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Strawberries

25 May

When Kristen Wiig announced that she was retiring from Saturday Night Live, I was bummed to hear that I’d never again enjoy the hilarious, neurotic and attention-seeking Penelope, one character that Wiig plays so well. I relate to her “topper” antics, not that I’d consider myself a competitive person, but in the cooking world, sometimes chefs get a little one uppish.

When I found out my friend’s husband, who loves strawberry pie, hits Marie Calendar’s for one of their abundantly-stacked, red-gel glazed marvels when the craving arises, I wanted to top that. For his birthday, I made an easy strawberry lemon tart with a zingy, buttery shortbread crust so punched up with flavor he’d never miss MC’s. This one is for you, Penelope.

 Strawberry Lemon Shortbread Tart

Makes two 8-inch tarts

For the shortbread

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use organic white whole-wheat flour)

2/3 cup sugar (again, organic works fine here)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into cubes and chilled

For the tart filling

1 pint strawberries, tops removed, cut into slices

2 tablespoons of good-quality strawberry jam, mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice

8 ounces of prepared lemon curd (found in the jam section of specialty markets)

Make the shortbread: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Blend the first 5 ingredients in a food processor.  Add butter; cut in using on/off turns until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball (dough will be crumbly); divide in half. Press 1 dough half onto bottom of each of two 8-inch-diameter pie or tart pans. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake shortbread until cooked through and lightly golden, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Gently toss the cut strawberries with the jam and lemon juice mixture. Divide the lemon curd onto both shortbread tarts, then arrange glazed strawberries on top in an even layer. Slice tarts with a very sharp knife and serve with whipped cream if you like.

With easy tips like using a food processor (make sure your butter is extra cold) and jarred lemon curd, this tart comes together effortlessy.

Pink Lady Apples

19 Mar

This is my favorite dessert, whether I use apples, peaches, berries or pears. The pink lady apples are delightful in this crumble, sweet and slightly crisp.

Apple Crumble

Use any fruit you like, about 3 pounds. You could even combine fruits as well.

Filling:

6 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup sugar (I use organic)

2 tablespoons all-purpose or white whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping:

1 cup walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped

1 cup all-purpose or white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

8 tablespoons of cold butter (1 stick), cut into small cubes

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.

Place apples in a large mixing bowl and toss with sugar, lemon juice, flour, and cinnamon. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray (I use canola or olive oil spray), and spread out into an even layer. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix together the nuts, flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt for the topping. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, gently work in the cold butter until pea-sized lumps are formed.

Top apples evenly with mixture and bake until apples are bubbly and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream