Last Wednesday, after a lazy morning of coffee, exercise, and brunch, we drove to the town of Delano (about fifty miles west of Minneapolis.) The quest: strawberries-picking at Apple Jack Orchards. Now, I've never been berry-picking before, but I expected fun to be had. Wide open spaces, fresh air, sweet fruit,and the satisfaction of comes with an awareness of the natural environment.
Not entirely the case. I would suggest embarking on this endeavor in the early morning or late afternoon. Not at midday when the sun is at its hottest. I always get asked, "But you are from the Caribbean, don't you like being in the sun? " Sure I do but physical activity in ninety degree heat can make even the most avid of sun worshippers a bit miserable. And, after all of that, a bee got caught in my hair and as I tried to free it, the little punk - I mean the cute, fuzzy, sweet-honey-producing bee - stung me! (Another suggestion, if you have long hair, tie in a pony tail or braid before strawberry picking.) Luckily, I'm not allergic to bee stings but never again will I complain about strawberry's high price. Locally grown strawberries are worth every cent.
All in all, the day wasn't a total disappointment . Even though it was the end of the season and most of the fruit were already gone by the time we got there, we (and by we, I mean mostly my husband) still managed to gather about three pounds. More than enough for this scrumptious tart.
My recipe is an adaptation of one I saved from a 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine; changing only a couple things. I added whole wheat pastry flour and cinnamon to the crust, and I tossed the berries with fresh mint for the filing, just to add another dimension of flavor and freshness.
Freshly picked, from the farmers market, or store bought, do try and get some local strawberries before the season is completely over. And if you do decide to drive to Apple Jack's Orchard, try their strawberry tart. Theirs is freshly made, and very good too!
Fresh Strawberry Tart with Port Glaze
(Adapted from Gourmet)
FOR TART SHELL
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 lb strawberries (trimmed)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup port
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup fat free cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
about 10 mint leaves
TO MAKE TART SHELL
1. Combine pastry and all purpose flours, salt, and butter in a bowl using your fingers, pastry blender, or food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal with some lumpy pea-sized butter bits.
2. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon zest, and water, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir until mixture comes together. Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until a dough forms. Press into a 5-inch disk.
3. Place dough disk in center of tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup, spread the dough to evenly cover the bottom and sides of pan. Prick bottom of shell with a fork and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
4. Pre-heat to 375 degrees F, with rack in the middle. Line tart shell with foil and pie weights and bake until sides are pale golden about, 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and continue to bake until deep golden all over, another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes.
TO MAKE PIE FILLING (while tart shell cools):
1. Stir together strawberries and brown sugar in bowl and let stand about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain liquid into a saucepan, reserving berries. Add port to liquid in pan and boil until slightly thickened and reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.
3. Tear the mint leaves into thin strip and toss in reserved berries.
2. While port glaze is cooling, blend together mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated.
To Assemble Tart:
Spread mascarpone-cream cheese mixture evenly in cooled tart shell. Top with strawberries, and drizzle with port glaze.