The Tiny Gourmand: Apricot-Frangipane Tart

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

-A classic recipe and a new kitten make for an excellent weekend.-

After she bit my finger we realized she had taken on a proper affinity for the name we had given her, our little Zola. Short, of course, for Gorgonzola. We named her because calling her The Kitten for the past week left a bland aftertaste of indifference in our mouths that none of us cared for. The name Zola had given her a sense of character and bequeathed her a piquant chutzpah and certain regality reminiscent of her namesake.

Romantic as I try to make it the name was originally picked out because she smelled outrageously funky when we plucked her stray little self out of the garden like a fuzzy little turnip where she had been hiding under the thick tomatillo canopy. We heard her mewling and lost, separated from her mother and siblings. We quickly went out and carefully - delicately -chased, cornered, and captured her. It was a difficult task considering how tiny and fast she is. She hissed and cried when I picked her up in my Ove-Glove guarded hands. She was scared and terrified of the giants that her missing mother had trained her to fear.

She spent the night wrapped in a warm blanket with a bowl filled to the brim with food and a saucer of water. She seemed to take her sudden imprisonment with quiet fortitude and guarded distrust.

Yet, in less than a day, she softened to us. The next morning I quietly crept into her room. As I cooed to her like a new mother she nervously crawled out from her sheets. She cowered when I reached for her but made no sudden dash. Her hackles were just barely bristled from tension, but she allowed me to pet her. As I stroked her neck and cheek she erupted with purring. It was a soft sound that bellowed from her tiny frame and filled the room. She cradled herself against my chest, looked at me and went to sleep.

-She also enjoys sleeping with Cid.-

The next morning she was dumped into the sink and given her first bath. Scrubbed and soaked she dealt with it with a begrudging quiet like a student being lectured by a teacher he doesn't particularly care for. Though, given her size, it wasn't as if she could escape my hands, which were able to keep her securely in the water. A few minutes later, fluffed dry and fed, she ran into the other room to continue her very full kitten schedule of napping, snuggling, playing, and pooping.

I was smitten with the kitten. Soon, she as well with me. More so with Roommate whom she snuggled mercilessly and whom she cried for whenever he wasn't around.

Her wiles have worked their magic as he has decided to adopt her.

Christ. It's now four cats to three gay men in this apartment. How stereotypical sitcom is that? Punch my pink card because I'm done.

As I type this Zola is attempting to chew my fingers, which is making blogging rather difficult. It makes me miss those first few days of her tepid uncertainty back before she was ricocheting around the apartment with all the vim and vinegar of youth and attempting to devour my hands for another morsel of cheese.

-A perfect sun for a cloudy day.-

Allow me to explain the cheese and finger nipping.

You see, a few hours ago I was nibbling a piece of Parmesan when a small crumb fell to the floor. She instantly pounced on and devoured it out of kittenhood curiosity. (She is, after all, at that stage where kids put everything they find into their mouths.) A swallow and some smacking of the lips and she had had her first accidental taste of human food. Immediately, Zola began frantically scouring the floor for more, hunting furtively like a meth addict searching for a good shard of glass.

I picked her up to comfort and tease her a bit. That was my mistake. My fingers still smelled of cheese. She sniffed them and without any thought chomped down on my fingers with her needlepoint teeth as deep as they would go. She didn’t break skin, but, holy hell, enthusiastic kitten bites hurt. When I yelped she wasn’t even fazed. She smelled the cheese on my breath and lunged for my face licking my lips and greedily sucking up my curdy breath in a purr-heavy frenzy.

You could see it in her eyes, "MORE!" they screamed. "MORE WHATEVER THAT WAS!"

Through the fate of a name and allowing the feline employment of the Five Second Rule I had created a monster. A fuzzy, adorable one that sleeps under your chin and enjoys wrestling an old shoe lace, but a monster nonetheless. A monster with a taste for cheese.

Roommate is understandably concerned.

Zola now seems to be an Eat Beast in training. She follows him around in epic, playful battle. He’s her mountain to climb and his erratic tail her dragon to be vanquished. Eat Beast takes it in stride simply sitting there and only showing protest when she bites his tail a wee bit too hard. He cleans her, takes her to the water dish, and generally looks after her. Still, we’ve made a clear cut policy in this home that she will not be allowed people food ever again.

-How much luck do you really think we're having with that policy?-

Which, you know, is going to be a difficult rule to enforce. She trails after Eat Beast and is taking his unintentional tutoring to heart. When he starts sniffing around a plate of cookies and snatches one away she follows along, takes a bite of his loot, and then decides to go back for a cookie of her own. When he sneaks into the fridge she does the same. She, too, has an unhealthy curiosity for what's under the lid of the butter dish. God help us all.

