Tag Archives: dough

street food: fritters!

I didn’t like meat growing up. I thought this surely meant a life of alternating peanut-butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then in college, Anna introduced me to the wonder that is Indian food–only to be followed by my love and exploration of many ethnic foods. Hellllllllo falafel.

One bite of this fried chickpea patty and you’ll understand why I planned my entire budget birthday around this delight. Serve it traditionally in pita (the “Israeli hamburger” said my friend Johanna) and drizzle with a store-bought yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Or let it accompany a knockout mixed grain dish.

A food processor is best for making this dish in a pinch: mix, chill, fry. That’s it!

My Favorite Falafel

tweaked from Joan Nathan, The Foods of Israel Today 

1 cup dried chickpeas OR 2 15-oz. cans

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried cayenne

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons stone-ground white corn meal (or flour)

Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

Prep the Mixture

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until just evenly chopped.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour (or cornmeal—I found the cornmeal achieves the perfect crunchy exterior), and pulse. You want to add enough cornmeal or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not overmix, or the falafel will be tough. Leave a little chunky.

Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours. I’ve found one hour sufficient, but you could also prep the mixture the night before.

Fry the Falafel

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts—squashing into a disc fries faster and makes for easier sandwiches. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test.

If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. I find they fry well if lowered gently into the oil with a chinese strainer. Drain on paper towels. Falafel does not absorb oil, so it is not a greasy food—despite being fried.

Joan Nathan’s tips:

Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tahina is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at www.ethnicgrocer.com.

To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at www.ethnicgrocer.com), mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

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March 12, 2012 · 2:53 pm

best of 2011

Drumroll please… the most delicious, memorable, must-make dish from our kitchen in 2011…

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

 

In case you didn’t catch it the first time around, here is the post again. Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2012!

 

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who actually has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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party food

It’s December, time to talk about freezing.

I am skeptical of the freezer, especially freezing foods into which I have poured many hours and ingredients. Our foods are always freezer-burned, despite the new fridge. (You cannot imagine how repulsive today’s toaster waffles…)

Upon throwing our first party in this much larger home, I wanted a no-fuss, feed-abundant-company recipe. Carolyn, a very dear family friend, insisted I consider these hot mushroom turnovers for which she always receives compliments—and that I could make and freeze them in advance. She was right, they were brilliant, and everyone loved them. Funny enough, the first bite brought me right back to childhood autumn visits at Carolyn’s house.

A Pear to Remember is a blog for do-able recipes. This often means fast recipes with few ingredients. Mushroom turnovers are neither, but they are simple to make and, like all the recipes here, worth your time and ingredients.

Further evidence the 1980s produced some really awesome things (including this cook), from Good Housekeeping:

These hors d’oeuvres are exceptionally delicious because the pastry is made with cream cheese, and the filling with fresh mushrooms. You can even assemble these mini turnovers and then freeze them, unbaked. When company comes, no need to defrost – just bake a bit longer than the recipes states. Consider doubling the batch and freezing the rest for later use.

Hot Mushroom Turnovers

from Good Housekeeping in the early 1980’s

One 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½  cup butter, softened

3 T. margarine or butter

½ lb. mushrooms, minced

1 large onion, minced

¼ c. sour cream

1 t. salt

¼ t. dried thyme leaves

1 egg, beaten

sesame seeds for sprinkling

In advance or about 2 hours before serving:

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese, 1 ½ cups flour, and ½ cup (stick) butter or margarine until smooth; shape into ball; wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a 10” skillet over medium heat, melt 3 T. butter.  Cook mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in sour cream, salt, thyme, and 2 T flour; set aside.

On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll half of dough 1/8” thick.  With floured 2 ¾” round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as possible.  Repeat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Onto one half of each dough circle, place a teaspoon of mushroom mixture.  Brush edges of circles with some egg; fold dough over filling.  With fork, firmly press edges together to seal; prick tops.

