Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Harvest!

Now, when i say Happy Harvest, I mostly mean "Happy Week After Halloween" since i actually have no crops to harvest.  Yet.

Our family did Halloween at our church this year, we took our car and set up some decoration and did a "trunk or treat".  It was really a great time, the kids had a blast.  We brought Tallulah, who was a good sport, met the people and shook wings all that.  Many of the kids got a kick out of her and we answered lots of questions about chickens and eggs and "where you get the nuggets" on a chicken. There were tons of kids saying "I've never seen a REAL chicken before" as if i were holding a magical beast!

Maggie as a bee
Micah the Bawk Bawk
Kids and Cousins, and... is that a chicken?

Micah and daddy

A good time was had by all but it gave me time, sitting there handing out candy to mostly strangers, to consider food in our lives.  I hope i am not being overly political when i say this, but there seemed to be an obvious economic divide in the types of people that came by.  The first wave of people were obviously very poor.  That group had no costumes, mostly ripped clothes and a very strong smell to them.  They were also mostly overweight.  After that various groups showed up, mostly middle class people.  It was that first group that got me thinking though. In that group, the adults had no shame in having a bag of their own.  Unlike the middle class groups that followed, they didn't even try to hide behind a baby saying they were collecting for their infant.  They simply held out their bag and demanded their treat.  No joyful cries of "trick or treat!" from them.  Or their children for that matter. For a lot of people, this degradation of our society makes them angry, but in this case it made me very very sad. 

The poor eat very poorly.  I read an article in The Economist recently about food deserts in the United States and how difficult it can be to come by fresh food in lower income areas.  I think that Tucson happens to do very well in the fresh food category, although to hear some of my friends talk, we are in the middle of the Sahara.  Us middle class snobs have the luxury of quoting "Food Inc" to decry grocery store tomatoes and Monsanto but ultimately any tomato is better than no tomato and proprietary produce is better than no produce at all, right?  I suppose many would consider that a matter for some debate.

Although, I have mentioned before that people don't know how to cook any longer, so this aim to get  produce (proprietary or otherwise) into the hands of poorer citizens might all be for naught since many cannot prepare the food in a way that they would want to eat and fast food restaurants might now start accepting food stamps, so why bother? With heart disease, diabetes and obesity being diseases found largely in poorer groups now and a lack of health insurance making treatment of these diseases harder to come by, one must wonder: Is America just too lazy to save itself?  Or do we just lack the knowledge necessary?

Fifty years ago, having a flock of chickens and a veggie garden in your back yard was a sign you were poor, trying to avoid grocery store costs and being prepared against hard economic times.  Poor people canned their food and made their clothes worried about waste.  Now these things are larks for the middle class.  

I don't know what the answer is or really have any suggestions.  I do believe teaching people to cook is essential to getting our country back on track.  I truly believe one of the worst decisions the public school system ever made was to phase out Home Ec.  But will it ever be enough?

Its the time of year when we get ready to say Thanks to our family and to our God for all of our many blessings.  And since I'm just an urban farming blog, far be it for me to tell you what to be thankful for, but if i might, i challenge you to be thankful for your kitchen, your back yard and even your Monsanto tomato.  Those who have signs in your kitchen that laud your inability or unwillingness to cook, consider what you are saying.  You have a range, you have pots, you have rice and beans, tomatoes, cheese, flour, salt, clean water.Yyou have access to more food than you could ever eat and you have internet access to learn how to make all of these things into a delicious dinner if you wanted.  

All the while, there are people out there who are obese, dirty and dont know how to do anything except demand a hand out of processed sugar.  I'm not sure who failed who here, but i know that i am not always the hardest most joyful worker or the best example of how to live and as a person of privilege, maybe that's my responsibility.  Food for thought. =)
Happy Harvest. From Tallulah and I.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Long time, no update!

So i havent updated since the middle of the summer mainly because life got the better of me.  There is a lot to do with a little fake farm and two kids under four and a full time job.  So i appologize for my lake of posting.

