north brooklyn bloggers banquet super gosh awesome wow!

north brooklyn bloggers banquet super gosh awesome wow!

Once upon a time, by which I mean about two months ago, Kenan had an idea.

Actually, I should maybe give you some background first, before I get to the idea part: You see, Kenan and I are fortunate enough to have a plethora of friends (and friends of friends) who share our proclivity for blogging and photographing and drawing and such. As it also happens, all of them like to eat good food, even if they don’t themselves make a project of creating it (for more information, see my ‘blog roll, ladies and gents; they’re all worth a read). Kenan and I often talk about how living in a city like this is so great for community; not only are there great multitudes of talented people around doing amazing, beautiful things, but a good number of them live in our neighborhood, and having their stuff around to keep up on and learn from is both inspiring and happy-making. So, Kenan had the idea to get a group of said bloggers and photographers and generally epicurean folks together for one big, extravagant, entirely blogger-created meal. We pitched this to said folks, and of course they all (rightly) thought it sounded like the best ever. Initially, Kenan thought to include to include myself, Boots, Emily, Kenan, and Coach. Emily suggested that we also consider adding three more of her talented friends, bringing our number up to eight. The venue would be Coach n’ Boots’ cozy and very graciously-surrendered apartment. Each of us would come to said apartment and either prepare something comestible, or document the process in some way, or both. It was a bit of a trial to get eight busy people in the same place at the same time, but after some nudging and compromising and e-mailing, we settled on Sunday, the 26th of July. Each participant (apart from Kenan and Coach, who would just be photographing and drawing) offered up one dish to prepare for the feast, and all of them sounded incredible and worthy of salivation: Emily was going to make a summery chilled corn and avocado soup, Boots a cracked pepper and cilantro hearth bread, Jacob a shell bean and string bean ragout, Dory a watermelon-tomato-feta salad, Tanveer a squash curry soup, and I an almond tart and some plum-raspberry-currant frozen yogurt. Kenan, Coach, Jacob and Tanveer would document it all with their cameras and (in Kenan’s case) pencils.

choosing menus, choosing dates.

girlcate and boots

I was more than a little intimidated by the prospect of baking for such a seriously gifted and artistic bunch, so I put off the decision of what to make until what was probably a bit too close to the last minute. After much hemming and hawing, doubting and second-guessing, however, I came up with the idea of doing something fresh, fruity, summery and cold, and pairing it with something sweet and pie-adjacent; in short, the aforementioned almond tart and frozen yogurt. I picked the fruits for the frozen yogurt by looking at what was most tantalizing at the farmer’s market, and the recipe for it and the tart were found on David Lebovitz‘s addictive and captivating blog. And I must also give credit to Emily for offering up her ice cream maker and for giving me the idea to do something cold in the first place; she’s a really classy lady.

oh those summer nights.

dance magic dance

The baking/cooking fervor/fever (it was hot as balls in that kitchen) started early Sunday afternoon, when Kenan and I went over to Coach n’ Boots’ place to get started on the tart dough. I’d never before done a tart dough in this particular style before – it’s a very soft, almost cookie-like dough that’s a bit tricky to deal with. It comes out of the food processor supple and melty, and after it’s cooled in the refrigerator for a while and brought back up to room temperature, it’s pressed into a tart form with your fingers, after which you place the formed dough in the freezer to harden up for a while. The recipe also says to save some of the dough to patch things up in case holes appear in the baking process, but I (surprise!) forgot to do that. After I had the dough set to chill, I got out the fruit to prepare the frozen yogurt.

I don’t know if you’ve ever cooked or baked with currants before, but I certainly hadn’t, and I don’t think I was quite prepared for how demanding and fussy they are. I’m sure there is some much more intuitive, easy way to prep them for use in things like frozen yogurts, but I ended up slicing the butt end off of each tiny little currant to prep it for the yogurt, after taking off the little stems with my fingers. Needless to say, this was less than stimulating work, so I got a bit bored and ended up not using as many currants as I had originally planned and making up for the difference with extra raspberries. So anyhow, I then peeled and cut up the plums, threw in the raspberries and mixed it all up with some kirsch and sugar and let it all hang out (ha!) for a couple hours.

