There are plenty of good reasons to make friends with your neighbors. You can always borrow a cup of sugar, they’re conveniently close for impromptu cocktail parties or afternoon barbeques, and you can share a lawnmower. (What, not everyone shares a lawnmower with their neighbors? Well, maybe you all mow more than twice a year.)
We are lucky enough to have the kind of neighbors who, in addition to all of the benefits above, sometimes drop by with treats. Recently it was a dish of petal-pink tender baked rhubarb, barely sweet and redolent of orange zest and ginger. I know, right?
I admit to eating a few stalks straight from the dish with my fingers, and heaping spoonfuls made their way into bowls of yogurt for breakfast. But I have a new cookbook, Good to the Grain, and it has a picture on the cover of some mighty handsome little single-serving rhubarb tarts. I couldn’t resist cooking the remaining rhubarb down into a jam with fragrant strawberries and baking them into delicate and delicious free-form tarts. They’re like the biggest, best jam-filled cookie you’ve ever had. We shared them with the neighbors, of course.
Rhubarb-Strawberry Cornmeal Tarts with Ginger and Orange Zest: First make the jam filling: thinly slice 1 lb. each rhubarb and strawberries. Set aside about 1 c. strawberries for later. Combine remaining fruit with 1 c. sugar and 1-2 tsp. each grated ginger and grated orange zest in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit begins to release its liquid, then uncover, raise heat to medium, and stir frequently until the mixture thickens into a jam and a spoon leaves a trail when you pull it across the bottom of your pot. (Cooking time should be 30-45 mins. total.) Taste and adjust the flavor of the jam to your liking, stir in the remaining sliced strawberries, then set it aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, make the tart dough by combining 1 c. fine cornmeal, 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 6 Tb. sugar and 1 tsp. kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 4 oz. (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, and mix on low speed to for a moment to break up the butter without sending flour flying. Raise speed to medium and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add 1/2 c. heavy cream and 2 egg yolks (this is how I ended up making that egg white frittata) and process until combined. The dough will appear crumbly but should hold together when you squeeze a handful. (If not, mix in another spoonful of cream.)
Divide the dough into ten pieces. Working on a sheet of parchment paper, use the heel of your hand to press a piece of dough into a rough 5″ circle. Spoon 1/4 c. jam into the center of the tart, folding the edges up and over to hold it. Don’t worry if the shape is irregular or if the edges crack. Pinch it right back together. If necessary, you can call them “rustic” tarts when you serve them. Repeat with remaining dough and jam, scooting the tarts together on the parchment paper as you make them so that you’ll be able to fit them all onto two baking sheets. Transfer the tarts, parchment and all, onto baking sheets and bake at 375 for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are golden-brown and the jam begins to bubble. They are equally delicious warm and at room temperature.
Note: The dough is most workable at room temperature. Either use it immediately after making it, or take it out of the fridge a while before you intend to shape the tarts.