Our farmers market basket overfloweth! It’s a happy problem indeed, though it’s one that necessitates a rather concentrated effort to cook, bake and nibble our way through the abundance of produce as fast as our tummies can take us. Our kitchen always feels more creative in the warmer months because we tend to do a lot more buying by sight than buying by list, which often leaves us with a crisper drawer filled with odds and ends we’re not entirely sure what to do with. So yes, lots of fruits and vegetables, with nary a plan in sight. Clearly this calls for tarts.
I think of tarts like I think of quiche in that you can pretty much throw anything in them and still have fantastic results, especially if you’ve landed on a crust that you already love. Strawberries are my absolute favorite though, and berries are practically falling from the sky this time of year.
And sometimes it’s just nice to bake something that ends up looking so pretty, don’t you think? I’ve eaten — and made! — plenty of mishmash dishes that still taste great, but I love, love, love a pretty dessert. Maybe it’s a touch of nostalgia from my tea party days.
The strawberry and lemon combination is perfect for warm weather, but blueberry would be great to add to the mix, too. Or maybe peaches? Or cherries? Sometimes a grocery store walkabout is the perfect inspiration.
Strawberry Tarts with Lemon Zest
Adapted from Martha Stewart
For the crust:
• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• ⅓ cup sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
For the filling:
• 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest of 1 small lemon (or ½ large lemon)
• 1 ½ to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and cut in half
• ¼ cup apricot preserves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To make the crust, put the flour, butter, ⅓ sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse for about a minute, until moist crumbs form. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom, or divide it evenly among four 4-inch tartlette pans.
Press the dough evenly into the pans and up the sides (you can dip your fingers in flour beforehand to keep them from sticking). Press the dough firmly into place, and freeze the crusts for about 15 minutes, until firm.
Use a fork to prick the crusts all over. Then bake them until golden, about 18 to 23 minutes for tartlettes, 25 to 30 minutes for one large tart. Check on the crusts occasionally during baking and press them down gently with a spoon if they puff up. Cool completely.
To make the filling, mix together the cream cheese and ¼ cup sugar until smooth. Add the lemon zest and vanilla, and mix to combine. Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the baked crusts (still in the tartette pans). Then, starting from the outside edge, arrange the strawberries, stem side down, in tight circles on top of the cream cheese.
Heat the apricot preserves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until liquid. Gently brush the strawberries with preserves, and let them set for at least 20 minutes. Chill the tartlettes in their pans for at least 1 hour. Remove them from pans just before serving.