Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rosemary-scented Caramel Pine Nut Tart

I try to go out to dinner with a couple of different friends at least once a month to try new restaurants.  A month or two ago I went out and had this tart for dessert.  When the server was explaining the desserts (which I usually don't order), I decided a rosemary infused pine nut tart had to be mine to try.  I like different flavor combinations and this one intrigued me enough to try it.  Not only was it very delicious it stuck in my head.  I searched the internet for a way to make this.  The only place that has a recipe is a recipe by Claudia Fleming when she worked at the Gramercy Tavern.  So this recipe is adapted from her cookbook The Last Course.  Though I tend not to make many desserts, I think this will become a cookbook that I use for those adventures.  

Rosemary-scented Caramel Pine Nut Tart
Serves 8-10

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup almond meal

1 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 sprigs rosemary (about 5 inches each)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Crust: In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar for about a minute.  Add the lightly beaten egg and mix together.  Whisk together the flours (white and almond meal) with the salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar and egg mixture.  Mix only until just combined.  Wrap the dough and chill for at least an hour.

 Preheat oven to 325F.  Roll the dough out into a 12 inch round which should fit into a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Trim extra dough and prick with a fork.  (I used a 10 inch spring-form as my tart pan does not have a removable bottom.)  Chill for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the refrigerator and bake for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool.

 Filling: Preheat oven to 350F and toast the pine nuts for about 7-8 minutes or just until starting to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and let the pine nuts cool.

In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Once melted add the honey, corn syrup and sugar.  Keep the heat low until the sugar is dissolved and then raise the heat to high.  Let the mixture boil, stirring to keep it from burning.  It will turn a dark amber color color after about 14 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream.  It will sputter, so it is better if you add a little at a time and keep the caramel over low heat.  If the cream is too cold the caramel will seize.  Keep stirring and it will become smooth.  Turn off the heat and add the toasted pine nuts, vanilla, rosemary sprigs and salt.  Let the rosemary infuse for about 15 minutes.

Wrap the outside of the cooled tart shell with aluminum foil.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and pour the filling into the shell.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dakos (Tomato and Cracker Salad)

I have mentioned before that I like reading cookbooks.  I used to preview the cookbook before deciding if I would like to invest the money to buy it.  However, I spend some time now reading reviews and making the decision as not all cookbooks are available from the library to read before deciding to buy or not.  Certain authors or blogs I trust pretty explicitly.  Sometimes I buy a cookbook, read some or all of it and never cook from it, but still they are valuable to me.  I think some people think I am crazy to own so many cookbooks, but at times the conversation comes to a recipe and I go get the book that I am talking about as I nearly always know which cookbook something came from.  Given that I have about 200 hundred cookbooks, I think that some people are amazed that I can do this; however, some recipes are just stuck in my brain and they get filed until further need of them.  All this leads back to the cookbook that I am dedicating to March.  It has been a weird winter with a bunch of warm days in January and now again a few days of warmer weather, so now I am craving all the summer produce.  This month's task is to get to know Plenty More by Ottolenghi.  I have cooked from his other cookbooks, but this one I think will be quite a favorite by the time we start getting all the wonderful fresh summer foods.

Dakos (Tomato and Cracker Salad)  (Serves 4)
This actually reminds me of the bread salads that Italian cookbooks offer, but it is a recipe based a Greek recipe.  I can image eating this in Greece as it has many of the components of a Greek salad (which does not have lettuce) while I spent a week on a smaller Greek Island.  This can only be better in summer, but it satisfied my craving for a salad just before Spring.

1 pound cherry tomatoes (find the sweetest ones you can), cut into halves
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used one with pomegranate in it)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3.5-5 oz. rye crispbread, broken into about 1 inch pieces or smaller
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese(the closest I have been able to find to Greek feta is the Whole Foods 360 brand)
5-10 black olives (I used Kalamata olives), pitted and roughly cut
4 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Put the tomatoes, red onion, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon) in a large bowl, mix lightly and set aside.  I let mine sit for about 30 minutes so all the flavors and get mixed together.

