What’s in season: It’s hard to walk past a strawberry display without wanting to sample the fruit, which is yet another reason to head to your local farmers market this time of year. Although strawberries have been at market stalls for a number of weeks, the crimson fruit is really just beginning to come into peak season; varieties include the super-sweet Gaviota, the more complex Seascape and the Viva Patricia, a relatively new variety also prized for its sweet flavor. The quality of this delicate fruit can vary from week to week, so check with the farmers to see what varieties they recommend at the moment.
What to cook: Ripe strawberries are probably best eaten out of hand. You can also toss them into salads or load them into fruit tarts or pies. And try roasting them, tossed with a little oil, to deepen their flavor and enhance their sweet notes.
What’s on the horizon: New potatoes — freshly dug and sold before curing — are showing up now, with colorful varieties including Magic Myrna, German Butterball and Purple Viking.
FRESH STRAWBERRY TART
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus chilling and cooling time | Serves 8 to 10
Note: The dimensions given for the tart are just a suggestion; feel free to make the tart in whatever shape you desire.
1 recipe quick puff pastry (see related recipe)
1 egg, beaten
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to a rectangle about 10 by 20 inches; the dough will be just over one-eighth-inch thick.
2. To make the base of the tart, cut a rectangle out of the rolled dough measuring 6 by 16 inches and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. To make the borders, cut 2 strips each measuring 1 by 16 inches, then cut 2 more strips, each measuring 1 by 4 inches.
3. Prick the base of the tart with a fork, and brush with the beaten egg. Place the borders on top of the base, lining them up with the edges of the base. Prick the borders with a fork, and brush with the beaten egg. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to chill the dough before baking.
4. Remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place in the oven. Bake the shell until it is puffed and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool the baking sheet on a cooling rack.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup cream
3/4 cup milk
1 vanilla pod, seeded
Zest of 1/2 orange
1. Place the butter in a medium bowl; place a strainer in the bowl over the butter.
2. In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the egg yolks, then the cream and milk. Whisk in the vanilla seeds and orange zest.
3. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to bubble and thicken, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Immediately strain the custard into the bowl with the butter, stirring until the butter is melted and incorporated. Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and set the custard aside to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until needed. This makes a generous 1 1/2 cups pastry cream. The custard will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.
1/4 cup jelly, such as apricot or raspberry
1 tablespoon water
1 baked tart shell
2 to 3 cups berries (small whole berries, or sliced or halved berries)
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1. Make the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the jelly and water over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the jam warms and thins to a glaze-like consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Spread the pastry cream in the base of the tart shell in a smooth layer. (You might not use all of the cream. Any remainder will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days.) Arrange the berries over the top of the cream.
3. Brush the glaze over the berries, then sprinkle over the toasted almonds.
4. The tart can be served immediately, or chilled (uncovered) for up to 4 hours before serving.
Each of 10 servings: 495 calories; 6 grams protein; 42 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 35 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 166 mg cholesterol; 15 grams sugar; 206 mg sodium.
Love cooking as much as I do? Follow me @noellecarter