Fresh Plum Tart with Oatmeal Cookie Crust – Semi Sandra Lee

Fresh-Plum-Tart
There was a time in my life when I used to love the Food Network so much that the moment I walked in the door every evening after a long day at work, I snatched up the remote control that had been left by the door on my way out earlier that morning, extended my arm toward the living room, and turned on the TV while leaning over to drop my bag on the ground and undo the straps on my shoes. I was listening to Alton Brown explain the differences between ground chuck and ground sirloin before my strappy sandals were in a tiny tangled heap on the floor.

I didn’t even have to turn the channel, just press the “Power” button, because the TV was already programmed to the Food Network from the same routine the night before. I would leave the Food Network on all evening until I went to sleep. Sometimes I would wake up at 3 am and catch five-year-old episodes of Molto Mario or The Naked Chef. On the West Coast, the regular programming doesn’t start again until 9 am, but I would still turn the set on in hopes that perhaps the FN executives had decided to start a couple of hours early. They never did.

I wasn’t always watching very carefully what was happening on the screen, and sometimes, I wasn’t paying attention at all. The sound would be muted while I opened my mail, checked personal email, cooked my own dinner, and even flipped through the most recent issue of Bon Appetit. I left the tv on because it was comforting to know that I could look up in my silent, solo existence and know that someone inside the little flickering box in my living room was there, cooking something delicious.

I didn’t just love the Food Network, I was addicted.

It’s difficult to say whether my sick little addiction was a true love for the Network, whether turning on the tv every day without fail was simply habit, or whether having people on the screen was my pathetic, desperate attempt at “socializing,” no matter how one-sided and weird that socializing was. Perhaps it was a little of all three. Back then, I actually liked watching Emeril Lagasse, though I have to admit that I was watching his old show, The Essence of Emeril, in which a younger, thinner, fuller-hair-headed Emeril was somewhat awkwardly, but very earnestly, cooking something. In the very early days of Emeril Live, I thought “Bam!” was sort of endearing. After hearing it 15 times in every show, it got a little more than annoying.

The Food Network was slowly transforming, and though I knew in my head that I didn’t approve of everything I was seeing, I allowed my heart to make excuses for the sake of my addiction. Maybe society’s tastes are changing. Maybe the demographics of the Network’s audience are changing. The Network itself has to change to keep up with the demands of this newer, younger breed of food tv addicts. Change is a good thing and I should know how to adjust to change, right?

Right?!?!

I have come to accept that the Food Network was a very bad habit that no longer gives me the same kind of high that it used to. It was long painful process to come to this point of admission, being repeatedly hit over the head with “Yum-o!” until it hurt, retreating, then going back and getting hit again with “How cool is that?” about 9,748 times in 30 minutes.

The days of keeping the TV turned to the Food Network for hours on end have long been over. With the exception of a few of my personal favorites like Alton Brown, Michael Chiarello, Ina Garten, and Paula Deen, I can hardly stand to watch the personalities fill up the screen with almost nothing but their overly perky, overtly sexy, disgustingly enthusiastic, though highly disingenuous, personalities. For a long time, I couldn’t quite place my finger on exactly why I wasn’t in love with the Food Network anymore. Sure, I was hurt when they decided to cancel the original Iron Chef. Sure, I am not fond of the “new breed” of celebrity chefs that have ousted my long-time favorites like Sara Moulton and Ming Tsai (and what on earth ever happened to Jamie Oliver, Tony Bourdain, and Two Fat Ladies?!?!) But I knew there was something deeper. I knew there was something broader about the “new” Food Network that bothered me.

A broad named Sandra Lee.

Fresh Plum Tart in Oatmeal Cookie Crust

Ingredients

  • Enough oatmeal cookies to cover the bottom and sides of a tart pan, ~ 6 large cookies (more or fewer depending on how big they are)
  • 2-4 Tbsp melted butter (depending on number of cookies)
  • 1 8oz pkg of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c. sugar (you can use brown sugar to go with the whole “oatmeal cookie” theme, but why try so hard? why?)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (you can leave this out if it’s too Ina Garten for you)
  • dash of salt, pinch of cinnamon
  • enough ripe plums to cover the top of tart, ~ 6 plums

Directions

Tart “Crust”

Crumble the oatmeal cookies as finely as possible, without going to the effort of hauling any electrical appliance out of storage, endangering you or your 5 lb. chihuahua. Really, if you go so far as to use a food processor, you may as well bake the cookies yourself.

