Bruléed Grapefruit Tart

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

It’s citrus season again and the produce section is once more bursting with oranges, pink lemons, and my favorite: grapefruits. When I was younger the only way I could eat bracingly tart grapefruit was with heaping spoons of sugar. I admit, this pretty much defeats the purpose of consuming fruit in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. As my taste buds matured I needed less and less sugar and today I sip freshly squeezed grapefruit juice without wincing.

My mood needs the bracing boost of sharp citrus. But for folks still on the fence, this bruléed grapefruit tart strikes a happy medium between lovely sweetness and teeth aching acidity by combining the milder ruby red or pink grapefruit variety with just the lightest sprinkle of toasted sugar and a simple, crisp crust.

Now, if it just tasted delicious I’d be sold, but this dessert has the extra benefit of also looking impressive. Elegant, concentric overlapping circles of grapefruit segments glistening under the melted sugar fooled my friends into thinking it came from a bakery. High praise. Imagine my enjoyment when I revealed that the entire process took place entirely in my own kitchen.

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart (serves 8)

 Tart Shell Ingredients:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Filling Ingredients:
4 large ruby red or pink grapefruits
1/4 cup orange or citrus marmalade
1/3 cup finely crushed butter cookies or honey graham crackers
6 tablespoons coarse sugar

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar together with an electric hand mixer. Add the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Press the dough into a 9 inch round false-bottom tart pan making sure that the finished edge is flat and the corner between the sides and bottom is sharp. Refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prick the bottom of the chilled tart shell all over with a fork, then line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. These steps will prevent the shell from puffing up. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing the paper and beans.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

To prep the filling, cut a thin slice from both ends of each grapefruit. Place the cut end on a cutting board and cut away the peel and the white part of the rind. Slip the knife along the sides of the membrane dividing the segment to remove the slice of grapefruit.

Spread the marmalade over the partially baked crust. Sprinkle with the crushed cookies or graham crackers. Arrange the grapefruit slices over the crust in concentric circles starting from the outer edge. (You probably won’t use every single piece.) Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the coarse sugar over the grapefruit.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Remove tart from oven; turn on broiler (or pull out your kitchen torch). Sprinkle tart with the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until sugar is lightly browned and the edges of the grapefruit just begin to singe.

Let cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Re-written and adapted from Better Homes and Garden’s Broiled Grapefruit Tart and Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd Tart.

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed. I used a medium mixing bowl, an electric hand mixer, measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, a 9 inch false bottom tart pan, a medium cutting board, a serrated utility knife, and a kitchen torch. Parchment paper and dried beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights round out the equipment.

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bruléed Grapefruit Tart | Image: Laura Messersmith

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Blueprint Lunch”

The Set-up: Ina is making lunch for the team working on her barn construction project.

The Menu: Avocado and Grapefruit Salad, California Iced Tea, Easy Lobster Paella, Shortbread Hammer Place cards

0:33 – I’ve decided to keep track of how many construction puns Ina uses, so far Blueprint Joke Count: 2.

1:12 – First up Shortbread Hammer Place cards. The name says it all – the cookies will be shaped like the tool and Ina will write each person’s name on a cookie.

2:28 – Ina says she loves to make shortbread dough all different ways. I need to work on establishing my go-to basic cookie dough; perhaps this is the one?

3:46 – Miguel is doing the table setting for the lunch party, so you know this is serious business. So far he’s made a table out of sawhorses, covered in painter’s drop cloth, and has copied the plans for the barn onto placemats. #crafty

4:05 – Ina’s back inside to make California Iced Tea, a combination of black tea and lemonade. I’ve only ever heard this called an Arnold Palmer, but maybe it’s tough to get that name cleared for TV.

5:20 – Note to self: add superfine sugar to the pantry of sugar options.

6:38 – California Iced Tea is in the fridge to chill before the lunch party and now it’s onto cutting out the place card cookies.

