May 20th, 2014

One-Hour Cheese! review, recipes, and a giveaway

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It wasn’t just the allure of this gluten-free, no-bake tart, coupled with the fact that local strawberries are here at our markets, ready to spill their juicy sweetness over its top.

It’s the homemade cheese that fills it: Fromage Facile. That’s French for “Easy Cheese.” Soft, slightly tangy, fresh—and ready to spread into that tart, in about thirty minutes. I was sold.

But, there’s more.
Delicate Chevre kisses laced with lavender and thyme, spiced twists of Oaxacan cheese (quesillo) to pull and melt over flatbread, rounds of burrata filled with brown butter and cream.

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Chevre. Mozzarella. Burrata. All wonderful cheeses—can you imagine making them yourself in under an hour?

Claudia Lucero says absolutely! and demonstrates 16 different varieties simply, beautifully, in her new book, One-Hour Cheese.

I’m a novice in this field. I have experimented, with some success, making ricotta and mascarpone . But I want to know more. How do you hand-stretch mozzarella? Why do you use citric acid and vegetable rennet? How do you form that purse of burrata and fill it with cream? What can you do with all that leftover whey? Can you really make a smoked cheddar wheel in just 60 minutes? (You can, although its name, “smoked cheater,” tells you it is not a true smoked cheddar—-but it’s incredible, nonetheless.)

One-Hour Cheese provides the answers to these–and many other cheese making questions.

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Even though I wanted to leap to the more complicated recipe, Burrata, for my first try, I decided to begin with Fromage Facile. This super-simple and delectable cheese is ideal for anyone’s initial foray into cheese-making. It provides a luscious blank canvas, ready to accept sweet or savory applications. And, you don’t need any extraordinary to make it. Likely you already have everything you need in your pantry.

The ingredient list? Whole cow’s milk, buttermilk, lemon juice and salt.

Supplies of Note? Cheesecloth and a reliable thermometer.

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The process is quick: gently heat the milk to 175 degrees. Stir in the buttermilk and lemon juice. Watch the curds form before your eyes.

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Strain, to separate the whey. Lightly salt. Form into a ball. Ta-Dah! Fromage Facile.

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Claudia gives many enticing recipes, to accompany each of the cheeses in the book. Tapenades and dried fruit-nut pastes to flavor the farm-fresh rounds. Vibrant herb-olive oil marinades to cloak bocconcini–little bon-bons of mozzarella. Spiked and peppered melts for pizza and quesadillas.

The photographs are appealing; the steps involved are clearly illustrated; interesting tips are posted throughout. Claudia’s style is upbeat and fun. You’ll want to make these cheeses. And, you can.

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This No-Bake Tartlette? You can whip it up in the time it takes for the Fromage Facile curds to drain. The crust has only 3 ingredients: toasted nuts (I used walnuts, but almonds or pecans would work well.) combined with dates and a pinch of salt. That’s it.

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Press the mixture into the pans. Swirl a little honey into the Fromage Facile, and spread into each tart shell. Top with the Fruit of the Moment.

Right now, the strawberries in Nashville are out of this world. Slice a few and sprinkle a little raw sugar over these gems–it coaxes out the juices. Add some furls of basil or mint, if you like. Spoon over the tart. Serve immediately—or chill for 30 minutes. Either way, it is simply delicious.

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Now, for the fun part: The Giveaway. You are going enjoy having this book as a part of your culinary library.

Post a comment below, telling about a favorite cheese, or a cheese making experience. On June 1st, I will announce the winner, chosen at random.

You can also follow Claudia’s book-blog tour—next up is Texas Farmer’s Daughter and Butter Me Up, Brooklyn. Check ’em out.

