Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomato Tart

This is a delicious way to use fresh grown tomatoes when you’re looking for something a little more fancy than a simple salad.  Behold, the heirloom tomato tart:
tomato tart sq 1
It starts with a flaky savory pastry crust made from flour and lots of butter.
tart crust
It has a very thin layer of Dijon mustard atop the flakey pastry.  It lends a very subtle piquant flavor and is topped with a layer of rich gruyere cheese.  Next, an orderly layer of sliced fresh heirloom tomatoes.
tomato tart
A sprinkling of fresh thyme, plus salt and pepper finishes things off.
tomato tart 2
We enjoyed ours to celebrate Sylvie’s 2nd birthday.  We told her it was French pizza, and she bought it! 

Tomato Tart

  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced gruyere cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil

Pastry Crust

(makes enough for 2 tarts). I love the recipe from Alice Water’s Art of Simple Food.
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp cold butter, cubed
Combine flour, salt, and butter in food processor.  Pulse a few times; just until butter is in large irregular pieces.  Drizzle in the water bit by bit, pulsing in between, until dough forms a craggy ball.  Divide in two, shape into discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.  When ready to use, take out one disc and let soften on counter for 10 minutes then roll out to fit the tart pan.
Preheat oven to 425. Dollop the mustard on the dough and spread very thinly with a rubber spatula.  Arrange thinly sliced (or shredded) gruyere atop the mustard layer, followed by a layer of tomatoes.  Lay the tomatoes in concentric circles, overlapping slightly.  Sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.

tomato tart sq 2

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Homemade Raspberry Ice Cream

As I mentioned in our August dinner party post, I finally caved and bought myself an ice cream maker.  (Highly recommended!) I've already tried a couple recipes which were good, but this raspberry ice cream was truly great.
This recipe is a variation of the strawberry ice cream in Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food. I experienced a cooking math flub when I bought two half pints of raspberries instead of two pints. I went ahead and used half the amount that the recipe called for and was surprisingly happy with the result. It was undeniably raspberry, but you could really taste the creamy, custardy base of the ice cream. Yum.
Raspberries, as opposed to strawberries, required a bit of extra work: you need to remove the seeds. As I strained my raspberry puree, I was shocked at the vast amount of seeds! But it is just a few extra minutes, and totally worth it.
Raspberry Ice Cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 pint raspberries
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • a couple drops vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
Whisk the egg yolks briefly in a small bowl. Set a strainer over a heat-proof bowl. Heat the half-and-half and 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until sugar dissolves. When hot whisk a little of the hot half-and-half into the egg yolks and then whisk warm yolks into the hot mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and quickly strain. Add the heavy cream. Cover the mixture and chill. Puree the raspberries in a food processor, and strain the puree to remove the seeds. (It will take some help from your fingers to press the raspberries through while the seeds remain in the strainer.) Stir in the 2 tbs of sugar, and once the sugar has melted, add the berries to the cold cream mixture. Add vanilla and salt. Chill thoroughly and then freeze according to your ice-cream maker's instructions.
I love the little intruder in this next pic.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August Dinner Party {monthly menu}

Things have been a little crazy around these parts. Sarah has been moving into her lovely new home, and I've been very helpful in telling her where all her things should go. (Helpful... right, Sarah? Right?) Anyway, it has been a busy month. But we made some time for a very simple dinner party to celebrate August's harvest.

Between the plants in our backyards and our CSA boxes, we've been enjoying a lot of tomatoes these days. These tomatoes are so ripe and luscious, they don't need any cooking at all. Good thing, because we don't want to spend that time slaving over a hot stove anyway.

August Dinner Party Menu
  • Plate of assorted cheeses, dates, almonds, and honeycomb
  • Pasta with cherry tomatoes and spicy greens
  • Homemade raspberry ice cream with chewy almond cookies
  • Wine: Layer Cake primitivo (zinfandel)
  • Beer: Breckenridge Brewery 471 IPA

Determined to keep kitchen time at a minimum, we headed off to the Cheese Importers Warehouse to pick out selections for our first course. Our plate consisted of Triple Cream Goat Brie by Woolwich Dairy Inc, followed by a firm but slightly sweet Blue Ovin Sardo made from sheeps milk.  Last but not least, we sampled the pungent Bermuda Triangle which is another goats milk cheese, this one made in Northern California.

A couple years ago, I came across a tasty-sounding recipe in the NY Times which is the starting point for this recipe. It is only now at this moment, after referring to the recipe several times over the past two years that I realize the author of the recipe is Martha Rose Shulman whose great cookbook Mediterranean Harvest is in heavy rotation in my kitchen. We adapted the recipe to use the produce we already had, subbing in a couple handfuls of spicy mixed greens that Sarah received in her CSA box for the arugula that Shulman suggests.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Greens
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large garlic clove or a couple small, minced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup spicy mixed greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound gemelli
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated ricotta salata (more to taste)
1. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, salt, balsamic vinegar, arugula, basil, and olive oil in a wide bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a generous amount of salt and the pasta. Cook al dente, until the pasta is firm to the bite. Drain, toss with the tomatoes, sprinkle on the cheese, and serve.

 This summer has been my first foray into the art of making ice cream. I bought myself this lovely, cherry red Cuisinart ice cream maker, and I couldn't be happier. This raspberry ice cream is my favorite recipe yet, and I'll be sharing it on Two Tarts soon here it is. We served the ice cream along with the chewy almond cookies we made recently.

We listened to:
Washed Out - Within & Without

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chewy Almond Cookies

These cookies may be the best way to use our homemade almond paste.  These are very simple with only three ingredients (almond paste, sugar, and egg whites) which lets the fresh taste of almond paste shine through.