9:14 – Ina has chilled the shortbread dough for 30 minutes to allow it to relax and let the butter firm-up a little. I’ve also heard that it gives the flour time to absorb more of the moisture in the rest of the ingredients. No idea if that’s true.

10:27 – The cookies will bake on parchment paper and can I just say that parchment paper has been a total game-changer for me? I pretty much never put a baking sheet in the oven any more unless it has a parchment liner.

11:36 – Quick glance outside to see that Miguel is engaged in some sort of craft project before Ina gets started on the Easy Lobster Paella.

12:19 – The trick to making this paella easy is two-fold: 1. Do most of the cooking in the oven. 2. Use proteins that are already cooked, ie. lobster, kielbasa, so you don’t have to worry about varied cooking times/methods.

13:44 – Other advantages of this dish: you can sub other ingredients that are less expensive than lobster – personally I’d go for shrimp anyway – it doesn’t have to be served as soon as it’s done cooking, and it can be made in large quantities for a crowd.

14:53 – The rice (basmati if you’re wondering) and chicken stock are in the pot, now all into the oven lid on for 15 minutes.

18:32 – Quick stir, then lid off in the oven for an additional 15 minutes to allow some of the stock to evaporate. I am so curious to see how this turns out….

19:26 – Over to the Shortbread Hammer Place cards so that Ina can make icing to pipe the names on to the cookies.

20:45 – Piping now seems slightly less intimidating after my adventure with Woodland Gingerbread Cookies.

21:10 – Back outside to deliver the placecards and discover that Miguel’s craft project was a mobile of fabric swatches to hang from the pergola.

22:37 – To balance out the rich flavors in the paella Ina is pairing it with an Avocado and Grapefruit Salad.

23:21 – I’m with Ina, 90% of the avocados in supermarkets are too green to eat, which requires a little advanced planning to buy them, let them ripen, and then use them. 2-3 days is about right and then they start to go bad. #shortwindowofopportunity

24:48 – Salad is complete, and once again I have to hand it to Ina for transforming a super simple dish into something elegant.

27:00 – Love you Ina, but you just changed your pronunciation from British “pie-ella” to the Spanish “pi-ehya” and I can’t let that go un-remarked upon.

28:34 – Final touches to the paella: Pernod, diced cooked lobster and kielbasa, along with frozen peas all brought up to temperature. Yum.

29:55 – Lunch is served and Ina grills the team on how long until her barn will be finished. The answer: a lot sooner if we stop having these leisurely lunches. Umm, wrong answer if you want any more of Ina’s cooking!

Final Thoughts:
I am horrendous at cooking rice – it always turns out mushy. New Year’s Resolution 2016?

If someone could invent a device to accurately predict when an avocado will be ready to eat they’d have my sincere appreciation and I would absolutely buy one.

How does Ina manage to make a themed party seem so elegant and chic?

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I decided to make the Avocado and Grapefruit Salad, not because it’s particularly difficult, but because I reeeeally needed something summery and light to break up the monotony of winter, even the snow-free one we’re ‘enjoying’ here in New York. Here's what I learned through repetition:

Avocado Selection – I buy Haas avocados, which are a bit smaller than the brighter green Florida avocados and in my area are almost always sold under ripe in the store. I look for two signs when buying and make a call based on when I want to eat the avocado. 1. The color of the skin changes from dark green to a deeper greenish brown as the fruit ripens. I look for an evenly browned, but not blackened or shriveled skin. 2. The texture of an unripe avocado will be very hard and unyielding. I press very gently near the stem end and if it gives way a bit then I know it’s ripe and will be ready to eat within a day or two.

Citrus Segmenting/Supremeing – This is an excellent recipe to practice your supreming technique, a skill that will serve you well whenever citrus is involved. I recommend a 3-4” utility or paring knife, something easy to maneuver that you have firm control over.

Step 1: Cut a narrow slice off the top (stem end) and bottom of the grapefruit to reveal the interior of the fruit and create two flat sides.

Step 2: Place one flat side on the cutting board and slice vertically down the sides following the curve of the fruit to removing the grapefruit zest and pith in long strips. Do your best to leave as much of the flesh as possible.