We got our garden planted in Aug.
Which turns out to have been too late.  For this year anyway.  I may have been too optimistic since i was told by several seed people that you could plant from July 15- Aug 15 and be fine.  I think we should have aimed more for July 15!  Although it was also unnaturally hot all summer long! its still in the nineties and its late October!  Yuck!

So after a week i was really hopeful, i had little sprouts:

Unfortunately, it never really got any bigger than that!  They grew up about three inches then gave up!  just sat there as tiny little sprouts.  I actually got really excited when they were at three inches and plucked out the excess tomato plants (youre only supposed to have one, not three!) So the weakest ones that i pulled, i transplanted one into one of my window boxes just to see what would happen.  Wouldnt you know it, its my biggest plant?  over a foot tall and looks like it might actually give me some tomatoes!  *sigh*  

Turning to the second bed, it had corn, cukes and watermelons planted in it.  the watermelon vine is HUGE (sorry no picture!) and spreading everywhere but no watermelons YET a few flowers have fallen off leaving little green balls that MIGHT be watermelons? The corn had a few stalks grow but a lot stayed small then withered in the heat.  I am not sure what makes one stalk grow like crazy and the one right next to it wither and die, but it was sure strange.

Overall i was pretty bummed about my farm.  My chickens wander the yard pooping on EVERYTHING but didnt lay eggs, my garden was jacking up my water bill like crazy but not producing any veggies!  Total bummer and i felt like such a failure as a farmer.  I'm not too ashamed to tell you i've been very very stressed with life and work lately and the farm failure was really just another crushing blow to my already bruised ego.  

Then yesterday happened!  Luis went to check on the chickens after we got home from the gym last night and what did we find?!

A small white egg!  Since it is white (it is, the light is just weird in the coop) it is either Polish or Talulah.  However because its so small, and i dont see another one in there this morning, i think its Polish!  Crazy polish might have been the first of our chickens to lay an EGG!  This is miraculous because Polish is an ornamental breed, shes not really a big egg-layer.  Although just because its a small doesnt mean its not Talulah's.  She'll eventually lay big white eggs, but since shes new to it, its normal to have smaller eggs at first.  So i'll try to keep you posted when we get our next eggs.  Hopefully our other girls follow suit soon!  

Then miracle of miracles we also found THIS:

That there is an honest to goodness ear of corn!  Growing in MY back yard!  Now since there arent too many other tall stalks (about 5 total grew tall enough to produce) it may never get cross pollinated enough to eat* but it will make good chicken food none the less!  

So i am very excited to have had SOME success in the garden.  This weekend i hope to pull out the front bed that did nothing at all and replant some winter veggies.  (Kale anyone?)  i'll make sure we mix in some of our own compost this time since that was what was in the boxes and all of those are doing great!  

Happy Harvest to you all!  Come see two of the chickens and I at Northminster Presybeterian this Halloween!  Our Trunk or Treat car will be farm themed and I think im taking Polish and Dorothy to be petted by the kids!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When chickens wont come home to roost.

Farm fans REJOICE! For today is a day of great celebration in the land of Ruvalcaba Farms!  We have procured dirt! it will be dropped off Saturday morning, hopefully moved into its home by Saturday afternoon and planted Sunday after the farmers market! HUZZAAHH!!!!! pictures and separate entry to follow.  But today's post is about chickens!

So every night, after they have walked around in the yard eating weeds for a few hours, the chickens put themselves to bed.  They all walk up into the coop and cuddle up in the windows.  For whatever reason, they sleep there rather than on the roosting bar.  All of them just troop right on in there... except for Other White Chicken. 

Girlfriend really is her own bird.  She's a chicken among...other chickens.  If you remember from earlier OWC and Polish came to us after our initial five chickens (one of which was Betsy, the rooster).  Even though we only got them a week after the others and they've spent the vast majority of their lives as a group, OWC and Polish tend to stick together.  OWC typically takes longer to leave the coop when they get let out for the night and Polish usually sticks close by until OWC makes her way out.  When all the girls are pecking the weeds near the gate, OWC and Polish are pecking the weeds under the slide.  And more often that not if someone is squawking and tearing across the yard with a chihuahua in hot pursuit, its OWC or Polish.  Its not that they are outcasts really; when Zero attacks one of them, the other girls will eventually swarm him to remind him to back off.  Its just that those two tend to occasionally act like a separate flock within a flock.

