Strawberry rhubarb apple tart… & mindful eating

The other day, as we were enjoying a family dinner, my husband spotted a recipe book on the table and started to look through it as we were eating. (It happened to be the amazing and ever so appetizing Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Cannelle et Vanille’s creator, Aran Goyoaga). As we were eating, we started to get excited about the many recipes we were going to make off that book.

“You’re really turning into a Frenchman. Talking about food while eating”, my mother commented.

Indeed this is something French people love to do. Talk about food while eating food. Going on and on about it in fact!

I realized that unknowingly, the French are actually practicing mindful eating.

“Focus on the task at hand”, our teachers, or mothers, or grandmothers said. I guess this was another way to ask us to be mindful. To be in the moment with whatever we were doing.

This has been something I’ve been very consciously practicing with Pablo. Trying to stay away from outside distractions while at the table whenever possible. So while I do occasionally indulge Pablo with a small toy if he’s particularly tired and impatient at dinner time, I try as much as possible to keep our family engaged with our meal, with each other in conversation about our day, with the food we are eating (or will be eating), the cooking of it, the shape, flavor, color, texture of it. A lot of playfulness can arise with the “crunch crunch” of the butter lettuce, the fun of making a mini-kebab by prickling a piece of tomato with a piece of hearts of palm on the fork, or Pablo’s new favorite game, calling every item on the dinner table “Monsieur” : Monsieur Patate, Monsieur Radis, Monsieur Pain (Mr Bread) etc. (Yes, barely bearable cuteness ensues.)

I remember reading about mindful eating in Karen Le Billon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, as one of her strategies to convert her picky eaters. It’s not about hiding broccoli in some pasta or baked good, or trying to distract our children into eating well, or rushing through meals to get them over with. It’s about showing them that eating is a pleasure.

And to find that out, you’ve got to pay attention while you eat.

Pay attention to how the food feels, how it tastes. Be mind and body (aren’t our best, happiest or most fulfilling moments in life when we are engaged both mind and body?). I remember how she described making a game of eating a chocolate mousse as slowly as possible, as a family, and talking about the experience together. What a clever idea to get kids engaged in the wonderful, vastly underestimated, communal, cultural and pleasurable experience that is the family meal.

Beyond easy and quick recipes, convenience and logistics, beyond calories and “healthy eating”, making cooking and eating about connection and pleasure, vs obligation and nutrition, is the core of this education of taste journey I’ve been documenting here. A journey that makes our life so much richer, each and every day.

Sharing today a seasonal variation to the French classic tarte aux pommes. It’s the first year I am experimenting cooking with rhubarb and its lovely flavor. This is really two recipes in one: one for the compote, which can be made on its own. But should you have a couple of apples lying around, the tart is a delicious way to put them to good use. Basil goes surprisingly well with strawberry and rhubarb, and adding it to the spelt crust was a fun, and successful, experiment.

Strawberry rhubarb apple tart on basil spelt crust

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 45 mn
Cook time: 15 mn + 35 mn

Age for babies: The compote by itself is great for a baby from 5 months on, though be sure not to use honey for a baby under 12 months. Add just a sprinkle of sugar. What you don’t use within a couple of days can be frozen for a couple of months (individual serving containers make it easier).
The tart can be given in small pieces (as long as no honey was used) from 8-10 months.



For the strawberry rhubarb compote

Yields about 2 cups.

2-3 stalks of rhubarb
1-2 cups of strawberries
2 tbsp of sugar (or honey)
1 tsp lemon juice

Peel the rhubarb by making a diagonal incision at the top and pulling off the stringy part. Repeat from both end, until all strings are gone (you will be taking off the pink part.)

Then cut the rhubarb in small pieces, place in a bowl with half the sugar (or honey), and let macerate at least 15 minutes. (The rhubarb with produce some juice in that time).

In the meantime, wash and cut the strawberries.

In a pan, place the rhubarb and its juice, strawberries, remaining sugar or honey and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Mix in food processor or blender until very smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a spatula, for added smoothness.

For the basil spelt crust

1 cup (150g) spelt flour
5 tbsp (75g) butter, softened and cut up
4-5 large leaves of basil, minced
1.5 tbsp ice water
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix the flour, minced basil, sugar and salt.

Pour the dry ingredients on a work surface. With your hands, work the soft butter into the flour mixture, by rubbing your hands together, until you get a sandy texture. Then place the flour/butter mixture in a circle with a whole in the middle.  Place the egg yolk and water in the middle, and mix with your hands until you obtain a ball of dough.

Then fraise the dough: flatten the ball into a rectangle (of sorts), and with the heel of your hand, press the dough, little by little, onto the work surface. This is very simple (and therapeutic!), but a picture is worth a thousand words on this one, so you can get a visual here. Do it a couple of times.

Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

To put it all together

2 apples
4-5 oz rhubarb strawberry compote
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter +  for mold 

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

Butter a tart pan (preferably with removable bottom).

Roll dough onto a lightly floured surface so it’s slightly bigger than your pan.
Press the dough into the pan, pressing the sides with your thumb.

Spoon and spread the compote over the dough.

Peel and core the apples, reserve the peel. Slice them thinly. Gently place the apple slices on top of the compote, in a circular motion around the pie pan (I can never do this perfectly by the way, there’s always an odd piece of apple that doesn’t fit!)

