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This One’s for Nana {CtBF} #EverydayDorie

Over the past four (!!!) months, my physical world has gotten quite small.  I’ve only been in a store twice.  Howard and I take a daily walk around the neighborhood, varying the route, but we seldom run into anyone.  I do go to the farm to pick up my weekly CSA share and have been invited to do a few sessions of socially-distant outdoor volunteering there, but otherwise, my life is home-based.

Fortunately, the wider world, courtesy of the internet, has remained accessible.  I exercise from home with my boot camp friends on our usual mornings.  I continue to practice with my favorite teachers at the yoga studio.  My book group still “gathers”.  I still participate in programs “at” the library.  I’ve had virtual happy hours and other visits with family and friends.  Life is certainly not lonely.

Over the past decade, I’ve experienced the wonder of what the connections forged over the internet can be.  When I joined the on-line cooking group French Fridays with Dorie, I had no expectations, mostly just relying on the weekly recipe as a prompt for my blog.  What developed was a group of friends comprised of enthusiastic home cooks from around the world.

One of my new friends was Nana.  Nana (aka Ro) and her daughter Tricia blogged about the weekly recipe, sometimes cooking separately, sometimes together, and shared their insights on their blog.  Through these weekly reviews, I was drawn into their closeness, their enthusiasm, and their love of cooking.  When French Fridays ended, Nana created her own blog and continued with the subset of us that moved on to cooking through a different cookbook.

Over time, I had the good fortune to meet Nana and Tricia in person several times.  In person, I became even fonder of Nana.  She was such a wonderful role model for aging gracefully, maintaining her joy in new experiences, sharing her wisdom, and keeping her sense of humor.  I feel lucky to have known her as our paths would never have crossed without this cyber-experience.  I will miss her posts, her stories, and her warm comments.  I hope our group brought her the same pleasure that we feel about her being an integral part of it.

Doristas after dinner at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. (L-R) Cher, Diane, Nana, Mary, Betsy (me), Tricia

As a tribute to Nana, our little cadre of cooks in Cook the Book Fridays is making a recipe from Everyday Dorie that she often nominated for our schedule but the group hadn’t yet been chosen.  So, this week I made a Lower East Side Brunch Tart.  Nana, thank you for your friendship!  This one’s for you…

Bagel Fixings?

It should come as no surprise that I LOVE TARTS.  I make one almost every week, sometimes savory, sometimes sweet.  A pastry crust is my favorite base for any set of flavors.  The Lower East Side Brunch Tart is the cover photo on Everyday Dorie, so it’s bee on my radar for a while now.  When I sat down to look at the recipe, I was intrigued with the combination of ingredients.  Cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, red onion, dill, tomatoes.  An intentional combination of the makings of a “dress-your-own bagel” buffet.  The crust stood in for the bagel, and the flavors were locked in place with a simple custard.

Wow!  This is my favorite recipe so far from Everyday Dorie.  The lox was particularly smoky so there was an undertone of bacon.  The little pieces of cream cheese gave bursts of richness.  We ate it over three days for lunch or dinner.  When it’s safe to have company again, this is the perfect centerpiece for a brunch gathering as the name implies.   You can find the recipe here.

I hope that Nana had a chance to make this tart on her own schedule because it is so delicious!  Certainly whenever I make this again, I will think of it as “Nana’s Bagels-and-Lox Tart”.

Reviews from other members of Cook the Book Fridays about the Lower East Side Brunch Tart can be found here.

My heartfelt sympathies go out to Tricia and the rest of Nana’s family for the loss of a special woman. xo

 

 

 

A Surprise Ending {CtBF}

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We’re headed into the season of holiday indulgence.  Usually, the week before Thanksgiving, I try to watch what I’m eating because from Thanksgiving until the end of the year, there are a myriad of temptations to enjoy and, though I exercise a fair bit of self control, my threshold for resistance is low.  This week’s selection for Cook the Book Fridays, Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Tart from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, threw that plan out the window.

Chocolate is not normally my thing.  Certainly, it’s never my first choice in the dessert department.  This recipe with a chocolate crust, a layer of caramel-y dulce de leche, and a layer of chocolate custard is one that I’d never pick on my own.  In fact, I’ll admit I dragged my feet on making it.  But, even though I waited until the last minute, I knew Howard would like it so I soldiered on.

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The first step was to come up with dulce de leche.  What fun!  I skipped the supermarket and turned it into a simple DIY project.  All that’s needed is a can of sweetened condensed milk, a mason jar, and a slow cooker.  I poured the milk into the jar, screwed on a two-part top, placed the jar in the slow cooker and covered the jar with water and turned the heat to LOW.  Ten hours later, the milk transformed from ivory to a golden brown.  Plus it tasted amazing.

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I love press-in crusts, and that’s what this recipe called for.  The chocolate cookie crust came together easily in the stand mixer and pressed into the pan just as easily.  There was no salt in the pastry, but a light dusting of fleur de sel before par-baking added the right touch.

To pull it all together, the dulce de leche is spread over the warm crust, then topped with a chocolate custard that was made while the crust baked.  Finally, another sprinkle of fleur de sel to cut the sweetness before returning the filled tart shell to the oven.

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The tart is baked, and then, after turning off the heat, it sits in the oven some more.  I thought it was rather wiggly, so I left it there even longer.  I got a late start. By the time the tart was done, it was bedtime, so I put it in the refrigerator where it set up nicely.  I had extra custard, which I put in a ramekin for a chocolate pudding snack.  It also firmed up nicely in the fridge.

I was so glad I made this tart.  It was rather indulgent and very delicious.  As expected, Howard really liked it, but not so expectedly, so did I.  Though we will enjoy it for an after-dinner treat for a few days, there are better ways to showcase it.  It would better appreciated as a contribution to a holiday pot luck or dessert for a dinner party.

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I encourage you to try out this tart over the holiday season.  You can find the recipe here on Williams-Sonoma’s website.  You can also find it on page 289 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  This book has more than its share of winners, so it’s worth treating yourself if you haven’t already.  And to see how my friends enjoyed their own tarts, follow links to their posts here.