So its no surprise that while all the chickens are going inside for the night OWC is roosting on every thing EXCEPT the inside of the coop, with Polish keeping a watchful (if not lone) eye on her from the window.  Not the same window as the others mind you. 

that's plywood that i use to hold the door open while they are outside.

Typically, i let them do their thing outside while i make dinner and usually i come out after dark to find them all tucked in and OWC perched on the brick grill next to the coop, like shes hoping to become dinner later.  You cant see it here but shes usually all hunkered down with her belly on the brick and her head down by her chest.  She fully intends to sleep there every night. At least until someone puts a fire under her and cooks her up. Usually i have to pick her up and put her back inside with her other ladies. 

"Time to  get off the grill and go inside OWC"-Me "Eat me"-OWC
OWC.  A rebel without a cause.  Unless, of course,  "not roosting inside" is a cause.  then shes pretty much a rebel with a cause.  a ridiculous cause. 

"what are we gonna do with that bird?"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Farm Update!

I have been getting lots of questions about the status of the farm.  I'm a little ashamed to tell you that on the "growing things" front, we are at a stand still.  A lack of two days off in a row and a lack of pickup truck are making it impossible to get dirt for the beds.  So for the moment they still look like this: 

Empty, barren, full of dirty plastic (that had been spread out over them to help burn off the weeds).  As soon as we can afford about $300 worth of dirt, we can fill them.  But really unless that happens next weekend, we will likely miss the last summer planting season.  then we will have to wait til mid September to plant for the fall.  Not that that is so far away. just a bummer.  No tomatoes for us. =(

Basil: Purple and Sweet
Thyme in the foreground, Oreg in the background
In the mean time, we have been growing herbs in window boxes next to the house with mixed sucess.  The basil is doing very well.  We also have thyme, parsley and oregano that are doing well.  Our Cilantro, which used to occupy that lower orange box with the parsley all died off, this the bald spot on the edge of the parsley.  The three empty green boxes on the bottoms were just planted today in a mix of our compost and potting soil.  They contain cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkins.  Im not sure which is which because i failed to label them! so it
will be a surprise when they show up.  I also threw some pumpkin seeds down on the ground next to this set up just to see if they would grow.  I'm told pumpkins will grow pretty much anywhere. So its just an experiment.  i'll let you know how it goes.

On the other hand, the chickens are doing lovely!  I hadnt posted many pictures of them because they were in their ugly phase.  Chickens have a very ugly phase between the time they are chicks and the time they are pullets.  They look like pigeons with chick heads.
See? This was Esther about 2 mo ago...

Sadly, Betsy did turn out to be a rooster so i sent her/him to live with a nice family on  a farm.  Literally.  Or at least i hope its literally.  More likely than not they are planning to eat him in a few weeks.  But that's better than the other crazy fear i have which is that they are using him in a cock fight.  Lets hope that's not it! I'll need to screen my applicants better in the future. Really i just freaked out when he started crowing.  I didn't want the police called and all my other girls forced to leave over one stupid rooster.  My neighbor was kind enough to haughtily tell me that its illegal to have roosters so she's very glad she hasn't heard any crowing coming from my yard. I tell you, if my ladies ever need lessons on how to be a cluck-y old hen, i'll send them to that lady. Sheesh.  

Anywho, the girls are big enough now to free range in the yard for a while.  so when i come home from work i let them out and they wander around eating weeds. 
That's Esther pecking the weed and Ruth behind her.  Dorothy's butt is behind them both
Since monsoons started its helpful to have some girls who are willing to eat the never ending supply of weeds in our yard.  Its also humorous to see them all around the kid's play things.

