2.09.2019

An Apple a Day

We invited friends for an impromptu dinner the other night. It was a work night. I had exactly 24 hours to plan, shop, prepare, and serve. I knew I wouldn’t get home until at least 5:30pm, more likely 5:45 or 6:00. They were due to arrive at 6:30. This might throw some people into a tailspin, but not me. I have a few tricks up my sleeve (let’s call them “tips,” or “advice”).

Tip 1. Always shop in advance so you don’t need to get anything the day of the dinner party.

Tip 2. Set the table the night or morning before

Tip 3. Reach for my Mom’s rack of lamb recipe - a.k.a. Monday Night Lamb. This dish is so easy you can throw it together on a Monday night after a rough day at work. And it’s impressive. With crispy potatoes cooking underneath, it only takes minutes to prep, and only 45 minutes in the oven.

Tip 4. Always have a bag of frozen peas in the freezer and fresh celery in the crisper. Peas, on their own murmur “Boring.” But, sauté a little celery in butter and then add peas? It’s a horse of a different color.

Tip 5. Forty-five minutes is the perfect cooking time for any dinner party. You pop your meal in the oven when you hear your guests pull in the driveway, and then enjoy the appropriate amount of time nibbling, sipping, and catching up before serving.

Dessert, however, can cause a problem if you don’t want to slap down a bowl of ice cream. (Which I never do unless it’s homemade...) That is when insomnia helps. (Note: I don’t advise insomnia... sometimes it just happens.)

Tip 6. Bake dessert before you go to work. I know it sounds unwieldy, but it really isn’t bad. You might have to give up reading The Times that morning, but - believe me - dessert is always more enjoyable than the news.

That brings us to today’s recipe. When I made the invitation via hands-free phone on the homeward commute, I bought groceries on the way home, but I still didn’t have a dessert plan until I the next morning. After looking, I discovered one apple.

How could I stretch that for four people? Individual Apple Tarts, that’s how. It only takes one apple and one hour out of your morning routine... consider it your morning workout, if you must.

Tip 7. If you are going to photograph last minute cooking or baking for a blog post (e.g. today!), make sure your camera battery is charged. That was today’s lesson for me. I forgot, and my camera battery was dead. That simply meant that had to make the tarts again so I could photograph them! (Great excuse, eh?)

~ David

Individual Apple Tarts

1 1/3 cups flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water
4 tablespoons apple cider or apricot jam
1 large apple
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional 


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Make the crust. Place flour in the bowl of a food processor, and add the butter (cut into 16 pieces). Feel free to add a pinch of salt, if you like. I do sometimes, but generally not with fruit desserts. Pulse 10 times, then sprinkle with the water. Process until it forms a ball.

Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 6-inch circles of dough. Place each circle into a 4-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Fold edges down and press into the sides of the pan. Trip tops, if necessary. Spread 1 tablespoon of jam evenly onto each crust.

Peel, core apple, and quarter the apple. Cut each quarter into 7 even slices. Arrange 8 slices onto the top of each crust in a shingle pattern. Sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon of superfine sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the jam is bubbling away under the apples. Let cool on a rack and then remove from the tart pan. Serve each tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Makes 4 apple tarts.





30 comments:

  1. David, an admirable morning workout. I suppose I could put together something in an hour or so, but I'd prefer more time. Now, Eva is a master at quick simple and very tasty dinners. Her trick for dessert when we lived in the USA was to buy a frozen Marie Callender's Lattice Apple Pie, which just happened to fit perfectly in one of her Emile Henry pie dishes. She'd carefully remove the frozen pie from the box, remove the aluminum tin and bake it in her nice dish. She was famous for her homemade apple pie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Eva's trick, Ron - but I will stick to my morning calisthenics! :) As I said to someone, it is therapy for me. I need the creativity in my life!

      Delete
  2. You're most organized! A skill we Italians lost in our gene pool! Haha! To be honest, I have no issues pulling together a last minute dinner, but my kitchen will look like a bomb blew up in it! ;) Your apple tarts look lovely! Even easier and quicker is if you have frozen puff pastry and do the same with the apples. Love those, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Christina - that is not true! Every nonna I have met is incredibly organized! And I didn't say the kitchen didn't look like a war zone... :) I prefer a tender crust with apples and most commercial puff pastry is too tough for my liking... and the one that is not is almost $13 for one crust! For that, i will make a food processor crust and be happy!

      Delete
  3. So nice and easy to read this post with my first morning coffee today ... Love everything but what caught my eye is the cloth. Is it shantung ? Irresistible fabric, must say :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Davorka! Yes it is shantung - we made ourselves a little tablecloth of this shantung when we lived in Maine and had a tiny dining table in our little conservatory. I think shantung is one of my favorite of all fabrics! Have a wonderful day!

