October 1, 2014

Ratatouille Tartine

"Ratatouille tartine" sounds fancy. But a tartine is just an open-faced sandwich. And ratatouille is a French dish of cooked vegetables.

Ratatouille usually includes eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and herbs. If there’s a “right” combination of vegetables and a “right” way to cook it (and given that ratatouille is French, I’m sure there is) then I don’t know what it is. I do know that almost any combination of vegetables piled on top of luscious ricotta cheese and crusty bread is going to be delicious.

I first made this in August. It was a perfect summer dish. Warm veggies on cool ricotta and grilled toasts.

I made it again last week. And now it feels like the perfect fall dish, with eggplants, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes all in season.

I'm guessing it's going to be just as good in the winter and spring.

Gather your vegetables. Grab whatever looks good.

Start chopping and sautéing. Cook a couple of vegetables at a time, so they have enough room to get tender and golden. Salt and pepper each vegetable as you cook it. I started with bell pepper and red onion.

As the veggies cook, put them into a large bowl.

Zucchini next.

Then yellow squash.

Finally, the eggplant. I like to do the eggplant by itself, to make sure it's completely tender.

Mix the cooked vegetables until they are well combined. Allow them to cool slightly.

To the mix of vegetables, add minced raw garlic and fresh thyme.

Then add uncooked tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta cheese with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This gives the ricotta more flavor. (And makes it so delicious you want to eat it straight from the bowl.)

Toast the bread or grill until it's light brown. Top with ricotta cheese and veggies. Enjoy!


Ratatouille Tartine

Recipe from The Garlic Press

olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 eggplant
1 tomato
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 pint whole milk ricotta cheese
baguette or other crusty bread

1.    Chop the vegetables, all the same size. (A small dice gives you a nice combination of flavors in each bite.) You can chop all the vegetables at once, or chop as you cook.

2.    Put olive oil in a saute pan. Add one or two vegetables, then a little salt and pepper. Don't crowd the pan or the veggies will steam. Once each vegetable is golden brown and tender, add it to a large bowl.

3.    Continue until the bell pepper, red onion, zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant are cooked. Mix the vegetables together and allow them to cool slightly. Add the chopped raw tomatoes, minced raw garlic and fresh thyme leaves. Add salt and pepper if needed.

4.    In a separate bowl, mix ricotta cheese with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

5.    Toast the bread or grill until light brown. Top with ricotta cheese and vegetables.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer or 4 for dinner.

September 3, 2014

Blueberry Crostata

Every year, the night before the first day of school, I make my son's favorite foods for dinner. He always chooses salmon for dinner. And this year, blueberry pie for dessert.

Usually, I take the easy way out and buy blueberry pie from Whole Foods. I say it's because they make a good pie that we all like. But the truth is that pie crust scares me. Cutting the butter until the pieces are just the right size. Not overworking the dough. Rolling it out. And then, somehow getting it into the pie dish.

Then last week the New York Times ran a piece about fruit galette. That's the same as a crostata, which I prefer to call it, because it's sounds more casual and less perfect. The article described the crostata as a good entry point into pie making. You still have to make dough. But you don't have to roll it out perfectly. Or get it into a pie dish. In fact, it's supposed to look rustic (read: messy).

So I set out to make a crostata. On a day that was 90 degrees and humid, no less. It took some time and effort. But it wasn't as hard as I'd imagined. And it turned out even better than the Whole Foods version  tasty, flaky, delicious. And homemade.

Start with the dough. Lightly whisk together the egg and heavy cream.

Then measure the dry ingredients. This recipe gives weights for the dough ingredients. That's a much more accurate way to measure, and it seriously increases the chances of success.

Pulse the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) in a food processor.

Add cold butter to the food processor and pulse until you have chickpea-size pieces of butter. (The butter pieces will look larger than you expect.) Don’t over process.

Drizzle the egg/cream mixture and lemon juice and zest over the flour/butter mixture. Pulse just until the mixture starts to come together, but stop pulsing before it becomes a big ball of dough.

