Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The "Joys" of Cooking with Martha

When I moved back to the states and finally found an apartment, my mom treated me to a subscription to Martha Stewart Living. Now don't go thinking I'm a Martha fan or anything, but the woman has been in my life in some fashion for as long as I can remember. When we still lived in France, my mom treated herself to two international catalogue subscriptions: Vanity Fair and Martha Stewart Living. Since I was too young to care about any of the articles in Vanity Fair, I usually poured over Martha, taking in all the beautiful pictures and "good things".

One of the best "good things" I've come across in a while and it wasn't even a Martha suggestion!

Today I find her fascinating. She's everything I would want to be on paper- a good host, a great cook, living in a gorgeous house which she decorates and up keeps herself. But she has also been to jail and treats it like a funny anecdote. The fact that she pretends to do all this work on her own just boggles my mind. Her magazine usually lists her monthly calendar with her daily activities: March 23rd: prune the plum trees, March 24th: Bathe and groom the ponies. It's all a little ridiculous but I love it nonetheless.

Lemon-Yogurt Mousse- be still my beating heart
Martha also has some notoriety among food bloggers for her less than reliable recipes. One of the first Daring Baker's Challenges was a Crepe Cake which caused severe trauma to several of the Bakers due to a faulty crepe recipe. Anyone who has ever made crepes before, knows that the recipe should not be the challenge- just the flipping. You can read about one Daring Baker's horrific experience here.

Despite my mom signing me up back in January, I didn't receive my first issue until March and it included a recipe for a Rhubarb Tart with Lemon-Yogurt Mousse that sounded too good to be passed up. As it was the "desert of the month", it is quite lenghthy and complex, but I would say it was almost worth the effort and not worth the cost. The cornmeal crust was a breeze to make and pretty tasty while the lemon mousse was pretty fantastic. The rhubarb however.... it cost me $7 for 1.5 pounds (from whole foods... *grumble*) and it remained stringy. If I made this again, I would omit the rhubarb and somehow make the accompanying reduction because that stuff was downright sinful.

Rhubarb Tart with Lemon-Yogurt Mousse
This lovely recipe for rhubarb tart with lemon-yogurt mousse can be found in the March 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Serves 8; makes one 10-inch tart.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment
  • 3/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of coarse salt


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 7 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Make the cornmeal crust: Process flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 20 seconds. Beat yolks and water in a small bowl. With machine running, pour yolk mixture into flour mixture; process until just combined, about 20 seconds. Shape dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured parchment to 1/4-inch thickness. Fit into a 10-inch springform pan. Refrigerate until dough is cold and firm, about 20 minutes. Line dough with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges begin to turn gold, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove weights and parchment. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cornmeal crust cool in pan on a wire rack.

Make the lemon-yogurt mousse: Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl, and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Combine 1 tablespoon cream and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm. Stir in gelatin mixture, and remove from heat. Combine yogurt, lemon zest, and salt in a medium bowl. Add brown-sugar mixture, and whisk until smooth. Whisk remaining 3/4 cup cream in a medium bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold cream into yogurt mixture.

Pour lemon-yogurt mousse into cornmeal crust. Cover, and refrigerate overnight or until firm.
Make the rhubarb topping: Bring granulated sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook, undisturbed, until light amber, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; add 3/4 cup brandy, the cinnamon stick, peppercorns, vanilla, and salt. Return mixture to a boil for 1 minute, then stir in rhubarb. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon and remaining 1/4 cup brandy. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours. Strain, reserving liquid, and discard cinnamon and peppercorns. Boil reserved liquid in a medium pot until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 4 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon the strained rhubarb over the mousse, and serve immediately with the rhubarb reduction on the side.

Just scrape off that rhubarb and you're good to go ;)

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