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.

 

March – Sheet Pan Mushrooms, Spinach and Sausages

March – Sheet Pan Mushrooms, Spinach and Sausages

A sheet-pan dinner, also known as a traybake in other countries, is an easy and time saving option during the week. The NY Times cooking section had a recipe for sheet-pan roasted mushrooms and spinach and I wanted to…

1. add a protein and

2. compare the sheet pan to the air fryer

‘What would happen if I added the spinach for the last few minutes in the air fryer?’ I remembered seeing a recipe for sheet pan sausages and thought ‘What would happen if I added sausages to the mushrooms and spinach in the sheet pan?’

Hmm…It would be a one pan dinner. Something we all could use during the week. 

I am going to share this with the Fiesta Friday group party. It’s Fiesta Friday # 371 and I am the co-host with Angie. Come on over to read the other posts with creative recipes, craft or gardening ideas.

So, here it is from start to finish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms (or any combination that looks interesting and wonderful), trimmed and sliced thickly
  • 1 small onion, sliced into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed (I only used 1 tablespoon for the air fryer)
  • 4 Italian sausages or any kind that are your favorite
  • Kosher slat and freshly ground pepper
  • 5-6 large handfuls of baby spinach – about 2 6-oz containers

Method:

  1. In a large bowl toss the mushrooms, onion, garlic with the olive oil until everything is evenly coated

For the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Spread the mushrooms and onion on the lined pan, nestle the sausages among them. After 10 minutes, turn the sausages over.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes total.
  4. Then add the spinach to the sheet pan (if not using sausages you may want to add a bit more oil to coat the spinach), tossing with the mushrooms and roast until wilted, about 5 more minutes total. Turn and toss the spinach and mushrooms after 3 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: we found that the sausages added enough additional oil that none was needed.

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages – before

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages – after

For the air fryer: 

  1. Set the air fryer to 370 degrees F for 20 minutes (see my post about air fryer mushrooms here)
  2. After 15 minutes add the spinach and toss to combine, you may need to add a spritz of olive oil.
  3. After 3 minutes, toss again.

I didn’t use the sausages in the air fryer although there is no reason they wouldn’t work.

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

And here are the ones cooked on the sheet pan:

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Both methods were easy and resulted in a delicious side dish or meal. My husband preferred the sheet pan dinner, he found the mushrooms meatier. I liked the slight crispness and lighter air fryer dinner. Without the sausages this would make a delicious vegetarian/vegan dinner, serve it with polenta or another starch. Leftover mushrooms and spinach made a lovely filling for an omelet.

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

April – Blistered Broccoli with Fusilli, Sicilian Style

April – Blistered Broccoli with Fusilli, Sicilian Style

This combination of anchovies with golden raisins achieves a rich, complex, and delicious result without a heavy tomato sauce. The flavors are typically Sicilian and pairs beautifully with fusilli. Add in broccoli, blistered to charred perfection in a hot pan, and you have a complete meal.

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

If you are a vegetarian or don’t eat anchovies (or simply just don’t like them), you can replace them with a tablespoon of soy sauce or miso or a 1/4 cup of chopped black olives. All those will give you a similar salty, briny, umami filled jolt. I used a gluten free fusilli but use whatever pasta shape you have in your pantry, fresh or dried.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of broccoli (or cauliflower), florets roughly chopped and stalks peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 leeks or 1 onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of anchovy paste or equivalent of finely chopped whole anchovies
  • Pinch of saffron threads (leave out if not available)
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, preferably oil packed, drained and minced
  • 1/2 cup of golden raisins, or regular
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts, toasted in a small dry skillet until golden brown
  • Pasta of choice (I used a gluten free fusilli)
  • Grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese for serving OR soft goat cheese (my choice)

Method:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heart.
  2. Add the leeks or onion or shallots and saute until soft and slightly browned on the edges.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Stir in the anchovy, saffron, sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, and pine nuts.
  4. Continue to cook over low heat until the flavors blend, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the mix to a small bowl using a slotted spoon. Reserve the skillet for the broccoli.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta. Cook according to the directions until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  7. While the pasta is cooking, start the broccoli
  8. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in the skillet. Add the broccoli and toss to combine with the oil. Shake the skillet so the broccoli settles in an even layer. Cook, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes. Toss to rearrange and cook again, undisturbed, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  9. Add the drained pasta to the skillet along with the reserved Sicilian sauce. Toss to combine, adding some of the pasta cooking water if it seems dry.
  10. Taste for salt (anchovies are salty).
  11. Serve with grated cheese or crumbled goat cheese.
Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Fusilli with Broccoli, Sicilian Style

We have been trying to skip the meat a few times a week and this was an extremely successful dish. The combination of flavors and textures…a little sweet, salty, briny, rich, crunchy and smooth…were winners.

Inspiration came from a recent recipe in the NY Times and Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase (co-author of the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook).

I am taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #324 hosted by Angie. This week’s cohosts are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and myself.