Put the dough on the counter and shape it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least a couple of hours.

When the dough is done chilling, place it on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll it into a 12-inch circle. You should still see large chunks of butter in the dough. The butter will help keep the dough nice and flaky when it bakes. Don’t worry about making it look perfect, anything vaguely resembling a circle is fine. Transfer the dough (with the parchment paper) to a baking sheet and put it back in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling, combine the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and zest (if you’re using it) and cornstarch. Yes, that’s it.

Pile the fruit on the dough.

Fold in the edges of the dough. You can try to pleat them to make them look pretty.

Brush the top of the dough with any leftover egg/cream mixture. (I forgot to save the rest of mine so I used an extra egg and some cream for this.) Then sprinkle with sugar. A larger grained sugar like turbinado is nice for sprinkling, if you have it.

Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes. The fruit will bubble and the juices will thicken. And the pastry will be golden brown and beautiful.

Admire your handiwork.

Then dig in. (Around here, we’re partial to pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.)

Blueberry Crostata

Recipe from The New York Times


For the dough:

1 ⅓ cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp/15 grams sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg
Heavy cream, as needed
1 stick/113 grams unsalted butter, cut into big pieces
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

For the filling:
3 cups summer fruit of your choice (berries, stone fruit, figs), sliced or cubed if necessary
½ cup to 3/4 cup/100 to 150 grams sugar, to taste
Pinch of salt
Juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
3 to 4 Tbsp/25 to 35 grams cornstarch

Make the Crust:

1.   In a measuring cup, lightly beat the egg, then add just enough cream to get to 1/3 cup. Lightly whisk the egg and cream together.

2.   In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in a large bowl, pulse or mix together flour, sugar and salt.

3.   Add butter to flour mixture and pulse or use a pastry cutter or your fingers to break up the butter. If using a food processor, do not over-process; you need chickpea-size chunks of butter. (This is important. You want to be able to see large chunks of butter in the flour.)

4.   Drizzle the egg mixture (up to 1/4 cup) over the dough and pulse or stir until it just starts to come together but is still mostly large crumbs. Mix in lemon juice and zest if using.

5.   Put dough on lightly floured counter and pat it together to make one uniform piece. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

6.   Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

7.   Roll the dough out to a 12-inch round (it can be ragged). Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preparing the filling. (I rolled out the dough directly on the parchment paper. That made it easier to transfer to the baking sheet.)

Make the filling:

1.   Toss together fruit, all but a tablespoon of sugar, the salt, the lemon juice and zest, and the cornstarch. Use more cornstarch for juicy stone fruit and less for blueberries, raspberries and figs.

2.   Pile fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in (sloppy is fine).

3.   Brush pastry generously with leftover egg and cream mixture. Sprinkle remaining sugar on the crust. (If you have a larger grained sugar, like turbinado, use that for sprinkling.)

4.   Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling bubbles up vigorously and the crust is golden.

5.   Cool for at least 20 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9-inch crostata.

July 1, 2014

Grilled Corn Salad


My whole life I thought I didn't like grilled corn. All those warm summer evenings, while my husband was outside throwing meat on the grill, I was in the kitchen. Waiting for the water to boil. So I could cook my corn.

Did I have any inkling that I might be wrong? Maybe a few. Like the fact that almost every other person in the world loves grilled corn. Or that my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant involves grilled corn (though in my defense, that particular grilled corn is slathered with an insanely delicious cotija cheese, lime and butter sauce that I'd eat off a piece of cardboard).

But one day, a few weeks ago, I decided to put my prejudice aside and grill some corn. I have no idea why. And I'm not going to second guess it. Because I realized that I don't dislike grilled corn. I just dislike overcooked grilled corn -- which apparently describes most of the grilled corn I've eaten in my life. Grilled corn that's been cooked within an inch of its life is dry and tough and and shriveled and chewy and sticky. There's nothing about it to like.

But corn that's grilled attentively, turned every few minutes, and taken off at the right moment is a thing of beauty. The kernels are tender and juicy and charred and smoky.

Given that I have decades of missed grilled corn to make up for, I've been making it every day. Some days simply dotted with butter and sprinkled with salt. Other days kicked up with lime juice and cayenne pepper. Then yesterday I grilled the corn, stripped off the kernels, and tossed them with grape tomatoes, mozzarella and basil oil. Voila, corn salad.

Wow. Grilled corn. Who knew?

First, make the basil oil. Put fresh basil in a blender.

Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Pulse a few times to get the basil going. Then turn on the blender and drizzle in the remaining olive oil while the blender continues to blend. Check for seasoning.

Now on to the corn. Start with fresh corn. Buy it in the husk and don't peel it until you're ready to cook it.

When you're ready, remove the husk and ask many of the silks as you can without driving yourself crazy. (You'll notice that my corn had plenty of silks left!)

Place the corn on the grill over medium heat. Grill, covered, for about 4 minutes.

Then turn the corn and put the cover down again. You want to cook the corn about 12 minutes total, turning every few minutes to make sure it's evenly charred.

Cut the kernels off the cobs into a large bowl.

Add halved grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls.

Drizzle with basil oil.

Mix thoroughly and serve!

Grilled Corn Salad

Recipe from The Garlic Press

1 1/2 to 2 cups packed fresh basil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
4 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
8 oz small mozzarella balls

1.    For the dressing, place basil, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender. Pulse a few times. Then turn blender on and slowly add the rest of the olive oil from above (your blender lid should have a piece that you can remove for this purpose).
2.    Preheat grill over high heat.
3.    Place corn on grill and turn down heat to medium. Grill, covered, for about 12 minutes. Turn the corn every few minutes for even charring.
4.    Remove the corn and let it cool for a few minutes. Using a knife, remove the kernels from the corn into a large bowl. Add tomatoes and mozzarella. Stir to combine.
5.    Drizzle about half of the basil dressing over the salad, then stir to mix. Taste and add more dressing, if desired.
6.    Chill salad until ready to serve.

Serves 4 to 6

June 11, 2014

Chilled Roasted Strawberry Soup

I love cold fruit soups in the summer. There's something so fun and expected about them, like having dessert before dinner. What makes them appetizers, though, and not dessert, is that they're not out and out sweet.

The blueberry soup that I wrote about a few years ago (still a regular in our summer rotation) definitely leans more towards sweet than savory, with its strong hit of blueberry and cinnamon undertones. But it's not so sweet that you feel like you're eating blueberry yogurt.

This roasted strawberry soup is even more restrained. I add only a teaspoon or so of sugar. Just enough to cut any tartness in the berries. Roasting the berries intensifies their flavors. The sherry adds a bit of richness. And the yogurt smooths it all out.

Serve this soup very cold, in small clear glasses, with or without spoons. It's a really fun and informal way to kick off a summer meal.

Start with red, ripe strawberries.

Halve berries and toss with sherry.

Spread berries evenly on a large baking sheet.

Roast until the strawberries start to break down and caramelize a little.

Transfer the berries and their juices to a food processor. 

Process until smooth.

Add Greek yogurt to the food processor.

Blend again until well mixed. Thin with water if needed.

Refrigerate the soup until cold. Enjoy!

Chilled Roasted Strawberry Soup

Recipe slightly adapted from The View From Great Island

2 pints strawberries
3 Tbsp dry Sherry
16 oz Greek yogurt 
1 Tbsp lemon juice or Sherry vinegar if needed

1.    Set oven to 400F

2.    Wash and trim the strawberries. Cut the larger ones in half. Put them in a bowl and toss with the Sherry.

3.    Spread out the berries in a baking dish big enough for them to be in a single layer. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the strawberries start to break down and caramelize just a little bit.

4.    Scrape the berries and any juice into the bowl of a food processor, and puree.

5.    Add the yogurt to the processor and blend. Add a little water if the soup seems too thick.

6.    Refrigerate until chilled. Taste before serving and add the lemon juice or vinegar if the soup needs a little tang.

7.    Serve very cold, in small glasses or bowls.

Serves 4 to 6