March – Fennel and Celery Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

March – Fennel and Celery Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

I’ve seen several versions of this recipe. David Tanis from the NY Times published one and it also appeared in a 2014 issue of bon appetit. This recipe is a combination of both those recipes. The salad can be made ahead. Prepare the vegetables and toast the pine nuts, then dress it just before serving to take advantage of the crispness of the celery. It will begin to soften after an hour. It will still be delicious and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, but it won’t have quite the same freshness.

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

I have finally overcome my own aversion to celery, this salad definitely helps. It wasn’t that I ever actively disliked celery (although I do dislike celery salt) and more that our CSA box of the time had a huge head of celery week, after week, after week. It became tiresome to find ways to use it up.

I used a mandolin for slicing the celery and fennel, a sharp knife works as well. They were cut about 1/4 inch thick.

This would be the perfect salad for a spring BBQ. Spread it out on a platter rather than in a bowl to take advantage of all those wonderful textures.

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus the zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dressing Preparation:

  1. Put the lemon juice, zest and garlic cloves in a small jar or bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and shake or stir to mix. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the garlic cloves before dressing the salad.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • About 4 ounces of parmesan, thinly shaved or thickly shredded
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves, roughly torn
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad Preparation:

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet (tossing frequently) or 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them carefully as they will go from toasty brown to burnt quickly.
  2. Place the fennel and celery in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the garlic from the dressing, give it a shake or a whisk. Pour over the vegetables, and toss well. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  4. Transfer to a platter, add the parmesan and sprinkle over the parsley and mint.

Enjoy!

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

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.

 

May – Puff Pastry Pizza

May – Puff Pastry Pizza

I have been wanting to make this for weeks but it kept getting pushed to the back of the menu.

Imagine it…crisp puff pastry that flakes and crackles when you bite in, creamy melty cheese, and some interesting additions. It’s like a pizza croissant. Oh my! This was amazing. It’s perfect for a summer snack out on the deck or patio with friends, I’d add a glass of rose or white wine to round out the celebration. Cut it into small strips or slabs, larger ones for a whole meal. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand. In my book almost anything is possible and allowable on a pizza. It’s the perfect food.

Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Sliced Zucchini Flowers and Blue Cheese

Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese

Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Zucchini Flowers, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

I don’t have an actual recipe, fly by the seat of your pants and your own families preferences. You will need a frozen package of puff pastry. Defrost it in the fridge for a few hours or on the counter for 40 minutes.

While your oven is preheating to 410 degrees F, unfold the pastry (there will be 2 sheets) onto separate parchment lined baking sheets. Crimp the folds together if necessary, then use a small sharp knife to make a shallow cut about 1/2 an inch from each edge. Try not to cut all the way through to the bottom.

Once your oven has reached full temperature, bake the unfilled pastry sheets for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add your desired filling. I recommend you not make it too runny, you want the bottom crust under the filling to remain crisp.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Spread caramelized onions in the center on one sheet, top with thinly sliced fresh chives and blue cheese crumbles. Garnish with chives, add a few chive flowers before serving.
  2. Thinly slice fresh mozzarella to the center, add halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini flowers and basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.

Once you have added your topping, bake for an additional 10-12 minutes until hot, melted and browned.

This is fancy stuff without fancy time on your part.

Serve it for lunch or dinner with a green salad. To me this is perfect alfresco dining.

Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Sliced Zucchini Flowers, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

 

Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese

Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese

I’m going to cut this into enough pieces to share on Fiesta Friday #330 hosted by Angie. Fiesta Friday is a collection of posts about food, gardening, fashion, and crafts…a virtual party. Come on over and take a look and/or add your own link. Please read the link rules first. This week’s cohost is Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau

Thank you for visiting, I would love to hear how you are doing. And finally, have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe and well.

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

Whatever you call them and no matter what their size, these toppings are unique and delicious. I call them the perfect start for a party. Made larger, bruschetta sized, they could even be considered dinner. What is the difference between the three? Crostini are smaller, in Italian the word translates as “little toasts”. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word ‘bruscare’ meaning ‘to roast over coals‘. Traditionally thin slices of bread are toasted and rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served warm. They are usually larger than a crostini and can be topped with almost anything…I love them topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and vine ripened tomatoes in late summer. Add a glass of rose to the mix and I am in heaven. A tartine is the French version of an open faced sandwich, pretty much the same thing as a crostini. All three start with a crisp slice of toasted bread.

