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7.01.2005

Suited for each other: rhubarb meringue tart

I am not, by nature, wildly energetic. I’m far from slothful—give or take a few semantic quibbles, of course—but I’ve never been one to wake up with itchy excess energy nagging to be burned. I have just the right amount of oomph to get me happily through the day, and though infamous in certain circles for my speedy stride, I’m really very good at sitting still. I’ve even been known to go horizontal—and in mid-afternoon, no less. All of this is to say that from my perspective, seated or supine, my half-sister Lisa is nothing short of superhuman.

Mother to five talented children—ages (almost-)six to (almost-)sixteen—and husband to one lucky man, she almost never stops. Whether delivering the kids to soccer, track, Little League, or soccer practice; cello, guitar, piano, or violin lessons; jazz, tap, or modern dance classes; art camp, math camp; or one of four different schools, she’s on the go, and gracefully. She’s doing laundry at 1 am, playing doubles tennis at 11, and meeting the bus at 3. But—as you might expect, given our shared paternal heritage—it’s in the kitchen that Lisa is busiest, and most astounding.

Her shelves are stacked with cookbooks and clippings, her drawers filled with gadgets and graters. She bakes quiches and lemon cakes and clafoutis; she makes Chinese noodle salads, ginger-pumpkin mousse, banana tarts, blintzes for Rosh Hashanah, and luscious Indian-style cumin chicken with buttery, onion-flecked rice. She candies orange rind and rolls her own ganache truffles. At midnight, when the house is quiet, she tempers dark chocolate for homemade almond bark. And by way of a miracle in time management, she keeps an organic plot—a beautifully manicured one—at the local community garden a few minutes away, where she grows snap peas and snow peas, tomatoes and blackberries, radishes, onions, lettuce, and asparagus, not to mention herbs and assorted flowers. And as luck would have it, when I stopped in to visit a couple of weeks ago, her rhubarb was ripe for its first harvesting. Dear reader, you know how I feel about rhubarb; it’s enough to get me downright busy in the kitchen.

So to make the most of our brief, all-too-rare, and all-too-frenetic time together, we headed home with a handful of rosy stalks. Lisa retrieved from the shelf a cookbook that, she explained as she leafed through the glossy pages, she had bought solely for one recipe: a rhubarb meringue tart. Rhubarb. Meringue. Tart. With a few notable exceptions, no three words are better suited for each other, and that’s a certifiable fact. So we sliced up the rhubarb, juiced an orange, and rolled out the pastry dough, and then, after Little League, a cello lesson, and a few miles on the odometer,

we slowed down; we sat still; we scraped our plates; we talked; and we didn't stop until nearly 2 in the morning. It was delicious.



Rhubarb Meringue Tart
Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s The Art of the Tart

Day-Lewis credits her friend and colleague Nigella Lawson with the creation of this delicate, unusual tart. It begins with a buttery shell, over which is poured a sheet of unsweetened(!) cooked rhubarb and a layer of a egg-sugar-butter batter. This base is cooked until shiny and golden, and then the tart is capped with meringue and baked until lightly browned. The result is a multi-layered tart in which the rhubarb is mellowed by the buttery crust beneath it and the sugar- and butter-rich batter atop it, and the light, sweet meringue topcoat makes a perfect foil for the puckery compote it blankets. Although the tart is best, texture-wise, about 30 to 60 minutes of the oven, it also keeps nicely and tastes surprisingly wonderful cold, straight from the fridge. Lisa and I made sure to try it both ways, as should you.


½ recipe Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée, made with fresh orange juice rather than water
2 lbs rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into roughly ½-inch chunks
Juice of ½ an orange
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup plus ½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the pâte brisée to fit a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan, and line the pan with the dough. Press a sheet of aluminum foil gently into the lined pan, and fill the well of the pan with pie weights. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake until the shell is lightly golden and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and weights, and allow the tart shell to cool.

Put the rhubarb in a medium saucepan with the orange juice and heat gently until just softened and beginning to fall apart. Remove it from the heat.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. In a medium bowl, mix 2/3 cup sugar with the flour and melted butter. Add the yolks, and stir briefly. Place a sieve over the mouth of the bowl, and pour the cooked rhubarb into the sieve. Press the rhubarb lightly to drain off its juices, allowing them to trickle into the egg-sugar-butter-flour mixture. You should add enough rhubarb liquid to make the mixture into a smooth, runny paste.

Put the sieved rhubarb into the tart shell, spreading it evenly. Pour the egg-sugar-butter-flour mixture over it. Bake until golden and just set, about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until the whites form soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining ½ cup sugar, beating until the whites are shiny and opaque. Spoon the meringue over the baked tart to completely cover the fruit, sprinkle with a touch more sugar, if you like, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly bronzed.

