Friday, August 28, 2015

Tomato and Dijon Tart with Parmesan and Basil Crust

I think everyone agrees that this season's harvest is exceptional.  Summer produce is ripe at alarming rate and the sheer number of yields can be overwhelming.  What to do with hundreds of zucchinis, tomatoes, green beans?  Will there an end to cucumbers and peppers?  I like to tell people that for every garden, one can only have 1 zucchini plant!  But, really, seeing those wonderful produce is heartening and eating is naturally more enjoyable with the freshest local fruits and vegetables.

Here's a recipe to help you use the over abundant tomatoes.  It's a tart that with an addition of basil leaves and Parmesan emanates aromatic, sweet and cheesy.  The combo works well with tomatoes and savory custard filling.

Tomato and Dijon Tart with Parmesan and Basil Crust

Serves 6-8

For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
10 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

For the filling:
3-4 ripe, medium tomatoes, all of similar size and shape, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2/3 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup creme fraiche
2 large eggs
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To make the dough:  Process the flour, Parmesan, butter, basil leaves, and salt together in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine green bread crumbs.  Add the egg and 1 tablespoon cold water, and bring the mixture together to form a soft dough.  Add a little extra water if needed.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to a large circle about 1/8-inch thick and use to line the tart pan, making sure it overlaps the sides.  Trim all but 1/2-inch of the overhanging dough.  Prick the bottom with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with baking beans.  Place it on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until the dough is lightly cooked.  Remove the beans and paper, and bake for another 5 minutes to crisp.  Trim off any ragged edges while still warm.  Reduce the heat to 350F.

For the filling:  Place the tomatoes in an overlapping circle around the edge of the tart.  Fill the center with a smaller circle of tomato slices.  Scatter the chopped parsley over the tomatoes.  Whisk together the half-and-half, creme fraiche, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Place the tart back on a baking sheet and carefully pour the cream mixture over the tomatoes.  Scatter the grated Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden on top and the filling has just set.  Set the tart aside to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating warm or cold.  This is best eaten the day it is made.

Source:  adapted from Pies: Sweet and Savory by Caroline Bretherton

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blackberry Kahlua Cream Tart

Ah...blackberries.  I hate them when they're growing on or near my property because they'll take over everything.  I hate them for having such sharp thorns that go deep into the skin when I cut the branches that come from the neighbor's property over my fence.

But, come summer, when the fruits are ripe and juicy and sweet, then I love them.  The fruits are deep black and so easy to pick.  And what's best is that they're free, as long as I have time to pick.  This tart was made because my husband suggested one day that we went and picked blackberries in the neighborhood.  Anytime I can spend time together with him, however short, will be a good time.  So we traipsed about in one walking trail not far from home; there's someone kindly enough to clear a path around the thick bushes making it easy for us to gather the fruits.  It took us about half an hour to gather about 4 cups of fruits and we came home happy.

I love the flavor and texture of this tart; cool and smooth seedless blackberry puree that sits on top of shortbread-like crust with billowy whipped cream topping.  What's not to like?

Blackberry Kahlua Cream Tart

Makes 10 servings

1 10-inch Tart Pastry shell, fully baked--recipe follows.  I used a rectangular tart pan instead of an 10-inch round tart pan

Blackberry Puree
4 cups fresh blackberries (save some for decorations on top of the tart)
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Kahlua Whipping Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua

Cool the tart shell thoroughly on a rack.  Transfer the shell to a large, flat plate or platter, cover with foil, and refrigerate.

To make the blackberry puree, process the blackberries in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer, working and pushing it with a spoon so you end up with as much seedless puree as possible; you should be left with close to 2 cups of puree.

Put the puree into a non-aluminum saucepan.  Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir it, along with the lemon zest, into the puree.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Hold it at a low boil for 1 minute, stirring, then scrape it into a glass casserole or pie pan and place it in the fridge to cool.  Once it has cooled, scrape it into the tart shell, evening it with a fork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When you are just about ready to assemble the tart, put the beaters and whipping cream bowl in the freezer.  Once they're chilled, beat the cream until it almost holds soft peaks, then add the sugar and Kahlua.  Beat until good and firm, but don't let it get grainy.  Spread the whipped cream over the puree and arrange a few blackberries here and there if you saved some out.  Slice and serve right away or hold in the fridge, covered for up to several hours.