      Delete
  4. Impressive planning in just 24 hours! I'm loving that 45 minutes to chat and have a cocktail before sitting down to dinner. I love getting things done ahead of time so you can -- especially dessert! That way the actual meal is always more relaxing. And yum to this dessert!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like a challenge, Valentina! :) We were taught by an elderly friend (90 something) that cocktails should always be 45 minutes. I am not sure if this was an Emily Post rule or what, but we abide the rule! Mark like to have the house and meal in such good shape that when our guests arrive, they look around at the calm scene and ask if they arrived the wrong night!

      Delete
  5. Well, this does not quite equate to my meaning of 'impromptu' :)! Extremely well planned and executed. And you made that one apple go a long way . . . I would probably have bitten into it whilst searching for morning ideas . . . . !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so funny Eha - I never bite into an apple! So it was safe for the tarts! :) If it were a chocolate bar? Yes!

      Delete
  6. Very clever solution David. Guess I need to get more comfortable with homemade pie crust, so I can handle all contingencies :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Inger - there are so many easy homemade pie crusts. No matter which you use (the food processor one is the easies) it is better than anything you can buy in a store! We should have a Skype session and I can show you how! :)

      Delete
  7. David, I can't believe how organized and efficient you are! Your tips for planning ahead are very useful. And your menu is outstanding! Quite a fine meal. Stretching that one apple into a lovely dessert was brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kelly! Working full time requires me to be really organized. And it is kind of fun!

      Delete
  8. love yr mum's lamb david, unfortunately here in London that would be a very expensive piece of lamb
    I always have tartlets in my freezer, to be cooked at my whim (on pastry: have u tried the unusual melted butter pasty in cook's illustrated? recent think: seriously good and so easy). ciao, stefano

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ste - we are so lucky that Trader Joe's carries excellent New Zealand lamb at really good prices.

      I will have to check out the melted butter pastry - never heard of or seen it. I wonder if it is akin to the pastry made with oil?

      Delete
  9. David, you've certainly inspired me to be more organized for my dinner 'parties' (which usually only amount to two invited guests). Recently I have been over-doing it with complicated dishes, which means I have been stuck in the kitchen while my husband entertains the guests. But I'm now mending my ways by doing just a one-pot main course and (I hate to admit it)a delicious Boston Cream Pie from our local supermarket (Von's). Now I must search for your mom's lamb dish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, Fran, the more guests coming the more feel the need for major organization! One lucky/unlucky thing for me - our kitchen is open to the living and dining rooms! The lucky part is that I can chat with the gusts even when in the kitchen. The unlucky part? They can see in the kitchen from everywhere. Thus, it always needs to look tidy and calm. It is good training!

      Delete
  10. Wow, I have to admire your resourcefulness, David! You're truly the Macgyver of the culinary world... If it were me under those circumstances, I'd probably just throw together a carbonara or something like that.. or order delivery. 😂

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wo, Frank - the Macgyver of the culinary world. I don't think I could receive a better compliment! And, honestly, my mom's lamb is infinitely simpler than a carbonara! :)

      Delete
  11. I should start making dessert instead of reading the news. Really, it'd help my sanity. Anyway, what a nice dessert. Worthy of being in the food pages of the Times!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cooking/baking is DEFINITELY better than reading or watching the news, John! And thank you for that truly amazing comoleiment!

      Delete
  12. Making desserts in the morning is definitely therapeutic for me. I love those cute little apple pies. Have a great weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gerlinde! Morning is the best time for cooking and baking! As long as I have had enough sleep... :)

      Delete
  13. David, back in the day when I had frequent dinner parties, I might have pulled this off. But now I need a bit more planning time. OR I need to start entertaining more often! Your tarts look gorgeous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The funny thing is, Jean, that Mark tells me we need to stop all the entertaining we do! Maybe I will lose my organization skills if we do!

      Delete
  14. I just discovered your blog and I love it, congratulations. So many good tips even after a quick read and I will be absorbing it later and trying to make those tartlets. Yum, Thanks for sharing, Pauline

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pauline - and welcome to Cocoa & Lavender! By coincidence, this weekend is my 9th anniversary of writing the blog - my first post in 2010 was on Valentine's Day! If you ever have any questions, just let me know!

      Delete
  15. Some great tips here, and yes I too have been caught out with the camera battery being dead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that the worst feeling, Emma? But it happens a little too often for my liking!

      Delete

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!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.