Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elements of the weekend: sustainable eating and birthday pear tart

In the past couple year, I have been increasingly using local seasonal produce from community supported agriculture (CSA) ran by the Bull Run Mountain Farm. Leigh Hauter, the owner of the farm, is one of the most wonderful CSA providers in D.C. area. He always delivers exceptional organic fruits and vegetables along with fresh eggs and honey. Few times a season, shareholders also can order 5-pounds of raw Cheddar or Colby cheese, and visit the Farm for a shareholders party, cider pressing, and gleaning. I could not miss an opportunity to make some fresh cider. Here is the video of me pressing cider and links to the farms' websites.
video
Information on CSA http://bullrunfarm.com/
Website of the dairy farm http://www.farmsteadfresh.com/

In addition to the traditional apple cider, we made some pear cider, which was absolutely divine. I saved few pears to make an almond pear tart for my dear friend Amina’s birthday.
Almond-pear tart
Tart shell:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup agave
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons of frozen unsalted butter, cut into small cubes or grated
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl and mix using 2 forks until the flour mixture mixes with butter forming coarse meal the size of oatmeal. Mix in the yolk until it blends in forming clumps. Turn the dough on the counter and gently form a ball, then knead carefully. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for couple hours.

After the dough chilled for 2 hours move it to well-floured surface. I am lucky to have stone countertop that keeps the dough cool longer. Butter an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Lift the dough to prevent sticking. Roll on half of the dough on the rolling pin and move to the pan. Press the dough carefully intol the pan sealing the edges. If the dough is bigger than a pan press the extra dough into the edges to make them firmer. Generously pierce the crust with fork.

Cover the crust tightly with non-stick aluminum foil and freeze for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake the crust for 25 minutes on the middle rack. Remove the foil and bake the crust for another 5 minutes. Cool the crust on a rack.

Filing:
2 cups dessert wine
½ cup agave
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cut in a half vertically, and cored

1 ½ cup almond meal
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 ounce agave
1 ½ stick room temperature butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons brandy
1 teaspoon almond extract
Powdered sugar (optional)
Bring wine, agave, and lemon juice to simmer. Add pears and cover the pot. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until pears look soft and translucent. Cool pears in syrup (reserve the syrup to top vanilla ice cream) Once pears are cool, cut the pear halves into ½ inch thick half rounds keeping the shape of half a pear together.

Mix almond meal, flour, and butter. Slowly mix in agave, eggs, brandy, and almond extract.

Spread the filling evenly in the crust. Carefully lift the pear halves using a large knife as a shelf and place in the filling so the top part of the pear point in the center. Gently press the pear on an angle, so the pieces will fan out.

Bake the tart for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool tart in the pan on rack. Sift powdered sugar the bottom of the shell, and serve.