Last Sunday I hosted an house show with the Blackburg, VA old-time band The Black Twig Pickers and Vermont singer-songwriter Sam Moss, and decided to lump my birthday celebration and last DC hurrah (for a while) into the occasion. I invited pals over for a pre-show backyard cookout, which was just the thing I needed in the midst of the headed-out-of-town rush. There were flowers and fried pickles, copious amounts of meat, grilled asparagus, deviled eggs and other delights with some of my favorite people in the city.
I made Domenica Marchetti's Lemon-Ricotta Crostata, a traditional Italian Easter dessert. The crust is a little finicky, but it's worth the trouble--perfectly buttery and light. I think you could also replace the ricotta with goat cheese, like in this recipe, if you're so inclined. I was hoping to make a rhubarb sauce to top it all off, but could find none at either the farmers' market or the grocery, so I opted for (California) strawberries instead. I must say, they were the perfect thing to pair with this rich, lemony confection, but I do want to try that rhubarb sauce sometime.
From Domenica Marchetti
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large whole egg
2 egg yolks
For the filling:
8 oz. fresh sheep's milk ricotta or well-drained cow's milk ricotta
8 oz. mascarpone
1 large whole egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the dough:
1. Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the whole egg and egg yolks and process just until the mixture begins to come together in the bowl.
2. Turn the bowl out on a lightly floured surface and briefly knead it together. Without overworking it, shape the dough into a disc, patting rather than kneading. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or until well-chilled.
3. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Re-wrap the smaller portion and return to the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the large portion into an 11-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to a greased and floured 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (I had to do some piecing together for this, as the dough is a little dry). Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove any excess dough. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
For the filling and assembly:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, whole egg and yolks, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest. Using a stand mixer or handheld beater, beat the ingredients on high for about 1 minute or until thoroughly combined and fluffy.
2. Remove the tart shell from the fridge and scrape filling into it, smoothing with a silicone spatula. Roll out the reserved dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 3/4-inch wide strips with a fluted pastry wheel. Carefully place the strips over the fitted tart shell in a lattice pattern, gently pressing the ends into the sides of the tart. Use any remaining strips to form around the tart's perimeter.
3. Bake the crostata for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is puffed and just set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the tart ring and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving. Will keep in the fridge 2-3 days.
As evening fell and it started to get chilly, we moved inside for a lovely candlelit living room show with Sam and The Twigs. My friend Morgan took some beautiful photos of the evening (all the non-tart photos are hers)-- you can see them all on her blog. Our friend Dave also made a recording of Sam's set, which you can listen to here.
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Rustic Cheese Pie
Wild Blackberry Lemon Goat Cheese Tart
Non-tart photos by Morgan Hungerford West