Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

We’ve reached that time in the summer when heirloom tomatoes are beautiful and affordable and my herbs are growing like crazy on my terrace. I like to make do-ahead meals and when the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s vegetarian meals are especially welcome. The produce will never be better than it is right now.

I came across this recipe for a tart that with a few tweaks of my own is a perfect dish for a light summer supper or brunch. All it needs is a green salad and a crisp Chardonnay and you couldn’t ask for a more satisfying summer meal.

My recipe for the crust makes extra so you can throw together a quick galette for two later in the week.

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart from Tasting Table and tweaked by me

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta

Yield: One 11-inch tart plus enough extra dough for a 7 to 8-inch galette

Ingredients

For the crust

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/4 cup more for dusting

1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

8 ounces goat cheese (chevre)

1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Romano

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 1 large lemon)

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 large egg

Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

For assembly

About 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I also used some multi-colored grape tomatoes to fill in spaces and because I liked the look)

1 Tablespoon olive oil (I used a lemon-flavored EVOO but any will do)

1 Tablespoon honey or Agave

Flake sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling

Fresh basil and mint leaves for garnish

Directions 

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, cheese and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay a clean tea towel on a work surface. Dump the crumbly dough mixture into the center of the towel. Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Transfer to plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour. Any unused dough can be frozen for a future use.
  2. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a floured piece of parchment or a pastry cloth to about a 14-inch round. Brush off any excess flour and drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer to the tart pan. Press the sides against the pan. In making this again, I would create a bit of a rolled over edge to my crust as I do for all my pies. [The original instructions said to use your rolling pin, run it across the top of the tart pan to trim any excess dough. I did this, which is what you see in the photo, but personally, I prefer a somewhat higher edge and will create one in future.] The excess dough can be frozen and used for a small galette. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour to reduce shrinkage.
  3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  [The original recipe said to bake at 425 degrees F. but I found that to be too high for my oven and my crust is a little darker than my ideal.]
  4. Make the filling by combining all of the filling ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Set this aside until you are ready to use it. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta7
  5. Using the tines of a fork, pierce the dough all over. Line the dough with foil and fill with baking weights or dried beans which can be stored when cool to use over and over. Bake until the dough is puffed and golden along the edges, about 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and continue baking for about 10 minutes more. Remove the tart shell from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Do NOT turn off the oven. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta5
  6. Pour the filling into the tart shell and smooth it with a spatula. Layer the tomatoes in a concentric circle (or any pattern you like) over the filling. Drizzle with the olive oil and the honey and sprinkle the tomatoes with the flake salt and cracked black pepper. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta4Bake until the tomatoes are wilted and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta3Allow the tart to cool completely. Garnish with fresh mint and basil leaves, then slice and serve. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta8

 

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream

Berries! They are everywhere. Not too long ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a lovely cookbook from a winery that we had visited together a couple of years ago on a trip through Napa and Sonoma. It has recipes and wine pairings which is wonderful for anyone asking the question of what goes well with [fill in the blank].

I’m always looking for new desserts that are easy and delicious. This one caught my eye because it uses fresh thyme along with the now ubiquitous berries. I happen to be growing a bumper crop of lemon thyme on my terrace and it pairs beautifully with the blackberries. The cookbook gives a recipe for making your own pistachio ice cream but I a) don’t own an ice cream maker; (b) have zero freezer space to make ice cream; and c) don’t want to spend so much time making dessert, so I simply purchased a very good quality “Mediterranean” Pistachio ice cream. If you want to make your own ice cream, buy the book. DO NOT OMIT the ice cream and do not buy that phony strange green stuff. This dessert really needs the pistachio ice cream to play off of the berries. “Crisp” is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. I might consider doubling the topping next time I make this since it sort of disappeared as a topping, simply melding with the berries and giving the berries some heft.

The dessert is not impressive looking (which could be why there was no photo of it in the cookbook…) and you won’t think this is the greatest thing you have EVER eaten. I’m just being honest. However, after taking that first bite, you will say “Wow, this is REALLY good.” It’s also surprisingly filling, so you could get 6 portions out of it. And once I added the pistachio ice cream and took that first bite – well, it was just a bit of perfection.

