Love is Real

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“What is REAL?”
asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Since Life first unexpectedly sprung from unassuming, antediluvian and micellar murk on a planet wholly unrecognizable to us, so too did Death.
Organisms, animals—man and beast and plant alike—enter this realm and pass into the next.
And by the time sentience came into vogue, grief had entered the mix as well.

The unfairness of loss draws out our most innate and intimate emotions, primal keening and crying accompanied by
external, physical pain.  It hurts.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

To my best friend, my honey bee, keeper of my secrets and sharer of my memories—

Know that everything you feel is Real.
Love, regret, anger, and sadness all roll together to become the acutely painful sensation of grief, which is, paradoxically, the balm and toxin during heartbreaking loss.

Know, however, that your heart isn’t breaking.
It is swelling so full of love and memories that it is fit to burst; the dull ache of each thump in your chest only serves to remind you how very full it is.

No matter how deeply it feels like it is rending, it is knit together tightly by years of love.
That much, my dear, I can certainly promise you.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.

But he is deaf, this cruel god.  There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march.  Forward we go.

Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.

We do not like to be changed.”

It Gets Better, 2014

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I must share this beautiful snapshot of writing:

“She was speaking last night about a litter of cats she wanted to bring home, and the look of the moonlight on a lake.
Memories from the past resurfacing.
When we are about to cross over, these thoughts are the things we take with us.
Philip Eastman

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This stunning tart is definitely one of the most delicious and beautiful things I have made yet this summer.
Figs, to me, signal the dog days of summer: sticky, syrupy heat that produces fruit of the same temperament, as the season bleeds lazily into Autumn.

They are an unctuous, sensual fruit, and it is truly hard to beat a perfectly ripe fig.
Figs pair well, in my opinion, with savory flavors as well as bright, citrusy flavors.
This tart blends the two, with woodsy rosemary and tart lemon creating a perfectly harmonious backdrop for lots of thinly sliced, ripe figs.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

For this tart, buttery crust, crisp and perfectly fluted (no shrinkage! Heh.) is hit with pine-y rosemary and molasses-y brown sugar to elevate it above a basic pâte sucrée.
The shell is filled with tart citrusy cream, rich with cream cheese, cut with a whole lemon’s worth of zest and juice.
When chilled, it sets into a sliceable form, solid enough to support any number of fresh or seasonable fruits.
I can easily imagine this tart/pie made with sautéed plums, or candied citrus, any type of berry, or many tiny apricots.
Here, I’ve chosen a bevy of super ripe, late-season juicy black mission figs, sliced thin and brushed with warm apricot jam for shine.
The effect is jaw-dropping, a spiral of late summer’s finest fruits, showcasing their orange-y pink centers—a veritable sunset of beautiful colors.

When figs pie, indeed.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart
makes 1 8-inch tart

for the rosemary-brown sugar pastry:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
130 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter
1 egg
Whisk together 180g (1 1/2 cups) flour, 60g (1/2 cup) confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cut in 130g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter and whisk in an egg. Press into a tart pan and freeze. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Fill cooled shell with lemon cream: beat 130g (10 ounces) cream cheese with 90g (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Top with fresh, ripe fruit!

for the lemon cream:
130 grams (10 ounces) cream cheese
90 grams (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
8-9 ripe figs, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon apricot jam (optional)

directions:
Grease an 8-inch tart pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, and kosher salt.
Cut in the butter and whisk in the egg.
Knead lightly until dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly.
Press into prepared pan, prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Weight with pie weights and parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the lemon cream: whip cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and salt, and whip for 3 more minutes.
Fill cooled shell and chill for 15 minutes, until partially set.
Top with sliced figs or other fruit (berries, plums, candied citrus) and a brush of heated apricot jam for shine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
Serve chilled (cut with a hot, sharp knife).

Ad Hoc

I find myself opening a lot of drafts, trying to figure out what to write, and a lot of times, I just don’t know.  No one told me that putting words down and sending them into the shadowy interspace would be so gosh darn hard sometimes.  
 
 
Yet I love it.  I love challenging myself to be creative, or funny, or sarcastic, or whatever, but to be honest, I’m not funny or creative or sarcastic all the time.
 
