Perfect French Walnut Tart

Perfect French Walnut Tart

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Are you looking for something new for Rosh Hashanah? This luscious French Walnut Tart is perfect. A short bread cookie-like pastry shell gets filled with toasted walnuts, each piece coated in a honey, buttery caramel. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with the earthy richness of walnuts. Yes, please!

Try this Perfect French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

The recipe calls for crème fraîche, a naturally soured cream. It can be purchased in many grocery stores these days. However, it is so simple to make your own crème fraîche. You just need to plan one day ahead of using it. My husband loves it on so many desserts that I almost always have a jar in my fridge. I love homemade whipped cream, but crème fraîche adds a certain umph to what might be an otherwise overly-sweet or blah dessert – neither of which this is.

While this recipe calls for unsweetened crème fraîche, I often add some confectioners sugar and vanilla when I am serving it with a simple cake. Crème fraîche is incredibly easy to produce. All that is required is a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk kefir. Mix them together and leave the jar covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila! If you plan on adding sugar or vanilla to the crème fraîche, only add it after the mixture has soured and thickened.

The cookie-like crust is a dough that anyone can work with. It’s not fussy to make, comes together quickly and there is no need to roll out any pastry!

The Perfect French Walnut Tart is a cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is a lovely dessert any time. But nuts and honey? Perfect as a High Holiday treat. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high, giving it an almost toffee-like texture. Total, unadulterated yumminess!

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (You could use a non-dairy “butter” if you wanted to eat this with meat on the holiday.)

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche (If you need to keep this non-dairy, there are non-dairy sour “creams” on the market.)

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter (Or a good quality non-dairy “butter” like Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

3 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (2.5 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt as a garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, egg yolks, butter, vinegar, cornstarch and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, you want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. (Because this is essentially a short bread crust, there is no need to line the pan or to use weights.) Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes. You might want to put some foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any spill-over. (Do NOT be alarmed when you first see the baked tart coming out of the oven. It will bubble up and look kind of messy at first. Trust me – it settles down as it cools.)

Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Summer Garden Pasta

Summer Garden Pasta

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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This simple Summer Garden Pasta makes the most out of the tomato and basil harvest. With only a few ingredients, this delicious pasta comes together in under an hour. If you have the time, pair it with one of these wonderful focaccia.

When choosing a pasta to use for this Summer Garden Pasta, I like to use a fusilli, but any pasta with ridges or twists will be great. They are both sturdy enough and have loads of nooks and crannies to hold the sauce. You want want to miss even a speck!

I made this dish one night when I had some heirloom tomatoes to use up and a flourishing basil plant. My husband LOVED this simple Summer Garden Pasta so much that he ate seconds and thirds! While I used heirloom tomatoes the first time, any good ripe tomato will work. This time I used organic Roma and grape tomatoes.

This is a sort of non-recipe recipe. Don’t get too bogged down in exact measurements. Another clove of garlic? Great. You like things really spicy. A few more red pepper flakes? Fine. More than a pound of tomatoes to use up? Go ahead. The basic recipe is below but be free to tailor it to your preferences. Just keep it simple.

Summer Garden Pasta is wonderful for those steamy summer days when turning on the oven is unthinkable. So buy your bread and feast!

Recipe

Summer Garden Pasta

Yield: 4 generous servings

Ingredients

Summer Garden Pasta

About 1.25 pounds of ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced

5 to 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

2 to 3 anchovies in oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Mediterranean flavored oil, but any good EVOO will do )

2 Tablespoons Canola or other neutral oil

1 cup roasted bell peppers (homemade or from a jar), rinsed, patted dry and coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (it balances the acidity of the tomatoes)

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup of pasta water

1 pound of dry pasta like a fusilli

Lots of fresh basil leaves (a large handful), with about half kept for garnish

Directions

In a large pan with a tight fitting lid, add your oils, garlic cloves and anchovies. On a low heat, cook the garlic until it is golden, bathing it occasionally in the oil. The anchovies will have broken down and become indistinguishable from the oil. This took me about 15 minutes.

Once the garlic is golden (do NOT burn the garlic!) add the chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers, salt, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook on gentle heat, covered for about 12 to 15 minutes or when the tomatoes have broken down and become saucy. You don’t want mush. I like to still see some of the tomato chunks.

Up to this point, you can make the sauce ahead if you choose. The other ingredients will be added when you are ready to eat.

When you are ready to cook your pasta, bring the sauce to a simmer. Crumble in the goat cheese and mix through. Add the pasta water just before draining the pasta and half of the basil. The leaves can be torn or left whole. Your preference.

Mix everything through and simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes. Drain your pasta and add it to the sauce, mixing it well. Alternatively, add the sauce to the plated pasta. Garnish with lots of basil that has been chiffonaded and some grated parmesan or pecorino, if desired. Mangia!

Simple Basbousa

Simple Basbousa

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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Simple Basbousa is an easy version of this beloved Levantine sweet treat. This recipe requires no special equipment and because no eggs are called for, it can easily be veganized.

There are many versions of this delightful dessert, including one on my blog with pistachios and coconut. However, all of the recipes for basbousa utilize semolina and a sugar syrup. This means that the cake flavors intensify over time and remains incredibly moist even after several days. Because the Simple Basbousa is dense and sweet from the sugar syrup, a little goes a long way. But it is the perfect complement to well-spiced foods and strong coffee fragrant with cardamom.

I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the changes do not make this Simple Basbousa any more complicated. Generally baked in a rectangular pan. I made mine in a 10-inch square pan because that was what I had on hand.

For Americans who are unfamiliar with basbousa, this Simple Basbousa version reminded both me and my husband of a moist cornbread with honey. Nothing fancy to see here. Just a delicious, simple cake. And in the summer, who wants to slave over dessert?

For more delicious semolina cakes:

Orange Semolina Cake

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Simple Basbousa

Recipe

Yield: 25 squares

For the cake

2 cups of coarse semolina (My so-called coarse semolina proved to be only slightly less refined than my fine semolina, so don’t fret if you can’t find both.)

1/4 cup of fine semolina

1 cup of plain whole milk natural yogurt OR plant-based such as coconut

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or a plant-based vegan “butter,” melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each of pure almond and vanilla extract

25 whole blanched almonds

For the syrup

2 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of water

4 to 5 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon of orange blossom or rose water (I used orange blossom as my husband is not a fan of rose water)

Simple Basbousa

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the sugar and melted butter. Then add the yogurt and mix until smooth and well combined.

Combine the semolina, salt and baking soda and then add to the yogurt mixture. Stir well. The mixture will be fairly thick.

Place the batter into a greased pan (9 X 12 or 10 X 10). Smooth out the mixture using the back of a spoon or an off-set spatula. Score the basbousa with a knife into the squares that you see above.

Add an almond to the center of each square, pressing down gently into the batter.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Ovens vary so it may take longer or shorter.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Bring the water, sugar and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove the syrup from the heat, discard the cardamom pods and mix through the orange blossom or rose water.

As soon as the basbousa comes out of the oven, pour the syrup gradually over the top. It will be absorbed almost immediately. Allow the basbousa to cool and then cut through the score lines and enjoy!