O Mother, Where Art Thou?
By Bonnie Fishman
When one is stressed, anxious, sad, lost at sea or depressed, especially during a pandemic, who doesn’t want or need his or her mother? We may actually be able to gather this weekend to celebrate our moms, while last year, we were in isolation. For those of us fortunate enough to have one, this is the Mother’s Day to really embrace them. Be grateful. Be generous. Be forgiving. Be loving. Be available. You are so very fortunate to have that unconditional love radiating from your mother.
I’m not that lucky. My mom--Boots or Bootsie, as her close friends called her--left us 50 years ago this Mother’s Day. I was only 18. My sisters were 19, 20, and 15. Four girls in six years. We were a houseful of female energy (we had three female dogs, too). Poor Dad. He stood alone! Our mother raised us to be fiercely independent because she knew that the cancer she had had since she was 31 years old was going to take her before some of us were fully evolved as adults. She passed at 47. Mom treated each of us as if we were the most important person in the world at that moment. As a result, we sisters have never fought, never been jealous of each other, and always supported each other during difficult and joyous times. We’re best friends. Hey, we now live together in the Fishman Family Compound in the San Francisco Bay Area, all of us migrating from Michigan.
How did Mom do it? I wish she had been around when I raised my children so I could have gotten sage advice from her. But that was not to be.
Not only was Boots strong, positive and resilient, especially during the painful final four years of her life, she was also a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all. She cooked and baked like nobody’s business. That’s how I got my start, by emulating her kitchen acumen. Boots sewed every bedspread, curtain and drape in our house. She made most of our clothes when we were young, and all of our prom dresses. When my sister Nancy got married, my mom made the bridesmaids’ gowns and her own dress..
Did I mention that the woman could crochet at the speed of light? Boots made afghans for each of her friends before she died. Mom even built a city out of wood in our basement, hammering in the nails like a true contractor. We had a fully functioning soda fountain, my dad’s office and an 8’ x 8’ playhouse with working windows and flower boxes. Pull-eeze. How did she do it? I’ll never know.
The attributes that I most admired about my Mom were her integrity, kindness and generosity. If someone showed up at dinner time, she set an extra plate or two. On Thanksgiving weekend during my freshmen year at the University of Michigan, she invited all of our out-of-town friends who had no place to go for the holiday. Keep in mind, she could barely stand at this point because she was only six months away from dying. But they were all welcome.
I have learned so many lessons from my mom. I would not have been an entrepreneur or professional cook if it weren’t for her beautiful example. Here are the two key phrases that I live by: “Don’t take no for an answer” and “Don’t take sh*t from anyone.” I have passed these tenets on to my kids and they have flourished because of them. Perseverance, confidence, bravery, the can-do spirit... isn’t this a lesson for all of us, especially during a long period of fear and isolation? Embrace your moms. Embrace your children. If not now, when?
Since many people are vaccinated, they are finally able to visit their moms and give them a long, satisfying hug. Maybe a Mother’s Day brunch or dinner will be scheduled. Make it a very special one. Go the distance. In that spirit, I’m offering a delicious recipe that takes a lot of effort. I hesitate to call it work, because it’s a labor of love. I invented the Treasure Chest Tart more than 35 years ago and it includes all of my favorite dessert flavors in one package: nut pastry, peanut butter, bananas and vanilla pastry cream, all enrobed in chocolate glaze. What mom wouldn’t love that, right?
What’s great about this recipe is that you can pull out the different elements and use them in many other desserts. The almond crust can be the base for any type of fruit flan. The vanilla pastry cream is featured in flans, cake layers, eclairs, and so on. The chocolate glaze? Don’t ask. You can coat cakes, dip strawberries, pour over ice cream, glaze brownies--I could go on and on. Feel free to experiment and kindly share your ideas with The Insider.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day! Feel the love and joy. Even if your mom is no longer on earth, she is in your heart.
Treasure Chest Tart
Almond Tart Dough:
4 oz. butter or margarine, room temperature
1/4 c. sugar
2 lg. egg yolks
1 c. flour
1 c. ground almonds
3/4 c. crunchy peanut butter
3/4 c. vanilla pastry cream (see below)
1 ripe firm banana
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 c.+ 2 Tbs. heavy cream
Garnish: whipped cream banana slices dipped in ground almonds
2/3 c. whole milk
2 lg. egg yolks
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg yolks. Blend in flour and almonds. Work dough with hands until it comes together.
Spray a 8-9” removable bottom tart pan with pan release. Press dough evenly into pan and up the sides, creating a right angle where the sides meet the bottom. Level off the top of the rim. Prick bottom with a fork. Refrigerate or freeze for at least 2 hours. While the dough is chilling, make the pastry cream using the recipe below.
Bake tart shell blind in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before removing from pan and assembly.
Spread the peanut butter on the bottom of the tart. Spread pastry cream on top of the peanut butter. You will have left-over cream for another use. Slice the bananas into 1/4” rounds. Arrange the bananas on top of the cream, fitting them close together.
Put the chocolate and cream in a small stainless bowl. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan with 1” of simmering water at the bottom. Whisk the mixture until it is melted.
While warm, coat the tart evenly, leaving the tart shell bare. Refrigerate tart for at least one hour to set.
Apply 6-8 whipped cream rosettes around the outer edge of the glazed tart, about 1” in from the crust. Dip banana slices in ground almonds. Place bananas, almond-side up, in each rosette. Keep refrigerated. Take out to room temperature 1 hour before serving.
Pastry cream: In a small heavy-bottom stainless saucepan, scald the milk.
Whisk the yolks and sugar until lightened. Slowly whisk in the flour. Temper the yolks with the hot milk, slowly adding a bit of milk at a time, whisking constantly until all the milk is incorporated. Pour back into the pot.
Bring the cream to a boil, turn down to a light boil, cook 3 minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture should be nicely thickened. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour into a bowl. Cover with cling film, laying onto the surface so no skin develops. Chill completely.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.