September 30, 2011

Fresh Lemon Tart with Sweet Rosemary Crust

Lemon, Citrus x limon, is the tart fruit of an evergreen, by the same name. Likely native to Asia, lemons were generally utilized for their medicinal properties as well as ornamental appeal. They spread to the Middle East and Europe about 2000 years ago, but were not truly cultivated until 500-1000 years ago. Lemons were brought to the States by Italian explorers, as they were being cultivated in Italy at the time, and eventually made their way into cuisine in the States during the 18th and 19th centuries as their cultivation increased in California and Florida. Lemons might be one of my favorite fruits to cook with due to its endless versatility. A fresh lemon tart is delicious with a little cream and a chilled glass of white wine sangria.

Lavender may be used in place of rosemary.

For the lovely Annie, on her birthday.

2 lemons, sliced paper thin

3 tbsp sugar

1 c flour

1 tbsp sugar

½ c cold butter, cubed

1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

½ tsp salt

1 cold egg

1 tbsp butter, melted

1. Combine lemons and 2 tbsp sugar, cover and macerate lemons in a non-reactive dish for 12-24 hours at room temperature. After macerating, adjust sugar to taste.

2. Next, combine flour, sugar, salt and rosemary, add butter and gently work into dry ingredients. Add egg and gently work in until crust barely holds together. Place dough in the refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using fingertips, press chilled crust into a 10" tart or 9" pie pan. Chill crust in pan for about 15 minutes.

4. Place crust in the oven and pre-bake until lightly golden brown, 8-12 minutes depending upon thickness of crust, watching carefully so as not to over cook. Leave oven on, but remove crust from oven.

5. Drain lemons, retaining liquid and spread evenly over baked crust. Combine liquid from macerated lemons and melted butter, evenly spoon over lemons. Return the tart to the oven, allowing lemons to heat and slightly brown, 2-4 minutes, watching carefully, so as not to overcook. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

6. Serve tart warm, room temperature or chilled. Plain or with cream or ice cream.

Makes one 9-10" tart

September 26, 2011

Roasted Eggplants with Tomatoes and Feta

Eggplant, native to India, is an edible fruit, truly a berry, in the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplants are presently cultivated and consumed throughout the world and grow in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors. The seeds of eggplant tend to be bitter due to the nicotine, an alkaloid found in the nightshade family, contained within them, making eggplants the most nicotine rich edible fruit humans consume. Roasting eggplants creates an especially rich and earthy flavor and they taste great served at any temperature. Roasted eggplants with tomatoes and feta are delicious pared with socca, braised lentils and tangerine beet salad.

Any variety of eggplant may be used with minor adjustments for size and shape.

6 small Japanese eggplant, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

½ tomato, finely diced

¼ red bell pepper, trimmed and finely diced

¼ onion, trimmed and finely diced

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

½ c feta

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp rosemary, stem removed and finely chopped

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread eggplant on a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant in the oven and roast until tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine feta, tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic, herbs and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve roasted eggplant on a bed of greens and top with tomatoes and feta. Serve eggplant warm, room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

September 22, 2011

Fresh Massaman Curry

Curries are one of the staples of Thai cooking and though prepared curry pastes are readily available, fresh curry paste is especially delicious. Massaman curry paste is of Muslim origin, from southern Thailand and Massaman tends to be one of the more mild curries found in Thailand. It is believed the term Massaman is a colloquial word for Muslim. Massaman curry paste includes peanuts, potatoes and spices such as cumin, clove and nutmeg, which were brought to Thailand from Indonesia by traders. Because tofu is used in place of meat, fried tofu and potatoes and used along with more vegetables are added to give the resulting curry a full and rounded flavor. Fresh Thai spring rolls and cucumber watermelon slaw are both delicious with Massaman curry.

Meat may be sautéed on its own and in place of fried tofu.

For Kenneth, who loves curry.

For the Paste:

¼ c peanuts

1 shallot, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, trimmed

1 small chili pepper, trimmed

1 tbsp ginger or galangal, peeled

1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and cut into large pieces

2 tbsp fish sauce or tamari

1 tsp brown or palm sugar

1 tsp coriander

½ tbsp cumin

1/8 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp clove

¼ tsp cardamom

1. If using whole spices, grind them into a fine powder. Combine ingredients in a food processor and process into a smooth paste.

