Archive | September, 2011

Grandma’s Plum Tart

26 Sep

Italian Prune Plums are only in season for about one day each year.  When I saw that Fresh Direct had them, I jumped at the chance to order them so I could make Grandma’s Plum Tart.

I use the crust for this tart A LOT (you can use it on basically any pie or any savory dish, like quiche, if you take out the sugar).  It is the EASIEST thing in the world to make and requires no fridge time nor rolling out.  You make the darn thing right IN the pie pan.  It isn’t a flaky crust, but I’d challenge anyone to say it is any less delicious. I used it as the base for the Drunk ‘N Nutty pie, so head over to that link for more instructions.

I was actually out of breadcrumbs, so I used graham cracker crumbs.  You don’t taste this anyway, but good to know you can substitute (this stops the crust from absorbing too much of the sugar).


Grandma used to halve the plums with her fingers and the pits would fall right now.  I guess I don’t have her magical ability to figure out when they are perfectly ripe, so I am usually splitting them with a knife and carving out the pit.  (And I have to give a shout out  to Mike, who meticulously and patiently cut all these for me since I broke my right pinky, further limiting my already clumsy knife skills).  This time was no different, even though they felt very soft to me.  You then soak them in sugar. (Grandma used to always worry they wouldn’t be sweet enough… I will keep that in mind for the future because while this turned out awesome, it was a little on the tart side.  Next time remember: MORE SUGAR)


After you split them all in half, you arrange them in concentric circles.  I have done this starting from the center or from the outside, and while both methods need a little balancing and adjustment, the outside-in method seems to make the most evenness.


You then bake it up for an hour.  Last time I made it, it wasn’t quite so juicy (the plums were frozen… not sure if that had anything to do with it).  This one was almost FILLED with juice.  I was concerned it wouldn’t work… but I should not have worried.


You then pour in a mixture of egg, flour, milk and Bristol Cream Sherry (or any sherry really, but Bristol Cream is always the most delicious).  I was nervous it was going to overflow, but it fit in just right.


You then bake it a bit more until the egg mixture is set (not runny).


This thing is a crowd pleaser.  It has a beauty to it with those plums and is incredibly easy to make but looks VERY difficult.  The flavor is very unique, and unlike anything I have ever had.


And best of all… it reminds me of Grandma.



Grandma Litty’s Plum Tart



  • 2 to 2 ½ pounds Italian Prune Plums – Split in half (they should be softish, ready to eat and splitable by hand. You should add more sugar if they are on the hard side. You can split them and freeze them since they are only available in early September)
  • ½ to 2/3 cups sugar (more if not very ripe)


  • One egg yolk
  • 1 tsp flour
  • ¼ cup milk
  • One tbsp Bristol Crème Sherry (or any sherry)


  • one stick butter, room temp
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1 Tbl. Plain bread crumbs



· Cover split prunes with sugar and set aside

· Preheat oven to 350

· To make crust:

1. Cut up the butter in bottom of 9” pyrex dish

2. Add all the other stuff on top and using your hands, mush together very well, no flour should show.

3. Make ball in center, then press out with heels of hands, then fingers to get it up the sides… make even thickness bottom and sides.

4. Cover the bottom of the crust with BREAD CRUMBS.  This prevents the sugar from seeping thru the crust.

· Add plums in concentric circles, starting from outside… Stand them up and make it tight to keep them standing… use last plums in bowl to sop up all or most of the sugar.

· Bake at 350 for one hour.  Check after 35-45 mins, as sometimes the crust gets too brown, to prevent this, add a pie shield or place a ring of tin foil to cover the crust area.

· Remove from oven for 5 minutes and place on rack

· Beat one egg yolk with fork, then add 1 tsp flour, mix well with fork, then add ¼ cup milk, mix in one tbsp Bristol Crème Sherry (or any sherry)

· After crust has been out of the oven for 5 mins, pour the egg mixture gently over the plums.

· Return to oven for 5 mins… touch with your finger… if it is “set” (not runny) then remove from oven


Pier 9

23 Sep


Pier 9 opened up on 53rd and 9th Ave earlier this year.  It took over the space that used to be Agua Dolce and seemed to become this new place overnight.  

