Some would say I read too much about food. I’ve read more about fancy dinners, seasonal entrees, and CSA produce than one person could ever actually consume. But while I constantly fantasize about shopping at the farmer’s market and growing my own food, time and budget constraints mean that I do almost all of my shopping at the Giant.
This means that a lot of the produce I get is . . . well, it’s not the greatest quality. It’s serviceable. But it can’t compare to what you can buy at the farmer’s market. Still, these are tough times and, honestly, most of my friends get their produce from the grocery store (besides Elpis and Justice, that is).
So what to when you’re stuck with a bunch of sub-par fruit that needs to be consumed? Especially if you live with Wonk the Plank, who is like a fascist dictator when it comes to ensuring that food doesn’t go to waste?
The last time Wonk was hounding me about wasting food, it was a large quantity of granny smith apples that we had had forever and were getting a little, shall we say, past their prime. I had intended to use them in lunches, but, in my fear that we would run out of fruit, ended up buying too many.
Usually, my go-to apple dessert recipe is a rustic apple tart. I like it because it’s unfussy and tastes excellent. But these apples needed a little . . . help. Since they weren’t exactly top quality, I wanted to dress them up in a way that would complement and enhance (and, let’s be honest, “mask”) their sub-par flavors. So I dug through my cupboard, looked at my options, and decided to coat my apples in raspberry jam.
This solution felt rather down-home to me, and not at all in keeping with the latest trends in cooking, which always call for the best possible ingredients. But it also worked – the raspberry flavor complemented apples, and the sweetness helped combat the overly tart flavor of the grocery-store granny smiths. I also paired them with a cornmeal pastry crust, which I am absolutely in love with now. The cornmeal adds a rich and savory note to the pastry, which is a lovely contrast with the sweet-tart filling.
Call it an apple-tart version of using lemons to make lemonade.
Note: the recipe below is a major approximation, since I’ve never actually used a recipe for this tart. What I normally do is make some pie crust, peel and slice however many apples I have on hand, add flavorings to the apples, assemble the tart, and then bake it until it looks done. This time around I did, however, use the cornmeal pastry crust recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. But, unfortunately, I had to return it to the library. So I found this Food and Wine recipe, which looks fabulous and pretty similar to the one I used.
Cornmeal Pastry Crust
Adapted from Food and Wine
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fine white cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers of a pastry cutter, until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the water slowly, until the dough just comes together in a clump. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a disk. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Apple Raspberry Jam Rustic Tart
1 recipe cornmeal pastry crust
6 granny smith apples
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 large egg
1 tbs water
Sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While your dough is chilling, peel apples and slice into quarter-inch wedges. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add raspberry jam and mix until apples are coated.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry dough into a rough circle, that is approximately 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place apples in the middle of the pastry, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Gently fold the edges of the pastry around the filling.
Lightly beat the egg and water together. Brush the egg wash on the crust, trying to not get it on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 40 minutes, or so, until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender.