I was incredibly lucky in high school. At the time I was too busy being a pedant to be especially grateful, but over those four years I managed to form a group of friends that would come to be my second family. A few of them I’d known since I was four or five years old; others, I came to know in middle school, or volunteering at art camp over the summer, or through high school trips to Italy or Greece.
And I think like most high school students, by the time we were about to graduate, I became nervous about our staying in touch. After all, the basis of our friendship, like so many others formed in those days, was primarily one of geographic convenience, reinforced by seeing each other every day for four years. Since we were about to be scattered across the country, it seemed inevitable that our friendship would fall apart.
Instead, the opposite happened. Over the next six years, we continued to come together at Thanksgiving and at New Year’s, for birthday parties, and for lazy summer dinners that stretched late into the night. We would meet for mini-reunions as close as Guelph, Ontario, and as far-flung as Australia, Germany, Morocco, and Israel. I’ve watched our numbers wax as people trickle into town for the holidays and wane again when they leave. Sometimes those who are studying or living out of town can’t make it back to Toronto, and their presence is at once sorely missed and, in a strange way, not missed at all, because even when they are physically absent their presence is so strongly felt.
A few weeks ago, those of us who were in town had dinner in my friend ‘s backyard.We fired up the barbeque and came together in the kitchen to make salads. Numerous bottles of wine were cracked open. We chattered and argued and teased and laughed as the sun went down. For dessert, we ate this strawberry rhubarb tart, which was incredible. Imagine little red gems of fruit nestled in a browned butter custard, balanced perfectly by a nutty, delicate crust.
The tart is fantastic on its own, but it improves even further if eaten in good company.
To my second family: thank you, I love you, I miss you all the time. Can’t wait until the next time we’re all under one roof.
Strawberry rhubarb tart with almond crust
Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet. Makes one 13″ tart.
For the crust:
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs icing sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the finished tart
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ chunks
For the filling:
- 2 cups rhubarb, sliced on the diagonal 1/2″ thick
- 1 cup strawberries, halved
- 2 Tbs organic cane sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (or 1 Tbs vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or 1/2 tsp almond extract + 1 1/2 Tbs water)
Making the crust:
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F.
2. In a food processor, pulse the almonds, icing sugar, salt, and flour until the almonds are finely ground. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture just begins to clump together. Dump the crumbs into a 13-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Don’t bother washing the food processor bowl.
3. Press the dough into the sides of the pan first, then the bottom, aiming for an even thickness. (If the dough becomes soft or sticky, put the whole pan in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to firm it up again.) Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Freeze the crust until firm, 15 minutes, or wrap for longer storage.
4. Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for easy maneuvering, and bake the unlined crust until it is pale golden, 15-20 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes for even browning.
Making the filling:
1. Toss the sliced rhubarb and strawberries with 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium bowl and set aside to macerate while you finish baking the crust and making the custard.
2. Place the butter and vanilla pod and scrapings (or extract) in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally. After about 5-10 minutes, the butter will foam up, turn golden and smell nutty, with brown flecks mingling with black vanilla bean seeds. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the butter into a heatproof measuring cup to stop the cooking, and let cool 5 minutes.
3. In the food processor, pulse together the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the flour and salt to combine. Add the eggs, and process until combined. With the motor running, pour in the browned butter, including the brown flecks and vanilla seeds, then the bourbon (or almond extract mixture).
1. Pour the rhubarb and strawberries into the hot, par-baked tart shell in an even layer. Carefully pour the custard over the fruit, filling the shell to the brim.
2. Bake the tart until the filling is puffed and browned, 30-45 minutes, rotating the tart halfway through for even baking. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart cool until warm. Set the tart on an inverted bowl or ramekin, and ease off the ring.
3. If you’d like, sprinkle the tart with powdered sugar, cut it into wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature.
All the love today.