So this is sort of an oddly timed post. You see, I want to tell you all about these locally grown cherries. I want to gush about this ultra creamy homemade ricotta that I picked up at our local Italian market. I really, truly do want to endlessly babble on (again) about flaky, buttery pie crust.
But I just returned home from my trip to New Orleans where I attended the Sustainable Seafood Blog Conference, and I just can’t wait to tell you guys about my weekend. So… here we have a post about a cherry tart AND sustainable food systems AND other bloggy things! I’ll do my best to have it all make sense.
The conference was put on by the Sustainable Seafood Blog Project, which was founded by Jessie Johnson of Life As a Strawberry. Lets just put it on the record that this lady right here is one hell of a woman. To say Jessie’s grassroots effort to build this project from the ground up is inspiring is the understatement of the year. The amount of time, work, money, impeccable organization, blood, sweat and tears that went into putting this event together (all while working on her masters nonetheless) is mind-blowing. Every single detail had been worked out, along with about 8 contingency plans for every situation that could have potentially gone awry.
Each day was packed to the gills (FISH PUN!) with informative seminars spanning from aquaculture to wild conservation, food photography to better-blogging practices. I learned SO much from these incredible speakers, but what I really loved about attending this conferences was having the opportunity to form real life relationships with this amazing group of people. It’s fun to have internet-friends and all, but nothing compares to making face-to-face connections, sharing stories, and forming real, tangible friendships. I spent two and a half days getting to know these folks and left feeling like I’ve known some of them my entire life.
There was no ego at this conference. Everyone was willing to play along, share information, and join together with the common goal of raising awareness about sustainability in not only our oceans, but in our entire world.
Biggest takeaways from the weekend?
Know where your food comes from. Know where your food comes from. Know where your food comes from. For those of us that have a choice in what we eat, we simply cannot ignore that our food choices have an impact on not only our own personal health, but the health of the environment, the global economy, and the future of the entire human race. For example, I learned some disturbing facts about 90% of the shrimp consumed in this country, and cannot fathom eating anything but Wild American Shrimp in the future.
We consume foods without questioning their origins because they’re engrained in our culture, they’re easy to source, and most of the time they taste pretty good. But you’d be surprised to learn that much of this food has a severely detrimental impact on our food systems, and without taking the time to ask questions and educate yourself, you wouldn’t know until it’s too late. Blissful ignorance is no longer acceptable. Ask questions. Be informed. Be proactive.
I understand the idea of changing the status quo and personally tackling sustainability can feel a bit overwhelming. So where can you get started? Here are three easy steps that you can take to be a bit more sustainable in your own kitchen.
1. Eat Seasonally. Food that’s grown in season is easier and more cost effective to produce because it’s being grown when it’s supposed to. Get excited for the foods that are being harvested in the moment, and forget about them when they’re not. We’re a society that has become accustomed to having what we want when we want it, but that’s not a sustainable practice. Not only will you be saving valuable resources, the food will also cost less, and it’s going to taste a heck-of-a-lot better to boot.
2. Grow Something. The amount of energy it takes for food to be raised, processed and shipped is astronomical compared to what it would take to do it yourself. It’s certainly not feasible for most people to raise their own chickens and grow every vegetable they consume, especially not year round. But you can start small. By putting a basil plant in a sunny window, or sprinkling a few lettuce seeds in a pot, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and saving a heck of a lot of money at the same time.
3. Think Outside the Box. It’s common belief that when a recipe calls for a certain ingredient, only that ingredient can be used. This simply isn’t the case, and I can’t stress this enough. Is there an interesting halibut recipe you’ve been dying to try, but can’t find a sustainably raised, reasonably priced piece of halibut to use? Find another type of fish that’s been locally sourced, or try it with a piece of organic chicken, tofu or even a cauliflower steak instead. By switching to a more sustainable ingredient, you’ll be producing a dish that not only tastes great, but has a positive impact on our food system as a whole.
This cherry tart is an excellent example of all of these things. I made this tart about a month ago using strawberries that I grew in my garden. It was so good that I wanted to share it with all of you, but by the time I was able to make it again, the fleeting strawberry season had just about finished up. I found these deep maroon, juicy, sweet-tart cherries at the farmers market and opted to use them instead. Rather than giving up on a recipe simply because I could no longer get it’s main ingredient, I made a simple change that resulted in a tart that was just as good, if not better than the original version.
I call this free form tart a crostata mostly because it rhymes with ricotta and I’m a sucker for poetry like that. It’s a lovely ending to a light summer dinner, but like other tarts of it’s kind, makes for a pretty tasty breakfast too.
Can’t find cherries at your market? Use blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. Use peaches, plums or apricots. Use the freshest in-season fruit that you can find at your farmers market. It’s going to be delicious either way.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons very cold butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I prefer non hydrogenated)
- 5 tablespoons ice water
- 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 2 pints fresh cherries, pitted (about 3 heaping cups of fruit)
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tablespoon sugar in the raw (optional)
- Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and shortening until the pieces become the size of peas. Add in 6 tablespoons of water and mix gently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if needed. The dough should not be sticky, and you should be able to see the pieces of butter and shortening flecked throughout. Be careful not to over knead it.
- Form dough into a roughly shaped rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at last 30 minutes (or up to two days).
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with 1/4 cup sugar, half of the vanilla seeds and set
- aside. In another bowl, mix together the pitted cherries, 2 tablespoons of sugar, the remaining vanilla seeds and a tiny pinch of salt.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to an oval/rectangle roughly 16" x 10" in size - it doesn't have to be perfect, this is a rustic tart. Roll up the dough on to the rolling pin and transfer it to a large baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper.
- Spread the ricotta mixture on the dough in an even layer, leaving a 2-3" border around the edges. Arrange the cherries evenly on top of the ricotta and pour over any juice. Gather the edges and fold them up around the mixture to hold everything in.
- Brush the edges with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with raw sugar if desired. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- If cherries aren't available, substitute the best fruit you can find.