“Is this a sharable story?” I’ve been asking myself. “Can I blog about this to inspire or bring a smile?”
If something really nice happens, I wondered, can I flip it into a Pay It Forward challenge for you readers as it was for me ?
Coin flip. Heads, yes. Tails, yes. (It was Heads.)
There’s dessert, also. For CooktheBookFridays, this week’s recipe is Tarte Crumble aux Cerises. Cherry Tart in English. Tarta de la Cereza in Spanish. Fabulous in any language.
Before counting calories, let’s talk. Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s CEO and author of Lean In, lost her 47-year old husband last year. She’s tough but grief is grief. It can be masked but, to my thinking, hunkers down like a boulder in your heart. Cheryl’s now writing her second book, about resilience, calling it Option B. “I have learned,” she once wrote, “that resilience can be learned.”
Long before Cheryl lost her husband, I was living the 8-year process of losing mine. As strong and tenacious as I consider myself now, during those years I was not. “If Plan A doesn’t work, Mom,” my daughter, Melissa, would counsel during a crisis, “we’ll go to Plan B or even C.”
After Michael died and I returned to Aspen, my challenge was not only to heal but be content and useful. Realizing this was a high bar, I considered it a deserved goal. This blog, as you know, revolves around my doing that.
About twenty years ago I joined a ragtag group of ten Aspen locals who were helping the “real” and understaffed USFS Rangers monitor our trails. We raided their warehouse for cast-off uniforms, buckled on backpacks and lived the outdoor dream.
During my eight year absence, this dream job morphed into the Forest Conservancy, a razor-sharp, volunteer organization of officially-sanctioned USForest Service ranger representatives. When I returned to Aspen in 2013, the FC, now 100-plus strong, became my Safe Haven. After jumping through a few hoops, taking classes and actually memorizing a rule book, I received not one but two spanking new uniforms. Welcome home, Mary.
At that time many FC colleagues had undertaken the rigorous journey to become Master Naturalists, the FC’s educational arm. I balked at joining their ranks. Too much responsibility. Too much commitment. And, honestly, I didn’t have the wisdom.
Being supportive, however, I always join them on Maroon Bells’ Discovery Day Saturdays when, loaded with exhibits, they man individual booths, talking with tourists about flowers, trees, moose, bears, geology and more. I’d hike the trails, interacting with 400 to 600 visitors each DD. But, being a Master Naturalist, No is No.
Two weeks ago, our Mama Bear who oversees the MN program, called a short meeting after DD’s end. I abhor meetings, they tend to ramble, but at days end I joined my other hot, weary colleagues at the Bell’s tiny amphitheater.You know where this is going, don’t you? There was food, drink and chocolate cake. Uh-oh. Before I could execute a quick exit, I became a MN.
Surprisingly, I found myself unbelievably pleased (see poem below). It’s not the distinction, (so much more to learn), but their planning and effort. It’s friendship and a forgotten word in today’s world, NICE. Playing nice is a cheap Pay it Forward option whatever the alphabet letter. I’m calling it my Option N.
“For twenty years Mary Hirsch has been a volunteer ranger,
Hiking the trails, helping folks out of danger.
She has a sparkling personality and sure gift of gab
And in her uniform, she looks simply fab.
Since she has done the time and taken the classes,
We hope she joins the rest of us who work off our asses.
The birders have told us you’d be a great Master Naturalist
So we hope you will join us, in fact we iNSIST!
As the great Teddy said, “It is done, I do declare it.”
Here is your pin and now you MUST wear it.”
To celebrate my joy I adapted this sweet cherry tart from David Lebovitz’s Tarte Crumble aux Apricots because I could not find Colorado apricots yet. Whatever the fresh fruit, use between 1 3/4-2 pounds. The lip-smacker in this recipe is the Crumble Topping which can be used with other baked fruit pastries. I used a 9-inch springform pan but will move up to 10-inches next time.
TARTE CRUMBLE aux CERISES (Sweet Cherry Crumble Tart) Adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz.
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85g)
unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, room-temperature
11/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Being heavy-handed with my spices, I used 1 TBS.)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
2 pounds ripe, fresh apricots, pitted and quartered (or, sweet cherries)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used 1/2tsp.)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve
1. TO MAKE THE DOUGH, remove butter from the refrigerator 10 minutes before using it and to let it soften slightly in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed just until no visible lumps of butter remain. Add the egg yolks, flour and salt. Mix until the dough comes together. (You can also make the dough in a bowl using a spatula and a little moxie.)
2. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9- to 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough over the bottom of the pan, and a little less than halfway up the sides. Try to get the bottom as even as possible, not because anyone will see it, but so it bakes evenly. Put the pan in freezer for 30 minutes.
3. MAKE THE CUMBLE TOPPING by pulsing the almonds, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until the almonds are broken up into very small pieces. Add the butter and pulse the food processor. After a few moments, the mixture will look sandy. As you continue to pulse, pieces will just start clumping together. Stop pulsing at that point and chill the crumble topping. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the crumble topping by chopping the almonds finely and mixing the topping with a pastry blender or by hand.)
4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
5. Line the springform pan with aluminum foil and a single layer of pie weights (or dried beans). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the tart shell is browned.
6. After the tart shell comes out of the oven, make the filling. In a bowl, mix the fruit with the sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Do not make the filling too far in advance because the fruit may become too juicy.
Transfer the fruit to the tart shell and even them out. Strew the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.
7. Bake the tart for 50 minutes, until the crumble topping is nicely browned. (I baked my tart exactly 50 minutes.)
8. Let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the outside of the tart to separate it from pan, in case any juices ran over. Let rest for 30 minutes, then remove the sides of the springform and let the tart cool. The edges may look rather dark, but should taste fine, not burnt.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.
COOKtheBOOKFRIDAYS is an international virtual cooking group making their way through David Lebovitz’s outstanding newest cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. To see what my colleagues baked this week, go here.