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Earlier this evening, I was on the receiving end of a tedious lecture in the produce section of Whole Foods. "It's still too early in the season for rhubarb," said the clerk (I could tell I wasn't the first to ask). "You've still got several more weeks." It's a fact that I'm well-acquainted with, and I'd been hoping to score the imported stuff, which, according to multiple purveyors including Manhattan Fruit, is in short supply this year. No dice. And so, no rhubarb pie. I'll be scouring markets with hopes for next week.
As we patiently wait, I'm excited to share one of my favorite recipes of all time. It's a tart that was specifically designed to delight, regardless of what's growing. I learned to make it at Marlow & Sons, where it's the only standing item on the otherwise ever-changing menu. When you've got a chocolate crust filled with gooey caramel, covered with dark chocolate, and sprinkled with sea salt to offer, nobody gets all that upset that there's nothing fresh worth baking at the moment.
This salted chocolate caramel tart has a strong pedigree. It was originally conceived by Claudia Fleming as a tartlette on the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern, who passed it down to one of Marlow's pastry chefs, who put it on the menu and found that she couldn't take it off. In keeping with the rustic style of the place, she tweaked the recipe and made it bigger, and it's been there ever since. Chef Fleming describes it in her book The Last Course as "a highly sophisticated Rolo candy", and I agree. I hope it's enough to sooth the pain of waiting for rhubarb for just a while longer.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.