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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Canadian Book but NOT Canadian Food

Usually I try to make the menu in some way go along with the book we read for book group, but not this time. The book was The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood, and the menu was on the Italian side of Continental. It didn't really come together into a true three-course meal, as it often does, but I think everyone left the table more than satisifed.

For the main part of brunch, we gorged ourselves on salumi and cheese with Panzanella Black Pepper and Starr Ridge Olive Oil crackers. The cheeses were Tenerone Tre Latte (a soft aged cheese made from cow, goat and sheep milk), Formaggio Crucolo, Toma Piemontese, and Fromager d'Affinois (so help me, I can't leave the shop without a chunk of that last one). The salumi were a domestic prosciutto, mortadella, a mild Venetian copa, salame toscano, salame genovese, and sopressata. All were delicious (and Number Two was only too happy to help Mavis finish the leftovers!). The salumi platter was garnished with yellow and orange cherry tomatoes (the yellow ones from my garden), and I also served a roasted heirloom tomato tart (again, some from my garden, some not).

Oh, the tart was good. Here's what was left over (yes, once again I forgot to take pictures until the food was just about gone!):



I was inspired by pictures and a mention over at She Who Eats--I've had the notes to make it in my Palm for a year and a half! SWE made her tart with a short pastry crust, but I was inspired by a recipe in Cook's Illustrated to try a puff pastry crust instead. Maybe next time I'll try the short crust. So, here's how I made it:
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart

1 box Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry, thawed in the fridge overnight
egg for wash
1 small tub (7.5 oz) crème fraîche
1 t dijon mustard
6-8 medium (2-in diameter) heirloom tomatoes
3/4 t (about) kosher salt
leaves from 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425° F. Gently unfold puff pastry on surface lightly dusted with flour. You can use some egg wash and a one-inch overlap to put the pieces together for one large tart, or use the sheets separately for two smaller tarts (what I did--I might try with just one big one next time). Using a pizza wheel, cut two one-inch-wide strips from one side, then two more strips from a perpendicular side. Brush the four edges of the main piece with egg wash, then lay strips around edges, pressing to seal, and trimming excess with pizza wheel. Brush whole surface with egg wash, grate a small amount of parmesan over it (focusing on the part inside the edges), then prick all over with a fork. Bake for 13 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350° and bake for an additional 13 minutes. Pastry will be puffed and golden brown. Put baking sheet on a rack to cool, and raise oven temperature back to 425°.

While pastry is baking, slice tomatoes a scant 1/4 inch thick, carefully cutting out cores, and eating the ends (SWE peeled her tomatoes before assembling the tart, which would be nice but is not absolutely necessary). Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels, sprinkle with kosher salt, and let sit for 20 minutes. Cover with another double layer of paper towels and gently squeeze away the moisture drawn out by the salt.

Mix together the crème fraîche and the dijon, and spread it in the bottom of the tart(s) (I pushed the inside of the shells down a little where they had puffed up--I guess I didn't fork them well enough before baking). Spread the tomatoes in overlapping rows, then top with freshly ground pepper and thyme leaves. Bake 15-20 minutes (I think I did closer to 20, but a little less would have been fine). Let cool for a few minutes, then cut with pizza wheel and serve.

For dessert, we had a plum cake, the recipe for which was in the recent July-August Cook's Illustrated. I've never liked plums, but this was absolutely to die for. I will be making a more concerted effort in the future to harvest the basically unreachable plums in the giant tree in our backyard (the four David could reach from a six-foot stepladder went into this cake).
Plum Cake

2 T red currant jelly
3 T brandy (or 1 T water--I didn't have any brandy on hand)
1 lb (10-ish) Italian prune plums (the small, dark purple, oval ones), halved and pitted (big round plums will work if you cut them into eighths and stir while cooking, but they won't look as pretty)
3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C slivered almonds
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t table salt
6 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, at room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract

1. Melt jam and water in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat (if using brandy, cook it 2-3 minutes, until reduced to a thick syrup). Remove from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about five minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour (or use baking spray--much easier!) 9-in springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy, pasty even).

