Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Fruit Tart

Summer is the season for berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. I love berries right out of the container, in smoothies, made into jams and preserves and of course, pies!. While pies are wonderful, there is something particularly elegant about tarts. Creatively arranged, colorful, succulent fruit under a thin layer of preserves makes for an attractive dessert.

I came across a wonderful recipe for a berry tart on It's a four-part recipe: the crust, pastry cream, fruit topping and glaze. It's easy and the result is great! This is the second time I've made the tart. The first time, I used strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. This time, I used a combination of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. It's versatile enough to accommodate other fruits such as nectarines, kiwi and pineapple. All would work well with the pastry cream.

It also occurs to me that the recipe could easily be adapted for individual tartlettes. You get the idea. For those, you could easily mix and match the fruit. Maybe I'll try that next time.


Tart crust:

1 ½ cups of flour
⅛ of a teaspoon of salt
½ cup of unsalted butter
¼ of a cup granulated sugar
1 large egg (beaten)

Pastry cream:

1 ¼ cups of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
¼ of a cup granulated sugar
⅛ cup of flour
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
¾ of a tablespoon of Grand Marnier, or water if you prefer

Apricot glaze:

½ cup of apricot jam or perserves (We used raspberry-apricot perserves)
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, or water if you prefer

Fresh fruit for topping the tart:

3 cups of mixed fruit


Pastry crust:

Whisk flour

and salt in separate, medium size bowl. Set aside.

With a hand mixer, beat butter until softened in large bowl.

Add sugar to butter,

beat until light & fluffy.

Add beaten egg,

until just incorporated.

Add flour mixture all at once, mix until dough forms a ball: do not over-mix.

Flatten into a disk,

cover in plastic wrap, & refrigerate for 20 minutes until firm (or overnight if making dough in advance).

Lightly press pastry into bottom & sides of pan.

Prick dough bottom with a fork to prevent dough from puffing up while baking, cover & refrigerate for 20 minutes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes until crust is dry & lightly golden brown.

Pastry cream:

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix sugar & egg yolks

being careful not to let mixture sit too long to prevent pieces of egg from forming

Whisk flour & cornstarch together separately,

then add to egg mixture

and mix

until you have a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the milk

over medium heat until boiling. (Caution! The milk will foam up fast so watch carefully) Remove from heat & slowly add to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.

Place back into saucepan & cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly

Once it is boiling, whisk for another 30 seconds until it thickens & is hard to stir. Add vanilla extract.

Remove from heat, immediately whisk in liquor if using.

Pour into clean bowl,

immediately cover with plastic wrap (to prevent crust from forming) & refrigerate until needed (can make up to three days in advance, beating to dissolve any lumps that may form).

Apricot glaze:

Heat preserves & water (if using instead of liquor) over medium heat in a small saucepan until melted (liquid)

Remove from heat, add liquor (if using). Strain through a fine strainer to remove fruit chunks.

Let cool until warm, glaze the pastry crust.

Let the glaze on the pastry tart dry for 30 minutes

To assemble tart:

Place your hand under the middle of the tart pan, touching only the removable bottom (not the sides). As you push up, the tart ring will fall off, sliding down your arm. Gently transfer tart to serving dish or cake stand by sliding a knife between the tart & bottom of tart dish.

Spread pastry cream in tart dish

Arrange fruit however you please, trying to cover as much of the pastry cream as possible.

Reheat the extra glaze & brush the fruit with a light coat to create a shiny look

Serve immediately, or refrigerate (remove 30 minutes prior to serving to bring to room temperature).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooking Light's Low-Fat Pancakes

I grew up with a Virginian mother who prided herself on her cooking ability. Every meal that Mom made was infused with care and love. Whether it was her pork chops Creole, leg of lamb with mint, or a hearty breakfast of eggs, fresh rolls and fried apples, Mom's food was always welcoming, comforting and filling.

One of my favorite memories is of weekend breakfasts. Very often, the scent of Mom's biscuits, home fries, or pancakes awakened me. The kitchen would be abuzz with mixing, stirring, chopping and table setting for our family of five. I remember the old bowl that Mom used to make her obscenely rich pancakes, which required 7 tablespoons of butter, melted. A small black speckled pan was used exclusively for melting all that butter. The pancakes that resulted were rich and delicious.

As an adult, i know more about fat intake. But i still want flavorful food. Several years ago, I stumbled across Cooking Light, which has since become on of my favorite magazines. I came across a recipe for low-fat pancakes that I committed to memory and use very often. The recipe works well for both pancakes and waffles (not the large, Belgian ones, though).