Place turnovers on ungreased cookie sheet; brush with remaining egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden.  Makes 3 ½ dozen. Each turnover: about 70 calories, 5 g. fat; 12 mg cholesterol, 110 mg. sodium.

Some other (well-received) homemade goodies from our housewarming…

poppy seed cheese twists and strawberry-tomato balsamic bruschetta

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as seen on tv

Television I adore: Frasier, Monk, I Love Lucy, Arrested Development—anyone sensing an off-air theme here? I mention this little trivia because Pear readers love to discuss reality cooking shows, and I’m saying it again: I simply don’t watch them. Remember when I judged Iron Chef? I’m not competitive in nature, whether we’re talking about my flute playing or putt-putt game. I don’t watch much food tv anyhow, with our new condo kitchen far from living room viewing potential, and I prefer to spend my time in there. Listening to LPs.

Back in the day, when we lived in our apartment (you know, two months ago), I would come home from work, throw on my apron, and saute simultaneously with Ina. My routine has changed, but one particular television recipe stuck in my mental taste buds all this time. So I finally attempted Claire Robinson’s White Pizza.

“Attempted” is a joke, because a first grader could create this 5-ingredient wonder with equal success.

And Andrew had a cow it was so good—not one complaint over the lack of pepperoni.

This would be a smashing appetizer. Add it to the repertoire, folks. Fab.u.lous.

Easiest White Pizza

God Bless You, Claire Robinson, serves 4

garlic-flavored olive oil

1 lb. ball pizza dough, thawed

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta

2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves, more for garnish

Never a fan of fresh oregano, I insist you try it in this context. This is how oregano was meant to be enjoyed. If your mother-in-law’s wild oregano bush is not so close by, you’ll just have to grab one of those fresh herb packs in the salad section. Trust me. Do not skip the oregano.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven.

Brush the pizza pan/pizza stone with oil. (Homemade garlic oil: heat several crushed cloves of garlic in oil over low heat  until fragrant). 

On a work surface, using your hands (or, who are we kidding, a rolling pin), press the pizza dough into a large flat disk and transfer it to the greased pan. Using your fingers, press the dough out until it has stretched to the perimeter of the pan. Create a dough “lip” around the outer edges of the pan. Brush the entire surface of the dough lightly with garlic oil and pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork, to prevent bubbling.

Evenly spread the mozzarella over the crust. Using 2 spoons, dollop teaspoon-sized mounds of ricotta evenly over the mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and evenly sprinkle the chopped oregano over the top.

Bake in the lower third of the oven until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and browning on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before garnishing with additional oregano—serious about this—and slicing into 8 pieces.

I served this with a very simple salad of romaine and dried figs. Drizzle lightly with equal parts balsamic vinegar and agave nectar whisked together. One of those unexpected Linventions that complemented this light meal. It might sound dainty (and risky for a pepperoni-loving spouse), but Andrew returned for thirds.

What’s your favorite pizza topping?

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Filed under budget, dinners, lickety-quick

the salty blues

Just the other day, we talking about foods too rarely made at home. Less than two hours before the neighborhood cookout, and I hadn’t made anything to share (nor had I showered/picked out an outfit/plugged in the hairdryer). Minor limitation: no time left in the day or money left in the budget to purchase ingredients. What’s a Lindsey to do?

Make homemade crackers, of course.

Flour? Check. Butter? Check.

You remember my indulgent blue cheese binge when Andrew went hiking recently? I still had 3/4 block of Blue, and knew Andrew would not volunteer to eat the stinky cheese. The inspiration came from a sunny day in March, reading  cookbooks with cousin Ruby on the porch, teaching her small phrases like “caponata” and “who loves Ina”.

Excuse me for a moment while I share a gratuitous photo of the sweetest strawberry ever.

Yes, it was this memorable afternoon that Ru and I came across this appetizer. When Ruby pointed to these and said, “Uh-oh!” I knew she meant that I would may eat the entire batch.

