A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pie for Everyone!

This past Sunday, I took part in the 3rd Annual Brooklyn Pie Social in DUMBO. It was a blustery, windy day with dark clouds threatening rain, but that didn't stop enthusiasts from coming out to try the many incarnations of pie that were available. I made a maple pecan pie and my special Concord grape pie. Not many people have every had the latter. I was introduced to it by a former boss when I worked at a bakery in SF. It pretty much tastes like Welch's grape juice or jelly, but not as sweet as you might think. For the past five years, I've made it every September during the short Concord grape season. I always like to get a few new people to give it a try. Since the pie social fell right during my usual pie making time, I thought it would be fun to bring. I did get lots of comments on it and both pies were gone after two hours. I was very proud! S. came to keep me company and I don't know what I would have done with out her. The strong winds made manning the pies, plates, forks, and knives a task for two people. (Thanks!)

With my entry of pies, I got five tasting tickets which I gladly shared with S. There were so many that looked delicious, it was hard to decide. We started with an apple pie topped with
a cornbread, bacon and cheddar crumble. It was just enough savory to compliment the sweetness. We then tried a peach-pistachio tart from the Pie Queen, whom I finally got to meet in person. It was a lovely last hurrah for summer. After a short break (we wanted to pace ourselves) we tried shepard's pie and then a swiss chard torte. Both were amazing. We ended the extravaganza with a sweet pear and fig pie that was still warm from the oven. There was a short bit of rain that made everyone scamper under the scaffolding covering the sidewalk. Despite this and the wind, we had a fabulous time. It was such a homey, community orientated affair. And the proceeds went to two public elementary schools. How can you go wrong?

NYC Tart

Thursday, September 21, 2006

mon mari

Happy Birthday My Love

Ruby and Dora

Monday, September 18, 2006

tarte aux pommes (a la mode)

Je suis desolee. La derniere semaine, j'etais tres occupee. This past week, has been delightfully busy. First and foremost, it was New York Fashion Week. As much as I love food and travel, J'adore la mode! I am starved for style and fashion down here. In my town, most girls dress like they have just come from soccer practice or are going to the prom. Egads! Where is my friend Stefania to set these girls straight? So my week was filled with catching up on the latest trends (leggings and volume oh my), welcoming my in-laws into town, making apple pie and meeting a beekeeper.

As Miss Karen knows, I am a bit traumatized by making apple pie. In the past, I have preferred to bake tarts, crumbles, cobblers, crisps...but the art of piemaking has eluded me. With the weather becoming cooler, I was determined to put my phobia aside and compose the ultimate apple pie. Nothing froufrou or overwrought, just a delicious double crust apple pie worthy of the NY Tart. My credo has always been to keep things simple and hopefully your personal style will shine through. After trying countless varieties of apples, I found the Granny Smith works best. For snacking, my favorites are Jonagold, Mutsu and Honeycrisp, but sadly they don't translate well when baked. The Granny Smith has a bright flavor and crisp texture that will balance out the rich, buttery crust.


20 oz. ap flour
1 t. salt
14 oz. butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
8 oz. milk (cold)


2 oz. brown sugar
2 oz. sugar
2 oz. ap flour
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg
8 Granny Smith Apples
1 T. lemon juice
2 oz. melted butter

1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 T. sugar

Prepare the Dough
-sift dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl
-using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
-add the milk slowly and toss with a fork
-before dough comes together turn it out onto board (it will be shaggy),
continue mixing by hand (it is important at this time to handle the dough
w/care in order to ensure a flaky and light crust)
-divide dough into 2 round discs approx 1 inch thick, let rest 30 mins in
fridge before rolling out or freeze and shape later
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Prepare the filling
-peel and core the apples
-slice then into even pieces about 1/4 inch thick
-combine the apples and melted butter in a large bowl
-toss w/ remaining ingredients until all apples are evenly coated
-roll out 1 portion of the chilled dough to form a 12 inch circle
-line a lightly greased 10 inch pie tin and press the dough into the bottom and sides, leavin a 1 inch overhang
-roll out the second piece to a slightly larger circle
-mound the filling into the tin and transfer the top crust over the apples
-crimp the edges or seal them with a fork
-pierce the top with a knife to create vents
-brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle a it with the sugar
-bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly

The apple pie is like the LBD. It is always au courant.
NC Tart

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Transition into Autumn

Although this weekend warmed back up, a few days ago the temperature dropped here in NYC and it started to feel like autumn was here. A visit to the Union Square Greenmarket revealed that while there is still the tail end of summer produce... fall treats are here as well...

