I know there are fancy apps and tools out there to help us all catalogue our recipes and notes and grocery lists, but I’m an Old Millennial and so graduating from piles of post-its to the notes app on my iPhone was enough of a quantum leap for me, thank you.
As a result, I have a few evergreen notes that just get updated and reordered as I go through life, including the one that has evolved over the years from a quick note of the groceries I need to a bloated, only-organized-to-me page of separate lists, ranging from books to read, errands to run, and recipes to make. And after a while, these list items just kind of become part of the scenery of my phone*, operating less as reminders of things I should do and more as comforting ideas of things I could do when I ever decide I want to get around to them.
*Like that time I kept a broken bicycle upside down on my living room floor for 4 years, until I got to the point that people would ask me about it and I would just tell them it was “sculpture art.”
Which is why, just above “comcast cable box return” and below “Mississippi Roast,” I’ve had “food52 labneh tart” sitting on this list as Notes app wallpaper for probably over a year. And over the months, the idea of it sat in the back of my brain, percolating, as I added pistachios to the crust and some kind of fruit sauce to be spooned on top, at first maybe a puree and then probably a caramel, and then definitely something citrus-based.
It was going to be amazing, I just had to you know, actually MAKE IT.
Which brings us to last week, when I was the recipient of too many kumquats. I quickly moved from excitement to panic because, what does one ever really do with kumquats? They are weird, little bite-size citrus hardly ever found in stores and too expensive when they are, and so I’ve never had a ton of experience using them in cooking. I needed a plan or they were doomed to a moldy death in my fridge.
But, then! My brain started checking off boxes for me:
- kumquats are citrus.
- they are very tart, and would go well with a sweeter, cheese-based filling.
- they probably pair well with pistachio
- individually they yield hardly any juice, so I could easily use up the whole bundle of them in one go.
Hi, Allie, it’s time to make a tart!
I'm so glad I finally did! The tart is creamy and sweet with a little tartness from the labneh filling, encased in a buttery crust with an extra crunch from pistachios, which also lend it a beautiful green color before baking.
And the caramel. I didn't know cooked sugar and fruit could marry so well, though that basically describes pie filling so maybe "duh", but oh boy, that stuff is good. Here, the kumquat gives a tart acidity tempered with just enough sweetness, but still sharp enough that when pooled on top of the tart, it cuts right through the butter and richness in the most perfect way.
You can certainly leave off the candied kumquats or at least don't over cook them like I did, but I do like the way they look like little caramel buttons lined up on the tart, so I'm glad I tried to add them.
Pistachio Labnen Tart with Kumquat Caramel
For the tart:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup ground pistachios
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 16 oz labneh
For the caramel:
- 1/8 cup water
- 1/8 cup + 1 tbs sugar
- 1/4 cup kumquat juice (see note)
- 1-2 tsp brandy
- splash of vanilla
For the Candied Kumquats (optional)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 kumquats, sliced thinly, seeds removed
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt, then add in flour and pistachios and mix well. Press evenly into bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, gently pressing dough down with the back of a spoon after 15 minutes if it inflates. Remove and lower oven to 300 degrees.
- Make the filling: whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla, then whisk in the labneh until smooth. Pour filling into the hot crust and bake for 15-20 minutes, until set but still a bit jiggly in the middle. Cool completely on a rack. If not serving at this point refrigerate.
- Make the candied kumquats, if using. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the sliced kumquats, boil for 1 minute, then drain and transfer to an ice bath. Drain again. In skillet, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, then add the kumquats in a single layer and simmer over low heat until softened and most of the sugar mixture has evaporated, 30-45 minutes. Place candied kumquats on parchment to set.
- Make the caramel. Bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat without stirring. When sugar is dissolved and mixture is a deep reddish amber color (after about 8-10 minutes), whisk in the fruit juice, brandy, and vanilla and keep stirring until all sugar is dissolved and the mixture reduces a bit. Add a pinch of salt if you'd like, and set aside to cool slightly.
- When ready to serve, pour the cooled caramel (reheated if necessary to pourable consistency) over the tart and spread evenly. Garnish with candied kumquats and any leftover ground pistachio. Slice and serve.
- Kumquats aren't always available and can be expensive when they are, so buying in the quantity I used may not be an option for you. A quick online search also shows they are in season during November-March, so if you don’t live somewhere where they are still growing, they will definitely be unavailable. If that is the case, a substitution with a blend of orange and lemon juices should work here.
- I'm not sure of the quantity of kumquats I needed to yield 1/4 cup juice but it was a lot, at least 4 or 5 cups worth of whole kumquats. If you don't know anyone with a kumquat tree and you'd like to use less, you can blend the whole kumquats (removing the seeds first) into a puree and stir that into the caramel. It will be sweeter than using just the juice and need fewer kumquats. I chose not to do this because I wanted a less pulpy caramel sauce, and I wasn't lacking for kumquats.
- The caramel sauce is finished with fruit juice instead of butter or cream, so it isn’t as rich as you may be used to. I also reduced mine down a bit after mixing, which thickened it up but also possibly activated the pectin in the citrus because my cooled caramel sort of jellied. No worries if this happens though, as a quick reheat will bring it back to a pourable consistency.