The three toppings are fresh ricotta and pickled plums, fresh goat cheese with pickled fennel, and sweet butter with chili marinated anchovies.

If you don’t have pickled plums on hand (I had a couple of jars in the pantry from my backyard plum tree at the old house), use any pickled sweet fruit. And if you haven’t tried pickled fruit you are missing something. They are amazing in combination with cheese. I’ve seen some jars in the gourmet grocery stores. You can find recipes on-line, here’s one I found interesting. I might try pickling peaches this summer, they sound delicious as well.

You can toast the bread a day or two ahead and store the toasts (once cool) in a plastic bag. They keep well and leftovers make a delicious and crunchy garnish for a bowl of soup or a dip. When the kids were little I kept a jar on the kitchen counter, they didn’t last long and were a favorite snack.

To make the toasts, cut a baguette into 1/4 inch slices (you want it thick enough to hold the toppings but not so big that it isn’t an easy bite if you are standing up with a glass of wine in the other hand). Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lay the bread slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Check them frequently as they can burn. You want them a little charred and brown on the edges but not blackened.

Ricotta with Pickled Plums

Soft Goat Cheese with Pickled Fennel

Chili Marinated Anchovies with Sweet Butter

Pickled Fennel Tartines

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into ½-inch slices

For serving

  • 2 dozen toasts
  • 1 lb. fresh goats cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt such as Maldon
  • ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

METHOD:

1 day to a month in advance, pickle the fennel. 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, salt, red pepper flakes, and optional fennel fronds.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pack the fennel into 3 wide mouth pint sized canning jars.
  4. Carefully pour the hot brine over the fennel, diving the herbs and spices between the jars at the end.
  5. Cover and refrigerate.
  6. For serving, add a smear of goat cheese to each toast, top with some chopped pickled fennel, then a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a leaf of chopped parsley.

 

Tartine with chili-marinated anchovies and sweet butter

INGREDIENTS:

First prepare the anchovies if they came packed in salt.

  • 1 (1.5 lb.) can of salt-cured anchovies
  • 1 (10.2 oz.) jar of Calabrian cilis
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) good quality sweet butter (unsalted)
  • 2 dozen toasts from a good quality baguette

METHOD:

Marinate the anchovies at least a week before making the crustadas.

  1. Rinse them well.
  2. Place them in a large bowl and add water to cover, soak for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse again, then set aside to “drip dry” in a colander. Use when no longer drippin
  4. Drain the oil from the jar of chilis into the work bowl of a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  5. Add the chilis, removing and discarding the stems, keep the seeds. Pulse the chili oil and chilis together about 10 times, until roughly chopped.
  6. Add half the chili mixture to a large mixing bowl, pulse the remaining until more finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend.
  7. Once the anchovies are dry, transfer them to the bowl. Pour over the pureed chili mixture. Blend gently.
  8. Transfer the mix to a large glass container, seal, and refrigerate for at least a week or up to 6 months.

Just before serving, use a cheese slicer, vegetable slicer, or a sharp knife to shave the butter into thin slices. Cover each toast with the butter shavings, top each with 1 or 2 anchovies, and serve.

Lastly, the ricotta and pickled plums. You could use any pickled fruit for this one, the interest is between the ricotta and sweet but tart pickle. Pickled sliced and spiced peaches would be good, also figs. Use what you have in your cupboard or in the local specialty grocery store. I happened to have some pickled plum from a backyard tree. Let me know if you want my recipe for pickling them. They were cherry plums, actually wild ones that had sown themselves from the neighbors yard.

Unfortunately I don’t have any final finished pictures because they were carried out to a hungry crowd as most excellent nibbles to have with a glass of wine or beer. The contrast made them interesting and easy to eat while in the midst of conversation.

 

From A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, Menus and Stories. i have really enjoyed this cookbook from Renee Erickson of the Seattle based restaurants.

October – Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

October – Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

This is one of the first dishes I served my husband when we were dating; he passed the adventurous eating test on my side to be invited for future dinners. And it must have done the trick for him because he kept coming back for more dates (and dinners).

I think it is worth going into your old recipe files occasionally. Who knows what forgotten memories and fun treasures you will turn up. I haven’t made chicken liver mushroom pate for years and am happy to be reacquainted with it. The recipe was forgotten until I started reading Martin Walker’s excellent detective series (Bruno, Chief of Police). I binge read the entire series while recovering from surgery. The books are placed in Bergerac in the Dordogne region of France. The food and wine of that region are a major part of the books; duck liver being front and center. I’ve only had foie gras once in my life, our French waiter had to strongly recommend it before I tried it accompanied by the traditional glass of sauterne But, its introduction was eye opening! What an amazingly delicious experience! I never would have guessed. This chicken liver and mushroom pate is my poor man’s substitute.  Foie gras (as well as being pricy), is illegal in California. The necessary force feeding of the geese being deemed cruel in our state. Please don’t put the two side-by-side, there will be no comparison with the “real thing”. But this chicken liver and mushroom pate can stand on its own.

Not everyone likes chicken livers but I adore them. This is really more of a smooth spread than an actual pate. It is perfect for serving with crisp bread, melba toast, or crackers as a before dinner snack or on a picnic. A glass of champagne goes beautifully, chardonnay would also be good and would match the creamy richness of the spread.

The original recipe was written in a small book (almost more accurately a pamphlet as there were only a dozen pages), published by the winery Paul Masson. The recipes in the book highlighted their wines, of course. It was published in 1968 but I came across it in the mid 70’s. I don’t remember exactly how I acquired it. The stamp on the front is a liquor store in Burlingame, CA and my first apartment when I moved to California from New York was in Burlingame. Maybe the store was handing them out to encourage wine sales. Burlingame is very near the airport and at the time I was waiting to see if my transfer request with United would go through, something that didn’t happen.

I passed this recipe to my mother, and it became a favorite of hers. Along the way we made some modifications. The original recipe called for dill and I just couldn’t see it with chicken livers! Not to mention I am not a big fan, although I like fennel. Taste is strange isn’t it? Anyway, I substituted herbs de Provence, one of my favorite blends. You could also use thyme, it would be a classic combination with the rosemary.

Paul Masson published 1968

Over the years there have been other adaptations and alterations. My recipe calls for a little less butter (hard to imagine!), less wine and the addition of a spot of brandy as well as the switch of herbs.

The pate freezes beautifully, I freeze portions in 4 oz wide mouth canning jars. It will keep at least 3 months in the freezer, maybe longer, with no loss of flavor. The recipe makes enough for 4 small jars. Glaze the surface with a slick of melted butter after you fill them. It will protect the pate from freezer burn. Simply remove a jar from the freezer a day before you want to serve it, defrost in the refrigerator overnight. This is a perfect snack to have on hand for guests; add some crisp bread, cheese, maybe some salad and wine. You have an instant mini meal.

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate (makes about 1 1/2 pints)

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 1/2 a stick for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. of chicken livers
  • 1/2 lb. of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions plus some of the green tops
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 small or 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, I use Coleman’s
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy
  • kosher or sea salt as needed

For finishing:

  • About 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat
  2. Add the chicken livers, mushrooms, onions, and salt; saute for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally
  3. Add the wine, garlic, mustard, herbs, rosemary, and brandy. Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until livers and mushrooms are tender.
  5. Uncover and continue to cook on higher heat until almost all of the liquid has disappeared.
  6. Whirl in a blender until almost smooth, add the 1/2 stick of butter and continue to blend until smooth.
  7. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  8. Pack in small crocks or canning jars, wipe the edges and coat the top with melted butter.
  9. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or more.

The pate is best served with crisp warm sourdough bread or large sesame crackers.

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Bon appetit!

I am taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #194 hosted by Angie. Please stop by to see all the goodies our friends have brought to the party and add your own link if you are a food blogger. The cohosts this week are Petra @ Food Eat Love and Vanitha @ Curry and Vanilla.