9.15.2018

A Tale of Two Tarts

It was the 1970s; I was in high school, and it wasn’t pretty.

Bad hair, worse fashions, optimal nerdiness, and prolific pimples.

A lowly sophomore in an advanced French class, I met Braiden. She was a cool senior and should have shunned me, but was never anything but kind... a kindness I have never forgotten.

As is often the case, we lost track of one another after her graduation. Can you imagine a world without Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn? There was such a day... it was hard to keep up with even one’s best of friends.

Then, one day in an e-enlightened decade, I found her on Facebook and discovered that she, like me, is passionate about food and wine. The big difference is that she has made it a career and, perhaps one day when I grow up, I will do the same.

Braiden is very talented - as a writer, cook, and photographer. Check out her website Of floral watercolors, Braiden Blossoms, or her cookbooks. (You can find used copies online - her most recent is Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining.)

When I was going to a “Pacific Northwest” themed dinner party and needed to take a first course, I consulted her cookbooks for ideas. I found the original inspiration for this tart - a Blue Goat Cheesecake.

With her permission, I made changes and created two new versions, more like a tart than a cheesecake. Each is filled with wonderful autumnal flavors starting with the nut crust and finishing with a dark, intense chestnut honey I’d brought back from Italy.

Since starting this post and finally publishing it today, I had a wonderful visit with Braiden and her husband Spencer, and another high school friend Barb and her husband in Seattle. How wonderful it was to reconnect and share stories… and, of course, talk about food.

The first was made with a blue goat cheese from Fiore di Capra, and the second with a creamy Danish blue. One crust was made with walnuts (per Braiden’s original recipe) and the other with hazelnuts. To the second tart I added slices of the season’s last fresh figs - a delicately sweet counterpart for the blue cheese and earthy honey.

Summer is long over but, when you have dishes like this to make, autumn seems pretty wonderful, too.

~ David

Blue Cheese Tart (sometimes with Figs!)
Based on the recipe by Braiden Rex-Johnson
Pike Place Market Cookbook

Crust
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 ounces toasted shelled walnuts or toasted hazelnuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


Filling
4 ounces blue goat cheese, or other soft blue cheese, softened
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon brandy
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 fresh figs, cut pole-to-pole in 1/4-inch slices

chestnut honey, or other flavorful honey, for serving
additional quartered figs, for serving


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Chop panko, nuts, and rosemary or thyme in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture clumps - it will not form a ball.

Transfer crust mixture to an 8-inch springform pan, the bottom of which has been lined with parchment, and press it into the bottom and at least 1 inch up the sides. I like to use the bottom of a glass to tamp the bottom; it gives you a nice, compact, and even crust.

Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the filling. You can use the food processor for this, as well. Just wipe out any crumbs from the crust - no need to clean it between these steps

When the crust is ready, pour the filling into the crust, top with fig slices (if using). and bake for 25-30 minutes. The top may crack but don’t worry - it will still taste fine! (When using figs, the longer baking time is needed, as they add extra moisture.)

Allow to cool before removing the sides of the pan. Cut into slices, drizzle with chestnut honey and add a spoonful of honey on the side. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pairs well with a late-harvest Riesling, Sauternes, or Tariquet Premières Grives.

Makes 6 first course servings.

38 comments:

  1. What is not to love about both versions? Yummy!

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    1. Maybe there will be more version coming! Thanks, Carolyne!

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  2. I'll have a slice of each, thanks, and so wonderful that you guys reconnected! Ok, going to check out Braiden's website now.

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    1. Thanks, John - it has been wonderful to reconnect with her. Braiden's photos of flowers are beautiful - a treat for the eye.

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  3. I kind'of have a 'path' in food on which I tread quite comfortably - you, kind Sir, are making me deviate time and again, as now ! Have not made a tart in years, cannot wait to make this ! And am also off to Braiden;'s site :) !

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    1. I am so sorry (so glad) I have taken you down the wrong paths, Eha! But that is my job, I guess!