Come join the party or check out the wonderful blog posts of attendees. You will see everything from wedding suggestions, home improvement, crafts, and recipes. If you are a blogger, you can add your own link. 

Before joining, if you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please read the guidelines.

We want to be able to feature you next Friday.

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

My garden is overflowing with kale, and unfortunately, it is not my favorite green. I know it’s good for me, full of antioxidants and other vitamins, but I have a hard time getting around to cooking it. Enter some great ideas from two books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Norsrat. Ms. Adler modeled her book after one of my favorite food essayists, M.F.K. Fisher. Her classic collection of essays, How to Cook a Wolf, was written amid the hardships of W.W. II and is about cooking well in spite of lack. The New York Times described it as “spiritually restorative”. Ms. Adlers book is about eating affordably, responsibly, and well. There are recipes but it also contains many ideas to think about in light of our current global situation. I recommend all three of the books, they are essential parts of my library..

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent and turn this into a book review.

So, on to grilled cheese…

Ms. Adler recommends pre-cooking or preparing the greens as soon as you get them into your kitchen from the market or your garden. That way they are ready to finish quickly. Blanching also removes most of the bitterness from kale. So, I took her advice using the blanching instructions by Ms. Norsat. What a fabulous idea! The greens are ready to saute or add to a soup or other dish. A bonus is how much less space they take up in the fridge. You will see her simple instructions below.

Enter Friday night and the complete loss of ambition. Do you ever get like that? I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wanted to cook, and I write a food blog. With no energy to make a quick trip to the market, my husband suggested “Why don’t we just make grilled cheese?” It was a request to make me smile. Grilled cheese is one of my favorites, and not an everyday meal. It’s a special treat because we have cut down on both gluten and dairy, we don’t have either very frequently. This simple Friday night dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches became a special occasion. It was time to take a quick assessment of what was in the fridge and pantry. Earlier that afternoon we had picked up a loaf of wonderful seeded whole wheat bread from Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. That already blanched kale added another layer of deliciousness and health. Rounding out my ingredient list was a package of thinly sliced prosciutto I found in the cheese drawer (kale pairs especially well with cured meats according to the The Flavor Bible), and a sharp white cheddar from the UK. It melted beautifully.

The combo elevated grilled cheese to a gourmet treat.

Seed Bread

Just look at that melty cheese!

Grilled Cheese with Kale

I used a panini press but a heavy skillet would work just as well.

To prepare your greens:

  • Wash them if they have just come in from the garden or farmer’s market.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it liberally. Put a half sheet pan or baking dish next to the pot and line it with parchment paper.
  • Drop the trimmed greens (strip off any tough stems) into the pot and bring it back to the boil.
  • Cook until tender, my variety of kale only needed a couple of minutes. Chard may take up to 3 while collards could take as much as 15. Taste a sample to determine when they are tender.
  • Using a sieve or spider to to pull the greens from the pot and spread them on your baking pan to cool.
  • Once cool, squeeze out any excess water using your hands or a dishtowel.
  • Chop them coarsely and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches…

Ingrediens for 2:

  • 4 slices of sturdy bread
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto or other deli meat
  • 4 generous slices of a good sharp melting cheese
  • about 1/3 cup of precooked kale per sandwich
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • butter or oil if frying in a pan

Method:

  1. Lay out two slices of bread, cover each with a layer of kale (sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes), then prosciutto, then cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread.
  2. Grill or fry until the bread is crisp and cheese is melted.

Sliced sturdy bread

The seeds were deliciously crunchy and flavorful. A green salad rounded out the meal.

Grilled cheese and salad

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. This sandwich would also make a fabulous Saturday lunch, put an egg on it and it could be brunch.

I going to take this idea to the folks at Fiesta Friday, it’s Fiesta Friday #271, hosted by Angie. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You

Come enjoy the posts on food, crafts and gardening.

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Why is this deconstructed? Because it has all the delicious parts of pork wanton soup, but without the wanton wrappers. Leaving those out makes it both gluten free and low carb. I was inspired by a recipe for egg roll soup and thought…why not wanton? This is a lighter version of regular wanton soup, without the wanton wrappers. It’s perfect when you want a quick, healthy, vegetable laden and warming bowl of soup for lunch or a light supper.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon of neutral oil like grape seed
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions, sliced white and light green portions
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 baby bok choy, rinced and sliced thinly
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil for drizzling when serving
  • chopped cilantro for serving

Method:

  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large stock pot or saucepan over medium heat and sear the ground pork until browned.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and scallions. Saute until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the bok choy, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. It should still be bright green. if the white stems are large, add them first and cook for a few minutes before adding the tender greens.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup with Wantons

If you want a heartier meal for dinner, extra bulk can be added with a few steamed wantons. A request from the husband when serving for dinner. I found the lighter version perfect for me.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday would enjoy this, especially anyone wanting to cut down on the carbs. Angie hosts Fiesta Friday and this week her co-host isJhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. It’s Fiesta Friday #270. Click the link to read interesting posts about cooking, crafts and gardening.