I'm running terribly, terribly late.

It's a recent tendency of mine. I was almost late for a holiday get together of my own organizing, and I'm regularly the last one up in the mornings. I'm not proud. But, as I'm here with a silky, milky, lush bowl of breakfasty goodness, well, maybe you won't mind the tardiness much.

Poached + Blistered Figs

Over a month ago, verging on a month-and-half ago, Megan's book, Whole Grain Mornings,  was released. She's a busy lady, not just with the book, but writing for The Kitchn and elsewhere, and she's behind the exceptionally-hearalded Marge Granola (a line named after her grandmother, with super cute packaging and an apricot flavour that has my attention). 

Since I am one of the people who helped test recipes, I can't offer up a full-on book review. I can tell you, however, that in my cupboard there is a jar of her whole grain pancake mix (with spelt, oats and buckwheat), and that the resulting flapjacks are surprisingly, unbelievably fluffy, despite their virtue.

Creamy Breakfast Grains

I can also be frank about her creamy breakfast grains, a bowl of which I'm eating right now, in the middle of the afternoon, with a cup of tea. 

I made my snack with pearled barley, because I already had some cooked. I don't think Megan will mind, as one of the most charming things about her is her repeated encouragement to make her recipes your own. She supplies are footnotes and headnotes of suggestions, and her cheerful enthusiasm for the dishes is apparent.

In this grain porridge, barley was a fine fit. Its roundness seems to contribute to its chewiness, and the smooth pearls retain all their shape and springiness, even after a second cooking. The pistachios have a hint of crunch, but not that much; the waxy nuts are almost the same density as the grains, and match exceptionally nicely. The stars of the affair are, of course, the figs. The recipe calls for fresh, but if none are around, her method would be the way to encourage some life back into dried ones.

Megan poaches the figs gently, to the point where they feel plump and heavy, just this side of bursting. They absorb the resiny murmur from the honey in the cooking liquid, while the syrup gains a musky edge from the fruit. Split, then draped in an extra dressing of syrup, the figs are a proper treat at breakfast, and would be as welcome at dessert as they were at tea time, which could be said of many of the book's recipes. Though I've mentioned the sweeter side of the collection, it has a savoury side to share — lunch and dinner inspiration may be found, too.

Congratulations Megan, on all the success. Hurrahs from here. xo

Creamy Breakfast Grains

CREAMY BREAKFAST GRAINS with HONEY-POACHED FIGS + PISTACHIOS

From Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (Ten Speed Press, 2013). 

Rice pudding is one of my ultimate comfort foods, so developing this creamy whole-grain breakfast rice was a real treat, and I now turn to this recipe year-round. It's not too sweet on its own, relying instead on the earthy flavour of ripe fall figs. While many people prepare breakfast rice by actually cooking the rice in milk, I love this cheater's version because it uses cooked rice that's quickly heated in a pot of milk, so it gets super creamy and soft while still maintaining its characteristic chew. I'll often make a double batch of rice for dinner in the evening, knowing I want to get a pot of this going the next morning. 

Poaching figs is simple, but there's a fine line between perfectly poached and overdone. I poach figs with the stems on and remove them later—this will help keep them from getting mushy. Smaller figs cook quicker. Ultimately, you want the figs soft but not splitting or bursting open—always a delicate balance. Erring on the side of underpoaching is preferable. — Megan

Serves 4.

FOR THE FIGS

  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 washed ripe fresh gigs (about 8.5 ounces / 240 g; I like black Mission or Brown Turkey)

FOR THE CREAMY GRAINS

  • 3 cups / 400 g cooked long-grain brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups / 360 ml whole milk or nut milk (low-fat or nonfat milk will make a thinner rice)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup / 45 g pistachios, chopped

To poach the figs: Bring the water, honey, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid begins to reduce and thicken to the consistency of a light syrup about 20 minutes. Ultimately, you should be left with about 1 3/4 cups liquid. Set the figs into the honey syrup. To poach the figs successfully, you want to make sure they're mostly covered in liquid, so if you need to switch to a smaller saucepan, now is the time. Simmer over medium0low heat until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, gently turning them and scooting them around so each side is poached evenly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a plate to cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, carefully slice off the stems and cut the figs in half. 