I don’t happen to live where wild blackberries grow, but if you do, they would be wonderful here. My blackberries came from the produce section of my local market.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream from the Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna

Blackberry Thyme Crisp6

Yield: 4 to 6 servings with ice cream

Ingredients

4 cups/455 grams fresh blackberries, washed and drained

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup/65 grams granulated sugar

1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (preferably lemon thyme)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blackberry Thyme Crisp1

For the topping 

6 Tablespoons/45 grams unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup/100 grams packed brown sugar/Demerara sugar

1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar

Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine salt

6 Tablespoons/85 grams cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes

For serving

Good quality pistachio ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/190 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, thyme, lemon juice and vanilla. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, while you make the topping and the oven heats up. Blackberry Thyme Crisp3 (2)
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Blackberry Thyme Crisp2
  4. Turn the fruit into the prepared baking pan and spread the fruit to an even layer. evenly spread the topping over the fruit.Blackberry Thyme Crisp4Blackberry Thyme Crisp5
  5. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with the ice cream.

 

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Rhubarb season is brief and, therefore, especially sweet. This galette combines two of my dessert favorites – rhubarb and frangipane. Frangipane is an almond-flavored cream, although I have made this galette using hazelnuts instead. Either will work. [If you are looking for a vegan frangipane recipe refer to my recipe for Apple Frangipane Tart.] 

Don’t be scared off by the length of ingredients or directions. This galette is quite simple to make if just follow the steps. The dough can be made ahead and it makes enough for two galettes, so you can freeze one half for a last minute dessert. I was admittedly somewhat skeptical about the method for making the pastry but I followed it to the letter and it worked absolutely perfectly and was flaky and buttery.

I love making galettes because they are free-form and flexible. And if you REALLY don’t wish to make frangipane, you could simply roll into a disk a 7-ounce tube of almond paste for a similar taste but without the inherent creaminess of the frangipane. I also decided to throw in a 1/2 pint of raspberries – well, because I could. Make this soon while rhubarb is in season!

NOTE: I did go a bit overboard on my fruit, using closer to a pound of rhubarb in addition to the raspberries. While delicious, the galette might have been a little prettier with slightly less fruit, so that the dough could have been folded over more.

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette from Alexandra’s Kitchen

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette11 (3)

Yield: 1 approximately 9-inch galette

Ingredients

for the rhubarb:

3/4 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup)

zest from one orange

1/2 pint washed and dried raspberries (Optional)

for the pastry:

2½ (320g) cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher or table salt

2 sticks (16 tablespoons | 8 oz | 227 g) unsalted butter

½ cup + 2 tablespoons ice water

for the frangipane:

1/2 cup almond or hazelnut flour or finely ground almonds or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 egg (small if possible)

2 teaspoons vanilla, rum, brandy or bourbon (I used Armagnac)

for assembly and serving:

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling, turbinado or Demerara sugar is nice

vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and place a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Prepare the rhubarb:Toss the rhubarb and raspberries, if used, with the sugar and orange zest in a large bowl and set aside. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette
  3. Make the pastry:In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay two clean tea towels on a work surface. Dump half of the crumbly dough mixture into the center of each. (Don’t wash the food processor!) Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Store one of the rounds in the freezer for a future use. Keep the other nearby handy or ideally refrigerate the dough for 1 hour to overnight.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12- or 13-inch round. Use as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking, and every few rolls, flip the dough over. Transfer dough to a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan. If you have space in the fridge, chill the pastry while you make the frangipane. [I just rolled my dough out onto the parchment so I had one less thing to clean up.] Rhubarb Frangipane Galette1
  5. Make the frangipane: Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg, and vanilla in the uncleaned bowl of the food processor. Purée until smooth. This can also be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. You may need to allow it to warm to room temperature to make it spreadable.
  6. Spoon the frangipane into the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette4 Heap the rhubarb and all of the juices into the center of the frangipane and spread out to cover. You can cherry pick the really red pieces and arrange them on top — the bright red stalks look so pretty in the end. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette5 Fold the exposed edge of dough towards the center to make a rustic enclosure. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette6
  7. Brush the edge of the dough with melted butter. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette9Drizzle the remainder over the exposed rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. [Do NOT panic if you see fruit and butter leaking from the galette. That is totally normal.] 
  8. Remove pan from the oven and let rest on cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes or until Silpat or paper is cool enough to handle. Grab the edges of the paper or Silpat and slide to a cooling rack to cool further or to a cutting board to serve. Cut into wedges. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette14

