Sunday night was another installment of "Ladies Who Cook....Sometimes." This month, the theme was "dishes with color." My attempt was quite the adventure -- but I'll get to that in a moment.
It was all sorts of wet and ugly outside, and our first course of squash and pear soup was a perfect foil to the cold, rainy weather. Not surprisingly, it was our orange/yellow element. We also had beet salad (purple), shells with light cheese sauce (white), pesto bread (green), cranberry bars (duh), and my creation....blueberry tarts.
Now it's safe to say that by making blueberry tarts, I was intending to bring something blue. That said, the tart dough came out green, the blueberry mixture was a deep shade of purple, and the whipped cream was...um, periwinkle. If you put them all together and mix them up, they'd probably make blue, though, right?
Anyway, what really matters is how they tasted....and that, my friends, was pretty darned good. Especially considering I made them without ever referencing a recipe, I was pleasantly surprised when I bit into one. The filling was slightly sweet, with still-intact blueberries bound together by a substantive but un-goopy sauce and a hefty dose of brandy. I'd make them again in a flash, if only to do the flambé part again!
I've posted the recipe below, as usual, along with two other recipes from last night's event: cranberry bars and squash-pear soup. If you make any of these, it shouldn't be tough to draw a hungry crowd.
Tart Dough (adapted from Tartelette)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 stick and 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 drops blue food coloring, if you're so inclined
- 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- a generous splash (1/4 cup) Brandy
Make Tart Dough:
- In food processor, combine butter, flour, and sugar. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk, and pulse until dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, until no longer soft.
- Unwrap chilled dough and hit a couple times with a rolling pin to soften. Take thumb-sized pieces and press them into tartlet molds. Using your thumb and forefinger, press the dough up the sides of the molds.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Now, make the blueberry mixture: In a shallow pan, combine butter and flour to make a roux (melt the butter and stir it around in the flour; this will thicken the blueberries). Add blueberries, and toss to coat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Now, add brandy, all at once. At this point, you can either: a) shake the pan around over a gas flame until the flame licks the edge of your pan and the brandy catches on fire, or b)take a match to the brandy and let it burn, baby!
- Once the flame has burned off all the alcohol in your brandy the blueberry mixture should be well emulsified and ready to use. Turn off the stove.
- Anchor the tartlet shells by piercing them a couple times each with a toothpick. This should prevent them from puffing up. Pre-bake the shells for 10 minutes, or until golden.
- Meanwhile, whip your cream (and add some blue food coloring if you want to be wacky). Fill baked shells with blueberry filling, and top with whipped cream. Don't get them all over your face, now!
Cranberry Bars from Sara Rahnama
- Makes 12-18 bars
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Confectioners sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving anoverhang.
- Blend butter, flour, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar in a foodprocessor until mixture begins to clump together. If the mixture is toodry, add up to 1 tbsp cold water. Press into bottom of pan.
- Bake until pale golden and sides begin to pull away from pan, 25 to 30 minutes.
- While crust is baking, cook cranberries, remaining 2/3 cupsugar, lemon zest, and water in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over mediumheat, stirring occasionally, until berries burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Pour cranberries over crust and bake until edge is golden, about 25minutes.
- When the bars have cooled completely, sift confectioners sugarover top. Lift out of pan using overhang and cut into squares.
Butternut Squash Pear Soup From Joey Loewenstein (from Noteworthy Two, A New Recipe Collection from the Ravinia Festival) Serves 6-8
- 1 and ½ quarts chicken broth
- 2 and ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, in 2-inch pieces
- 3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, quartered
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium shallots, peeled, chopped
- ½ t. nutmeg
- ½ c. half and half
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6-8 T. sour cream, optional
- 1-2 t. cinnamon, optional
- In large pot, heat chicken broth. (We used vegetable broth and it worked great....so for all you kosher folks out there, vegetable broth works just fine!)
- Add squash, pears, onion, shallots,and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or untiltender.
- In food processor, puree mixture in small batches (OR, BETTER YET, GET A HAND BLENDER. TOOK ME 2 MINUTES! CAREFUL, THOUGH, NOT TOSPLASH! TURN THE BLENDER ON AFTER YOU PUT IT INTO THE MIXTURE).
- Return to pot, stir in half & half, salt & pepper. Cook over low heat untilhot. Serve with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cinnamon.