October 18th, 2012

Baby Shower Buffet

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Life has been full and moving apace; and I’ve been a bit remiss here on Good Food Matters. But, exciting things are in the works—including a cookbook! I’ll share more details on that project soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d give you a look at our beautiful spread, an hors d’oeuvres buffet from last weekend. We held a shower honoring my daughter, son-in-law, and (grand!) baby to come.

No funny games or balloons, just a gathering of family and friends in the late afternoon for appetizers and sweets. We had a colorful array of foods, with a meat dish, a fish dish, and a bounty to please vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Plus, The Pie Board! My daughter Madeleine wanted not just pie, but Pies. A table filled with these assorted treats, great and petite, fruit or nut filled, chocolate cream or baked vanilla custard is a fun alternative to, say, a single cake. Easy as pies…..

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While our party was a baby shower, it doesn’t matter: our menu would work for any kind of event, like a cocktail supper.
For your inspiration, with tips:

An Hors D’oeuvres Buffet
Marinated Grilled Beef Tenderloin, horseradish cream sauce, sundried tomato rolls
Orange-rubbed Smoked Alaskan Salmon Fillet
Blanched Chilled Asparagus with Greek Yogurt-Dill Dip
Roasted Butternut Squash-Yellow Bell Pepper-Honeycrisp Apple Quinoa
Black Eyed Pea “Cowboy Caviar”
Hot Baby Spoon Spinach-Artichoke Dip both served with blue and white corn chips

The Pie Board
Rustic Honeycrisp Apple Galette
Maple Pecan Pie
Plum Cheesecake Pie with gingersnap crust
Petite Chess Tarts
Double Chocolate Cream Pie

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An overnight marinade of olive oil, red wine, balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, and lots of fresh garlic help insure a succulent and flavorful piece of meat. Liberally salt and pepper the beef before grilling.

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I rub the salmon fillet with orange zest and good olive oil before placing on my Big Green Egg to gently smoke. The fish stays moist, and is fragrant with citrus.

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Simply roast diced butternut squash that you’ve first brushed with olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Do the same with diced yellow bell pepper. Prepare the quinoa according to package directions. Fold in roasted vegetables and diced fresh apple once the quinoa is cooked. The heat of the quinoa lightly cooks the apple, while retaining its crunch. Served warm or cool, this makes a delicious fall-inspired side or salad.

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Blanched Chilled Asparagus with Greek Yogurt-Dill Sauce: Easy to make, easy to pick up and eat! It doesn’t take long to plunge the spears into boiling water, let them cook less than 2 minutes, and plunge them into an icy bath. Season plain Greek yogurt with plenty of fresh dill, scallions, fresh lemon juice and sea salt.

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Like the quinoa dish, this vegan “Cowboy Caviar” is healthy, full-flavored, and universally enjoyed. I was lucky to find fresh black eyed peas at the market, which I cooked with garlic, sea salt, bay leaf and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Once the peas became tender and cooled, I added diced avocados, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, olive oil, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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This is an updated classic, made with fresh baby spoon spinach and artichoke hearts stirred into a green onion studded bechamel sauce. Always a favorite! Top the casserole with shredded pecorino romano cheese and bake until bubbly.

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THE PIES: Rustic Honeycrisp Apple Galette, Chess Tarts, Plum Cream Cheese Pie, Maple Pecan Pie, Double Chocolate Cream Pie

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Double Chocolate Cream Pie (the first to go!)
Filling:
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups lowfat milk
4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoon creme de cassis (optional)
pinch of salt

Whisk cocoa, cornstarch, and brown sugar together in a bowl. Pour milk into a 2 qt. saucepan set on medium heat and stir in cocoa mixture. Continue stirring until dissolved. Then add chopped chocolate. Flavor with vanilla, creme de cassis, and a pinch of salt. Stir ( a wooden spoon is good for this.) steadily, as the mixture begins to simmer and thicken. It will become smooth and puddinglike. Remove from heat and pour into pre-baked pie shell. Cool before refrigerating.

Whip a cup of heavy cream with 2 (or so, depending on how sweet you want your whipped cream) tablespoons confectioners sugar and a teaspoon vanilla. Top chilled pie, and garnish with shaved chocolate.
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Individual Chess Tarts: these were made by good friend Wendy. A true Southern dessert: Eggs-Butter-Sugar-Buttermilk-Vinegar. Deceptively simple, and somewhat addictive, Chess Pie deserves a post all its own. I promise, I will deliver that soon!

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The Line-Up
Guests really have a great time making up pie sampler dessert plates for themselves!

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Blissful Parents to Be
Due Date is December First
!

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 30 Comments »




September 13th, 2012

A Perfect Apple Tart, and a Peek into Luisa Weiss’s Berlin Kitchen

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These cool September mornings have me thinking about transitions. Soon, the fall harvests, and bushels of apples picked from area orchards will be arriving at the markets. Red and Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys and Granny Smiths, Winesaps and Arkansas Blacks. Beautiful varieties, each with a distinct taste and culinary use.

