October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

Having a package of puff pastry in the freezer is like money in the bank. It’s easy to create wonderfully impressive appetizers or even full dinners in almost the blink of an eye.

You are limited only by your imagination and the contents of your fridge, pantry and/or garden.

My preference is for tarts that highlight vegetables but no one is stopping you from adding a little tuna or sausage or prosciutto. Cheese is nice, but any kind works. I’ve used parmesan, goat cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta and fontina. All of them are delicious. But, if all you have is Monterey jack…go for it.

There are is vegan puff pastry out there, and delicious vegan cheeses. They have come a long way in the past few years. Don’t let that stop you.

You will find the recipes for the Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese and Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Zucchini Flowers, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle here. That post is from May of last year.

 

I still have a glut of zucchini in the garden although I think it will soon come to an end. This year I discovered a way to prolong the harvest. Zucchini grows on vines, so trimming the older, ratty looking (or powdery mildewed) leaves encourages new growth and continued fruiting. I also fertilized the vines when I did the first pruning, something I didn’t do last year. Zucchini are considered heavy feeders.

As a complete aside, does anyone else think it is strange that the plural of leaf is leaves? Why not leafs? Leave has another meeting entirely. Just a random thought there.

Puff Pastry Zucchini Tart

Puff Pastry Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

 

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

 

Following are the ones for the two other tarts, Zucchini and Ricotta and Tomato and Mozzarella.

I modified the zucchini tart from a galette recipe on Smitten Kitchen who adapted the filling from a Cook’s Illustrated tart. It’s rare to find something entirely new in cooking, we all riff on each other.

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

  • I sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large of 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon of pesto (or a tablespoon of finely sliced basil leaves)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Method:

  1. Line a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels, spread out the zucchini slices out and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let them drain for about 30 minutes, then gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with other paper towels.

    Draining zucchini

    Draining zucchini – they will release a lot of liquid

  2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil and garlic together. In another bowl ix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, 1 teaspoon of the olive/garlic mixture, and the pesto together. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Heat the oven to 410 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface, roll into an 11 inch square and place in the center of the prepared parchment lined baking sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  5. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry, leaving the border uncovered. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the filling. Drizzle with the remaining garlic and olive oil mixture.
  6. Bake until the filling is set and the edges are golden brown. This took about 25 minutes in the middle of my oven.
Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Tomato Tart with Mozzarella

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 plum or small tomatoes (or 1 large heirloom tomato), cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of finely sliced basil leaves (I didn’t have any)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into an 11-inch square and place in the center of the prepared backing sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Or form a crust by folding over the edges about 1/2-inch. Brush the edges with the egg.
  3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dough, then poke the dough all over with a fork, make sure to go all the way through the dough. Note: I forgot this step and the entire center puffed up like a balloon when it was baked, sigh. It was ok though as I just poked it down and you couldn’t really tell after the filling was added. Don’t you forget it and poke after the parmesan is added. 
  4. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Removed from the oven and cool.
  6. While the crust is baking and cooling, place the tomato slices on a triple layer of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Place a second double layer of paper towels on top and press firmly to dry the tomatoes.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. Once the crust is cool, sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the bottom and layer the tomato slices over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the olive oil/garlic mixture.
  9. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing. A pizza cutter make short work.

And you might want to know where I was going with these amazing tarts. Do you? We have been having ‘puppy play dates’ with a friend’s retriever and our own Shanna. They are both now 5 months old, Inyo is 2 days older than Shanna. While the puppies play, the adults have wine, wonderful conversation and gourmet snacks. It’s a lot like what we used to do when our children were young. We have been rotating who is responsible for the food and the snacks have become increasingly wonderful as we are challenged cookery wise. It’s a lot of fun after the months of isolation cooking for just our own family.

Here are Inyo and Shanna, exhausted by several hours of active play. They look very pleased with themselves, and happy.