When the fruit was ready to go, having soaked in all the sugary alcoholic goodness, I threw it in the ice cream maker with some Ronnybrook whole milk yogurt and churned that stuff. All in all, the churning part took about 20 minutes; turns out frozen yogurt is quite quick and easy to make if you have the correct tools. Who knew? I then put the yogurt in the freezer to set up fully in the few hours left before dinner.

After the tart dough is sufficiently frozen, it’s taken out of the freezer and cooked to a light golden brown, and the almond filling is added after it’s baked. The filling was really fragrant and fun to make; cream, sugar and salt are heated until they start to foam up, and then you add almonds, almond extract and some grand marnier (or a substitute, cheaper-but-still-delicious orange liqueur, as my friendly neighborhood polish-guy-at-the-liquor-store recommended). The filling then goes into the partially-baked tart shell and is baked for ten minutes. Why such a short baking time, you ask? Well, it doesn’t come out at the end of those ten minutes; you have to open the oven every 8-10 minutes and use a rubber spatula to break the crust that starts to form on the top of the tart. It’s a tad high maintenance, the tart, but the effort pays off in the end, with the crust turning eventually to a dark, appealing coffee-like brown.

oh man, guys. eating.

family dinner

And oh man, after everything was prepared, it was time to sit down to our exciting feast. I’m seriously don’t think I’m being biased when I say that this banquet was one of the most delightful and delicious meals in the history of ever. Everyone’s dish was a study in summery perfection. Emily’s corn and avocado soup was transcendent, creamy and refreshing and just exactly right with all the garnishes, and went deliciously with Boots’ spicy, chewy, cilantro-laden bread. Dory’s salad was a great palate freshener, and had a great combination of tastes and textures. Jacob’s ragout was a perfect use of beans, and turned out crunchy and delicately spiced, a great green dish to go along with everything else. And Tanveer’s squash curry soup was hot and spicy-spicy and had awesome textures that complemented the rest of the dishes.

I was fairly nervous when it was time for dessert because I hadn’t really tried the dishes together and was afraid that the tart would be gross or something. But I have to say that I was really quite proud of the effort I had made. The tart was scrumptious, crispy and crunchy and almondy and sweet. I think I may have overcooked it a teensy bit, making it a bit hard to cut or bite through, but as I said, I was really quite proud of it, especially for a first go. And the frozen yogurt, which I think was my favorite of the two, was amazing. It tasted like a cold, zesty bite of summer – tart, refreshing, not too sweet, and creamy without being rich at all.

But most of all, it was just so incredible to be able to share such a perfect meal with such an incredible group of people. Kenan’s initial idea was, no matter what he might tell you, to take advantage (as we so often forget to) of the fact that we are surrounded by a community with so much creativity and fun. And sharing in that community, as we did that sticky, sweltering night with such an abundance of fantastic food and good company, was exactly what we all needed: a reminder that we’re all inspiring and feeding each other, and that it is a truly amazing thing to be able to do so.

So. Make dessert, guys.

make them stuffs.

almond tart

chez panisse almond tart (courtesy David Lebovitz, adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts)

for the dough
all-purpose flour 1 cup
sugar 1 tablespoon
chilled unsalted butter, cut into little cubes 1/2 cup
ice water 1 tablespoon
vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon
almond extract 1/8 teaspoon

1. Mix the flour and sugar in a standing electric mixer or food processor (or by hand, using a pastry blender).
2. Add the butter and mix or pulse until the butter is in very small pieces, the size of rice. It should be well-integrated with no large visible chunks.
3. Add the water and extracts and mix until the dough is smooth and comes together.
4. Press into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly.
5. To put the pastry in the pan, let the dough come to room temperature and press the dough into a tart shell using your hand. It takes some practice; don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. Try to get the dough relatively flat on the bottom, and push it evenly up the sides with your thumbs. Once again, perfection is not the goal, but you do want to make sure the sides don’t collapse. If that does happen, you can take it out midway during baking and push the half-baked dough back up the sides.
6. Put the tart shell in the freezer and chill thoroughly.
7. To bake the shell, preheat the oven to 375F.
8. Bake the shell for 20-30 minutes, until it is set and light golden-brown.
9. Remove from the oven and patch any holes with leftover dough.

