Friday, July 27, 2012

Fresh Fruit Tart

Peter and I just got back from a trip to Seattle and I just fell in LOVE with the Pikes Place Market!!! All the beautiful, colorful, produce was almost too overwhelming for me- I just wished that we had a kitchen there so that I could have an excuse to carry bags of the gorgeous fresh groceries home with me.
Alas, I had no kitchen to cook in; instead, Peter graciously started each day by taking me for a morning stroll through the market so that I could gawk and soak in the market culture that I loved to feel a part of. 

They had these huge, super juicy, sweet yellow peaches that that all the produce vendors called 'OMG' peaches or 'Oh My Goodness' peaches. I had to go visit the peaches everyday just to make sure they were still as sweet as the day before :)

When we returned home, though I didn't have Pikes Place to go to for my fresh fruit, I did get a Farm-to-Home produce box delivery! What perfect timing! It even included peaches! With so much beautiful fruit in my box, I thought a fruit tart would be perfect to make! I had the fruit, the only problem was that I didn't have a tart pan to make it in. The fruit had already magically showed up for me on my doorstep... and guess what- 1 day later, SO DID THE TART DISH I NEEDED!!! Well, it didn't show up on my doorstep, but I showed up on it's doorstep.. at a garage sale right in my own neighborhood! This was too good to be true; this tart was meant to happen!

Along with the cute white fluted tart dish, I also found a couple other thrifty finds from this 91 year old woman's garage sale:
A gorgeous antique glass vanity box with aged metal edging and claw feet, AND a cool anniversary clock glass dome. 
I filled the glass vanity box with turquoise sand from an hour glass that had broke in my living room. Then I nested a pink sea shell from my personal collection inside. 
I placed the clock dome over a flat, round, mirrored pillar candle base and displayed a beautiful piece of white coral within. 
I love repurposing my treasures to create unique beach decor for our little Laguna Beach cottage :)

Okay, enough of the nonedibles. Down to the tart business! This fruit tart is beautifully impressive looking, but incredibly easy to make. It is almost a 'no-cook' recipe. It has a shortbread crust (only 3 ingredients -and the only baked component), a cheesecake-ish filling, fresh fruit, and a lemon glaze. 

This tart is awesome for all of summertime's bountiful fruit, but you can make it all year round with whatever fruit is in season. It could also be fun to try adding some slivered nuts into the design. 

Ingredients (makes a 12" tart): 

Shortbread Crust: 
  • 1 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks Salted Butter, chilled and diced
    • (optional: 1 teaspoon Almond Extract)
Cheesecake Filling: 
    • 8 oz. Cream Cheese (Low fat optional)
    • 1/2 cup Sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
    • Any Fresh Fruit you like (to give you an idea, the design pictured in my post here used 6 strawberries, 1/2 white peach, 1/2 yellow peach, a kiwi, and a handful of blueberries)
    (Optional Glaze):
      • 1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
      • 1/4 cup Water
      • 1/4 cup Sugar
      • 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
    Place the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until for about 1minute until it clumps together enough that when you squeeze it in your hand it will combine to become like playdough.

    Press the dough into the tart pan. (You can do this way in advance and chill it covered with plastic wrap in the fridge until you're ready to bake it). 

    Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes, or until it just barely begins to golden. Be careful not to over bake.

    *Note, make sure the crust is cooled before you fill it

    Next, mix the filling ingredients. (again, this can be done way in advance as well -stored, covered, and in the fridge until ready for use)

    Spread the filling evenly into the cooled shortbread crust.

    Then have fun decorating with your sliced fruits, but don't put on the berries until after you've painted the glaze. It doesn't ruin the berries or anything, but the berries don't stay in place like the other fruit does while painting the glaze. Plus, the glaze works as somewhat of an adhesive to keep the berries in place when you set them around the top :)

    You don't HAVE to use the glaze (though I highly recommend it) on your tart, but it is good for a few reasons: 1) it makes the fruit super glossy and appealing looking, 2) if you make your tart ahead of time, it can help to prevent the fruit from drying out or turning brown, and 3) IT TASTES GOOD too!

    If using, you can mix all the glaze ingredients together with a fork or a whisk and bring it to a light boil in a saucepan until it thickens, or just microwave it in a pyrex measuring cup for about 30 seconds to thicken it. 
    If it gets too thick to paint, just stir in a little water to thin it out a little bit. If it isn't thick enough, heat it a little longer until it thickens more.

    Paint the glaze over the fruit, and then polka dot any berries on top.

    See that beautiful glossy shine!
    You can see the ring of alternating yellow and white peach slices, the strawberry border, the kiwi center, and the blueberry polka dots. 

    And here my new tart dish even fits perfectly atop the cake stand I got from Aunt Peggy at my bridal shower 2 years ago!

