Along with spring come the showers.
Today's rain is a break from the end-of-winter pruning I'd left until almost too late, the first, easy weeding, the carrying out of the potted plants that wintered in the little glass greenhouse. We lolled over a terrace lunch yesterday, time itself gone elastic in the overbright sun.
This type of weather, where everyone and the dog simply linger, reminds me how I've always liked to make meals that provide a maximum of flavor with a minimum of effort--all the better to enjoy that aforementioned lingering. With that in mind, I once again made the first properly 'fancy' dessert I ever learned. Over the years, I've varied and added to the spices in this recipe for novelty, reduced the sweetness, served it in single portions and as one whole tart. The ingredient list is blissfully short, but it is a dish that can't help but impress. Fully ripe bananas, a smidge of cold butter, a touch of (preferably not stale) spices and a jaunty marmalade for complexity--all come together for a dish that is significantly greater than the sum of its parts. Having preheated the stove, I assemble the tart before serving the cheese course. Preparation takes perhaps five minutes. Maximum. The only potential splurge is the ready-made puff pastry, or pâte feuilletée upon which all those ingredients rest (though here a puff pastry crust's just under 2.50 euros, give or take). Of course you could make your own puff pastry, but in those earlier days I never would have. Now, I just don't make the time, given the general quality of store-bought puff pastry, the gardening, and the rest of the things life brings.
Tarte fine à la banane (Banana Tart)
1 round of (pre-made) puff pastry, or pâte feuilletée*
3 fully ripe bananas, sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 scant teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 scant teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into bits
3 tablespoons citrus marmalade (lemon/lime, or orange)**
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Place the rolled out dough on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (aka parchment). Arrange the banana slices casually on the round, leaving a wide margin for the crust's edge. In a small bowl combine the sugar and spices. Using your fingers, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bananas. Dot the bananas evenly with the bits of butter and slide the tart into the preheated oven. Tart should bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned.
While the tart is baking, in a small saucepan melt the marmalade, stirring occasionally, remove any bits of citrus zest. Remove tart from the oven, brush the tops of the banana slices with marmalade, and serve.
* In France, pâte feuilletée Trésor de Grand Mère HERTA is widely available and reliably good. Outside of France, try to find a product made with butter if you can.** If using storebought marmalade: in France, you can find Rose's Lemon & Lime Marmalade, which is nice; in Holland, I used Tiptree/Wilkin & Sons, which I prefer.