once upon a time
My, that was quick! October - gone just like that. Truly, last month seemed like a blur to me. A good blur, yes, but that month felt nowhere near in line with the slowing-down-and-turning-inward time of year that Deep Fall always makes me crave. Hopefully, all of you were equally busy with your own lives, and didn't have much time to notice my infrequent presence here!
So now, let's all take a collective deep breath and relax for a moment. An essential act in the weeks (moments, really) leading up to the hectic holiday season.
Let me tell you a little story.
One day, right in the midst of Life, with a business to run and hungry children clamoring for snacks and attention and a barking dog impatient to be let back into the century-old house with its own never-ending list of attention-grabbing needs and the juggling act of social engagements and family responsibilities and the pursuit of personal goals, right in the middle of everything ordinary and not, a husband and wife suddenly paused for a moment and looked up, locked eyes, and realized that they never saw each other anymore.
But it was the weekend, and a busy one at that, and the husband worked nights with precious time off and the wife's To Do list was never finished and she hadn't even showered in days, for goodness' sake. Clearly, there was only one logical thing to do.
The husband spontaneously took Saturday night off and the wife called up close friends to arrange for last-minute babysitting. She finally got that shower she deserved and they both kissed their darling (albeit confused by the unusual turn of events) children good-bye, with promises of chocolate to halt the tears, and then waltzed arm-in-arm downtown, to dine at their favorite local bistro.
Which, of course, couldn't seat them right away, given that their very impromptu evening had not arrived ready-made with reservations. This suited the happy couple just fine, and they doubled the evenings' venues by going next door to the wine bar and ordering drinks to sip on while munching deviled eggs and radishes and turnips with European butter. They talked design and business and off-the-wall news stories, and it was good.
The bistro owner personally came to collect them when their table was ready, and they proceeded to enjoy a relaxing, hearty parade of dishes. House-made pâté, venison sausage, roasted Brussels sprouts, and local tri-color potatoes with thick-cut bacon, with macaroni and cheese and a Cuban sandwich for the gluten-eating husband. The wife consumed an entire bowl of steamed Maine mussels, tenderly picking the unexpected pearls from her teeth, and told stories of kayaking to wild islands where she steamed just-harvested mussels on the beach and amassed a collection of sea storm-colored pearls. The pair splurged on a bottle of Cabernet Franc, and reminisced about the old friends back in Boston that it reminded them of, people they knew when they were young and naive and mere shadows of their current selves.
When they could eat no more, the sated couple walked home, huddled together against the surprising chill in the air. They opened the front door to a scene of joyful energy, with children laughing and bouncing and rolling around under the living room rug. They were filled in on the dance-and-accordion-music-filled night, the foods that were eaten, the games that were played. Everywhere the wife looked, she saw faces and eyes sparkling with happiness, and the jumble of voices rang high-pitched and true.
It was wonderful for the couple to realize that doing the right thing, the best thing for the family, happened to also be immensely enjoyable for all involved. Healthy, and fun, and an oh-so-needed change of pace. The night ended with difficult good-byes and promises to continue trading the favor, and frequently at that. No payment traded hands, per se; friends don't expect cash from one another.
But there was a tart. A tart made of fruits of the season, with enough warm spices and nutty, buttery crunch to declare Fall its rightful home. A tart that would be as comfortable on the brunch table as on the Thanksgiving table. A tart that couldn't be eaten mindlessly, because the layers of flavor were surprising and demanded that one pay attention to them all. A tart that said thank you in only the way good food made with intention and love could.
A jewel-like spiced persimmon tart. It was the perfect ending to the story.
Spiced Persimmon Tart
yields one 11-inch tart
2 fluid cups (16 fl oz) water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1 star anise
2 Fuyu persimmons, thinly sliced
Combine the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the persimmon slices. Cut the parchment paper into a circle the diameter of your saucepan, make a small hole in the center, and lay it directly on the persimmons. Press down gently to ensure all the slices are submerged in the syrup. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store persimmons in spiced syrup (leaving spices in the syrup). Can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to one week.
Honey Yogurt Custard
238 gr (8.4 oz) whole plain Greek yogurt (I like Fage)
3 large eggs
50 gr honey
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate until needed (up to one day).
Graham Cracker Crust
240 gr (2 cups + 2 Tbsp) gluten-free graham cracker crumbs (I was in a hurry and ground up this brand. But if you want to make your own crackers, I like Rebecca Reilly's recipe best)
1 stick (8 Tbsp/4oz) unsalted butter, melted
Put the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and stir to thoroughly combine. Place an 11-inch tart pan on a baking sheet. Using your fingers, spread the crumb mixture into the tart pan, pressing to make a crack-free crust on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set aside until needed.
Assemble and Bake the Tart
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Pour the yogurt custard into the prepared tart shell and bake the tart (on the baking sheet to catch any seepage) for 20 minutes, or until custard is just set. Remove from oven. Gently take persimmon slices out of poaching syrup, allowing excess liquid to drip off, and arrange slices on the surface of the tart. Return tart to oven and bake 5 minutes more. Cool completely on a rack, and serve at room temperature. Tart keeps, covered and at room temperature, for up to 4 days.