Allow to cool for 30 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced into wedges.

Serves 6.

14 Comments:

Blogger Zarah Maria said...

LOVELY! I have that book too and this didn't even spring out at me - but of course, now I have to try it. Must be even more amazing with your own homegrown rhubarb...

3:21 AM, July 02, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

Yum!
This looks fantastic.... and sweet but with a perfect tartness.... I am so glad that we have rhubarb readily avaliable all year in Australia :)

7:51 AM, July 02, 2005  
Anonymous Sue said...

I love rhubarb, too--it's a challenge to grow in my coastal community because it's such a snail haven. but worth the trouble.

The first photo shows up as if the meringue is pink, and I wonder if this could be done. Could you make a meringue using a rhubarb sugar syrup so it would be pink (at least inside) as well?
It's been a while since I've done a tart--this one looks like it'll be the next! Thanks!
Sue

10:29 AM, July 02, 2005  
Blogger margrocks said...

wow. i'm tired just WANTING to be like your sister.

yum. rhubarb reminds me of my mum. the first pie i ever attempted in my queens kitchen was strawberry rhubarb. can't wait to give this one a shot.

thanks, molly. always a pleasure.

2:09 PM, July 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a beautiful way with words. I'm glad I found your blog. Which I found through Clotilde's account of running into you at a cupcake place... and I found hers through Amateur Gourmet's Babbo dinner they shared. Such a tangled foodie blogged world. :)
- Johanna

4:01 PM, July 02, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Zarah Maria, since you're a rhubarb girl like me, I know you'd love this. Give it a go!

Clare Eats, I'm jealous of your readily available rhubarb! I saw some beautiful little stalks at the farmers' market this morning, but they won't be around for too much longer. Lucky girl you are.

Sue, that's so funny about the pink-tinted meringue--it must be the light! But I'm sure you could make a pink meringue without much trouble, maybe using a rhubarb simple syrup, as you suggested. Italian meringues are made with a sugar syrup, so you could certainly try it! You might be able to use the leftover syrup, actually, from this. Let me know if you do give it a try, and in the meantime, good luck with your snails.

Margrocks, you're a girl after my own heart...mmm, strawberry rhubarb pie! Yum indeed.

And Johanna, thanks so much for making the (long!) trip over! The food blog world is full of tangled connections, and I know from experience that it's always a pleasure to stumble upon something new and delicious.

7:49 PM, July 02, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

Molly, I'm exhausted just reading the things that Lisa manages to fit into her day! The rhubarb tart looks fabulous. Have you ever tried the combination of rhubarb and raspberries? A co-worker of mine swears it is better even than the rhubarb-strawberry mix.

10:34 AM, July 04, 2005  
Anonymous Julie said...

Oh Molly -- it's always a fortuitous moment when I happen to visit your blog. This time, we've just returned from a weekend on the North Fork of Long Island, where I discovered a huge bunch of rhubarb at a farm stand for a truly nominal price. After a season when I could barely find rhubarb in Manhattan at all, and the few stalks I did snag were super-costly, this was a real bonus. I'd been wondering what to do with my bounty, and suddenly happened upon your latest post. Once again, thanks so much!

2:11 PM, July 05, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Dawna, I haven't yet tried the rhubarb-raspberry combination, but I imagine that if the raspberries were sufficiently sweet, it could be pretty fantastic. I wonder if it would generally require more sugar than something with strawberries?

And Julie, it's funny that you should mention the dearth of rhubarb in Manhattan--I tried to find it at Fairway about six weeks ago, and no dice! So strange--and how kind of Long Island to pull through and save the day! This tart is definitely a very worthy recipient of your precious bounty, or if you want something even simpler, you could try a crumble or my baked version with fresh ricotta. Any way you go, yum.

12:53 PM, July 06, 2005  
Blogger Yaniverse said...

Every time I visit this blog I get the desire to bake something good. Then I remember I can't bake, so I'll take that pleasure vicariously. But I've never tasted a rhubarb meringue tart before, it sounds deliciously different.

12:38 PM, July 09, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Yaniverse, if you do ever decide to bake, this might not be the safest, most foolproof place to start, but it's awfully tasty...

9:32 AM, July 10, 2005  
Anonymous dave said...

"we slowed down; we sat still; we scraped our plates; we talked; and we didn't stop until nearly 2 in the morning. It was delicious"

That is what food's about.

(Hey Molly)

6:02 AM, July 15, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Hey there, Dave. Thank you.

5:44 PM, July 15, 2005  
Anonymous adriaan said...

Looks great! Am going to bake it for Christmas eve.

Just a note: the link to Martha Steward's Pate Brisee has changed. It now is: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/pate-brisee-pie-dough

5:26 PM, December 22, 2009  

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