We make thousands of decisions large and small every day, not knowing what impact they will have on our lives, not knowing what connections they will foster. For me, three seemingly unrelated decisions came together last week in one sweet evening.
- During the summer of 1972, between my junior and senior years in high-school, I made the decision to go to Sweden with the Experiment in International Living based in Brattleboro, Vermont.
- The summer of 1997, my husband and I decided to move to New Hampshire where we purchased a new home on property that holds a old barn, circa 1857, at its foot.
- An unknown stranger, likely the farmer who owned the old house across the road from ours, decided to plant rhubarb behind the barn, many years ago. Fittingly, we discovered it in a field of forget-me-nots. We have been tending the rhubarb and the forget-me-nots ever since.
When I went off to Sweden I expected to see Europe and learn about the world but I did not expect to forge lifelong connections and friendships with the 11 other teenagers (and one fearless leader) who formed the group I traveled with that summer. Now we live all over the US―Seattle, Harrisburg, Brooklyn― and the world―Bangkok, India―and as adults we seek each other out, support one another, share in each other’s joys and sorrows. So when I got a call from one of the group members, Carlton, letting me know he and his wife Michele would be coming through the area, my husband and I immediately invited them to our home. Carlton and Michele infused our hillside with joy and optimism. It was an enchanted evening, filled with laughter, sunshine and delicious food.
Dessert included this simple but elegant Rhubarb Tart, filled with tender stalks of rhubarb planted oh so many years ago by the unknown stranger. Wrapped in a golden, flaky pastry shell, the lightly sweetened rhubarb forms a moist filling that tastes of summer with every bite. Carlton and Michele were unfamiliar with this part of New England, had never eaten rhubarb before. This simple dessert connected them to a new part of the world, to the land tended over the years and passed on by strangers, to the humble rhubarb plant that took root with the forget-me-nots calling us to tend to it a bit longer.
SIMPLY ELEGANT RHUBARB TART
Yield: 1 9-inch Tart, About 8 Servings
For the tart shell (*See notes for gluten free variations):
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 tablespoon cold water mixed with ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
For the filling:
- 4 cups rhubarb, rinsed and cut into ¼ inch lengths
- ½ cup light brown sugar
For assembly and serving:
- Aluminum foil
- A 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom
- 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
- 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into large chunks
- powdered sugar (optional garnish)
- heavy cream (optional garnish)
To make the tart shell:
- Put the flour, sugar, salt and zest in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into pieces the size of baby peas. Drizzle in the water-vanilla mixture and pulse just until large, moist-looking crumbs have formed.
- Gather the crumbs together into a mass. They should stick together. If there is any dry flour left in the bowl, add a few more drops of water to bring it together as well, then add it to the rest of the dough. Shape the dough into a disk about an inch thick and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- To roll the dough, lightly flour a rolling surface and roll the dough out into a 10-inch round. Ease it into the tart pan without stretching it. Fold and then press any excess dough to form the sides about ¼ inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, ideally for an hour or more.
To make the filling:
- In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb and brown sugar together.
- To assemble and bake:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove the prepared tart shell from the refrigerator. Line the outside of the pan with aluminum foil. Prick the tart shell bottom with a fork several times. Carefully spread the strawberry jam to coat the bottom of the tart shell. Pour in the prepared rhubarb. Spread evenly. Dot the top of the fruit with chilled cubes of butter.
- Place in the oven and bake until the tart shell is brown and the rhubarb is bubbly, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and serve drizzled with heavy cream, if you like.
- The tart shell recipe is taken from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison.
- Try to use tender, small stalks of rhubarb when possible.
- For those of you who prefer a gluten-free tart shell, here are links to two recipes which include gluten-free alternatives. I have not used them, so if you try them, please let me know what you think. Links: Thin Crust Pear Tart from Tartelette and Gluten-Free Allergy Free Peach Tart from Bob's Red Mill .