So, with that, the structured life of our apartment - that of myself, BF, Roommate, and the three cats - was suddenly turned upside down with a rambunctious ten week-old kitten. We couldn’t be happier for it, if not also slightly freaked out since kittens are essentially perpetual motion machines that constantly eat and poop. This one with a particular inclination towards the former.

It’s also not just cheese she seems to crave. She has a taste for apricots, both raw and cooked. Zola is a gourmand in training with a bit more of a discerning palate than Eat Beast. While Eat Beast goes for anything and everything; Zola is a picky, little snob. I can whip out some dime store lunch meat and she won't bat an eye. I roast a duck and sauce it with cherry-balsamic and she's all over me like a hooker on a hundred dollar bill.

-"Soon, little apricots, soon you will be mine."-

So, as we do with Eat Beast, I now put her in the other room when I bake just to keep her out of the way. If I don't she circles the kitchen and has a tendency to get in the way. And, while she still can't jump on the counter, we're trying to instill a sense that even thinking about jumping on on it is a quick way to get hosed down with the spray bottle.

We're also trying to teach her not to try and scale us like a mountain when we eat. I swear, every time I take a meal it's like a race between her and me to see just who is going to eat what's at the business end of my fork. Lucky for me, she's tiny and I'm faster. The bad news is that during our races she has no qualms using her tiny claws to scale up my pant leg and the leg within it.

It's going to take some time to train her. (Dear God, I hope we can train her.)

-Cute and mischievous: A rather evil combination when it comes to kittens, cute people you meet at the bar, and children.-

I do have some hope. She did stay clear for the most part while I crafted together this tart. A simple shortbread crust, frangipane, the first sunny apricots of the season. The fruit was surprisingly ripe in spite of this ridiculously bipolar weather this Spring. Biting into one the juice burst out and ran down my arm onto the floor where Eat Beast and Zola gleefully lapped it up. I lightly lacquered the apricots with a brushing of honey mixed with a bit of rose water before dusting it all with a bit of pistachio to liven up an otherwise homespun treat.

I guess this tart - at least, for me - is a way to celebrate change in life by bringing in something old and familiar. A new kitten, child, job, home... it can all be stressful. These things throw your life into a bit of chaos. Chaos that you revel in, but chaos nonetheless. It's freaky and exciting, and it will make you exhausted. A plain 'ol tart, your favorite cake, or whatever comfort foods you enjoy are ways to mellow things out.

Celebrate the new by ringing it in with the old.

Just be sure that you keep an eye on the new because the second you turn your head it might get sneaky and eat the old.

Apricot-Frangipane Tart
Frangipane recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's, Room for Dessert

For Shortbread Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
3 teaspoons ice-cold vanilla extract
1-3 teaspoons ice-cold water

1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and process for about 5-10 seconds until clumps form. Do not let it form into a ball. You should be able to squeeze the crumbs together rather easily. If they fall apart add a teaspoon of water ad pulse several times. Test again and repeat if necessary.

2. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough 2-3 times to bring it all together. Pat it into the shape of a disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for about 20 minutes. Roll the dough out between two pieces of wax paper. (If it cracks, let the dough sit for a few minutes until it softens. Roll the dough into an 11-inch tart plate and press into place.

3. Preheat oven to 375F. Line the unbaked tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans to prevent the crust from bubbling during the prebake. Bake for 20 minutes. The foil should come away easily and not tear the dough (if not, bake for a few more minutes). Bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool completely.

For Frangipane
4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature

While the tart shell bakes place almond paste, sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and process until crumbly and almost sandy. Add the butter and process until smooth. Add the egg and extracts and process until smooth.

For Finishing the Tart
4-6 ripe apricots, cut into quarters lengthwise
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon rose water
pistachios for garnish (optional)

1. Spread the frangipane onto the prebaked tart shell. Arrange the apricots into a circle. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the frangipane is slightly golden and firm. Cool on a wire rack.

2. While it cools heat the honey and rose water in cup in the mixrowave or in a saucepan. Brush onto the apricots, being careful to avoid the crust. Garnish with finely chopped pistachios for garnish is desired.

-Success! Om nom nom!-


  1. Aww! See! It was meant to be. Gourmand with gourmand! So glad you kept her. I hope some day to meet your kitty counterparts.

  2. Funny - I had a cat named Zola back in the 80's, but she was named after Zola Budd the South African runner from the '84 Olympics. You see, Zola Budd (the runner) ran barefoot, and my kitten didn't wear shoes... the logic was sound at the time.

  3. Congrats to you and BF and most of all to Zola (great name), who got the BIG promotion from feral scavenger to house cat with fromage.She is beautiful. And I was LOL reading your great blog!! Only wish I had known to get apricots at grocery yesterday!
    BTW, in my experience, feral rescues never get the polite table manners of domestic raised cats. If you don't want them in your plate (or face) while dining, it is best to use architectural discipline ie put them in another room and shut the door! And they eat an amazing range of foods.

