Beyond recipes, a chef shares personal stories to delight both the palate and plate — to invoke self-love and acceptance
What do self-love, rustic berry tarts and Flamenco have in common? Me… and just quite possibly, you too. When I was mulling over the possibilities of recipes to include in this issue and decided on berry tarts, the word ‘rustic’ made me smile. It was as if that word alone gives freedom and permission to create something that looks imperfect, but can also be full of flavor and love… kind of like each of us.
There’s a lot of pain in the world, perhaps there always was. I can’t identify the straight path to healing, probably because it’s different for each of us.
But a story I recently recalled about me and Flamenco demonstrates the path to self-love and acceptance. And there’s truly no greater gift.
Let me just put it out there: I love Flamenco. I don’t just love Flamenco, I deeply and profoundly feel other worldly when I listen to the music and witness the dance. It transports me. In Spanish, there is a word for that, duende. The people in my life during my late 20’s did not understand my interest — and I didn’t share it with them. I didn’t have a ‘dancer’s body’ so I kept it to myself.
For a long time, I never told anyone that I had signed up for dance lessons in a dimly lit 5-story walk up just north of Times Square. I had let my fear of what others might think or say keep a part of me hidden. When I finally worked up the courage to tell my mom, she surprised me by buying my first pair of real Flamenco dance shoes as a gift. They were authentic, imported from Spain and are similar to heeled tap shoes, but instead have multiple nails hammered into the heel and toe.
This was the first time I really came to understand and realize that the things I like, that I am attracted to are OK, simply because I like them, and they bring no harm to others. No one else has to like them.
No one else has to understand. But you know what, I learned two more things. One: Other people really do like the same things that I like because they have created it, lived it, and kept it culturally alive for generations. Two: When you do something that you like, even if you are the only one who likes it — you show others that they need not fear what makes them unique as well.
And you know what happened? Some of my friends eventually warmed up to my enthusiasm and came with me to a few shows. My teacher, Carlota Santana said to me:
Life is hard and bad things happen to you, but you don’t deserve those bad things. Use that in your dance… And I did.
I wasn’t good at it. I struggled with the more complicated steps and I knew I would never be a graceful, professional dancer like the others in my class. But that never was the point. I felt real, like myself for those two hours in class without the thoughts and judgments of others, and it was just plain fun. Looking back I see that doing something I loved in spite of my fear was true self-love.
Mixed Berry Rustic Tart
- 3 cups unbleached white flour
- 8 oz (2 sticks) solid vegan butter (not the whipped)
- 3 TBSP cane sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3-4 TBSP ice water
- 1 pint blackberries
- 1 pint Raspberries
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup cane sugar
- 2 tsp arrowroot or flour
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 TBSP vegan butter melted
- Cane sugar for sprinkling on top of tarts
- Make the dough first. Into a food processor put the flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times to sift the ingredients together.
- Slice the vegan butter into smaller pieces and add half to the food processor. Pulse together a few times so it is worked into the flour. Add the rest of the vegan butter and pulse it into the mixture.
- Turn the processor on and add ice water while it is mixing 1 TBSP at a time until the dough begins to hold together into a single ball.
- Test the dough and if you can pinch it together and it holds it’s shape without sticking to your fingers you are done.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Make this filling:
- When the dough has chilled remove it from the refrigerator and set aside.
- Into a bowl put all of the blueberries, blackberries and raspberries with the sugar, arrowroot and lemon zest.
- Mix together crushing a few of the berries to make a syrup with the sugar and arrowroot. Set it aside.
Roll out and fill the tarts:
- Prep 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and a light spray of oil so the tarts don’t stick. Unwrap the dough and divide it into 9 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball and set aside.
- Sprinkle a smooth flat surface with flour and take the first ball of dough and flatten it a bit with the palm of your hand.
- Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8″ thick and set aside. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
- Take a circle of dough and place a generous spoonful of filling in the center. About 1/4 cup of fruit. You will need to get 9 portions of fruit to fill all of your tarts.
- Beginning with one edge, pinch and fold the dough up around the fruit all the way around the circle until you have built your tart.
- Use a spatula to lift the tart off of your work surface and onto your prepared sheet pan. I was able to fit 6 on one pan and 3 on the other.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
- Brush the tops of each tart with melted vegan butter. It can also be used as a glue to hold together the edges of the tarts or places where it may have cracked. Its ok if it has cracked here and there, it will bake together.
- Bake in a 400F oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
You may also enjoy other recipes from Chef Christine Moss on her author page.