Hello, Enquirer readers. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Rita Nader Heikenfeld – food journalist, cooking teacher, blogger and author.
Growing up in a big Lebanese family in suburban Cincinnati, food was not only sustenance but a way to show love in a most personal way.
My parents started married life on Third Street in downtown Cincinnati. They were Findlay Market shoppers long before the market became trendy. I remember my Aunt Norma Nader’s grocery store Downtown, as well. The aroma of fried kibbi wafted through the open door.
We grew up eating the famous Mediterranean diet. Funny thing is we never called it that. It was simply supper to us.
My culinary career blossomed when my husband, Frank, was general manager at the former Heritage Restaurant in Cincinnati. Proprietors Janet and Howard Melvin asked me to teach my first cooking class. That was around 1990. I was more than nervous, but somehow it all came together.
Carol Tabone, then director of Lazarus’ cooking school, attended the class. Afterward, she invited me to teach. Both were springboards to a diverse food career that still thrives with what I call the “wisdom of one’s years.”
We live on a little patch of heaven in Clermont County and grow our own produce and herbs. My kitchen is basic and workable. The stove? An aging electric coil model. A flock of chickens provides eggs. I still like hanging clothes outside on the line.
Each season finds me foraging for Mother Nature’s wild bounty. I’ve passed that knowledge on to my own children and now my grandchildren.
But don’t think I’m a food purist. Ethnic, natural, gourmet – sure. “Speed scratch/back of the box” recipes find their way to my table, too. I love it all.
My hope is that you’ll find this column a place to share your favorites, along with stories that made them special. It’s not just about the food, but who shares it with you.
Yesterday, I walked across the road to neighbor Erin Philip’s berry garden.
I picked enough strawberries to make this lovely, yummy tart. Looks are deceiving. This tart is easy to make with a base of frozen puff pastry. Strawberries are in season, so take advantage.
Visit abouteating.com for more recipes and information.
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Fresh strawberry tart with puff pastry crust
Depending upon size, cut berries in half or slice top to bottom.
Filling can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Tart crust can be made up to 12 hours ahead.
Mascarpone is a mild cream cheese originating from Italy.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
A bit of flour
3-4 cups strawberries, rinsed and dried. Remove caps after drying so berries don’t “bleed,” then cut in half or slice.
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon orange juice or 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional but good)
Preheat oven to 400.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry into 15×9″ rectangle. No need to be exact.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.
With a sharp knife, lightly scored dough 1” from edges to mark a rectangle. Don’t go all the way through.
Pierce inside markings with fork at 1/2” or so intervals. By scoring and piercing, you’ll have a crust with raised edges.
Bake 10-12 minutes until crisp and golden.
Cool before filling.
Whip cream until nice peaks form. Set aside.
Beat mascarpone with sugar, vanilla and orange juice until blended.
Fold in whipped cream.
Spread evenly on inside of pastry.
Arrange strawberries in rows on top.
Let chill 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Garnish if you like with mint and edible flowers.
Change it up
Substitute regular cream cheese for mascarpone. You may want to add a bit more sugar and vanilla.
Any fresh berries work: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries.
Gilding the lily
Want a beautiful, tasty glaze on top? Mix together and heat just until warm 1/2 cup apricot preserves and 1 generous tablespoon honey. Brush on top of berries.