Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dressed to Kill...

At our Thanksgiving table, we serve Mom's turkey dressing with a side of baby aspirin and a glass of red wine.

Laden with butter-drenched croutons and three kinds of sausage, her killer concoction could damn up even the mightiest of arteries...just by looking at it. But, every year, we look danger square in it's beady little eye and snuggle that stuffing up to the turkey and mashed potatoes on our plate then drench the whole lot in golden gravy.

Last year, and I don't really remember why, the dressing duties fell upon me. Determined to make my own mark (and convinced I could not duplicate Mom's signature sausage surprise) I dug through my ripped up magazine archives looking for a perfect dish that I could call my own. Not to worry, tradition would be upheld featuring all of the other usual suspects (green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce...), but this was my chance to see if a bird of a different feather, so to speak, would fly.

Scattered among my tattered tear sheets were many recipe options from which to choose...all touting to be the best: some with cornbread, others with oysters, some with sausage, some without. But, as I went round and round, I just kept coming back to the one with pancetta, prunes and chestnuts...just the departure from tradition I was looking for without completely risking a mealtime mutiny.

I just can't throw away a November issue!

I'd substitute bacon for the pancetta ($6 vs. $30 per pound, you do the math) and no one would be the wiser. The prunes were a little risky but I just wouldn't advertise they were in there until someone asked what the delightfully sweet surprise inside was.

Chestnuts...hum...never cooked with them but I think Grampa put them in his stuffing one year. Not that I paid much attention to those things back then, but the "kids table" was in the kitchen and I have a foggy memory of him leaning over the turkey, stuffing a chestnut studded concoction mercilessly into its cavity. I think that was the year my cousin Ricky laughed so hard at the dinner table that spaghetti shot out of his nose...but that's another story.

Does he or does he not look like the kind of kid who would shoot spaghetti out of his nose?

Speaking of stuffing, it begs the question: is it "stuffing" or is it "dressing?" To that I say, you say "toe-may-toe", I say "toe-mah-toe." In other words, it's all the same. Technically speaking, I think it's stuffing if it cooks within the nether regions of your formerly feathered friend. Dressing is baked in a casserole separate from the bird. That said, we call it stuffing in our family, even though we haven't actually stuffed it for years...go figure (too many scary salmonella stories on the news).

Anyway, my new-fangled recipe was a big hit last year so I'd like to share it with you today...just in time for Thanksgiving...if you dare.

Me? Well, Mom said she's doing the stuffing this year and actually, I can't wait. There's a lot to be said for tradition and knowing that the only ingredient she uses with more abandon than butter, is love, makes hers some of the healthiest dishes I know.

I'm bringing the pie (for the perfect crust, check out the recipe under "Recipes You've Requested" to the right of this post) or click on this link: http://makemudpies.blogspot.com/p/basic-flaky-pie-crust.html.

I made this pie last night...threw some peeled and sliced Golden Delicious apples tossed with sugar and cinnamon into the crust and topped with streusel...I think I'll have some now.

A big juicy hug to you and yours during this season of thanks. I am so grateful that you sit with me at my virtual table and indulge me in my ramblings and recipes. Like we do at our family table, pass it on...

Now, let's get that bird stuffed or dressed or whatever!

Start with the bread. I used Bordenaves Extra Sourdough bread which is one of our local favorites. For this recipe, I used 3/4 of a 1# loaf.

Preheat oven to 400°. Dice the bread into 1/3 inch cubes and spread the cubes out onto a shallow baking sheet. Toast until the bread is golden and dry and looks like this. Then place in a big bowl.

Dice your veggies.

Set aside.

Then quarter your chestnuts and prunes (the original recipe said to cut them in half but we all decided the flavors were more subtle with smaller pieces). Set aside.

Chestnuts (not water chestnuts) aren't the easiest ingredient to come by, I've found. I think it must be more of an east coast thing. Anyway, I found these at Trader Joe's and this one 6.5 ounce package seemed about right for the recipe (although the original recipe called for more). I saw some canned ones at Andronicos yesterday (a local market) but none at Safeway. Last year I actually roasted and peeled whole chestnuts in the shell because that was all I could find. It was a pain. Moral of the story...don't assume your market will have them...be prepared to make a call or two.