After it starts to get dark (or rain) they put themselves back into the coop and settle in for the night.  You know the expression "hens coming home to roost"?  That's a real thing.  With no prodding at all they will just walk back into the coop and roost.  Whats roosting?  you see that 2x4 in the picture of young Esther? That is a roost.  Its just a bar or plant that they can sit and balance on.  Chickens, for some reason, dont like their butts to touch the ground while the sleep.  Three of mine sleep on that bar (Polish, Ruth and Other White Chicken, not ironically the bottom three on the pecking order) while the other three (Esther, Dorothy and Talulah) roost in the window and like to stick their heads out and watch the rain.  They are funny girls.

I wish i had a picture of it, and maybe i should just do a whole post on it, but the sleeping habits of the girls are really very cute.  Dorothy, the second in command sleeps with her neck stretched out across Esther (top chicken)'s neck.  Their necks are longer than they appear when they stretch out and so if you look quickly it looks like Ether's striped body has a brown head and Dorothy's brown body has a black striped head.  Talulah just looks at them both like they are whacko's and shoves her head out of the chicken wire window and lets the rain drip off her beak.

So there you go, an update on the girls.  No eggs yet, but we suspect Talulah will start laying eggs at the end of this month or the beginning of next mother.  They've all been put on layer feed to help them produce healthy well shelled eggs!  

There is now talk in our household of a pair of pygmy goats for the milk. but that will require us to bulldoze our hen house and build a new structure, part hen house part "goat cave".  But first we need to get some dirt! what do you think? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Its a cake walk

I promise, this blog is mostly about sustainable, self sufficient living.  I swear.  But until i get some dirt in those beds, my farm life is limited to daily chicken feeding, which doesn't make for interesting reading. Although the ladies ARE huge now.  you'll freak when you see them.

Anywho, in the meantime i was given the go-ahead from no less than two of my facebook friends to write a cake entry.

I wanted to shy away from too much non-daily living baking because there are plenty of cake blogs out there. I've always thought that for the most part, baking is just a mater of following directions.  But over the years, i've realized there might be more to it than that.  Don't get me wrong, i'm sure most anyone could make a cake and make it taste just fine.  In fact, probably would be very tasty!  The things i've learned are more subtle than that i guess.  So here is a recipe for basic chocolate cake.

First of all, I didnt write this recipe.  Ina Garten did.  She's one of those chefs where you can know nothing else about the dish except that she wrote the recipe and you can be sure its probably good. if its messed up, its probably your fault.

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

So, preheat your oven to 350.  You NEED 2 8x2" rounds for this.  Im serious.  I tried it with 2 9x1's and it nearly over flowed. it was weirdly flat too.  I dont recommend it.  I'd say you could PROBABLY do it with 3 9x1's but then youd need more frosting.  This is another example of the recipe doesnt match the pan you can buy.  I swear this has to do with some sort of evil box cake conspiracy.  So do what i did, order them online.  Moving on, first step is buttering pans

Cake always sticks to pans. Always.  i dont care how well you buttered it.  you really have to trace the bottom of your pan on parchment paper, cut out the round, then butter the pan, put down the paper in the bottom and re-butter the top of the parchment.  Then flour the whole pan.  that round of parchment on the bottom will let your cake release from the pan.  its easy to pull a cake off of parchment, its not easy to take cake out of a plain pan.

Next sift your dry ingredients together.  I use a wire sieve to do this.  Also, always remember to fluff your flour before you measure or your food will taste like flour. That's important.

In a separate container mix all of your wet ingredients except for the coffee.  Turn your mixer on low and gradually add your wet to your dry.  Mix until barely combined.  maybe even not all the way combined.  Then add the coffee slowly until just barely mixed.

Why do i keep saying barely?

Because cake is the polar opposite of bread.  Cake flour is low gluten, bread flour is high gluten.  So, gluten is not just some evil thing (on par to high fructose corn syrup if you ask some people) that suddenly every 8th person you meet can't eat.  Its a protein that results from wheat and other types of grains.  In baked goods, its a binding thing.  it holds your stuff together.  So in bread you want more gluten.  You form the gluten by kneading.  the more you knead the more gluten binds together and the more stable your bread is.  cake however, you want as little gluten bond as possible.  So you BARELY mix it.  as soon as you dont see flour anymore, youre done.  Or in this case (cause you lost most of the flour before you added the coffee) as soon as the mixture has a good consistency. you are done.