The dough is easy to make with a food processor, then needs to be piped onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  We didn't have a pastry bag so filled a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.  It worked perfectly!  Just make sure part of the bag doesn't pop open while you're squeezing the dough out. That may have happened to us...

They are chewy and sticky in the best possible way.  Make sure you let them cool completely before peeling them off the baking sheets.

Chewy Almond Cookies

  • 1 cup homemade almond paste (or one 7oz tube of store bought paste)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 egg whites, brought to room temperature
  • pinch of sea salt
Recipe inspiration thanks goes to Chewy Amaretti Cookies at Smitten Kitchen.
Preheat oven to 300.

Put the almond paste, sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse until combined.  Then, let the food processor run while you drizzle in the egg whites and a silken thick paste forms.

Scoop the dough into a pastry bag (or a ziploc bag if you’re ghetto like us).  Snip off the end and pipe 1.5” round cookies onto a pan lined with parchment.  We used foil because we were out of parchment, and although the cookies did come off OK it was nerve wracking. So we don’t recommend it.  Unless you’re desperate.

Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes until just turning light brown on the under-edges.  Cool completely before removing from tray.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Summer in Colorado has been HOT this year.  I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of ways to use fresh vegetables that don’t require roasting or extended cooking of any sort (because this has the unfortunate side effect of making my house feel like an oven for the rest of the day).

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

I have happily settled on this quinoa salad.  It is filling, cool, and full of fresh Mediterranean flavors:  tomatoes, olives, feta, red onion, and any big handfuls of herbs you care to trim from your garden.  I used chives, mint, basil, and parsley.

Another fun fact: this is a really great recipe to deliver to new mothers.  Dulcie and I have each made this recipe for a friend with a newborn (Hi Rachel! Hi Kristi!) and it was a hit…we think!  It doesn’t need to be eaten immediately, is meant to be eaten cold or room temperature, and is low on the sorts of things some nursing mothers need to avoid (gluten, soy, egg, and dairy -- the feta is easily omitted).


Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar (although I’ve made it with white balsamic and think I might actually prefer that, so feel free to experiment here)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa (measured dry, then cooked according to usual directions)
  • 1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 c. fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 c. (or more, to taste) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 c. chopped mixed herbs (parsley, mint, basil, cilantro, and chives are all excellent)
Cook quinoa according to usual directions (I do 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water).  Fluff and let quinoa cool as you prepare the other ingredients.
For dressing: combine all ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup and whisk.  Feel free to use a fork if you want to save a dirty dish – I did.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, pour over the dressing, and toss to combine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blueberry and Mascarpone Crepes

When we made our blueberry vanilla compote, we knew immediately that it was a perfect candidate for crepes. It would be delicious as the sole crepe filling, but so much better paired with creamy mascarpone!

My go-to crepe recipe for years has been the one from the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking. It whips up in a heartbeat in the food processor, and then needs 30 minutes to rest before cooking. Or you can refrigerate the batter for up to 2 days (so it is ready to go for some early morning crepes. Mmmm.)
I loved how the smooth mascarpone paired with the sweet and zesty compote. Sarah added some blackberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar to her crepes! And why not?
Blueberry and Mascarpone Crepes

  • 1 batch blueberry vanilla compote
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted (plus more butter for coating the pan)
  • 1 1/2 tbs sugar
  • pinch of salt
Blend everything except compote and mascarpone in a food processor until smooth. Pour batter into a pitcher and cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate for up to 2 days.) Place a nonstick pan over medium heat. Coat the pan with a little butter. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, lifting the pan off the heat and tilting and rotating it so that the batter forms a thin, even layer. Cook until top is set and underside is golden. Turn the crepe over with the tips of your fingers and cook until the second side is lightly browned. Remove crepe to a piece of wax paper. Continue cooking the rest of the crepes, buttering the pan and stirring the batter before starting each one. Stack finished crepes between sheets of waxed paper. Take each crepe and smooth a couple spoonfuls of mascarpone and a couple spoonfuls of compote. Roll up your crepe, or fold in half once and then fold in half again so that you have a triangle. Makes 8-10 crepes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fava Bean Puree

Does anyone really think of fava beans without thinking of Hannibal Lecter? Well, hand me a glass of nice chianti, because these lovelies are in season. But fava beans are one of the many veggies that I get in my box of organic produce that at first cause excitement and then distress. I simply don't know what to do with them. If you are in the same position, I hope this fava bean puree piques your interest.

Make no mistake, fava beans are a bit labor intensive to get into the pot. They need to be shelled from their exterior pod, and then each individual bean must be removed from its waxy shell. Parboiling helps to make quick work of that. If you have a friend to chat with while shelling, then you'll be surprised how quickly the time goes.

We used the rather small amount of beans that were in my produce box. The resulting amount of puree was very small -- enough to spread on about 8 thin slices of baguette. (It was a perfect appetizer for Sarah, myself, and our husbands!) It would easily double, so if you find yourself with a pound of favas, give that a try.

Fava Bean Puree

adapted from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen

  • 1/2 lb fava beans in their pods
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs water
  • salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced

1. Remove the beans from their outer pods.

2. Parboil the beans for 30 seconds to loosen the shell, and then use your thumbnail to tear the skin at one end, then squeeze to pop out the bean.

3. Heat olive oil in saucepan and add beans, water, and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for 15 minutes or so, until beans are very soft. Add the garlic and thyme and cook a couple minutes longer.

4. Mash the beans with a mortar and pestle. Taste and add more salt or olive oil as needed. Makes only about 1/3 cup or so; recipe doubles easily.

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