Spirit of the Harvest: French Tart, Native-Style

February 10, 2010

Spirit of the Harvest: French Tart, Native-Style

Renowned food author Beverly Cox, winner of the James Beard cookbook award, a Julia Child award and a IACP cookbook award, and food editor for Native Peoples Magazine, contributes a monthly column and weekly recipes to TankaBar.com. The Spirit of the Harvest columns are published the second Wednesday of every month. Recipes from Beverly run on intervening Wednesdays.

Bertina Cadman (Dine) is a young cooking professional with a bright future. As assistant director of the Native American Culinary Program at Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale, AZ, she is excited to be working with Academy Director Pascal Dionot, a classically trained French chef with more than 30 years of experience working in restaurants and as a culinary instructor.

The six-month program, the first of its kind, features a curriculum developed by Chef Dionot; Chef Nephi Craig (Dine/White Mountain Apache), founder of the Native American Culinary Association; Cadman, who has a bachelor of arts degree in history and Native American studies from Dartmouth College and a culinary arts degree from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute; and Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo), who also attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute.

The course, designed for high school graduates, was established to fill the growing need for Native American culinary professionals at casinos and other Southwestern Indian-owned, hospitality-oriented businesses. The program combines classic culinary training with in-depth study of indigenous foods and Native cooking traditions. Students learn the technical skills needed to work in a professional kitchen, and gain a knowledge and appreciation of their own rich culinary heritage that will help them to creatively incorporate local Southwestern foods in their cooking.

The pear tart that follows is a delicious example of the skillful blending of a classic French recipe with Native American ingredients. The almonds called for in traditional recipes for frangipane are replaced by the rich, subtle flavor of pinon nuts, and instead of a predictable vanilla-flavored custard sauce, this golden pear tart is served in a pool of fresh, crimson-colored prickly pear coulis.

Pinon and Pear Frangipane Tart with Prickly Pear Coulis

Yield: 6 servings

Sugar pastry crust (pate sablee):

8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

The most precise way to measure flour is to weigh it on a kitchen scale. If you don't have one, dip a dry-measure cup into the flour container, and, using the straight edge of a knife or spatula, sweep off excess flour even with the top of the cup. Place flour, butter, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, use a fork to beat egg with vanilla. Add egg to flour and mix with fork until the dough begins to come together. Knead lightly and gather the dough into a ball.

Place dough on a lightly floured working surface and divide it into six portions. Using the heel of your hand, not the palm, rapidly press a portion of dough away from you in a firm, quick smear. This classic French technique brings about the final blending of the butter and flour. When all of the dough has been blended, scrape and gather it into a round disk. Dust dough lightly with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour until firm.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough up on the pin and unroll it into a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable sides. Gently lift the edges of dough and fit it into the pan, taking in about 1/2-inch of dough all around the circumference to make a sturdier top edge. Trim off excess by rolling the pin over the top of the pan. Press the dough 1/2-inch above the edge of the pan. Flute the top edge and prick the bottom of the pastry shell with the tines of a fork. Chill crust while making the frangipane filling.

Frangipane filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces pinon (pine) nuts, lightly toasted, pureed in food processor
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons flour

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add the pureed pine nuts and continue to beat at medium speed, adding eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla, lemon zest, salt and flour. Frangipane may be made up to three days in advance, covered tightly and refrigerated.

Prickly pear sauce (coulis):

About 20 ripe red prickly pears
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Slice off both ends of prickly pears and cut a deep incision down the side of each one. Carefully peel off the rind, starting from your incision. Remember there are little stickers! The rind is thick, but if the fruit is ripe, it will peel away easily. Puree peeled fruit in a food processor. Press puree through a medium sieve or strainer into a bowl.

In a saucepan, combine 2/3 of puree with the sugar and orange zest. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to about half the original volume. Combine cooled mixture with remaining 1/3 of uncooked puree. Taste and season with lime juice and additional sugar if needed. Makes about 2 cups.

Assembling the tart:

3 to 4 ripe, firm pears
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sour cream, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and thinned with 2 to 3 teaspoons milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core and halve pears lengthwise. Rub with lemon, and cut halves lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Spread cooled frangipane evenly in the bottom of pastry shell. Arrange pears decoratively over filling, fanning slices slightly. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake tart on the middle rack of oven for 35 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and frangipane is puffed and lightly browned. Cool tart on a rack.

When it's almost cool, place the tart on top of a coffee can and carefully remove the sides of pan. Cut tart into wedges. For an elegant presentation, spoon a pool of prickly pear coulis onto each dessert plate and set a wedge of tart on top. Place 3 to 5 dots of sour cream mixture on top of the red sauce and draw the point of a paring knife or toothpick through the dots to make a decorative design.

Beverly Cox is the food editor of Native Peoples Magazine and a former food editor and director of food styling for Cook's Magazine. She holds a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed with Gaston LeNotre.

Beverly has written 13 cookbooks, including Spirit of the Harvest, North American Indian Cooking, winner of the James Beard and IACP cookbook awards in 1992, and Spirit of the West, Cooking from Ranch House and Range, winner of a Julia Child award in 1997, and Spirit of the Earth, Native Cooking from Latin America, an IACP cookbook award finalist in 2002, all co-authored with food photographer Martin Jacobs. Their most recent book is Eating Cuban, 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores.

Beverly and her husband, Gordon Black, an architect turned rancher, live on the historic Eagle Rock Ranch in Northern Colorado where her great grandfather homesteaded in 1872. Beverly teaches hands-on cooking classes for small groups who want to combine cooking with the experience of visiting a working cattle ranch.

You can contact Beverly at BeverlyCox@TankaBar.com

For more information about Beverly's cookbooks featuring Native American recipes:

Body, Mind and Spirit: Native Cooking of the Americas

Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking

Spirit of the Earth: Native Cooking from Latin America

Leave a comment

Also in BLOG

Tanka fans take a Scenic view
Tanka fans take a Scenic view

April 29, 2021 143 Comments

View full article →

From the farm to food security, Sacramento Co-op nurtures community
From the farm to food security, Sacramento Co-op nurtures community

March 17, 2021 71 Comments

View full article →

Happy International Women's Day!
Happy International Women's Day!

March 08, 2021 89 Comments

View full article →