Monday, August 27, 2012

Mixed Berry Tart

I keep seeing beautiful berry tarts and had to try one myself. I used almost the same crust recipe as I did for the heirloom tomato tart, with the addition of a little sugar and vanilla extract. The filling was cream cheese and dash of Half & Half, all topped with a mix of fresh blueberries and raspberries. I'm still working on perfecting the crust but it was decadent and delicious.


For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8oz) cold butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp cold water

For the filling:
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Half & Half
Approx 1 1/2 cups of mixed berries I used blueberries and strawberries

For the crust:

- Add the flour to a food processor and pulse until incorporated

- Add the sugar and salt and pulse again

- Chop the butter into 4 chunks and add to the flour mixture. Process until the mixture starts coming together in small, pea-sized shapes

- With the processor running, stream in the vanilla extract and just enough water so that the dough comes together this time I used the whole 3 Tbsp and the dough as a little too wet

- Turn the dough out on counter, form into a flattened disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

- Return the dough to the work surface, using plenty of flour to make sure it doesn't stick. Roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick and 10-11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a tart pan. I still cannot get this too work. It was worse this time than last. I ended up putting the  dough directly into the tart pan and flattening it out against the bottom and up the sides with my hands. It worked. 

- Top the crust with a sheet of parchment paper, fill with dried beans and return to the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.

- Preheat oven to 350

- Bake the tart with the parchment paper for about 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown. Let cool

For the filling:

- In a mini food processor, blend the cream cheese and sugar. Stream in the vanilla extract and half & half and process until perfectly smooth.

- Spread the cream cheese mixture into the cooled shell

- Top with your berries, chill in the fridge, slice and serve

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Seed Saving

All summer we've been chopping and slicing up the best of the farmer's market bounty and tossing any ends, remnants, and SEEDS into the compost. As we were preparing a pound of jalapenos and serranos for hot sauces, I was inspired to try saving seeds.

I've never done this before and am better versed at plating and growing flowers and house plants than vegetables, but I learned a lot last year at the Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm and am already thinking about what to plant and grow next summer.

So I saved some jalapeno seeds and tried saving a couple of tomato varieties last night. I pulled the seeds straight from the tomato, rinsed several times and laid out on a plate to dry, but this morning came across another method that involves letting the seeds and pulp sit in a jar and develop mold before harvesting the seeds. I suppose I'll try both methods and see what works.

Here are a few resources I've been perusing:

Any suggestions or advice would be welcome!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sausage, potato, arugula frittata

So, not the healthiest frittata in the world, but definitely a weekend treat! I am intrigued right now with preparing frittatas and eggs in general. I like the idea of adding more protein to my breakfasts, and eggs seemed like a good way to start. The heirloom tomato tart carried me through several meals, but I like the idea of the frittata as a gluten-free alternative to the tart or quiche!

This recipe became a great way to use up a leftover grilled sausage from earlier in the week. A little potato, arugula, onion and cheese and remembering not to cook the eggs too long and I think I'm finally getting the hang of this!

Sausage, potato, arugula frittata

1 cooked italian sausage, cut into disks if using raw, remove from casing and brown before adding the potato and onion to cook
1/4 cup onion sliced thinly
1 small yellow potato sliced thinly with a mandolin and cut into half moons

pinch red pepper flakes
salt & freshly ground pepper

1 handful arugula, or spinach, tough stems removed
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan or Romano
6 eggs

- Preheat the oven to 400

- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs

- In a large non-stick, oven-safe skillet or cast iron skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat

- Add the onions, potatoes, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and saute until onions are softened and potatoes are cooked

- Add the arugula and cook until wilted

- Lower the heat and stir in the eggs and cheese, mixing until all of the ingredients are incorporated

- Over low-medium heat, let the mixture cook until the bottom is set and the middle is still loose approximately 5 minutes

- Put the skillet in the oven and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit to finish setting.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet corn risotto, scallop and shrimp skewers, Eric Ripert's arugula and yogurt salad

This plate of food epitomizes dinner in August to me. A corn risotto topped with a chopped tomato and basil salad, skewers of bay scallops and shrimp spiced with a creole seasoning, and a refreshing arugula salad with yogurt dressing.

The salad is from Eric Ripert's amazing cookbook A Return to Cooking. It almost works as a palate cleanser with the meal and is a perfect accompaniment to the creamy risotto and seafood. His recipe calls for goat's milk yogurt, chives and pine nuts. I omitted the pine nuts and chives and used regular yogurt and it still was delicious.


