Chester Copperpot.

One both wonderful and maddening thing about living in a part of the world with four distinct seasons is that by the end of each one I am waiting with bated breath for the next. The anticipation and preliminary elation over the change of each season is thrilling and, in my book well earned. That's the wonderful part. But the being like so over a season before it ends is a bummer.

There are only two seasons I ever end up being like so over: winter and summer. By the end of each it's zero fun to be outside. I find myself just scurrying from one inside space to another. Though, mosquitos aside, I'd trade bright and sunshiney summer over cold, drab and grey winter any day. However, no longer do we need to call the whambulance on me about my social curse, the sweat moustache because, as of now, summer is officially in our rear view mirror and my favorite of favorites, fall, is here.

I write a version of this post every year at this time - even while I was living in LA where fall was more of a suggestion than a full-blown season. You knew it was fall when Trader Joe's had all of the cinnamon brooms and pumpkin spice* items assaulting your olfactory senses immediately upon walking in the door. And land sakes, I have never seen any city's populace love decorating for a holiday like LA and environs for Halloween.

Here in Virginia, one is conscious of fall with all five senses. The cicadas begin to simmer down making things a bit quieter, the smell of fires - in fireplaces and in backyards - burning again, the arresting beauty of the vibrant yellow, orange and red leaves commanding the horizon, the crunch of those leaves under your feet, the warmer fabrics, flannel, wool, the layers of clothing, it's the only time of year I feel simultaneously unconfined and totally snuggly outside. And, of course, the taste of fall, the food. The new produce and a new way of cooking. Back in the kitchen. Trading the grill for the oven. Stews, roasts, baking. Big, funky red wine. In my pine cone jammies! Here, it's my time. IT'S MY TIME OVER HERE.*

And with this first day of fall, I've got a pot of chicken stock stewing away on the stovetop making the whole house smell like a hug. That will be some sort of a soup. I'm roasting some beets and I'm braising the beet greens in lemon and butter. I'm also baking something new and ornate, perhaps even varsity-level. Among other things, pears have just come in at the farmers' markets. The handful I've managed to keep from Emerson are becoming pear and almond tartelettes.

Speaking of - Emerson is in the kitchen with me, teeter totting around, playing with her toys, books and wooden spoons. It feels like an Otis Redding kind of day, so he's our soundtrack. There is dancing. There is also stewing, roasting, braising, baking and there is fall.

*And no, Stephanie, you won't find cinnamon brooms or pumpkin spice anywhere in my home. You're safe here.

*This is also an ideal time of year to watch The Goonies again.

*Though my above tale is true - The version of the recipe photographed here was prepared last night at our friend's, Patrick and Megan's place; at a farm in the country. It was truly a group effort as a result of a dinner for eight being produced (with handmade pasta), two babies that wouldn't eat or sleep that required constant attention and three hyper dogs racing around. Not to mention my overwhelming fear of baking anything at all in the company of Megan, the much accomplished pastry chef (she worked for Daniel Boulud, for crying out loud.) But, we all took turns doing something tart-related and holding babies. Megan cut the pears and placed them on the tarts, patrick brûléed the tart tops and styled the photographs and, of course, Fred took the pictures. 

Pear and Almond Mini Tarts

Makes 8 tartelettes

Tart Crust (my mom's recipe)

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter, chilled
6 Tablespoons lard, chilled
5-6 Tablespoons ice water, as needed

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Add chilled butter and lard. Work into flour mixture, with fingers or pastry blender, quickly and well until texture of coarse meal.

Add ice water, 2-3 tablespoons at a time, and mix with a fork. Turn dough onto your work surface, knead several times and shape into a ball.  Wrap in wax paper and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before use (dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap and leave it out for a few minutes. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick round. Lift the pastry gently, wrapping round your rolling pin if easier, and place it over the tart mold. Working fast, lift up the edges of the pastry to allow it to relax into the base of each crease and press in lightly. Leave any excess pastry round the edges to allow for shrinkage. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork a couple times, gently. Place a small circle of parchment (a little bigger than the size of the mold) in the center of the circle of dough and place some baking beans on top to weigh the paper down. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the tart turn a light shade of golden brown. Let the shells cool for a couple minutes, discard the beans and parchment paper and let cool on a cooling rack.


5 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled 

Combine 4 cups water, sugar, and lemon juice and bring to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and add pears. Reduce to medium and simmer until pears are very tender—about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup, cover and refrigerate (can be prepared 2 days in advance).


2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
7 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Granulated sugar for brûlée 
Powdered sugar

Frangipane: grind almonds and flour finely in food processor. Mix in 7 tablespoons sugar, then butter, vanilla and brandy. Blend until smooth. Mix in egg. Put filling in medium bowl; cover and chill at least 3 hours (can be prepared 2 days in advance).

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread frangipane evenly in baked tart crusts. Remove stems from pears and cut each in half lengthwise; remove cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear half to fan slices. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling in center.

Bake tarts until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool tarts in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tarts from pan. Sprinkle a little granulated sugar over tarts. Move blowtorch flame evenly back and forth just above top of tart, avoiding crust, until sugar is caramelized and slightly browned (be careful not to burn sugar) (can be made 8 hours in advance). Let stand at room temperature.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

One year ago: Coconut Cake
Two years ago: Navajo Fry Bread
Four years ago: Chocolate-Sea Salt Pie
Five years ago: The Ludo Truck
Six years ago: Pissota con l”Olio


  1. These tarts are so pretty! Love the photos of them dusted with icing sugar on the black background. We are coming into spring here, and I am SO over winter - can't wait for some warmer weather! Your words about autumn are beautiful - makes me wish a little bit that it was pumpkin, cinnamon and apple season for us too :)

    1. Claudia,
      Thank you for the kind words! Enjoy your spring with all of its own wonderful colors, smells and deliciousness!

  2. Beautiful tarts, beautiful pictures. And a beautiful narrative too!

  3. I always enjoy reading your excellent blogs and Fred's photos...a feast for the eyes!!

  4. I am absolutely speechless!! from the prose to the photos everything about this is so dreamy and romantic, grab me one immediately!!!! love love x