I got in one more trip to the Shake Shack (in Madison Square Park) before the weather turns too cold to enjoy lunch outside. I tried the chicken version of the Chicago Dog. Very good and you don't feel so guilty adding on that order of fries. M. was in town from the West Coast, so S. and I used her as an excuse to go out to eat. There was the aforementioned trip to the Shake Shack, as well as a spontaneous visit to Max Brenner Chocolates. This is a relatively new dessert cafe on Broadway near 14th Street. Have you noticed these cafe/bars are the new thing??? A few opened up this year and I believe more are to come. Dora wrote up a beautiful description of Chikalicious, which was on the forefront of this trend. But back to the chocolate...it's a huge space, actually a little big for my taste. But we were able to be seated immediately, a big plus since we had just come from dinner at Tia Pol, which had a wait of over an hour. The three of us shared the Double Chocolate Fondue. We chose to get it with dark and milk chocolates and it came with banana bread cubes, banana slices, strawberries and marshmallows. While I was not overly impressed, it served its purpose that evening, giving us a place to sit and chat over coffee and sweets.

By the way, Tia Pol, a tapas place on 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, is awesome! Their food is the closest thing S. and I have found in NYC to what we had on our trip to Spain. The only negative is that the restaurant in so small, the wait is unbearably long on most nights. If you go, try the pan tomacat (toasted baguette slices with tomato) and patatas bravas (roasted potatoes with a spicy, creamy sauce). Both very simple dishes that hit all the right flavors. NYC Tart

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sugar High Fridays #23: The Surprise Inside

I am so excited to be a part of the 23rd edition of Sugar High Fridays, a food blogging event I came across while exploring various links and sites late one night. It is the brain child of the Domestic Goddess and each month the recipe round-up has a different theme. The themes have ranged from canning to white chocolate to dairy and each is hosted by a different food blog. This month, Alanna at A Veggie Venture is rounding up all the participants. You can check out everyone's submissions here around September 23rd.

At first I was at a loss as to what I would make for this month's theme. What jumped to my mind first was a warm truffle cake, mainly because I had to make them for months and months at a restaurant I worked at in the Bay Area. But that seemed too obvious an answer. Then it came to me, I would make the recipe I have for Rolo Cookies! Everyone loves them and they are always surprised by the nugget of caramel inside. Unfortunately, I do not know the true origin of this recipe. I have never come across anyone else who made them, but after doing a little searching on Google, I found multiple links to very similar recipes. Mine came to my mother through a woman she knew from work years and years ago. The hardest part is not eating all the Rolos as you unwrap them so that you have enough for the cookie dough!

Rolo Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter, soft
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 bag Rolos (unwrapped!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bow combine flour, cocoa and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl beat sugars and butter. Add vanilla and eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture and then pecans, if using. Shape 1 tablespoon dough around one Rolo for each cookie.

Place 2" apart on cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 7-10 minutes until just firm. Careful, they burn easily! Cool 2 minutes and remove from sheet to cool completely.

NYC Tart

Thursday, September 07, 2006

gnocchi come vuoi

I am very grateful that the restaurant is closed on Sundays. It is the perfect excuse to prepare a homey Sunday supper. My inspiration for these meals is rooted in the Tuscan countryside. I was on vacation several years ago with Dave and my friends Torrey and Stephanie. We were staying in the picture perfect town of DiComano in an equally picturesque villa. I will never forget the wonderful smells radiating from the homes on our first afternoon. Since this trip, I have tried to become more aware not only of the food I eat, but how it is prepared. Lately, it also comes out of necessity since there is a shortage of Italian restaurants in the area. After reading an excerpt from Bill Buford's book Heat, I was compelled me to buy a pasta machine. For whatever reason, I have been craving dishes that are rustic and get your hands dirty.