Pour this batter into the prepared pans and put them into the oven.  It will bake for 30-40 minutes and when its done you can stab a tooth pick through the center and it will come out with moist crumbs, not goo. (whoever said it should come out clean probably makes some really dry cake).

When it comes out, if you didnt over mix it, it will look like this:

Ok this is where i geek out for a few minutes.  Just like with bread i LOVE to look at the bonds in baked things.  See those bubbles in there? see how loosely it holds together? I dont mean to be a jerk who is like "look how awesome my cake is" but the science of the whole thing just blows my mind.  That cake is moist and fluffy.  The fluffy comes from the understanding of gluten.  respect for gluten will really make or break your baking.  AHHH look at it!! is so crazy! when you look really close it almost looks like fabric, how it knits together.  In bread its really tight and almost looks like its melted together. In cake though its this fragile light fluffy bond.  Come over, i'll bake you a cake just to break apart and stare at.  I just love that.

Moving on!!!  Make sure your cake is COMPLETELY cool before you try to frost it.  Your frosting will slide clean off if you dont.  In this case, cool in the pans for about 30 min then turn it out onto a cooling rack.  I like to turn it out then flip it so the parchment is on the bottom and the weird rounded side is up. makes leveling it out later easier.

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Two things i've learned about frosting: Powdered sugar is SWEET. seriously. really really sweet.  Fluff it!  you don't want to compact it an essentially have 1.5 x the amount of sugar you wanted. Second, unsalted butter is pretty essential.  Many frostings call for salt so if you have salted butter you'll have salty frosting.  Now sometimes this is tasty (to me, frostings with nut tastes or caramel are good salty) but most of the time you want to control the salt content in your baked goods.

So first you need to put a pot of water on to simmer and put your chocolate in a bowl over it.  This is how you melt chocolate without burning it and having it get all chalky.  after its melted set it aside to cool.

Next, put your butter in your mixer bowl and beat on med speed until its fluffy (2ish minutes).  then put in your egg yolk and vanilla and beat for about another 3 minutes.  Put your mixer on low and add in your powdered sugar 1/4 c at a time.

Dissolve your instant coffee powder in 2 tbs of hot water.  Let that hang out for a few minutes while you mix your chocolate into your butter.  Then go get your instant coffee and mix that in too.

There! Frosting! Done! Now time to frost your cake.  Use a serrated knife to even out the top of your cake so its flat.  This is easier to do if your cake is frozen, so if you have some spare time, freeze your cake first.  but that will also make your cake less tasty.  So weigh your options.  Personally i'll just be really careful when i cut it rather than risk weird freezer taste.  Put your first layer on the bottom of a cake stand (or carrier case base) and put about 1/3 of your frosting on top.  Spread it out to even it.

Quick commercial break: you might think you dont need an offset spatula and that you are fine with a rubber spatula or a regular flat knife but you are wrong.  you really really are.  its SO much easier to spread with an offset spatula.  I got mine from my husband for mother's day (along with my kitchenaid *swoon*) and he got it from my sister in law.  If you dont have one and you really wanna start making more cake, follow the link up there and get one.  its important.

ok so after you have that layer down you put the next layer on top of it.  Make sure you trimmed that one too.

 Now, i'm a HORRIBLE cake decorator.  Seriously, very bad.  But i know one thing about frosting cakes, and that is that you need a crumb layer.  This is a thin first layer of frosting to catch all your crumbs form the sides in. then you let it sit for a second to firm up and you frost the pretty outside layer on top of that.  That way the part that is visible to the public is not full of crumbs.

Ok so once you have the whole thing frosted you are done.  But it will be a very boring looking cake.  For this reason i usually put some weird ring of something around the outside top edge.  Just because i think it hides how bad i am at cake presentation.
I dont know which is worse, the presentation or my photography...