Spread out crackers in the bottom of a salad bowl (divide into 4 bowls).  Spoon the tomato mixture equally on top of each set of crackers.  Sprinkle on feta cheese, olives, parsley and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.  (Add additional salt or pepper if desired.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Brussel Sprouts with Chickpeas

Brussel sprouts are something I never ate as a kid.  I don't know if my mom didn't like them (which was the case with asparagus) or if they were not as widely available as they are now.  I remember eating them once when I lived in New Zealand, but I don't remember anything remarkable about them.  I don't remember hating them, now liking them.  But since I discovered how much I like them roasted, any other form of cooking them doesn't quite live up to the test.  I have had a different experience with chickpeas.  I like them in the form of hummus, but haven't found too many more ways that I really like them.  I did roast them once and I really liked the texture of how they turned out.  That being said, the method to cook these together was on the stove top, but I think both the brussel sprouts and the chickpeas would be better in the time I will have to do that instead.  (This recipe is adapted from Bitter by Jennifer McLagan.)

Brussel Sprouts and Chickpeas
1 can no salt added chickpeas (drained, thoroughly rinsed, and dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1.25 pounds brussel sprouts, outer leaves removed and cut in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle chickpeas with salt.  Set aside.  Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan with a lid and place over medium heat.  When hot, add the shallot and cook until lightly browned.  Add the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned.  Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken stock.  Deglaze the pan by bringing to a boil and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat and put into a bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Put over high heat.  When the oil is hot add the brussel spouts.  Cook until dark, but not black.  Add the rest of the chicken stock, then season with salt and pepper.  Lower the heat and cover until the sprouts are tender, but still crisp.   Return the chickpea mixture to the pan.  Check the seasoning and add the balsamic vinegar.  Cooked until warmed throughout.  Remove from heat and serve.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Squash stuffed with Quinoa

I have come to like quinoa quite a lot.  It is an easy grain to work with and maintains a light fluffy property when working with it.  I only wish that is was cheaper than it is, but I still must buy it from time to time to get my fix.  I have used it in pancakes, stuffed in squash, and as a salad.  Since it is a grain, it is filling, but you can add a meat if you feel like you want some protein.  This particulary recipe is based off one from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook.  There are a lot of great recipes in this book, though I have only attempted a couple of them.  More will certainly be tried when we have a better chance at fresh vegetables...meaning spring.  One of the things that gives this recipe such excellent flavor is the boiling of quinoa in black tea.  If you are thinking you want more flavor for your grains this is a great way to add flavor.  I sometimes add stock to my rice or other variations of adding flavor to the grain as you are cooking it so it absorbs that flavor as the grain is cooked.  Experiment and enjoy!

Quinoa Stuffed Squash
2 winter squash (small spaghetti, acorn, etc.), cut into halves and removed the seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 black tea bag
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup red quinoa
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup pecan, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 450F. Cut a little off the squash if they don't lie properly, so that they will stay flat while in the oven and the filling won't spill out.  Put the squash halves on a rimmed baking sheet and brush lightly with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle the cavities with brown sugar, half the salt and the pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

While the squash are roasting, bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and steep the black tea bag for 3 minutes.  Remove tea bag.  In another medium saucepan, heat the other 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Add the scallions, garlic and cook for about 2 minutes or until tender.  Add the quinoa, brewed tea, thyme and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the butter and pecans.

Divide the quinoa into 4 among the squash halves.  Tent loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until very tender.

Serves 4

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Orange-Scented Walnut Cake

For the month of February, I have decided to cook recipes from the cookbook Bitter by Jennifer McLagan.  I was interested to see what fruits and vegetables she called bitter.  Some are more bitter than others and she talks a lot about how bitter has been bred out of many foods, but in reality we only need a little bit of bitter to start our appetites.  I am not quite done reading this book yet, but here is a recipe adapted from the cookbook.

