Tuesday, August 23, 2016

French Tomato Tart Revised

Here is my standard French tomato tart (click on link)......usually made w/ a store bought pie shell, a layer of mustard, some amazing summer tomatoes and Gruyere cheese.

I saw my friend Eileen's tart, and I had tart envy.

I used my heirloom Jersey tomatoes (the best!), and did it her way this time, by adding an egg to the mustard layer!

I added some homegrown green beans to the top and subbed in cheddar cheese (cause I had no Gruyere), and dotted w/ some olives.

This is so basic and SO GOOD.

Make it if you have some wonderful summer tomatoes. Store bought pastry crust is fine.

French Tomato Tart (adapted from Living Tastefully):

1 unbaked 9-inch tart shell
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 egg
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere or Cheddar cheese
enough heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick, to cover bottom of tart shell
handful of Nicoise olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Whisk the mustard with the egg and spread over the prepared pie shell.

Next, add the shredded cheese.

Lay the sliced tomatoes in an overlapping fashion and dot with some olives.....I added the few garden green beans I had, but you don't have to.

Sprinkle everything with some sea salt & black pepper.
Drizzle w/ a small amount of good olive oil.

Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

Garnish w/ fresh oregano leaves.

I LOVED this tart at room temperature. Make sure you let it rest for at least an hour, so it solidifies and is no longer wet.

The best.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Beach Food: Corn Tomato & Scallion Strata

We had a nice vacation at the beach last week, and of course I have to bring my own food (for breakfasts and lunches). Why leave the beach to have to buy a sandwich? My tanning time is much too important to get off that chair!

So, I bake some snacks, make a big pan bagnat (tuna nicoise sandwiches) and this corn & scallion strata for breakfasts at the shore.

A strata is just a bread pudding with a fancy name. You can use any vegetable you like, any cheese and any herb.
The basic rule is bread cubes, milk, and eggs.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, but I added cherry tomatoes and mixed cheeses (used what I had).

It lasted 4 days in the fridge, and was delicious and easy!

Corn, Tomato & Scallion Strata (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

1 tablespoon butter
3 cups fresh corn (cut from 3 small-to-average cobs)
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts from a 4-ounce bundle)
1 cup or a big handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 cups whole wheat, Italian, country or French bread in 1-inch cubes (I used 2 small stale baguettes)
2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar, gruyere, or mozzarella (I mixed cheeses)
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan
8 large eggs
2 tbsp Dijon mustard or mayo
2 1/2 cups milk (I had half & half that was ready to spoil, so used that)
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons of a coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish (a lasagna or 9"×13" pan works well here too).

Toss corn and scallions together in a medium bowl. Combine cheeses in another bowl.

In a large bowl, gently beat eggs and mayo/mustard together, then whisk in milk, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Spread one-third of bread cubes in prepared baking dish, it will not fully cover bottom of dish, this is fine.

Add half of the corn, scallions, tomatoes then cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, corn and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over strata and press down. You can also do this in one big layer if you like.
SK wants you to soak the bread for at least 8 hours before baking.....I did not do this. I let it sit for an hour, then baked it with great results.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350F. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes, it will puff up then deflate. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

This was still delicious on day 4 reheated on low in the microwave at the beach!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Plum & Raspberry Cornmeal Cake

It's funny, when I make something delicious, I tease people by posting it on instagram right away, even if I haven't perfected the recipe yet! (sorry about that!).

I know many of you bakers have been waiting for this recipe.

So, here it is. :)

It is a take on Marion Burro's original plum torte, published every year in the NY Times, but I took liberties and added in cornmeal and raspberries to make it even better (if that is possible!).

The cornmeal addition is fantastic, it gives the cake a bit more texture, and the raspberries look and taste good with the plums.

I used prune plums here (the small August plums also known as "Stanley" plums, or Italian plums), but you can use any plum you like.

It's all delicious. Any summer fruit works in this recipe.

Plum & Raspberry Cornmeal Cake:

1 cup sugar
8 tbsp butter
2/3 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
as many pitted purple plums as you like
handful of raspberries
turbinado sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and eggs and beat well.

Spoon the batter into an 8" springform pan.

Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Dot with raspberries.

Sprinkle lightly with raw sugar and lemon juice. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Bake 45-50 minutes (original recipe says 1 hour, but mine was done).

Let rest in pan a few minutes, then run knife around the edges. Remove springform mold.

This is fantastic warm with vanilla ice-cream, or room temp the next a.m. for breakfast.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Antipasto: Stuffed Peppers w/ Eggplant & Mozzarella

This antipasto plate is best in summer, when everything is fresh from the garden.
Eggplants are ready about now in the garden, and some of the bell peppers are big enough to pick.

Grill up some eggplant slices (I am an expert at it), and roast some red bell pepper halves.

Make an envelope out of the roasted peppers and stuff them like a sandwich.

I put fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in water) slices inside, along w/ the eggplant, anchovies and basil leaves.

A drizzle of balsamic syrup and olive oil to finish the plate.

Scatter some olives around and serve w/ a nice cold glass of Gavi.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grilled Pesto Salmon in Foil Packets w/ Green Beans

So many salmon recipes, so little time.

I love WILD salmon. Farm raised salmon, not so much.

This easy recipe from Jamie Oliver is adaptable to any fish (cod is delicious too). It's super easy, and perfect for summer with the local cherry tomatoes and my green beans just picked.

Make sure you ask your fish monger to remove the skin from the salmon, or it will be slimy.
Also, it's important here to blanch your green beans for 2 minutes to set the color and assure they are cooked.

Let's go.

Grilled Pesto Salmon Foil Packets w/ Green Beans (original recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution)

2 pieces of SKINLESS salmon filets (about 1/2 lb. portion per person)
bunch of green beans, trimmed
handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
juice of a lemon
kosher salt & pepper
2 tbsp of basil pesto (you can use store bought)

Parboil your beans about 2 minutes, then rinse under cold water or plunge into ice bath to set color and stop cooking.

Cut 14" long pieces of aluminum foil and lay the beans in a pile (like a raft) on top of the foil.
Sprinkle w/ some kosher salt & pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Season the salmon filets on both sides w/ kosher salt & pepper and lay on top of the beans on the foil.

Spread a tablespoon of pesto on top of each fish filet and place some halved tomatoes on top.
Squeeze lemon juice all over the packets and 1 more drizzle of olive oil.

Fold up the foil packets, make sure you are leaving enough room so the fish and veggies can steam.

I place my foil on a preheated 450F grill and cook for 15 minutes.

Open the packets carefully.

The fish turns out moist and delicious and the tomato flavors meld with the beans......it's so good!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Jersey Corn & Tomato Panzanella Salad

The corn is here in the Garden State and it is delicious.

Paired w/ ripe Jersey tomatoes and crusty bread, there is nothing better.

When corn is so fresh and so sweet, there is no need to cook it.

Just slice it off the cob into a bowl, catching all the milky juices. It is delicious eaten raw.

Mix it in w/ toasted bread cubes (or stale bread), red onion, scallions, and basil and we can call it a panzanella.

I like to use red and yellow tomatoes for a prettier effect. Heirlooms work best in this salad, but cherry tomatoes are great too, and always sweet.

About an hour before serving, add in fresh mozzarella pieces (the kind packed in water), and drizzle w/ balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Just a little.

Sprinkle w/ sea salt and season w/ black pepper.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

This Cake: Zucchini & Pistachio

Oh my God, this cake.
This cake is so good.
You have been warned.

This recipe is a UK recipe, so I converted the measurements to US.

I notice a lot of UK recipes use golden caster sugar. What is that?

"Golden caster sugar is a fine granulated sugar that is made from unrefined sugar cane or beets. It is popular in the UK for its color, which is a pale golden brown, and it has a slightly buttery flavor".
It is recommended for shortbread and butter cookies.

I decided to stick to the recipe, since the author, British cookbook author Diana Henry said "it was the most delicious cake ever".
So, I ordered a bag of Billington's Golden Caster Sugar from amazon. A bit pricey to buy, but free shipping! ;)

I know you are going to ask me what to substitute for the caster sugar.......I went online, and couldn't find any really good answer.
Read here.

Most websites recommend using superfine sugar (Dominos makes it). Don't be tempted to use light brown sugar, because there is molasses in it, and it is not the same thing.
Suggestions from you UK bakers are always welcome.

I also thought the recipe might be a misprint, since I have never seen a zucchini cake without buttermilk, oil, or butter.
Hmmmm. I emailed Diana Henry, but she didn't answer, so I took a chance and made the recipe as printed.

This cake is now my new favorite cake for summer. It was moist, fragrant from the ground nuts, and just all around fabulous.

I used 1 huge, big fat zucchini (because how much is a 10 1/2 oz. zucchini? I don't have a kitchen scale......I know, get one!).

It's funny how the English language is not the U.S. English language.......
courgette = zucchini (I thought that was Francaise!); bicarbonate of soda = baking soda; icing sugar = confectioner's sugar; blah blah. It's fun to decipher the words.

We loved this cake, and so did everyone who was lucky enough to try a slice.

Don't worry, I will make another one tomorrow!

Diana Henry's Courgette & Pistachio Cake w/ Lemon Icing: (adapted from Saga Magazine)

100g (3¾oz) pistachios (I used 1/2 cup pistachios)
300g (10½oz) courgettes (I used 1 huge zucchini)
3 medium eggs
200g (7oz) golden caster sugar (I used 1/2 cup Billington's golden caster sugar)
225g (8oz) plain white flour (1 cup flour)
finely grated zest of 2 lemons (I used zest of 1 large lemon)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

To decorate

3/4 cup of confectioners sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
roughly chopped pistachios

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Put the half cup of pistachios into a coffee grinder and blitz them to a powder. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you can use a food processor; it just won’t grind them as finely.