To make the rice: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the cooked rice, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and cook, uncovered, until the mixture begins to thicken, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. Note that this should be a looser, almost milky dish: the rice won't soak up all of the liquid, and it will continue to thicken off the heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes to cool ever so slightly and firm up a bit.

To serve: Divide the rice between 4 bowls. Top with the poached figs and the pistachios. I like to spoon a bit of the syrupy poaching liquid over the top of each bowl, too. If you have leftover rice, reheat in the morning, adding a dash more milk. 

Notes from Tara:

  • As said before, I used cooked barley instead of rice. I changed the title to reflect the photographs, but the recipe remains as written in the book.
  • I skipped the maple in my barley and used the same honey I'd used for the figs, since it was already out. Some hemp hearts and bee pollen were added to the pistachios.
  • I have a weakness for roasted figs. After poaching and splitting, to get some direct, dry heat on these pretties, I introduced them to a hot broiler for a few minutes — just enough to curl their edges and create a slightly caramelized crust.
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Good friends, recently back from a trip to Greece and Turkey, had us over for dinner last Saturday night. In Istanbul they took a cooking class, and the night's menu took largely from that. After a true feast of lentil soup, courgette fritters, dolmas, and Imam Bayildi, us lucky folks were treated to one platter of pale lokum, and another tray of baklava, cut into quilted diamonds. Not ones to overlook any detail, our hosts prepared Turkish coffee alongside. For the coffee, Michael used the pot they'd brought home, beautiful and small, hammered copper with a long handle, and he scented the brew with cinnamon.

Pistachio Baklava with Cardamom

Christa's baklava was a masterwork. Baked to bronze and then lacquered with glaze, it was a marvel of texture. The top pastry shattering and light, the middle thick with nuts, and the bottommost strata solid with crunch. (And the whole far more beautiful than the rustic take I'm presenting.) While not a recipe from the class, Christa said the recipe was closest to Turkish baklava, which was the preferred of those they'd tried. The thing here it seems, is that the Turkish way uses a sugar syrup instead of one with honey, so while sweet, this baklava's flavour is clearer, brighter, more about delicacy and fragrance than tawny warmth. She'd used only cardamom in the filling; the spice rang high and bright, with an emphasis on its floral citrusy-ness. In using clarified butter, even the pastry and nuts came across as cleaner than expected. It was revelatory.

It was a wake up call.

Pistachio Baklava with Cardamom

Three days later, I was going over my notes. As I do, most mornings lately. After Sean is off and the boys are away, I click the kettle on for tea. While it steeps, I slice an apple, ideally one with lively crunch and generous juice, and settle the pieces in my bowl, leaving a space into which is nudged a spoon's worth of almond butter for dipping. Mug and bowl accompany me up the stairs, to the front of the house, where the computer sits on a desk beside a window that looks out to trees. The light is stained turmeric in October. Often I'll see a particular elderly couple walking on the street below. They both wear red coats. He is partial to flat caps that remind me of my dad's. They're part of this habit. Then, in between bites of apple, I settle in with my writing notebook.

The first notebook of any importance in my life was when I was a kid and used to keep an account of my dreams, as they happened, when still in that wild and woollen place of half-asleep. It was rarely effective, though I vaguely recall one from early elementary school involving a class trip, a UFO, and Duran Duran.

Most times I'd lose track of the dream as I was writing, or if I managed to get anything down, it would be indecipherable when I read it back. I once got a letter from someone that shared my first and maiden name, the signature looked familiar and foreign. My dreaming notes were often like that, like correspondence from not quite me. 

Although the notebook failed me then, it's long been useful for writing. 

I'm learning to move from one territory of work to another and back again. I've been writing a lot, for the book and other things, and then there's the rest of life, of the needs of the family, the children, the house and me, of the season, even. It's a stuttering grind, switching between languages of grams, ounces and measures to e-mail and appointments to laundry, raking the yard and volunteering at school on Halloween (and will that mean I'll need a costume?). 

