Tuesday, July 15, 2008

With Sweet Comes Sour

whippleI’m a dweller. I dwell. On disappointments, recipe missteps, drunken misgivings from the night before, and of course, break-ups. Lately, the Italiano has been the sole subject of my dwelldom. Little things are reminding me of him everywhere. I know that Italy didn’t even make the Euro finals, but I can’t stomach the idea of watching a football match without him. The other night, at a table next to me at Minetta Tavern, I saw a happy couple sharing a plate of linguini vongole – his favorite dish at Borgo Antico, our date spot, where of course I can’t show my face, lest I run into the Mamma’s boy. And to beat it all, I can’t get the craving for potato salad out of my system. Who’s to blame me? The last time I tried to make it, I was with him, and, well, we were in my tiny, tenement kitchen and it was getting pretty cramped, and we kept bumping into each other, so we just had to move to the bedroom where there is more space…It was a practical decision, and needless to say, the recipe never got made.

Too bad, the leftovers I got out of the time we spent together are more of the “spoiled dairy” variety, less of the “relive the memories of that romantic dinner with some cold filet mignon for lunch” variety. Alas.

richie-1While I may be dwelling, I haven’t been lazy. When the Dinner Belle was hired to cater The Supper Club’s Jazz on Sugar Hill Picnic, a mere 5 days after The Break, I got busy baking bars and experimenting with pasta salads. I took out my romantic frustrations by sharpening my knives. I compiled a picnic perfect menu for a tented outdoor gala that welcomed New York’s taste-makers with shrimp ratatouille, a chicken and ramp pesto salad, zucchini ribbons, strawberry shortcakes, and the surprise hit of the party, tangelo bars.

Tangelos are spring oranges that are still seasonal but can prove tricky to find. Street side pushcart vendors are your best bet. Technically, tangelos are a hybrid between a tangerine and a grapefruit and their true wonder lies in their juice. They might well be the juiciest fruit in the whole citrus family, with very little flesh to get in the way of the sweet liquid. Mixed with a little lemon (to tart-up the batter), the sweetness of the tangelo is well balanced alongside the unadulterated lemon sour. It’s the perfect break-up food – sweet in the mouth, right where you need it to be, but with a punch that packs a sour kick to the tip of your tongue. The kinda kick in the ass you need when you start romanticizing the relationship.

tentThe picnic marked the first time Erin and I were able to mingle among guests and stand behind our food (literally) while the party was in progress. Donning matching aprons (and on me, a smile wide enough to cover up my nagging heartache), we became fast friends with fashion diva Richie Rich. Celest and I chatted with television’s eccentric uncle figure, NY1’s entertainment journalist Mr. Whipple. The man actually grabbed my ass during our photo shoot… I guess the eyebrows aren’t his only wandering feature!

Back home that night, after what was surely The Dinner Belle’s best event yet, I caught myself dwelling again. But this time, it was on the success of my tangy bars…

buffetTangelo Bars (makes 9 bars)

Crust:

  • 1 cup AP Flour
  • ½ cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
  • 2 pinches Salt

Filling:

  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar (ground in food processor)
  • 2 TB AP Flour
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed Tangelo Juice
  • barsThe Juice of 1 Lemon
  • The Zest from all your Tangelos & Lemon
  • Pinch Salt
  • Powdered Sugar (garnish)
  • Mint Leaves (garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8X8 inch square pan with parchment paper. In order to help the paper stick, I first spray the pan with cooking spray. The parchment will be your best friend when it’s time to remove these suckers from the pan, so don’t skip this step!

To make the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter pieces a few at a time and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Press dough firmly and evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 18-20 minutes. Set aside.

Make the filling while the crust is cooking. Whisk eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl (I use my standing mixer which makes things even easier). If you don’t have a food processor to grind the sugar, use superfine sugar (with a processor this is an unnecessary expense). Whisk in citrus zest and juice from both the tangelos and lemon. Do not over whisk. You don’t want the batter to get frothy. Pour the batter over the crust (no worries if the crust is still hot…it can handle whatever you got). Bake the bars until filling is just set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely before slicing. Lift the goodies from the pan using the parchment paper, dust with a generous layer of powdered sugar, and slice into square shaped bars. Garnish with mint to beautify.

Thanks so much to Chris London, photographer extraordinaire at www.manhattansociety.com, for taking such gorgeous shots of the Jazzy event!

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