July 3, 2010

Red Currant-Cornmeal Tart

Around this time last year I found myself in in one of the big box stores, Home Depot or Lowe's.  As their garden centers get picked over and beaten down by the reflected heat of the asphalt you can sometimes come across good bargains.  That day I scored a pair of viburnums, four lilacs and three red currant bushes.  All of them were in sad shape: pot-bound, only a few leaves left, and looking ragged without any deadheading or trimming.

I'm happy to say that all of those plants are doing quite well this year.  The viburnums are almost double in size and the lilacs are growing nicely--despite the fact that the spotted knapweed plants are crowding them terribly.  And I find myself fighting with my son Alex to get my share of the red currants.

The currants are tart, slightly tannic with crunchy seeds inside.  John thought they were a lot like pomegranate seeds but I think that was their bursting quality and seeds more than their flavor.  They don't seem to have a very distinctive taste but they do have a striking red color and look lovely on their stems.  Unfortunately the stems are bitter and you have to be careful removing the berries because they are thin-skinned and delicate.

I thought a cornmeal crust would be good because the seeds are less noticeable against a crunchy dough.  Instead of using a pastry recipe, I decided to adapt a cornmeal cookie recipe I had bookmarked so that I would have a sweeter, sturdier crust.  Here is what I made:

Red Currant-Cornmeal Tart
Crunchy cornmeal shortbread crust with hints of anise and orange filled with tart red currants.  I'd also like to try this dough with an egg added to make thumbprint cookies.
Makes (1) 7 3/4 inch tart

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
7 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil, solid
2-3 tablespoons ice water
7 oz (~1 1/3 cups) red currants, washed and stems removed
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

-Mix together the flour, cornmeal, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, zest, anise seed and salt.
-Spoon the coconut oil on top of the flour mixture and then place the whole bowl in the freezer for 2-3 minutes.
-Cut in the chilled coconut oil with a pastry cutter or a fork until there are no pieces of oil larger than a pea.
-Add the water one tablespoon at a time and mix to make a cohesive dough. 
-Press the dough into a tart pan and then cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
-When you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray your tart pan with oil or grease with more coconut oil.
-In a small bowl carefully mix the currants with the cornstarch and remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar.
-Spoon in the currant mixture into the prepared tart shell.
-Bake for ~35 minutes until the center of the currants bubble and the crust is golden brown.
-Allow the tart to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to slice and/or remove the outer ring.

Inspirational help:
Feeding Maybelle: Red Currant Mini-Cheesecakes
Simmer Down!: mushroom tart for a bordeaux wine tasting
Martha Stewart's Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies
Maybe next year Alex will share enough to let me make some currant jam.

Red currants on the bush
Lines on the berries show the currant's relation to gooseberries
The whole tart
With the Cherry Festival in town my usual downtown farmers market was occupied by cotton candy stands and tilt-a-whirls, so I went to the Sutton's Bay farmers market instead.  I was excited to find a pastured pork producer near us to try as well as these other goodies. Garlic and potatoes from Bare Knuckle Farm, arugula and eggs from Second Spring Farm, tomatoes and cucumbers from Leelanau Produce, two types of bacon from Jonali Farm and a baguette from 9 Bean Rows.