Several years ago I visited the St. Paul Farmers' Market during the height of the growing season and I have never forgotten it. I remember stall after stall of plump ears of corn and colorful displays of tomatoes, green beans, summer squash, peppers and eggplant. The profusion of pristine produce was amazing. So when I found out I was going to be in the Twin Cities over the holiday weekend (visiting my good friend Bonnie), I knew I wanted to return and experience it again, if possible.
My visit was earlier in the growing season this time than it was last time, but there was still a profusion. All of the things that grow in late spring and early summer were there in ample supply...new potatoes, red & golden beets, tiny haricots verts, peas (tail end of the shelling sort and the beginning of sugar snap), kohlrabi, green & gold zucchini, lettuces, onions, green garlic and herbs. We also came home with some beautiful raspberries and red currants (something I have never worked with and don't remember ever having seen at my market).
I am still relatively new to blogging, so I was thinking mostly about enjoying myself and not so much about taking pictures. The only picture I took at the market was of the raspberries. They looked so beautiful in their unusual little wooden crates that I couldn't resist.
Bonnie and I both love to cook (and eat) so we purchased more than enough to keep us happily occupied for the duration of my visit. Our evening meal on the fourth was a pure celebration of the bounty of the market. We made a composed salad of roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted beets, and blanched haricots verts. This was topped off with some grilled salmon that we dressed with a generous smear of lemon dill butter (a compound butter made with loads of dill, some lemon zest, lemon juice and a touch of anchovy) when it came off of the grill.
It occurs to me that not everyone will be familiar with the term "composed" salad. In its most basic form, a composed salad is a salad made by arranging the individually dressed components of the salad on a plate rather than simply tossing them all together as for a "tossed" salad. Probably the most famous example of a composed salad is the Salade Niçoise. A Cobb Salad is another well known example. Our composed salad made a perfect midsummer, outdoor meal.
For dessert we made a custard tart filled with the raspberries and currants from the market. The currants were pretty tart, so we made our favorite sweet crust (adapted from a recipe by my friend Kathy who is a very talented pastry chef) and a sweet custard to balance their tartness. The crust and custard could be used as the building blocks for any number of fruit fillings. I have used them with halved and pitted bing cherries as well as apricot wedges. I'm sure the tart would be wonderful with blueberries, too.
To make the tart, prepare a 9- or 10-inch tart shell (below) and blind bake it. Finely grate some almond paste over the cooled shell. This was Bonnie's touch--I never fully appreciated almond paste until I met Bonnie and began to eat her delicious Danish and Swedish baked goods.
Carefully pour the custard over the berries, making sure that the custard doesn't overflow the tart shell. Any custard that seeps in between the crust and the tart pan will burn and cause the tart to stick to the pan. You may not need all of the custard. Any leftovers can be baked in a buttered custard cup or ramekin with some of the berries for a cook's treat.
Bake the tart in a 375-degree oven until it is puffed and beginning to take on a golden color around the edges and it is completely set. Our tart took about 30 minutes to bake.
Let the tart cool and serve garnished with clusters of fresh currants and some fresh raspberries. Dredge with some powdered sugar, if you like. Chill any leftovers. The tart will serve 8 to 10.
Almond Custard for a 9 to 10-inch Fruit Tart:
2 eggs½ c. sugar (vary the sugar anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup, according to the sweetness of the fruit)
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 c. heavy cream
½ t. almond extract
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar. Sift the flour over and whisk in. Add the cream and the almond extract and whisk until smooth.
Sweet Tart Dough:
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 T. granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 cake flour
Briefly cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk and the vanilla. Add the flours and mix until just combined. Form the dough into a thick disk. Use immediately, or wrap in plastic and chill or freeze. Let the dough soften before rolling out.
On a lightly floured board (or between 2 sheets of plastic wrap), roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8- to 3/16-inch. Brush off the excess flour and transfer the dough to a greased tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan being careful not to stretch it and pressing it against the sides of the tart pan. Use your hands or the rolling pin to gently cut the dough flush with the upper rim of the tart pan.
To blind bake, place the shell on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375° oven until set and golden—10-15 minutes. (It is not necessary to fill this crust with pie weights.)
Note: This amount of dough is enough for 1 ½ 9-inch tarts. I generally make up a double batch and divide it into 3 disks of dough. Freeze the disks that you don’t need. Use within 3 to 4 months.