Cook the bacon until it is crispy, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Pour all of the fat into a clean, heat proof bowl, wipe any burnt bits up from the pan then pour two tablespoons of fat back in the pan with 1/2 stick of butter! Saute the onions and celery until softened (about 10 minutes) then add fresh sage, the cooked bacon and salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or so more.

This sage is all that's left of my pitiful little garden!

Whisk together the stock and eggs and mix everything in the big bowl with the bread. Bake in a buttered 9x13 Pyrex, loosely covered with buttered foil, for about 30 minutes, then uncovered for about 10 more or so until it reaches the brown-ness you love. Charlie likes his stuffing really wet, I like mine crispy on top and this recipe seemed to please us both.

When I made this last week to see if it was as good as I remembered, I served it to the hubby and kids with brined grilled pork chops and homemade apple sauce (I knew we'd be turkey-ed out this week). It was yum!

Chestnut, Prune and Bacon Stuffing

Preheat oven to 400°. Cube, place on a baking sheet, toast until browned an place in a large bowlt:
  • 3/4# sourdough bread
Cook until browned:
  • 1/2# bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
Drain the bacon, set aside, pour off the fat into a bowl, wipe out the skillet, put two tablespoons back into the skillet and melt:
  • 1/2 cube of butter (4 Tbs)
Saute until soft:
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups onion, diced
Add the cooked bacon to the skillet plus these ingredients and cook for a minute then add to the big bowl:
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh sage
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4-1 cup pitted prunes, quartered
  • 6.5 ounces (or about) peeled, cooked whole chestnuts, quartered
Whisk together then gently mix with other ingredients:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups turkey stock or store-bought chicken broth
Empty the mixture into a well-buttered 9 x 13 Pyrex, loosely cover with a buttered foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or so until it has reached your desired crunchy-top-ness.

Serves: 6-8 (I'd say closer to 8)

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Last night it rained buckets.

Charlie pulled out his rubber boots, trudged out to the wood pile and built us our first fire of the season. We turned down the lights, turned up Neil Young and sat there for what seemed to be hours watching the flames roar until the embers began to spit and crackle and fall in a glowing pile under the andirons. As Charlie says, we're "fire people" and we love any opportunity to gather our little tribe around the hearth.

This morning, the sun was shining so brightly through my passenger side windshield that I could barely see through Carly's toe print smudges...evidence of last week's 90-degree barefoot weather. Fall in Marin County is officially here and even with its split personality, I love everything about it!

I love the smell of the driveway after the first drizzle and the mad dash to unearth last winter's rain gear. I love the look of surprise and delight on Willy's face when he dons his old jacket, holds up his arms and proudly exposes his lanky little wrists...a sure sign that the escalating Sharpie marks on our makeshift door jam grow chart do not deceive.

I love the neighborhood "fire tree," as we have named it, that we observe every morning on our back road trek to school. As maple trees go, it's actually not that impressive. Not so tall and not so grand, it stands alone amongst a row of evergreens, shouting out loud like an angry little red-headed man with an inferiority complex. Tracking its transformation from the first day of school until the last leaf has fallen has become a morning tradition...watching it turn from lush green to flaming red then stark and bare.

I love the new season of fall shows on TV. Yes, it's true, and I'm not particularly proud to say it, but we do love our TV in the Christensen household. Even though we have a million more choices than when we were kids, I still get a little bit excited about the promise of a fresh dose of our favorite drug of choice (we are so going to miss LOST and "24" this winter)!

Remember when the three (yes, there was a time when there were only three) networks had their Saturday morning fall cartoon previews? We'd gather around the TV to see what was in store, knowing that all too soon summer would be over, the first day of school would come and Saturday mornings would again actually matter.

Saturday mornings were sweet but we also had our precious prime time, complete with new episodes of the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family. Remember the season the Brady men showed up with perms? That was the year they went to Hawaii with Mike on his big architectural gig, I think, and they had all that trouble with the ancient idol. Oh...that Bobby...what a rascal!

Cindy,on the other hand, had nothin' on me...I rocked her pigtails. But do ya think someone might have noticed the whole bow tie thing as I posed for my first school picture! I'm still scarred by this fashion faux pas.

