Hey, there. It’s the middle of July, already! We’ve grown weeds in our garden beds and kept a mama raccoon out of the house after she tore into a bag of cat food. What’s in that cat food? The neighborhood wildlife loves the stuff: we caught an opossum hovering over the cat’s dish and traced the shredded food bag back to the raccoon. Luckily, the local bears have stayed away. Life in the wild hills of New England…
As for the rest of our days, we’re stumbling through teething and sleepless nights and summer camps just fine. Our annual hurrah on Cape Cod came and went with the sunrises and sunsets we were lucky enough to witness (the perks of having two early risers in the house).
I reread To Kill A Mockingbird at the beach, and was blown away once again by Harper Lee’s storytelling: the way she slowly reveals characters and paces the novel like a slow accordion fanning in and out. Lee also addresses large themes like race, class, justice, and growing up in a small Southern town during the Depression with wit and compassion.
I can’t seem to start another novel after this one. The two I recently picked up from the library fell flat. I’m still caught in Lee’s Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s.
Despite time away and stolen moments in books, our kitchen has been bustling with jam, jellies, sauces, and tarts. A month or so ago, the good folks at USA Pears sent a box of organic green anjou pears to try. They looked as good as they tasted straight from the box. We ate half the pears unadorned — sweet and juicy with a hint of citrus — and the rest were split between Homemade Vanilla Pear Sauce (think stove top applesauce with seeds from a vanilla bean added in) and this raw walnut-pear tart, subtle yet sweet endings to summer dinners. Now I’m thinking about a plum variation as well.
Pears on Film | Pentax K1000 | Fujicolor 200
makes one 9-inch tart or two 4 1/2-inch tarts
adapted from Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler
2 cups walnuts
5 medjool (or other soft variety) dates, pitted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 cups raw cashews (whole cashews or cashew pieces)
1 cup medjool (or other soft variety) dates, pitted
1/4 cup lemon juice
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon coconut butter
4 firm ripe pears
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon zest
To make the walnut crust: In a food processor or high-speed blender, chop the walnuts into a fine meal. Add the dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt and process until the mixture comes together. Press into the bottom of a tart pan.
To make the vanilla cream: Soak cashews in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Soak dates in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and save the soak water for the next step. In a blender or food processor, blend cashews, dates, lemon juice, vanilla seeds, and coconut butter into silky smooth yet firm. Spread the cream evenly over the crust.
To prepare the pears: Peel and halve the pears. Remove the seeds. Cut the pears into thin slices and arrange them over the cream in a decorative fan (or other) pattern. Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon and lemon zest. Refrigerate the tart for 1 to 2 hours before serving to allow enough time for it to set.