Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Tomato Tart

Here is something you probably don't know about me. I love tomatoes. I love anything tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes, cooked tomatoes, tomato juice (yes that's me ordering tomato juice on the plane), tomato sauce, tomato ANYTHING! I also love tarts. The flaky crust, the surprising fillings. I have many versions for tarts. Most of them have more than one vegetable in them. I decided to make this a one veg show. It's all about the tomatoes here.

Slices of fresh tomatoes layered with bread crumbs and seasoned farmers cheese, baked in the oven till crisp to perfection.
I never buy ready made crust. Not for pies or tarts. I really like the flavor of a freshly made buttery crust. It makes a huge difference and is really easy.

I love farmers cheese because its a blank canvas. If you have never tasted farmers cheese, it's very similar to ricotta in that it's very texturized, but its thicker. If you flip a spoonful of ricotta it will fall. If you do the same with farmers cheese, it will stay. Get it? And it doesn't really have any flavor. I think that's why it has a simple name like farmers cheese. The farmer makes it, you do with it as you like.  I seasoned mine with a little salt,  pepper and garlic powder. For this dish, that's all the seasoning you need.                                                    
The only thing I would add to this is some bits of butter. Because what I didn't realize is that farmers cheese doesn't melt and get all bubbly in the oven. It just gets browned and crisp, which is great but if this bubbled, it would be all that much better. Don't you think?                                                                                            
So as you can see its a layering of tomatoes, seasoning, bread crumbs, cheese and repeat with the top layer being the cheese of course.  You can use goat cheese here instead, but I feel that it gets too salty and steals the show from the tomatoes. What you want to taste when you take a bite is fresh and juicy summery tomatoes. I love the crisp topping. It balances out all the juiciness from the tomatoes, although this recipe does call for squeezing the tomatoes a bit before slicing them, so it's not too soggy.

Summer Tomato Tart
Serves 8

For the dough:
6 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (if you are making this with margarine, I recommend sticking them in the freezer as they don't get as hard as butter does when it comes out of the fridge. And you really want the fat to melt in the oven not on your counter)
1/4 tsp salt
6-7 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
6 medium vine ripe tomatoes.
1/2 cup farmers cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp for cheese
1/2 tsp pepper + 1/4 tsp. for cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Pre heat oven to 350.
In a bowl combine flour and salt. Cube cold butter or margarine and cut into the flour. You can this quicker with a food processor so that it pulses till its crumbly but still large bits of butter throughout, which is actually why I like to do this by hand. I can control how large my butter chunks are. Once the dough is coarsely crumbled, add the enough ice water to make a soft but sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
When dough is chilled, roll between two sheets of parchment paper and apply to a greased tart pan or pie dish. Cover the dough with foil and pour a bag of dried beans on top. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard beans. Bake again uncovered for another 15 minutes. In a small bowl combine cheese with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and garlic powder. Slice the top off the tomato and gently squeeze to remove excess juice. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Layer the tart. First put slices of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on bread crumbs and crumble cheese. Repeat layer.Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese and breadcrumbs are browned.

The Disappearing Salad

I am happy and sorry to say that this is truly the disappearing salad. Happy because it is tasty it disappears before you can put it on the table. Sorry because it disappeared before I could take a picture. The only picture I can show you, is the most important picture. The stars of this salad. The two components that absolutely positively should have been famous together like peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, hamburger and fries..... wait for it.....wait for it....

                   ORANGES & BEETS!
I know what you are thinking. Huh? What's the big deal? Oh yea? Have you tasted it? It's amazing what happens when these two meet. It's like watching the part of a romantic movie, when the man meets the woman's eyes, and their breath stops, and their heart pounds their chest as they near each other!

...OK maybe it's not that intense, but trust me you will love this. The refreshingly bright and sweet flavors of the oranges entwine with the more humbly sweet and meaty beet.
Look at those colors! That happy sunny orange. The deep jeweled magenta/eggplant. It's beautiful!

This is a great summer salad. And the dressing has freshly squeezed orange juice in it, bringing out the flavors even more.