Step 3: Trim off any remaining bits of pith from the grapefruit so that you can clearly see where the membranes divide the fruit into segments.

Step 4: Hold the grapefruit in one hand over a bowl and carefully cut vertically along both sides of each segment using the membranes as your guidelines until you reach the center of the grapefruit. The segments once released from the membranes will fall into the bowl.

Want a live demo? Here’s a video via Real Simple.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. A medium cutting board, utility knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a medium bowl or serving platter are all you need. C’est tout.

The Verdict:
This Avocado and Grapefruit Salad is incredible, mainly because these two ingredients are a match made in heaven. Creamy, rich, dense avocado was meant to hang out with bright, acidic, tender grapefruit. I went with pink grapefruit for it's slightly sweeter flavor and preppy color, but white grapefruit would work just as well. Yes, you could just eat these ingredients side by side, but the simple vinaigrette makes this feel more intentional and less like an afterthought. I served this salad along with Ina’s Panko Crusted Salmon (more on that next week) over baby kale leaves and it’s an excellent combination that makes healthy taste delicious and those eat-better-in-2016 resolutions feel attainable.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I hope you had a wonderful weekend celebrating the mamas figures in your life, preferably with brunch... I love going out to restaurants, but there are three high holidays in the brunch game that I avoid like the plague: Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The lines are long, the reservations hard to come by, not really conducive to relaxing and enjoyable meal. Hence, brunch at home.

Mike’s parents were in town this weekend and with both Mother’s Day and my mother-in-law, Lucy’s birthday coming up on Tuesday I had an excellent excuse to go a little bananas with our brunch menu. Spinach frittata, crispy thyme potatoes, bacon (obviously), OJ, fresh fruit salad and the literal icing on the cake: Grapefruit Olive Oil Muffins.

I’ve been wanting to make a citrus olive oil cake for months now, but never really had an occasion, not that you really need one for this delicious cake as it turns out. I came across this recipe by Ashley Rodriguez who writes the beautiful blog Not Without Salt and I was intrigued by using grapefruit. I played around with the recipe a little until I got what I wanted – intense grapefruit flavor, a moist muffin, and just a little sweetness from the glaze.  

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake (yield 1 loaf or 1 dozen muffins)

3⁄4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, divided
2 tablespoons grapefruit zest, divided
1⁄2 cup Chobani 4% plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1⁄4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Crème fraîche, for serving (optional)
Non-stick spray or muffin liners

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray or place paper liners in the muffin tins.

Add 1⁄2 cup grapefruit juice to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the juice by half. Cool slightly.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, yogurt, eggs, olive oil, vanilla extract, and reduced grapefruit juice and whisk to mix well.

In a separate medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the hot oven. Bake until the cake is deeply brown and set and springs back gently when pressed, 50 to 55 minutes for cake or 25-30 minutes for muffins.

Let the cake or muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

While the cake comes to room temperature, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1⁄2 tablespoon grapefruit zest with 5 teaspoons grapefruit juice and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar until well mixed to create a thick, but still pourable glaze.

Place the cake on a serving platter and drizzle with the glaze, or swirl the tops of the muffins to coat with glaze. The cake can be made 1 day in advance.

Slightly adapted and rewritten from Ashley Rodriguez’s Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate via Not Without Salt.

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used one medium bowl, one small bowl, a small sauce pan, and two muffin tins (or one loaf pan.) I also needed a microplane grater, utility knife, dry and liquid measuring cups, a wire whisk, and a rubber spatula. If you’re making muffins an ice cream scoop is really helpful for portioning the batter.

The Verdict:
This cake is the perfect way to round out a breakfast table with a sweet bread that doesn’t stray into cloyingly sugary territory. The flavors are light and refreshing, and personally I like the slightly bitter edge that grapefruit offers. This cake is simple to make and could easily be the basis for a sweeter version suitable for a summer dessert.

