Monday, July 03, 2006

All's quiet on the kitchen front?

Not exactly, although you wouldn't know that from the number of posts. But I haven't spent as much time at the computer with M. home for a four day weekend. But, I have done some cooking and here's a quick preview of what's been cooking in my veggie kitchen of late. And I promise to post recipes later this week. :)

This was an elegant French inspired Saturday night dinner. Which ended up being quite involved. We ate around 9:30 pm ! But it was worth the wait. On the left you have homemade ratatouille (my own creation), on the right you have a tomato and gruyere tart and at the bottom you have herb roasted potatoes. The meal began with a goat cheese salad course, which we forgot to photograph! Oops.

I still had those six apples kicking around from our last CSA pickup, so I decided to try making Tarte Tatin, or a Carmelized Apple Tart for the conclusion of our French inspired meal. I've never made this dessert before, and found it both easy and involved. It was involved because of making the tart crust and peeling and quartering those apples, but once those tasks were accomplished the actual assembly and baking of the dish was relatively easy. And the results were very tasty - M. was quite impressed.

The tart recipe I used is from a wonderful book called Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. The cookbook features recipes from a restaurant in the Soho part of New York City which actually wasn't too far from where M. and I used to live. I'd like to say that everything I've tried from the cookbook has been excellent. It actually has BUT, I've tried the same recipe three times now! We just can't get enough of the creamy cheesey tomatoey texture of this tart. One day we'll branch out... maybe.

Provencal Tart with Gruyere Herbs de Provence

Notes from authors - In preparation for a picnic, make this tart the day before. After the completed tart cools on the counter, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to pack your basket. The tart crust recipe yields two 9-inch crusts. I par-bake (see below) the extra shell, let it cool, pop it in a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze it. The next time you go to make a tart, your pulse will jump with excitement when you realize you have a homemade shell ready to be filled - on the next sunny day your second tart will come together in a flash.

My notes - I actually froze the second tart dough wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer bag. When I wanted to make the second tart, I simply defrosted the dough, rolled it out and parbaked it.

For the Tart:

12-15 plum tomatoes (2 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/4- inch-thick rounds (We actually found 6-7 plum tomatoes to be a more appropriate amount for a single tart recipe)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 par-baked 9-inch Crunchy Savory Tart Crust

1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

2 large eggs

1/4 cup light cream

1 teaspoon salt

A few turns of freshly ground black pepper

For the (basic) Crust/Rosemary-Whole Wheat Tart Crust (the one I made this time):

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

3 tablespoons semolina flour/1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt/same

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes/same

3 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening/same

A glass of ice water/same

/1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

9" tart pan with removable bottom.

To Prepare the Crust:

1. Position oven racks so that one is in the center and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Put the flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse a couple of times just to integrate the flours and salt.

3. Add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until the mixture forms little balls, like moist crumbs, and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. You have to pulse, not run, the food processor. The worst thing that can happen at this stage of the crust-making game is for the flours and fats to come together into a paste.

4. Remove the blade from the food processor and dump the dough crumbs into a big bowl. Add chopped rosemary if making rosemary-whole wheat variation. Fill a tablespoon with ice water and sprinkle over the surface of the dough. Repeat with 3 more tablespoons.

5. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to bring the dough together into a ball, adding more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should be just past crumbly, but holding together. You don't want it to be so wet that it sticks together or turns white in color.

6. Cut the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Press each half with the palm of your hand to form a disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

7. Roll out 1 disk of dough to 1/4 inch thick. Fit it into your tart pan and chill for 30 minutes. Then use the tines of a fork to prick holes over the bottom of the tart. Line the dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans.

8. Place the tart shell on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights from the pan. Return it to the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown and toasted all over, 5-10 more minutes for a par-baked tart shell. For a fully baked tart shell, bake for another 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until it's golden brown all over.

9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool. Can be prepared a day in advance. Cover and keep at room temperature.

To prepare the tart:

1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put the tomato slices in a colander, and place it in the sink. Let the tomatoes sit for 15 minutes to drain off any excess liquid.

3. Spread the mustard evenly over the tart shell with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cheese over the mustard, and sprinkle the herbes de Provence over the cheese.

4. Working from the outside in, lay the drained tomato slices in overlapping concentric circles, making sure the crust is covered entirely.

5. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, or a large measuring cup with a spout, to break up the egg yolks. Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper. This is your custard. Pour the custard evenly over the tomatoes until it comes to about 1/4 inch from the top edge of the crust. (If you have extra, don't worry about it; if you don't have enough, pour a little cream on top.)