To help guide me, there is the Italian Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis. It is what every good cookbook should be. The well-tested recipes are accompanied by wonderful tidbits and anecdotes. Gnocchi has always eluded me in the past. Didn't I need some fancy equipment to prepare them? It turns out all you need is a ricer, fork, a little patience and your own 2 hands. The ingredients are probably in your pantry already. I may have been happier with a moule, but my $3 ricer worked out fine. Because I don't take direction well, I doubled the recipe and ended up with enough gnocchi to feed a few guests. (and their families) These delicious dumplings freeze well and have found a home in my freezer next to some parpadelle and tagliatelle. I believe there is a nonna in all of us. There is something very satisfying and tasty about creating something so simple. C'est parfait..scusi perfetto.

Friday, September 01, 2006

la vanille

If you are like me, your introduction to vanilla involved (ahem) imitation vanilla extract. Quelle horreur! I found this ingredient quite curious. How could it taste so awful on its own, but make Toll House Cookies taste so good? In fact, it became my secret ingredient. OK, vanilla extract is hardly a secret, but I thought adding a double amount would provide a personal spin on a ubiquitous recipe. Ahhhh....The beginnings of an illustrious career. Since then, I have graduated to Nielsen-Maasey Madagascar vanilla. The beautiful bottle resembles something you would find in an apothecary containing a sweet elixir.

The simplicity of the flavor can also be celebrated in the vanilla bean. I am lucky to work in a restaurant, where I have access this exotic fruit. The Tahitian variety was en vogue when I began cooking many moons ago and I still favor their ethereal flavor. Because they can be expensive, I'm always trying to find ways to prolong their use. My favorite is to dry the empty gousse for a couple of days and drop them into a canister of sugar. The vanilla will infuse the sugar with its fragrance and create a lovely treat. I also love the flecks of the bean contrasted against the sugar crystals. C'est quelque chose tres recherche.

Overnight, the temperature became cooler and there is a crispness in the air. Very fitting this being the 1st of September. J'attend avec impatience the Labor Day Weekend and puttering around with mon mari and ma fifille. A nice bowl of gnocchi sounds perfect for a Sunday supper...Etre Continuer.

Mangosteens & Prickly Pears

It's exotic fruit day here at A Couple of Tarts!

I've been hearing so much about mangosteens lately, I just had to jump on the bandwagon. What are mangosteens, you ask? If you haven't heard of them, I'm not surprised. Currently, there is a ban on importing fresh mangosteens into the continental United States because of the pests they might carry. They are indigenous to Southeast Asia and are grown commercially mainly in Thailand. Which is where I came across them about two years ago when backpacking around the country. It was my second day in Bangkok and I was wandering around a market when I passed by this woman selling a fruit I had never seen before.

As I stood in front of the stand trying to figure out what they were, she grabbed one, cracked it open and gave me some. I was sold! I bought a few and found a place to sit and enjoy my new treasure. The thick skin is a deep purple. To open it, all you need to do is kind of squeeze it and it cracks revealing translucent white segments. The mangosteen is sweet and I thought it tasted a little like a lychee. There was an article in the NY Times recently about them and they were also featured on Good Food on KCRW. Apparently, they may be available in the future from a grower in Puerto Rico. But not that soon...the trees have been planted, but take 8-10 years to bear fruit. Sounds like an excuse to go to Thailand, if you ask me!


Have you noticed all the prickly pears (or cactus pears, as they are sometimes called) at the produce markets lately? On a whim, I bought three. And then had no idea what to do with them. I did a little internet research for recipes and did not come up with too much. I learned how to peel them: cut off the ends, make a slit down the side and then peel. But the recipes I found were limited to margaritas, dessert sauces, and fruit smoothies. I had a yoghurt and soy milk in the fridge and little else for breakfast, so a smoothie it was. The insides of the prickly pear were a fuscia red. I cut off a slice to try and realized it was full of seeds. Hard black seeds which looked like small lentils. It tasted a little like watermelon. Not having a food mill to get the seeds out, I chopped up the fruit and heated it in a sauce pan in an attempt to make it mushy and easy to press through a sieve. This worked well enough and I added the juice to plain yoghurt, soy milk, and honey in a blender. Well, I think I know why the recipes were limited. The prickly pear juice gave my smoothie a pink color, but absolutely no flavor. I ended up adding a banana to give it some body. All in all, a learning experience, but a bit of a disappointment in the taste department.

If anyone has any other suggestions for prickly pear, I would love to hear them. I feel like I am doing it an injustice. There must be more for it to do than make a cool sounding drink!

K. (NYC Tart)

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