On their own, the words don't amount to much more than a disjointed list. That said, they represent an attempt to aid a future me, something to fill the gaps and lapses, and ease the transition when I return to it. Like setting out clothes the night before a big day, a move to prepare for what could be needed.  

A selection of notes from Tuesday:

 I sat close enough to the fire that its heat burrowed through the fabric of my shirt and was itchy the skin at the small of my back. I drank the soup in gulping mouthfuls prickly with ginger and garlic and black pepper. My lips felt lined with sparks. 

On Saturday night, I had the finest baklava of my life. Our friend made it. It was terrific, as was the densely aromatic Turkish coffee they served, too. 

 Kids at the bus stops with shirt sleeves pulled down across the back of their hands, the cuff tight in their fists. A dancing shuffle of moving weight from foot to foot.

It's the pâté sandwiches we'd pack for train rides, eating them on the upper bunk of one of those sleeper cars with light blue walls. It's how the soft, whipped texture of the pâté melded into the softness of the bread, and both stuck to the back of my front teeth. 

The realization then, heavy and thudding like a stack of books on a table.

Pistachio and Cardamom Baklava

Usually I'll hold these seeds In hibernating wait, until there's the thing, the sugar-instead-of-honey whatever wonderful thing that clicks to make them complete, and they spring to bountiful utility. For some endeavours, like the last 20 minutes spent watching Duran Duran videos on YouTube, fruition never comes. (Unless you count a renewed infatuation with John Taylor a gain.)

In this batch of notes, it's the baklava. The baklava is the takeaway.

 

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA WITH CARDAMOM  

Recipe adapted, only barely, from Cook's Illustrated. Written in my words.

I won't pretend that baklava doesn't take planning, time, and fiddly (though not specifically difficult) work. That said, as one batch makes 40 or so pieces, and as it keeps so well (up to 10 days, covered tightly with foil, at room temperature), I'll make the bold proposal of stating that baklava is is not only doable, but should be done. In fact, next festive dinner, it could easily slide in to take the place of dessert. It ticks many of the same boxes as pie.  

I've added a murmur of cinnamon to the filling , because while I don't have a pot for making Turkish coffee, I didn't want to miss out on the combination. 

Makes 1 (9x13-inch) tray. 

FOR THE FILLING

  • 12 ounces shelled, raw pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • A generous 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

TO ASSEMBLE

  • 1 cup clarified butter, melted but not hot
  • 1 pound phyllo, defrosted according to manufacturer's instruction if frozen

FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • A small piece of lemon rind, maybe 1-inch long
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

To make the filling, place the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the motor in 1-second bursts until the nuts are finely chopped, maybe 10 to 15 times total. Pour the nuts into a bowl, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons for garnish and set aside. Stir the cardamom, cinnamon, sugar and salt into the rest. 

Preheat an oven to 300 °F / 150 °C, with a rack in the lower middle.

Unfold the phyllo on a cutting board, with a damp, lint-free kitchen towel and a large piece of cling film nearby. Using a 9x13-inch steel (not non-stick) straight-sided cake pan or a 9x13-inch glass baking dish as a guide, cut the phyllo into two roughly-even stacks; one may be larger than the other. Cover both stacks with the cling film, then the damp cloth, so that the pastry doesn't dry out. 

Brush the insides of the pan with butter. Fold back the damp towel and clingfilm covering the wider stack of phyllo. Take a sheet of phyllo and place it in the bottom of the pan. Gently brush the pastry with butter, then top with another sheet of phyllo, coating that one with butter, too. Repeat the process of layering and buttering with 6 more sheets, making 8 total. Replace the towel to cover the stack.