6. Place the tart on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the custard is set. Set custard won't jiggle when you shake the pan and will be firm when you touch it. (The custard will also be hot, so touch it lightly.) The tomatoes in this tart may give off a lot of liquid; don't confuse this with uncooked eggs and accidentally overcook your tart. The liquid will evaporate as the tart cools.

7. Remove the tart from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Allow the tart to cool slightly.

8. To remove the tart from the pan, rest it on a big can. Make sure the tart is steady and balanced. Slide the outside ring of the pan down off the tart. Then place the tart on your work surface, and slide it off the bottom of the pan and onto a rim- less serving dish or a cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9-inch tart.

Caramelized Apple Tart
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything

Rich Tart Crust
(makes enough for a generous 10-inch tart crust)
Time - 10 minutes

Egg yolks and a little extra butter enrich this crust giving it more flavor and body than a typical pie crust. In fact, it's like a great big cookie.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into 10 pieces
2 egg yolks (more as needed)
3 tablespoons ice water (plus additional fourth if needed)

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in the container of the food processor. Pulse once or twice. Add the butter, and turn on the machine. Process until the butter and flour are blended, and the mixture looks like cornmeal (about 10 seconds). Add egg yolks and process another few seconds.
2. Place the mixture ina bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to gradually gather mixture into a ball. If mixture is dry, add another tablespoon of ice water. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap in plastic, flatten into a small disc and freeze dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
3. You can roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, usually quite successfully. Sprinkle both sides with a little more flour and then proceed. Or, sprinkle a countertop or large board with flour. Unwrap dough, place on work surface and sprinkle with flour. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few moments until it gives way when pressed with fingertips.
4. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. If dough seems sticky, add more flour. if dough gets sticky while rolling return to refrigerator for ten minutes before proceeding. Continue to roll, adding flour as necessary and rotating/turning dough over once or twice. When diameter of dough is about 2 inches greater then that of the tart pan, move dough to pan by draping it over rolling pin or folding into quarters. Unfold and press into sides and bottom of pan.
5. Before filling, freeze dough for 20 minutes.

Caramelized Apple Tart
Tarte Tatin
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Makes about 8 servings
Time - 1 hour

Author's notes - There is nothing better than tarte tatin but, to be its best, it should be made almost at the last minute. The ideal is to prepare it just before serving the meal, and bake it while eating.
My notes - Agreed. The tarte tatin was absolutely divine right after being prepared, although leftovers kept very well, and tasted great up to three days later. We did reheat in the toaster oven - microwaving would not have been as tasty I think.

6 Granny Smith or any other tart, hard apple
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
8 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces
3/4 cup of sugar
1 recipe Rich Tart Crust, chilled but not yet rolled out

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel, core and quarter apples. Toss with lemon Juice. Press the butter into the bottom and sides of medium, heavy, ovenproof skillet (cast iron works well). Sprinkle butter with sugar. Press apple slices into sugar, arranging in concentric circles and making sure to pack them in tightly. They will shrink during baking.
3. Place pan over medium-high heath. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until butter-sugar mixture has turned a deep dark brown. While cooking, roll out pastry. When apples are ready, remove from heat. Lay pastry on top of apples, bringing the dough to the edges of the pan to seal. Prick dough with a fork, and bake about 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
4. Remove tart from oven, and let sit for 5 minutes. Shake hot pan to loosen apples stuck to bottom of the skillet. Invert whole tart onto serving dish (being careful not to burn yourself as juices are hot). Serve immediately or at room temperature.

And finally, the potatoes. I took the basic recipe for these potatoes from Pie in the Sky

I would definitely make these again. They were low-maintenance (minus the shaking every ten minutes or so) and looked really cool. Although I only make a fresh parsley variation (it's what we had) but I think I need to press harder next time as many leaves fell off.

Cameo Herbed Potatoes


1/2 cup plus two tabelspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
2 large russet potatoes
About 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
About 5 whole leaves of flat-leaf parsely


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into a 9x13 glass baking dish. Add salt and papper and swirl to combine.

Rinse potatoes and pat dry. slice each potato into 1-inch thick rounds. Press a rosemary sprig or a parsley leaf on one side of each slice (the cut side of the ends) and place herb-side-down into the oil. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over potatoes and sprinkle with salt.

Bake until potatoes are soft and nicely browned, about 40-45 minutes. Shift potoes in pan every ten minutes to prevent sticking. When done, remove from the pan and turn herb-side up. Enjoy!I

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