Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wedding Baking Marathon and a Native Peach Tart with Pistachio Frangipane Recipe

Last month I had the opportunity to pull together all of the desserts for my very dear friend's wedding.  It was held in the mountains east of San Diego, a far difference landscape from here in Massachusetts. She and I met in college and studied ceramics together.  She is also a huge inspiration to my growing interest in gardening and cooking, though she claims she doesn't like to cook.  It's to her that I salvage the good part of a good veggie or fruit going bad. I aslo have to thank her for holding my hand in canning journeys.

She did not want the typical layered cake, but rather an array of items to choose from.  My goal was to stick with seasonal and use ingredients from her garden.  Her and her husband started Wilde Oaks Gardens in Jamul, CA where they offered there first rounds of a C.S.A. share. 

The rest of the food offered at the wedding reception was also picked from their garden and other local sources. 

There was also roasted chicken from her flock and a pit fired pig that was raised by their neighbors. 

A woman manning the pit fire, for approx 12 hrs in 90 degree weather!

The whole weekend was chaos but came together perfectly.  I was a true test of effort from friends and family and we pulled it off, even when sleep was absent.

Here is a sample of what I made and a start to the recipes.  Check back soon for more...there was a lot!

For the dessert Menu:
Native and Colorado Peach Tarts with a Pistachio Frangipane
Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Coco Nibs and a Coconut Lime Frosting(vegan and gluten free)
Lemon Bars with Rosemary (gluten free)
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Fresh Fig Tart with Fresh Locally Made Goat Cheese and Honey
Chocolate Walnut Torte (dairy free)
Mini Beet Cakes with an Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Sesame Orange and Almond Biscotti
Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with a Lemon Crunch Glaze

Today I want to share with you the Peach tart recipe:

Native Peach Tart with Pistachio Frangipane (serves 8)

For this tart I used a Pate Sucree crust.  Because it has egg in the mix, after baked, it is sturdier.  It holds it shape very well and along with whatever you choose to fill it with. I would't recommend this type for say an apple pie. It's more like a sugar cookie.

Pate Sucree (makes 2 crust)

2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup ice water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp Salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Lightly beat yolks and water in a small bowl until combined.

Pulse flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream. Process until mixture just begins to hold together (no longer than 30 seconds).
Shape dough into 2 disks, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes to overnight. 
Pistachio Frangipane (enough for two tarts)
1/2 cup raw pistachios finely ground
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

A coffee grinder dedicated to grinding seeds/nuts/spices is a good idea.  Make sure to not grind for too long because the machine will produce heat and turn your nuts into butter.

Mix all of the ingredients together to form a paste.  This will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Peach Tart

1 par-baked tart crust
1/2 of the pistachio frangipane paste
3 medium peaches pitted and sliced to about 12 pieces from each peach
1/2 cup apricot jam for glaze
2 tablespoons lightly chopped pistachios for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out one of the pie crust to about 12 inches in diameter, using as little flour as possible. To move into tart pan, fold in half, then fold in half again for easy transition. Layout tart crust out and press gently into the corners of the pan.  Press the sides into the grooves then run a knife around the top of the edge to make a clean cut. Bake the tart shell for about 10-15 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown.  Watch it and when it starts to bubble, prick them with a fork to let the air out.  You can also do the bean, wax paper, and foil method, but I found the first way to be quite easy and less of a fuss. Remove from oven and let cool.

Spread the frangipane over the tart to be about 1/4 inch thick.  Lay the peach slices out in a circle, sightly overlapping, starting on the outside, until you fill the shell.  There should be two circles.

Bake the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until the frangipane sets and the tart is bubbling a little. Remove from oven.  To make the apricot glaze, heat about 1/2 cup of the jam and thin it out with a tablespoon of water or Grand Marnier.  Once cooled a little, run it through a sieve to remove any lumps. Brush on the fruit and shell to coat. This helps keep the fruit from drying out and giving a shinier look.

note this tart is missing the glaze!

Garnish the tart with mint if you have it and crushed pistachios.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tomato and Pepper Salad with Olives and Capers

This is one of my most highly valued dishes.  I waited all year to make this since I only like to eat tomatoes in the summer when they are at there best, and right from my garden. I found this recipe in Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. The photo was mouth watering with the vegetables drenched in olive oil and speckled with herbs. I insisted on creating that package in my own kitchen.  It was then that I also introduced my self to marjoram. I can't believe all those years I was missing out.

This dish can be as intense or as easy as you like. Basically, the recipe calls for peeled tomatoes and peppers.  If you like to get involved or give it a try because you never have, I say go for it.  I have made this dish several times and have been just as satisfied with skin on tomatoes and peppers.  It will save you about an hours worth of time.  For the sake of the dedication to this concoction I thought I'd go all out this go around.

When all is said and done, this salad can be eaten in a multitude of ways.  It can be served hot, warm, cold. It can be mixed with pasta, piled on a piece of bread with cheese, or served on top of a mound of millet.   I recommend the bread method with goat cheese.  It's nice to spoon a serving and pick out the parts that entice you from the serving dish. This last about a week plus in a jar in the fridge or go ahead and pack it in a freezer safe jar for later.

Tomato and Pepper Salad with Olives and Capers

4 large bell peppers roasted and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 large tomatoes (or 6 -8 small) peeled, seeded, cut into 1 inch peices
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2  tablespoons chopped marjoram (or 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves)
3 cipollini onions quartered, or 1 large onion
1-3 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoons capers
12 kalamata olives pitted and halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
greshly ground black pepper

The following is optional as I mentioned.  You will get a smother silkier texture by removing the skins.  If you leave them on, they will hold their shape more.

Peeling and Seeding Tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then prepare a large bowl of ice water. Have a colainder in the sink for the tomatoes as they come out of the ice water bath.

Score the bottom of the tomatoes with a small "x" to speed up this process. Once the hot water bath is boiling place no more than three tomatoes at a time in the pot.  Boil them for about 10 seconds, until the skin starts to crack open. As soon as this happens promptly remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water bath.  You can leave them in there as long as you want.  I usually do until I have my next batch of tomatoes ready to come out.  They rythm of this process will come as you do it.  The tomatoes you pull from the ice water bath can be put into the colainder to drain until you are ready to peel all of them. Rub the skins off with your hands.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, assuming the tomato is sitting up straight. This way the cavities are open to your advantage for the seeds to come out.  Hold the half of the tomato in your hand and squeeze the seeds out like you are squeezing a lemon.  Don't worry if all the seeds don't come out.

Roasting and Peeling Peppers

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the tops of the peppers, then slice them lenghwise in half. Remove the seeds and veins. press down on each half to flatten them. Brush the skins with olive oil, then set them skin side up on a pan. Bake until the skins are wrinkled but not charred, approximately 10 to 20 minutes.
Remove the peppers and stack them on top of one another in a bowl and cover it. Allow the peppers to steam for 15 minutes.
Peel off the skins with your hand or paper towel. Don't fret if you can't get it all.

For the dressing: 

Chop the parsley marjoram and garlic together. Place in a small bowl.

Add the halved olives and capers. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix together.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the cut tomatoes, peppers, and onions into a large bowl. 

Toss with the dressing until evenly coated.
Pour the mixture into an oven safe dish or pot. Cover. If you don't have a cover, put parchment paper, then aluminum foil over the top and fold the edges over to fit snug.  You want the veggies to steam in their own juices and for them to collect in the pot.  Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Try this is alongside some millet, quinoa, pasta, or rice dotted with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil.

You can also place the contents into a jar.  It will last one to two weeks in the fridge.  It makes for a great snack on some crusty bread with goat cheese.
You can also freeze it in freezer safe jars for a later date.  Just reheat in a sauce pan.

This dish is vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and gluten free.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Curried Carrot, Lentil, and Cashew Soup

Well, it's officially fall here in New England.  The leaves are doing their thing and it's pretty amazing outside. The temperatures are cooling and the air is becoming crisp in the morning.  The garden is looking a little sad, but there is plenty of kale and cabbage left.

This is the time of year to start savoring soup.  I'm a huge soup fan and love love love to make it.  It is so easy and you can use just about anything.  This soup recipe is very simple and quite satisfying.  The curry makes it warm with the little bit of heat it off puts.  This soup can be enjoyed alone or as the begining to a great meal.  The cashews make a creamy texture in place of milk. As with any soup, they are great for freezing and pulling out for a quick meal when time is slim for a comforting meal.

Curried Lentil, Carrot, and Cashew Soup (serves 6)

6 cups vegetable broth (I like the Better than Bouilon brand)
6 medium carrots grated
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
1/2 cup unsalted cashews (soaked overnight if you can remember)
1 tablespoon curry powder

For garnish
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Bring the stock to a boil in a stock pot. Add the grated carrots and lentils and boil for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat up a pan over medium heat and add the oil.  Add the diced onions and cashews and cook until the onions start to caramelize, about 2-3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook until fragrant then add to stock pot.

Use an immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients together.  If you don't have one, use a blender or food processor and do batches. Make sure it is not piping hot, otherwise the lid to the blender will want to pop off. Once all said and done season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, add a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves.

This dish is vegetarian and gluten free.  To make it vegan and dairy free omit the yogurt for the garnish at the end.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Baba Ghanouj : Roasted Eggplant Puree

If you ever find yourself swimming in eggplant, or you just can't resist picking out a few of the heirloom varieties at your local farm stand, I say make Baba Ghanouj.

This simple dish can be used in a few different ways.  I see it comparable to hummus and that it's great with veggie sticks, tortilla chips, or flat breads.  Baba Ghanouj, I recently discovered, also makes a unique sauce for a pizza type bread.  Spread it on a pizza dough, a pita, or tortilla, top it with a little cheese and sliced tomato.  If using a pita or tortilla bake for just a couple of minutes. When it comes out hot sprinkle it with spinach, arugula, or before you bake add kale or chard.  I'm all about what I have on hand so anything I make comes out different every time.

Baba Ghanouj (makes about 3 cups)

3 medium sized eggplant or equivalent
2-3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 to a whole lemon
~1/4 olive oil

To roast eggplant, heat the oven to about 400-450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone use it and make sure it gets heated up with the oven.  If not, place the eggplant on a cookie sheet.  Leave them whole, no need to cut. Roast them until they look deflated and a little chard.  They should be very soft to touch.  It will take approximately 10-20 minutes.  Just keep an eye on them.

Pull them out of the oven and let them cool enough to the point of being able to handle.  The insides of the eggplant should come out easily.  Cut a slit down the length of the body and use a metal spoon to scrape out the goods. Place them directly into a food processor.

Add the garlic, tahini, salt, and lemon juice.  Run the food processor and slowly add the olive oil until it is the consistency that you like. Basically, keep it thick enough so it won't fall off a carrot stick. Make sure you taste it here too and see if it is where you want it. Adjust as needed.

To serve, fill up your favorite bowl, drizzle with olive oil, chopped parsley, and I used some smoked paprika (optional) and wedged cherry tomatoes because I was swimming in those. Place any extra in a separate container and it should keep for about a week. You can freeze it too.

This dish is vegetarian, gluten free and vegan.