Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and delicious Memorial Day weekend. I stayed around Brooklyn, and enjoyed a low-key BBQ with friends. When I first moved to Brooklyn (3 years ago next weekend!), one of the first things that I was most impressed with was how easily accessible Manhattan was, and with it, amazing art—many of the works I had studied in school. While this is still the case, I have also discovered the Brooklyn Museum, which is only a 15-minute walk from my apartment! Not only is this small but impressive museum super close to me, but it is also a treat to visit. The Brooklyn Museum has great exhibitions—the recent Wangechi Mutu and last year’s John Singer Sargent Watercolors and Works by El Antasui were favorites—and currently has a show celebrating the early art of pioneer Feminist artist, Judy Chicago. The museum also houses Chicago’s most famous work, the colossal Dinner Party, which makes up part of the admirable permanent collection.
Now when I refer to The Dinner Party as colossal, I mean that in both actual stature and importance within art history. The work itself consists of three 48-foot long wings, which together make up a triangular table set up. Each wing holds 13 place settings with represent important women in history—many of whom Chicago felt were ignored in popular history, with even more names inscribed in the triangular floor section within the triangle. Judy Chicago’s work was greatly influenced by the growing Feminist movement that really took off in the sixties and seventies. This work is significant in that it marked both an end to Chicago’s earlier more abstract and 2D work, and a move into very specific period for Chicago, where she was very direct in her message to her viewers.
To further strengthen her Feminist iconography, the exhibit itself is a representation of something more female-driven—a dinner party, with a fancy table and full place settings. The place settings themselves are where Chicago cannot be any more direct with her viewer—each is a representation of a vagina, customized to reflect the woman it belongs to. For example, Georgia O’Keeffe’s table setting looks like the floral imagery O’Keeffe portrayed in her own paintings, and Emily Dickinson’s is comprised of pink lace, similar to the frilly styles popular in Dickinson’s 19th century New England.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to make anyone associate fruit tarts with vaginas, but I also find two aspects of this association extremely important: first, everyone should be able to visit the Brooklyn Museum to see The Dinner Party in the flesh, and secondly, everyone needs to make this tart, stat! While visiting the museum is only easy to do if you are in the area, strawberry season is upon us, and there is no excuse not to bake this easy and fabulous tart! You will thank yourself, your roommates/friends/family will thank you, and most importantly, key figures in women’s history will thank you!
Strawberry Balsamic Tart
Rye Tart Dough:
½ cup rye flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
¾ stick unsalted butter, very cold and diced
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Strawberry Balsamic Filling:
1 package of strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pepper to taste, optional
1 egg for egg wash
Make the tart dough:
In the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flours, sugar and salt. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles gravel, with pea-sized pieces. Add the apple cider vinegar and 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse again until the mixture is just combined. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently flatten the dough and flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough out until about ½ inch high, and then fold over onto itself. Roll the dough out again, now the opposite way, and then fold up again. Repeat 4 or 5 times, and then shape into a disk. Wrap tightly in saran wrap, and chill overnight.
Assemble the tart:
The next day, carefully slice the strawberries into a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar, stir until combined, and let the fruit macerate for about 30 minutes. While the fruit sits, preheat the oven to 350°F and carefully roll out the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a thin, circular shape. You can either leave as is, or if you want to be a perfectionist, use the edge of a large bowl to trace a large perfect circle into your dough, and cut along the traced line using a super sharp knife. Arrange the dough on a silicone-mat (or parchment paper) lined baking sheet, and get ready to add the fruit. Add the balsamic vinegar and the cornstarch to the strawberries, and then add a bit of pepper. I know that it sounds crazy to add pepper to something sweet, but I promise you it works here!
Spoon the strawberry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving about an inch or 1 ½ inches around the edges. Try not to leave any empty space, and don’t skimp on the sauce—feel free to sprinkle a couple of spoonfuls over the top of the arranged mixture if you like. Carefully fold the edges of the dough up over itself, enclosing the strawberry mixture. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash over the exposed dough on the tart. Now stick it in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. Once the tart is finished baking, let cool for at least 15 minutes to let the fruit filling set, and then slice, and dig in!
Tart dough recipe adapted from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours, and Strawberry Balsamic filling inspired by Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Featured art: Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1979