But...I digress...

I love the way our porch looks in the fall...

...and especially how it looks on Halloween...

I love the little paper Jack-O-Lanterns the kids cut out and tape to our stair lights.

And, speaking of Halloween, I love that Charlie carves pumpkins with the kids every year, even if he does use power tools...

...and teaches my son how to make his pumpkin puke...

But, you know one of the things I love the most, permission to eat all of that cozy fall food that seems politically or practically incorrect to eat during the heat of summer. Braised stews, home-baked breads and my favorite sweet and starchy fall vegetables, I love it all with butternut squash at the top of the list. I kind of think of these foods as the "white pants"of the epicurean world: God-forbid you use them out of season.

So, in honor of Halloween and our SF Giants I thought I'd share a recipe that's good and orange...Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagne with Rosemary and Garlic (it also happens to be my most-requested recipe)! PS...it happens to be vegetarian too...but no one will even notice since it's so decadent and delightful.

Happy Halloween and GO GIANTS!!!

Gather your ingredients:

Peel your butternut squash with a sharp peeler or paring knife. 3 1/2 pounds is about 2 medium squash but it will vary.

Cut into 1/2" cubes. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe. If you want to cheat, have at it. Trader Joe's sells cubed butternut squash ready-to-go but it's quite a bit more expensive. I timed myself and estimate it took about 15 minutes, uninterrupted to peel and cube two squash...you make the call.

Toss your cubes in oil and roast in a hot oven for about 14 minutes, tossing and seasoning with salt 1/2 way through. This is what they should look like. Don't overcook them...they'll  shrivel up!

While the squash is roasting, make your cream sauce. Don't freak out if you've never made a cream sauce. There's really no big mystery. You basically make a roux* then whisk in milk until it becomes cream sauce.

Start by bringing your milk to a simmer with the rosemary for about 10 minutes, then straining it into a large measuring cup with a spout.

Then melt your butter over moderate heat in a large heavy saucepan, soften your garlic in the butter (for this recipe, not all cream sauces), add an equal amount of flour and cook it until it darkens and thickens a little (don't burn it!) and it starts to smell great. *You've just made a "roux"...the basis of your cream sauce.

Next, take the pan off the heat, add your milk in a stream in batches, whisking in between to keep out the lumps. Cook about 10 minutes or so until thickened to the consistency of melted ice cream.

Add the roasted squash and season with salt and pepper.

Butter your Pyrex and begin to build your lasagne in this order: start with a cup of sauce (it will not cover the bottom...no worries), layer three sheets of pasta, add half of the remaining sauce, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, three more sheets of pasta, the rest of the sauce, 1/2 cup more of Parmesan, three more sheets of pasta...

...then, yes it's true, whip 1 cup of heavy cream with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to soft peaks and spread it over the top with no apologies. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup more Parmesan.

Tent with foil and bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 10 more minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagne
with Rosemary and Garlic

Preheat oven to 450° and oil 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Toss and roast in the two pans for 7 minutes:
  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed into 1/2" chunks.
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil or olive oil
Season with salt, toss, switch racks and roast for 7 more minutes. Remove from oven, set aside then lower oven temp to 375°.

While squash is roasting, add to a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes:
  • 4 cups milk (I used 2% but whole is probably better)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh rosemary or 2 Tbs dry
Strain through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout.

In a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat melt:
  • 4 Tbs butter
Add and soften:
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
Stir in and cook for a few minutes:
  • 4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Take the pan temporarily off the heat and add rosemary milk in a stream in batches, whisking till smooth. Put back on heat and cook until thickened, stir in the roasted squash and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Layer lasagne as described above using:
  • prepared sauce
  • 9 sheets dry no boil lasagne (7" x 3 1/2")
  • 1 1/3 grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
Then whip to soft peaks and spread over the top of the lasagne:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Bake as directed above. Serves 6 hearty main course portions.

