Tomato Cheese Tartlets

First things first.  I know it's wrong, but I like to spell tartlet, tartlette.  It just seems more fitting for a small French pastry. Smell is such a huge part of taste.  If you're stuffy, nothing seems to taste good.    There are some smells that make you happy with just a whiff.   This recipe combines those  fragrant and delicous ingredients.  Basil, fresh tomatoes, garlic, baking puff pastry, and goat cheese.   I went out to the tomato patch to check on the progress, and ta-da!    I picked about a dozen San Marzanos.  These are amazing little guys.  They look like a Roma, but are even meatier, and more flavorful.  They're that tomato of choice for wood-fired pizza makers in Italy.   They're one the key ingredients in Pizza Margherita.    Don't you love the smell of tomato plants?

And the basil...what a punch!


Wait!  For those of you who just read the word puff pastry and are ready to move on, please stay.   You'll be using a sheet of pastry that you can purchase at the grocery.  All you'll need to do is thaw and unfold it.  Here's your chance to make a beautiful tart that will look like you spent all day.   You could if you wanted to, but you don't have to.   Sometime we'll make puff pastry together.  It takes time, but it's really worth it.

This recipe is part of the French Fridays with Dorie online cooking group.  The recipe comes from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.   I'll walk you through the basic steps, just in case you don't have a copy.

First you'll open your thawed box of pastry and unfold it.  Find a bowl or cup that's about 3-4 inches in diamenter and trace four circles.  If the puff pastry has tears where is was folded, gently smoosh it together.  Not too hard though.    Once you have your circles, move the dough to a baking sheet, covered with parchment, and poke with a fork.   This keep the puff pastry from puffing too much.   A way to make sure the dough puffs evenly is to set another sheet of parchement paper and a baking sheet or cooling rack on top.   The dough will still puff and be flaky, just nice and even.


Here's the dough! Super simple.


After you've removed the puff from the oven, let it cool.  It should be nice and golden.

Puff Pastry Circles
Puff Pastry Circles

Now on to the pesto.  I filled the food processor with basil, garlic, and pine nuts.   Gave it a whirl, when I realized that I didnt' have any parmesan cheese.  Another oops!   No problem.  There's going to be cheese on top, so I added the drizzle of olive oil and had a great tasting topping for the tarts.   Here's the recipe I made:

To print this recipe, click HERE

Basil Pesto 

2-3 cups basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

2-3 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (apparently optional)

1/2 cup olive oil, or to desired consistency

salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the basil, garlic, nuts and cheese until to forms a chunky paste.  Drizzle in olive oil until pesto is desired consistency.  Season to taste.

It's so easy!  However, we're in the together and I don't want you to miss out on this tart.   You can buy pesto, and it will be fine.   You can find it in the refrigerated department or the condiment aisle.

Now be creative.  Put a big dollap of pesto on each tart.  Then, slice the tomatoes, and cheese.  If you have one big tomato, place a big 'ol slice on the tart.   I had smaller sized tomatoes, so I made a pinwheel around the tart.   I used both goat cheese and fresh mozarella.  I put the goat cheese around the edges, and the mozarella in the middle, in case it oozed.   Once they were all assembled, I baked mine for about 5 minutes until the cheese looked melted, then I popped the pan under the broiler for about 15 seconds.  WATCH carefully, they will brown and burn very quickly.

Tomato Cheese Tart
Tomato Cheese Tart

The easiest part of all... Find three friends.  Make a salad, pour a glass of wine and enjoy!


Blueberry Mascarpone Roulade

It's fun when you can combine a things you really like to do into one project.   The roulade from French Fridays with Dorie, fits the bill.

  • Recipes that require careful technique and a few steps are more fun
  • Birthdays should be celebrated for a week
  • Mascarpone should be its own food group
  • Roulade whether sweet of savory is kind of glamorous

When I saw Roulade in the recipe name, I knew this was going to be fun.   A friend of ours was turning a "Zero" birthday, and I wanted an extra special birthday treat.   We'd have a nice light and cool dessert to celebrate.

Simple, pretty and full of sweet blueberries.  The preparation of the berries is wonderful.   Bring sugar and water to a boil, add the berries and turn off the heat.  The berries plump but won't burst.   When they dry, they're sticking and sweet.  You could almost spread them like jam.   SO good!

