Saturday, April 15, 2017

Warm Tarts for Chilly Spring Days

Easter falls later on the calendar this year although looking outside, you might not realize it.  Yes, there are crocuses and daffodils finally opening their buds to the sun but the air is chilly and raw.  We've had so much rain!  I suppose all this precipitation is a good start for the season but it sure puts a damper in everyone's attitude, especially Declan's.  He gets so mad when the coach cancels practice, again. 
"They are such babies! Why can't we practice in the rain?!  It's not that cold!!"
I try to calm him down.  Seriously, 38 degrees, torrential rain, it's just silly to cancel.  The weather is fine.  But I wouldn't want to be out in it.  That sideways rain, the kind that pelts your face and ruins your hair in spite of my best efforts to deal with it by wearing a thick rubber raincoat and still sporting my winter boots.  The rain manages to seep in wherever there is a crack in the armor.  Forget using an umbrella.  The wind is so strong, it renders it useless in seconds.  It turns the  pop-open travel umbrella into a little black kite, sailing 100 yards across the supermarket parking lot.  Or even better, forcing the umbrella inside out bending the metal prongs, warping them permanently and ripping the fine fabric into a spider web of threads before I am barely out of the car.
  When the sun finally does appear, on a few occasions in early April, the ground is so damp and the air still bitter, winter coats are de riguer.  Don't forget your gloves, scarves and hats, too.  All the parents at Declan's soccer game last Saturday looked like they were ready to go sledding instead of attending a springtime match.  No one dares put away the snow gear until we are well out of the woods, around June 1st, if we are lucky.  But who wants to adhere to such sensible rules on Easter Sunday?  Pastels and bright white fabrics are featured in the new Spring lines in all the fashionable boutiques and stores.  Pedicured toes show off the latest sandal styles in all the magazines.  Everyone is sick of drab winter colors: dark grey, black, hunter green.  We are ready to give heavy coats and big boots the heave-ho.  I've already spotted bare legs and ice cold feet belonging to shivering, yet stylish women.  I'm sure I will see plenty more goose bumped and red skinned outside church this Sunday morning.  Fancy ladies and chic girls rubbing their arms and hopping up and down and in an effort to warm up while the little children search for plastic pink, yellow and blue eggs filled with candy.  As soon as these fashionistas get home, I have a feeling they will be back to fleece and flannel for at least a few more weeks.  Mother Nature will make sure of it.
  Warmer parts of the country may be celebrating the arrival of new spring clothing lines and accessories but I envy them more for their earlier spring harvest.  While we are still eating the last from the root cellar, in warmer climes, they get to feast on spring greens and quite possibly, the first sprouts of rhubarb.  Although we are quite a few weeks away from harvesting any rhubarb on Cape Cod, as luck and advance planning would have it,  I still have some from Val's huge rhubarb patch stashed away in the back of my freezer.  I was so frantic last year when the weather began to turn hot, just before the rhubarb stalks grew fat and fibrous.  I harvested and chopped so much of the ruby red and dark green stems, that I thought I had gone to far.  Even though I filled half my freezer, there was still so much we left to wither in the hot summer sun.
  I pickled it, made elixirs, froze quart after quart.  I ate a lot of rhubarb in June, July and August.  Then, I forgot about my freezer stash.  It took the angle of the sun and the date on the calendar to remind me, again. 
"Wow, I need to use this good stuff up before Val's plants begin producing again." I said to myself.
  I've been making free form tarts and quick sauces to go alongside poultry and pork.  I eat any leftovers with vanilla yogurt and whipped cream.  I just can't get enough of the sweet/tart flavor and the promise that someday soon I will be able to take off my wool socks and let my feet feel the green grass warmed by the sun.

Mini Rhubarb (or any fruit) Tarts
(makes 4)

6 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold butter, diced
6 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Mix the filling: combine rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon flour.
To mix the crust, place 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and diced butter into a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse peas.  Slowly add enough water until the dough just comes together.  Separate dough into 4 small disks and wrap each in plastic.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough disks on a lightly floured board.  Place each section of rolled out dough 2 per cookie sheet.  Spoon 1/4 of the rhubarb mixture into the center of each dough piece.  Crimp dough up around the fruit, pressing down slightly on the bottom edges to make sure the crimp stays in place.  Brush the edges of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle tarts with Turbinado sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tarts are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cook for 10 minutes before serving.  Yummy with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream!


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