March 27, 2014

Pantry Jam Tart

If there’s a snow day, vacation day or early release coming up, I know my son and I are going to bake. We usually go for cookies, cupcakes or brownies. The standard fare for a 3rd grader. I try to keep these baking afternoons in mind, making sure we’re stocked up on chocolate chips, brown sugar, or whatever else we’re going to need.

But this week I got caught off guard. In our town, every Tuesday is a half day. But this week, they switched the schedule. Suddenly I was faced with a long, activity-free Wednesday afternoon. And it wasn’t long before I heard “Mom, what are we going to bake today?”

I used Stonewall Kitchen's
Seedless Black Raspberry
Jam, which is my favorite
jam in the world.
We had the basics, but not much else. Instead of running out to the grocery store, we decided to make this into a little pantry challenge. What could we make with whatever we already had on hand? I Googled a few ingredients I thought might work well together and came across this recipe for Italian Shortbread Jam Tart. I printed the recipe and we hoped for the best.

This tart is essentially a giant jam thumbprint cookie. To say it's good would be an understatement. I've already made it twice in two weeks, gotten two requests for the recipe and have been asked by a certain 3rd grader and his father to make it again. Right away.

Oh, and I've taken the liberty of renaming it Pantry Jam Tart. Because I bet you already have all the ingredients you need for it in your kitchen.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add almond and vanilla extracts and stir to combine.

Add flour and salt and mix until just incorporated. (The dough will still be crumbly.)

Flatten out 1/3 cup of the dough on a plate and placed in the freezer. This will be your crumble.

Flatten the rest of the dough in a tart pan, pressing a little dough up onto the sides.

Place jam in a bowl and whisk to thin it out.

Spread jam over the dough. I found this easiest to do with a pastry brush.

Crumble frozen dough over the jam.

Sprinkle almonds all over the top.

Freeze. Then bake until the jam has melted and the crust and nuts are golden brown.



Pantry Jam Tart

Adapted from Food 52

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing tart pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup jam (use your favorite)
1/3 cup sliced almonds (chopped walnuts would work well too)

1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter tart pan or pie dish.

2.    Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add almond and vanilla extracts and mix until  combined.

3.    Then add flour and salt and mix until incorporated.

4.    Flatten 1/3 cup of the dough onto a plate and put in the freezer while you do everything else. This will be  your crumble.

5.    Pat the rest of the dough into a tart pan, with a little going up the sides to form a crust. If you don't have  a tart pan, a regular pie dish should work just fine.

6.    Spread jam around the top. Break up and crumble on your now-frozen dough reserves. Sprinkle nuts all  over.

7.    Now put the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

8.   Remove from the freezer and place tart pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the
      crust is golden brown and the jam has melted into a glossy lacquer.

Makes one 9-inch tart.

Note: This tart keeps well for 3 to 4 days, but I bet it won't last that long.

March 6, 2014

Creamless Creamy Vegetable Soup


On the one hand, I’m so ready for spring. We enjoyed our share of sledding, snow tubing and skiing. But this was one of the coldest, snowiest winters I can remember. I’m ready to walk down the sidewalk without slipping on a patch of ice. I’m ready to leave the house without snow boots, a down coat, hat and mittens. And I’m so ready to put away the shovels and ice scrapers.

But I’m not quite ready to get into shorts and a t-shirt. Blame the hearty stews. The rich pastas. The creamy hot chocolate. That “it’s okay, spring is months away” mentality seems really convincing when there’s two feet of snow on the ground. But I really need to be a little more grounded in reality when the calendar says it's March.

So what to do when the calendar demands healthier, lighter eating but the thermometer suggests that comforting winter dishes are still in order?

Start by making this soup. The creamy texture fools you into thinking you’re eating something rich and indulgent. But you’re not. It’s just tons of veggies simmered in water or stock and then pureed into a creamy soup.

Have a bowl of this soup for dinner. Or have a bowl right before dinner. It’ll fill you up so you won’t eat as much of everything else. Before you know it you’ll be ready for those shorts and t-shirts.

Just please don’t mention bathing suits.

Potatoes give the soup some substance. Other than that, you can really use whatever veggies you have in your fridge. Butternut squash, parsnips, turnips and cauliflower would all be great. This time I used potatoes, zucchini, carrots, leeks and a couple of tomatoes. 

Chop up the veggies and put them in a large saucepan. 

Add enough water, vegetable broth or chicken broth to cover. (I also threw in some thyme.)

Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

Use a regular or immersion blender to puree to whatever consistency you like. I like a smooth puree. But you can leave it a little chunkier if you prefer.

Serve hot.

Creamless Creamy Vegetable Soup

Recipe from The Garlic Press

2 potatoes
2 zucchini
2 leeks
2 carrots
2 tomatoes
(or whatever combination of vegetables you like, in addition to the potatoes)
1 sprig fresh thyme other herb
6 cups (approx.) water, vegetable broth or chicken broth

1.   Chop up vegetables and place them in a large saucepan.

2.   Add enough water or broth to cover.

3.   Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

4.   Remove thyme sprig (if using). Puree using an immersion blender or regular blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6 to 8