In our family, major occasions often revolve around the question: “But what will we eat?” Food is always a significant aspect of getting together. Not only am I surrounded by people who love to eat, but I also seem to be surrounded by slender people who need to stoke their apparently lightning-quick metabolisms with large numbers of heterogeneous calories. Unfortunately, I do not have the lightning-quick metabolism issue myself, but I am often kept busy supplying snacks and gigantic meals for the people I love.
The most recent significant occasion for my little nuclear family was the departure of our daughter for her first year of university. This event was not quite as heart-wrenching as it often is for parents who suddenly become empty-nesters, because our daughter took a gap year to work and travel and refused to move with us when we departed the big city for a small town. She’s been independent for about six months now, coming to our house for occasional visits (and, as per the statement above, lots of food). Nevertheless, her departure to a university across the continent from us is a big event and we needed to recognize it with a late summer, seasonal, celebratory meal.
I’ve been on a bit of a French food kick lately, so decided to use some of the nice local produce around us right now to create a little feast. For the first time, I made a belfountaine, which is basically a yogurt and cream mousse, which we ate with caramel sauce and sauteed cinnamon apples. For the actual dinner, I used the proliferating cherry tomatoes and basil from our backyard to make a mustard-tomato tart with an olive oil crust. The side was kale salad with vinaigrette made from raspberry vinegar that we bottled ourselves at our cottage earlier this summer. Oh, and the magical (but not really so magical and really very easy) homemade bread. I’m not going to call the bread I bake a “baguette” because I don’t bake it under all of the conditions required to produce a traditional French bread, but it’s pretty damn good anyway.
In all truth, I prefer a traditional butter-shortening crust for savoury or sweet pastry, but both my daughter and my husband really enjoyed the olive oil crust. And, since it was my daugher’s farewell dinner before she departed for her first year of university, I’ll include it as an interesting and somewhat more robust alternative to my usual pastry.
My recipes, slightly adapted, are from The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, which, incidentally, I picked up at a free book exchange at the Gore Street Cafe in Sault Ste. Marie. The Gore Street Cafe is whole other topic for another day, as it’s a “pay what you can” restaurant serving fresh, imaginative food. They also host cultural events and are a gathering spot in a city that tends to lack for such things.
These are the recipes.
Tomato Mustard Tart
Olive Oil Pastry
1/4 cup/60 ml olive oil (plus a little more for the pan)
2 cups/260 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
Oil an 11 to 12-inch tart pan.
Combine flour and salt. Add the oil, egg, and 1/4 cup cold water. Mix with a fork until absorbed. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead lightly until it comes together into a ball. Add a little more water or flour as necessary.
Roll the dough out onto a floured work surface until it is large enough to fit the tart pan. Avoid overworking. Transfer to tart pan.
Place in the fridge for 30 minutes and up to one day. Prebake it for 30 minutes in a 325 degree oven. You can use it as is for dryer fillings. For this tomato tart, pre-baking is recommended.
Tomato Mustard Tart
Basket of cherry tomatoes
2 shallots, chopped finely
1 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
Handful of basil leaves
Blind-bake the tart dough for approximately 30 minutes. Halve the tomatoes and squeeze/scrape out the seeds and pulp. Sprinkle them with salt and let them sit for awhile in a colander until the juices run out. Saute onions until very soft. Let cool slightly. Stir the egg and a pinch of salt into the onions.
Spread the onions over the pre-baked tart shell, then arrange the tomatoes in a nice pattern over top. Bake for another 45 minutes until tomatoes are wrinkly and the crust is golden.
Serve sprinkled with the cut basil. Yum!
Fontainebleau with Caramel Sauce and Sauteed Apples
Now, technically, fontainebleau is supposed to be made with fromage blanc, which I doubt I could ever find in the small-town/rural eastern Ontario region I now live in, but hey. Yogurt works just as well. You could simply call this dessert “Yogurt Mousse” if you’re worried about inauthenticity, but why use a prosaic English word when a pretentious French word is available to you? That’s my philosophy.
1 cup/240 ml plain, whole milk natural yogurt (no gelatin, fillers, etc.)
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla, or 1/2 small vanilla bean
1 cup/240 ml heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
Line a large sieve with four layers of cheesecloth and set over a deep bowl
Combine the yogurt and salt. Whip the cream with the vanilla (the seeds or extract). When it is thick, sprinkle in the sugar gradually to incorporate. Fold the cream mixture into the yogurt carefully; don’t deflate it!
Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth carefully. Cover it with a plate and let it sit in the fridge for at least six hours or overnight.
3 or 4 good quality macintosh or other cooking apples
2 tbsps butter
3 tbsps brown or cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Peel and slice the apples into thin crescents. Put the butter into a hot saute pan and let it sizzle a bit but not burn, then toss in the apples. When the apples and butter start to brown a little bit, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until the apples are tender. Set aside to cool.
To serve, place a couple of small scoops of fontainebleau in small bowls and spoon apples over top. If your apples are still very warm, put them in a ramekin on the side so they don’t melt your mousse. You want your tablemates to appreciate the airy deliciousness of the fontainebleau and not eat a melted mess of cream and yogurt.