That's just shaved white chocolate on the edge there.  Incidentally, if you ever wondered if your white chocolate is "good" (which literally gets specified in recipes now) you will know by its color. if its white, its good. if its yellow its mostly wax.  look:

Those white discs are "good" white chocolate (so is that little block in the corner there. thats what i shaved my shavings off of.) those white chocolate chips=bad.  Those wont work well when you try to bake with them.  Fun fact.

And just to head off the questions in advance: Yep, i did this tonight.  yes i did feed my kids dinner (see below).  How do i find time?  Well what did you do between 7:30 and 10:30 tonight?  Just take whatever you said and replace it with "baked a cake" and that's how i find time.  Its not like you have to baby sit the thing while its in the oven.  there are big long stretches of time where you can just go do something else.  it bakes for like 40 minutes, thats when the kids took baths, read bedtime stories and went to sleep.

Maggie eats salad

Happy baking.  I swear more farming in the future.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bountiful backlog

Lots of you have probably heard of Bountiful Baskets by now.  For the uninitiated, Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op where you pay $16.50 to get about $40-50 worth of produce.  Everyone gets the same stuff and you dont get to pick what is in the basket but its all seasonal and usually in really good shape. You order about 5 days in advance and pick up your basket Saturday morning.  In our case, we pick it up at Udall Park at 6:30 in the morning.  We just recently switched to that location after some drama (scroll to the bottom, in italics) went down at our usual pick up of Lincoln Park.

So if you are a person who already gets a basket every week, you know how it can be.  As my friend Leia put it: "What am i going to do with 10 lbs of mangos?!" followed by "oh no, more mangos" the next week.  

For the last few weeks there has been no shortage of stone fruits and berries in the baskets.  and after a while, you can only eat so many raw peaches.  So whats a girl to do?  Well, in part one of an [as yet undetermined number] part series, I will given you something to do with your basket backlog! this week: fruit.

So, as you can see i have 7 peaches, 7 plums *one is behind the blackberries, a thing of black berries, a thing of strawberries and two mangos (we ate two of them raw).

i felt the most expeditious way to eat them all was, you guessed it, a fruit tart.  So here we go:

-3/4 c butter
-2/3 c sugar
-2 c flour
-1 tsp almond extract (pretty much optional...)

Mix all that together into a course meal.  This is best done in a food processor or standing mixer.  In case you arent much of a baker and "course meal" doesnt sound like anything to you, it should look like this:

So then in theory, if you grabbed a bunch it you could shape it (at least vaguely) but then if threw it back into a bowl it would break apart again.   That's what you want.  If you find yourself with big huge chunks of butter, you need to mix more. 

Ok so you dump all of that into your tart pan.  If you dont know what a tart pan is, its a short 1 inch tall pan with fluted edges where the bottom can be popped away from the sides.  unlike a spring form pan, it doesnt lock in.  This is important to know when you are working with a non-cooked tart shell and you try to hold it like a waiter holds a tray.  thats a good way to have a tart ring around your elbow and a broken pile of uncooked shell on your floor.  If you've never done this, that last sentence will mean nothing to you.  If you have, you probably chuckled to yourself.  ten points to you and me for getting the joke.

This makes an 11" tart which is pretty big.  Tart pans are like loaf pans where the recipes dont usually match the standard sizes available at Target.  Most tart recipes are for a 9" tart and most available pans are 11".  Likewise, most bread recipes assume a loaf of 8"x4" but the most common size in a regular store is 9"x5".  Its ridiculous.  

So this is what it looks like when you first dump it.  You will think to yourself: "where will i put fruit? or custard?"  

I'm sure youre smart enough to work out that you need to press this stuff down to make a shell.  Most recipes will tell you to do this with a measuring cup.  That's all well and good, unless your sister in law sells Pampered Chef and so all of you measuring cups look like this:  Super great for measuring out of a canister of flour, not so great for pushing down sides of a tart. (If you dont get why, its cause of the angled side there.)  Hopefully, like me, you have an old crappy measuring cup relic laying around that looks more like this:

This one will work perfectly for the sides.  However, i find that it takes a bit of force to get the bottom of your shell to flatten evenly.  So i use the measuring cup only for the sides.  For the bottom, i use a meat tenderizer.  The way God intended it to be used: on Pastries.