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  4. This blue cheese tart looks divine David, I especially like the crust. It’s wonderful to find lost friends on Facebook.

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    1. The thing I liked about the crust, Gerlinde, is that it's light and really compliments the filling.

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  5. I love this story of your friend - so great you reconnected and have since kept the friendship going. The recipe sounds so good -- I love how the tart looks with the fig slices. They look like hearts.

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    1. What is amazing to me is that we were able to pick right up where we left off all those years ago, Valentina.

      I had to go back and look - the fig slices do look like hearts!

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  6. What a nice story. And what beautiful tarts. I love adding nuts to pie crusts. I might even do some baking this fall...

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    1. I have no doubt you will do some baking this fall, Mimi!

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  7. How wonderful is that?! I think I've seen the Pike Place Cookbook (probably in Pike Place Mkt)! This dessert is a lovely ending to a meal! Beautiful, too!

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    1. Christina - i’ve always thought of this as a first course or main course… But, as we eat fruit, cheese, and nuts after a meal, why wouldn’t this be a great dessert?

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  8. Somewhere in my recipe files (under "party," I think), I also have a blue cheese tarte recipe. I think it has only a bottom crust so it is to be served with crackers. I think...I haven't made it since the '80s. When I resurrect it, I will let you know the details. In the meantime, these look yummy.

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    1. I would be really curious to see that recipe from the 80’s, Susan! The way I see it, the more blue cheese tarts we have, the better!

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  9. I'll go for the one with the figs, please- plus adding the honey will make it really 'bitchen.' (I guess they used that word when I was in junior high). I'm always on the lookout for pie crust recipes that don't require rolling out the crust- yours looks like it should fit the bill just fine (aka 'bitchen').

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    1. Wow, I have not heard that word for decades, Fran! And I love this served with the honey - blue cheese and honey are a wonderful pairing!

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  10. Marvelous story David. I've lost track with all my old high school classmates. Maybe I should try a Facebook search. That is a wonderful tart recipe andone I think I can even master. I be going over to Braiden's site for a look-see. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Ron, I kept up with most of my good friends even without Facebook... but found a few, like Braiden, that had disappeared from my life. It’s nice. And, I have absolutely no doubt you can make this and probably make it better!

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  11. I think I might get into a food profession when I grow up too, David! What did we ever do without technology! BTW the tart looks delicious!

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    1. Thanks! And - if I ever grow up - I think the food profession will be a blast! See you there! :)

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  12. Facebook has lost some of its allure for me these days as the novelty has worn off and it seems, the general mood online as turned so sour. But I do remember when I first joined and located so many long lost friends. With all the (justified) concerns about social media these days, we do sometime lose sight of what a godsend it can be.

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    1. I completely understand that, Frank - it has for me, as well. However, it has its good side, and I love it for that.

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  13. I love fig tarts, even though I nevr thought about the blee cheese option, even if it's a common combination. It looks delicious anyway :)

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    1. Thanks, Romain - anything with figs works for me, too. And the combo with blue cheese is quite wonderful in this setting!

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  14. I rarely -- as in virtually never -- look people up on Facebook. Too many people have changed in not-so-good ways. Of course I'm sure they'd think the same about me! Anyway, lovely tarts. Walnuts really go well in crusts -- add such nice flavor. Thanks!

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    1. How true, John! Although I always like to think I am changing for the better! Glad you like the tarts!

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  15. Both lovely, David! And how wonderful that you've revived an old (and thoroughly appreciated) friendship.

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    1. Thanks, Jean! It is nice to rekindle friendships.

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  16. Beautiful--and what a lovely story! I'd be partial to the fig version I think :)

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    1. The figs provide a nice contrast - it was my favorite, too.

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  17. I know I would enjoy both versions of the tart. I really like the idea of serving the honey with it.

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  18. Its so wonderful when we can reconnect with friends from the past and its super fun when you share a love for the same things.

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    1. I agree, Emma - maybe of school friends turn out to be foodies! It’s fun!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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