
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons Za’atar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 10-inch heavy duty oven-proof skillet set over medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tomatoes, shallots, thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and gently push the tomatoes into an even layer, covering the surface of the skillet. Sprinkle the corn over the tomatoes and then add the cheese. 

Place the pastry over the top of everything and press down gently to secure, tucking the sides of the pastry under the tomatoes as best you can. Brush the top of the pastry lightly with water and sprinkle with Za’atar spice. Using a sharp knife, make 3 small cuts in the center of the pastry.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes and then place a serving plate over the skillet. Carefully invert the skillet and allow the tarte tatin to fall out onto the plate.  Garnish with thyme. Slice, and serve warm. Enjoy! 

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lumpy. Bumpy. Chewy. Deeply chocolaty with an undertone of spice. And easy – so easy.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not a vegan. However, I always like to have some good vegan recipes – especially desserts – in my back pocket. Whether you keep kosher or eschew dairy products for ethical reasons or because of food allergies, vegan desserts can be a wonderful option.

However, I will not serve a vegan dessert unless it is just as good as a non-vegan one. I came across this recipe and after a few tweaks, the result is a delicious cookie that chocolate lovers will adore. The hint of exotic spices gives a Mediterranean flavor that marks it as unique.

This recipe comes together quickly and requires no special equipment or techniques – and I had everything on hand in my pantry. Do use a really good quality unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa like Droste or Valrhona when making these. Chocolate and cocoa powders each have their own unique flavor profile so find one that you like and use it in all of your recipes.

I confess that I made my cookies with unsalted real butter, but they absolutely will not suffer if they are made with a buttery vegan solid such as Earth Balance.

My husband and I tried the cookies still slightly warm from the oven and after a day in an airtight tin. While both were good, we agreed that the flavors and texture were at their peak after sitting overnight. The cookies will easily keep for a week, if stored properly, and are luscious with a glass of milk (dairy or non), a cup of coffee or with a sweet dessert wine.

Because the cookies are such a deep, dark brown, it can be difficult to tell when they are fully baked. I made three batches and baked each one for a different amount of time – from 14 minutes to 20 minutes. All worked, but the one that baked for 14 minutes was the best. The dough does not spread during baking so however the cookies go onto the baking sheet is pretty much how they will come out at the end. Try one of these deeply satisfying and not overly sweet cookies soon.

Recipe

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted, solid vegan buttery margarine or unsalted real butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup strong coffee (the liquid and NOT granules!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly pan-toasted blanched almonds or walnuts

1 cup of raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets or pans with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat like Silpat.
  2. Combine first five ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the mixture to melt until it resembles chocolate syrup. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until no flour is visible. Add the almonds and raisins and work through the batter so that everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Lightly spray a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring spoon with a non-stick spray. Scoop out slightly rounded Tablespoonfuls and place on the prepared baking pan. The cookies do not spread during baking so they can be fairly close together.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, turning once if your oven bakes unevenly like mine!
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

Blueberry Galette

So what’s a galette, you say? Very simply, it is a free-form tart. It can have a sweet or savory filling and is usually referred to as “rustic.” The galette is unfussy. But my favorite aspect of a galette is the lovely filling that gets hidden under the part of the crust that is folded over. So when I take that bite, I get all of the luscious, fruity filling nestled into the buttery, sugary crust. It’s kind of like a pop-tart – if it were made by the goddess Hestia.

Now nothing says summer like fresh, gorgeous, purpley blueberries. I have been using them in my yogurt, on cereal or right out of the box. So, of course, it followed that the next dessert I made would include them. And since I recently discovered this wonderful and easy to work with pastry dough, a galette was the perfect response. It’s the same dough that I used for my apricot frangipane tart. This dough was a revelation.

I have been making pie dough for decades. Now don’t get me wrong. My Crisco vegan crust still makes a wonderful pie crust – but it is a bit temperamental. A LOT of patching is frequently involved and occasionally a few tears.

But this all-butter crust is tender and crispy with sugar crystals on top and just plain yummy. And BEST of all – it is fool-proof. I have made it several times this summer and it works out perfectly each time. The dough comes together easily and rolls out beautifully – no patching involved! Valerie Bertinelli deserves all of the credit and I am happy to give it to her.