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FROMAGE FACILE from One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero
1 quart whole cow’s milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 cup cultured buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon flake salt (or to taste)
Fresh Herbs (optional)

SUPPLIES
Medium colander or mesh strainer
Fine cheesecloth
Large heat-resistant bowl
2 quart stockpot
Cooking thermometer
Large mixing spoon
Measuring cup and measuring spoons
Parchment

1. Line the colander with cheesecloth. Place a bowl underneath to collect the whey.
2. Pour the quart of cow’s milk into a pot. Place over medium heat, warming the milk until it reaches 175 degrees. Stay close by to monitor the heat, stirring to prevent the skin from forming on the top or sticking to the bottom.
3. When the milk reaches 175 degrees, add the buttermilk and lemon juice. Stir well. Remove from heat and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
4. You will see separation of curds and whey. Stir the curds gently to check the texture. Pour into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
5. Allow the curds to drain until they resemble thick oatmeal, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the salt.
6. Pack the cheese into a paper (or plastic) lined dish to form a wheel.

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NO-BAKE STRAWBERRY-CHEESE TARTLETS adapted from One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon salt
Fromage Facile
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh ripe strawberries
fresh basil or mint

Place walnuts and dates into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add salt. Pulse and process together to form a crumbly crust that will stay formed when squeezed.

Press the crust into tart pans.

Fold honey into fromage facile. Spread into tart shells. Chill for one hour.

Slice strawberries and place into a small bowl. Chiffonade (finely slice) basil or mint and toss into berries.
Top the tarts with berry-mint mixture and serve.

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Posted in Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes | 25 Comments »




August 7th, 2013

Kallari Chocolate Chess Pie

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Today’s post combines the exotic and the familiar: artisanal chocolate from Ecuador with a Southern staple, chess pie.

Do you know about chess pie? I was first introduced to it after I moved to Nashville many years ago. The tangy-sweet (sometimes teeth-achingly sweet!) egg custard pie is one of the defining desserts of the South that has somewhat of an undefined history.

It was reportedly brought from England to the colonies. It took hold in Virginia, and became a mainstay in kitchens below the Mason-Dixon line. The name “chess” is curious: some say it is called that because pies of this sort were kept in the pie chest–a specific piece of furniture for pie storage. Others assert that it has more to do with the content of the pie itself–a bake of eggs, sugar, butter, and vinegar—so that it’s a play on words, as in, it’s “just pie”, or, in the vernacular, “jest pie.”

In any case, the pie’s neutral palette has lent itself to numerous variations, such as buttermilk chess, lemon chess, and chocolate chess.

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When the kind people at Kallari asked me to sample their specialty chocolates (who could resist such a request?) I was more than happy to accept the offer. I was curious to taste the sustainably produced confection in varying strengths: 70%, 75%, and 85%. But I was really interested in using it in a recipe. Chocolate chess pie seemed like a good place to start.

I was also intrigued by the story behind this chocolate.

Over 900 families of the Kichwa, an indigenous people of Ecuadorian Amazon, belong to the Kallari collective. Using sustainable organic practices, they grow, tend, harvest, and ferment the heirloom cacao beans. They make the chocolate in a factory that is four hours away from their cooperative center. This proximity–and hands-on approach– further distinguishes Kallari, as most cacao growers do not fabricate the chocolate. Few have ever tasted really good chocolate. Most beans are shipped to factories in Europe and North America to be roasted, and processed into bars.

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Kallari has 2 meanings in the Kichwa language: “To Begin” and “The Early Times”. This is fitting, as the work of the Kallari collective has meant a new start for the growers, while harkening to the heritage of the crops. As a collective, the Kichwa completely own the company, and therefore reap greater earnings for their harvest than if they sold their beans to another company for fair trade pay. Three varieties of cacao beans that flourish on the Kichwa lands go into making the chocolate, each contributing to the complexity of the bars.

The result is astonishing, swoon-worthy. Eaten out of hand, the 70% chocolate has such creamy mouthfeel, very like milk chocolate, except that it is dark, with notes of caramel and berry. The 75% is richer still, yet silken, with nuances of tropical fruits, and a little peppery bite.

