Strawberries are the perfect metaphor for the sweet things in life. Pay attention, don’t take the berries for granted, because they will pass. Change is constant, and the seasons come and go, despite our efforts to cling to what pleases us. Don’t let the beautiful moments in life go by in a blur. Sit down and eat a big bowlful of every moment you get.
Make a fresh strawberry tart.
Here in Minnesota, the season for local strawberries is a fleeting month or so, and it’s going to be a long year before you see it again. Whatever else is going on in your life, you deserve to carve out some time to be mindful with these berries.
I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the local strawberries, on smoothie bowls, in salads, in shortcakes, or just dipped in powdered sugar. I was busy, just trying to get from point a to point b, and feeling a little overwhelmed.
So I decided to stop, breathe deeply, and make a strawberry tart.
Life flies by, in our infinite busy-ness and work-focused states of mind. It takes a conscious effort to step out of line, and be present with the moment. A quart of glorious berries is a perfect cue to be here now, feeling the heat and humidity and tasting something that has never been before and will never be again.
This fresh strawberry tart is an exercise in mindful cooking and eating, and it worked for me.
I wanted some heft to the crust, so I ground walnuts in the processor, and blended up a shortbread-style base for the tart. I used Nutiva shortening for the fat, because I had some around I had been using for a recipe development job, and it does a good job of acting buttery in pastry. Otherwise, I would have used a blend of coconut and canola oil.
Then I cooked up a very thick almond milk custard and chilled it. Once it was cold, I whisked it until it was smooth and stirred in some apricot preserves, and used some preserves to make a glaze to brush on the berries.
Once the tart crust was cool, I spread the custard on it, and arranged my perfectly imperfect berries on top. I love the different shapes and sizes of the berries, messing up my attempts at some kind of geometric perfection. The Universe laughs at my attempts at perfection.
Once I had them on there, I needed a little color and flavor contrast, so I sliced a couple of nectarines and filled in the spaces with their golden juiciness. Then, a dabbing of apricot glaze over it all, and back to the fridge to set.
With every bite, I was awash in gratitude. A farmer grew these berries, and the sun warmed them to perfection, just so we could sit here, now, and revel in the best of life.
Thanks, fresh strawberry tart, for bringing me such a moment.
Fresh Strawberry Nectarine Tart
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup apricot jam divided
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 quart fresh strawberries hulled and patted dry
- 2 medium ripe nectarines
- In a food processor bowl, grind the walnuts finely. Add the flour, salt and powdered sugar and pulse to mix. Add the shortening, vanilla, and almond extract and run the machine until it forms crumbles. Press the crumbles into a 10-inch tart tin with a removable bottom, pressing it up the sides about 1/2 inch. Chill for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prick the tart shell with a fork in several places, then bake for 20 minutes. The crust will be lightly golden brown on the edges and feel dry. Cool completely.
- While the shell bakes, make the custard. In a small pot, combine 1 cup of the milk with the sugar and place over medium heat. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the salt.
- In a cup, whisk the remaining milk, flour and starch. When the milk in the pot begins to bubble, whisk in the slurry and whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles and becomes very thick. Whisk in the vanilla and transfer to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Press the wrap onto the surface of the custard and chill completely.
- When all the components are cold, whisk 1/2 cup of the apricot jam into the custard. If it is lumpy, blend in the food processor until smooth. In a cup, stir the remaining 1/4 cup jam with the lemon juice and a tablespoon of water.
- In the shell, spread the custard evenly. Arrange the berries on top, and fill in with slices of nectarine. Use a pastry brush to dollop and dab the jam glaze over the fruit.
- Chill for about an hour, until set, then slice and serve. Keeps for a day, tightly covered.