Last Monday, a heavy, wet snow was falling here in the Green Mountains. Not surprising for our neck of the woods, but man oh man, I was not having it. We’re reaching that stir crazy part of January when most Vermonters really start to miss sunshine on their shoulders. John Denver, you were right, it does make us happy! So I decided it was time for a taste of summer.
If I was really good, like my friend (and Green Mountain at Fox Run’s nutritionist) Robyn, I would have picked berries last summer at the height of the season and frozen anything I didn’t preserve or enjoy right then and there. But I can’t seem to keep fresh berries in my house, nor am I the fervent berry picker that Robyn is, so during the winter I buy good quality IQF (individually quick frozen) berries. If you want to do so too, make sure you are getting straight up berries without any additives. In my humble opinion, a good berry needs little (if any) sweetener at all, and if it does need sweetener, I want to be the one applying it. Those delicious berries in my freezer were the inspiration for the recipe that follows, which takes less than an hour from start to finish. I hope it helps you get through your winter doldrums, too!
Middle of Winter Quick Berry Tart
makes two mini tarts
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place two creme brulee ramekins, about three inches in diameter, on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. (If you do not have these, those mini aluminum foil pie pans that are found in most grocery stores would work just as well.) In a small bowl, combine:
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs or crushed crunchy cereal (gluten free corn flakes would be a good choice if you can’t do gluten)
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
1 T sugar (omit if using sugared cereal)
Press this mixture into the ramekins. It will be a little crumbly, and that’s okay. Bake the crusts for 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and just starting to color (this process is called “blind baking”). In the meantime, combine in a small pan or pot:
1/2 cup frozen berries (I used strawberries and raspberries)
1/4 tsp vanilla
sugar to taste (you might not need any if the berries are perfect!)
1/4 tsp citrus peel, spices, or fruity alcohol for added flavor, optional
Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. In a small cup, using a fork, mix together a cornstarch slurry consisting of:
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 T cornstarch
Stir the slurry into the cooking berries in a constant stream. The mixture should begin to thicken almost instantly. Pour the berries and their syrup into the blind baked crusts. (If you have leftover berry compote, put it aside to top your yogurt or oatmeal in the morning, mmmmmmm!) Bake the tarts an additional 6-8 minutes. Cool as long as you can stand it, and then enjoy!
For another awesome recipe using frozen berries, check out this gem from the Green Mountain at Fox Run recipe archives. Keep in mind that coffee cakes freeze well, in case you fear you might be tempted to overindulge.
What are some other flavors of summer that help warm you up in the dead of winter?