One of the things I miss most about Rhode Island is living so close to several phenomenal beaches. I didn't take advantage of being able to bask in the sun or body surf the waves with very few people crowding the sand. And now I live hours from the nearest beach. Beach going would now require fighting traffic across the monstrous and scary Bay Bridge, only to encounter boardwalked ashtrays so covered with umbrellas and towels that you can barely see the sand. Of course there are some exceptions, but they're even farther away and I just don't have the energy or gas money to hunt them down.
And so I have not set foot on a beach in years. Every time we head north to visit family during the warmer months we have two goals. Eat lobster and go to the beach. These are easily accomplished in one trip to Plymouth, MA (yes - the town where the Pilgrims lived has excellent lobster and beaches). And yet, we never make it there. The family, spoiled as we were, never feels up to the short trip, never wants to go. And as anyone who knows L can tell you, he will never miss out on a chance to spend as much time as possible with his family (which I suppose is my fault moving him 7 hours away). So we don't go. And then I spend all summer daydreaming that I'm at the beach.
Last year this was much easier, since I could lie by the apartment pool all day. This year, in our own house, we have no pool (a situation I hope to remedy as soon as I can scrounge up the money). So the best I can do is sit in the AC and eat a creation I call Key West Tartlettes. Light and sweet-tart, they combine some of my favorite flavors, key limes, coconut and macadamia nuts. A crumbly cookie crust lines a key lime filling, breaking from the tradition by using coconut cream instead of condensed milk, and is topped with a cloud of coconut meringue. These are inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Florida Pie - but significantly different due to my love of coconut and disdain for graham cracker crusts.
These are delicious but I had one major problem. They don't want to unmold from the tart pans. Next time I will try greasing the pans very well, then flouring them. Some time in the freezer after baking also may help. Or maybe even cooking the filling like a pudding before pouring it in - and not baking it. Because of my issues - I think it makes be better to make one large pie (in a pie plate) instead of finicky little tarts.
Key West Tartlettes
Macadamia Cookie Crust
6 oz. vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup toasted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Combine cookies and macadamias in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely ground. Add coconut and butter and pulse until mixture starts to lump together up the sides.
Scoop 4 heaping spoonfuls of mixture into each of 6 greased mini tart pans. Press the crust into the edges of the pan and up the sides, trying your best to form an even layer. Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350F.
Meanwhile, zest and juice your limes for the filling recipe below. When the oven is preheated, place the mini-tart pans on a thin baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, or until crust is slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool on a baking sheet. (Keep the oven on)
Key Lime & Coconut Filling
zest of 8-10 key limes
5 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 15oz. can cream of coconut (found in the cocktails aisle of the supermarket)
1/2 cup key lime juice (from 8-12 key limes)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat zest, egg yolks and sugar together on high speed until pale and creamy. Reduce speed to low and add in coconut cream, followed by the lime juice in two additions.
Transfer to a spouted container and carefully pour filling into cooled tart shells. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until filling just starts to set. Remove from oven (kill the heat this time) and let cool. Return to freezer for 20 minutes.
Coconut Meringue Topping
5 egg whites
1 Tbsp light rum
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
5 Tbsp sugar
Combine the egg white, rum and vanilla in the clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high speed until soft peaks form. Continue to mix, gradually adding creme of tarter and sugar, until stiff peaks form.
Preheat broiler. Use a ziploc bag with one corner cut off to pipe meringue onto tarts. Make sure to touch the meringue to the crust at all the edges or it may shrink into the middle when cooked. Place under the broiler until lightly browned. This happens fast so be sure to watch them!
Chill for 2 hours before serving.