I welcome this time of year. It ushers in another wave of foods and festivities that bring people together.

From my office perch looking out into the backyard, I see signs of a season in shift. Leaves getting tinged with yellow. Persimmons ripening on the rugged tree by the alley. Hummingbirds gorging on nectar before making their migration further south. I’ve lived in middle Tennessee for a long time, lived out many long hot summers. Autumn always invigorates me with its crisp clear air and blaze of color. I relish the changes of the seasons. Although anything can happen, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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A sense of place. That gets entwined with many things, especially in a transient society. Where we were born, where we grew up, where we went to school, where we work, all play a part in grounding us, informing that deepest part of us about where we belong. We all have the right place to be.

It’s a potent and poignant theme that Luisa Weiss explores in her food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen. Known to many as The Wednesday Chef, Luisa tells her story of finding that sense of place. A confluence of cultures is at the heart of her journey.

In 1977, she was born to an Italian mother and an American father in West Berlin. At age three, her parents divorced and she moved to Boston with her father. She grew up, traveling back and forth, straddling two homes, two worlds. Her divided life, in a way, paralleled Berlin of the Cold War.

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As a young adult living in New York, Luisa worked as a cookbook editor. A touchstone to memory, an anchor for comfort, food and cooking became central in her life. In 2005, she launched her blog, initially as a way to plow through the scads of recipes she’d clipped and saved. The Wednesday Chef became more than a food blog; readers worldwide followed her journal as she came to grips with the feeling that her life in New York, ideal as it appeared with a terrific job, fiance, and circle of friends, was not where she belonged.

My Berlin Kitchen chronicles that larger arc of self-discovery, and courage to make bold change. It is a love story, sprinkled with delectable recipes, gleaned from her world travels. Many have an intriguing, decidedly Berliner bent. Roast goose, braised red cabbage, poppyseed whirligig buns, white asparagus salad, spiced plum butter…

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I enjoyed reading her story, and found real inspiration in her recipes. Today, I made her Apple Tart.

I call it a Perfect Apple Tart, for it truly honors the apple, in all its crisp sweet-tart glory. In Luisa’s words, ” This tart is about the pure, clear taste of apples, sugar, and a little bit of butter. There are no spices to muddle the flavors.”

And, its crust—the crust could be reason alone to make the tart: thin and golden, immeasurably buttery and flaky.

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She credits her recipe to four culinary luminaries: Jacques Pepin, who originally conceived it; Alice Waters, who has kept it a constant offering at Chez Panisse; Deb Perelman, who brought it out into the wide world through her blog, Smitten Kitchen; and Melissa Clark, whose New York Times pastry-making video showed that leaving the butter in larger, lima bean (rather than pea) sized pieces in the dough insured a richer, flakier crust.

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Of course, your tart will only be as wonderful as your apples. Select firm ones. Luisa recommends Golden Delicious. I chose Ginger Golds, an early harvest variety with a spicy-tart finish. They are good to eat out of hand, and bake into pies or cakes.

As we come into apple season, you’ll no doubt find other varieties that will appeal to you.

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Here’s the tart’s magic. You peel and core the apples before slicing them. Then, you immerse those trimmings in water with sugar, and cook them down. After straining, you reduce the apple-infused liquid to a marvelous syrupy glaze.

After baking and cooling, you brush the tart–apples and crust– with apple syrup. Oh, my!

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Apple-Apple-Apple! The tart is all about the apples, not-too-sweet, baked tender in a butter-crisp rustic crust:

From Jacques Pepin to Alice Waters, Deb Perelman to Melissa Clarke, from Luisa Weiss to me, and now to you.

Wishing you contentment wherever you are, Nancy

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A PERFECT APPLE TART from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

The Crust
1 cup All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
6 tablespoons well-chilled unsalted Butter, cut into 1″ pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons icy water

food processor fitted with pastry cutter

Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is broken down into lima bean shaped pieces. Pulse in water, a spoonful at a time, until dough comes together.

Dump out onto lightly floured work surface and gather it together, flattening into 4″ wide disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes. (or up to 3 days)

The Apple Filling
2 lbs. crisp firm Apples (I used Ginger Gold) peeled, cored. and thinly sliced–Save the peels and cores
2 tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted
3-5 tablespoons Sugar (I used 4 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 degrees, if using a convection oven).

Remove pastry dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and roll out onto a flour-dusted work counter.
Rolling and rotating the dough, dust with more flour to prevent sticking. Continue rolling until you’ve made a 14″-16″ thin round.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the rolled dough round on it.

Place the apple slices in overlapping circles on the dough, leaving a 2″ border. Crowd as many apple slices as possible.
They will cook down in the oven.

Fold the edges of the crust over the tart, creating a rustic look, leaving the center of the tart exposed.
Brush melted butter over the apples and onto the crust. Sprinkle the sugar over the crust and apples as well.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, rotating the tart after 20-22 minutes.
The crust will become golden brown, as will the edges of the apples.

While the tart bakes, make the apple syrup. (recipe below)
Remove the baked tart and let it cool for 15 minutes before brushing the apples and crust with apple syrup.

