This past Sunday, I found strawberries at the market, the first of the season. They were sort of obscenely expensive, but I bought three cartons anyway. Really, can you blame me? They smelled and tasted divine. I could very well have eaten them all, by myself, as they were, but I'd already promised to bring a dessert to a party that night. Since I was too busy mooning over my strawberries to do anything as laborious as mixing a tart dough, I decided to swing by my local bakery and see if they could part with some. They didn't have pastry dough, but offered me some croissant scraps instead. I went with it. The result was quite a hit. —Cristina Sciarra
1 ball of croissant dough or pate sucree
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
zest of 1/2 lemon
about 2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
2 farmer's market cartons (or about 2.5 cups) fresh strawberries
Preheat the oven to 425F. If you are using croissant dough, sort of spread it into the bottom of your tart pan. (A few minutes into cooking, you will have to sort of re-spread it to the edges of the pan.) Bake for about 10 minutes, or until it is quite golden brown. (If you are using regular pastry dough, bake it as you normally would, also until golden brown.) Remove the tart pan from the oven, and let the pastry cool completely.
Empty the heavy cream into a large bowl. Scrape the vanilla pods, and add the seeds to the bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until it comes together. Add the cream cheese, and keep whisking, until you have a stiff cream. (You can do this a few hours ahead; cover the bowl and hold it in the fridge.)
Zest the lemon directly into a small bowl. Add the sugar a tablespoon or two at a time, rubbing the zest into the sugar as you go. You are looking for a resulting lemon sugar that isn't too wet; keep adding sugar until it's pretty dry.
Using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush up the pistachios. Add some (or all, depending on your preference) of the lemon sugar, and toss together until the pistachios are evenly dusted.
Right before you put the tart together, wash, de-stem and halve the strawberries. You could toss them with a little sugar if you like. It isn't necessary, but this last step will give you a little strawberry juice, which is nice against the tart.
Putting it together: Spoon a generous half of the cream onto the tart. Add a layer of strawberries, and then the rest of the cream, and then the rest of the strawberries. Top with a sprinkling of the pistachios. Enjoy!
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.