The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien is an epic tale of travel and raucous parties, mixed in with a little drama and detailed descriptions of food. Years ahead of his time, Tolkien was offering up a modern-day recipe blog that introduced an entire saga before getting to the food. It had everything: trips down memory lane, family reunions, a detailed description of travel mishaps, gardening tips, and tables laden with fruit and cheese tarts.
The best food line from LOTR comes, surprisingly, from Gollum, a creature who preferred raw fish to savory dishes. “Is it nice my precious? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?”
“Scrumptiously crunchable” are probably the best two words to ever appear in a sentence describing food. Perhaps Smeagol would appreciate a freshly caught filet of fish covered in a crunchy nutty coating slightly toasted in a hot buttered pan, with a crunchy cold salad of cabbage, fennel root, and carrot tossed with a sweet rice vinegar.
Now that most everyone is vaccinated, it’s time to party — showing off our pandemic-earned cooking skills and the fancy new outdoor spaces we built when the outside was proven safer than the inside. I’ll spare the dear reader an epic journey through mountain heights and swampy depths and get right to the good stuff. These fruit and cheese tarts are deliciously simple, and scrumptiously crunchable.
You will need a mini-muffin pan with 12 muffin cups and one can of refrigerated crescent dough, four apples, one-half cup of honey, juice of one lemon, cinnamon, one-half cup coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts, one 8-ounce round of brie cheese with the rind removed and cut into 12 chunks, and small fresh sage leaves.
Peel and roughly chop three of the apples into small slivers. Place in a small saucepan with enough water to just cover the apples. Place on high heat to boil, stirring in honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon and salt to taste. Boil for 20 minutes, uncovered, stirring regularly. When water has evaporated and apples have the consistency of jam, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Unroll dough and press the perforations to seal. Cut the sheet of dough into 24 equal pieces. Gently press two overlapping squares into mini muffin cups. Spoon half-a-teaspoon of apple jam into each cup, top with a half-teaspoon of walnuts and one chunk of brie cheese. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes until tart edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool tarts in the pan on a cooling rack for at least five minutes before removing tarts from muffin cups.
Thinly slice the fourth apple. Top the cheese tarts with sliced apple, fresh sage leaves, a drizzle of honey, and garnish with chopped nuts. Switch it up with seasonal fruits, substituting the jam and fresh toppings with blueberry, strawberry or gooseberry.
In other news, the town of Carlton has acquired a police car. Or, more accurately, a paddy wagon moved to town and it looks like a semi-permanent installment. Is this the first public art installment in downtown Carlton? The cherry-top cop coupe effectively slows traffic — tourists come to a complete stop for a photo op.