Sprinkle with a bit of sugar, and add a few bits of butter throughout.

Place in oven for about 30-35 minutes, until the apples are soft.

While it’s in the oven, boil 1/2 cup of water with the apple peel and sugar for about 10/12 minutes.

When you bring the tart out of the oven, brush some of that syrup over the apples for a nice gloss.

Let cool and eat warm, or cold.

Rhubarb and banana jam

Eons ago when I was hosted by a very nice German family and for breakfast I used to eat this awesome rhubarb and banana jam that I loved. I don’t remember the taste anymore because, as I said, it was eons ago ca. 1998, I only remember I loved it.
Rhubarb is not a very popular ingredient in Italy and my mom hates it anyway, so no more rhubarb jam for me  after I got back from Germany. But in the US rhubarb is much more common. And just yesterday I saw 2 or 3 recipes using rhubarb. So I decided to go on line and look for a recipe.

After a bit of scouting I discovered that the recipe is actually really easy and that I had to make a decision on the quantity of sugar I wanted in my jam and whether I wanted to precook the rhubarb or not. I drew on my general jam knowledge and decided not to precook the rhubarb and to use a ratio of 1:2 sugar to rhubarb.

Rhubarb and banana jam

Ingredients

  • 1lb rhubarb cleaned
  • 1/2lb sugar
  • 1 banana

Directions

    1. First I cleaned and cut the rhubarb in slices. Then I weighted the rhubarb and put it in a bowl. I added half the weight of the rhubarb in sugar (in my case it was 1lb rhubarb and 1/2 lb sugar) to the bowl and mixed it to the rhubarb. I let the rhubarb macerate with the sugar for about 4-5 hours (you can also do it overnight) and then I transfered everything to a pot.
    2. I cooked the rhubarb and the sugar for about 20 minutes and when the rhubarb started falling apart, I added 1 sliced banana. I let cook for another couple of minutes and then transfered to my vases. My 1lb rhubarb, filled about 3 8oz.

  1. I did not sterilize the vases afterwards, as I believe I will be eating the jam relatively soon and there should be enough sugar in to preserve the jam for a reasonably long time.
  2. I tried the jam and it is great! Not sure it is like the one I ate in Germany, because as I said I don’t remember how it tasted like, but it is good! I think it will be actually eaten fast!

Rhubarb cake

I know rhubarb season is basically over, but I made this cake 3 times in 3 weeks slightly changing the doses every time to get the perfect cake and now I have to share it with you even if you might not find rhubarb until next year!

I like to put a ton of rhubarb in it, because I like its sourness and it keeps the cake super moist. If you prefer sweeter flavors add an extra spoon of sugar or two. And the best part of this cake? It contains no oil or butter! It still has 1 egg and some yogurt, but I am pretty sure it qualifies as a healthy cake, if not as a fat free one. I love to eat it for breakfast and it keeps quite well for up to 4 days (probably longer, but by then it was always gone…). Anyway, bookmark it for next year if you cannot find rhubarb!

And don’t forget to read to the end of the post to discover who is the winner of the giveway!

Rhubarb cake

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz. sugar
  • 5 oz. flour
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lb. rhubarb

Directions

  1. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is very pale and has doubled in volume.
  2. Add the yogurt, the flour and the baking powder and combine with the egg mixture.
  3. Clean the rhubarb, cut it into 1 inch pieces and fold it into the batter.
  4. Pour in a non stick mold covered with parchment paper.
  5. Cook in a 380F oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Let cool and enjoy!

Rhubarb cream cheese tart

Rhubarb season is finally here! With the crazy weather we had so far, the season for produce to be very much behind. And even things such as rhubarb that thrive in the colder weather have be late in coming. After all we had snow up until a month ago!

Anyway, as soon as I found some rhubarb I bought a bunch and started thinking about how to use it. I have a great recipe for a rhubarb cake that I made multiple times last year, but this time I wanted a Scouting the internet, I found this recipe by Daniela at Penna e Forchetta

I immediately set out to adapt it to what I had on hand and to my liking of rhubarb.


I didn’t have cream cheese so I swapped it with strained Greek yogurt (which basically is cream cheese) and I cut the sugar by a lot because I love the acidity of rhubarb.

The tart turned out even better than I expected. It has the sourness of rhubarb I love and the flaky crust and the sweet cream topping to balance it all out. And it looks great too!

Rhubarb cream cheese tart

Ingredients

Crust

    • 1 heaping cup flour
    • 1 stick butter
    • water

Rhubarb

  • 1 bunch rhubarb (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • about 3/4 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Start by straining the yogurt by placing it in a fine sieve mesh colander and let it drain.
  2. While the yogurt is draining, make the crust. Cut the cold butter into the flour and when the mixture is crumbly add enough water to make the dough stick. As soon as the dough is formed wrap it in plastic and put in the fridge to cool down.
  3. For the filling, quickly cook the rhubarb with a couple of spoons of sugar until the rhubarb softens up. Drain the liquid and let cool down.
  4. Mix the yogurt with the yogurt and enough sugar to sweeten it up to your preferred sweetness. I only added a couple of spoons, but you can add more if you like things on the sweeter side.
  5. Assemble the cake by placing the dough in a greased pan, layer with the rhubarb and finishing it with the yogurt cream. Decorate with some additional rhubarb stalk if you like it.
  6. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes or until the top is set and lightly browned.