for the tart filling
heavy cream 1 cup
sugar 1 cup
salt 1/8 teaspoon
sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched) 1 cup
almond extract 1/8 teaspoon
Grand Marnier 2 teaspoons

1. To bake the tart, line the rack under the one you plan to use with a sheet of aluminum foil.
2. Heat the cream, sugar, and salt in a big, wide heavy-duty pot (use one that’s at least 4 qts) until it begins to boil. Continue to cook and when it starts to foam up, remove it from the heat and stir in the almonds, the almond extract, and the liquor.
3. Scrape the filling into the shell. If there’s a bit too much filling, don’t toss it; in case the tart leaks, you can use it to add more. Make sure there aren’t any clumps or piles of almonds and that everything is evenly distributed, then put the filled tart shell into the oven.
4. After the first ten minutes, check the tart. Take a heatproof rubber spatula, holding it diagonally and with a tapping motion, break up the surface of the tart. Doing this is very important since it avoids the top of the tart getting a “corn flaky” look. Be sure to give the filling a good series of taps – not enough to break the tart shell pastry underneath, but enough to break up the surface crust.
5. Continue to cook, checking the tart every 5-8 minutes, and break up any dry crust that may be forming, getting less aggressive as the filling sets up. As it begins to caramelize, stop tapping it and let the tart do its thing.
6. Remove the tart from the oven when the filling is the color of coffee with a light touch of cream in it and there are no large pockets of gooey white filling, about 30 minutes. Let the tart cool a few minutes on a cooling rack.
7. Check and see if the tart has fastened itself to the tart ring. Slide a knife (or a curved vegetable peeler, which will slide nicely in between the ridges) between the tart and the pan to loosen it so the sides don’t come off when you remove the ring.
8. To remove the ring rest the tart on top of a solid object and gently coax the ring off. Slip a large spatula underneath it to return the tart to a cooling rack. Once completely cool, run a long chef’s knife under the tart to release it from the bottom. If it’s stubborn, set the tart on top of a warm stove burner for a second or two and you should be able to pry it off.
The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated (maximum 4 days) or frozen longer. The dough, once pressed in the tart pan, can also be frozen. Wrap in plastic if you don’t plan to bake it within 48 hours. Once made, the tart should be kept at room temperature. If not eaten the same day, wrap in plastic wrap. The tart is best the first day but can be kept for up to 4 days.

plum, currant, raspberry frozen yogurt (adapted from David Lebovitz)

raspberries, currants and plums, rinsed and peeled 1 pound
sugar 1/3 cup
(optional: kirsch or vodka 2 teaspoons)
plain good-quality whole milk yogurt 1 cup
fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoon

Slice the fruit into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occassionally.

Transfer the fruit mixture to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture to remove any seeds if desired.

Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

photos by tanveer badal, joe “coach” victorine, and kenan “boy blue” rubenstein.

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10 notes

  1. emiliejolie says:

    I’m not kidding, C. That frozen yogurt has appeared in my dreams — good ones! I loved reading your recap!

    Also, I really, really love the strip of photos down the left side. You can fit so many gorgeous photos that way! You so clever.

  2. […] And now we’re talking about doing it again before the end of the summer. The same principles will probably apply: no spectators. Well, no spectators at the event, only afterward. Read everyone’s takes on the evening! […]

  3. […] kneaded and proofed. girlcate got to work slicing currants for the frozen yogurt that would top her almond tart while coach and i snapped and scribbled. emily entered with canvass bags bursting with corn and […]

  4. […] around 1pm, Cate and Kenan arrived with grand plans. Cate was making an Almond Tart and Currant, Raspberry & Cherry Frozen Yogurt; Kenan documented our exploits with sketches. Cate has a bit of bread experience herself and helped […]

  5. […] Cate made an Almond Tart and Currant, Raspberry, Cherry Frozen Yogurt […]

  6. […] was a dinner of bloggers. Dory, Emilie, Kenan, Cate, Tanveer and Liz all wrote about […]

  7. […] corn and avocado soup on the lovely ride, a cornmeal-cilantro hearth loaf at bread experiment, raspberry-currant-cherry frozen yogurt-topped almond tart at afternoons in tablespoons, and a watermelon-tomato-goat feta salad at the green peugeot). […]

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