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The 85% has firm snap, earthy almost smoky richness with an undercurrent of fruit–a bit bitter and dry to eat out of hand, but an ideal chocolate to bake into my pie.

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Much loved for its taste, a chess pie is well-appreciated for its easy-as-pie method. Chocolate chess follows suit. Likely I spent more time making the pie crust than on the filling…

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…which gets a kickstart in the microwave, melting the chocolate, butter, and sugars together. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, a splash of bourbon–you can do this all by hand in a blink.

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In no time, you could be pouring this lush filling into the pie shell. Thirty minutes later, you could be having a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate chess pie. (add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, slices of ripe peach, fresh blackberry puree–ah, sublime!)

Make it with Kallari chocolate, and you are doing good, while feasting well. You can order it from them or check at Whole Foods–many of them carry it.)

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CHOCOLATE BOURBON CHESS PIE
2.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup raw sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

unbaked pie shell

Into a large microwaveable bowl, place chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces, along with butter, and both sugars. Microwave for about a minute to melt the butter and chocolate. Stir and microwave for another 30 seconds, to make sure that all the chocolate and butter is melted.

Whisk in the vanilla and bourbon, until the mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs (using the same whisk) one at a time–adding the second egg after the first is incorporated.

Beat in flour and salt.

Pour into a prepared, unbaked pie shell.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool on a pie/cake rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8

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Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 20 Comments »




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 »




September 29th, 2011

Two Autumn Tarts

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Sweet Potato Tart with cornmeal crust

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Maple Pecan Tart with gingersnap crust

Today, an embarrassment of riches!

Between house parties and a special local farm dinner, I’ve been busy-busy cooking this month. In the process, I’ve created a couple of lush desserts suited for fall.

It’s a beautiful day in Nashville, the essence of early autumn: sunny, neither warm nor cool, with that slant of light that makes all things clear.

Ripe for sharing both recipes.

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The first, sweet potato pie with cornmeal crust, was one that I made for the local farm dinner, hosted by Fretboard Journal, a guitar-afficianado’s dream-magazine based out of Seattle Washington. With all the “box” pickers, builders, traders, and listeners, Nashville is one guitar lovin’ town, the perfect site for the Inaugural Fretboard Feast.

My friend, organic farmer Tally May, and her husband, guitar builder extraordinaire, Kipp Krusa hosted the event on their Turnbull Creek Farm, just west of Nashville.

Working with Tally, I designed a menu, basing it on what was seasonal and available at the moment. We sourced meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables from her farm, and her neighboring farmer-colleagues.

Here are some of the highlights: Rosemary-Sage Roasted Fresh Ham with Fig Sauce, Fall Lettuces with beets, pears, walnuts, chevre, Sherry-Plum Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash-Swiss Chard Gratin, October Beans, Pole Beans, and Leeks with blistered cherry tomatoes and peppers, Yukon Golds and Harukei Turnips roasted with Thyme and Garlic…

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And, this very local pie, distinctively Southern with its slightly gritty cornmeal crust. A drizzle of sorghum, a dollop of lemon-basil scented creme fraiche, and Mer-cy, was it ever down-home elegant good. Have a bite, please!

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SWEET POTATO PIE WITH CORNMEAL CRUST

The Crust
3/4 cup Yellow Corn Meal
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 T. Sugar
1/2 t. Salt
7 T. cold Butter, cut into pieces
3-4 T. Ice Water

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a pastry cutter blade (or swivel blade). Pulse quickly to “sift” them together. Add cold butter, and pulse until the pieces are cut throughout the cornmeal-flour mix. Continue pulsing, add water, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will begin to amass. Continue pulsing until it forms a ball. Collect, pat into a firmer ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can do this well ahead of time–a day in advance.)