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

I love to travel particularly when said travel provides ample opportunities to wander the neighborhoods of an unfamiliar city and poke my nose into odd corners in search of hidden gems. The past four days in Chicago offered many chances for me and my Vans to cover some significant ground (hello, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Lakeview, Old Town, etc.), but also included deep dish pizza, ice cream, and stuffed pretzels. Oh dear. Even after striding along miles of sidewalk I’m still feeling a little uh, ‘fluffy’ shall we say and in need of a solid dose of salad.

When I’m thinking about dinner, even when I know its going to be greens based, I’m still trying to check a few boxes so that we still have a meal that satisfying and tasty - protein, a variety of textures and balanced flavors. This recipe does all of that and manages to be really simple too, which is always a good thing, but particularly when you’re airport-weary.

It starts with my favorite way to cook salmon: brushed with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan-fried. I first tried this method last winter when I made Ina Garten’s Salmon with Lentils (please forgive the beginner photography from that early post) and the results were so good that it has become my fail-safe technique when I want perfectly cooked fish with great crispy edges.

Salmon is relatively rich, so when I’m trying to keep the dish light, I like to pair it with an acidic flavor and thanks to the ever-reliable Flavor Bible my craving for pink grapefruit was deemed a solid choice and I decided to carry it through to the vinaigrette too.

Arugula is my favorite salad green as evidenced by it’s many appearances here – but in this case I didn’t want too much bitter sharpness competing with the citrus, so I switched to baby spinach. Now for the crunch factor. Even with a bed of greens as a major component I still like to add a handful of toasted nuts to salads – I’ve made this recipe before with slivered almonds, but wanted to mix-it up a little and try pistachios this time. Edgy, I know.

Perhaps this is obvious, but shelling pistachios is not terribly fun unless you A. have a lot of time on your hands B. some sort of fancy contraption that does it for you or C. really strong fingers. If the answer you’ve selected is D. none of the above, I’d strongly recommend buying them pre-shelled or just going with a different nut altogether.

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad (serves 4)


4 (8 oz.) salmon filets, skin off
3 grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
4 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tablespoons pistachios, shelled and lightly toasted
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a small, dry sauté pan toast the pistachios for a 3-5 minutes over low heat until lightly golden. Remove the pistachios from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Coarsely chop, if desired.

With a paring knife, peel the grapefruit removing the zest and pith. Holding the peeled grapefruit over a small bowl to collect any juice, remove the sections by sliding the edge of the knife between the connecting membrane. Set the removed segments aside. Once you have removed all the sections squeeze the grapefruit membrane into the bowl to extract any left over juice.

Next, heat a medium, dry oven-proof sauté pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Brush both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops generously with kosher salt and black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each per piece of salmon). When the sauté pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. They should come away from the pan easily; if they stick give it a few seconds longer. Turn the fillets to the unseasoned side and immediately place the entire sauté pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare.

Meanwhile, to make the vinaigrette, measure out 1/2 cup of the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Whisk it together with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss with washed and dried mixed greens.

Arrange the dressed greens on a platter and top with the reserved grapefruit segments, toasted pistachios and salmon filets.

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly:

Yes, absolutely. I used a small sauté pan, a large sauté pan (although you could get away with just the large one if you didn’t mind your pistachios looking a little lonely when they toast), a medium cutting board, and two small bowls. I also used a short serrated knife, a small paring knife, measuring cups and measuring spoons, along with a wire whisk and a metal spatula. Don’t forget the potholders – that salmon pan will be HOT.

The Verdict:

We both really like this salad - the crispiness of the salmon, the mellow greenness of the spinach with the brightness of the grapefruit and the earthiness of the pistachios - compliments and balance each other nicely. (PS: 90% of those adjectives are made-up.) And, since a solid part of the prep can be done ahead - the salmon needs less than 10 minutes of cook time - this meal comes together pretty quickly. I’d make this for a small dinner party, or on occasions like today when something healthy and clean is in order.

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Pan-Fried Salmon with Grapefruit, Pistachio and Spinach Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith