Thursday, March 11, 2010

apple tart and possible incarnations

i love cookbooks. i've been building up a collection for some time now and have no illusions of stopping. an unapologetic book fetishist with a penchant for impossible recipes and elaborate food porn. i have an impressive collection of recipes cut from old issues of gourmet and bon appetit, in no appreciable order, with no apparent function apart from offering me amusement from time to time as i sift through what i once thought i might make.

in spite of this, i rarely follow a recipe. i don't mean that i take a recipe and modify it. i mean, i see what ingredients i have on hand (or that i can get at market or after work at the grocery store) and i go with it. i keep a healthy supply of spices and dry goods on hand (not to mention good butter and homemade veggie broth) so that my whims are usually possible. this sort of freedom from the recipe is thrilling and liberating. recipes are great inspiration, and for things like brownies and breads, recipes are pretty much must-haves (although i'm working on learning proportions--more on that later), but for everyday cooking, i find them cumbersome and restrictive. better to throw some things in a pan and hope for the best (although good judgment helps too).

this impromptu apple tart is an example of this manner of cookery. an instance of effective kitchen witchcraft.

whole wheat pastry flour (1 1/2 cups)
lots of Amish butter (the equivalent of one stick, possibly a little less)
demerara sugar (1 1/2 T)
salt (pinch)
just enough ice water to make it come together into a blissful ball of butter-studded dough

refrigerate about 30 min. or, better yet, make the dough right before you eat your meal with the intention of throwing the tart together afterwards. the most important directive i can give you is to make this tart right before you eat it. don't get me wrong--you will enjoy the leftovers (ha) thoroughly, but you will want to eat this just out of the oven.

slice a couple apples really thin (honeycrisp or gala or pink lady--something juicy and sexy and pink), place all artsy-like over the rolled out crust (free-form and rustic is better; who needs symmetry anyways?), drizzle some raw honey over the apples (no need for overkill--the apples should be sweet enough on their own to need little embellishment), finely grate the oldest gouda you can find (mine was 5 years old--a precocious thing just about ready for kindergarten) sparingly over the top (if cheese were an accessory, you'd want it to be a nice, lacy shawl, not a flannel cape). bake until the apples start to get a little brown at the edges and the crust is minimally done (guess: 15-20 minutes at 350).

most of all, use your common sense and do what feel right and smells right to you. basil and sage are good on this sort of tart, but lemon balm and rosemary are too. or you can be a total purist and go for the honey-lavender combo, which is so enticing this time of year. make a glaze of honey and calvados (or a fruit liqueur or brandy or...). basically, this tart is the vehicle for glory. eat slowly with a glass of rose (accent the final e) and think of all the gloriously warm days to come.

**note: my recipes are templates, vessels, vehicles. you will want to use your common sense, and please experiment.

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