Inyo and Shanna

Inyo and Shanna

Even though he is about twice her weight, she gives as good as she gets.

I am going to take this to Fiesta Friday #401 hosted by Angie. If you would like to join the party or take a look at the recipes, craft or decorating ideas…just click on the link to this virtual event.

 

September – Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

September – Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Potato Salad with Corn and Bacon

Potato Salad with Corn and Bacon

New potatoes, crisp bacon, fresh corn and finely chopped onion…that’s my idea of potato salad. Forget the mayo. This potato salad can hold up to a BBQ or a picnic. It’s the mayonnaise that is the major reason for food poisoning in the summer. As well the mixture of flavors and textures is amazing…salty and crisp bacon, creamy potatoes, sharp red onion, and sweet corn. A couple of handfuls of arugula added at the end adds a tart, peppery and slightly bitter element as well as bright green color. I used a simple dressing consisting of apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and a couple tablespoon of bacon fat. Go vegetarian and substitute one of the many alternatives out there for the bacon, add a bit of smoked paprika to give the salad that wonderful smokiness.

Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. of small new potatoes, I used a combination of red and fingerlings
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, reserved from cooking the bacon
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 ears of sweet corn
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 handfuls of baby arugula

Method:

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender. For me it was about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool slightly.
  2. Cook the corn by your favorite method (grilling would be wonderful). I placed the each ear of corn, husks and all, in the microwave for 3 minutes. The leaves and silk slip off easily. Once cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the husk.
  3. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper lined plate, break into pieces once cool. Reserve the fat in the pan.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  5. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. If the potatoes are still a little warm they will absorb the dressing. Add the corn and chopped onion. Taste for salt and if you need a little more vinegar.
  6. Just before serving add the bacon and arugula. Toss again.

I made this salad up to step 6 several hours ahead. Chill in the fridge but bring it to room temperature before serving.

I would enjoy some of that

Shanna would like some potato salad please

Serve this as a side at your Labor Day BBQ.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday will enjoy it. It’s Fiesta Friday #396 hosted by Angie. Come on over and enjoy the virtual blogging party. It seems like everything is going virtual again!

Stay well and safe.

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

I am not a taco snob. What do I mean by that? If you or your family like those crisp shells from a box sold at the grocery store, I am not one to criticize. Go for it! That’s what some members of my family prefers. Now I wouldn’t order tacos that way in a restaurant. But at home, they are perfectly fine and save me a lot of trouble when I’m trying valiantly to get dinner on the table. I myself prefer a soft whole wheat or gluten free tortilla that I can roll into a big fat burrito; the bigger the better. I want to have to eat it with a knife and fork.

Tacos are great because you can put out the fixings on the counter and let everyone customize it to their own taste. That way of putting dinner on the table is also ideal if you have a mix of vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers to feed. A taco bar is a lot of fun, you can let you imagination run wild (or not if it’s one of those days). All you need is a wrap of some kind, filling, salsa, cheese (vegan cheese  is not bad), and some sliced cabbage or lettuce. Anything else is icing on the taco so to speak. But do try the pickled onions, their sharpness is very welcome against the smooth and creamy black beans.

This version of a vegetarian filling came from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I have increased the amount of seasonings, otherwise I followed the recipe fairly closely. It features one of my favorite vegetables, cauliflower. And it’s prepared in my favorite way, roasted until brown and charred in spots. It really is the most amazing vegetable and it’s good for you as well.

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

You add the drained black beans to the sheet pan when the cauliflower first comes from the oven, warming them and further flavoring the beans in the seasoning in the pan.

The pickled red onions are definitely addictive. I keep a jar of these in my fridge. They are wonderful on a grilled cheese sandwich (any kind of sandwich for that matter), quesadilla, salad or taco. You can pickle them for 30 minutes to several days, they get better and better.

