finding balance and a blueberry buttermilk tart

I feel as if I’ve been running a marathon, but without all of the calorie-burning and health benefits. And without the sweating.

My work-life balance has been wonky lately. When my mind drifts in the evening, I find myself thinking about work projects or emotionally-difficult patient encounters. My sleep has been disrupted with dreams of work, dreams filled with patients and their diagnoses. I’m certain my children are sensing my preoccupation, at least in some subconscious way. My five-year old has been especially clingy, refusing to sleep in his room, and Madeline is more on-edge and sensitive than usual.

Last night, after a particularly dramatic melt-down with no apparent cause, Madeline hugged me tightly, her face still wet with tears. “Can we bake something this weekend, Mommy?” she asked. “Can we bake a cake together?”

Creating balance between work-life and home-life is a daunting task. When I juggle my important roles — wife, mother, doctor, employee, daughter, sister, friend — it’s a struggle to keep from dropping one of those balls, much less all of them.

The motivating factor that helps me keep those balls in the air? Guilt.

As much as I hate that feeling of guilt, it’s the third hand — and fourth and fifth hands — in my daily juggling act.

This blueberry buttermilk tart was an effort to overcome my guilt last weekend after spending Friday and Saturday  away from my family for a work meeting and to speak at a conference. We had one remaining bag of frozen blueberries from our blueberry picking excursion last summer. The bag held two cups of plump berries, not enough for a pie, but just the right amount for this tart. I battled with the sticky dough for the crust, throwing out one batch entirely after it misbehaved. I finally used Dorie Greenspan’s tart crust method, and it came out wonderfully.

And this weekend? I predict another round of guilt-induced baking.


Blueberry Buttermilk Tart

While you can use a pre-made dough for this crust, I recommend making your own. The baked crust has a texture like shortbread - sandy and almost-but-not-quite crumbly. The method for the crust comes from Dorie Greenspan. Rather than risk the irritation that comes from watching the dough tear and stick as you try to roll it, just use this method. It works.


For the tart shell:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 1 tablespoon cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon ice water

For the filling:

1 cup buttermilk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups fresh blueberries, picked-over and rinsed


Prepare the tart shell:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt a couple of times until combined. Add in the cold bits of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the beaten egg yolk and process for long, 10-second, pulses until the dough starts to come together in clumps. The sound the food processor makes as it works the dough right before the clumps form will change, so listen closely. Pour out the dough onto a work surface, and knead it a couple of times, just to incorporate any loose bits that try to escape.

Press the dough into the bottom and sides of a non-stick, 10-inch, fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Chill the shell in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the shiny side of a sheet of aluminum foil and place the buttered side down tightly over the tart shell. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil. Press down any puffed up areas of crust with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden color. Cool the shell in the pan, on a cooling rack.

Prepare the filling and tart:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, butter, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, and tapioca. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Spread the blueberries over the cooled tart shell, and pour the buttermilk mixture over the blueberries. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is just set.

The tart crust and method come are adapted from Dorie Greenspan's recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours. The filling is slightly adapted from a recipe in Gourmet, July 1990.

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19 Responses to “couscous salad with pine nuts and dried fruits”

  1. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — April 5, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    Good for you MJ – so proud of you! And this salad looks a lot like the Dorie recipe from last week (ours was with quinoa) but with chick peas. LOVE this. Lived on some version of this during my years in Paris….

  2. Errin — April 5, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    I am often tempted to start some sort of running program. Although I never do becuase I hate running…but I have never really tried it. I think that it just always seems like such a daunting task to start to run. But, it is inspiring to know that another non-runner is out there running and liking it. Congrats on the accomplishment!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 6th, 2011 @ 8:27 am

      Erin – you can totally do it. I have always hated running…but the feeling afterward makes it so worthwhile.

  3. Maris (In Good Taste) — April 5, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    Congrats on the 5K! That is a big accomplishment.Your salad looks quite delicious and I have bookmarked it!

  4. Liz the Chef — April 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    Love couscous, even healthier with the whole wheat style. Hey, I walked 60 miles 3 times for Komen – think about the Komen3Day! As a runner, you will be ahead of the game as you train. Proud of you – XO Liz

  5. Paula - bell'alimento — April 5, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    You’re such an inspiration MJ!

  6. Tracey — April 6, 2011 @ 8:30 am

    Congratulations on your 5K! I’ve started the couch to 5K program more times than I can tell you, but I’ve never finished it. I just get so bored 🙂

    The salad looks great, I love couscous!

  7. alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — April 6, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    Congrats girl! This looks delish!

  8. Aggie — April 6, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    oh my gosh, isn’t Boma the best? so many dishes I tried there that I wish I could recreate.

    Congrats on your first 5k!! You did it!

    I am such a lover of couscous, can’t beat how fast it cooks up and how versatile it is. This is such a great dish to have in the fridge to eat as leftovers through the week!

  9. jaclyn — April 6, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    this couscous salad looks amazing! i’m obsessed with couscous, and i’m always looking for delicious, healthy things to make. yum!

    i’m on week three of couch to 5k! congrats on finishing your first 5k, i’m looking forward to continuing the program and running a 5k by the end of may! my shins always hurt after i run, and i just thought it was me! glad to know it’s somewhat normal!

    also, i’m really excited to meet you at foodblogforum! yay food blogging!

  10. Annika — April 7, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    Congratulations! This is such an accomplishment and you can be proud of yourself.

    Your salad looks great. I am sure it would be great with braised meat like lamp.

  11. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — April 7, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

    Congrats on your first 5K! I started running last July, but haven’t officially run in a 5K or another race yet (though I did survive a running tour of Boston in October w/ my hubby). You’ve inspired me to look for a race to add to my schedule this summer!

    Love that couscous salad, too… Looks amazing!

  12. Elizabeth — April 12, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

    That looks and sounds so incredibly yummy!

  13. MJ,

    This sounds amazing!! Great job on the 5k!! I remember how great I felt after my first…no feeling like it. Then it inspired my hubby to start the couch to 5k. This was back in 2004, and we are both in the process of being re-inspired!!

    Just re-read this via stumble…so giving it my thumbs up! We LOVE disney!!!

    My new site is up and running…I love wordpress!!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 7:09 am

      Denise – Congrats on making the WordPress switch! I love it and find it very flexible. And thanks for the stumble! 🙂

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