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad3 (2)NOTHING says summer quite like ripe, juicy, red slices of watermelon. I’ve eaten watermelon my entire life, but I first ate it with feta or Bulgarian cheese on a visit to the YMCA in Jerusalem about 8 years ago. It was a revelation. The salty tang of the cheese was the perfect foil for the sweet, juicy melon. It wasn’t on any menu – you just had to know to ask for it. Ever since that fateful meal, I have been combining the two ingredients. It really doesn’t take anything more than a drizzle of a good olive oil, but tonight I decided to add some fresh chopped mint and chives from my terrace garden along with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of a fruity EVOO. Add the oil and lime juice just before serving for simply the most refreshing summer salad ever! While I have included measurements, I honestly just eye-ball everything. So don’t get too bogged down and use the measurements as a guideline only.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

6 cups of watermelon, without the rind and cut into large cubes

7 ounces of feta or Bulgarian cheese (Feta is ubiquitous and is very close to Bulgarian cheese.)

About 1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons

About 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh chives

About 10 cracks of fresh black pepper

Sprinkling of sea salt or Kosher salt (The feta is fairly salty on its own, but I found that just a sprinkling of additional salt was needed to make everything sing.)

Juice of one lime

About 2-3 Tablespoons of a fruity EVOO

Watermelon and Feta Salad2

Directions

  1. Place the watermelon, feta, mint, chives and black pepper in a bowl. Watermelon and Feta Salad1
  2. Just before serving, add the lime juice, salt and EVOO. Toss gently.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust8 (2)

It’s rhubarb season again! Growing up my mother always made a strawberry or raspberry rhubarb compote that always hovered on the edge of sweet-tart flavor that was so refreshing on a hot summer day. I wanted to capture that flavor again but in a slightly more complex dessert. It is especially wonderful topped with a little Greek yogurt sweetened with agave syrup or honey or some lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The resulting dessert is light, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, with that distinctive rhubarb flavor and a crumbly, nutty crust.

Since everyone’s taste is a bit different and fruit also varies, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar. I also made dough for a 9-inch shallow tart with enough left-over to make about 4 individual tartlettes if you wish. I made my dough with a mix of butter and Crisco for the shortening, but you could use all Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening) if you wish to keep this vegan.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Yield: One 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the filling

4 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust2

1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup water

2 teaspoons arrowroot

pinch of Kosher or sea salt

1 cup of sliced strawberries

About 1/4 cup of red currant jelly

For the crust

2 cups finely ground walnuts

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

12 Tablespoons very cold solid shortening OR 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter plus 8 Tablespoons of solid shortening

About 4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

For the filling

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust1

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender. This only takes about 3-4 minutes so watch it! Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid. Add the sliced strawberries to the hot rhubarb and add the pinch of salt, mixing through gently.
  2. Return the liquid to the pan and add the arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid clarifies and begins to thicken – about 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool somewhat. When it has cooled a bit, add only enough (about 1/4 cup) to the rhubarb-strawberry mixture to give it a “sauce” but not so much as to drown the rhubarb or to make it soupy. You will eye-ball this since it is not an exact science. (The arrowroot will thicken the liquid but will not become gloppy, something I HATE in fruit pies and desserts.) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust3

For the crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust4 (2)

  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the cold shortening in small cubes. Using your fingers, work the shortening into the dry mixture until you have pieces about the size of peas.
  2. Add the water and continue working the mixture until you can form the dough into a solid ball. I didn’t need to add any additional water, but if you must, add it in very small amounts at a time. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  3. When the dough has been chilled, remove it to a well-floured board, counter or pastry cloth and roll it out so that it fits into the bottom of the 9-inch flan pan. I only used about 2/3 of the dough. Place the round into the ungreased pan and using your fingertips or knuckles, carefully push the dough into and up the sides of the pan. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake it until well browned, about 30 minutes. Ovens vary, so just keep checking it. You want it to look like this: Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust6

Assemblage

  1. Once the crust has cooled, pour in the rhubarb-strawberry mixture and spread it evenly across the crust.
  2. Warm the red currant jelly and spoon it over the top of the filling. If the jelly had actual currants in it, pour it through a sieve before putting it over the rhubarb mixture. Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush. Only use enough to give a nice sheen to the tart. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust7
  3. Refrigerate the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours to allow everything to set up nicely. This can be made a day ahead. Once the tart has chilled, carefully remove the tart from the fluted flan pan and place on a serving plate. Serve as is, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint for color. I like it with a bit of sweetened Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or whipped cream, but if you wish to keep it vegan, it is also delicious plain. I’m personally not a fan of vegan whipped toppings, but go for it if that is what you like. Just enjoy!