See? look with their powers combined, they are the perfect tart shell making pair!  

Its hard to tell here, but use your thumb to hold down the part of the edge that you are pressing with your measuring cup.  when you press it into the side this whole "physics" thing happens where it pushes up also.  push back against it and you'll get a nice compacted crust rather than a mess on your counter. Or both, as you can see here.

Now prick the bottom with a fork.  Bake the thing at 375 for about 15 min.  Keep an eye on it.  This is one of those times where golden brown means "over done" not "delicious".

When its done, i like to melt chocolate chips and spread a thin layer of chocolate along the inside bottom and sides of the tart.  This is not because chocolate is delicious (it is, but thats not why) This seals the tart, so the custard wont make your shell go all soggy if you keep it overnight.  If you wanna eat it right away do whatever.  Heck do whatever anyway, its your party.  Either way set it aside to cool.

-2 C half and half (or one cup milk, one cup heavy cream.  Unless you are my friend Nikki, who is freaked out by that idea)
-1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract if you dont have a bean handy)
-3/4 c sugar
-1/4 c flour
- pinch salt
-6 egg yolks
-1 tbs butter

Pour the half and half into a sauce pan and heat over med high heat.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk, then throw the pod in after it.   you'll take the pod out later, dont panic. 

You might be surprised by how many people dont know what i mean when i say "vanilla bean" so there is a photo for ya,just to be safe. I use a butter knife to scrape out the seeds because too often i accidentally shave my pod and end up with weird woody bits floating in my custard.  They dont bother anyone but me, but really i'm the one who matters here, its my tart.

While the milk comes to a simmer, mix the yolks with the sugar flour and salt

Once the milk is simmering (bubbles along the outside of the pan) remove it from the heat, take out the pod and poor it into the yolk mixture in a very very thin stream, while continuing to whisk furiously.  You are looking to gradually raise the temperature of the eggs, or else you will get scrambled egg custard.  Which is gross.  so steady as she goes there mates.

Fun science fact: the flour is what thickens it in this recipe.  Some custards call for corn starch which can be substituted for your gluten free friends.  but then they'd not be able to eat the tart shell so.... you'd need to come up with something else there...

If you've never seen my kitchen, its tiny and cluttered. Sorry. And my computer cooks with me.
Ok after you have about half of the hot milk into the yolks you can switch and dump the eggs into the milk in the pot.  Then put the whole thing back on the stove over medium heat and whisk until it thickens.  It will be obvious when it has thickened.

If you are like me, you will think this thickening takes FOREVER. you will find yourself thinking "well this is thicker but not OBVIOUSLY thicker like shes saying... soooo do i keep going?" yes you do.  You keep whisking (which means you keep standing next to that hot burner) until you fear that the Rapture will happen before this thing thickens up.  You keep whisking even when you swear you hear the four horsemen.  And just before you nearly stop stirring to let Kirk Cameron in to give you some "how to survive the next seven years" religious tracts, it will thicken.  Very suddenly.  Remove it from heat, throw in a tablespoon of butter whisk it til it melts.

Put the custard into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap touching the custard.  This prevents the weird skin from forming.  If you happened to have brought your plastic wrap to work and never remembered to bring it home (Who does that?), i've learned wax paper works just fine also.  Put the custard in the fridge until its cool-cold.

Once the custard is cool its really easy.  Dump your custard into your chocolate lined tart (or non-chocolate lined. whatever, im not here to judge).  Then you just slice up your weird fruits and throw them on top.  There is really no way to screw that up.  You could put pretty much any fruit on here and it would be fine*.

As you can see, i added some blueberries that i had laying around** and i sprinkled sweet basil from my garden since i didnt have any kiwi in there to break up the colors a bit.  You might think that is weird but seriously it was delicious.  It will be a permanent fixture in all future tarts.  

*Bananas would not be fine.
**"laying around" is a relative term.  I made Luis go grab them at Trader Joe's.