Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be Still, My Tart

Life gets so busy sometimes. The business picks up, the days start to blur, and pretty soon you find that you just don't see your friends as much as you used to. (Nor do you blog as often as you used to, but that's another story...)

When we found out that the fabulous Jen spread the news that she was expecting a wee little sprout later this year, she noted that someone else would have to pick up the layout and design of the market newsletter for a few months while she and the baby got used to each other. In light of this news, the Market Manager (formerly known as the Wannabe Farmer; she's so busy now running Local Roots that I doubt she thinks much about farming any more!) decided that she should meet with the fabulous Jen and myself to sort through what Jen does for the market (quite a lot, really, though it's all behind the scenes) and how we can keep things running smoothly while she's enjoying the first months of motherhood.

The three of us used to meet regularly during the planning stages at the market, discussing how to "market the market" through ads, flyers, the newsletter, and more, and we usually made our meetings potluck dinners so that we could enjoy spending time together as friends as well as colleagues. We hadn't done that in a while, so when the Manager called the meeting, I suggested food -- and we quickly planned a good local meal.

The fabulous Jen, our hostess for the evening, whipped up a pot of vegetarian chili. The Market Manager brought corn chips from a new producer at the market -- along with a four-pack of the summer Great Lakes beer. (She and I indulged, as did Jen's husband -- poor Jen looked on longingly.) And I brought dessert.


Since I've been bringing home lots of rhubarb from garden #3 (the Contradance Callers insist), I've been looking for new ways to use it. (Bear in mind that I did not even like rhubarb until a French rhubarb pie two years ago changed my mind.) I found a recipe for a rhubarb tart with walnuts in the crust, and I decided that -- with a little tweaking, of course -- it needed to be sampled. Soon.

So I made a whole wheat crust with the crushed walnuts, some maple sugar (local), some rhubarb syrup (also local), and butter (yep). While that baked, I simmered chopped rhubarb with more rhubarb syrup and some powdered dried strawberries (a very useful thing to have on hand!) for the filling.

After spooning the filling on top of the cooled crust, I added a few halved strawberries from the garden and let the whole thing chill until dinner time. Then I cut it, topped each slice with real whipped cream and a wee sprig of mint, and served it up to my friends.

Was it a hit? Let's just say that I had their attention just at the description, and when they saw the finished product, jaws dropped in admiration, followed quickly by murmurs of approval as they scarfed down every last bite. Yes, it was that good.

I just love when a new experiment gets such a warm reception. It warms the cockles of my tart -- er, heart.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Tart

Based on the Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Pastry recipe from www.rhubarbinfo.com -- but, of course, altered a good bit from the original just because that's the way I roll.

Tart crust:
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. ground walnuts
1 T maple sugar
1/4 c. chilled unsalted butter
1 T rhubarb syrup (or water)

Tart filling:
1 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
2 T rhubarb syrup
2 T powdered dried strawberries (I grind mine in a coffee grinder)

Combine flour, walnuts, and maple sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in rhubarb syrup until dough just holds together. Press into 8" tart pan (or two small tart pans) and dock the crust. Bake 25 minutes at 350 F, until just browned. Let cool.

In small saucepan, simmer rhubarb with syrup over low heat, stirring. Cook until rhubarb is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add strawberry powder and stir until mixture thickens slightly. Spoon filling into tart shell. Refrigerate tart until time to serve.

Serve topped with real whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

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