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Some weeks it is challenging to come up with something that I think is worthy of sharing. I had intended on sharing a recipe for a Neapolitan Curd Tart, (which I am still determined to do – someday…) but while certainly edible, it just wasn’t share-worthy. However, I did come across a vegan recipe for a vegetable fritter that uses red lentils as a binder and I was hooked.

I never really knew my maternal grandmother. She was already fairly old and quite ill by the time I came along. However, I was always told that she had “golden hands.” My grandmother was a wonderful cook and baker and also could sew anything. But getting recipes from her was nearly impossible. She made an ice box cookie that my mother once tried to watch her make in order to write it down. Grandma was always improving recipes and would measure with instructions like “If the flour feels a little heavy in your hand, take a little off” or If it feels a little light, add some more.” I guess even though I never really got to know my grandma, I take after her in some ways.  I’m fairly clever with my hands and I am constitutionally incapable of making a recipe exactly as written. While I am sure that the original recipe is very good (although I never made it that way) I have to say that the version I am presenting here is outstanding. But feel free to improve it yourself. Change the seasonings to suit your taste. And if you prefer sweet potato to regular potato – go for it.

Since I am not actually a vegan, I served this with a simple Greek yogurt that I flavored with Major Grey’s Chutney. If you wish to remain vegan you could stir the chutney into a good quality vegan mayonnaise or use it as is or you could make a tahini sauce instead. If you don’t like Indian flavorings (really?!!) you could season with pretty much any herbs or spices you like. These would make a wonderful appetizer or a summer dinner served over some peppery watercress or arugula with a nice glass of Chardonnay or a Rose and some fresh melon for dessert.

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney by Sina from Vegan Heaven and seriously adapted by me

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch fritters

Ingredients

3/4 cup red lentils, well-rinsed and cooked until very soft (I used masoor dal, which are split red lentils, but any red lentil will do. Cook according to the package since the time and amount of water will vary with the type of lentil used.)

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped (Any kind of onion will do; I used a yellow onion.)

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 medium raw potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (I used golden potatoes but a Russet would also work.)

1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated

1 ear of corn with kernels removed OR 1/2 cup of canned or frozen kernels

5 Tablespoons of flour (I used Besan or Gram flour made from chickpeas which adds flavor and protein, but you can use all-purpose flour if that is all you have.)

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 generous teaspoon of Garam Masala

1 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Oil for frying (I used Grapeseed oil)

Directions

  1. Cook the red lentils according to the package or until very mushy. Drain any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients (except for the oil!) in a large bowl. Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney3
  3. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet until hot but not smoking. Add about 1.5 Tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. I used a cookie scoop to make it easy. Using the back of a spatula, slightly flatten the fritters. Fry until browned on one side and then turn to brown on the other side. The whole process takes about 6-8 minutes. How crispy you like them is a matter of personal preference and since there is no raw egg you don’t have to worry about under cooking the fritters.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney4I placed browned fritters on a Silpat covered sheet pan in a warm oven while I continued frying. Alternatively you can place them on a plate lined with paper towels and serve immediately.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney2Any left-overs can be refrigerated and reheated the next day in the oven or in a frying pan.
  4. Serve with any sauce you wish, although, honestly, these are also good just as is.

NOTE of CAUTION: Be a little careful of popping corn kernels if they are in the oil for too long!

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler1

Even though fresh berries are now available year-round, nothing says summer quite like a fresh berry dessert. I make a great blueberry pie and so does Frances, but sometimes you want a blueberry cobbler and this one is it! I came across the recipe from the website kitchn – another favorite food site that I frequent. I don’t know if its claim as the “ultimate blueberry cobbler” is accurate, but I will say that it is darn good. And best of all, it can be thrown together in a few minutes. All you need is some really good quality vanilla ice cream for serving and summer dessert doesn’t get any better than this. One thing I love about this recipe is that it is neither gummy nor overly sweet. And the biscuits are a real treat; they are both light and moist and just perfect for soaking up the blueberry liquid. The recipe’s originator talked about the secret ingredient of the coriander. I honestly didn’t taste anything in particular that I could identify, but the overall effect was just lovely.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler by Sheela Prakash of the kitchn and tweaked ever so slightly by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 pints or 5 cups fresh blueberries (24 ounces total), washed and dried well
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sanding or casting sugar for garnish
Vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions   IMG_3371