2. Makes about ½ c curry paste. Curry paste can be frozen for 2-3 months.

For the Curry:

1 c tofu, cubed and fried

4 new potatoes, sliced and fried

1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

½ red pepper, trimmed diced

¼ lb green beans, trimmed

1 ear of corn, kernels removed from cob

1 onion, trimmed and finely diced

1 can coconut milk

2 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced

¼ c cilantro leaves

¼ c Thai basil

1 tbsp vegetable oil plus more for frying

salt and pepper

1. Place a large heavy pot, add oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion and 2-3 tbsp massaman curry paste; stir continually until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrot and continue sautéing for until carrot is slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Next, add coconut milk to the pot and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add fried tofu, fried potatoes, red pepper, and green beans, combine and simmer until vegetables are brilliant in color, about 1 minute. Stir in corn, scallions, cilantro and basil and remove curry from heat.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve curry over jasmine rice.

Serves 3-4

September 16, 2011

Shaved Summer Squash Salad

Zucchinis and yellow or summer squash are actually both summer squash, a term used to separate these soft immature squash from the hard mature squash we eat called winter squash. Though squash is a new world plant, what we know as zucchini was developed in Italy after the squash plant was introduced to Europe by explorers. The term zucchini, from the Italian zucchina or zucchine for small squash, is used in the States and Australia, whereas many other countries in the world refer to zucchini as courgette from the French for petite squash. Because summer squash are picked immature they can be easily eaten raw, as they are very tender and so delicious in salads. Shaved summer squash salad goes well with a multitude of dishes including warm lentil salad, gnocchi and rye berry salad.

For Kim, who introduced me to a similar dish last summer.

2 small zucchini, trimmed and thinly shaved into rounds

2 small summer squash, trimmed and thinly shaved into rounds

¼ red bell pepper, finely diced

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

¼ c parmesan, finely shaved or grated

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Thinly shave summer squash and zucchini into rounds, using either a mandolin or sharp knife. Once squash are shaved, place in a medium-mixing bowl.

2. Add bell pepper, parsley, parmesan and olive oil. Gently toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve salad room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

September 10, 2011

Baked Leeks with Mushroom Wild Rice Pilaf

Wild rice is the seed of one of four aquatic grasses in the genus Zizania, three of which are native to North America and one is native to China, and has been consumed by people for thousands of years. Though wild rice is similar to rice from Asia, Oryza sativa, they are not directly related, which means wild rice is not truly rice. Because wild rice grows in colder conditions, the seed itself requires more energy to germinate resulting in high levels of protein. Wild rice makes a great addition to any number of dishes as it has a sweet nutty flavor and chewy texture. Baked leeks with mushroom wild rice pilaf is delicious with any number of dishes including feta roasted potatoes and arugula salad.

3 leeks, trimmed and halved

1 c small mushrooms, quartered

½ c cooked wild rice

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp parsley

salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread leeks on a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake leeks until tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Place butter in a medium pan over medium low heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice and herbs and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Once rice is thoroughly heated and herbs are fragrant, remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange leeks on plates or a platter, spoon pilaf over leeks. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4

September 5, 2011

German Potato Salad

Potato salad is classic dish in American cuisine brought by European immigrants; however, similar to coleslaw, it is often served with a thick and creamy dressing that creates a heavy side dish. German immigrants introduced a warm potato salad with a bacon, onion, mustard and vinegar dressing to the States in the late 19th century, which was referred to as hot German potato salad. German potato salad is a great alternative to the traditional American potato salad because it offers a similar style dish with different looks and flavors.

1 lb new potatoes

4 strips of bacon, thinly sliced

½ red onion, trimmed and diced

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper

1. Steam potatoes until tender, 15-20 minutes. Once tender, remove from heat and set aside. Once potatoes have cooled slightly, quarter and place in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat. Fry bacon until golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring continually to cook evenly and prevent sticking. Remove browned with a slotted spoon, add to potatoes and set aside.

3. Add onions to remaining bacon drippings over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add mustard seeds and vinegar. Bring vinegar to a simmer, remove from heat and stir in scallions and parsley.

4. Pour mixture over potatoes and bacon in mixing bowl and thoroughly combine potatoes with other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4