The  recipe isn't really hard, but careful attention is required to make sure your sponge cake is just right.   Here's a photo of the eggs just before they're combined with the flourl


Here's the pretty sponge before baking...



And this is the after.  Golden, tender and ready to be rolled.


It's never really made sense to me that you could roll a sheet of sponge cake in a towel.  I had it all wrapped up and ready to cool, and realized that you really needed to see what this looks like.   The towel is dusted with powdered sugar, the sponge cake goes straight on it while it's warm, then it's rolled up and cooled.  The cake takes the shape so it will roll nicely when the filling is added.

Sorry I don't have a photo of the blueberries and cream on the sponge before I rolled it.  I was a in the zone and forgot to grab the camera .   Here's the finished dessert.  If you don't have a copy of Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan,  I highly recommend the book.   It's full of great recipes with carefully written instructions.




Lime, Honey, Beet Salad - Can't Beat It!

Summer's in full swing.  The corn is growing, vegetables are more plentiful at farmers' markets, and life is very busy!  Summer salads are great.   After a busy day, it's so nice to wash off the garden dirt and have a late supper.  Vegetables, and perhaps something on the grill or quickly sauteed.   You don't heat up the house, or feel too full.    Got herbs?  Here's just the recipe for a hot summer night. This week's French Friday's With Dorie recipe is Lime Honey Beet Salad.  Another one of those love it, or hate it recipes.  It's a salad worth creating the meal around.   We love beets.  And,  the ones we found at the grocery were perfect.  Earthy, deep red and ready for roasting.   It took about an hour to roast three large beets.  I quartered them, covered them with foil, and roasted at 400.



While they were roasting, I prepared the rest of the ingredients.  The green, murky dressing smells amazing!  Lime, Dill, Chive, vinegar and a little oil.   Here's the before mixing photo.



We were really hungry and the salad smelled great.   After I peeled the beets and tossed them in the dressing, they rested while I quickly sauteed the shrimp and we ate the salad just a bit warmer than room temperature.   It was delicious!  Every time we make a simple Dorie recipe that seems like "why is this going to be good?"  the recipe  always exceed our expectations.  The lime, honey and herbs are perfect with the beets.  I added garlic, cayenne and lime juice to the shrimp.  It was a great, simple combination.    This one is a recipe you'll make again and again.   I would serve this to guests anytime.   Warm in the fall with some goat cheese, and cool in the summer.





Tuna Lentil Lemon Salad - French Fridays with Dorie




It's been a wonderful spring.  I know that I keep remarking on how pretty spring is, but it really, really is.  Take peonies for example.  They arrive every year, stay for about a week, and give us absolute beauty.  The smell is mesmerizing, to me.  We have a spot on our property where the original homestead log cabin once stood.  The cabin has been relocated, but the plants, trees, and shrubs that were planted by the generations who lived there remain.  There are ear trees, apple trees, lilace, lilies, and peonies.   We have to hike in to cut them.  By the time we're home, the ants have crawled out and are running up our arms.  Once in a vase, there are days of that the great smell.  Those are mine in the photo.  I love the creamy white, with the tips of pink.   Did you take peonies or lilacs to school for your teacher?  Maybe Lily of the Valley?   They were so pretty when we left home with the wet paper towel around the stems, but by the time recess rolled around, they were droopy and looking sort of pitiful.  It always meant the school year was almost over, and summer was on its way.

This week's Around My French Table/French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Lentil Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon.  Very simple, light, and delicious.  I knew I may have a sales pitch ahead of me.  Gary is no fan of lentils.   He doesn't know why, just has no particular love for them.  Plus, he's a non-olive guy.   I knew if it was tapenade, we'd be ok.  Just no whole olives rolling around.

The recipe calls for preserved lemons which are very popular in Moroccan foods.   Lemon are packed in the jar with lemon juice and salt for about 4 weeks.  The skin softens and they can be sliced, diced and put in recipes.  I didn't have 4 weeks for preserve lemons, though this would be a good time to start.  I found a great "quick" preserved lemon recipe my Mark Bittman.  It took three hours intead of weeks.  I don't think they were quite as tender as the long version, but they worked well.


