Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

I’ll admit to a tendency to want to tweak things.  But I try to recognize when less is more.

While at the Farmer’s Market, I was inspired to make this simple salad.  Simple, of course, doesn’t have to mean boring.  This has all of the markers of a well-rounded dish.  A bit of nuttiness from the cheese and walnuts, the sweetness of the fresh vegetables and pea shoots, and tang from the lemon come together nicely.  The pea shoots, obviously, are not something you’re going to see every day in your standard grocery store, but you could substitute a bit of parsley.

See?  No muss, no fuss doesn’t have to put you into a coma.

Summer Squash Salad

1 medium sized zucchini
1 medium sized yellow squash
2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ear sweet corn
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted
Shaved Asiago cheese
Pea shoots

Slice the squash lengthwise using a mandoline (you could also use a vegetable peeler).  Place slices in a strainer and sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly and allow to drain again, about another 5 minutes or so.  Dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper in a container with a lid.  Shake thoroughly until emulsified.

Husk corn and toast slightly, either on the grill, or in a grill pan.  If cooking on the stove, add a little water to your pan once you have a bit of color on the corn and cook just until tender.  Allow to cool.  Cut kernels from corn cob.  Combine corn and squash in a bowl.

Pour enough of the dressing mixture over the squash and corn and toss to coat lightly.  Arrange in serving dish.  Season with a bit more salt and pepper, if desired.

Top with walnuts, cheese and pea shoots.  Serve immediately.

Note:  the squash and dressing can be prepared in advance.  Store separately and then prepare as directed just before serving.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Too Good Not to Share

I never ate a pear growing up, at least not that I can remember.  I don’t know if it was because they weren’t readily available in the area, too cost prohibitive to buy or they just weren’t on my mom’s radar.  Whatever it was, I was an adult before I ever tried one.

And I’ll have to admit I wasn’t hugely impressed when I did.  It’s the texture thing.

But then I discovered my all-time favorite cocktail, the Pear Blossom, and I was suddenly on board with the idea of pears.  Not long after, Carley made this delicious dish for one of our themed dinners, and I was fully appreciative of this fruit I had ignored most of my life.

So it wasn’t much of a leap for me to decide to try them out in dessert form, and this was what I pieced together from a variety of sources, but mostly from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe.

I’ve prepared this both ways:  by poaching my own pears (as I mention here), and by using canned (make sure they're water packed and not in syrup).  The home-poached method gets an edge in results in my book (and the pears themselves seem to be easier to deal with), but the canned variety are perfectly acceptable.  The result is delicious and ‘light’ tasting, although with all of the butter involved, obviously it isn’t really light.

But it contains fruit, so that practically makes it a health food, right?

Almond Pear Tart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 Tbs very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

3 medium pears, firm but ripe
1 lemon
1 stick cinnamon
3 cups water
1 cup Riesling (you can also use only water if you’d like)
1 1/4 cups sugar

Almond Cream
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 tsp flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large egg
2 tsp dark rum or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare the dough:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces evenly over the flour mixture.  Pulse until the butter has been evenly distributed with the largest pieces being the size of peas.  Add the egg yolk and pulse in longer bursts of about 10 seconds each, just until dough begins to clump together.  Turn out on to work surface and very lightly bring the dough together with your hands.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.  Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press a sheet of foil evenly over the dough and weight down with beans or pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Remove the foil and weights and set aside until ready to fill.

Prepare the pears:  Combine all of the ingredients for the pears, except for the pears themselves, in a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat.  Peel, halve and core the pears.  Submerge in liquid in the pan.  Bring just to a simmer and allow to continue to simmer for 15 minutes, or just until the pears are tender.  Remove from liquid onto a plate and allow to cool.

In the same food processor you used for the dough (I don’t even bother to wash it first since the ingredients are so similar), combine the butter and sugar and process until smooth.  Add the almonds, flour and cornstarch and pulse to combine.  Add the egg and rum or vanilla and process just until combined.

Bringing it all together:  Spread the almond cream evenly over the partially baked tart shell.  Slice pears cross-wise and fan slightly by pressing down.  Transfer to tart pan over almond cream with the bottom end of the pear at the edge of the pan, fanning the pear toward the center.

Return tart to oven and bake an additional 40 minutes, or until almond cream is puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Playing Catch-up

What’s that saying about being so far behind, you start to catch up with yourself?


I was skimming through the photo folder on my computer and realizing just how far behind I really am in posting.  I had, for example, every intention of posting about all of the food I prepared during our little family getaway on the coast.  Managed to post…  one thing.

I fail.

And that’s a pretty recent thing, too.  I’m not even going to try to tackle the dozens of recipes backed up and awaiting their day.

If we’re placing blame on my seeming lack of time management skills, here’s the main culprit…

What can I say?  I’d rather be chasing him around the house than typing out recipes any day of the week.  Which means that HIS blog is way behind, too.  I’m an equal opportunity procrastinator, apparently.

But I’ll throw this in for grins.  Because it was super tasty.

Now, where did that little rugrat go???

Smoked Salmon Risotto

2 Tbs olive oil
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced (white part only)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
¼ cup champagne
1 lemon, halved
3 cups (or so) chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste)
1 Tbs butter
½ cup Asiago cheese, freshly grated
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
6 oz smoked salmon, flaked

In a large saucepan, heat the chicken broth and half of the lemon over medium heat.

In a large skillet over medium to medium high heat, sauté the leak in the olive oil until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté another minute.  Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil.  Cook for a minute or two and then add the wine.

When the wine is almost evaporated, add a ladle of the chicken broth (about half a cup) to the rice.  Stir slowly until the broth is almost ‘gone’ and then add another ladle of broth.  Continue this process until the rice is just al dente (about 30 minutes).  If you run out of broth before the rice is cooked, you can add a little hot water.  The rice mixture should be creamy at this point and not dry.  About halfway through this process, season the rice with salt and pepper

Stir in the butter, cheese and parsley at this point.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Stir in about half of the flaked salmon, adding the remainder to the top.

Serve immediately.