The Filling
2 cups cooked Sweet Potatoes (2 medium or 1 large Sweet Potato, baked, meaty insides scooped from the sweet potato shell))
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Cream
1 T. Vanilla
1 t. Ginger
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Nutmeg
pinch ground Cloves
3 Eggs

I used the food processor (swivel blade) for the filling too.

Place sweet potatoes into the food processor and process until smooth. Add brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and spices. Continue processing. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Add eggs, one at a time, and process until very smooth and well-incorporated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove doughball from refrigerator and allow to soften. Sprinkle counter with a little flour and roll out crust. Fit into a 9″ or 10″ pie pan. If the dough breaks or crumbles, (which it might) don’t worry. The cornmeal makes it a bit that way, but is very forgiving as far as piecing the crust back together.

Fill the pie with the sweet potato mixture and bake for about 35 minutes. Test in the center for doneness (whatever you stick in to check will be clean when removed)

Cool. Serve with lemon-scented creme fraiche.

LEMON BASIL SCENTED CREME FRAICHE
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 T. Buttermilk

3 T. Lemon Basil Simple Syrup
1 T. Lemon zest

Mix the cream and buttermilk in a clean glass mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit out, in a cool dark place, for 24 hours, to thicken. Stir occasionally. Refrigerate, and allow to culture for 3 days.

Make your simple syrup. (recipe below)

Whip the creme fraiche with lemon zest and simple syrup until fluffy. Serve over pie.

Lemon Basil Simple Syrup
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Water
1/2 c. Lemon Basil Leaves

Dissolve sugar into water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Plunge in the lemon basil leaves.
Stir well and simmer. Allow to cool. Strain the leaves.

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Next up, Maple Pecan.

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Southern pecan pie is traditionally made with corn syrup, and I’ve generally made it this way, with delicious results. But, for this tart, I wanted to use maple syrup that I was able to source from a farm in neighboring Kentucky. I had always thought about maple syrup coming from New England and Canada—so it’s nice to know that locals are making it too.

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And, a different, “spicier” crust seemed to be in order. For its sweet and heady bite, a crust made from ginger snaps makes a nice shell to hold that pecan studded custard, and is a snap to make.

I’ve used the same recipe, pressed the crust into an 8″X8″ square baking pan, and made Maple Pecan Bars, instead of the round tart. This works, easy-peasy.

I hope you all are enjoying the change of season. Take time outside, have a slice of one of these tarts, sip hot coffee, drink in that rare slant of light.

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MAPLE PECAN TART WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST

The Crust:
24 Ginger Snap Cookies (from an Archway Cookie Bag)
3 T. Melted Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor into fine crumbs. Place into a mixing bowl, and stir in melted butter. Press mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 5 minutes.

The Filling:
1 cup Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Sugar
1 stick melted Butter, slightly cooled
1 T. Vanilla
3 Eggs
1/2 t. Salt
2 cups Pecan Halves

Line the bottom of the gingersnap crust with pecans.

Make the filling, using a stand mixer, or a hand-held. Beat maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and butter together. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Pour over pecans in the pie pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (drizzled with caramel sauce!)

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Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 25 Comments »




November 17th, 2010

Savory Pear-Walnut Crema Tart

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Next month, I will be one of several chefs involved in a fundraising dinner for our food bank. To a group of 80 guests, we’ll be serving a multi-coursed Tasting Menu. Much fun, this allows for a wide swath of creativity on diminutive plates. I had been asked to prepare something salad-like, something to follow a soup course.

What to make?

I knew, of course, that it would be a seasonal dish. And, I wanted it to be meatless. Many of the chefs had picked a protein— beef, pork, tuna, duck, lamb, bison–for their centerpiece, so I wanted a departure from that. I also had a sense, with the wealth of good food ideas that I am connected to through blogging, that my inspiration was close at hand.

When I came upon this Pear and Walnut Crema Tart on Joyti’s splendid site Darjeeling Dreams, I got excited. Walnut crema! Her description of its taste and simplicity of execution sold me. Alone, the crema seemed incredible, but her presentation–layered with pears, thyme, mascarpone in a savory crust, would be nothing short of sublime.

