FEAST is all about food…meals, menus, recipe, reviews and memories around the table. Pull up a chair, we want to introduce you to today’s guest, Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Jamie is one of our long time blogger friends. We discovered each other quickly on twitter. She was our FEAST sister across the pond. We knew when we were planning this week that she was the perfect person to introduce you to FEAST here at LoveFeast. She is an amazing storyteller and the way she weaves the recipe with the memory, captures all who read.
LIFE’S A FEAST
An abundance of sweet summer fruit spilling out of crisp brown paper bags across my kitchen table; the heady fragrance weaving through the air reminding me of the summers of my childhood. I stand in wonder at the reds fading from garnet to ruby to rose, the purples royal, the oranges tinged with the evening sun and I understand the magic of the summer bounty of
Life’s a feast. I often wonder how I fell upon this name for my blog and how it foreshadowed events, how my life and my writing converged, melting into one. Since the first day I sat down and began writing, I have experienced the sweet and the bitter, I have laughed out loud, savoring cinnamon and honey-scented
sensations, candy-coated and sugar-dipped thrills, and I have tasted the salt of my tears heavy on my cheeks. My life has been a series of adventures, a wild ride, a world of discovery that, young girl, I never would have dreamed of living. I wake up each day not knowing what will arrive on my doorstep, unprepared for both the sweet and the bitter, facing each with a mixture of wide-eyed innocence and staunch determination to understand and conquer. I
have indeed learned that Life is a Feast, offering up both the good and the bad, astonishing us with the unexpected, delighting us with accolades, bringing tears of both joy and sorrow.
A chain of strange and unintentional events brought me to Europe and I fell into the arms of an astonishing man with a taste for adventure and the unusual. Together, with our sons, we traveled, tasting what we could, learning as much as possible, experiencing as much as time and our wallet could afford. We taught our sons that life is an adventure and the world is their oyster, excuse the mixed metaphors, and this, I hope, is all reflected in how I cook, how I write and how I live. Life is like the food that we place on the table before them: we
encourage them to taste each dish, grab at each opportunity, for how else will they understand what it is or know if they like it or not?
My lovely friends Chris Ann and Kristin asked me to participate in the re-design and launch of LoveFeast Table and their online LoveFeast shop, I began to consider what I could offer, what I should bring to the table. These are two extraordinary, unpretentious women brimming over with passion and talent, special friends with whom I share, as they say, “a common viewpoint of taking a bite out of life and savoring it”. They suggested I write something about “Feast” and when I took a peek at their gorgeous new space I understood that a celebration was in order. Yet, as I sat and thought long and hard about Feast, what came to mind was how my blog and the blogs that I love reflect each one of our own special, unique lives, the stories told food for thought. When I began Life’s a Feast, I had no idea that the writing, the storytelling would become my passion, the focal point of the blog. I didn’t realize how much my stories would reveal of my own life and reflect my thoughts.
My home is a melting pot and my kitchen reflects the cultural diversity of the life I now live. Sweet and sour, tangy or spicy, each dish I prepare tells a tale of revelation, mirrors one narrow slice of our family life. With each dish a story surfaces and spills out onto the page, spontaneously, almost haphazardly. I am often surprised at how each story unravels as I let it tell its own tale, as I follow it across the page, trusting that it will make sense and eventually find its own natural end. Never one to trust anyone that paints a completely, consistently
happy world, my own blog mirrors my life as it is and illustrates the ups and downs, the sweet, the sour, the bitter and the salty; the bite, the hurt, the whimsical, the joyous. The celebrations and the mourning, the special and the everyday. How can what I write be anything else? A feast spread out before us, piles of food to be eaten with the fingers, offering a hodgepodge of flavors, scents and textures; some crunch and crackle, others so light and ethereal a mouthful melts on the tongue, disappearing into a memory. Certain dishes astonish with the heady, exotic scent of rum or vanilla, some tempt with chocolate, others excite the palate and tickle the taste buds with the spicy, smoky or garlicky. Unattractive blobs of beige stuff may hide an amazing flavor while the most gorgeous, intriguing, intricately decorated treat may be no treat at all, crumbling to bitter ashes in the mouth. But try it all we must or we find ourselves just standing against the wall, alone, empty plate in hand and stomach growling.