It's an easy recipe that manages to reduce the fat level from Mom's astonishing 7 tablespoons to just 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Taste is not sacrificed at the altar of Low Fat. When I went home to New York, my sister made Mom's pancakes. I literally could not eat them because they were too rich. My palette had changed and the low-fat pancake recipe from Cooking Light had become my frame of reference.

Unfortunately my mother died. But I'm confident that she would approve of the new pancake recipe!


Place 1 cup all-purpose flour in a medium size bowl.

Add 1 tsp. of baking powder.

Add 1/2 tsp. of baking soda.

Add a pinch (1/8 tsp.) of salt.

Mix together.

In a separate bowl beat the egg.

Add 1 cup of low-fat milk.

Add 1 tbs. of vegetable oil.

Add between 1/2 to 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, depending on your preference.

Mix the wet ingredients together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Heat the waffle iron and spray with non-stick vegetable spray.

When a drop of water dances on the iron, it's ready for the batter. Pour on just enough to cover the griddle.

Close the cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until the waffle is brown.

Remove to a plate (preferable with bacon on it already!) and add butter or low-fat vegetable spread if you're trying to be good.

Add maple syrup.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Frizz: A Cambodian Owned Restaurant in Phnom Penh

Before I left for Cambodia, I did an online search of restaurants in Phnom Penh. I wanted to identify a local restaurant that would be willing to let me film its chef cooking local dishes. The very first Cambodian restaurant that I contacted was Frizz. It is named for its former Dutch owner, whose name is Fritz. Locals had trouble pronouncing his name, which came out as "Frizz." Hence the name.

I emailed the restaurant with little hope of a response. I was pleasantly surprised that Seng Kear, the new Cambodian owner, emailed me back and agreed to let me film his chef preparing Khmer dishes.

I was ecstatic. We arranged a time for me to stop by the restaurant to talk more about my project. Two days after arriving in Phnom Penh, I found my way to the restaurant.

It was only then that I found out that Frizz does half-day and day-long cooking classes on Khmer cuisine! I signed up for the full-day class, with the understanding that I would be able to film and photograph the experience. I've been posting about those experiences (,, and I have another post to write as well as film that needs editing before I upload it.

The class was great fun and I learned a lot about Khmer cuisine. The knowledgeable chef also provided valuable insights into Cambodia's history, about which I knew little.

I learned about how Thai cuisine evolved from Khmer culture and about how famine during the brutal years of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge led people to eat insects (which we sampled during the cooking class.) Central to Khmer cooking is the kroeung, which is a wet paste that forms the basis of many dishes. It usually includes lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chilies, and often galangal and kaffir leaves. This is the palette that gives rise to delightful dishes such as fish amok and various curries. It is combined using good old-fashioned elbow grease, via a mortar and pestle.

It occurred to me that I had not eaten at the restaurant, which would be a very different experience from the cooking class. So one evening after a long, hard day of work I took a tuk tuk (motorcycle drawn carriage that serves as a taxi cab in Phnom Penh)

to Frizz for dinner.

It's a pleasant but unassuming place

with a relatively small number of tables.

Atmosphere and ambience are great but I'm food-focused! Frizz's menu features Khmer dishes,

including the ones we made in the cooking class:

While waiting for my entree I ordered a refreshing fruit juice, made of fresh passion fruit.

For the main dish I chose the kari saich trey ($4.75), which is a fish curry (I chose green) with coconut milk, sweet potato, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, kaffir lime and leaves.

It is served with rice as are many Khmer dishes.

It was a very, very filling dish and had a wonderful texture that is hard to describe. Usually I'm suspicious of foods that combine too many soft textures; but this dish was really lovely. It had a creamy texture and was delicately spiced by the kaffir lime and leaves, galangal and garlic. If I could have licked the bowl I would have. It was that good.

For dessert I decided to be health-conscious and opted for a fresh fruit salad with yogurt on top ($2.75). I should have held off on the yogurt, which I thought would be homemade.

The pre-made yogurt was unnecessary and clashed with the fresh taste of the fruit. My feedback would be for for the chef to either make fresh yogurt or to serve it on the side.

The best part of the meal was when Mr. Kear, the owner, came in. I invited him to sit with me and we had a great chat. He's a real entrepreneur who has pulled himself up by the bootstraps with a story is worthy of filming. He worked in restaurants throughout Southeast Asia before starting at the bottom at Frizz. He worked his way up from washer to waiter. Eventually, the Dutch owner sold the restaurant to Mr. Kear, who has a nice vision for where he wants it to go. I work on international development and have come to realize that one of the best ways to promote poverty alleviation is to support entrepreneurs such as Mr.Kear.

Please be sure to go to Frizz on your next trip to Phnom Penh. You'll enjoy high-quality food and great prices. And you'll be supporting a bright, hard-working entrepreneur!