I could envision a delectable sliver on a small plate, served alongside a ruffle of arugula, sheerly dressed. A drizzle of floral honey, perhaps, over the tart, or, better yet–a lemon-honey infused vinaigrette.

It was time to get to work, test out the recipe, and see how it would work for a large dinner party.

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Following Joyti’s direction, I made the walnut crema first. I didn’t have shallots on hand, as her recipe lists, only garlic, which I cooked in the pot with the walnuts. While the walnuts were simmering to tenderness, I made my pastry dough. Both crema and dough can be made a day in advance—and actually benefit from an overnight stay in the refrigerator.

The crema took on the look and texture of hummus, and the walnut flavor, surprisingly deepened in the simmer, had nothing sharp or acrid. This is the sort of sauce, or pesto, that would be quite delicious tossed over pasta or served over roasted vegetables, like asparagus.

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WALNUT CREMA
1 cup Walnuts
2 small cloves Garlic
pinch salt
4 T. Olive Oil

Place ingredients into a 2 qt. saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 12-15 minutes. Drain, reserving a little “walnut water.”

Place into a food processor fitted with the swivel blade and pulse until chopped finely. Add olive oil and process until smooth, adding a tablespoon or 2 of the walnut water as well, so that the walnut crema will have the look and texture of hummus. Taste for salt.

Refrigerate tightly wrapped for at least overnight so that flavors will develop well. Keeps about a week, wrapped and refrigerated.

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The following day, I gathered my ingredients. I peeled the pears–these were tough-skinned, from the country—but the pears that you use might have a delicate skin that will bake nicely. Use your judgement about that.

I made a few adaptations along the way.

Joyti’s recipe calls for mascarpone or cream cheese. I had a log of mild, tangy goat cheese that I thought could work well. (Use whatcha got!) I had no lemon thyme, but lemon and thyme.

I also compressed her recipe steps, somewhat. She calls for blind-baking the pastry shell, then filling it, and broiling it. For my large dinner group, I decided that it would be better for me to bake the shell and its filling all together.

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It didn’t take long to assemble this appealing tart.

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Before I placed it in the oven, I brushed some melted butter across the slices, to insure some glazy browning. Happy-Happy with the results.
The tart had a lovely crispened shell–sides and bottom. Walnut bits toasted across the pear-laden top. It cut easily, retaining integrity of layers, even when sliced into delicate pieces.

You’ll notice an inherent sweetness from the pears and bit of lemon, balanced by the tangy chevre, and anchored by the walnut crema.

It’s a simple, beautiful dish in all aspects–you could serve it as appetizer course, a fruit/cheese course in lieu of dessert. And, when paired with winter greens and honey vinaigrette, will be a stunning plate for the special fundraising dinner.

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SAVORY PEAR-WALNUT CREMA TART
adapted from Darjeeling Dreams, with thanks to Joyti

1 recipe My Basic Pie Crust (click here )

1 batch of Walnut Crema
4-5 oz Goat Cheese
2-3 ripe Pears (could be Bosc, Anjou, Bartlett–I used a rustic country pear of unknown name from Maggie’s tree!)
Lemon–for zest (1 T.) and Juice (to squeeze over sliced pears)
1 T. melted Butter
a few sprigs fresh Thyme
a few Walnut halves and pieces

10″ pie pan or quiche/tart pan

Roll out pastry dough, place into pan and crimp edges. Spread walnut crema over the bottom, and follow with crumbled goat cheese. Peel and core pears, and slice thinly.

Lay out the slices, one slightly overlapping the other, in concentric circles, pressing the pieces gently into the layer of crema and cheese.

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the slices, and sprinkle the zest. Finish with a sprinkle of thyme leaves and walnut bits.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Makes 8 generous servings, or 16 cocktail “tasting plate” servings.

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Recipes, Sauces | 19 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 »