And as the food we prepare and the adventures we live, a great blog is a smorgasbord of emotions and experiences, and this is how Chris Ann and Kristin approach their wonderful home, LoveFeast Table. And I am proud to share the inauguration of their new space with them, honored and thrilled to be called to the table. And I am bringing these wonderful little sweet treats, Apricot Tartlets on Puff Pastry. Seemingly such simple little things, they are astonishing in every luscious bite and all dressed up for a party.
Growing up a stone’s throw from the Indian and Banana Rivers, my childhood winters were filled with citrus, sweet, tangy and bitter, such an array of grapefruits and pomelos, tangerines and mandarins, oranges and navels eaten like popcorn. Summers meant huge, heavy watermelons, peaches and nectarines purchased from roadside stands, those wooden, ramshackle set-ups blossoming willy-nilly up and down South Patrick Drive in every available gas station parking lot and stretch of dirt. My dad purchased fresh stone fruits by
the bagful, large, colorful, sweet fruit, hard and crispy, eaten like apples, or soft and ripe, juice dripping down chins and arms. I lived on them, the perfect accompaniment to a good book, tucked in a lunch bag and so refreshing in our battle against the Florida heat. Family trips up north, 24-hours in the car until we reached our grandparents’ house, and I packed a bag of peaches and nectarines along with cookies and lollipops. But my fondest memories of
apricots come from a much later time in my life: after my second son was born, my mother-in-law would bring me paper bags full of the largest, sweetest most delicious apricots I had ever tasted or have tasted since. Was it the event that flavored the fruit or was it the fruit that sweetened the long week alone in a stifling hot hospital room with a tiny baby demanding that I remain calm, head squarely on my shoulders and wide awake all day and night? Either way,
each time I bite into an apricot, the memories flood back and I can’t but love them just a little bit more each time.
My husband asked me to reproduce this recipe, one he heard on a radio program, France Info’s “A toutes saveurs“. I still had puff pastry in the
refrigerator just begging for fresh summer fruit. I twiddled with the recipe a tad
and together husband and I made these wonderful tartlets. The baking brings out an incredible sweetness in the apricots, which, though rather bland when eaten raw, are bursting with flavor after a turn in the oven. I added ground and slivered almonds to half and ground and chopped pistachios to the rest. The puff pastry adds a buttery, delicate backdrop to a wonderful, fruity tart, a crisp outside to complement the tender fruit.
I give no precise quantities here; look at the photos and assemble the tartlets “au pif” (as the French say), by instinct. Store-bought puff pastry is fine, but homemade is better, especially for a confection such as this with only 2
main ingredients. Go ahead, be daring, make your own!
Puff Pastry for 6 x 4-inch (10 cm) diameter circles rolled 1/8 to ¼-inch thin. You can find my recipe here.
9 apricots (about 1 ½ apricots per tartlet)
Ground nuts – almond or pistachio
Slivered almonds or chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
Granulated brown sugar (cassonade)
1 lightly beaten egg for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet large enough to hold 6 x 4-inch tartlets with space around each to allow for spreading.
Rinse and pat dry the apricots. Slice each in half, remove and discard the pit and slice each fruit half in 3 or 4 wedges. Set aside.
Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 –inches. Using 4-inch (10 cm) rings or bowls, cut out 6 circles – or as many as you like! Place on the parchment paper. Using your rolling pin, gently press each circle out slightly to flatten and make slightly larger. Gently brush the edges of each puff pastry shell lightly with egg wash to a width of about1/2-inch.
Remove the baking tray from the oven onto a wooden cutting board. Place the large piece of parchment paper on top of the partially-baked shells then place the second baking tray and press hard to flatten.
Arrange the wedges of about one and a half apricots on each partially baked tartlet shell, pushing together. Sprinkle generously with granulated brown sugar then slivered almonds or chopped pistachios.
Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the fruit is very tender and the puff pastry is puffed and a deep golden. Serve warm or room temperature as is or topped with ice cream.
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