October 28, 2010

F is for Fig

It was just a simple tart; your basic pie dough, sweetened with just a touch of sugar, some almond cream and sliced figs arranged concentrically to make a pretty design.  But as you're probably figuring out by this point, I can't leave well enough alone.  I had this idea in my head to add something herby and earthy.

Is is just me, am I weird for really liking that almost dirt-like flavor quality of some foods?  It's why I love beets and dream of mushrooms.  It's what I love most about rosemary.

Listen, figs and almonds are all well and good, but I wanted more.  Something unexpected.  And since beets and mushrooms obviously wouldn't cut it here- I can be crazy at times, but not that crazy - I went with some rosemary.  People, it brought this tart to a whole new level of delicious.  It was really just a whisper of the herb that came through, but it was enough to balance the sweet caramelized figs and fluffy almond cream.  It was textural and elegant.

We ate it on a warm evening, after an al fresco dinner of delicious food and over a game of Scattergories.  It was perfect.

And what would really send this over the top - serving it with a scoop of honey ice cream.

Fig and Rosemary Galette
2 10-inch tarts 

This recipe was compiled from all over the place so if you have your own favorite pie dough recipe, or frangipane recipe go ahead and use it, just don't forget about the rosemary.  And now that figs are on their way out, I have images of substituting pears in their place, maybe trying thyme instead of rosemary.  Hazelnuts instead of almonds. 

Galette Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, in small cubes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
3-5 tablespoons ice water

1 pint black Mission figs, de-stemmed and sliced horizontally (4-5 slices per fig)
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch salt
1 large egg

1 egg (for egg wash)
sugar (for dusting)

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Add the cubes of butter and rosemary and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the pieces of butter are about the size of large peas. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough comes together and sticks when you squeeze it in between two fingertips.

Divide the dough into two pieces, then turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat into 2 round disks. Wrap tightly and chill for at least 2 hours.

In a food processor, combine the almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and process until finely ground. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the remaining sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) and mix to incorporate. Add the almond-sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the salt and the egg and mix until light and fluffy.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator and working with on disc at a time, flour your work surface and your rolling pin, roll out into a 12-inch round.  Place each dough round on lined baking sheet.  Spoon half the almond frangipane in the center of each dough circle and arrange the figs concentrically in the center, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge. You can allow the figs to overlap. Lift the pastry edge and fold over filling to make a nice, crimped border. Once galettes are assembled, place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F. 

After the dough has chilled for 1 hour, remove from the refrigerator and prepare the egg wash: Whisk egg in a small bowl to make egg wash, and use it to brush the edges of the crust of each galette; sprinkle the sides of the crust with sugar.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, until figs are bubbling slightly and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream or mascarpone and honey or a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

October 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never

What a dolt I've been.

Here I am, advertising pictures of gorgeous produce, promising follow ups and do I deliver?  No.  And it's been almost a month now.  My apologies.  So let's do the run down, shall we?

  • The salad mix, bell peppers, candy stripe beets and Reed avocado all went into salads.  The creamy avocado contrasting nicely with the spicy greens and sweet crunch of thinly sliced beets and bell pepper.  I can eat salad for days.  Have I mentioned that before?  Ho-hum, moving on.
  • The cherry tomatoes were transformed into smaller shriveled up versions of themselves when I oven roasted them.  Just set the oven temperature to 225F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice a pint of cherry tomatoes in half,  and place them on the baking sheet cut side up.  Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil over the top, a sprinkle of kosher salt a few unpeeled cloves of garlic.  Toss it in the oven for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes.  Start checking at 2 hours and then every 15 minutes until you have shriveled - but not burned! - morsels with just the slightest hint of juiciness left.  Use them in sandwiches, salads, on a bagel with cream cheese, or if you think they'll be hanging around for a while, pack them into a small jar, cover with olive oil and store in your fridge.  Intense tomato flavor in the dead of winter - oh, yes!
  • With the eggplant I made caponata from Jamie Jamie's Italy cookbook (Jamie Oliver).  It was good stuff, especially after it had been sitting for a day so.  I know he gets a lot of flack for not so much printing "recipes" but more of guidelines but he creates some seriously amazing food.  Go ahead and try to look at that cookbook without drooling all over each page.  It's impossible.  I'll post the recipe next week.
  • And lastly, the figs.  I bought them with no real idea of what was to become of them.  Stuffed with goat cheese, broiled and drizzled with honey and cracked pepper?  Salads?  Afternoon snacks?  They have such a woefully short season, and I love them so, I couldn't pass them up.  What I ended up making was a galette.  I was being taunted with pictures on Tastespotting and then Alice Q Foodie made one and all of a sudden I was rushing into the kitchen to jump on the bandwagon.  But with a twist!  I chopped up a bit of fresh rosemary and mixed it into the crust.  I could go on and on here, but I'll save it for next week.  You know, to keep you hanging.

