A Grape Way to Sweeten Your Valentine’s Day

A grape way to someone's heart.

Sure, you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate.

But that’s just so expected, isn’t it?

Why not shake things up by giving a gift that’s sweet, symbolizes (ahem) fertility and is loaded with antioxidants that do a body good?

I’m talking about the humble grape.

You might be thinking, “boring,” but hear me out. The juicy seedless clusters you mindlessly pick up at the grocery store go all-out glam here.

“Custard Tart with Wine-Poached Grapes,” from the October/November 2009 issue of Fine Cooking magazine, is a total showstopper.

A nutty, buttery crust is filled with an eggy custard that’s soft as curd. It gets a squirt of lime to balance its sweetness. Then, seedless red grapes are poached in a honey-white wine-sugar syrup. The grapes are gently pressed into the custard top, before the lovely thickened syrup is brushed over.

The tart is impressive looking, with grapes that remain plump, rosy and intact, with their juices more concentrated for intense fruitiness.

Sure, chocolate’s always welcome. But hey, let’s hear it for another grape way to win someone’s heart, too.

Custard Tart with Wine-Poached Grapes

(Serves 8 )

For the Crust:

3-1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons.) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; more for the pan

3-3/8 ounces (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 large egg yolk, chilled

For the filling:

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons. fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons. dry white wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc

1/2 cup heavy cream

For the topping:

1/2 cup dry white wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

65 seedless red grapes (2-1/4 cups)

To make the crust: Butter a 4-by-13 1/2-inch rectangular fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Combine the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely chopped, about 40 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 seconds. Add the egg yolk and process until moist clumps form. With lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared tart pan. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, put a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the crust on the heated baking sheet until light golden on the bottom and golden-brown on the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

To make the filling: In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, lime juice, and white wine until well blended. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 3 minutes. Transfer the filling to a medium bowl and let cool until warm.

Whisk the cream into the filling and pour the mixture into the baked tart shell. Bake at 375 degrees until the filling begins to slightly puff and bubble around the edges, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

To make the topping: In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, boil the wine, honey, sugar, and lime juice over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a thick syrup and begins to darken slightly, 4 to 5 minutes — you should have about 1/4 cup. Reduce the heat to low, add the grapes, cover, and poach gently over low heat until tender, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the grapes to a dinner plate. Continue to boil the poaching liquid until syrupy, about 1 minute. Randomly place the grapes on top of the tart, pressing slightly into the filling. Gently brush the glaze over the grapes. Let the tart cool completely at room temperature for at least 4 hours before serving.

From the October/November 2009 issue of Fine Cooking magazine

If You Must Have Chocolate: Cabernet Velvet Cupcakes

And: Nutella Pound Cake

And: Nutella Scones

And: Essence of Orange-Chocolate Wafer Cake

And: David Lebovitz’s Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake

And: 10-Minute Mocha Pots de Creme

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