Serve warm or room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

The Apple Syrup
Reserved Apple Cores and Peels
1/2 cup Sugar

Put cores and peels into a saucepan along with sugar. Pour in water–enough to cover.
Bring to a boil, them simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid; discard the apple trimmings, and return liquid to saucepan.
Reduce on low heat for another 10-15 minutes, until it becomes thickened and syrupy.

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Posted in Articles, Desserts, Fruit, Recipes | 25 Comments »




October 14th, 2010

Caramelized Onion-Chanterelle Tart

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It’s been a busy-busy two weeks since we last gathered at Good Food Matters, what with The 10-10-10 Wedding and all related pre-and-post preparations and festivities. I confess, part of it is a blur, a whirling happy extended dream sequence of flickering lights and flowers, dotted swiss organza, families, friends, more families, beautiful food, brilliant toasts, divine cake, crazy soulful dancing,

from which I’m only now awakening.

To be sure, I couldn’t have dreamt a lovelier occasion.

I figure my thirty years of working with food, catering countless receptions, was all for this moment. Friends and colleagues came together to help create a gorgeous event. So much love. So much gratitude.

In the midst of all the planning for the Big Weekend, I had decided to host a farewell brunch, especially for those who were traveling, on the morning after the wedding party.

I know what you’re thinking–what was she thinking?

But when you are a recovered caterer planning your daughter’s wedding, you feel invincible. You believe you can do anything. And, you know that you can do just one more thing. You think, Hey, it’s no big deal…Just a few people for bagels and schmear, a little fruit salad, maybe a quiche or two…

Towards the end of the wedding evening, as people were leaving, many with the same parting words, “I’ll see you at the brunch tomorrow!” it was clear that a much larger get-together was looming. And, in my rhapsodic mother-of-the-bride blur, it dawned on me: “What was I thinking?”

My, my. It would be a righteous early morning.

With the help of Bill and houseguest Carissa, we put together a pretty nice spread. One of the things I whipped up was this caramelized onion tart. Yep, whipped it up. You can too. It was much loved at the brunch of 35 guests; not a speck left. I didn’t (get to) eat any, but the word was Sublime, I was told.

I’ve recreated it today, so that you and I could enjoy it. And, guess what? Ours is even better! Because I found the delectable Chanterelle mushrooms at a discount (from $24 lb. to $16 at Whole Foods! sounds obscene, but you only need $4 worth) I decided to treat us. We deserve it!

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The tart combines all those elements that create Umami, the “fifth taste,” savoriness.

There’s gruyere cheese, with its salt, and milky caramel richness. Onions cooked down to almost candy. Background herbal notes from fresh thyme. Little bites of sharpness from coarse grained mustard. And, finally…the chanterelle. Hmmm. Golden trumpets that need just a hint of heat and butter to become sultry sirens of umami.

Wow.

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If you make your pastry up ahead of time, and keep it refrigerated, it rolls out easily—and thin.

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I learned this trick a long time ago–rubbing the mustard into the dough adds another layer of flavor.

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Eggs and Half-and-Half comprise the custard. If you find the cheese called Comte, try it! It is as complex and wonderful to use as Gruyere.

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CARAMELIZED ONION-CHANTERELLE TART

Crust:
1 c. All Purpose Flour, sifted
1 t. Salt
6 T. Butter, chilled, cut into pieces
3-4 T. Ice Water
later: 1 T. coarse grain mustard

In a food processor fitted with the pastry swivel, pulse together the flour, salt, and butter. Add water–3 Tablespoons to start–and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. Add another Tablespoon of water if necessary.

Wrap the dough ball in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour
—but does well to make in advance, and refrigerate overnight.Roll out dough on a flour-dusted surface until round, thin and pliable. Place into tart dish (I used a 12″ tart pan) and press onto the sides.

Coat surface with 1 Tablespoon Coarse Grain Mustard. Refrigerate until
ready to fill.

Filling:
1 Tablespoon Butter
4 medium Onions, sliced lengthwise
a few sprigs of fresh Thyme leaves
2 cups Half-and-Half
3 large Eggs
1 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
4 oz. Chanterelle Mushrooms, sliced lengthwise

Melt butter in a deep skillet on medium heat and slowly saute onions until soft, slightly browned, and very sweet. This may take fifteen minutes.

Season with salt and black pepper. When cooked, stir in the fresh thyme leaves, and place into a small bowl. In the same skillet, melt another tablespoon of butter and gently stir the sliced chanterelles until they are butter-coated, soft, and golden. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs and half-and-half together until well blended–no trace of egg yolk remaining.

Bring out the tart shell. Sprinkle a layer of shredded gruyere on the bottom.
(about half of what you have) Spoon in all the onions. Pour in the egg mixture. Place pieces of cooked chanterelle all over the top, along with the remaining gruyere.

Place into a 375 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown, and mixture is set.

Delicious warm, or room temperature. Serves 8-10.

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Breakfast, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes | 31 Comments »