Adapated from Gourmet Magazine December 1995

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anna Banana

My cousin Karen sent me an email the other day.
After seeing herself in a vintage family photo I posted a couple of months ago, she thought it would be fun to reminisce about Gramma Anna, the patient, simple, fun-loving, albeit vertically challenged better half to our fiery French-blooded Grampa Henry.
Among her many virtues, I think the thing we loved most about Gramma Anna was that she was consistent. As the self-appointed family historian, Gramma Anna wrote smack dab on the front of every photo...most of which she took with her old Brownie box camera. Formal portrait or family snapshot, it really didn't matter, Gramma would record the facts on each photo. It drove us crazy then...but what would we do without those notes today!

"Anna-Banana” she’d say to us kids in her deliberate, syllabic way as she'd peer through the little Brownie viewfinder and we’d shriek with delight each time at her wacky wit. “Anna-Banana”…how clever! It really didn’t take much to make us smile.

Topping off at an honest four feet-eleven, Grandma Anna also faithfully served as the family’s human grow stick. Posted like a diminutive sentry at the threshold of their Outer Mission headquarters, she would stand at the top of those terracotta steps, hand held high in the air, waiting to tap the top of our heads as we walked through the door to gauge where we measured up against those almost five feet of hers. With a smooch on the lips, she'd proclaim how much we’d all sprouted since our last visit and how she must be shrinking too…and she was!

At every family event we’d gather at "Eight-Ee-Se-Ven-Na-Va-Ho" (pronounced by Gramma as seven separate words) and the six of us grand kids would run off to the back of the house not to be seen until the turkey made its way onto the crochet-clad dining room table. We’d leave the grown-ups to their chit-chat, their log of Gallo salami and their jug of Carlo Rossi red table wine and be off to explore the wonder that was Gramma and Grampa’s house.
We’d rifle through the designated toy drawer in Auntie Janet’s old bedroom, and fight over the same old trinkets that waited patiently for us to abuse at every visit. We’d play Circus Bingo and Yahtzee and when we were bored with that, we’d explore Gramma’s jewelry drawer and admire her precious “Oh-Pal” (pronounced as two separate words) and Grampa’s silver dollar bill clip.

And, on the rare occasion that Mom and Dad needed a babysitter, we were treated to a city sleepover where Gramma would give us her undivided attention, teaching us how to play poker for dimes or letting us transform a loaf of Wonder bread into stacks of fake hosts so we could practice for our much anticipated First Holy Communions.

When we got a little older, we’d descend into the basement wonderland where Grampa kept his tools and wood scraps that the boys would consistently craft into some form of weaponry. The girl cousins loved the easy access into the garden where we’d mix up muddy concoctions and bury coffee cans full of treasure stowed to unearth on future visits.

The old chest freezer was down there too and if we were feeling especially naughty, we’d pick the lock and steal a nibble of the Carnation coconut-covered vanilla ice cream snowballs that were always there around the holidays, nestled between 40 pounds of butcher-paper wrapped red meat and stacks of thin white boxes filled with frozen ravioli. We learned that if we repositioned the decorative plastic holly leaf just right over the tell-tale bite marks, no one would know that the snowballs had been compromised.

That basement was our clubhouse and we were happy to share it with the old, early-70’s model Oldsmobile (which Grampa insisted on calling a Cadillac) that faithfully ferried them to our house almost every weekend. They were professional fans and never missed one of the many Little League games or dance recitals that commanded their attendance.

Wearing a floral polyester, long-sleeved dress and sun visor, Gramma Anna would sit patiently in the bleachers, notepad in-hand , meticulously recording statistics and observations. At the end of each event, she’d tuck her notepad into her well-organized purse and announce that it was time to go home to “San-Fran-Sis-Co-Watch-My-Fist-Go” (pronounced like eight separate words) and off they would ride into the Sunset, so-to-speak.

As they’d pull into the driveway of "Eight-Ee-Se-Ven-Na-Va-Ho" Grandma would reach into the glove box for yet another notepad, record their mileage and fuel consumption, neatly re-secure it with a rubber band and stow it back away. She’d then hop out of the passenger seat, stand in front of the open garage door and waive Grandpa in as if together they were landing a fighter plane on the deck of the USS Nimitz.

Sometimes Grampa would make it through the narrow portal unscathed, but the deep battle scars stretching down both sides of the Olds proved that their success rate was less than 100%.

