Lemon Tart with Salted Pecan Crust

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Spring emits feelings of lightness; airy, warm days that bring flowers to our garden and happiness in our lives. Citrus season is here, so in that honor I have whipped up a very easy, wholesome lemon tart. This tart has an incredible nut crust that adds a salty crunch to the music. In the curd, I used Eureka lemons. They are notorious for being extra juicy and tart; exactly what I needed to contrast the crust. The curd is subtle in sweetness, so as to not be overbearing. I find that a lot of lemon curds seem to taste like sweetened custard. Being a culinarian, I like my sweets to have a luscious texture and sharp flavor a.k.a mouth confetti. Every sweet treat should be a cause for internal celebration!

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Lemon Tart:

1/2 c Eureka lemon juice

1/2 Lemon Zested

1/4 c Coconut sugar

6 T Earth Balance

3 Egg Yolks + 2 Whole Eggs

1/4 t cornstarch (or arrowroot)

Crust:

1 c pecans

1/4 c hazelnuts

3 T raw honey, warmed (or maple syrup)

1 t sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1.5 c olive oil

Grind the pecans and hazelnuts. Add in the remaining ingredients and “rub” the crust together like you would a biscuit dough. If  it is too dry, add more olive oil until it can stick together. Press into the bottom of your tart shell and bake in the oven at 350 until slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove.

To make the curd, whisk the sugar, eggs and starch in a pot. I recommend making a slurry with the cornstarch, or sifting it on-top of your wet ingredients before whisking it in to prevent lumps. Once combined, add the lemon. Whisk constantly until it is thick and creamy. Once it starts to resemble a freshly made pudding, remove from heat and whisk in the earth balance. If you wait until it gets too set (too thick) you will overcook the curd. You should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it before removing it from heat. Strain it if you notice it has some lumps, or if you are in pursuit of curd perfection. Pour filling into tart shell. Pop back into the oven and allow the curd to set. About 20 mins.

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The Culinary takes on California

Recently, The Culinary Institute of America has developed a very modern semester away program for students at the Hyde Park campus in New York. This program allows Bachelor students to connect with their food and learn from well-known chefs, like Larry Forgione, on how food systems work. After an interview with Chef Forgione this past winter I had California on my mind. I decided to make the trip out to the Greystone campus in Napa to see just what this program entailed.

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After a rigorous interview process, these students were accepted into the semester away program in either Farm-to-Table studies or Advanced Wine, Beverage, & Hospitality Management. Upon arrival in May, the students immediately began a demanding schedule. Every week, the students volunteer up to nine hours of their time on the CIA farm and are required to attend BPS classes, like Business Planning and Wine Studies of Napa Valley. Wednesdays, they have Advance Cooking class, where they spend six hours preparing dishes that go with a specific theme arranged by Chef Forgione. Fridays and Saturdays are a different story, however. The students have to prep and manage a restaurant, named The Conservatory, that they helped open this past May. They collaborate with Mr. Bath, Crystal, and Chef Forgione to create a nine course menu with wine pairings, a wine list, and three specialty cocktails.

This venture is not for the faint of heart, but for determined and motivated individuals, such as Brooke Maynard (pictured above). Brooke is a leader in the CIA community, was the captain of the ACF team this year, is a competitor in culinary contests worldwide, and a philanthropist in many organizations. Students who take on leadership roles and who immerse themselves in the CIA culture, like Brooke, are the kind of students that have become a part of the program. After staging, observing, and finally eating in their restaurant on separate occasions, this has been my conclusive realization. Student leaders like Zach Hoffman, and avid writers for CIA, like Yosef Sahler, take on this program like a job; a part of their career. Each and every student brings one hundred percent to the table and put their best foot forward at all times. Whether they are pulling weeds out of gardens in the Napa heat or reading 600 pages about vinifera, these students take their tasks on with passion.

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Though the students in the wine program have many separate classes from the students in the farm program, their week is equally as demanding, if not more. Where the wine program lacks in laborious farm work and long days in the kitchen, it makes up for it with a constant stream of intense reading and writing about all things wine related. After talking to the Director of Wines Studies, Crystal, I am amazed at how intense the wine classes really are. The students value every minute of their work, however, which is a refreshing outlook to see in college students. As I hear Sophia Martinez and Lindsay Borenstein chat about their upcoming week of papers, projects, and heft of readings, my heart patters in remembrance of what it was once like to be in the BPS program. It amazes me that these students are able to pull it off and I am proud to know them as such hard-working individuals. Once their studying and classes are finished for the week, they also have to devise a plan for their wine menu on Friday and Saturday, as well as take on a specific job in The Conservatory.