Well, little cousin, by the time you’re old enough to read this (which may be next week, at your pace) your teeth should be able to handle the serious crunch. Thanks for the inspiration.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers

inspired by Ina Garten

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

8 oz. Stilton or other blue cheese, crumbled (about 12 ounces with rind), at room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cheese together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes (check around 18 minutes) until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking (I also flipped with a small spatula halfway through). Cool and serve at room temperature. Fabulous with wine or my father-in-law’s frozen margaritas. You definitely don’t need to like blue cheese to enjoy these salty snacks—ask the hubs. And the neighbors.

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Filed under budget, dinners, here to share, small bites, techniques

a berry delicious Fourth

You remember I don’t bake, right? Fear of diasters + actual diasterous results prevent me from trying too frequently. You would not believe how flat the almond-blueberry “muffins” I made for company last weekend, yeesh.

So how about a do-able dessert endeavor?

I want everyone to have a memorable and safe fourth of July, and surely this calls for a patriotic pie. Andrew and I will be attending a big neighborhood celebration in his hometown. I am re-posting my favorite festive treat from last year’s celebration in Pennsylvania, because you must make it this year. In case you need a reminder why:

1. It’s really easy (think: add. stir. eat.)  

2. With a food processor, it’s fast and mess-free 

3. You can make it in advance (and make lots of people really happy when you two show up)  

4. The majority of ingredients are nutrient-dense–antioxidants, dietary fiber, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals (a few points over other desserts you may be considering…)

5. It travels and keeps very well  (though there will be fights for the last piece; sneaking down before breakfast was my tactic)

      

Fresh Berry Tart with Toasted Nut Crust

Vegetarian Times

crust   

1/4 each whole almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts   

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1/4 tsp. salt   

6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced   

1 large egg yolk   

filling   

1/2 cup light sour cream   

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt   

2 tbsp. light brown sugar   

1 tsp. vanilla extract   

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup raspberries (or halved strawberries)   

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest   

1 tbsp. orange juice (from the same orange)

other goodies to get the job done

food processor

9″ tart pan with removeable bottom (other reasons you need this pan)

 

FOR THE CRUST   

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray.    

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven 10-12 minutes, until browned.   

Pulse nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until the nuts are ground to powder.   

A side note about cubed, chilled butter. This is really key in certain baking recipes. When I worked in a bakery, I was cubing 20 lbs. of butter for endless cookies and scones. Ah, memories. Cut your butter with a sharp knife at the beginning of your recipe and return the cubes to the fridge until the recipe calls for them.   

Add butter to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.   

Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form.   

    

    

   

As you can see, the mixture seems really crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of your prepared pan.   

A flat surface, like the bottom of a measuring cup, is the best way to ensure an even surface. The nut mixture doesn’t seems like quite enough for the edges, but it’s just right once the bottom is even.   

Your malleable, nutty crust should be about 1/4-inch thick.   

   

Now here’s a fantastic crust technique so you’ll never need pie weights. Pierce the crust well with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes. This keeps the crust from poofing up without the mess of foil and weights and other complications. Who loves simplicity??   

Adjust the oven temperature to 400F. Bake the frozen crust for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Cool.   

FOR THE FILLING   

Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl.    

Toss berries (or fruit of your choice) with the orange juice in a separate bowl.    

(Please, please don’t skimp on the orange zest, it really makes the tart special).   

Spread the sour cream mixture into the crust with a spatula. It didn’t seem like enough filling to fill the tart, but it is just enough so scrape every drop from the bowl!   

I really want to experiment with peaches on the next round of this tart, but it is ideal for berries, as they are less likely to brown or bleed color into the sour cream mixture while resting in the fridge for a few days. Nonetheless, the acid of the orange juice kept my strawberries fresh for the mere day and a half the tart lasted among company 😀   

Spoon the berries over top a little at a time, until the sour cream mixture is evenly covered. (No one says it can’t be a little artistic, though)! It really does look beautiful however you arrange your fruit—yet another thing to love about this beautiful dish. I also sprinkled additional zest over the finished tart.   

Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving. And take my advice, cut thin slices—my tart somehow fed twelve, but we would have loved seconds.   

 

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we can do this

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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whip it!

While this seems like an apt opening to a post on homemade mayo or vanilla-scented whipped cream, I wanted to write briefly about gorgeous not-so-challenging food you can whip together for all the company headed your way this season.

my blog made quite an apPEARance

It seems I’ve been cooking for crowds quite a bit this month, and while the food has been blessedly beautiful and delicious, these are really things you can whip together with ease. Oh yes, I was referring, specifically, to you.

Thanks to all who joined in the celebration of Statements on the Water’s grand opening. (I even ran into the music teacher from my school, who was quite surprised to find me in attendance as a vendor)!

I made a gazillion-and-one herbed tarts with caramelized onion, roasted pears, gorgonzola cheese, creme fraiche, sun-dried cranberries, and fresh chives. But darn if they don’t look worth it, eh?

Click here for a previous post on my very simple tart shells, which freeze wonderfully and stay fresh in the fridge for several days. With these fellas prepared, it’s simple to fill them with a variety of fillings–even premade if you find something bold and flavorful.

While caramelizing onions on the stove (sliced thin and resting in butter on low heat about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until deep amber), I roasted pears in the oven: unpeeled, quartered and cored, placed on parchment paper in a 400F oven until brown. Once cooled, pulse the roasted pears briefly in a food processor, or chop finely and combine the mixture.

Simply heap your onion-pear filling–which should resemble the consistency of very chunky applesauce–into the shells with a teaspoon measure. Next, top with blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, chopped chives, and a dollop of creme fraiche (or sour cream).

Here’s the kicker: you can omit any of these ingredients and they will still be delicious. I started out making them with onions alone and add a new ingredient each time around. They’re so versatile. Remember when I filled them with rosemary ricotta and my rich slow-roasted tomatoes?

Next up, I have some easy-peasy sandwiches I recently served at a co-worker’s bridal shower. Fresh ciabatta, arugula pesto, roasted red peppers, and of course caramelized onions. Plus, turkey and avocado sandwiches to accompany my favorite Greek feta dip. But for now, friends, back to homework!

A warm welcome to all the many new readers & eaters I had the pleasure of meeting at yesterday’s event. Come back soon 😀

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easy as pie? give me a break

I am not a baker, and am in fact intimidated by most things involving a cake pan and eggs. Easy a pie is a preposterous expression—unless your grandmother showed you how to make one (and I was too busy eating her grilled cheese sandwiches to pay adequate attention), it’s more complex than the phrase suggests. And easy to mess up, I’ve learned through the years.

This delicacy is much simpler than pie. No pie plate, no layers of dough, no fluting, no venting—it’s a piece of cake. A galette, to be more accurate.

Galette. It’s a gorgeous French word, and if you know me you may be thinking it was my sole motive for making one. Perhaps.

I bought this box of juicy nectarines with the intent to do something exciting. I thought about grilling them and topping with feta, making a fruity salsa, tossing them in a fresh green salad. All fun ideas, but I remembered this nectarine galette I placed on my mental culinary bookshelf a year ago and from there I could dream of nothing else for my precious peach-siblings.

I could not agree more with Deb (of the brilliant blog Smitten Kitchen) that nectarines “unfairly play second fiddle to peaches”. Since childhood, my own love for nectarines has been more profound than peaches—for raw eating, that is.

Nectarines have all the sweet and juicy qualities of the peach, but bless their smooth skin!