When we’d come back upstairs, our first stop would always be the kitchen. After a couple of hours in the tunnels, we’d worked up quite an appetite and could always count on finding handfuls Oreos in the chipped, glued and re-glued Raggedy Ann cookie jar (which I now proudly display in my kitchen) and an opened, less-than-fresh box of chocolate-covered Hostess mini-donuts on the counter.

We’d wash it all down with a cold glass of Tang (pronounced by Gramma as “Tanj”) and while we were in the fridge we’d sneak a spoonful of chocolate pudding (the cooked, Jello-brand kind, of course) digging beneath the characteristic surface skin to find that familiar, chocolaty, lumpy, goodness. Yes, it’s true, Gramma Anna wasn’t known for her culinary prowess, but a visit to their house wouldn’t be the same without those donuts, that pudding, and that “Tanj.”

So, as a gift to my brothers and my cousins, but most of all to celebrate our “Anna Banana”, I share with you my version of chocolate pudding that I hope you will all enjoy in good health. It may not be Jello-brand, but it is cooked, it is chocolaty and it is guaranteed delicious. I make it today in the shadow of that Raggedy Ann cookie jar and as I put it in the fridge to cool, I look up, and raise a cold glass of “Tanj” to our beloved Gramma Anna. Enjoy the pudding, my brothers and my cousins…enjoy one-and-all. I think I’ll play some Yahtzee tonight.

Get all of your ingredients together...this recipe cooks up fast...no time to go searching for the vanilla or you'll get lumps! My favorite chocolate to use is the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Dark...and it comes in a 4 ounce bar. Carly made a double batch last night and brought it to school today with 10 spoons. She used Trader Joes Dark (which is what I had on hand) and it was good too...and way less expensive!

 Throw the sugar, cornstarch and salt into a heavy saucepan and whisk it together...

Add the chopped chocolate then whisk the egg yolk into the milk and add it to the pot...keep whisking...

Melt everything down until it looks (and smells!) like hot chocolate then gently bring it up to a boil over medium high heat. When it starts to thicken remove it from the heat (about one minute).

Add a tablespoon of butter and the vanilla and whisk it until it is smooth and glossy. Pour it immediately into two 8 ounce ramekins or whatever fancy dish or dishes you'd like and chill. The recipe serves two but I think the portions are too huge...it's sooo rich! I suggest putting it into two smaller dishes then leaving a big glob of it in the pot to eat right then and there sharing spoonfuls with whomever is in lips' reach.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding

In a heavy saucepan whisk together:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Whisk together then add to the pot:
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
Keep whisking over medium-high heat until the chocolate melts and when it starts to bubble watch it until it thickens then remove it from the heat (about one minute). Add and mix until smooth and glossy:

  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pour into two to four serving dishes, chill and garnish with:
  • whipped cream and chocolate shavings if you've got 'em.
Serves two to four

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life is just a bowl of cherries...

Ten years ago, almost to the day, Charlie and I clutched the dimpled paws of our baby girl as we marched her off to her first day of Kindergarten. I can still remember the nostalgic scent of white paste and construction paper wafting out the door into the warm morning air as we entered the Lilliputian world that would be Carly's first classroom.

She lost her first tooth, and made her first friend that year.

Today, I dropped Carly off at her first day of high school. Funny. I don't really remember shedding a tear the day we left Carly at Miss Woodman's door ten years ago. But today, I cried like a baby as I pulled away from the front steps of Carly's new home-away-from home for the next four years (and my Alma Mater). Yes, I am ten years older and my hormones (as well as some other things) aren't quite as balanced as they used to be, but I think it's more than that...perhaps.

As Carly bopped eagerly out of the car, bid Willy and me a hasty "bye" and ran off into her new world, a flush of excitement washed over my body in a wave of tiny electric sparkles.  Like the powdery pop of one of those old-time photographer's flashes, a million images fired through my brain: lockers, classrooms, teachers, guys, tests, rallies, football games...friends.  Friends! That was it. That was what I was most excited about: the new relationships Carly gets to explore as she navigates her way from the placid pond that was 8th grade into the high seas of high school life.

Almost 30 years later and we're still whining and dining...

So, yes, I did compose myself and luckily made my way out of the rat maze of a parking lot without completely exposing myself as a rookie parent.  I came home, plopped down in front of my computer and, just like any other day, watched a flood of emails populate my in-box. But it really wasn't any other day. Something changed.