The front of the house divides the students into a brigade: Manager, Captain, Back Waiter, Barista, Sommelier, Expo and Food Runner. They each hold several responsibilities of which the FOH Professors monitor, but they allow the students to take on each position as if they were a paid, rather than a part of a learning environment. This gives the students opportunity to learn the importance of self-management, a factor that is imperative in hospitality. The BOH is similar in this regard. Chef Forgione gives the students the guidelines and tools to manage their stations, but they take ownership of them. The cooks divide into groups of two and discuss ideas before presenting them to Chef. They collaborate with Chef Forgione mid-week, as well as Christian, the school farmer, to discuss what would work for the menu. They always keep in mind the vegetables and fruits that are growing in the gardens, first, then what they can get at the farmers market, and finally outsource from local purveyors. They create a menu and come in Friday afternoon ready to work. The teams divide by courseline: Amuse, cooked egg, pasta, fish, meat protein, and all of the dessert courses. Chef Forgione acts as a teacher, mentor, and executive chef, but the students manage their menu items and take on all the prep that is involved.

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Throughout my time spent with these students, cooking, farming and exploring California, I have developed a great respect for what they are doing. They are preparing themselves for what lies ahead in our industry. They take on this semester away with gusto and, because of it, have already achieved excellence and acknowledgements of their forward thinking. I see great things for their futures and for the future of food. It is like Elizabeth Meltz of the Batali & Bastianich Restaurant Group had once said to me, “[…] the future of food is going to be in the hands of people like you […] you, who are going to take it to the next level.”

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Lemon Maple Shortbread

These cookies are a delicious, refreshing treat from the everyday. I have always adored shortbread; it was one of the first things I’ve learned how to bake. This is a fun and interesting take on the traditional recipe.

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Lemon Maple Shortbread: Makes 2 dozen

8 oz Cake Flour

8 oz AP Flour

1/2 t Salt

11 oz Butter

6 oz Brown Sugar

6 oz Maple Syrup

1 Lemon (just zest)

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Egg Yolks

Cream butter, and zest. Add in the yolks, syrup and juice. Slowly add in the sifted dry ingredients. Chill the dough for an hour. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Form into circles of about 1/4 inch in thickness then bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

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Portland Coffee: The places to go.

Portland, the land of amazing baristas and roasters. The kings and queens of the syphon method. The royalty of the kingdom of caffeine….okay, I’m sure you get it now.

Earlier this year there was a Barista competition to pick the top Northwesterner and Devin Champman of Coava Coffee won both the Brewers Cup and the best Barista of NW, followed closely by his kin of Portland from Stumptown and Sterling Coffee Roasters; amongst other North Westerners of the Pacific region.

A shot of the Baristas awaiting their scores for the top barista in the North East. Katie Carguilo of Counter Culture Coffee (third barista in) was the United States winner this spring in Portland.

Portland is a beautiful, relaxing city. Much closer knit than Seattle and it is big on charm. Lots of romance and passion can be seen on the streets. As well as some dizzying characters. You can feel the beat of the city through every unique pull of espresso and every ripple of frothed milk.

If your staying in the heart of the city, near the realm of food trucks lies an experience known as Public Domain.

Here, the baristas are very captivating. Lauren and Jon were sweet and knowledgeable. Gave great recommendations for other local shops too. Each has a different organizational process of pulling espresso. Every adjust to the machine was like watching ballet. Each having their own march; own speed and timing. The hand-pour of Burundi was delightful as well. Black, no sugar was its best form. Serious notes of cacao and very ripe berries.

At Coava, I received nothing less than the best hospitality, as well their Rwandan espresso was my favorite amongst all that I had on my Northwest trip. Serious spice notes emerged, as if cinnamon and cardamom were roasted with the beans. The baristas were particularly warm here, even though it was seven and they had just opened their doors.

On that note, I digress to say that there is a large market of early birds in Portland that are being missed. I had been traveling that area and had to skip a few watering holes for the sheer fact that baristas seem to not be early risers. A factor that I believe should be re-considered. If your main business is coming from charismatic coffee,  it’d be smart to be open when people are craving it the most.

Heart Roasters have a really beautiful space. The charming baristas look as though they emerged from the 1940’s. I kept my eyes peeled for Tennessee or perhaps Hemingway would pop in for a cappuccino. Mine, made with their house espresso blend and almond milk, was grand. I personally highly recommend trying the almond milk. I think its very unique and is compatible and complex with the espresso, contrary to what many think in the industry. It has a pronounced creaminess when frothed that is unexpected.

Barista in the Pearl District is a fun shop. To forewarn you, cell service there is minimal so be aware of where your going before you head that way.

Service is great and very quick. The cappuccino was delightful.

There are many shops that I did not get the chance to experience, as well an espresso truck that vested interest. Below is a few shops that I had on my radar, but didn’t visit.

Sisters Coffee Company

Albina Press

Water Avenue Coffee

Clive Coffee (a really interesting retail store!)

Cheers!