I am sure as bloggers you too have gone through this experience – bonding beyond boundaries with ‘faceless names’ that later blossomed into cherished friendships, haven’t you? Then there are friends who connected more than others, so much that they became your family, even though you have never met them. I am proud to have Soma for one such friend. Don’t laugh when you read this. I have a whole family out there and though our philosophies differ, some of us are separated by continents, we follow different lifestyles, yet we connected and bonded. Hopefully I will introduce you to them here.
Many of you may already know Soma. She has won several accolades in the form of being featured on prominent food sites, and winning several photography contests. Her ‘food sets’ are styled impeccably – inviting and at the same time rustically charming. Her writing comes from the heart and her love shines through when you read her family stories on the very popular blog ‘eCurry’. Thanks to facebook and flickr we are now buddies.
Soma hails from Bengal, and cooks traditional Bengali and North-Indian food, contemporary global cuisine as well as some beautifully thought out original recipes, such as the one she has made today. Read on and prepare to be smitten with Soma’s photography and writing skills.
Please welcome Soma!
I love playing with flavors and ingredients. The sweet and the savory seem to be not a very likely match for a tart, but I was determined to try it out. Once I brew something in my head, it is hard for me to rest until it gets executed. So I took the risk and tried it out, building the recipe while I was actually working on the tart, with only the asparagus and dried cranberries in mind.
Now talking of a guest post, there could not have been a more pleasurable one than this. This blogging affair for me had begun as a journal, but over these few years I have myself standing in a place which I obviously could have never imagined during those first few months. I have a shimmering web of friends in every corner of the world and I see the world and the food through their eyes and words even if I cannot be physically there.
But that was not what it was then; when I would open my blog every hour and wait for a comment, wanting to know someone, converse on the same table.
But it happened. One day I came across a food blogging event called FIC, hosted by the Sunshinemom. I had no idea what FIC was and who the Sunshinemom was. All I understood was I had to send something over that was green! I had the Beans with Coconut, and I wrote to this so called Sunshinemom. And it all began there, with my admission to the world of Food in Color (FIC) and under the warmth of this Sunshinemom.
Slowly we connected. I had a friend.
The Sunshinemom is no one but Harini; a lady with vibrant personality and the author of Tongue Ticklers. One will easily spend a few hours soaking in her eye candy photographs and inspirational vegan recipes.
We did not “chat” everyday, not even regularly. But when you connect with someone, you just do even without the constant chirping. The vibes we shared strung us together across the continents. We did share little bits of our life, feelings, little conversations about family and kids. But I know we had more than that. Few months back when I was planning on my trip to India, Harini wrote to me and said she will come by and meet me and we are not even neighbors in India. In fact she had to take a flight. I was touched beyond words. Unfortunately the meet did not happen this time, but we spoke and we talked like old friends without inhibitions.
It is a privilege for me to do a guest post for her. And I will be honored to have her sometime soon.
Yes, I was talking of combining not so usual ingredients, and this one has a few to begin with. Then the sesame, balsamic and almonds came along. I found these really slender young asparagus and could not resist myself. So I picked them up with not many plans. But when I came home and saw the bag of dried cranberries on the kitchen counter top, my brain started ticking.
It is time to go back to the Olive Oil Tart Crust, since I needed to do a vegan recipe for Harini. Besides, after that discovery, we have mostly stuck to the dairy free crust with not much to lose. It is a bit tricky but quite flaky and airy like any good old tart crust.
Recipe: Sesame and Balsamic Glazed Asparagus Cranberry Tart
Ingredients: (makes one 12 inch x 6 inch tart)
To make the Asparagus and Cranberries (the filling):
1 bunch asparagus (about 15-20 spears), tough ends removed
1/4 cup or as much as you want, dried cranberries
1.5 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the skillet
2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
Sea salt or any coarse salt
red crushed pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
few tablespoon almond flakes/slivered almond
For the spread:
use any of your favorite spread/sauce/chutney/hummus. I have used a Roasted Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Spread.
For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup + 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup + 1.5 tablespoons very cold club soda (use a little bit more or less to make a soft but non sticky dough)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
dried herbs, (optional) – any kind you like
Making the crust:
In a bowl combine flour, salt, black pepper, herbs with a whisk.
Whisk together club soda and oil until almost creamy, about a couple of minutes
Pour the oil water mix in to the flour mix and stir together with a fork, until the flour come together in a dough form and no dry flour is left. If you think you need extra liquid, add some more club soda or just cold water in very little amount. Use your hands briskly to pull the flour together in to a dough, and work with the dough briefly and gently and just long enough to pull the dough together. Do not work with /handle the dough too much. The dough should be soft, but not at all sticky. It will not be very stretchy, but will rather kind of come apart.
Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, into a rectangle, about 10-12 inches long and 5-6 inches wide, but you can roll them into whatever shape you desire. Do not roll back and forth. Remove the top parchment paper. Trim the edges, to even it out if you wish or press them a little higher at the edges. Prick the entire crust with a fork. Make sure the tart crust is not rolled too thick. Since the crust has no egg or butter, it will get tough easily if it is too thick and will not be as flaky. If you need a smaller size tart, divide the dough into half and make 2 small tart crusts.
Bake the crusts on the same parchment paper at 400 degree F for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
To cook the Cranberries and Asparagus:
Trim the asparagus to approximately same size, preferably the same size or a little bigger than the width of the tart.
In a skillet add oil, sesame seeds and red crushed pepper. Allow it to heat up till the seeds and the pepper sizzles. Add the cranberries and the asparagus spears and gently toss them together.
Add the salt and balsamic vinegar, toss well until the cranberries and asparagus are coated with the balsamic vinegar and cook at medium to high heat, tossing frequently for about 5-8 minutes or until the asparagus are just tender but still a good deal crunchy and still green. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To make/assemble the tart:
Cool the crust to just until warm and comfortable to touch.
Smear the spread/chutney/sauce evenly over the tart. Arrange the asparagus close together in a line horizontally so that there is no space between them. If they are too long, curve/bend then a tiny bit to fit them in.
Place the cranberries on the top; sprinkle the almond flakes on the tart toppings. Sprinkle some crushed pepper if you wish. Bake the tart in the oven for about a couple of minutes at 350 degree F, just enough to warm the tart.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Soma – thank you for the very kind words about Tongue Ticklers. I am so glad to have played virtual host if not in real. Someday, we will make that happen in reality too!