The thing I find ironic is that I never thought that I liked bitter foods, but after reading the cookbook I have found that many of the contrasts that I like to eat are bitter foods (maybe only subtlety bitter).  For example, I tried grapefruit again last year and this time I didn't find it very bitter.  Of course I tried the pink or red variety which much of the bitter has been bred out.  I, however, love arugula.  I discovered this lettuce more than 10 years ago when I lived in Germany.  I tried it once and ever since I have looked for it.  It is one of my favorite topping on pizza (not wilted, but added after baking).  One other bitter food that I have come to love (also while I lived in Germany) is Brussel sprouts.  Of course, roasting them with oil and balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of the vegetable so many people have come to eat them in this manner.  So join me in my journey in trying bitter foods this month.

This walnut cake is moist and not very sweet.

Orange-Scented Walnut Cake
6 ounces walnut pieces
2 slices wheat or other oat bread
5.5 ounces unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of salt
2 small oranges, zested (with a little of the pith)
pinch cream of tartar
cocoa powder to dust the top

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9 inch springform pan.  Then cut a round of parchment to line the bottom.  (The butter helps it stick as well as greases the edges.)   Spread the walnuts and 2 slices of bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.  Check after about 5 minutes and flip the bread if it is starting to dry on one side.  The nuts should be lightly toasted and you should be able to smell them.  Remove from oven and let them cool.   Reduce the temperature on the oven to 325 F.

Put the butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.  Set aside 3 tablespoons of the sugar and add the rest to the butter.  Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the toasted bread and walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely ground (as this will be the flour for the recipe).

Add the egg yolks, one at a time with beating in between each addition, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Stir in the ground walnuts and bread mixture.  Add the cardamom and salt.  Finely grate the zest of the orange including a little of the pith.  (You can juice the orange and drink it or use the juice in another recipe.)

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue to whisk until white.  Add the reserved three tablespoons of sugar, one at a time, whisking in between to incorporate.  Add a large spoonful or two to the butter/walnut mixture.  Tip the batter into the egg whites and fold until mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for aout 45 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes and then release from the springform pan.  Let cool completely and dust with cocoa powder.  This cake improves with some time and is better if you can wait a day before eating.  It also goes good with coffee (per my coworkers testimonies).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Honey Corn Bread

I really like a well made, not dry corn bread.  I came across this recipe in Cook This Now.  It combines honey which I love in cornbread with a 50% mixture of white and whole wheat flour along with the corn meal.  This combination gives the cornbread a wonderful flavor while at the same time making it a little more healthier for you than all white flour.   I make this corn bread in winter to go along with my white chicken chili.  Serve them together and you will have a great meal in no time.

Honey Corn Bread
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 milk
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a medium bowl combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder and salt.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, honey, eggs and baking soda.  Place a 9x9 inch pan with the unsalted butter into the oven to melt.  Once nearly melted, fold wet ingredients into the dry ones just until combined. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the combined batter into the pan and place back in the oven.  Bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  This should take about 30 minutes.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Baked Stuffed Butternut Squash

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been a little obsessed with squashes lately.  The last post for butternut squash was just the beginning.  Here is another recipe for a stuffed butternut squash.  It is based off a recipe from Scandinavian Cooking, but I didn't have the right ingredients for the stuffing.  I really wanted to make the butternut squash so I figured I could come up with something for stuffing from my cupboards and refrigerator and use up some ingredients as well.  So here is my creation.

Stuffed Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash
4 oz. neufchatel cheese
1 oz. emmentaler cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise.  Scrape out seeds.  Place the halves onto a baking sheet.  Mix the stuffing: mix together the neufchatel and emmentaler cheeses.  Add the 1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts.  Divide into two and stuff each butternut squash half with the cheese and hazelnut mixture.  Drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup over the two halves.  Season with pepper (and salt if desired).  Bake for about 45 minutes or until cooked throughout.  Check after about 35 minutes and cover if the cheese mixture is becoming too dark.  Serve hot.  This also reheats well, so make a lot so you can eat it now and later.