Trim the zucchini ends and grate them finely into a large bowl.

Beat the eggs and sugar in and fold in the grated zucchini, ground pistachios, flour, lemon zest, baking powder and baking soda. Combine everything, be careful not to over-mix.

Put into a 20cm (8in) cake tin (I used an 8" springform pan) that you’ve buttered and lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn the cake out onto a wire rack, carefully peel off the paper and turn the cake the right side up. Leave to cool completely.

To make the icing, simply mix the confectioners sugar with the lemon juice until it’s smooth. Put the icing mixture in the fridge for a short while to let it firm up, before spreading it over the cake with a small palette knife.

Leave to set a little, then sprinkle with the chopped pistachios on top.

You will not believe how moist this cake is....just from the zucchini and ground nuts.

Fabulous cake. Gone in 1 day. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Green Beans w/ Almond Pesto

I am calling this post "Summer Green Beans" because I am picking my home-grown beans all summer....but of course, feel free to make this in the winter!

This is a great side dish and can be made hours ahead and left out at room temp, so great for parties.

I am sure it is delicious with BBQ foods, however, we ate it with scrambled eggs......don't ask.

I sauteed my nuts in 1 tbsp of butter to toast them up, and I loved the little extra flavor of butter and oil released from the nuts. Try it.

Also, we loved having the leftover pesto for toasts the next day.

Summer Green Beans w/ Almond Pesto (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

2 pounds green beans, I used green, yellow and purple
1 cup almonds, toasted and cooled (I sauteed my nuts in butter!)
1/3 cup grated parmesan or aged pecorino cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
leaves from a sprig or two of thyme
pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

In food processor, grind almonds, cheese, garlic, thyme, pepper and salt to a coarse paste. Add vinegar, and pulse again. Stir in oil and adjust seasonings to taste. Pesto can be made a day ahead and kept covered in the fridge.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Trim green beans and cook beans in boiling water until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes for regular green beans or 2 to 3 minutes for the skinnier “haricot vert” type. Plunge in an ice water bath to fully cool. Drain and pat dry.

Toss the cooled beans w/ the pesto and drizzle with some more olive oil just before serving.

I served with fresh picked sun gold cherry tomatoes and thyme flowers.

Loved this veggie side dish!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Filet of Beef Crostini w/ Artichoke Pesto & Parmesan Curls

I forgot all about this recipe.

I used to make it in the 90's when I was a newlywed. I used to get all of my recipes from Gourmet Magazine, and this one was from a bridal shower menu in 1993.

It is a crowd pleaser, and I served it at every party years ago.

I had a summer cocktail patio party and took this one out of retirement.

Instead of making a whole filet mignon, I used good quality cooked roast beef, sliced thin from the deli, but feel free to cook the filet if you want.

Filet of Beef Crostini w/ Artichoke Pesto:

2 1/2-pound trimmed fillet of beef, tied (or 2 lbs. good quality roast beef or eye round, cooked and sliced thin)
two 6-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp white-wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste
24 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices of Italian bread (about 2 long loaves), toasted lightly
a bunch of arugula, coarse stems discarded and the leaves washed and dried
24 Parmesan curls made with a vegetable peeler

If making the filet: Preheat the oven to 500°F. Pat the fillet dry, season it with salt and pepper, and in a small roasting pan roast it in the middle of the oven for 23 minutes, or until it registers 125°F. on a meat thermometer for rare meat. Transfer the fillet to a cutting board and let it cool. The fillet may be roasted 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.

Artichoke Pesto:

In a blender purée the artichoke hearts and the garlic with the vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The pesto can be made 2 days in advance and kept covered and chilled.

Spread each slice of toast with some of the artichoke purée, top the purée with some of the arugula, and divide the fillet, sliced very thin, among the crostini. Top the crostini with the Parmesan curls.

I like a dab of mayonnaise on top of the beef slices so that the parmesan curls adhere and don't fall off the crostinis.

Can be assembled 3 hours in advance and kept in the fridge.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Best Summer Salad w/ Peaches & Mozzarella

NJ is famous for delicious tomatoes and peaches (not just the Sopranos), I would have never thought to pair them together in a salad.

It seems like you can pair anything with avocado, mozzarella and some fresh herbs. And the savory tomatoes go so nicely with the sweet peaches.

This salad is fabulous.
Beautiful and easy to put together.

Here's how:

2 firm, but ripe peaches, sliced
2 big balls of fresh mozzarella (the stuff in water) or burrata
heirloom and cherry tomatoes, cut up (as many as you want)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
chopped pistachio nuts

2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
handful of snipped chives
pinch of fresh dill and the flowers if you have them
3 tbsp olive oil
pinch of Maldon salt & black pepper

Arrange salad components on a large platter and drizzle w/ vinaigrette.
Add herbs to the top and tuck in some dill flowers.

Sprinkle the salad w/ a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

You can arrange this way ahead and dress just before serving.

Summer salad at its best.