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I did something incredibly stupid on the weekend. It was Saturday and I was trying to shoot a photo to go with an article I had written for a local magazine. Although I have a beautiful bay window, the light in my place is not always conducive to taking food pictures. I decided to take my things outside to the courtyard of my building. My mind was on gathering everything that I needed as I headed out. The second I shut the door I realized I’d left my keys inside.  I had locked myself out.  In my slippers.

I knocked on the doors of three neighbors, hoping one of them would lend me their phone so I could call a locksmith. Of course, no one was home. With trepidation, I finally knocked on Carol’s door. I hadn’t seen her since Easter, when I had taken her some of my tiramisu.

I felt bad about bothering Carol. Her husband died suddenly at Christmastime, leaving her with two small children to take care of. Carol is from the Philippines.  She’s a homemaker and doesn’t drive. A couple of weeks earlier she had fallen at the supermarket and broken her leg. Feeling foolish, I explained what had happened. Carol sympathized with my plight. She let me use her phone and offered me tea. We chatted until the locksmith came.

I wanted to thank Carol for her kindness so I made this Strawberry Mascarpone Tart from the April 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. I had been wanting to make this tart since I’d seen it on the cover but hadn’t been presented with the opportunity. Piled high with fresh strawberries drizzled with port glaze, this easy tart was truly impressive. Tomorrow I will go get my tart pan from Carol and see how she liked it.

I don’t know about you, but this economic downturn and financial instability have left me with a persistent sense of unease. But now when I feel sorry for myself, I think of Carol.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Port Glaze

Adapted from Gourmet, April 2009

Serves 8

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Ingredients:

for tart shell:

1 1/4 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 large egg yolk

for filling:

1 1/2 lb strawberries, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

1/3 cups sugar

3/4 cup ruby Port

1 lb mascarpone cheese (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1) To make tart shell blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender, or in a food processor, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

2) Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water with a fork. Drizzle over the flour mixture and blend until the ingredients come together. Knead gently with floured hands on a floured surface until dough forms.

3) Press into a 5-inch disk and place in the center of a tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers and the bottom of a measuring cup, press out dough to evenly cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Prick bottom of tart shell several times with a fork and freeze for about fifteen minutes.

4) Preheat oven to 375F. Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 20 minutes, until set and lightly golden in color. Remove foil and continue to bake until the shell is deeply golden all over, about another 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 45 minutes.

5) While the tart shell cools, make the filling. Stir together strawberries and sugar in a bowl and let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain over a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add Port to liquid in saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly.

6) Whisk together mascarpone, sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff. Spread mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle Port glaze all over tart.

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Cooks Notes:

*Be sure to add the strawberries to the pie just before serving, otherwise the tart will end up looking messy if it sits around.

*Make sure the liquid is strained adequately from the strawberries. Too much liquid on top of the tart will make it look soupy and messy.

*For a lighter version, use half mascarpone, half ricotta cheese.

*The tart shell can be baked a day ahead and kept at room temperature.

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