Inside is very “under the sea” with dividers made of old sails, a watery color palette, and some plants that looked almost tropical.  It was almost a little TOO designed.  But it looked very nice.



They put most of their menu onto a mirror, however, it seems as though must had changed since they finished this according to the menu we were given.




We started with the lobster mac and cheese.  It was labeled as “non-traditional” and good thing, it certainly was anything but traditional!  It was like big, individual tubes of pasta stuffed with lobster and cheese and topped with lobster.



It was delicious.




Perfectly creamy and a really beautiful presentation.


We also received biscuits, which Mike very much enjoyed.  



They had peppers, so they brought me some surprisingly delicious toast instead.



Mike got the burger.  Yup… even in a seafood restaurant, Mike judges by their burger.  He enjoyed it, but said it wasn’t anything super duper good.



I got the scallops over celery root puree, eggplant, capers, raisins, and pine nuts.  It was a wonderful mouthful of textures with great flavor.  I was really impressed with this dish.  And the scallops were perfectly cooked and great on flavor.



For dessert, we chose the s’mores donut. It was a homemade donut with marshmallow and s’mores ice cream.  I’m not a huge donut fan, but I LOVE s’mores.  Problem is… what I love most about s’mores is the combination of crunch, sticky, sweet, chocolate, melty goodness.  In this dessert, the donut reigned the plate and I thought it was good, but not my kind of dessert.  


I was not expecting to like this place.  It had all the makings of a place that was so overstyled that they would let the actual food take a back seat. But this was food first.  And it was creative and delicious.  Well done.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10




Strawberry Shortcake

21 Sep


I was on a mission to make a great strawberry shortcake.  In my mind, the shortcake should always be more biscuit like. It has become fashion to make a strawberry shortcake with something that resembled angle food cake rather than the shortcake I know and love.  I went through and read a lot of reviews and comments and eventually decided on the one that had the most people complaining about how this didn’t taste like commercially bought shortcake.  Perfect!

I also picked up an awesome tip when reading the reviews.  It is always a difficult task to keep the butter cold (an important part of flaky crust) while also getting it small enough to blend into a crust.  So someone recommended to freeze it and then use a cheese grater to make little butter ribbons.  Wouldn’t you know? Worked like a charm!  I will be doing this for all future baking.





I wanted to make smaller short cakes, so I opted to make the dough into smaller balls and then press them down to create smaller shortcakes (rather than 2 large ones that I would layer). I also tried another version where I put them in mini tart pans, and that worked well also.



The dough was a bit sticky, but as long as you’re not too worried about getting your hands dirty, easy to work with. I also added in almond and vanilla extracts to add a bit of flavor.  It was a good move.



You are supposed to layer it with sugar coated strawberries, but I am a fan of adding balsamic vinegar to the mixture to add a little punch to the flavor.  I then made some home made whipped cream, layered, and adorned with fresh strawberries.  It was delicious!!




Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
(Original Credit to


  • 1 quart strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I wound up needing a bit more since it was a humid day and my dough was a bit sticky)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I added this)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (I added this too)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sweetened whipped cream
  • Balsamic Vinegar (enough to coat the sugared strawberries)


  1. In a bowl, gently stir strawberries and 1/2 cup sugar; coat with balsamic vinegar, chill.
  2. Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; cut in butter until crumbly. (refer to tip above about grating butter)
  3. Combine milk and egg yolks; mix well.
  4. Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Add to crumb mixture, stirring just until moistened.
  6. Divide and pat into two greased 9-in. round cake pans. (Or into 8 4-5 inch tart pans, or divide into 8 balls and flatten onto a greased or Silpat cookie sheet)
  7. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; spread over dough.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  9. Bake at 300 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until golden.
  10. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. (Layer may be thin.)
  11. Cool completely.
  12. Place one cake layer on a large serving plate; spread with half of the whipped cream.
  13. Spoon half of the strawberries over cream. Repeat layers. Garnish with mint if desired.