  4. I'm drooling. I rarely eat desserts, but I don't think I could resist this!

  5. So cute! I die from cuteness. And longing for an apricot tart. With kitten.

  6. This looks so incredibly delicious! I love the spiral the apricots make, and especially how you captured it. Tell Zola to keep her paws off my slice!

  7. She's adorable! What a wonderful addition to your family.

  8. Delurking to say -- so cute!!! I've adopted a couple ferals over the years, and both really liked to eat. They both seemed to be afraid the food would go away. Hopefully, your other kitties will be able to convince Zola otherwise!

  9. Janna: Yeah, we think that since she may have raided dumpsters she may already be screwed for life like Eat Beast.

  10. That kitten is just way too cute.

    It's true what Janna said -- feral cats, even when caught and adopted young, seem to be the adventurous eaters of the cat world. We found this to be true even of rural feral cats (we rescued a couple of litters of feral "barn" cats last year and found homes for them.)

  11. Love this post: kittens, fruit, and baked treats - what more could one possibly want?

    (PS - SO glad Roomie decided to adopt her! I wanted her desperately, but with my crazy boys fighting all the time, it just wouldn't have been safe for her. Hope to meet her soon!)

  12. Great post Garrett! I remember the feel of kitten teeth. Ouch. I hope your roommate realizes that Zola is only "his" while he lives there!

    By the way, great use of the word lacquered.

  13. Ann: Oh, no. Zola is his kittne. BF and I already have three. ;)

  14. Zola is darling! I especially love the photo of her looking down at the apricots and that she is an "eat beast" in training.

  15. Awesome recipe and adorable kitten, she looks JUST like my little Abigail! She lived in a garbage can in NJ for awhile, but she turned out great!

  16. Awww, she's a cutie. My feral will rip open any bag of bread left on the counter. She stopped ripping open garbage bags, but I still don't leave them around. It's sad to think that she survived eating thrown-out hot dog rolls from a dumpster. Your darling is certainly a lucky girl! Congratulations!

  17. You know how to bake your way into a boys heart. :P WHat is it with tarts lately? I've been all about the tarts. They are easy, yet so impressive.. and, the possibilities are endless. I'm excited to try this, I've always been weary of frangipane.. I don't know why.. it's kind of like marzipan.. it's not hard, it just seems unaproachable. But alas, you just make things seem so fun and inviting to try! Can't wait! Oh yeah, and cute cat.. :)

  18. J Miller: I agree; tarts are crazy easy and always have a wow factor. Frangipane is a breeze. Once you make it and see how easy it is you will make it all the time. =D

  19. I just discovered this blog. Love your writing, and your recipes. The kitten sounds delightful! My rescue kitten is growing into a wonderfully self-assured cat--I'm sure little Zola will, too.

  20. Joe: Glad you found the blog, Joe! Props to you for rescuing a cat! =D

  21. I haven't try to make a tart but it looks exciting.. Yeah, i agree if you will cook or bake some foods you need to put your pets to the other room for no disturbance.. by the way your kitty looks adorable and smart.. :)

  22. OMGosh! I love that your kitties are a part of your stories, and that they are eating your food:), or trying to. My boyfriend laughs at me for that daily! Thank you for the fun, kitty loving apricot tart. Looks beautiful!

  23. What a beautiful little lady. All my cats love cheese. The tart sounds yummy. Wonder how it would be with fresh peaches since I have an abundance of those right now...

  24. I was initially pulled in by this amazing tart. Once I read, I'm now pulled in by Zola. What a sweet and awesome story and what a gorgeous little glad she gets to live in such a loving atmosphere! Oh, I'm still making the tart, even if my former kittens, now monster cats, try to finger mooch ;)

  25. Sooo...I just started following you last month :) Yay! But, I absolutely dislike apricots to the nth degree! Your recipe looks delicious...but I just DESPISE apricots! Terrible experience with a strange-tasting Christmas fruitcake at the age of ten and terrible experiences henceforth with grade school cafeteria fruit cups. I'm now nearing the end of college having never encountered an apricot I liked. They really are a beautiful fruit, and I want so badly to like them. But those past experiences have hindered me. Please help meee! :(


    The One Who Absolutely Abhors Apricots <3 xoxo

  26. Faithful Encourager: Apricots are finicky. They can be just terrible if picked early or late. Early they are tart and hard. Late they become mush. Get them just right and they are wonderful.

    If you want, an easy way to enjoy them is this: cut them in half and pit, sugar them lightly, saute them in butter cut side down until they take some caramel color, dress them in blackberry jam and chopped basil. Delicious and amazing.

  27. Thanks a bunch Garrett :) You're awesome! I'll definitely try that out! I'll have to visit a market in the area if they aren't at my nearby HEB (because sometimes, their fruit sucks!) I hope this works out well; maybe me and apricots can be cool for once.


    Apricot Aspirant :)


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