Tart Pastry

Makes 1 10-inch tart shell

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (approximately) cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and cut it in until the mixture resembles very small crumbs, with all the flour having been dampened by the fat; it should be actually be starting to clump together without the water.  At that point add the cold water, a teaspoon at a time, tossing and compacting the mixture with a fork until the dough coheres.

When the dough coheres, knead it once in the bowl to distribute the butter, then flatten it on a sheet of plastic wrap into a disk about 1/2 inch thick.  Wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before rolling.  

To roll the dough:  Put the dough on a sheet of lightly floured wax paper.  Lightly flour the top of the dough, then roll it into a circle 13 to 13 1/2 inches in diameter.  Carefully invert the dough over the pan and tuck the dough down into the pan without stretching it.  Trim the dough off flush with the top of the pan.  Cover and refrigerate until baking.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line the shell with foil and tuck in into the pastry.  Pour dried beans or pie weights into the foil.  Place the weighted shell in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and very carefully lift the foil out of the pan with the beans still in it.  Pierce the bottom of shell several times with a fork and put the shell back in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.  

Source: adapted from Country Baking by Ken Haedrich

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Salmon, Vegetable and Cheese Chowder

Every now and then, even in summer, we love to eat comfort food like soup or chowder.  This chowder satisfies the need of eating something wholesome and relatively easy to prepare.  Not too mention a way to use fresh corn that is in season.

I served this with slices of sourdough bread along with butter and considered dinner accomplished :)

Salmon, Vegetable and Cheese Chowder

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 medium russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup half-and-half or milk
1 cup flaked cooked salmon
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese or a combo of Cheddar and Monterey Jack
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large soup pot over high heat, bring vegetables, garlic, rice and 3 cups of the stock to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until vegetables and rice are tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and blend in batches until slightly chunky.  Return to soup pot.  Stir in remaining 1 cup stock, half-and-half, salmon, cheese, salt, thyme, and pepper.  Simmer, uncovered, until cheese melts and flavors are blended, about 10 minutes.

Source:  The Big Book of Soups and Stews by Maryana Vollstedt

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Peach Custard Pie

For the last 2 weeks or so we've been eating lots of peaches at home.  We eat them mostly fresh and in smoothie, but of course I have to make them into a dessert.  I've also felt like making pie all summer long, so naturally I looked for pie recipes. 

I have a book called Pie by Ken Haedrich, which is one of my favorite baking books, where I've made several pies previously.  His recipe for basic pie crust uses vegetable shortening which I don't mind at all, but if all-butter crust is preferred, I've made one for my Marionberry pie.  Even though it's for a double crust, one half dough could simply be freeze for up to a month.  The book is pretty extensive in all kinds of pies and has chapters on what to bake with corresponding fruits for each season.

What I think about this pie is that it satisfies both my likes, custard and fresh fruit.  The peaches need to be peeled for this pie which I grumbly did but appreciated when I bit a slice.  The crumb topping gives it a wonderful crunch, without a doubt this is all I want from a summer pie!

Peach Custard Pie

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 recipe Basic Flaky Pie Pastry, Single Crust or store-bought pie crust

1 cup full-fat sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and thickly sliced

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

If you haven't already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin.  Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center and peel off the paper.  Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolks, flour, and vanilla until smooth.  Set aside.  Arrange the peach slices in the chilled pie shell in tight, concentric circles.  You don't have to make it look perfect, just relatively neat.  Slowly and evenly pour the sour cream mixture over the peaches.  Gently shake the pan to help the mixture settle between the peaches.  Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the streusel topping.  Combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a large bowl, tossing to blend. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 400F.  Dump the streusel in the center of the pie, spreading it evenly over the top with your hands.  Tamp it down very gently.  Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward.  Continue to bake until the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  If the top gets too dark, cover with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours.  This pie is supposed to be served cold, but also very good at room temperature or slightly warm.  Once the pie has cooled to room temperature, cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate before serving.

  • To judge whether the pie is done or not, stick a knife in the center of the pie.  If it comes out clean, the pie is done.
  • Try serving it with vanilla ice cream and/or berry sauce.  I tried it with Marionberry sauce, it's very divine!

Source:  adapted from Pie by Ken Haedrich