Frenchie and the Beginning of Spring

23 Mar

Voilà le printemps ! I said at the beginning of the week while opening three bedroom windows to let the cool and crisp morning breeze air out a sleepy room and unmade bed.

Soon it will be green everywhere. Different shades of green.

That’s how I know spring has arrived. Green.

But for now, I will just have to content myself with the unusual warm “summer” temperature drastically contrasting with trees still wrapped in their winter gloom.

Green, green, green.

Lawn green – when the bright grass shines in your eyes and make you squint.

Forest green – the first trees showing leaves while taking a walk on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Mint green – and the first buds with leaves sprouting in the garden.

Lime green – when it feels refreshing to squeeze a slice in a big tall glass of cool water and letting it drop at the bottom.

Spring green – coloring up the city all over in patches for a more springlike urban outfit.

And since I’m impatient, I won’t wait for green to come into my life.

Green pears and pistachios will do the trick in the kitchen. A new tart maybe?

And green towels too for additional shades.

On pourrait presque manger dehors !We could almost eat outside!

And what better adventure than to celebrate spring on the Massachusetts coast in Marblehead, climbing rocks to find a cozy spot for a late afternoon goûter with green tinted tartlets?

It’s the kind of afternoon when clothes transition between winter and spring, between light jacket and scarf, between shade and hot sun and when the breeze might make you shiver but the strong light will kindly warm up your muscles.

It’s the kind of afternoon when your body remains calm listening to the last sounds of winter disappearing away behind the cloudless blue sky.

Marblehead provided everything needed to enjoy the beginning of a new season and celebrate in style.

Vibrant craggy coast.

Historic old town.

Fascinating quaint streets.

And colorful friendly mood.

An escape from the city to daydream and bask in a lovelier light.

And how were the tartlets you probably wonder?

The first batch was good. Especially in front of the ocean, sitting on warm rocks next to bright purple flowers.

The second batch was even better. Improved and gone in seconds.

The third is a definite winner. A new recipe to keep – and share – for other spring escapades to continue to admire and gaze at the new shades of greens.

And because it is so fitting here, I will finish this post with a small text by French author Philippe Delerm from his book We Could Almost Eat Outside – An Appreciation of Life’s Small Pleasures, translated from French (La première gorgée de bière).

Happy spring everyone!

We Could Almost Eat Outside

It’s the almost that counts, and the use of the conditional. The suggestion seems absurd at first. It’s only the beginning of March and there’s been nothing but rain, wind and showers all week. And now this. Since this morning, the sun’s been shining with a sort of dull intensity, a calm persistence. Lunch is ready, and the table’s been laid. But everything seems different somehow, even inside. The window’s slightly ajar, there’s an audible hum from outside and the air feels fresh.

“We could almost eat outside.” The phrase always comes at precisely the same point in time. When it’s too late to change things because everyone’s just about to sit down, and the tablecloth’s already been spread and the first course set out. Too late? The future’s what you make of it. Perhaps you’ll all feel the mad urge to grab a sweater, rush outside, wipe down the garden table like people possessed, and direct the stunned offers of help towards shaping the general mayhem. Or perhaps you’ll collectively resign yourselves to eating inside in the warmth – after all, the chairs are too damp and the grass is so overgrown…

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the moment in which you articulate that little phrase. We could almost… A perfect existence, the one lived in the conditional tense, like those childhood games of “What if…?” A world of make-believe pitted against life’s certainties. The freshness of something only a hand’s span away, something you almost experienced. A simple fantasy, involving the relocation of a domestic ritual. A tiny breeze of delirious wisdom which changes everything and nothing…

Sometimes you catch yourself saying: “We could almost have…” The jaded phrase of adults who’ve opened Pandora’s box to discover only nostalgia inside. But then one of those days comes along when you catch a possibility as it passes, grasp the fragile instinct behind a hesitation, without tipping the balance. One of those days when you could almost…

Clove-scented Pear and Pistachio Tart

1 recipe for pâte sucrée or sablée – I add a lemon zest to mine for this particular pear tart recipe

1 cup (120 g) of powdered sugar

1 cup (100 g) of ground pistachios

7 Tbsp (100 g) of butter – melted and at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon of ground clove + a dash for sprinkling

1 egg

1 heaping Tbsp of flour

2 lemons – juiced

3-4 organic pears (I choose Bartlett) – thinly sliced 1/8″ (3 mm)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C).

Make sure to remove the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan on rolling it.

Roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.

With a fork, make small holes at the bottom and place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the pistachio paste in a medium bowl by mixing the sugar, ground pistachios, ground clove and melted butter.

The pistachio paste should be smooth.

Add the egg and continue mixing. Lastly, add the heaping tablespoon of flour and fold it delicately until you end up with a sticky smooth paste. Set aside.

Juice the 2 lemons and pour the juice in a medium bowl.

Slice the cored pears thinly. I prefer not to peel them so the green skin slightly tints the tart and matches the green pistachio paste underneath. This is better done with organic fruits. Feel free to peel the pears if you prefer.

Drop the pear slices in the lemon juice and make sure they are well coated so as not to turn brown immediately.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, remove the pan and dough from the freezer.

Pour the sticky pistachio paste in the pan. Working delicately all around the frozen tart shell, spread the paste slowly. I find that using the back of a big spoon helps. Make sure to spread the paste all over and up to the tart edges.

Remove the pear slices from the lemon juice. I prefer not to strain them so they keep a bit of the lemon juice on them, which adds a great second flavor to the tart and match the lemon zest bite in the crust. Arrange them delicately on the tart.

Sprinkle the tart with a dash of ground clove and place at the bottom of the oven – on the last row.

Bake for 40 minutes. When done, let it stand for 15 minutes before serving warm. This tart is also excellent made the day before and served at room temperature.


5 Responses to “Frenchie and the Beginning of Spring”

  1. Annie*** March 23, 2012 at 4:55 PM #

    J’ai déjà mangé dehors !

    De Sarthe, Pays de la Loire, France.


  2. ameliaschaffner March 23, 2012 at 11:36 PM #

    David: I can “almost” taste the tart, feel like I am “almost” there in your spring-splashed canvas! You have a talent for colors and scents, like that clove-pistachio-pear combination. Happy printemps!


  3. Kaitlyn March 24, 2012 at 10:42 AM #

    Beautiful as always! And, lucky for me that I have extra pistachios laying around!


  4. Etienne March 24, 2012 at 5:34 PM #

    Do pears grow in winter in the US?


    • David Santori March 24, 2012 at 5:55 PM #

      Thank you all!
      @ Kaitlyn: if you end up making it, let me know how it turns out.
      @ Etienne: most of them are imported from Mexico. Or South America too. But yes, the U.S. grow pears.


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