Throw the dough together in the morning or the night before and bake up this luscious galette for dinner.

Note: Yes, that is an apricot in the middle of the galette. I discovered it in my fruit drawer as a left-over from my Apricot Frangipane Galette. It was past the point of eating fresh so I decided to throw it on top so it wouldn’t go to waste. It is NOT essential to the tart although the color contrast was nice and the apricot was delicious when baked. That dark brown on top is simply caramelized butter and sugar.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

For dough

1.5 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 stick (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon distilled or apple cider vinegar

4-5 Tablespoons ice water (I used 5 T every time)

For filling

18 ounces blueberries, washed and dried

1 apricot cut into quarters (Optional)

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon (About 2 Tablespoons)

pinch of kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

1 rounded Tablespoon berry jam

2 slightly rounded Tablespoons cornstarch

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup crushed amarettini cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan or sheet with parchment.

For the dough

  1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter cubes and give 10 quick pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with some lumps of butter.
  2. Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse just until the dough comes together and begins to ball up. If necessary, add up to 1 more tablespoon of the water but use as little as possible. [I used 5 T every time.] Gather the dough into a ball on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least one hour but up to 3 days.
  3. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12″ round. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet or pan lined with parchment.

For the filling

  1. Gently toss the blueberries with the zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, jam and 1/3 cup of sugar just before you are ready to fill the pastry.
  2. Scatter the crushed amarettini cookies over the dough leaving about a 2-inch border. Carefully pour the blueberries over the crushed cookies. If you are using an apricot, place the quarters in the middle of the blueberries. Dot with 2 Tablespoons of the butter.
  3. Fold up the edges of the dough, gently pleating them where necessary to close the “circle.” Melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter and brush it all over the pastry edges. Sprinkle liberally with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. If you have a coarser-grained sugar, you can use that.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting. This gives the juices time to be absorbed. It’s wonderful on its own or with a little vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Watercress, Spinach & Chickpea Soup

Easy Does It

We recently hosted our nephew and his girlfriend for Shabbat dinner. Since I hadn’t been cooking for anyone but the two of us for awhile, I decided to go all out on a Mediterranean feast. I baked challah and made hummus, baba ghanoush, several salads, lamb with apricots and basmati rice and an apricot frangipane tart. With so many different pieces to the meal, I wanted something that was flavorful and bright for the soup but which wasn’t overly complicated. Surprisingly, I found it in my Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

While I like the foods that appear in this cookbook, I generally find that the recipes are overly complicated with unnecessary steps. This one was pretty simple and since I already happened to have the Ras El Hanout spice mix and rose water in my pantry, I didn’t even have to buy any special ingredients. You can, of course, make your own spice mix, but it is also perfectly acceptable to buy it. Any good spice shop such as Kalustyan’s should have it or it can be ordered online.

Herbaceous, Bright and Vegan

This creamy, bright green soup is perfect as part of a meat, vegetarian or vegan meal. And while I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband thinks foods with rose water taste like fancy hotel soaps, the amount used here is small. He was unaware that it was even in there. The rose water does lend the soup some indefinable, slightly exotic flavor, but the soup would still be delicious if you left it out.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2-3 medium carrots, cut into 3/4-inch dice

3 Tablespoons of EVOO, divided

2.5 teaspoons Ras El Hanout

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

15 ounce can cooked chickpeas, well-drained

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2.5 Tablespoons, peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (I used the stuff in a jar)

2.5 cups of vegetable stock

7 ounces of fresh watercress

3.5 – 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon rose water (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the carrots with 1 Tablespoon of the EVOO, the Ras El Hanout. cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt. Spread in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes and then add 1/2 of the drained chickpeas. Mix well and continue roasting for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. This can be made ahead and refrigerated over-night.

Place the remaining 2 Tablespoons of EVOO in a large saucepan and add the ginger and onions. Saute for about 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onion is softened and becomes golden at the edges.

Add the remaining chickpeas, stock, watercress, spinach, sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for only about 2 minutes or just until the leaves wilt. You want the greens to remain bright.

When the soup has cooled somewhat, blend it until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add the rose water and check to see if you want more salt and pepper. This can also be made ahead and gently reheated.

To serve, divide the soup among four bowls and top with the carrot, chickpea mixture.