I just got back from a Virginia cabin birthday weekend with some dear friends. These little get-aways, whether at the beach or and old-time festival or for some other occasion, is something our broader circle does fairly regularly, especially because many of us don't live in the same place. But when I thought about what I most wanted to do to celebrate my 30th, this was it.
It took a while to figure out all the details. Initially we had planned for an earlier weekend and then nixed it because it was feeling too complicated. I was stressed about getting ready to go away for the spring and then thought it might not happen at all. Though our original idea was to reserve a cabin in a Virginia state park, we worried we might not have enough room, and mined dozens of Airbnbs and lakehouses for rent-- historic Italianates on peacock farms and treehouse yurts in the woods with saunas and hot tubs. Many were booked and most were out of our price range. In the end, we went back to our original plan, and though there were no fancy amenities and we'd have to squeeze in, we reserved a little (and very affordable) 2-bedroom park cabin on the James River.
Despite most of us encountering some travel complications on Friday--tornados and thunderstorms and traffic and babies on hunger strikes, the rest of the weekend was just so... easy. We played Madlibs and Exquisite Corpse around the fire, drank homemade micheladas and gin and tonics on the deck, went for walks in the woods, read and played records and took turns making meals. My friends Lora and Alex very cutely smuggled in a homemade birthday cake and frosted it last night, crediting the sound of the beater to the "milkshakes" they were supposedly making.
But it was totally relaxed, nothing pressing, no extravagant plans (though we kept checking in about our "hopes and dreams" for the day/afternoon/next hour)-- and it was just perfect. Though I was pretty stressed about all I had to do when we left on Friday, unsure if I should even be going away, it turned out to be just the check-in with friends and self to feel more sane and relaxed. Perhaps the NPR story I heard that quoted Ghandi--"I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one"-- was foretelling.
When I made this dessert (for the same show as the Grapefruit Chess Pie), I kept telling people, before we tried it, that it "might taste healthy," worried that it might not be flavorful or exciting enough. Sure, maybe it does taste a little healthy, but it's also rich and refreshing, like an orange-topped panna cotta with an almond crust. Sometimes the thing that's the most simple and easy is really just what you need.
Orange & Yogurt Tart
From Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts
Makes 1, 9-inch tart
1/2 c. whole raw almonds
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
6 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
2 Tblsp. ice water
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
Pinch coarse salt
3 navel oranges
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse almonds with granulated sugar and salt until finely ground. Add flour and pulse to combine, then add butter and pulse to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan and place in the fridge or freezer until firm, approximately 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool.
For filling and assembly:
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the water and let stand 5 minutes. Pour cream into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. When it begins to steam, add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir the warm cream mixture into the yogurt mixture until combined. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the yogurt. Chill until set, about 2 hours and up to 1 day.
2. Use a sharp paring knife to slice the ends off of the oranges. Following the curve of the fruit with your knife, cut away the peel, removing as much of the pith as possible. Slice the oranges into 1/4-inch thick rounds, removing seeds. Just before serving, arrange orange slices on top of the tart.