Company’s coming!- with fairly short notice and the sole purpose to visit, in an old school way. When I was a child, getting together to just be with family, was an almost every weekend occurrence, with drop in-stop ins by grandparents, aunts, uncles and teasing cousins. A kind of casual gathering that I didn’t appreciate or think about as special until the generations scattered from our hometown, as family members gradually drifted away for school, for jobs, or to an appealing locale for retirement.
Our family no longer takes family get togethers so casually. Each major life-cycle celebration reached brings anticipation of togetherness. We purchase plane tickets, make hotel reservations, and remind our scattered selves of belonging, connectedness, and for better or for worse, the moments that shaped our family and in our minds continue to influence each of us in a unique way.
Naturally, on a recent visit to see my parents in one Florida city, we made plans with my nonagenarian aunt and the eldest of my cousins, from another Florida city, to drive in for a weekend afternoon, just to be, together.
“Don’t fuss!” said one voice. “You don’t need to cook!” said another. “We are getting together between lunch and dinner, you don’t have to worry about food.” said the third. “Ha!” said I.
Company’s coming. In spite of the good intentioned advise, all I could think of was what dish to make and how to nourish my relatives. Something easy to prepare, something that smells and tastes of comfort for a casual family get together, something with ingredients in season.
My thoughts run savory and sweet and rustic. I think all butter crusts, one filled with caramelized onions topped with greens and goat cheese, the other with seasonal stone fruit and berries.
I shop and prep and cook. Mom, as always, sets an inviting, gracious table. Aunt and cousins arrive. I bask in the “Oohs and Aahs” and “What did you make?” as I bring in the tarts.
And I continue to bask as we spend our afternoon just being, together.
Dough for Rustic Tart (single)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup ice water + 1 teaspoon apple cider or red wine vinegar
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar and sea salt.
Add butter and with two dinner knives cut butter into flour, pulling the knives in opposite directions until the butter is pea size.
Gradually drizzle ice water into mixture until dough pulls together. Add just enough water to hold dough together. Note: you may not need the entire measure of water. Lightly knead dough to form a ball. Wrap ball in plastic wrap, flatten with the palm of your hand to form a disc shape. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Lightly flour clean and dry work surface. Roll the dough from the center toward the edge, turning the dough or the pin one-quarter turn as you roll a circle shape. Place dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Fill and bake tart:
Spoon tart filling evenly on top of the dough, keep a 2 inch border clear of filling.
Crimp a 2 inch edge of the dough toward the center of the tart, forming a border. Continue crimping and folding dough around the circle. Overlap the folds as you go. Brush the crimped edges with egg wash (mix one egg or egg white + 1 teaspoon cold water).
Bake in 350 F oven until edges of tart are golden brown.
Fresh stone fruit and berry filling:
Wash, pit and slice 1 lb. stone fruit. Toss with 1 Tablespoon flour + 1 Tablespoon sugar* + 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg + 1 cup blackberries.
Choose the ripest seasonal stone fruit in season: nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots, or pluots.
In the fall and winter make the tart with apples or pears and cranberries.
*Taste the fruit for sweet-tart balance. If your preference is for a very sweet filling add up to 1/3 cup sugar.
Experiment with a dash of cardamom, ginger or cinnamon in place of nutmeg.
Caramelized Onion Filling:
4 large onions, peeled and sliced into rings
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt to taste and generous addition of fresh ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions and toss to coat with oil.
Turn heat to low and cook onions until golden and brown and liquid has almost evaporated from pan. Season with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and thyme leaves. Cool.
Top: with handful of arugula or micro-greens and goat cheese.