Strawberries, the most popular berry fruit, are in high season right now and I'm thoroughly enjoying eating them every which way. Strawberries have always been a special part of summer for me. I can hardly remember a summer that I didn't go strawberry picking with my family. At the pick-your-own farm we would eat them right off the bush. Their flavor is so concentrated when eaten warm, heated by the sunlight. Now I don't so much eat them off the bush, but instead try to come up with new ways to serve the fruit.
This summer I decided to make a tart instead of the traditional strawberry pie. This tart features a sweetened mascarpone cheese base, topped with macerated fresh strawberries, all glazed with a syrup of the reserved berry juices and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Except for the tart shell, there is no baking involved. So it's very easy to put together for a family party, picnic, or the upcoming fourth of July holiday. Celebrate summer with strawberries.
When picking or shopping for strawberries, look for firm, unblemished fruit with their green caps intact. The deeper color red, the riper and more flavorful. Berries that have green or yellow spots are unripe and may taste sour. To store, remove any bad berries because as the saying goes: one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Then place unwashed berries on paper towels, layer in a container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When ready to use, simply trim and wash.
Strawberry Mascarpone Tart
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.
2 pounds strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Remove stems, hull, and halve or quarter strawberries depending on size. In a large bowl, combine strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to macerate.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mascarpone, vanilla extract, and confectioners sugar. Mix thoroughly until silky smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the glaze, strain the macerated strawberries over a small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and heat over medium-high until liquid is reduced by more than half. It should foam and thicken to a syrup. Let cool to room temperature.
Spread chilled mascarpone mixture in tart shell. Arrange strawberries on top. Brush with glaze. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 slices.
Tip: A small portion of whole-wheat pastry flour in the dough makes the tart shell extra crispy. If not at hand, use all-purpose flour.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, and salt. Mix together with a whisk to aerate
Add butter and work with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.
In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and 3 tablespoons ice water. Drizzle liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together. If too dry, 1 tablespoon ice water can be added.
Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out tart dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to fit a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Carefully lay dough over pan. Press dough up into the sides. Remove excess dough by running rolling pin over pan. Fill any holes or cracks with excess dough.
Chill shell for 10 minutes. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pan all over. Line the inside of the pan with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove pie weights with foil. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.