These Mediterranean-inspired tarts can easily be transformed into plated desserts by serving them with a sauce or coulis made from blood oranges or raspberries and a crunchy garnish made from Hippen paste or Florentina batter. When serving the 4½-inch (11.2-cm) tarts as part of an assortment for afternoon tea or on a buffet display, cut them into 4 small wedges; decorate each wedge with whipped cream, using the Saint-Honoré tip as directed, and one small orange segment (do not use blood oranges for this type of display, because they will bleed into the whipped cream after a short time). As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and as my students never seem to have enough tiny forms or enough time to make the required number of miniature pastries, this technique solves both problems. The tarts wedges should be cut, or at least plated or arranged, as close to serving time as possible because, unlike a tart baked in a tartlet form, the cut sides are exposed and will dry out easily.
Both Meyer lemons and blood oranges are plentiful and popular in the Mediterranean, especially in Spain, France, and Italy. Lemon verbena, as we usually refer to it in the United States, is also known simply as verbena. It is native to Chile and was brought back to Europe, like so many plants and spices, by early explorers returning from sea voyages. Its currently increasing popularity will, I hope, restore this fragrant, lemon-flavored herb to its former glory.