Scatter one-third of the chopped pistachios, about a scant 1 cup, over th phyllo. Pull the towel and film back over the thinner stack of pastry. Lay one piece of phyllo over the nuts, and carefully dab with butter until covered (brushing at this point would disturb the nuts). Cover with another piece of pastry, staggering if necessary to cover the filling, and butter again. Continue with 4 more pieces, making 6 total. Repeat process with half the remaining nuts, 6 more sheets phyllo, then the last of the nuts. For the top crust, use 8 to 10 of the neatest and most pristine sheets from the wider stack of phyllo. Layer and butter each, except for the last piece. Using clean and dry hands, gently compress the layers, working from the centre of the pan outwards. Spoon the rest of the clarified butter, approximately 1/4 cup, over the pastry, brushing to cover and coax the butter down the sides of the pan. Use a sharp-tipped serrated knife to portion the baklava into diamonds, making 8 slices each way on the diagonal. (Alternatively, cut the baklava into a grid pattern as seen here.)

Bake the baklava in the hot oven until deeply golden, around 90 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.  

While the baklava is baking, make the sugar syrup. Combine all the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Once at a full boil and the sugar has dissolved, pour syrup into a 2-cup measuring cup and set aside to cool. When room temperature, discard the lemon peel and peppercorns.  

Immediately after pulling the baklava from the oven, pour all but 2 tablespoons of the syrup over the cut lines. Drizzle the remaining syrup over the surface of the baklava, then decorate with the reserved pistachios as desired. (The classic decoration is a pinch of nuts in the centre of each piece.) Set the baklava on a wire rack to cool completely, about 3 hours. The baklava can be eaten once cooled, but improves with age. If possible, wrap the tray in tin foil and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours before serving.  

Any remaining baklava can be kept, wrapped, on the counter for 10 days.  

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Yesterday marked eight years of this site. One year ago, there was cake, and I was thinking a lot about writing.

When I brought up the same subject recently, it wasn't intentional. In fact, I didn't make the connection. Maybe it is that the time around anniversaries encourage the taking of stock. I'm thankful for the tendency, as I am thankful for the generous comments and letters from many of you that followed that mention, sharing personal experiences of trying to put thoughts into words, or your own processes from a variety of creative disciplines.

I feel lucky to have been part of the dialogue. If you don't mind, it's a thread I'd like to continue.

It begins with a reoccurring analogy: on the road.

(In next the twelve months, I'll work on some new analogies.) 

Right around this time two years ago, a windstorm hit where we live. 

That morning I had a meeting out of town. I planned to leave early, and because I would be away for the day, my boys were going to spend it with my parents at their house. I remember standing in the driveway, waiting to kiss Sean goodbye while he buckled in the lads to take them there, when I heard the wind blowing high in the trees. It was a sustained howl. I looked up and saw clouds moving with such speed that I said something to Sean about it; for whatever reason, neither of us were concerned, and neither of us checked the weather report. At the time, nobody seemed to grasp how bad the day would become. Even when I did turn on the radio, there was a warning to take things slow, but no real sense of urgency.  

Traffic was heavy. Street signs and billboards bowed and rattled. My hand cramped from keeping a firm grip on the wheel. I made it to my meeting on time. I turned off my phone.

I wasn't aware of it then, but I'd driven out of the path of the storm. What seemed only gloomy, but not wholly memorable where I was, brought 100-kilometre-per-hour gusts at home. It knocked out power, knocked off siding, and blew roofs clean away. It could have been much worse that in was. We were fortunate. 

By the time I tried to head back, the storm was over. The winds had stopped and the once-troubled sky was now a clear, bright, and almost surreal blue. Nonetheless, the bridge that arches over the bay was still closed. There was a lineup of cars inching forward, jostling for position, as four lanes were reduced to three, then two, then one. Police cars with flashing lights directed us through the supports of that bridge, to cross the water on a much smaller one. Past that place, the highway itself was barricaded.

The service roads and side roads were packed. There were detours marked, but with all the scattered debris, it wasn't long before you were redirected by a downed power line, or a tree snapped like a twig or, in one case, an overturned, life-sized, ornamental elephant. 

There is a landmark near our house that's visible from quite far away. Three-and-a-half hours into a drive that usually takes 90 minutes, I caught sight of it for the first time. As I made my progress in lurching zigzags across the backroads in between me and that beacon, it would blink in and out of my view. I'd get a glimpse as I crested a hill, only to lose it again as I dipped into a valley or the road turned away. There was no specific logic or wisdom to the route I chose; with no insights into which course was clear, I simply did my best to keep myself aimed at where I knew I wanted to end up.

