Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beach House Baking

I'm sure there are people with second homes who always know the pantry inventories of said abodes. I am not one of those people.
I try. I'm pretty good about the freezer, making sure it always holds puff pastry, butter and bacon -- life's true essentials. But our beach house pantry always seems to have too much of one thing (EIGHT cans of anchovies?) and not enough of another (there MUST be a jar of za'atar here somewhere).
Late last Saturday afternoon I decided the strawberries I'd bought at the farmers' market that morning would make a nice little tart. I rolled out a rectangle of defrosted puff pastry, marked off a 3/8-inch frame with a sharp knife and then stabbed the center section with a fork to keep it from puffing. I baked it until browned (checking after ten minutes to see if any bubbles needed further fork attacks) and then let it cool. Since I don't particularly like either making or eating pastry cream, I planned to coat the center with a thin layer of currant jelly before topping it with the sliced berries.

Only the jar of jelly that I'd have SWORN was on a pantry shelf was gone with the wind. I contemplated the other possibilities: Chocolate pecan sauce? Noooo. Homemade apricot jam: a little too sweet. Maple syrup: way too sweet. Frustrated, I searched the refrigerator and came up with a nearly-empty jar of homemade blood orange marmalade. I scraped the chunky contents into a small saucepan, added a few spoonfuls of water and a splash of ginger liquer and heated the mixture until it blended into a light glaze. I spooned this onto the tart shell and let it set.
Right before serving, I layered the sliced berries over the glaze and dusted them with confectioner's sugar. The strawberries weren't red-to-the-core and I was drinking Prosecco and singing along with Emmy Lou Harris while I worked, so the resultant tart was a bit of an ugly duckling. Or, *rustique* as one kind commenter described one of my less attractive souffles.
But true to the tale of ducking becoming swan, this rustique little tart tasted sublime. One of the most delicious I've ever made. The slightly bitter marmalade played beautifully against the sweetness of the berries and the slight undertone of ginger added a bit of complexity.
Ahhh, the bliss of baking -- and the serendipity of an ill-stocked pantry.


mamele said...

this is some good food writing, lady.

Lydia said...

Those improvised dishes are always the best! And I don't think the tart is an ugly duckling at all.

katiez said...

Rustique is always good! So, what did you do with the 8 cans of anchovies? I could help with the Prosecco and ELH

rowena said...

In the family's summer cabin, my mom-in-law always keeps the basics: pasta, olive oil, tomato sauce, etc...but one day my husband asked if I'd notice any difference in the bottle of brandy. Apparently, the general caretaker of the place occasionally lets himself in to "check on things" and while doing so, likes to take sips out of the bottle. lol - For this reason my mil always keeps a cheap bottle around and locks up the good stuff!

Casey said...

katie: I used one tin of anchovies to top roasted redpepper bruschetta. down to 7.

Tartelette said...

Looks perfect for place and time. Anchovie, onion, dah of cream on another sheet of puff pastry, black olives if you have them. Bake and eat!