Apricot tartFor me, an apricot tarte, tartlette or danish, is my idea of comfort food especially if it comes out warm from the oven.  In fact I usually am a sucker for anything with apricots, fresh or dried.  It has something to do with an incredibly sweet and tart taste. I like to make my tarte by marinating the apricots in marsala, but you can skip that step if you want.  The tarte will still be a gift from the Gods.  So instead of waxing on about my misspent youth, downing apricots in Aunt Kay’s backyard, I am going to get straight to the point of this post, the makings of a great tarte.  BTW when ever I make apricot tarte, there are NO leftovers, so you might want to consider doubling and  baking two tartes at the same time.

Dough – Prep – 10 minutes, chilling – 1 hour, rolling – 10 minutes, cooking – 10 – 15 minutes

The standard ratio is 1 cup of flour for each stick of butter. This makes enough dough for a pie crust. However, if you want the dough to be more buttery, add a ½ stick of butter. If you want the dough to be flakey, add lard. Butter and water must be cold. Add just enough ice cold water to get the dough and butter to stick, usually about ¼ cup, and a dash of salt. You can add sugar (about a tablespoon) to sweeten the dough. Remember to let the dough rest for 2 hours before using. What I usually do is make enough dough for 4 pies in the food processor, and divide in 4 balls. The other 3 doughs are put in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap or a plastic bag.

1 cup of sifted unbleached flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter (I use to love Plugra, but now can’t find it at Trader Joe’s) or more
¼ cup of ice water
1 dash (up to 1/8 teaspoon) of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)

In the food processor with the metal blade, add butter, flour, salt and sugar. Pulse for 10 times. Add water while continuing to pulse until dough starts to firm up as if to make a ball. Flour lightly the dough ball and place in plastic wrap or wax paper. Place in refrigerator to rest.
Set the oven at 350 degrees. Using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work area and the rolling pin, roll out the dough for ¼ inch thickness and place in a 9 inch pie plate or a ceramic quiche and tarte dish. Trim the edges, and prick the surface of the dough heavily. Line the shell with aluminum foil, or waxed or parchment paper and fill with dried beans to prevent puffing and bake for 10-15 minutes, until it is golden brown. Cool slightly.

Apricots and Custard Filling – Set oven at 375 degrees. Prep time -1 hour for marinating apricots, Rest of the prep -20 minutes, Baking time 40 – 50 minutes

10 large apricots – Blenheims are wonderful. Slice in 1/8ths if the apricots are large. If you have smaller apricots, cut in quarters (you’ll probably need 12 – 15 small apricots. Marinate in sweet wine/sherry such as madeira, or marsala for an hour.

Custard Filling
1 ½ cups of milk or cream depending how rich you want the custard – I usually do a mixture or use 1/2 and 1/2.
1 tsp almond extract
3 egg yolks
1 egg
1/3 cup of sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg

In a small sauce pan, bring milk/cream to a boil and remove immediately from heat. In a bowl beat egg yolks, whole egg, almond extract and slowly add the sugar. Once mixture is light and fluffy gradually beat in the scalded milk/cream combination.

Arrange apricots in the cooked pie shell and cover with custard. Add custard until it covers the apricots. Cook for 40 – 50 minutes until custard sets. Cool down and serve. You can add strawberries and sliced roasted almonds for a garnish.

mayonnaise

 

Sometimes, what really surprises me is how very simple foods taste so differently from the commercially prepared products. My family has come to expect certain foods to be made from scratch and not be purchased from an aisle at Safeway or even Whole Foods. This includes whipped cream, spaghetti, pancakes and mayonnaise. I always have a jar of Best Foods mayonnaise but when it comes to certain meals, such as asparagus, lobster, home-made French fries (yes, we eat them with mayo), nothing but the best for my family, real mayonnaise. Recently I was asked by my friendly neighborhood farmer market to provide my recipe for my famous aioli, which is a more elegant way of saying garlic mayo.

Years ago, I received a slim cookbook with my first Cuisinart. It was called “New Recipes for the Cuisinart by James Beard and Carl Jerome” and it seems that you could buy the book through Amazon for under a dollar. These recipes are solid and wonderful. But the recipe for Mayonnaise is outstanding and fool-proof. Just remember that you need to drizzle the oil into the feeder tube initially and in a few minutes, voila, perfect Mayo.

Anyway, the award-winning Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Market in Aptos California is a wonderful experience, their website is chock-full of great info and their blog “Edible Paradise” is a god-send for superb recipes (try the award-winning Kalamata Olive Fougasse Bread). There, in the section Miscellaneous, is listed “Nadine’s Garlic Aioli” – redundant title, but who am I to split hairs. And now I can say that I am a published food writer. Thank you, James Beard for your wonderful book and here is the excerpt from The Edible Paradise.

Nadine’s Garlic Aioli

As a regular customer at the Aptos Farmers Market, Nadine Frush can be spotted there almost every week carrying bags full of fresh produce from her favorite farmers. She also happens to be a wonderful cook — no surprise there!

Garlic aioli is one of her signature condiments that she keeps on hand. When I mentioned that we needed a good recipe for aioli for the Crispy Fried Calamari recipe, Nadine said, “Here’s the recipe I use for my garlic aioli. It’s based on a recipe that appeared in New Recipes for the Cuisinart by James Beard and Carl Jerome — a wonderful little book under 100 pages with great recipes.”

What’s the difference between aioli and mayonnaise? Basically, it’s the same condiment — however, aioli contains garlic. Garlic aioli is especially delicious served with crispy calamari or shrimp, crab, boiled small potatoes, homemade French fries, or crudites.

INGREDIENTS
1 large egg
1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups peanut oil*
1 clove of peeled, finely minced garlic
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Optional flavor variations:
• 8 anchovy fillets
• 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
• 6 spinach leaves, 6 parsley sprigs, 4 green onions cut up, 4 sprigs of tarragon, 2 sprigs of dill

METHOD
In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, add vinegar, egg, salt and pepper. Give the mixture two quick pulses and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then process until blended. While the food processor is running, slowly start dripping in the oil. As soon as it starts to thicken (when about 1/3 of the oil remains), you can speed up the pouring. Add the garlic (or other add ins). Refrigerate immediately. Aioli is good for about a week. Credits to New Recipes for the Cuisinart by James Beard and Carl Jerome.

* Nadine is French, and she says that where her family is from in France, “Our aioli is always made with peanut oil.” However, if you don’t have peanut oil on hand, you can use 3/4 canola oil and 1/4 olive oil. Don’t use all virgin olive oil for aioli — it overwhelms the flavor of the sauce. If you want to use all olive oil, a better choice is a blend or a very light olive oil.