Heirloom tomato tart

September 13, 2012 § 17 Comments

Although fun and life-giving and joyful and love-filled right now, if I had to choose a single word to describe life these past two weeks (and thank goodness I don’t have to choose just one word – a world where you use only one word when you could spout off a string of five to ten would be a sad world indeed, far too Hemingway-ian for the verbose among us), it would be chaotic.

Totally chaotic.  Connecting with old friends and nabbing as much quality time with family as possible on top of working on a dissertation on top of that ultimate relaxing free time activity of, ahem, starting a business, turns out not to be a recipe for order and quiet.  We did expect this, but you never fully appreciate these things until you’re in the middle of them.

But I love it!  We love it!  We love everyone here.  So far so amazing.  We even had a chance to ride around on The Lake and under the Aerial Lift Bridge on a decommissioned coast guard cutter owned by friends of friends, all in the name of settling in.  That’s pretty darn cool. « Read the rest of this entry »

Since we were talking about butter – smoked salmon quiche

May 2, 2012 § 24 Comments

As any self-respecting, French speaking, art and food obsessed college student would do, I spent a semester abroad in Paris my junior year.  According to my transcript, I was studying something along the lines of French language and literature.  According to me, I was doing an intensive independent study in hot chocolate and pastries.  Intensive.

I made a point of going to a different spot and trying a different pastry every day.  I roamed the city, exploring quaint neighborhoods and corner bakeries, charming cafes and hyacinth-lined gardens.  If my study-abroad major was pastries, my study-abroad minor was people-watching.  And dodging men who were intent on getting to know me – solely because I was blonde, and because they were French, and that seems to be the way of things.

Choosing walking as my preferred mode of transportation, I also wandered through plenty of neighborhoods where I quite possibly shouldn’t have, or at least wouldn’t have selected as a destination.  But, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get from point A to point pastry.

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A happy hour beet and fig tart

June 21, 2011 § 26 Comments

Is it just me, or does the advent of summer put you the mood for happy hour too? Potentially even a daily happy hour. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? 😉

I suppose that, technically, happy hours are called happy because of the inclusion of alcohol, but I think they’re happy in so many other ways. It’s a celebration of porches or patios! And evening breezes! And of the fact that you can laze about for an hour (or two) after work, enjoying some ridiculously buttery cheeses and crisp breads and a little glass of wine, and it will still be light out when you get around to dinner!

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Tart with leeks, kale, and cantal cheese

March 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I still feel rather pocket sized these days.  Powerless.  To be perfectly honest, it’s a feeling I often struggle with anyway.  So, events, disasters, scares, all tend to bring it out full force.  The voices on the news joining with the voices of fear and worry in my mind, amplifying into a din.  A Greek chorus composed of squawking, insane parrots, on speed.  Sometimes the mind is really not a good place to be.  This is another reason why I cook.  It is my meditation.  I’m a horribly unreliable meditator.  Just as bad about yoga and qi gong.  But, cooking is the time when my mind quiets as I concentrate on the weight of the knife handle in my hand or the steam from a pot wafting up to my face as I stir.

It’s why I sometimes prefer to cook things that have a lot of different pieces.  Chopping, rolling, shaping, shaking, layering.  Dishes that are antithetical to the usual weeknight cooking demand to just get something good on the table quickly, and instead are a true-blue labor of love.  I find tarts quite good for this.  I love the feeling of rubbing together the flour and butter between my fingers and the thump of the floury rolling pin on the dough and the endless potential for fillings.  Like this one, for example with its lightly crunchy, golden cornmeal crust and filling of tender caramelized leeks and sturdy greens all bound together with nutty, pungent Alpine cheese. « Read the rest of this entry »

Darling carrot and pea hand pies

March 6, 2011 § 6 Comments

Well, now that you know how I felt about cauliflower when I was little, you know how I felt about most vegetables.  It’s hard to believe that the farm-share buying, garden planting, vegetable fiend I am now actually grew out of that prissy little girl whose heart grew faint and lip trembled at the thought of eating leaf and root matter of any sort.  I had a very few exceptions to my no vegetables rule.  A few vegetables that were inoffensive enough I would deign to consider them foodstuffs.  I liked cucumbers.  In fact, cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches were one of my favorite summer dinners (this was my escape hatch when all the grown ups were eating their open faced shrimp sandwiches).  I would eat carrots if they were shredded and mixed with ranch dressing, and I would eat peas if they were cooked and drowned in my mother’s magnificent gravy.  That was about my limit.  So, peas and carrots it frequently was.

However, in spite of the lore around peas and carrots (I’ve heard that an old joke/admonishment in many families was to tell the children to “eat every carrot and pea on your plate,” hehe) we never actually ate them together.  It was either peas or carrots.  Not peas and carrots.  I knew, in a sense, that they were supposed to go together.  Two of my best friends and I even dressed up as peas and a carrot for Halloween once!  But still, never did the twain meet on my dinner plate.  Up until a couple of days ago that is.  In my mind’s peripatetic wanderings last week  I stopped to rest awhile upon this idea and decided that it was finally time to eat peas and carrots together.  But, I didn’t manage to stop there.  No sooner had I settle on it, I had quickly moved on from the idea of just eating plain old peas and carrots and started thinking of pot pie.  And then I started thinking of hand pies. « Read the rest of this entry »

Corn and bacon pie

September 21, 2010 § 7 Comments

I love the word cornucopia.  Do you have any vivid memories that have to do specificly with learning a favorite, “fancy” word?  Or is that one of those things they teach you not to do when you attend ‘how not to be an incorrigible geek school’?  Either way, I distinctly remember learning the word cornucopia in early grade school and being instantly entranced by it.  “Cornucopia!”  Doesn’t it just ring with the sound of everything lovely and wonderful…and delicious?!

It was around Thanksgiving time, unsurprisingly, and our lesson in class was to draw a cornucopia by drawing a loopy spiral that grew smaller and smaller and curved off into a little tail, and then outlining it to turn it into a horn.  Then we were to fill it with drawings of all the wonderful bounty of fall, the corn, and squash, a pie (since that was my favorite part of the concept of Thanksgiving) and, if my memory is accurate (which I’m told it isn’t always – the curse/gift of storytelling) a big fat turkey wearing a pilgrim hat.  Because apparently the pilgrims were prone to using their dinner as either a hat rack or a source of entertainment before fire roasting it on a spit.

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Parmesan Tart with Caesar Salad Topping

May 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

Let’s talk salads.  I love salads.  Love, love, love them.  I’m so excited that we’re getting into the season when the vegetable garden produces lovely little baby lettuces and vegetable CSA’s send you home with more fresh salad greens than you quite know what to do with.  Now, if I’m wearing my “I studied nutrition” hat (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure is a fashionable and sleek little cloche) I will expound on how a good salad can make a very satisfying meal, just use lots of veggies, add a little protein in the form of fish, beans, nuts, or lean meat, and use a small amount of an olive oil based dressing.  A delicious meal with lots of room for mixing and matching your ingredients!

But, not today.  Today, I’m wearing my “butter is a health food!” hat (which may or may not be one of those awesome hats made out of balloons), and I’m here to make you a salad offer you can’t refuse.  An offer that includes a crumbly, buttery crust (like a giant crouton on the outside!!), a silky cheesy layer of custard, and a zesty crunchy Caesar-style topping.  An offer that looks something like this tart.

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Spinach, balsamic onion, and goat cheese galette

April 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

It’s plausible (actually, make that highly probable) that I have talked your ear off about galettes before, in the guise of rustic tarts that is.  But, I simply have to do it again because I’m practically giddy with how great they are!  I mean look at them!  They look lovely – fancy even!  They taste amazing, with unbeatably flaky, buttery crusts and complex, savory fillings.  And what are they doing?  They’re using up my leftovers!!  At the moment I’m kind of feeling like this is the cleverest way ever to use up leftovers, so please forgive me if I’m practically crowing, er, and using excessive quantities of exclamation points. (!!)

Also, I used a new galette dough recipe (I felt adventurous, otherwise I just make pie crust) that I made up by looking at several recipes specifically for galettes.  I noticed that several recipes called for sour cream and lemon juice.  I didn’t have either of those, but I had Greek yogurt, which is similar in texture and function (tangy, cultured dairy), and I had rice vinegar, which provides acid like lemon juice.  I am never going back!!!  Flaky beyond belief people!  It was almost more like having a croissant for a crust, which is a very, very good thing.

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Spinach ricotta and butternut pie

March 5, 2010 § 7 Comments

This is a really great savory pie, a lovely hearty but not heavy supper or lunch.  But, something else first.  Everyone please take a look at my photos!  Finally, I have produced something akin to a nice photograph of my food!!!  How awesome is that?!  As far as I can tell, food styling and photography is pretty trendy right now – borderline obnoxiously so.  With the proliferation of a kajillion food blogs, it has become evident that there are also close to a kajillion rather good food photographers out there.  I am most definitely not one of them.  And it drives me crazy.  Because, even though I generally have a very negative gut reaction to things that are trendy (kind of an ironic sucker punch because I think I’m actually a sucker for trends) , I am obsessed with food photography.  But this is not new.  I have been obsessed with food photography since as early as I can remember.  Before I could even read, I have vivid memories of staring for long periods of time at pictures of food in my mom’s cookbooks.  Then later I graduated to my children’s cookbooks, and ordered my own subscriptions to cooking magazines before I was even in high school.  But, it never occurred to me to try to photograph my own food.  I never even owned a camera, so I didn’t take pictures of anything at all!

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What to bring to a potluck with foodies – rustic butternut squash tart

December 11, 2009 § 9 Comments

No, I don’t consider myself a foodie. Seriously, I don’t.  Sure I like to eat, but come on, that’s just human nature. The species wouldn’t have survived very long if we were anti-eating. I like to eat good, high quality food, but I’m not going to freak if the texture or flavor of something I make doesn’t measure up to an ideal standard in my head. And I like to cook (well, on my good days), but I think I have too utilitarian of an approach to food preparation to be a foodie. Most of my cooking adventures are born out of the desire to make something that will taste good and be nourishing, without having to make an extra trip to the grocery store. And, If I see a recipe that looks inspiring, my first step is usually to figure out how I can do it with fewer steps, less complicated techniques, and fewer dirty bowls.

That said, now and then we all want to be a little bit impressive, whether it’s cooking for a date, a special party, or as was my case yesterday, for a potluck for a bunch of friends who actually are foodies. For these occasions, I have discovered that the best ways of being impressive are: making something actually complicated and unbelievable – probably involving phyllo dough, bringing a really nice big salad because that’s really hard to screw up, or making something that is visually impressive but is quite easy to make like a trifle (ie. layers of whipped cream, cake chunks, and berries) or a rustic tart.

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