First, the lemons are chopped then combined with salt and sugar, then placed in the jar.  Shake the jar every 10-15 minutes, and in the three hours, the lemons break down and have a preserved lemon quality.


The dressing is a basic red wine vinegar vinaigrette with grainy mustard and black olive tapenade.  What a great combination!  I think this would be great to drizzle over Salade Nicoise!



I added the dressing to the lentils while they were warm, and they absorbed much of the liquid.  The lemons, scallion and tuna really worked well together.  I added a little just a squeeze of lemon juice to the top with the salt and pepper.   It was a nice dinner, and no complaints about the lentils.



This recipe would be perfect for a picnic lunch on a warm summer day.  Enjoy!  Hope you can find some pretty peonies!









Lamb Navarin Printanier - FFWD

This recipe wraps up  the April collection of French Fridays With Dorie's recipes that some loved and some tolerated.   That's ok, everyone has something they're not crazy about.   Lamb Navarin Printanier is a lovely aromatic stew that is nice on a cool spring day, or a crisp autumn supper.  If you like Boeuf Bourguignon, this is for you.   But you'll have to have your wine on the side with this one. Earlier in the week, I called the local butcher and asked about the availability of lamb shoulder.  No dice.  He did have a leg of lamb that could be boned out, and cubed.   We talked about the amount, and I picked it up today.   My idea of trimmed and the butcher's idea of trimmed were very different.  I like the meat very "clean".  None of the silver skin stuff, very little fat, no icky stuff.   So I re-trimmed the meat, and ended up with quite a bit less than I had expected, but I'm sure that each bite will be good.    Here's another interesting tidbit.  In an article I found about lamb stews, the leg is not suggested because when it's braised, it can become stringy.  Yikes!   It was too late for re-do's, so I'll have to see what happens after the stew is finished.  I decided to make up for less meat with more vegetables.   I added two or three more carrots, one more turnip, and doubled the onions & potatoes.  That's just fine with me.   Most days I'd rather eat vegetables than meat anyway.  Here's the meat pre-trimming.

The recipe starts off with searing the meat.  Hmmm, I guess I forgot what lamb smells like.  Not bad, just not beef.   I didn't have to do a lot of rearranging or batches.  The meat had a nice even sear, and made lots of nice crispy fond in the bottom of the cast enamel pot.

The meat was combined with the stock, herbs and tomato paste and set to simmer.   I have a very cool item to tell all of you about.  This isn't an advertisement, and I'm not a spokesmodel, but I found something really cool, created by Michael Ruhlman.  If you make your own stock (which I usually try do, but didn't this time), and use cheesecloth to stain, here's just the ticket.  He has three reusable cloth squares that can be used to strain yogurt, stock or anything else that may need straining.  If you don't know about Michael, he's a great writer, and has several books.  The one I recommend most is Making of a Chef.  He writes about his education at the Culinary Institute of America through of the eyes of a journalist.  A great easy read.

My favorite part of the recipe was caramelizing the vegetables.  It took about 10 minutes, and they were glistening, golden and not soft as Dorie instructs in the recipe.  Here's a before and after photo of the vegetables.

We found some delicious fresh English peas in the store!  Just perfect for finishing touch.  I'm not going to serve the Navarin until tomorrow, so the peas will go in after I reheat tomorrow.  It's been awhile, but I'm going to bring it back to temp ala Sous Vide.  Using that technique, the meat won't overcook and or get rubbery like it might if I used a microwave.

The finished stew is delicious.  The  lamb tasted perfectly tender.  No stringy meat.  So go ahead, go crazy and use leg of lamb if you want to!

Happy Spring!   If you're looking for other great spring dishes, you might want to take a look at these for inspiration.

Warm Weather Pot au Feu

Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

Coconut Friands, Can't We be Friends? - FFWD

It's been a few weeks of recipes that have fans or foes.  Sardines, now coconut.  Sorry for the extremes.   For those who don't like coconut, this may not be your recipe.  For those that do, you'll want to read on!  This ones for you.

This little tea cake is packed with coconut flavor.  The recipe was quick, easy and used things you have on hand.  The coconut was in rather large flakes, so  I gave it a whirl in the food processor to make the coconut pieces more uniform.

