Mushroom-Gruyère Tart

Happy 2014! Knowing me, I'll continue to write 2013 for the next six months, then just as I'm getting used to the new date it will already be December. _MG_5507My apologies for the silence over the holidays  – I was in Minnesota for about 10 days (which felt so long! In the best way) and Ari came along to experience a real Minnesota Christmas (though he missed out on the lefse-making – photos coming soon). Being home is always wonderful, but this time was particularly lovely because in addition to all of the flurry of holiday parties, I was there for long enough to really relax and hang out with my family and friends. And of course, enjoy lots of good food. What did you do for the holidays?_MG_5509

I made this tart a few weeks ago to bring to my book club holiday party (yes, I'm in a book club. It's the best), and I think that it makes a great appetizer or main course served with salad. You could of course make the puff pastry by hand (or use a more traditional pastry crust), but I was in a bit of a rush, and honestly, the store-bought stuff works very well in a pinch. You might notice our little Christmas tree in the background – it's the first one I've ever had in my own apartment and I love it so much more than I thought I would. It may or may not still be sitting in the corner._MG_5515

Mushroom-Gruyère Tart

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped)

1 lb mushrooms, such as shiitake or baby bellas, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

1 cup shredded gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 12x14 inches. Place carefully on a baking sheet (covered with parchment paper, if desired) and prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, mushrooms & thyme and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in sour cream and gruyère.  Spread mixture over top of pastry shell, and bake until cheese is melted, about 7 minutes. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Strawberry Tart

I started this post a couple of days ago, meaning to write something about summer, and delicious strawberries, and then something happened. I'm feeling kind of adrift at the moment, and I'm not really sure what exactly I should be doing. I don't share a ton of personal stuff on this blog and since it's relatively new I'm still not sure where I want to draw the line -- so I think I will leave things vague for now. But in any case, this post isn't for sympathy, or for any other reason than to share this tart with you. I just can't bring myself to write about anything else at the moment.

In any case, the strawberries I bought from the farmer's market for this tart really were excellent, and disappeared in a matter of days. This tart is another old recipe from Gourmetmy mom always makes, since my dad is allergic to chocolate, and so reminds me of home -- something I need right now. You can also use raspberries or a variety of berries, but to me, strawberries mean that June is here and I eat them as much as I can.

Strawberry Tart (adapted from Gourmet)

For crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

For filling an 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of 1 lemon 1 large egg, beaten lightly 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup seedless strawberry jam 1 tablespoon water 3 cups strawberries, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, butter, and 2-3 tablespoons water and pulse until combined. Add more water as needed. Press evenly into a 10-inch tart pan, and prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in flour. Pour into warm crust and bake until filling is set, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on rack.
Arrange strawberries in a circular pattern on tart. Microwave strawberry jam and water for 30 seconds, or until melted. Brush over tart, and serve immediately (or refrigerate for up to 1 day)

Pear Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

I'll admit it. I've been dreaming of peaches and tomatoes, of zucchini and plums in abundance. The farmer's market in the winter can be a little depressing, with heavy root vegetables and apples and pears week after week. Even though it hasn't been all that cold in New York, I'm looking forward to summer and its produce. However, while we are all waiting for spring, this creamy tart might help lift you out of the winter doldrums. I like how the salty, buttery crust contrasts with the sweetness of the pastry cream and the vanilla-scented pears. Also, this would make a lovely Valentine's day dessert if you have some could even poach the pears in red wine instead of water for some festive color (although then I would recommend removing the vanilla). Pear Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream (adapted from several Bon Appétit recipes)

For tart crust:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

For vanilla pastry cream:

1 1/2 cups half and half

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For pears:

2 large Anjou or Bosc pears

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

Crust: in a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt until just blended. Add butter, and mix until it forms a coarse meal. Add water by the tablespoon, and blend until just moist enough to hold together. Press dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least an hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead)

Meanwhile, bring the half and half to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl. When half and half is hot, add to egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil, 4-5 minutes. Boil for one minute, then pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pastry cream. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or until cold. (This makes two cups of pastry cream, which means you will have extra.)

Core pears and slice very thinly (1/4-1/2 inch wide). In a small saucepan, combine pears, vanilla, sugar, and water, and mix well so pears are completely coated. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer, covered, until pears are soft, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350. When tart dough is cool, roll out into a 10-11-inch round, then press into a 9-inch tart pan, crimping sides and pricking all over with a fork. Place pie weights on top, and bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool. Top with pastry cream, then arrange pears in a decorative fashion. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8.