This week we have The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer, a sharp, interesting spy novel about Milo Weaver, a beleaguered CIA operative (called a Tourist) who finds himself accused of several murders, including the murders of his old friend, his boss, and of the assassin he has been hunting down for years. Of course Milo is iannocent of these charges and the novel follows with a frenzied pace his attempt to clear his name. This book was born to be made into a film, so I was unsurprised when I learned that George Clooney had optioned it. The book has nothing to do with food, the only things the characters imbibe are cigarettes and vodka, and that wouldn't have made anything too tasty. So in honor of the 4of the July and the book's tale of the patriotic CIA with a serious dark underbelly of manipulation and deceit, I decided to make a patriotic red white and blue tart with a dark underside of bittersweet chocolate.
This was a great summer read - an exciting and fast moving plot but also an intelligent book that was well written and made me think. The book tells the story of Milo Weaver, who when we first meet him is a so-called "Tourist." A type of clandestine CIA operative that, much like Ethan in Mission Impossible, gets his orders from one man, and traipses through Europe assassinating people, gathering information, and otherwise moving chess pieces around. Milo is good at his job, but it is killing him - he never sleeps, is addicted to over the counter amphetamines to keep himself awake all the time. In the first portion of the book, we see an episode which brings Milo to the point of breakdown in Venice, where he and a fellow Agent Angela are hunting down a CIA agent gone bad. Last we see of Milo (on September 10, 2001 by the way), he is collapsed in a Venice piazza with a pregnant woman whose water just broke. The novel then flashes forward to 2007, where Milo is now employed at a CIA office in New York, and he acts as a "Travel Agent", a CIA operative who manages and directs Tourists. Obviously the world has changed since we first met Milo - the day after his collapse was September 11 and the CIA has new enemies, both around the world and at home. Milo is also a different man. He is now married to the woman who he first met the day he collapsed, and is step father to her daughter that was born that day. But, unsurprisingly, Milo is still a Tourist at heart, and when his boss asks him to investigate his old friend Angela, now an embassy employee in Paris, Milo is once again drawn into the world of a clandestine agent. Milo ends up being framed for multiple murders and rest of the book feverishly charts his effort to clear his name and more importantly stay alive. Any book or movie about the CIA does not tell a happy, rosy story of the agency or of the United States roll in the world and this book is no different. Beneath all the patriotism, Steinhauer depicts a real dark side. Hence the inspiration for my tart below.
Patriotic Tart with Dark Side
Here is a fruit tart, with a basic sweet pastry crust, a whipped cream mascarpone filling, decorated with red and blue berries perfect for a July 4th celebration. The secret of this tart is the shell of dark chocolate I brushed on the tart shell after it was baked and froze to harden. A dark side that is unseen under the patriotic dressing. I threw this one together without a recipe except for the tart shell.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via www.smittenkitchen.com
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter very cold and cut into pieces
1 large egg (I used 1 and 1/2 eggs)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Berries or other fruit of your choice!
To make crust, pulse dry ingredients together in food processor bowl. Scatter pieces of butter over flour and pulse until coarsely cut into flour, with butter chunks the size of peas.
Stir yolk to break up a bit, then to dough a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. In the end, the mixture should look sandy, but it should clump together when pressed. I ended up adding about 1/2 of an additional egg.
Turn dough onto a work surface and gently kneed till it comes together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour.
After it is chilled, roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment and transfer to a tart pan (I believe mine is 8 inches). Now put the dough in the freezer for a couple of hours. This will help to prevent tart dough shrinkage. To be honest, my tart dough did shrink, but maybe it would have shrunk more if I had not frozen the dough.
Preheat oven to 375. Cover tart shell with tinfoil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake till lightly browned, 10 minutes more. Let tart shell cool.
To make chocolate layer, melt chocolate over double boiler and then brush chocolate on cooled shell. Brush it on as thick as you want! Put shell back into the freezer to firm up the chocolate.
Meanwhile, put heavy cream in bowl of electric mixer with whisk attachment. Whip until stiff peaks form. Add the marscapone and whip together until combined. Add sugar and vanilla and whip till combined. The filling should be fluffy but with some body.
Spread the whipped cream on top of the chocolate layer. Then add the berries in whatever design you want!