My dear friend Eva and I went peach-picking for many years, ending the afternoon with orchard-fresh peach ice-cream. Then, each birthday, Eva standing tall on my doorstep, a hot peach birthday pie in hand (a tradition more challenging since she relocated to The American South). Though I have many fond memories of our peach-picking days, I cannot forget the awful itching of the peach fuzz—one I still experience trying to enjoy a raw peach. And thus began my peach prejudice.

I marveled at Eva’s homemade peach and apple pies growing up. In the kitchen together (as early as elementary school), she was throwing flour into a bowl and producing the most incredible pie crusts without measuring a thing. Even as her pupil, I never succeeded in pies and am still intimidated by the task. Free-form galettes, however, are a simple marvel. Less work, less time, and certainly more forgiving in form.

Prepare for the easiest and most reliable crust you’ll ever need. (Oh and so flaky I can’t even tell you in words).

Crust

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2–inch pieces

and you’ll definitely want a pastry blender

My previous tart dough was always made in my mixer or food processor. A pastry blender (which I borrowed for the most appropriate occasion) does produce the flakiest crust, and honestly it is much quicker by hand than by machine. Between the assembly and cleaning of machine parts, believe me this dough is a four-minute flash by hand. I know I’m never going back…

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in six tablespoons of the coldest butter with a pastry blender, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal.

Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. (Don’t be tempted to add too much water—mine was barely holding together but still rolled out perfectly). Wrap the dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

You could slice your nectarines in the meantime (I promise time flies). Pastry dough must, must be cold—hence all the refrigerating required in this recipe. But between brushing all the flour off the counter, slicing the nectarines, and lugging all the bakeware out of your oven so you can preheat it, the waiting time is brief and the galette a sweet afternoon activity.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disc and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.

ANOTHER OPTION

Perhaps my affinity for small things is related to my own small stature (surely remedied when I grow to be 5 feet tall one day…) I like small portions, especially when it comes to dough—personal-sized pizza crust and mini cakes are right up my alley. My friend Michele even specializes in mini cakes (The Tiny Kitchen LLC), so it can’t be just me.

I sliced my chilled dough in half and rolled out two mini rounds (using that word loosely). One galette for you, one for a friend! Then I just used half the filling ingredients on each and it produced two lovely little galettes—besides decreasing the baking time.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two sheets, in my case) and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using.

Filling

1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (I used Sugar In The Raw which made for big, beautiful caramelized crystals)
1 tablespoon
amaretti cookies, pulverized — or — 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds plus an extra teaspoon sugar
10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
1 and 1/2 pounds ripe nectarines (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

and you’ll really want a pizza stone

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, one tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti (or mix of extra ground almonds and sugar) together. I used ground almonds + sugar.

I've said it before, I can't make a circle to save my life

Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 to 2-inch border uncoated. (Doing this right on the pizza stone or baking sheet makes life a whole lot easier).

Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine—though I sliced mine even thinner).

Arrange the fruit, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the fruit (I used less as this fruit was so ripe—just two large pinches).

While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. (Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak.) Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar (or just two pinches of coarse turbinado sugar).

ideally, it looks more like this

If you are a novice baker like me, here’s another reason to make two mini tarts (four generous slices each). One is bound to be less… attractive. (See photos for proof). Serve the pretty one to someone you love and keep the ugly—yet equally delicious—one for yourself 🙂

Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes (less for Lindsey-sized galettes), until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra-crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt—for a perfect breakfast.

Do ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.

Again, I highly reccomend making two small tarts out of this. And make a second batch of this easy four-minute pastry dough to freeze and make more! Of course once you see how absurdly easy it is, you’ll be eager to try your own variations. For now, I’m still working on that box o’ nectarines…

See Deb’s nectarine galette over at Smitten Kitchen. My heartfelt thanks to Deb for the confidence booster!

…a peachy galette just a week later

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a berry delicious Fourth

I hope everyone had a memorable holiday weekend!   

coloring with cousins (Maddy's a leftie, too)!