    Isn't it just lovely! I LOVE all the colors! 
    It's so fun playing around with the natural shapes and colors to see what patterns and designs you can make with them!

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    Chicken Salad Veronique

    I don't know where the name came from, but that's what my mom always called it when we were growing up, so that's what I'm going to call it. 
    It is pronounced 'vair-oh-neek', but Peter looks at the name and calls it "chicken salad very unique". Haha! That makes me smile :)

    Whatever you choose to call it, this is a great seasonal, summer salad. So seasonal in fact, that the ingredients showed up in a cardboard box on my doorstep this morning. I subscribed to a farm fresh produce box delivery, and this was my first delivery! It is so exciting when the box shows up! It's like Christmas morning... I have no idea what's inside and I just get to rip it open and dig through to find which fresh fruits and veggies were harvested this week :) As I dug through the box, I started registering all the ingredients in my head like puzzle pieces, so that I could play with them in my mind throughout the day to figure out what I could make for dinner.

    After I had my fun with the produce box, I went for a run. Though it was only 8:30  in the morning, it was already so sunny and HOT! Days like these remind me of my dad when I was a kid; he would always ask my mom to make 'chicken salad veronique' whenever it was a hot summer day. That's when it clicked for me this morning- I had most of the ingredients in my produce box already! My puzzle pieces were all put together and dinner was solved :)

    This salad is cool and refreshing with its lemony dressing and juicy grapes, yet crunchy and hearty with the slivered almonds and the crisp celery.

    The recipe below isn't the exact original, I altered it a bit to fit what I already had in my kitchen and to fit what I like. I get asked a lot how I come up with my recipes... this is usually how they start;  just swapping for healthier ingredients, what I have on hand in my kitchen already, and adding other flavors I think would be good complements to the dish. A lot of times I also research about a billion-gajillion other recipes and take bits and pieces that I like and put them together to come up with my own version. At the end of this post, I will outline some of the differences that I made to this original recipe in case you would like to play around with it for your own preferences as well. It's a very adaptable recipe, so feel free to experiment with some of your own changes too!

    Ingredients (4 small servings):

    • 2-3 cups Chicken, cooked, cubed, & cooled (about 4-5 chicken breasts)
    • 1 cup seedless Grapes, halved
    • 1 cup Celery, sliced (about 4 stalks)
    • 1/2 cup Almonds, sliced or slivered
    • 1/3 cup Craisins
    • 1/2 cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt
    • 1/4 cup Low Fat Mayo
    • 1 teaspoon White Wine Vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons Honey
    • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice (about 2 large, or 3 small lemons)
    • 1/8 teaspoon Ground Mustard Powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon Curry Powder

    You want to cook your chicken first so that it has time to cool before you assemble your salad (or use cooled leftover chicken).
    *Helpful Tip: If you are cooking chicken breast for dinner earlier in the week, just cook some extra and set it aside for this salad for another day's lunch or dinner.*

    Prepare the grapes and celery that you need to chop for the salad. And get the rest of the ingredients ready.

    In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, LF mayo, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, ground mustard, and curry. This is your hearty dressing for the salad.

    Now, just simply add all your prepared chicken, grapes, celery, almonds, and craisins to the dressing in the bowl and stir to coat. It is ready to eat right away or it is perfectly happy sitting in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

    Isn't it pretty plated on a bed or ruffly red leaf lettuce :) 
    I also garnished it with a little celery leaf and a few craisins for some bright polka dots of color. I always like to garnish with something that actually hints at the flavors that are within the dish. You could also garnish with a little lemon zest too! That could be fun :)

    This recipe is great for brunches, for women's teas, wedding showers, for making ahead when you won't have much time later to prepare dinner, or just for those hot summer days :)

    Free free to alter and swap ingredients as you please... this is a very 'swapppable' recipe :)
    Also, here are the swaps I made from from the original recipe that I told you I would outline to give you some other ideas:
    • Instead of the lemon yogurt that the original recipe calls for, I substituted in real fresh lemon juice and fat free greek yogurt sweetened with a little natural honey
    • Instead of a lemon-lime alcohol bitter, I used a splash of white wine vinegar to get that same bite in the flavor. 
    • It also calls for some diced raw onion, that I omitted completely
    • I used low fat mayo instead of regular
    • I added the craisins- there's no swap here, just added it 'cuz I felt like it, plus I thought it would be nice to add just for the punch of color contrast. 
    • ...Same with the curry. No sub. Just added it entirely. The flavor works VERY well in this dish.
    • It called for deli mustart, but I just used a bit of ground mustard instead
    • I didn't do this, but you could add a little lemon zest into your salad if you really like that fresh lemon flavor, or you can just sprinkle a little zest on top for garnish.