October 19, 2010

Far from Fancy

I've been in a comfort food mood lately.  Cozy food, the kind you enjoy while curled up in blankets with a good book or lingering over the table with music in the background.  Nothing flashy, nothing fancy, but the kind of food that makes sigh contentedly as you eat it.  Something to unwind you from a crazy day and to be reminded that simple is sometimes better.

To me, frittatas fit that bill.  Fill them with the scraps you have lingering in your fridge, the bits you have in just small amounts laying around; add some leftover pasta for bulk and eggs for protein and dinner (or breakfast or brunch if you're so inclined) is served.  This frittata is a nod to a simple, no-sauce Martha Stewart pasta recipe, filled with zucchini, onion, briny black olives and some Italian herbs.  The veggies cook down to sweet wilted versions of their former crisp selves while the olives add pops of salt all over and the eggs and milk form a creamy custard held together with the pasta.  The greatest thing about frittatas is that they're a blank canvas.  Not into the pasta?  Add some cooked and sliced potato instead.  Whatever veggies and herbs float your boat.  Use some sausage or chorizo.  It just a matter of picking then chopping and stirring and the whole thing comes together in under 30 minutes.

Go ahead.  Get inspired and make one - this one - tonight!

Spaghetti Frittata

4 servings

1/4 pound dried spaghetti noodles, cooked and cooled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
6 eggs
splash of milk or cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan or crumbled feta (optional)
handful pitted kalamata olives

Preheat broiler.

In a small to medium sized oven proof skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions, zucchini and garlic and saute until just turning soft and bits are browning on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile beat together the 6 eggs with a splash of milk, add cheese if using and beat once more.  When the onions and zucchini are soft, season with oregano and a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper then toss in olives and noodles.  Stir until combined.

Pour the eggs over the mixture making sure that the pasta is mostly covered.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, pulling the mixture away from the sides and tilting the pan slightly to let the uncooked egg to the outside edges.  When the eggs look like they're set, slide the pan directly under the broiler for 2 minutes to brown and crisp up the top.  Slice and serve.

October 12, 2010

State of Flux

Oh, hello Fall.

It's nice of you to start out real hot.  Like 100+ degrees hot. Then quickly transition into rainy, wet, gray weather, and back again to warm.  Really, I like my seasons unpredictable like that. 

About as unpredictable as my blog posts as of late.  It's been what?  12 days?  Sheesh.  I need to get on top of things!  I blame it on vacation brain.  I'm still seeing the sweeping vistas of Yosemite when I close my eyes, the towering rocky cliffs of the valley, trees so large you'd swear it was the inspiration for the background in Avatar and an expanse of blue sky.  A place so beautiful that I'm even willing to forget the vague threat of running into bears and the rain that was ever present for the last half of the trip.

So, as an ode to this crazy weather, straddling two seasons, here is a soup that does the same.  It's a chowder, warm and comforting, but made with late season corn and no cream, making it perfect for the cooler - but not cold - evenings.

Of course I couldn't help myself and made some changes.  I added a red bell pepper to the mix, chopped two full stalks of celery and didn't bother measuring it, increased the amount of thyme and substituted creamer potatoes for the summer squash.  It's kind of genius what Cooking Light did with the rest of the recipe, blending up a majority of the corn with the low fat milk to add body and keeping the rich calorie dense add ins (bacon, cheddar cheese) as a modest topping.  It's a chowder that's a little bit of autumn, a little bit of summer and just the ticket for dinner.  And as typical for soups, it was even better the next day.

Fresh Corn Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2010

Originally, there were no potatoes in this chowder, it was supposed to be summer squash, but I swapped the two because I had a craving, and a vision.  Here's what I learned.  It might be best to par boil the potatoes before adding them to the soup; the longer time you spend simmering the soup to get the potatoes fully cooked the more it wanted to stick to the bottom of the pan.  It wasn't a deal breaker, but keep it in mind for yourself if slightly uncooperative soup isn't your thing.  Or switch it back to a pound of diced summer squash which will cook much quicker and avoid the issue all together.

4 servings

2 slices, thick cut bacon
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pound red potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 pound corn kernels, either frozen of from 4-5 ears of corn
2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon, and set aside. Add 1/2 cup green onions, celery, bell pepper and potatoes to drippings in pan; saute 8-10 minutes.

Reserve 1 cup corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to blender; process just until combined. Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 15-20 minutes more or until thoroughly heated and the potatoes are tender, stirring frequently . Ladle into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese.