No food processors were dirtied in the making of this tart


The tomato tart will replace our usual weekly quiche this summer.  Because tomatoes are so good right now?  Yes. But, also because my family has asked for a break from quiche for a while.  I came home the other night to find them picketing in the driveway  and chanting, “Hear us roar, real men don’t eat quiche, anymore”.  Fine, I’ll make a tart.

Like our current tween set who think they have discovered things like Journey, the Rubik’s cube and Pac-Man, I have made a discovery of my own. I have created a one bowl tart/quiche crust that works even better than the food processor method. Having never been completely successful in turning out a crust with sheets of thin, crispy, buttery, and flaky layers, the solution  came to me as I stood over the sink washing the food processor bowl.  No matter how cool my ingredients were when they started out, the quick spin in the food processor was melting the butter.

Speaking in absolutes is never a good idea.  But, there are a few exceptions, like we can never be too rich, too thin or too close to the end of the GYN table, (scootch, scootch). It took me awhile to figure out  that the crust ingredients can never be too cold.  I’ve watched enough Food Network to know that the thin, buttery layers in a crust are created from the steam that is formed when the cold pieces of butter melt causing the layers of dough to puff up.   Starting with frozen butter, grating it quickly on the big holes of a box grater and mixing by hand was my solution and the result was exactly what I had hoped for.  Can you see the layers?

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It was a hit all around.    Apparently, real men do eat tarts.

P.S.  I can’t take credit for the idea that you can never be too close to the end of the GYN table.   That gem came from my sister!


Tomato Tart 

1 recipe for Andra’s new and improved crust recipe

1 head of garlic

2 large tomatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

8 oz. of buffalo or fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds

1/4 cup fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°.  Cut off the narrow end of the head of garlic.  Wrap it in foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from the oven and let it sit in the foil until it is cool enough to handle.  Lower the oven temperature to 400°.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8” thick and place into a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it around the corners and removing any overhang.  Place the crust into the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s papery skin and spread with an offset spatula onto the base of the chilled crust.   Sprinkle with half of the parmesan cheese and then lay tomatoes over the crust so that they are not overlapping.  Lay slices of mozzarella over the tomatoes and then sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tart and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown slightly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Top with fresh basil and serve.

Andra’s New and Improved Crust

1 stick of butter

1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of ice water

Place a stick of butter and a glass of ice water in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Grate the butter into the dry ingredients, sprinkle the iced water into the bowl and then quickly work to combine everything just until it holds together in a ball.  You should still see pieces of butter in the dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for up to two months.

Meatless Monday Mujaddara

This recipe  for Mujaddara came from Food52;  it was a contest winner for good reason.  To read the recipe does not begin to describe how delicious this is.  You have to make the yogurt sauce to go with it.  Don’t skip that step, Catherine.  (I hate it when she doesn’t follow the recipe.)  The caramelized onions add such depth of flavor to the lentils and rice and  it’s made even better with the addition of the yogurt sauce that is cool, bright and sultry, like me.  It’s the perfect combination of flavors that make it utterly satisfying without being too heavy.  Like me.DSC_0036
I also roasted eggplant and cauliflower and tossed it with some kale sautéed  with ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and a little curry powder, to serve alongside the mujaddara.   This would also be a great to make ahead meal to be packed up for lunch for a few days.  Just don’t forget to pack the yogurt sauce, Catherine.  Sheeesh!
Mujaddara  by Rivka from Food 52
3/4 cups Puy lentils (aka French lentils, the tiny dark brown ones)
1 teaspoon salt, divided1 cup jasmine rice2 tablespoons butte3 tablespoons olive oil6 cups onions (about 3 medium onions), halved and thinly sliced
For the yogurt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin (freshly ground, if possible)1/2 teaspoon coriander (freshly ground)1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika or aleppo pepper3 tablespoons chopped fresh mintJuice and zest of half a lemon1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Put lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils until soft but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. Rinse pot.Add rice, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups water to the pot, set over medium heat, and bring to a boil. When water begins to boil, cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 17 minutes (the tried-and-true Amanda Hesser method!) until perfectly cooked. Remove from oven, uncover, and fluff with a fork. Set aside.While rice cooks, set a wide, deep sauté pan over medium-low heat and add butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter has mostly melted, add onions and toss to incorporate with butter and oil.  After 5 minutes, onions will have softened slightly and started to release their liquid. Raise heat to medium and cook 10 to 12 minutes more, until onions are very soft and browned. Add water by the tablespoon if pan gets too dry or if onions start to stick. When onions are well browned, add last tablespoon of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom layer of onions has charred and crisped; try not to stir too much, or onions won’t crisp up.Combine rice, lentils, and most of the onions in large serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes, to marry the flavors together. (Truth be told, this dish improves with age.) Taste, and add more onions if desired.Meanwhile, make the yogurt: mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. (Yes, it’s really that simple.)If mujaddara has cooled significantly, reheat in a low oven or even in the microwave for a couple minutes. To serve, plate a big scoop of mujaddara and top with a dollop of yogurt.