It took more than five hours to get there. 

For me, writing is often that drive. You see, I'm not a great planner. I can't lay out a itinerary of introduction, thesis, support and conclusion, and hit all the points, neat and tidy with time to spare. I will have an idea of where I need to finish, and there are occasions when I'll take the scenic route. Usually, however, the distance from the beginning and end is a winding one. There are false starts. And misdirection. And turning back. I stretch, wander, and push the boundaries of the map. I get another map because the old one was covered in scribbles and ripped in places, and I couldn't seem to fold it right. Then I'll fill that map with so many scribbles that I'll need a new pen. 

It's good to keep a stack of maps. 

I'm not above asking for directions; there's wisdom to be learned from who have travelled here before and from those who are still part of the caravan. They'll give you a lift when your tank runs dry. What's more, a travelling companion can calm the nerves caused by a motor that clatters and sputters with every jolting mile, or the stomach-churning feeling that you're in a neighbourhood you don't recognize. It's nauseous mix of terror tinged with exhilarating curiousity. You might want to sip some ginger ale.

Guides and company can only get you so far. Much of the mechanics of writing is hidden, isolating work. That's when the sun is gone and darkness sets in. Bring snacks.

Scour the landscape for sign posts — those points upon which the whole adventure pivots, the phrases that stick out of the scenery like an upside-down cement pachyderm. I'm telling you, keep an eye out for those markers. They get you through. With them, you might find a different approach. Follow their directions, even when the passage seems too narrow, when you're filled with paralyzing doubt and can't remember why you wanted to take this trip in the first place, and it's quite certain that the pavement will crumble under your wheels. Don't stop. Keep moving.

It's the only way you'll get anywhere.

 

In the end, you'll be hunched and achy from sitting too long and your mind will want to hurtle ever forward, not ready to relinquish its hard won inertia. Take a lap. It will take even more effort to realize when you arrive. You'll feel a mess, most likely.

Wear the miles like a trophy. 

 

 

BROWN BUTTER PISTACHIO FINANCIERS

Recipe from Kristin Kish, as published in Food and Wine magazine, June 2013.

These tea cakes were one of the recipes Kish came up with when challenged to create three simple desserts. The batter comes together in minutes, and is fairly straightforward; the only caveats are to make sure that the brown butter and toasted pistachios are cooled before proceeding. If the butter is too warm you might scramble the egg whites, and if the nuts are still hot when processed, they will turn to paste. 

The financiers are moist and toothsome, somehow suited better for being held between two fingers rather than eaten with a fork. They remind me of everything I like about a butter-rich coffee cake, and they are best used in very much the same manner. That is to say with tea or a glass of cold milk or a thermos of coffee. Good at home, they're happy travellers too, sturdy and packable. They don't require hullabaloo.

I baked most of the batter in mini muffin tins as directed, and some in 1/3-cup tins. The latter were meant for a homecoming, and if you're in need of some fanciness, they were quite pretty after a roll in granulated sugar. The muffin-tinned version could also be given a similar treatment, as well. The sugar crusts the outside, giving gritty crunch to the soft density of the interior. The brown butter and the almond extract suit the pistachios for all their waxy greenness, emphasizing the nut's richness and fragrance respectively. Almond extract always tickles my nose.

Kish suggests the financiers be served with whipped crème fraîche and fresh berries. I'll be trying that. We're not yet at berry season, but we're pointed in the right direction.   

Makes 36 small cakes. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 ounces unsalted butter, plus more for coating
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for coating
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup toasted unsalted pistachios, finely ground
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sweetened whipped crème fraîche and fresh berries, for serving

 

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter and flour 36 mini muffin cups. In a saucepan, cook the 7 ounces of butter over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until the milk solids begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Scrape the butter and browned solids into a bowl and let cool. Whisk in the brown sugar, egg whites, granulated sugar and almond extract.

In another bowl, whisk the pistachios with the 1 cup of all-purpose flour, the cake flour and the salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the brown butter mixture until combined.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for about 15 minutes, until risen but still slightly soft in the center. Let cool slightly, then invert onto a rack to cool. Serve the financiers with crème fraîche and berries.

