Monday, June 20, 2016

Escape to a Carmel Valley Paradise and an Apricot Tart !

Have you ever just needed to escaaaape ? Thaaat's how I was feeling the other day ! Needing some time to see feel ocean veg out with a good book....The mood I was in reminds me of the time that I spent about two days in gorgeous Carmel Valley, just inland from Carmel,California, where the air is warmer as one drives away from the ocean.
   So I called my cat sitter, made arrangements for her to take care of Cocoa, Poof, and Ollie, packed my things,and took off for two nights in San Francisco and two nights in Carmel Valley ! These pictures are of Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley. This is a tranquil place where I like to wander, to have lunch and to take pictures. When you first drive up and park, you can see the organic county store with wooden tables, chairs, picnic tables, benches, and a large indoor/outdoor building where they hold events and classes such as wreath making. I like to see the beautiful organic produce in the store, grab a sandwich from the fridge in front of the store and a drink to have outside. There is a takeout counter where you can order the sandwich of the day, hot dishes, desserts, ice-cream, and coffee. I noticed that more parents are bringing their children there after school to get ice-cream these days !
I love wandering in the back of the farm, as it is a visual delight of flowers,

fruit, and vegetables! There is a kitchen garden full of lush vegetable plants, that one can open the little gate and take a stroll through. Ahhh, I dream of having such bounty in my yard ! An herb garden is carpeted in one area where people can cut herbs  to buy. Children can run around a labyrinth of lightly colored stones, crawl into a teepee, and read the alphabet on signs as they look at plants or vegetables near the signs that start with each letter.
   As I was exploring the gardens, I encountered a mother with her little sons. She told me that there were some farm animals next door, so I opened a gate between the two properties and visited chickens, a pig, a donkey, an emu, and some goats in pens. I hope that these animals are let out to pasture to have more room to roam each day ! Earthbound farm's cafe uses the fresh, in season fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden, fruit trees and vines on it's property. Since it's nearly summer, apricots are in season, and I'm an apricot fanatic, I thought I would include my favorite Apricot Honey Almond Tart. This unbelievable  swoonable tart comes from the cookbook "At Home in Provence" by Patricia Wells.  You might want to buy this wonderful cookbook, as well as her other cookbooks. Patricia lives my kind of fantasy life. She lives with her husband in a centuries-old farmhouse in Provence, France and teaches French cooking classes there and in Paris !! Bravo Patricia !!
   Prepare to see your guests melt in ecstasy as they eat this tart, and not believe you when you tell them how easy it is !  When I made it for a Friday night Sabbath dessert, one of my friends named Susan said that I could sell it at a bakery ! (Thanks to you, Patricia !) This tart can also be made with whatever fruit is in season, such as figs, plums, or a combination of fruits such as peaches, apricots, and nectarines. Whenever pitted fruits are used, be sure to cut them in half and bake them cut side up, so the juices will reduce and intensify during baking. Baked this way, there is also less of a tendency for the juices to leak into the crust, says Patricia.

                                   Apricot Honey Almond Tart

The Crust

   Unsalted butter for preparing the tart pan
   8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 120 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
   1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
   1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
   1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use organic Mexican vanilla that I purchased online.)
   A pinch of fine sea salt
   1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (180 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

   2 tablespoons finely ground unblanched almonds (I found a bag of organic almond flour at Costco.)

The Cream

   1/2 cup (12.5 cl) heavy cream
   1 large egg, lightly beaten
   1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
   1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
   2 tablespoons raw full-flavored honey, such as lavender (I buy Maison Peltier lavender honey online from France.)
   1 tablespoon superfine flour, such as Wondra (I just used all-purpose flour.)

   About 1 1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh apricots, pitted and halved (Do not peel.) (I use apricots I have frozen too.)
   Confectioners sugar, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C; gas mark 5).
2.Butter the bottom and sides of the tart pan and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and, with a wooden spoon, stir to blend. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, salt, and flour,and stir to form a soft, cookie like dough. Do not let it form a ball. Transfer the dough to the center of the buttered pan. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and sides of the pan. The dough will be quite thin.
4.Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and set, about 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle the almonds (almond flour) on the crust. (This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
5. Meanwhile, prepare the cream: In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream, egg, almond and vanilla extracts, and honey, and whisk to blend. Whisk in the flour.
6. Starting just inside the edge of the prebaked pastry pan, neatly overlap the halved apricots, cut side up, at a slight angle. Make 2 or 3 concentric circles, working toward the center. Fill the center with the remaining apricots.
7. Pour the cream evenly over the fruit. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 50-60 minutes. The apricots will shrivel slightly. Remove to a rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar just before serving.

Eight Servings

Variation: To prepare this tart with fresh raspberries, prebake the dough as directed. Add the cream and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. At serving time, arrange a single layer of raspberries (about 12 0unces; 375 g) on top of the filling. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar just before serving.
 Praise the Lord for Spring and Summer fruits ! I'm in Heaven !!!

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