The ingredients went together nicely, and the final batter was smooth, and shiny.

I used a pastry bag without a tip to fill the molds (the mini muffin tins).   A word on the muffin pans.  Be sure to really butter them, and add a quick toss of flour.   You want these to drop out right away when they come out of the oven.

The friands took all twenty minutes in my oven.  I was waiting for them to brown, but they only browned around the edges and sides.  The toothpick came out clean, so I was sure they were fully baked.  The finished product was delicious.  Even better after cooling a few minutes.  Think coconut macaroon meets a madeleine.  Sweet, chewy outside, and tender middle.   A strong cup of coffee and it's a perfect treat.

French Fridays with Dorie - Sardine Rillettes- Not scary, really!

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Sardine Rillette.  A wonderful quick, easy little appetizer spread. I personally like sardines. Growing up, my  mom doesn't like steak. If our family was going to have steak she opened a can of sardines, spread some butter on bread, and carefully laid the sardines side by side on top of the butter.   We could join her, or eat steak.   I always choose the sardines.  There was something about the whole ceremony that appealed to me.   When you open a can with a key, and carefully roll back the metal top, it has to be good!    I know not everyone shares my love.   This recipe is really worth trying to acquaint yourself with sardines.

The recipe calls for 2 cans of sardines, and other ingredients that you probably have on hand.  A little cream cheese, shallot, some herbs, and juice of a lemon.   Guests are coming?  You can have this ready in less than ten minutes.   I used chives.  They're growing outside our kitchen door, and I try to use them whenever I can.

I was a Trader Joe's and found two kinds of sardines.  Some in oil, and some in water.  I bought a can of each to see what they were like.  Sardines are much bigger now than I remember.  I remember little guys about the size of your pinkie or slightly bigger.   They guys are big (well, little but big) and packed in like sardines.  Sorry, had to work that in somewhere!   In one can, the sardines still had spines, so I pulled those out.   I know they would have crushed, but just couldn't leave it in.  Here are the two cans side by side.

Some chopping and snipping and the ingredients were ready to combine.

The sardines easily combined with a fork.  The final preparation is a lot like a simple tuna salad.  It would be really nice piped into the little puff, or a cherry tomato.    Hope you'll give it a try!

Next Tuesday is a lovely lemon cake by Julia.  Love lemons.  Talk to you soon!


St. Germain des Pres Onion Biscuits - FFWD

Spring is in the air!  The sun in shining, the wind is blowing, we have a perfect new grandson, it's supposed to be 50 degrees here today, and I'm packing for an island vacation.  Can life get any better?   I was thinking I'd need to sit this week out due to my schedule, but when I read the recipe I just couldn't resist.    I'm a Francophile, with a capital F.   I love Paris.   I love French food, people, cooking equipment... I could go on all day.   How in the world could I not make St. Germain des Pres Biscuits?   In this sentimental moment, I gathered some of my favorite equipment.    A sweet copper saucepan to sweat the onions, a great dough scraper,  some crunchy parchment, and I'm set. When you walk into Le Cordon Bleu on any given day the smell is something you'll never forget.   (thank you Mr. Proust).   There's a lingering smell of pate a choux from the pastry kitchens,  mirepoix and searing meats from the cuisine kitchens and with a note of citrus soap.  This morning, the onions took me to Paris, walking in the door of school, ready to bake.   Oh the butter and finely minced onion smell!!!

I used a slightly different dough technique to gather the dough rather than put it in a bowl.   I used the scraper to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  Then, I tossed in the onion, made a well, added the milk, then cut the milk into the dough.  Very quickly so I didn't work the dough too much.   A few quick pats and it was ready to be cut.   In my dreamy haze, I didn't preheat the oven to 425, so I put the biscuits in the frig while the oven got up to temperature.     I remember the Chefs telling us, "always work cold, bake hot".   Yes, Chef.

I used a cutter that was about 2 inches in diameter.   Perfect three bites!




The biscuits are light, golden, flaky and have a wonderful onion scent.  Perfect for an appetizer, or next to  baked or poached eggs.  Next time I'm going to add a few chopped chives, another favorite French flavor for color and depth of the onion flavor.

