Roasted Red Grape Tarts
Wow, here we are! It has been exactly one week since we hugged our New York City friends goodbye and landed in Sydney Airport. There was plenty of monotonous flying in between of course, and eating bacon and egg rolls, and staring mooned-eyed at the creamy tops of the flat whites flying out of the cafes. Out of all the beautifully unsettled days, yesterday was the first time I was able to get back into the kitchen. In a couple of weeks I will have my own kitchen to debauch again, until that time I am a wandering cook, an itinerant baker, and a tortilla-tossing traveler. Grits to Grace has always been about mobility and flexibility so it feels just fine to be on the road, if not a little more challenging. Creating meals in different spaces and for different folks is one way I hope to start a larger conversation about meanigful hospitality and just food. It is also ridiculously fun and eye opening. You really don't need the world's fanciest kitchen to make a substantial meal but you can't make pancake batter in a colander (FYI)...but you can make spaeztle!
Being able to cook up something was an important centering point in this first week of living in a new country. I might not have all the details sorted out but I can make a tart. Isn't it always food that moves to the center of our travels away from home? What are we going to eat? When and how are we going to eat it? What is it? Some people admittedly choose a destination just for the cuisine. The food in Australia is not drastically different from anything I would find in America, yet there are a few mysteries and pleasures I have yet to unravel. The dairy section in the market for instance, has a perplexing plethora of cream about which I am perhaps unduly excited. Pouring cream?! Yes, please.
Having left the heavy New York summer for the first chilly days of an Australian spring my season sensibility is a bit off. It is barely Autumn back home and by now my thoughts are habitually turning to apples and eager sugar pumpkins. For the first time in my life summer will turn into spring, and then into summer again. So I thought up a recipe that could sit comfortably in any season. One of the nicest welcome meals I have had thus far was a simply thrown together cheese plate, some white wine in a backyard garden, a few chairs huddled together before supper. Being able to put together an impromptu and impressive cheese plate should definitely be part of your sexy back pocket entertaining repertoire. There was something so resonant about the promise of sun- mellowed summer grapes as we all shuffled around to find the last sun beam to sit in. I felt at home. Sweet fruit and sharp cheddar was the inspiration for this dessert, perhaps a few savory rosemary crackers to catch up a bit of soft goat's cheese. A cheese plate inspires all sorts of plans and promises, learning to surf, finding a good hike, a dinner party with a long table and lanterns.
We have been received into so many open arms and fluffy couches, I feel compelled to repay the kindness with an abundance of food. Care for a tart, sweet friends? As the winter departs here in Australia the grapes are not at the top of their game. No worries, roasting grapes is a sure fire way to bring back out the sweetness. With a dose of olive oil and a little salt to suck out the moisture, grapes are ready to roll again, on a cheese plate or as a simple dessert with whipped cream or crème fraîche. These grapes tasted like a smoky port, decadent leftovers alongside my breakfast porridge. There are a few steps to this recipe but all the components are easy as a breeze. You will have leftover pastry cream and you will want to put it on everything.I roasted the grapes stems on for dramatic effect...and to keep them from rolling all over the place.
A road trip to Melbourne is our next move before we settle proper in Sydney. I hope to have some camp cooking for you and a peep at the awesome cafes and eateries in that fine city. I think we need to re-visit our famous Kangaroo tacos and getya a recipe. I am also psyched to do some more in-depth research about Australian wine, since I have been a bit of a francophile on that front before now. It's so much more than juicy and bold, it's a whole different taste of land and stone! I think this research requires another cheese plate.
Roasted Red Grape Tarts~ Rosemary Shortbread and Sharp Cheddar Pastry Cream
Rosemary Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats 1 1/2 cup all- purpose flour 1/2 cup walnuts 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 Tablespoons brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 Tablespoons rosemary 7 Tablespoons butter, unsalted 1 egg yolks 3-4 teaspoons water
Sharp Cheddar Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cup milk 1 cup heavy cream 4 eggs yolks 1/2 cup sugar 2 Tablespoons flour 2 Tablespoons corn flour 1/2 stick of butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar ( I used Mersey Valley Classic Cheddar) Yum! dash of salt
Whipped Cream & Crème Fraîche
1 cup whipping cream 1/2 cup creme fraiche
Sweet Balsamic Reduction
1/2 cup caramelized balsamic 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- Place walnuts and oatmeal in in the bowl of a food processor and grind to a fine powder. Add flour, salt, and sugar, rosemary and blend until rosemary is in fine little pieces. Add the butter by tablespoon while continuing to blend, when finished add the egg yolk. Finish with tiny teaspoons of ice cold water until the dough comes together. It will be a little grainy but should look similar to the dough above. Grease a single tart pan or several smaller ones. Push dough into the pan and up the sides, crimp with a fork and polk holes in the center for baking. Place tart or tarts in the refrigerator for a half hour to chill. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a little puffy.
- While your dough is chilling out in the refrigerator you can roast your grapes. Place grapes stems and all, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cover with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast the grapes slowly at 350 degrees until wrinkled and some of the juices have gathered and caramelized on the pan. You can cook the tart crust at the same time as the grapes if you so desire.
- To make the pastry cream place the milk and cream into a medium sized sauce pan over medium to hight heat. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and flours together in a separate bowl. Add vanilla extract to yolk and sugar mixture, which again. When the milks are bubbling and hot to the touch add about a 1/2 cup of milk to the yolk mixture to temper. Whisk quickly and add all the liquid back to the saucepan over heat. Whisk or stir continually until the mixture starts to thicken. At this time add the salt, butter, and grated cheese. Continue to whisk until the mixture is completely thickened (the texture should be like a slightly watery pudding and take about 7-8 minutes), and remove from heat. Place a strainer over a clean bowl and run pastry cream through. Let cool on the counter for 20 minutes before placing in the refrigerator to chill completely.
- For the balsamic reduction place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add maple syrup and brown sugar. Reduce the liquid by a half until it coats the back of a spoon like thick cough medicine (ooooh joy!). Place in a small jar and let cool.
- Tart assembly!: Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and fill the tart or tarts shells up to the brim. Whip cream and fold in creme fraiche. Smooth a layer of whipped cream over the pastry, top with roasted grapes and drizzle with balsamic. Serve with a dessert wine or espresso next to an outdoor fire. Presto!