  1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2.  Toss together the blueberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and coriander in a large bowl.  (I mixed the dry ingredients together first and then sifted them over the berries so there wouldn’t be any lumps. Then I added the lemon juice and gently tossed everything being careful to not break up the berries.) Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish or divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins.
  3.  Mix the flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt for the cobbler topping in a separate large bowl. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the cream and stir until the dough is shaggy.
  4.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough just until it all comes together, about 30 seconds.
  5.  Pat the dough into a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 8 square pieces or pat handfuls of dough into thick palm-sized disks if using ramekins. (I used a star cookie cutter because it was the 4th of July and because it was fun.)
  6.  If baking in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, overlap the disks on top of the blueberries to make a “cobblestone” look. If baking in individual ramekins, top each ramekin with a disk of dough. If you have any extra topping, crumble it and sprinkle it over the surface of the cobbler. Sprinkle the biscuit dough with the sanding or casting sugar.
  7.  Place the baking dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch drips, or place aluminum foil beneath it in the oven. Bake until the topping is turning golden-brown around the edges and the fruit filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes for the individual ramekins, or 45 to 55 minutes for the 8 x 8-inch baking dish.  The blueberries will bubble up quite a bit and then will settle down once it is out of the oven.IMG_3372
  8.   Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Everything needs to settle down. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

IMG_3344

My husband has never met a custard that he didn’t like, so when he asked me what a clafouti was that was in the case of a local bakery, I decided to surprise him by making one. I confess that I actually enjoy the occasional mindless, slightly tedious task that can be involved with food preparation. It’s a great time to catch up on my own thoughts or to have a cozy moment with a child, spouse or friend. So when this recipe called for 1 pound of stoned cherries, I didn’t flinch. If you don’t enjoy snapping the ends off of crisp green beans or peeling vegetables, then you can use a different fruit or a well-drained canned, pitted cherry. I, however, had some lovely, ripe cherries, a sharp paring knife and 20 minutes to spare for the task.

This recipe comes from an old French pastry book that I purchased in 1977. It is the Gaston Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries. So what is clafouti? It’s a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. This recipe uses a short pastry crust underneath. I know that my husband will be very happy tonight when dessert-time rolls around.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

Yield: Two 8-inch flans (about 6-8 servings)

Ingredients

Short pastry dough for 2 8-inch pie plates or flan pans

1 cup of whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

6.5 Tablespoons heavy cream

4 large eggs

Generous 3/4 cup, granulated sugar

4 drops orange blossom water (about 1/4 teaspoon)

1 pound of fresh, ripe cherries, halved with the pits removed (You will end up with about 3 cups of fruit)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough and line 2 lightly buttered 8-inch pie plates or flan pans
  2. Refrigerate the pans for at least 1 hour before baking. This can be done one day ahead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Line the 2 pie shells with waxed paper or foil and using dried beans or pie weights, bake the pie shells for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the paper or foil and weights and set the shells aside.
  5. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan and allow it to gently boil for one minute. (If you are using a vanilla bean, you will add it in with the milk.) Don’t do what I did which was to carry on a texting conversation with my husband while the milk was on the stove. Of course, the milk boiled over. What a mess! After 1 minute, turn off the heat and add the cream and vanilla bean paste, if using. In all honesty, I’m not certain that this step is necessary. I have made plenty of flan and other custards over the years and I never cook the milk first…
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a wire whisk, until smooth and light yellow in color. Beating constantly, add the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the eggs. Stir in the orange blossom water. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and cold. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid.
  7. Fill the half-cooked pie shells with the cherries. Pour the creamy filling over the fruit. The pie pan should be no more than 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve the clafouti warm or cold. IMG_3342

NOTE: If you use a fluted flan pan instead of a pie plate, you will have more ingredients than the pan can easily hold. I used one flan pan and one pie plate (both 8-inches) and ended up with a little of the custard left over because the flan pan isn’t as deep as the pie plate. The flan pan baked in exactly 20 minutes. The pie plate which was deeper took somewhat longer.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to salad for a summer dinner. Since it has been in the 90’s all week with no true respite in sight, I not only want a salad but I want some spice as well. It’s well known in Asian and South Asian cultures that you want to eat “Heat” when it is hot outside. The theory being that the spice makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body.