Andrew and I returned from a too-short time with my Pennsylvania family—fun with uncles, cousins, babies, and puppies—who could ask for more?   

Though I brought my share of food to our family gathering, I had the chance to practice other skills… like coloring in the lines 🙂   

I brought two pans of my Grammy’s irresistable mac and cheese (to which even my piano tuner requested a recipe), and this exciting tart—worthy of its own post.   

   

This tart was featured in the “Berries Jubilee” article of last summer’s Vegetarian Times. Yep, they have awesome recipes that I’m raving about these days.   

I’m not a big pie person—I don’t enjoy dough enough, even when it is delicious. I usually want more fruit than pastry. This dessert has a crunchy nut crust, attractive and deliciously unique. Clearly it’s beautiful and appealing to the eye, but here’s a few more things I love about this tart—reasons I hope will entice you to make it. (And then write me about the results) 😀   

1. It’s really easy. I’m talking little to no cooking technique required to make this. (We all need a break once in a while…)   

2. With a food processor, it’s fast and mess-free.   

3. You can make it in advance (and make lots of people really happy when you two show up).   

4. The majority of ingredients are nutrient-dense—antioxidents, dietary fiber, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals. (I’m not making a case for this tart as a breakfast food, but for a dessert, this is a wiser option than that pint of Ben & Jerrys).   

5. It travels and keeps well.   

FRESH BERRY TART WITH TOASTED NUT CRUST

crust   

1/4 each whole almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts   

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1/4 tsp. salt   

6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced   

1 large egg yolk   

filling   

1/2 cup light sour cream   

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt   

2 tbsp. light brown sugar   

1 tsp. vanilla extract   

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup raspberries (or halved strawberries)   

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest   

1 tbsp. orange juice (from the same orange)

other goodies to get the job done

food processor

9″ tart pan with removeable bottom

 

FOR THE CRUST   

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray.    

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven 10-12 minutes, until browned.   

Pulse nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until the nuts are ground to powder.   

A side note about cubed, chilled butter. This is really key in certain baking recipes. When I worked in a bakery, I was cubing 20 lbs. of butter for endless cookies and scones. Ah, memories. Cut your butter with a sharp knife at the beginning of your recipe and return the cubes to the fridge until the recipe calls for them.   

Add butter to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.   

Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form.   

    

    

   

As you can see, the mixture seems really crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of your prepared pan.   

A flat surface, like the bottom of a measuring cup, is the best way to ensure an even surface. The nut mixture doesn’t seems like quite enough for the edges, but it’s just right once the bottom is even.   

Your malleable, nutty crust should be about 1/4-inch thick.   

   

Now here’s a fantastic crust technique so you’ll never need pie weights. Pierce the crust well with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes. This keeps the crust from poofing up without the mess of foil and weights and other complications. Who loves simplicity??   

Adjust the oven temperature to 400F. Bake the frozen crust for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Cool.   

    

FOR THE FILLING   

Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl.    

Toss berries (or fruit of your choice) with the orange juice in a separate bowl.    

(Please, please don’t skimp on the orange zest, it really makes the tart special).   

Spread the sour cream mixture into the crust with a spatula. It didn’t seem like enough filling to fill the tart, but it is just enough so scrape every drop from the bowl!   

I really want to experiment with peaches on the next round of this tart, but it is ideal for berries, as they are less likely to brown or bleed color into the sour cream mixture while resting in the fridge for a few days. Nonetheless, the acid of the orange juice kept my strawberries fresh for the mere day and a half the tart lasted among company 😀   

Spoon the berries over top a little at a time, until the sour cream mixture is evenly covered. (No one says it can’t be a little artistic, though)! It really does look beautiful however you arrange your fruit—yet another thing to love about this beautiful dish. I also sprinkled additional zest over the finished tart.   

Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving. And take my advice, cut thin slices—my tart somehow fed twelve, but we would have loved seconds.   

two minutes into cutting... the tart disappeared in the next two!

 

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