3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down, evenly over surface of batter, not touching pan edges, covering whole surface, and NOT pressing them down into the batter (I did this a little and I think it's why a lot of my plums sank so my cake didn't look as pretty as Cook's did). Save syrupy juices. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 40 to 50 minutes (45 was perfect for mine). Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan, cut into wedges, and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and reserved pan juices.



As if the cake weren't enough, I also had a selection of wee delicious cookies from Two Tarts (scroll down to "Best Sister Act"): Hazelnut Bocconcini, Cashew Shortbread and Peanut Butter Creams. Yum!

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9 Comments:

Blogger hm-uk said...

How many shades of delicious is that tart? I've got some puff pastry in the freezer just begging to be used and I think that your recipe is the next dinner party food I'm serving! I've got a recipe scrapbook (I know, how silly) and this is recipe is going to be filed under 'Y' for yummmm!

September 11, 2007 at 1:41 AM  
Blogger Em said...

Sorry I couldn't make it. We tried out camping on the coast this weekend, which was a mixed bag. But if we read The Time Traveler's Wife next, I will definitely be there!

September 12, 2007 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I can attest to the absolute deliciousness of the food. That little piece was all that was left of not one, but two tarts. Yummmm indeed!

September 14, 2007 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger ks said...

Hi JaneAnne,

WE don't know each other but I found your blog from Adriana's and have been checking it out occasionally. The most recent post totally made me salivate!

Today I decided to try that plum cake--holy cow does it ever make the house smell good! If only I could get that scent in a candle or spray can. I don't even care what it tastes like at this point; I'm going to bake this up whenever guests come over just so they'll take home good olfactory memories of our home.

Along with Italian plums I also picked up some puff pastry at the store today and plan to use up some of our copious bounty of toms from the garden on the tomato tart over the weekend, possibly substituting chiffonade of basil for fresh thyme due to fact that I have basil shrubs growing out of control. I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog and just wanted to thank you for the inspiration.
--kim

September 14, 2007 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger ks said...

P.S. Do you know how easy (and inexpensive) it is to make your own creme fraiche? The stuff at Whole Foods costs nearly $5 for the amount you suggest in your recipe, as opposed to maybe a dollar if you do this: 1 T. sour cream or buttermilk (latter preferred) added to 1 c. heavy cream. Cover and let sit out 24 hrs. at room temp. (Yes, requires forethought, which we don't always have time for.) I'm starting mine now for tomato tart tomorrow!

September 14, 2007 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger janeannechovy said...

Welcome, Kim, and thanks for the creme fraiche rec. I even have some buttermilk I could have used to do this. Next time!

Here's a note on the plum cake (which I thought of today as I was getting ready to make it for the third time in a week, but the first time with a new batch of slivered almonds): I think it may have been extra-delicious because the slivered almonds I had on hand were toasted. Not super-toasted, but toasted. Spread out on the toaster oven pan and cooked at 300 degrees until just fragrant (20 minutes?) and starting to color, not until they're dark brown on the verge of burning.

September 15, 2007 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger ks said...

Mmmmm, toasted almond smell...I'll try that next time for sure! The plum cake was deeee-lish. And so easy. I love recipes I can make in the food processor because it's easier to haul out, and then later clean, than the kitchenaid.

September 16, 2007 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Skye said...

I too can attest to the deliciousness of the whole affair. I always feel so spoiled after these brunches!

I can't wait to try the plum cake. It was aaaaaaaaaahhhhsome! So, maybe this is common knowledge, but my family used to pick high fruit by nailing a can to a pole. You get the fruit in the can and then thrust upward to break it off. I'd hate to see all those backyard plums not be made into hundreds of these cakes next year. :)

Thanks for the lovely time!!

September 16, 2007 at 11:56 PM  
Blogger Skye said...

Hm. I am planning to make this tomorrow, but I don't have a food processor. I'm trying to decide how else I can do it (can I do part in the blender? Or all of it? I guess we'll find out)

August 16, 2009 at 8:25 PM  

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