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A special treat using special fruit

Recipe: Blueberry tarts topped with lemon curd

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Blueberry tart topped with homemade lemon curd -- what a treat! (Photos: Debbie Arrington)


As any California gardener who grows them knows, blueberries are special. When a bush finally starts producing, they're like precious little sapphires. That inspires an equally special presentation.

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Homegrown blueberries deserve special treatment.

Tarts are round showcases for these garden gems. This version, adapted from the classic "Joy of Cooking," shows off the fresh berries like the treasures they are.

Instead of topping with plain custard or whipped cream, I chose a vibrant lemon curd from the Southern cookbook by Ronni Lundy, "Butter Beans to Blackberries." In her book, she serves fresh blueberries topped with lemon curd and cornmeal cookies on the side. That's a simple alternative if tarts seem too complicated -- or it's too hot to turn on the oven.

Blueberry tarts with lemon curd
Makes 6 tarts

Ingredients:

Vienna pastry dough (see recipe) or 6 pre-made tart shells
1 pint blueberries, washed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Lemon curd (see recipe)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Prepare pastry shells and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a large bowl, mix together blueberries, sugar and lemon juice.
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Tarts with blueberries.

Spoon sugared blueberries in a single layer into each tart shell.
Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Return filled tarts to oven. Loosely top with foil to prevent crusts from burning, if needed. Bake for 12 minutes or until blueberries start to release juice.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Remove tarts from tins, if necessary. Serve with lemon curd.

Vienna pastry
Makes 6 to 8 tart shells

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter
4 ounce soft cream cheese

Instructions:
In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and cream cheese. (If needed, add 1 tablespoon water.)
When well blended, wrap dough in foil and chill in freezer for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Preheat over to 450 degrees F.
Using parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll out dough 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough to tart pans. Prick dough with fork in several places.
Bake tart shells for 8 minutes or until brown. (Watch
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Lemon curd
 carefully!)
Remove from oven.

Recipe adapted from "Joy of Cooking" by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Bobbs-Merrill, 1975 edition)

Lemon curd
Makes about 1-1/4 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2 large lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks

Instructions:
In the top of a double boiler over boiling water, combine lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter. Stir often as butter melts and sugar dissolves.
Over medium high heat, let lemon mixture cook for 2 minutes, stirring often; little bubbles start to form along the edges.
In a separate bowl, beat together whole egg and egg yolks.
Remove lemon mixture from heat. Add half of lemon mixture to beaten eggs, whisking to blend. Whisk this mixture into the remaining lemon mixture in top of double boiler. Return to heat.
Cook until curd thickens, stirring often; about 5 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipe adapted from "Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from the Southern Garden" by Ronni Lundy (North Point Press, 1999).

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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