Plants vs. Zombies

“We’re having steak tartar and sweetbreads” is the response I got from my dad when I asked about my parent’s zombie plan.  It was a throw-down, for sure.  I went looking for a way to out-gross my dad in the offal section of Larousse Gastronomique. (Offal not awful.)   I lost my enthusiasm for our zombie plan somewhere between Croquettes of sheep’s trotters and Hot calf’s head with various cold sauces. Ears, kidneys, animellles (testicles), lungs, sweetbreads, palates.  Braised, breaded, fried, sautéed, jellied or served à la vinaigrette.  Eeeewwww.

I studied Mastering the Art of French Cooking for recipes using organ meats with the idea that if Julia Child made French cooking more accessible to the American Housewife she might actually make sweetbreads sound appealing.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  Her description for preparing sweetbreads and brains, for optimal flavor and texture, lost me:   “Both must be soaked for several hours in cold water before they are cooked, to soften the filament which covers them so that it may be removed, to dissolve their bloody patches, and to whiten them.”  Logically, I know that when the meat had a face it had blood coursing through it’s veins, too.  But I would rather not have to drain, soak, or let the blood from my meal.  Not to mention the fact that I do not want to imagine what the brain that I am eating was imagining just before it met his or her end.   I think that would be like standing between two mirrors at the start of bikini season.

I raised the white flag.  No way my parents would be outdone on this one.  In the end, all I could think about was Hannibal Lecter serving brains to his dinner guests who had unwittingly provided the feast.  (Incidentally,  I don’t remember seeing Hannibal soak the brains prior to the sauté.)   Instead, we went in a whole new direction; we had butternut squash soup served alongside fresh black-eyed peas and swiss chard.  I added 3 strips of bacon to the swiss chard which was all the meat I could muster after my reading.

For our zombie plan this Sunday, I think I might go back to eggplant.


Butternut Squash Soup 

1 3-4 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch dice

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 small carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 sprig of rosemary

1 teaspoon of sumac

4 cups of low sodium chicken broth

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Toss the diced butternut squash with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until tender.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large dutch oven, over medium high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and rosemary.  Stir and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce to simmer.

Remove the sprig of rosemary.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Or, puree in a blender with the round stopper removed and dish cloth placed over the lid of the blender. Return the soup to the pot.)   Add the sumac and salt and pepper to taste.

Black Eye Peas and Swiss Chard 

1 pound of fresh black eyed peas, rinsed and cleaned

1 small onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3 strips of bacon, diced

1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1 large bunch of swiss chard, tough stems removed and leaves chopped into bite sized pieces

salt and pepper

Place the beans in a medium saucepan of water that covers the beans by one inch.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.  Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large shallow pan, cook the diced bacon.  Once crisp, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve.  Drain all but two tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan and add the diced onion.  Cook until translucent and then add the garlic until fragrant.  Add the swiss chard and cook until wilted, tossing and stirring frequently.  Add the black eyed peas to the pan along with the apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and reserved diced bacon.  Serve immediately.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Pasta

We went apple picking yesterday and got this butternut squash for dinner while we were at the farm:

I used it to make a fall/winter favorite by roasting the squash and an onion and tossing them with hot pasta, goat cheese and pine nuts. It’s such an easy meal and probably my favorite way to use butternut squash, as you can see here.  Now we just have to find a way to eat all those apples.

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

1 Butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

6 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp chopped rosemary

3 oz toasted pine nuts

1 lb dried pasta, preferably short

Preheat oven to 400°.  Toss diced squash and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet pan and roast until starting to caramelize, about 20 minutes.  While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water.  Toast the pine nuts in a warm skillet for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.  After draining the pasta, add the squash and onion mixture, goat cheese and pasta water and toss over low heat until the ingredients combine and the sauce thickens.  Finish with more crumbled goat cheese, chopped rosemary and the pine nuts.

– Catherine

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Last night I made one of our favorite salads with roasted sweet potatoes, goat cheese, walnuts and leftover bacon.  I made a white balsamic vinaigrette and used spinach and arugula for the bed of the salad.

To make the potatoes, I cut three sweet potatoes (for four people) into cubes and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes.

We’ve been eating this for years because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and it comes together quickly.  So imagine my surprise last night when my husband said it was delicious, but he may be allergic to walnuts.  It’s like I’m living with a stranger.

Next time, I’ll use pine nuts.  In the meantime, I guess I should get to know my husband a little bit better.

– Catherine

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