In fact, I hardly ever am.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I am whiny not.
The only solution is to wing it.
 
Baking new things and combining new flavors is not my problem; I have an entire document on my phone of wacky flavor combinations that I’m dying to try out (See the cornmeal-fig-pistachio-brown butter combo at the bottom of this post for proof).  
 
 
My issue is that I don’t always know what to say about the food I make, without being super repetitive and annoying.  
 
 
I don’t always have witty things to say.  Really.  I just have to pretend I do.
 
 
So. Um.
These were delicious.  You should make them.  
Boom. Done.
 
And P.S.?  The French word for pistachio is inexplicably beautiful to me.  Pistache.
 


Fig, Pistachio, and Cornmeal Brown Butter Blondies
adapted from smittenkitchen’s infinitely adaptable blondies
ingredients:
1 stick butter, browned
1 loose cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
big pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons coarse polenta
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose)
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 cup toasted chopped pistachios
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8 pan.  Stir brown butter and brown sugar together, then stir in egg and vanilla and salt.  Add in the cornmeals and flour, and stir until combined.  Add in the figs and pistachios.  Spread into pan and bake until golden and slightly firm to the touch, 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, slice, and remove from pan.  Allow to cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Moody Blues

When I woke up on Friday, the sky was covered with clouds heavy with rain, and a thick fog had settled low to the ground like a lush carpet.  Not the kind of morning that makes me want to jump out of my warm, cozy bed and run straight into the cold, cold rain.  
 
The past two mornings, however, have been utterly glorious.  People.  Take a moment to look around and take in the beauty that is autumn.  I mean, come on.  The hues of the trees are so brilliantly rich, it’s hard to believe they’re real.  I gather that the extra gorgeous colors are due to the strange growing season this year.  I can’t get over them.  
 
But there will be plenty more of that later on in this post.
 
Firstly, I bring dessert!  I’ve been baking a lot lately, but have been too lazy chosen not to write about most of them; “they” being a maple, walnut, and brown butter caramel cake (whew), a nutmeg maple cream tart, coconut chocolate banana bread, potato chip and dark chocolate bark… 
 
I did, however, save the best for the blog (but of course!).
 
Inspired by a classic cheese plate, I set out to make something that would reflect all the best elements of one:  crunchy crackers, slightly bitter nuts, smoky meat (if you’re into that sort of thing), tangy, salty, and rich cheese, sweet fruit, and just a whisper of honey.  
 
A few weekends ago, my family had bo ssam, a Korean lettuce wrapped, brown sugar encrusted-pork shoulder dish.  Though I (obviously) did not eat the meat, I was sure to save the rendered fat and gelatin (Why?!? Because I’m weird.)
 
And because I just knew it would come in handy sometime soon.  And it did!  Clearly I am learning to utilize some sort of frugality and foresight (neither being my… um… strong suit).
 
This tart is comprised of a brown sugar, wheat cracker, walnut, salted butter and pork fat crust, a mascarpone and blue cheese filling, figs, pears, and a drizzle of honey.
 
Blue cheese tart.
The revolution is coming, people.
Granted, I couldn’t taste all of the elements together because of the pork fat, but I know it was good.  I think everyone who has tasted it has had two pieces.   
 
Victory is mine.

 

And because I can’t resist… Here are some autumnal pictures I’ve taken.

Blue Cheese Tart
ingredients:
1 cracker crust, baked (I used equal parts wheat crackers, graham crackers, and walnuts, added 3 tablespoons of flour, then added half a stick of melted, salted butter, about 3 tablespoons of melted pork fat and gelatin, two tablespoons of brown sugar, and a hefty pinch of salt.  Mix it together, press into a buttered tart pan, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 or so minutes, or until golden and slightly crunchy.)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 ounces good quality blue cheese (taste as you go)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (again, taste as you go.  Palettes vary.)
1/2 cup cream, whipped
figs, pears, and honey, for garnish
directions:
Once the crust is cool, whip the mascarpone and blue cheese together.  Add in the powdered sugar, slowly, tasting as you go, until homogeneous.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Spread into crust, and chill until set.  Top with fig and pear slices, and drizzle with honey.