Stir the cookie crumbs with 2 Tbsp melted butter, using more if the crumbs are too dry. Press buttered crumbs (good God, does that sound delicious) into the bottom and sides of a tart pan. You can “set” the tart crust by baking it a 350 oven for ~15 minutes, but then you defeat the purpose of quarter-homemade.

Tart Filling

Thoroughly stir sugar, softened cream cheese and vanilla (if you’re using it) together. Spread into tart crust.

Slice plums into wedges that are ~½-inch on the thick side of the wedge. Cover the cream cheese filling with the plums.

Serve immediately or else the plums (if they’re ripe, which they should be) will weep their burgundy blood all over the cream cheese. The cookie crust is also very “crumbly” so don’t expect to make pretty slices.

Fresh Fruit Tarts from the FoodNetwork Semi-Hos:

~ Paula Deen’s Fresh Fruit Tart with Frozen Limeade Concentrate
~ Rachael Ray‘s 10 Minute Fruit Tart with Instant Vanilla Pudding
~ Sunny Anderson uses store-bought pie crust for an Open-Faced Plum Tart
~ and the only result I found for the Gran Dame Semi Ho herself, for “Sandra Lee tart” was, unshockingly, for a cocktail: Apple Tart-ini

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  • Julie

    Even if this is semihomemade, it sure looks great. What did you use? I want that crust!

  • onetomato

    that looks beautiful! yummy

  • sixty-five

    I hate Sandra Lee and agree with everything you say about the Food Network. But I want this recipe!

  • Anonymous

    You asked what happened to the Two Fat Ladies?

    Jennifer Paterson died of lung cancer back in ’99, but Clarissa Dickson-Wright is still around.

  • KT

    Aww … that’s so sad about the Fat Ladies!

    I think Sandra Lee is brilliant. She figured out how to make a lot of money out of telling people how to do stuff that’s already fairly apparent.

    That is like, the easiest job in the world. Bitch is smart.

    That said, the show is idiotic.

  • hermz

    I say we need a fresh, intelligent food personality on TV.

  • sarah

    julie: it’s BARELY semi-homemade. i mean, technically you could make this without cooking a single thing yourself. LOL!

    onetomato: thank you!

    sixty-five: recipe!

    tall medstudent: yeah – i knew that, which is reeeeally sad. i loved their sass.

    kt: well, you said it. and that’s what i say about a LOT of people who appear to be very very lame but are making money hand over fist (jessica simpson? martha stewart?) they are smart businesswomen. damn, i should stop hating on them and give their publicists a call!

    hermz: hmmm…who’d you have in mind??? :)

  • Anonymous

    i usually dont comment on message boards but i ran across what you said about the Food Network and Sandra Lee. I think she has some really great ideas. She is a good person and does alot of charity work. I am not saying this makes her a saint but before you go on bashing her you might check into some of the personalities that you are ripping on. Just my 2 cents :)

  • Anonymous

    I do agree that the Food Network has certainly gone downhill, but there is a place for Sandra Dee there considering that it is NOT 1955 and women have to work 15 hours a day at a career and come home do laundry, make sure baths are taken, homework is finished and try to get a appetizing meal is on the table. These shortcuts are sometimes necessary; however, unfortunate in the REAL world.
    The one person on the Food Network who really gets under my skin is Giada…ahhh. With her horrible recipes that I have ACTUALLY tried. And WHY OH WHY does she have to use the stupid italian accent for the italian food words? We know she comes from an italian background, its so cheesy. Just give me Mario Batali. Thanks…

  • Anonymous

    I do agree that the Food Network has certainly gone downhill, but there is a place for Sandra Dee there considering that it is NOT 1955 and women have to work 15 hours a day at a career and come home do laundry, make sure baths are taken, homework is finished and try to get a appetizing meal is on the table. These shortcuts are sometimes necessary; however, unfortunate in the REAL world.
    The one person on the Food Network who really gets under my skin is Giada…ahhh. With her horrible recipes that I have ACTUALLY tried. And WHY OH WHY does she have to use the stupid italian accent for the italian food words? We know she comes from an italian background, its so cheesy. Just give me Mario Batali. Thanks…

  • sarah

    anonymous #1: i agree. some of the ideas that sandra lee presents are good. however, i have a problem with two things.

    1) some of them are really, really bad like, making “truffles” out of canned frosting?!?! in that case, she’ just making them for the sake of their being semi-homemade. there is nothing wrong with buying truffles.