1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp minced shallot
1/4 tsp minced garlic
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 large bunches arugula

- In a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

- To serve, place arugula in a bowl, and just enough dressing to lightly coat the arugula and toss.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomato Salad

Once we had the large batch of homemade tomatillo salsa, it was only a matter of time before taco night. Here, a simple side salad to accompany beef tacos, slices of avocado, and lime and cayenne sprinkled cucumbers. Perfect for August.

1 ear corn
1 can black beans
1 tomato
1/2 jalapeno
1/2 red bell pepper
large handful cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp ancho chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt

- Drain and rinse the black beans.

- Cut the kernels off the corn and boil for a few minutes until tender.

- Roughly chop the tomato.

- Dice the red pepper.

- Chop the cilantro.

- Combine everything in a bowl with the spices and lime juice. Chill and serve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

Jason and I hit the farmer's market this past weekend to pick up some hot peppers for homemade hot sauce. We chatted with a nice guy at the market, discussing which of his peppers would be best for our intentions. He also pointed out the "ghost peppers" he had on the table. The ghost pepper, or Naga or Bhut Jolokia is the hottest pepper in the world coming in at a 1,000,000 on the Scoville rating (for reference, a jalapeno comes in at a mere 5,000, and a habanero tops out at about 350,000). When we paid for our jalapenos and serranos, he offered us two for free.

We were scared but intrigued. After a visit to Walgreens for some latex gloves, we decided to try the pepper in a tomatillo salsa. Jason started working and we decided to put our tongue on the tiniest slice of the pepper.... Not much happened. We got bold and took a little nibble. And pretty much nothing. A very mild hot pepper. Obviously not a Bhut Jolokia, we're thinking it was an Anaheim.

Either way, we ended up with a delicious tomatillo salsa. Try it out with your favorite pepper! And if you get your hands on a real ghost pepper, let us know!


1 1/2 lbs tomatillo
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 anaheim pepper, destemmed and seeded
1/2 jalapeno pepper, destemmed and seeded
1/2 cup or so cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp lime juice
salt to taste
*optional 1/2 tsp sugar

-Preheat oven to 450

-Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, slice the tomatillos in half and roast face down in the oven until the skins start to blacken. Remove and let cool.

- Put tomatillos, onion, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender and pulse until finely chopped. Season to taste with salt.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Recently Jason and I enjoyed an amazing dinner at Ruxbin. If you haven't heard of it, you probably will soon. A fantastic, little out of the way place with some serious cuisine. One of the highlights was my entree, a tomato tart. I've also been eyeing an heirloom tomato tart recipe from Tartlette and finally decided to give the recipe a try. Granted, I had to go out and buy both a tart pan and rolling pin that morning, as many of you know, I don't really bake.

Well, now I'm addicted to making tarts. The final product was beautiful! It needed more time to set than the recipe indicated (I might actually use less liquid next time) and definitely needed salt but I managed to get the crust right and the end product was beautiful. I've included my notes and suggestions in the recipe. It was perfect as a dinner accompaniment as well as several days worth of breakfasts! Next tart project, gruyere and caramelized onion...

Makes one 9-inch tart
Allow plenty of time for the dough prep

For the crust:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp ice cold water

For the filling:
About 6 heirloom tomatoes
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper - go heavier than a pinch!
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the crust:
- Pulse flour in food processor until incorporated

- Chop butter into quarters, add and pulse until the butter resembles small peas This took longer than I anticipated. I was worried at first I had gone too long, but it takes a bit for the butter to get broken down and then form into little pea shapes!

- Add the salt and pulse once more

- Gradually stream in the water until the flour just comes together I probably used about 2 Tbsp, might ad a little more

- Turn out mixture onto work surface, form into a 2 inch thick disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes apparently this can also be done up to a day ahead of time

- Flour work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour as you go if the dough starts to stick. Place dough into tart pan. All of this was very difficult for me! I 9 inch pan might be a little large for this project. The dough kept breaking when I tried to get it in the pan. Eventually I transferred most of it over then patched up the sides with the excess dough.

- Place a piece of parchment paper over the dough, fill with dried beans and refrigerate for another 30 minutes

- Preheat oven to 350. Place tart pan on middle rack and bake for about 15 minutes (with the beans still inside). Remove from oven, let cool and remove beans and parchment paper.

For the filling:
- Slice the tomatoes and lay flat on a couple of sheets of paper towels to absorb excess water.

- In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk again.

- Pour the mixture into the tart shell and arrange tomato slices throughout. Here, I might not use all of the liquid as the dish ended up being a little "eggier" than I had expected. It also took longer to bake.

- Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until center is barely set. Tart will continue to set as it cools.