Notes: 

  • A heaped tablespoon is about what you need for each well of the mini muffin tin. I started checking my financiers at 12 minutes.
  • I've got it in my head that these would be tasty with some vanilla bean in the batter, or crushed up cocoa nibs, but neither is necessary.   
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This past weekend, I was going to do a lot of things. I was going to deal with that pile of laundry. I was going to read a bit more of that book on my nightstand. I was going to wax rhapsodic, again, about the gorgeousness of the season. I was even going to make tremblingly pretty Gewurztraminer gelées, studded with plump blackberries.

You will note, I was going to do those things. In fact, I did not end up checking any of those tasks off my list. The weekend turned out to be a fabulous one, and I was taken with other diversions. Come Monday my mood was so bright that I felt the need to celebrate the weekend's end; it was that good.

The aforementioned berries were glorious specimens of Loch Ness blackerries from the kind folks at Schouwenaar Orchard and Vineyard. Large and glossy black, the pine cone shaped bundles were simply addicting. Starting out with a full flat of these babies, we'd munched our way through the majority by Sunday evening.

Too perfect to mar with cooking, too pretty to hide under mounds of cream, the crowning glory of a fruit tart seemed destiny for the last of the tempting fruits. Wanting something as special as the weekend had been, I decided upon Martha Stewart's pistachio pastry crust for my base. More of a shortbread than a traditional pie crust, butter is even more enriched by the addition of ground nuts. The pistachios in turn tint the pasty a delicate chartreuse. My buoyant mood was not one that allowed for the patient stirring required for a pastry cream, so I turned to a simple alternative; thick mascarpone whipped to luxurious lightness, barely sweetened and scented with vanilla.

The perfect backdrop to the blackberries, the perfect end to the perfect weekend. No agenda needed.

Blackberry tart with pistachio crust

Ingredients
Pistachio crust
1/4 cup heavy (35%, whipping) cream
All purpose flour, for dusting
3 ounces (85 grams) white chocolate
2 tablespoons icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces (275 grams) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 pints blackberries
1 tablespoon black currant jelly or blackberry jam
1 tablespoon unsalted, hulled pistachios

Prepare pistachio pastry dough as per recipe. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out chilled dough to a 1/4" thick, 12" round. Lightly press dough into a 9" fluted, removable bottom tart pan, then chill for 10 minutes. Using a paring knife, trim excess dough. Scraps and leftover dough can be rerolled once and then baked as shortbread cookies.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Prick (dock) pastry all over to prevent puffing during baking. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang over all edges. Weigh down with pie weights, uncooked rice or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove parchment and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is lightly browned all over.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove tart ring to cool completely.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler or microwave, then set aside to cool slightly. Once cool, use a pastry brush to thinly coat the inside of the cooled shell with chocolate. Chill for 10 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. Remove from mixer and set aside. Switching to the paddle attachment, cream the mascarpone until light and fluffy. On low speed, gently stir in half the whipped cream until just combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining cream.

Fill the prepared shell with the mascarpone mixture. Chill the tart for 20 minutes to firm up the filling or prepare to this point up to 3 hours ahead of time.

Melt the jam, with a scant 1/2 teaspoon water, using low heat in the microwave. Remove from oven and stir. Set aside to cook slightly. Top the filled tart with blackberries, then lightly brush lightly with glaze. Scatter with pistachios and serve immediately.

Makes one 9" tart.

Notes:

• This filling is not particularly sweet; you may want to adjust the sugar to best suit your tastes.
• Neufchâtel, blended ricotta or cream cheese can be substituted for the mascarpone. In these cases, amount of heavy cream may need to be adjusted accordingly.
• The pistachio crust I used is not available online, but I would think that Martha Stewart's Pistachio Graham-Cracker Crust would be a fine substitution, as would a classic pâte sucrée.
• It hardly needs saying, but this pastry and filling can be used as a basis for almost any fruit tart.

Epilogue: It has just come to my attention that the lovely Béa
had similar notions this week; two tastes of the same theme!