The Disappearing Salad
Serves 4

2 bags of mixed baby greens (I don't know about you but I like to eat a lot of salad, 1 bag is tiny)
2 large naval oranges
1 can of beets ( I never buy canned, but the ones in the cans are smaller and uniform, making nice size slices for a salad)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

To prepare the oranges, cut a thin layer off the bottom so that it's stable. With a very sharp paring knife, slice off the peel, getting as close as possible to the flesh, careful not to take off too much of it. Slice oranges, and cut each slice in half.  Remove the juice from the beets and slice into rounds. In a bowl combine the orange juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Slowly add the olive oil whisking to incorporate. Add almonds, orange slices and beets to the salad. Drizzle with dressing, toss to coat.

Fried Carrot and Zucchini Patties

This is basically a latke. You know, latkes like on Chanukah? Is that the singular for latkes? latke? Whatever. Anyways, isn't it fun to sneak veggies like this into your kids? I know its fried but still! Veggies are veggies. This is really delicious because the carrots sweeten this up making it so scrumptious. You could add shredded onions as well. Even better, but I just didn't have the patience to cry me a river.

Shred the carrots and zucchini. But here is the annoying part. You have to put this mixture into a sieve to drain out all of the liquid. Trust me its a pain. Its messy and obnoxious to transfer from bowl to bowl as you have to do it in batches. But if you don't do it, you will regret it. The patties will fall apart as soon as they hit the oil and it will be a soggy mess. Plus if you do it over the sink, you wont have to dirty any extra then forget about what I said about transferring from bowl to bowl. See? You learn the steps as you go. Next time I'll do it over the sink. OK enough about my ditziness.

The eggs really pull this all together and the flour helps to thicken it and absorb some of the liquid. Strain the mixture BEFORE you add the eggs and flour. OK. Just making sure.

Test a little of the batter in the oil before frying. I don't know about you but I don't have a thermometer in the house, and I can't keep track of what temperatures for what foods. These are so good. Even better than latkes. And if you are looking for a way to make new latkes, add carrots.

Fried Carrot and Zucchini Patties
Makes about 12 patties.

4 Zucchini shredded(I scrub mine and leave the peel on but do as you like)
4 carrots peeled and shredded
1 small onion shredded
3 eggs
3 heaping tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable oil

Shred veggies and strain as much liquid as you can out of them. Place them in a bowl with eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Heat oil over medium heat. Scoop out golf ball size spoons of the mixture and flatten into a pattie. Fry in oil for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Cool on paper towel  lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Broiled Vegetable Sandwich with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

This is the kind of sandwich I was talking about in my post about Giadas panini maker, although this one I didn't put under the panini. (My husband actually took his to it though :) ) My favorite thing about this sandwich is the sun dried tomato pesto. It's so unexpected yet delicious. I love how people try to figure out what it is when they take that bit, or see that bright red on the bread. In the sandwich are my three favorite broiled vegetable combinations. Red bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Sometimes at restaurants, where they do a sandwich like this, they will add mushrooms, which I can see has a good intention, but it tends to make the rest of the vegetables brown, and they get pretty soggy. Another thing I've seen done at most places with this sandwich is that they use a melting cheese like mozzarella. I've tasted that, and it's great. But don't you think bits of goat cheese is so much better? Spinach leaves finish this off for the perfect and fresh on the go sandwich.

The veggies get golden and smokey under the broiler. I know I've said this before, but broiling brings out the best flavors in vegetables.

A good chunky sun dried tomato pesto that is packed with flavor!

Do I have to tell you how to layer a sandwich? Lol. I did it in this order:
Sun dried tomatoe pesto spread on the bread. Strip each of red bell pepper, eggplant and zucchini. Crumbled bits of goat cheese, several leaves of spinach. Voila!

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
2 jars sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
5 garlic cloves (less if you don't like it with spice)
1/4 cup pine nuts, or you can use walnuts.
1/2 cup basil
salt and pepper to taste.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until pasty. I like mine a little chunky, but pulse for your desired consistency.

Tuna & Artichoke Pasta Salad

I am not going to even start telling you how much I love pasta. So it's no wonder I love having an excuse to make a pasta salad. And as I told you in the previous post, I had guests last night. We were supposed to go to the park for a picnic but the weather turned so it ended up being at my house. A pasta salad is always a staple at any of my picnics. They don't have to be warmed and you can pretty much put anything in it! This dish can serve as a serious meal. It's got meaty tuna and artichoke hearts, spinach and cherry tomatoes. It's really delicious and kids love it too!

I love taking pictures of my ingredients. It makes me even more excited to create the dish.
Saute the shallots, and add the tuna, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and spinach. Let this cook on medium high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the tomatoes skins wrinkle.