I used to make a salad with cold glass noodles from the Frugal Gourmet, but I decided to change it up a bit. For starters, I’m not wild about glass noodles and I also wanted a bit more complexity to the chicken. I did make this dish with Banh Pho, a large Thai rice noodle, but I think that next time I might even use an Udon noodle instead. All of the prep can – and should – be done ahead, so you can make the individual elements the night before or in the morning and then do your assemblage when you are ready to eat. If you are really pressed for time (or lazy) you can use prepared roasted chicken from your grocery. It won’t have the same depth of flavor, but will still be good. A slightly fruity Rosé would be lovely with this or a Pale Ale.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)

3-4 star anise

2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

Water to cover

1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder

2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2-3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, with the seeds (optional)

For the noodles

8 ounces wide Banh Pho rice noodles

Water to cover

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons “Better than Bouillon”

Sesame oil for drizzling

For the cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and cut into matchsticks

2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar (I used raw sugar but granulated will do)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the peanut sauce

2 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

4-5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 very generous teaspoon Red Chili Paste with Garlic or Sriracha to taste

Garnishes

Roughly chopped cilantro

Roasted and lightly salted peanuts

Directions

For the chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the other chicken ingredients and enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cover the pan tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. While still warm, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using 2 forks. Place in a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the shreds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the liquid over the chicken. Pick out the jalapeno slices if used and the star anise and add them to the chicken. Cover and allow to cool. This can then be refrigerated.

For the noodles

  1. If using the rice noodles, place in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with tap water, place the lid on the pot and allow to soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the bouillon and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles for 10 minutes. (If using another kind of noodle, follow the package instructions.) Drain the noodles and drizzle with sesame oil to prevent them becoming too sticky. Allow them to cool, uncovered. They can be refrigerated.

For the cucumbers

  1. Place the cut cucumbers in a glass bowl or dish. Marinate them in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

For the peanut sauce

  1. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together until they are the consistency of heavy cream. Start with 4 Tablespoons of water and add more if necessary.

Assemblage

  1. Pour the well-mixed peanut sauce over the noodles and using tongs, toss it through. The noodles may have stuck together some, but you can carefully separate them as you mix.
  2. Place some 1/4 of the noodles in each bowl or plate and cover with 1/4 of the chicken shreds that you have drained from the liquid.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro and some peanuts. IMG_3288

 

 

Steak with Corn Salsa

It’s always exciting to find yet another steak recipe when it seems that we’ve been cooking steak for years. This one was yet another gem from our favorite Wine Lover’s Cookbook that we feel vindicated in having picked up while in Healdsburg in Sonoma, California wine country.

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After all, we are truly wine lovers and food lovers, so who could turn down an entire book of pairings?! Food-wise, the recipe calls for a pairing with a radish daikon slaw, but easily would have been fine with just the salsa. In terms of wine, the recipe recommends a Zinfandel, and that a Sangiovese could work just as nicely. (We used the Zin and it was fantastic.)

Ingredients

Flank steak (1/2 lb/person)

Marinade

  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup of sliced yellow onions
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chiles in adobo

Salsa

  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell pepper (chopped, I buy the jar of roasted pepper which makes this a cinch)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of white wine Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp of minced jalapeños
  • 2 tsp sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a plastic bag or bowl and add the steak. Turn the steak a few times to make sure it is all covered in the marinade, and then let it sit in the fridge, in the marinade for 4-5 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. When oven comes to temperature, cut off the top of the head of garlic. Place it on foil and pour olive oil over the top. Stick in the oven for 45 minutes to make roasted garlic.
  3. Once roasted and soft, scoop the garlic cloves out of the head and place in a medium sized bowl and mash them lightly.
  4. Add the corn, chopped bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeños, sherry vinegar and basil. Mix thoroughly and then cover and refrigerate to let the flavors meld.
  5. Once the steak is finished marinating, bring a cast iron skillet or grill pan to high heat.
  6. Scrape the marinade off the steak, and add to the skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Turn off the heat, cover in foil and let rest for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve the steak over the the corn salsa.

Adapted from the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.