Be sure to read other French Fridays with Dorie posts.  Have a great weekend!





End of Summer Corn Soup - French Fridays with Dorie

Hello everyone!  I guess I accidentally took the summer off from FFWD.  The summer included fun vacations, our first season of pastries and breads at the local Farmers' Market, watching our mini wheat field grow, and best news of all... learning that we're going to be grandparents!   It's the beginning of the school year, and time to start cooking again.  This month's recipes look great and will be great fun to share.

Our friends had TWO children get married this summer.  One in Rhode Island, and one is NYC.   Luckily, Irene threaded the needle between trips and we were able to enjoy the best  both cities had to offer.   Meals included lobster bisque, rolls, and mac-n-cheese... yum (not all in one meal...)!  There are so  many great restaurants in New York.  After touring the Chelsea Market, we made reservations at Morimoto and enjoyed a feast of sushi and stunning entrees.  We had doughnuts at DOUGH in Brooklyn, and Oxtail Ragu in the Meatpacking District.  The travels were inspiring as well as tasty!

We've also been enjoying a great growing season with FoxCityFarm, CSA.   The box this week
included several ears of perfect sweet corn.  Just what I needed for this week's recipe, Corn Soup. It was a very warm day and not exactly a day for eating soup, but what the heck.   There was a lot of corn so I made triple batch of soup to freeze for later.

Here's the unpacked CSA box and the gorgeous corn.

The recipe calls for simmering the cobs in milk then combining the infused milk the the sauteed vegetables.  Here's the corn and cobs ready for the pots.

This  recipe, like many of Dorie's recipes, is simple, yet expert at bringing out the perfect flavors of each ingredient.

The cobs simmer in the milk to add a depth of flavor and texture for this simple soup.  Here are the cobs simmering away in the milk.  I used 2% milk rather than whole milk.   Remember, this is a triple batch.  The recipe only calls for three ears of corn...

Once the kernels of corn, and mirepoix have sauteed, the two pots were combined, then pureed to a beautiful velvet consistency.  Last year I had the luck of becoming the proud owner of a Vitamix blender.  At the time I found it hard to believe that  it would really make a big difference.  Wrong!  The blender sounds like an airplane taking off, and produces flawless results.  The corn soup was truly liquid velvet.  I garnished with thinly sliced scallions, and a dash of chipotle chili powder for a splash of heat.  We had the soup for dinner with tomatoes and crusty bread.  Then, the next day I served the soup as an amuse bouche in tiny glasses without garnish.  I didn't tell our guests what the soup was, and had them guess.  The guesses included celery, leek, and hmmm " I know this flavor so well, but can't place it".  The texture was so smooth and silky that the strong presence of corn was hard to place.  I would highly recommend this soup as a fall appetizer.  I preferred the soup without garnish, and just the dash of chili powder.  The best part was Gary's critique of the recipe... "Incredible"

Things go better with... Cola and Jam Spareribs!

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Cola and Jam Spareribs.  A curious combination and not one that I was immediately drawn to.    Ingredients include Chinese Five Spice powder, ginger, apricot jam, orange/lemon juices, and Coke.  Hmm, well... here we go!

The recipe was straight forward and easy.  We like ribs, in traditional BBQ style, so we were eager to try these as the aroma spread through the house.

Here's the rack on ribs rubbed with the spice mix and spread with the jam/juice mixture.

The next steps were easy!  Bake and baste.   The caramelization process was fun, and produced really nice color.  I needed to add a little more water and ended up using the entire can of Coke. 
After 2 hours, here are the finished ribs!

The meat was tender but not falling off the bone, and the flavor was interesting.  We decided you have to approach the meal as a variation on roasted pork, rather than ribs.  The Asian twist with the spices, and the sweetness of the jam create a nice flavor.  Gary liked the spareribs a lot, I thought they were fine, but not crazy about them.  I admit, I had fun cooking with fizzy Coke.   A nice accompaniment for the ribs could be Spicy Asian Slaw.   I made asparagus - overcooked - and a little past its peak.  It wasn't a perfect combo, but tasted ok.
While this wasn't my favorite dish, it was fun to try, and fun to share.  Next week's recipe is Rhubarb, a spring favorite.   Enjoy!