I eat primarily by the season, so that means strawberries come for me only once a year. It’s such a short window, but when they arrive it’s the best thing in the world. At this time of year their taste is stunning. A strawberry that’s ripe in its season is faintly musky, obscenely scarlet and mesmerizing without the sharper sweetness of the off-season varieties. In a season this brief, I’ve learned to appreciate every last berry that enters this kitchen. It becomes a very fun sport to see how many ways I can spin use out of them. Most often, I slice them into a bowl of milk for breakfast. I’ve made strawberry sorbet, smoothies, and muffins, but the scarlet couronne goes to this Strawberry Mascarpone Tart that I made with my friend Julienne last week.
You may have seen this before on the April cover of Gourmet. I wanted to make it then, but I had to hold out until Portland's berries came into full blush. It was worth the wait. It’s a winner, a stunner, all of the highest compliments you can pay. It was so good that I didn't really have the time to properly photograph it. Julienne and Kai were really kind to wait as long as they did to dig in. The mascarpone filling features a nuttiness that cuts the sweetness of the strawberries, and it's all rounded out by a little zingy lemon zest and a drizzle of port-based syrup. We ate it on its own for dinner. Wouldn’t you have done the same thing?
STRAWBERRY MASCARPONE TART w/ PORT GLAZEAdapted from Andrea Albin's recipe in Gourmet MagazineI love the wine-y note of the glaze, reminiscent of strawberries with a drizzly of good balsamic vinegar. The crust and no-bake filling are a snap to make.
INGREDIENTS FOR TART SHELL:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Rounded 1/4 tsp salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold water
INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING:
1 1/2 lb strawberries (about 1 1/2 qt), trimmed and halved lengthwise*
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup ruby Port
1 lb mascarpone (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. First, assemble the crust. Blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water with a fork, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir with fork (or pulse) until mixture comes together.
2. Gently knead with floured hands on a lightly floured surface until a dough forms, then gently knead 4 or 5 times. Press into a 5-inch disk. Place in center of a 10-inch fluted tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers and bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup, spread and push dough to evenly cover bottom and side of pan. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
4. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until shell is deep golden all over, about 20 minutes more. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes. This can be done a day ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature.
5. Stir together strawberries and granulated sugar in a bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Strain in a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add Port to liquid in saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.
6. Meanwhile, whisk together mascarpone, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff.
7. To assemble the tart, spread mascarpone mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle Port glaze all over tart.
* If your strawberries are very ripe, like mine, let them sit in the sugar for 10 minutes instead of the 30 called for in this recipe, or else they'll get rather mushy. Or do as I did, reserving half of the strawberries for the sugar to help make the syrup, leaving the others au naturel to be strewn atop the tart just before you drizzle the glaze on top.
Yields 8 servings, best eaten the day it's made.