Instead of scoffing at yet another Costco mattress event special offer or dreading the inevitable slew of mundane to-dos that would come, I smiled as I watched a parade of my friends stop into my in-box to say hi. Costco, your special offer is going to have to wait...I'm pouring myself another cup of coffee and stopping to chat.

Carol, wants to know if we've picked a hotel yet for our second Las Vegas high school girls get-away. "This time we're not sharing a double bed!"

Check out our Cindy Brady pig tails. I think mine were a little springier than Carol's

Amy, my "first house" best-neighbor-friend, wants to see if I am free to work with her at an upcoming non-profit event she is planning. "Yes...it's the only way I get to see you!"

On her way home from the hospital, two days after she was born, Carly (we were there too!) stopped at Amy's house first! They have been pals ever since...

Kathy, my "second house" best-neighbor-friend wrote on my Facebook wall that her oldest daughter is off to Davis. "Go Aggies!"

Onnie and Suz (my sorority/surrogate sisters) want to know when we can celebrate summer birthdays. Maybe by Christmas...but let's keep trying!

Paula, my bawdy buddy mom from Carly's grammar school class emailed to coordinate the next time we can take our shared boat out. "Can summer be almost over already?"

We may not be on the boat, but picking roses amongst the grape vines ain't so bad either...

Someone's at the door...it's Laura, "my third house" best-neighbor-friend here to pick up some hand-me-downs and return a Tupperware. "Can you pick up Will from camp?"

Back to email...Cynthia, my oldest friend from college, wanted to say thanks for dinner the other night (more on that later).

Here is one of the first desserts I made for her...!

Oh, and Lizzie, my first college roommate emailed today from NY too...no wait, that's her old address that I know not to open (it's usually a pirated, virus-filled spam touting male enhancement products)..."Lizzie, that email's gotta go!"

Anyway, you get the picture...so to speak. Somewhere along the line, after years of school, and roommates, and new homes, and kids, my big fat cherry bowl of life got filled with friends, each one juicier than the next. So here's to you...my friends. You make my life delicious and I love you.  And to you, my Carly, may your bowl runneth over.

Back to Cynthia. What a treat to have her to dinner the other night. After years of travelling the globe, she's back in town to stay for a while...so I did what I do... I made her a cherry pie. It's a little different than your run-of-the mill cherry pie but Cynthia's a little different than your run-of-the mill kind of friend...so here you go!

Start with my two favorite ingredients.

Add a couple of egg yolks.

Add the dry stuff and mix till it looks like this.

Press half of  the dough into your tart pan.

Then, roll out your other half of dough.

Chill your dough while you prepare your cherries.  I don't have a cherry pitter so Carly and I improvised by poking through each berry with a plastic chopstick...

...worked great but it was a mess. Nothin' wrong with that!

Pour your prepared cherries into the chilled tart shell.

Cover with the chilled dough disc then sprinkle with sugar. Nothin' wrong with that either!

Bake it baby. Here's what it looks like before being sliced to pieces. I think the bubbly, pitted crust is so cool in an alien, surface-of-the-moon sort of way.

Cherry Tart with a Cornmeal Crust

Beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth:
  • 1 cup butter at room temp.
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
Stir in until well-blended:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Divide the dough in half. press one portion into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable rim.  Place the other half on a sheet of waxed paper and roll out with a floured rolling pin into a 10-inch round. Slide onto a baking sheet and chill with the shell at least 1/2 hour or more until firm.

Mix in another bowl and let stand at least 10 minutes:
  • 1 1/2 lbs. clean pitted cherries (this is the only cherry pie I've ever seen that didn't use the sour cherries that we can't get easily here on the west coast)!
  • 2 Tbs. quick cooking tapioca
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
Pour into your chilled shell and spread evenly. Place chilled round over the tart and press the edges to seal with the shell, trimming off any excess.  Sprinkle with a bit of sugar for extra sparkle and crunch.

Place tart on a baking sheet and bake on the lower rack at 375, rotating once half way through, until golden brown (about 35-40 minutes).

Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream (how about lemon buttermilk?). Serves about 8.