Dee Ann Attaway blends good will with good food. Since retiring as a preschool director three years ago, Attaway volunteers her time with the Johnson County Young Matrons, a philanthropic organization that raises funds for area nonprofit organizations.
An entertaining cook, Attaway loves hosting friends and family members in her Overland Park home. She and her husband of 27 years, Emory Attaway, have a blended family that includes five grown daughters and nine grandchildren.
Q: I know you were looking forward to your kitchen sidekick, granddaughter Peyton Cain, coming home from college this weekend to bake with you.
A: Peyton is a junior at Baylor University, majoring in nutrition, and just couldn’t make it back to Kansas City. She and I are very similar: I graduated with a home economics degree, and both of us are passionate about cooking tasty foods and sharing it with others.
Watching my granddaughter learn to cook and love it like I do has been a delightful experience for me. I remember helping her make strawberry-filled crepes for her French class in middle school. Her grandpa cut strawberries while Peyton made the crepes, and I took pictures as we worked. That may have been one of our earliest cooking efforts together.
Peyton and I really connect in the kitchen and have spent several summers together taking care of her two youngest cousins, Landon and Greyson. Feeding two little boys a variety of healthy foods can be a challenge, especially when they just request peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. During the boys’ nap time is when Peyton and I would bake yummy desserts.
Q: Speaking of yummy desserts …
A: As a member of Johnson County Young Matrons, I chose this recipe from our cookbook, “Punch Bowl Optional.” I also chose this recipe because it is the perfect dessert on which to collaborate with others. This tart has multiple parts, which lends itself to being prepared by two cooks. One can make the curd, while another is preparing the crust.
The lime curd can also be made up to two days ahead and kept in the refrigerator. The crust can be made up to one day ahead, and the entire tart can then be assembled before dinner.
When Peyton and I cook together, we each take part of the recipe to prepare, then we combine the parts to finish the dish. This recipe is delicious with the lime curd, topped with blackberries and blueberries, which are still plentiful in grocery stores now.
The fruit on this dessert makes me feel like it’s a healthier choice, and when Peyton and I cook for our family, we like to choose dishes that are both delicious and healthy.
Emory really helped me get the crust out of the tart pan — it took his courage — because I was too afraid it was going to break.
Q: This is a beautiful dessert that tastes as good as it looks. Is that part of the appeal for you when you bake?
A: I am a firm believer that people eat with their eyes first. If food looks beautiful, it is just naturally more inviting. After working with children for so many years, there are so many wonderful things that just happen naturally when people get into the kitchen together.
From a learning standpoint in baking, reading and following directions is key. If a recipe calls for ripe bananas, don’t use green ones and expect the same outcome. Also, beyond making food, you’re also building relationships with the people with whom you cook.
We have a large family of about 20 people or so when we have dinner together, so there is lots of food prep to do. Everyone in our family cooks: The men are primarily the outdoor grill cooks, and all the women love to cook side dishes and desserts. When we are all together there is lots of cooking and eating of really good food.
Q: Your volunteerism and events with Johnson County Young Matrons seem to be food-centric.
A: The reason I like to put my energy into this organization is because the money we raise on events and cookbook sales goes back into the community organizations we support. Food is a natural way to nurture relationships, but it’s also a way to be in the service of others. When you make or share food with another person, it’s a way of bonding on the most basic level.
Beautiful food doesn’t just happen, it’s a process, like life and relationships. If you invest the time, effort, energy and love into a recipe, it will be a delightful, delicious thing to share. The same can be true for relationships. Food is a language I speak, and I am fluent in it.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column.
Shop for a cause
Shop, sip and socialize at the Johnson County Young Matrons’ 2017 Boutique Oct. 11 and 12 at the Ritz Charles Hotel, 9000 W. 137th St., Overland Park. Visit jcym.net for information on this two-day event.
Lime Tart With Berries
Makes 8 servings
For lime curd:
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 (6-ounce) containers fresh blackberries, cleaned and patted dry
1 (6-ounce) container fresh blueberries, cleaned and patted dry
1 tablespoon blackberry jam
To prepare lime curd: Whisk eggs, egg yolks and sugar together into the top-half of a double boiler until well-incorporated. Whisk in lime juice and set pan over simmering water in the bottom of a double boiler on stovetop.
Whisk constantly for at least 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens and an instant-read thermometer registers 180 degrees.
Pour curd into a fine-mesh sieve set over a large glass bowl, straining out any lumps. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, while stirring with a wooden spoon until it melts and becomes fully incorporated into curd.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd, to avoid the formation of a “skin” on top. Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours to chill completely.
To prepare crust: Butter a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour and salt together until combined. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar for about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk and beat until well-incorporated.
Slowly add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated and mixture resembles large peas. Without overworking dough, gently knead in bowl until mixture just comes together.
Transfer dough into prepared tart pan. Press dough evenly onto bottom and sides of tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap over tart pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from tart pan and place chilled pan in oven. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until crust turns just golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.
To assemble tart: Remove outer ring from tart and place on serving plate. Spread chilled, prepared lime curd evenly in crust. Arrange blackberries and blueberries on top of lime curd.
In a small glass bowl, microwave jam for about 15 seconds, or until liquefied. Using a silicone brush, lightly coat fruit with jam. Return tart to refrigerator for up to 8 hours, or until ready to serve by cutting into 8 wedges.
Per serving: 472 calories (47 percent from fat), 25 grams total fat (14 grams saturated), 240 milligrams cholesterol, 58 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 256 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.