Pickled red onion

Pickled red onion

Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Pickled onions:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (rice vinegar results in a milder pickle)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Cauliflower and black beans:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive or other neutral oil
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken and chopped small (they need to fit into the taco)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 15-ox can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • crumbled or shredded cheese
  • optional – salsa, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce, sliced radishes, etc.

Method:

  1. Make the pickled onions by combining the vinegar, water, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Add the onion and toss to coat. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking or parchment paper.
  4. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl, toss to coat with the oil, cumin, salt, and red pepper to taste.
  5. Spread on the sheet pan and roast for a total of 25-30 minutes, turning them midway through.
  6. Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the cauliflower. Add the black beans to the warm sheet pan. Taste and add more lime juice if you want.
  7. Heat whatever vehicle you want for eating, top with the cauliflower and beans, add avocado, pickles onions and whatever else your taste desires.
Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

For us it was slim pickings that night, no avocado, no cabbage (I did have a lonely head of romaine), and no cheese. But the cauliflower and black bean filling was delicious and easy. We still counted this a wonderful dinner which was worth repeating.

And the leftover cauliflower and black beans were delicious tossed into a salad the next night, this time with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes. I would consider making a batch just for the leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April – Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

April – Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

This recipe is based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Simple. Year’s ago when I first saw his books I thought they were a little esoteric. That has all changed with time. Ingredients like lemon grass, pistachios, rose harissa, good quality tahini and pomegranate molasses are more common in grocery stores. Sumac, urfa chili flakes, and za’atar can be found on-line or from better quality spice vendors. Recipes for making preserved lemons abound on the web and are superior to those purchased at stores. There are less obstacles to cooking from his books even in these days when shopping is more limited to places closer to home.

We are members of the Oakland speaker series which has, for the past year, been via Zoom because of the pandemic. Last month’s lecturers were Yotam and Samin Nosrat author of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat. The show airs during our usual dinner time and I was inspired to make something from one of the books. Lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yogurt sauce jumped out at me (although I didn’t have any pistachios in the pantry). But an easy substitution would be almonds, and I had a wonderful new dairy free yogurt in the fridge to try…Nancy’s Oat Yogurt. The patties themselves didn’t contain any breadcrumbs so the dinner was both dairy and gluten free.

I could easily see these patties (made a little smaller) as part of tapas meal…or even as meatballs in a Moroccan styled tomato sauce. Or made larger and stuffed into a pita with the sauce and some summer sliced tomatoes. They will definitely become part of my regular retinue in some form or another.

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

It was fun to snack on these patties with the yogurt sauce while we listened to their take on the pandemic and how their lives have changed.

Ingredients:

For the sumac yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup of Greek style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of sumac
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.

To make the patties:

  • 1/2 cup of shelled pistachios (I used almonds, toasted for a few minutes in a dry skillet)
  • 1 1/4 cup arugula
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 lb 2 oz (I used a lb.) of ground lamb
  • about 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. Toast the almonds if using and cool on a plate (not necessary if using pistachios)
  2. Put the nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds to roughly chop, then put into a medium sized bowl. Add the arugula to the processor, blitz a few seconds to roughly chop, add to bowl with nuts. Continue with the onion and garlic, to form a smooth paste, and add to the bowl. Add the lamb, 1 tablespoon of oil, 2/4 tsp of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix to combine, then with wet hands from into about twenty patties. Each should be about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick, weighing about 1 1/2 oz. You can make these ahead for a day, uncooked, or they can be made in advance and reheated through 5 minutes before serving.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large nonstick pan and place on medium heat. Once hot, add the patties. You can add as many as possible without crowding. Cook for about 7 minutes total, turning halfway, until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil if needed.
  4. When done, pile onto a platter with the sumac sauce. More arugula in a salad is a nice addition.
Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Next time I might add some chopped mint with the arugula, maybe some zested lemon as well. The lemon would play off the lemony flavored sumac in the sauce and also add a touch of brightness. I’ve also stocked up on pistachios. Try this one and let me know what you think. What adaptations did you need to make for your pantry?