    2) she encourages people to “fake” like it actually is homemade. when i make something semi-homemade, and someone asks me, i don’t lie. i tell them that i used a cake mix or had some help, but i would never outrightly lie and say that it was made from scratch. there is no honor in that.

    but that’s pretty nice to hear that she gives back to the community with charity work :)

    anonymous #2: i agree with you on giada “blowpop head” di laurentiis. it pains me to watch her. her food doesn’t look that bad, but she sounds like she is trying sooo hard to “have personality” on the camera.

  • http://kitschncalamities.blogspot.com julie k h

    I’m going through the same FoodNetwork addiction right now, though my astronomer hours allow me to (thankfully) miss Sandra Lee. I mostly wish, though, that it were an All Alton All the time Network.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that no amount of charity work can make up for her cultural insensitivity. Recall the Kwanzaa cake fiasco?

  • http://www.thespicehouse.com Paige at The Spice House

    Mmm, I would so watch an All Alton, All The Time network! I think it’d be very popular.
    I have the same problem with Sandra Lee – I’m sure she’s a lovely woman in real life, and her kitchen cheats are often good ideas for busy working parents, but it’s the way she implies that it’s somehow the same as real cooking, or that you should pretend you’ve worked really hard for it, that bugs. If you’ve made an appetizing dinner in 20 minutes with the help of a bunch of store-bought ingredients, why is there anything wrong with saying so? I myself am quite a good baker, and I don’t feel the need to hide my fondness for those “break and bake” cookies!

  • http://kirbyvonscrumptious.blogspot.com Kirby!

    Back in college, I started watching Food Network for hours at a time because I liked learning about food in such a way that I could be lying down and wearing PJs. Now, I’m not sure why I watch it, especially because sometimes I’ll sit through entire episodes of Guy’s Big Bite or Down Home with the Neelys. WHY??? It’s probably the same lazy motivation behind why I watch SpongeBob SquarePants occasionally.

    But seriously, I think it’s sad that I rarely learn anything after watching Food Network anymore. I guess if I really want to learn actual techniques, I should just read the Joy of Cooking. YAWN.

  • http://www.thedeliciouslife.com Sarah J. Gim

    julie: i will never forget the kwanzaa cake. the thing is, it is not really her fault. the network makes the final call on what gets aired, right? i think that’s what did it for me. alton, however, is now starting to grate on my nerves. am i jaded??

    paige: yeah but really, those Break n Bake cookies aren’t really for baking and eating. aren’t we just really buying the cookie dough to eat raw?! (although, I just read that Nestle is trying pretty hard to warn people from doing so)

    kirby: tv shows (even books, blogs, all media) are supposed to be informative/educational or just entertaining, and really, the FoodNetwork is neither for me, which is why I have canceled my cable subscription (yet again). all the good stuff is on PBS anyway :D

  • Anonymous

    What I find so annoying is the manner that sandra lee speaks to us. Like we are 5 years old. And why does every one of her episodes have to include a cocktail and a tablescape? Is she a raging alcoholic? I saw her one day create a celebration cake by stacking store bought cupcakes on top of a store bought sheet cake. I would never present anything that horrifyingly ugly to a loved one and pass it off as my own.

  • molly

    The problem with the Food Network is that most of the the shows now are more about the personality of the performers. I usually end up watching the PBS cooking shows because their focus is more on the food. And I miss “Great Chefs of….” whatever city/region. Is that not on anywhere anymore?

  • http://nocansallowed.com Jeremy

    I agree. The Food Network is what made me want to learn how to cook. The network has run off all of the people who know how to cook. I suppose the focus groups taught the network that people would rather see no-nothings with pleasant dispositions.

    I love reading your blog, and I’ve added you to my blogroll. I am just getting started in blogging about my passion and am having a good time at it. I hope to have a page as good as yours someday.

  • http://www.mamastephf.com Steph

    I am so very late to this discussion, but I just wanted to say a big “amen” to what you were saying about Sandra Lee and the FN. I miss Sarah Moulton, and the like. I miss the old days when everything *wasn’t* a competition. I want to learn something!
    SandraLee just annoys me to no end; I am annoyed from the first second when she is on camera dressed to match her tacky set. ACK. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. ;) She may be a great philanthropist or what have you, but that doesn’t mean she should have her own show.
    I like your blog. I’m glad to have found you tonight.

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