Isn't food beautiful?
Pour this onto your cooked pasta. Add 2-3 tablespoons of marinara sauce and it's ready to eat.

Tuna & Artichoke Pasta Salad
1 box pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts
2 cans chunk light tuna in water
3 tablespoons marinara sauce

Cook pasta as directed on box. In a pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute shallots for 4-5 minutes or until lightly golden. Add tuna, artichokes, tomatoes and spinach and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and skins of tomatoes are wrinkling. Pour over cooked pasta and add the marinara. Mix to combine. Serve hot or cold.

Zesty Crumbled Feta

I love playing with Feta cheese. It's salty flavor allows you to add other dimensions to it, thus balancing it out in different ways. I like to buy block feta, cube it then marinade it. It makes the perfect starter with a good bread. This time I bought crumbled feta. I saw a crumbled feta recipe online but they used jalapeno peppers, and when I tried that, it completely overpowered the other flavors. So here is my version.

Place a whole head of garlic wrapped in foil directly onto the oven rack at 350 for about 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Squeeze the head and all the cloves will ooze out, a golden color. Yum. Place that in a bowl with the crumbled feta, red pepper flakes, fresh lemon zest and chopped parsley. I like the way the Italian parsley's lemony flavor combined with the lemon zest brightens up the flavor even more. If you don't like parsley you can use thyme, which also lends a citrusy note.

Can I stop for a second to admire this photo? Such bright and delicious colors. Remember, you eat with your eyes first!                                                                                                                                      

Add a drizzle of olive oil to the bowl. This will soften the feta a bit, so that its more creamy. Combine and refrigerate. I like to let the flavors mingle before serving. It really makes a difference. Spread this onto bread. I promise you it will be a huge hit. I made this last night for guests at my house and it was gone in a flash!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Broiled Eggplant with Pesto

Does eggplant taste bad with anything? I know it's a very tricky vegetable. Some people can't stand it, some people don't care for it and some  people love it. I am in that last group. I absolutely adore egg plant. I actually think that it may have been the food of royalty, although don't quote me on that because it's just a thought, and I haven't researched that. But I will get back to you on that. Fried, sauteed, baked, or broiled, this delicious, not to mention gorgeous, vegetable just tastes good in every way. I also love pesto. It's nutty and robust and garlicky flavor just seemed like a good match for my dear eggplant. Sizzling under the broiler, the eggplant gets juicy and caramelized bringing out it's most intense flavors. The pesto enhances the eggplants earthy flavors and contributes an extra sparkle to this fantastic dish. Here's how its done.

Slice the eggplant lengthwise and place them on a greased baking sheet. Get out the olive oil. Only olive oil will do here, because the point is to add as much flavor. Plus this is a Mediterranean dish, and vegetable oil just isn't right.

Brush each slice with a generous, and I mean generous amount of olive oil. Eggplant meaty flesh is like a big sponge and if you don't put enough oil in it, it will just dry into its flesh. Get all the sides too, because they get crispy making it even more delectable.                                                                                                          

Place the pan under the broiler, (highest you can on an oven rack) for 10 minutes. Do NOT walk away. Take them out when they are beginning to get lightly golden.
Time for the pesto.

I like a lot but you can put as much or as little as you like. Spoon on the pesto in a rustic manner. It doesn't have to touch every corner, but spread it around.

Place the eggplant back into the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute. No longer or the pesto will dry out and burn.

And here is my little surprise. Why not make this even more sinful but sprinkling on some Parmesiano Reggiano. I'm such a bad girl. I know. Don't you love it?

Look at all those fluffy flakes of Parmesan cheese. Floating down onto the bubbly hot eggplant and pesto. Slowly melting in and merging with their flavors. It's dancing. They're dancing. Trust me. I know. I tasted it.

Don't tell me you aren't hungry by looking at this. A beautiful dish that gets even better when you take that first juicy, tangy bite.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So now that I have a food blog...

So now that I have a food blog I get to share with you all the things I absolutely love and crave and wished before I could scream it to the world. If you know me, you know I can get pretty passionate and dramatic about the littlest things. And this may be one of them. In 2010 my idol chef started a line with Target. Giada De Laurentiis has had me glued to the screen since I fell in love with cooking 7 years ago, when I met my husband. Not only is her show filmed in the most beautiful way possible, but the food she's making is ridiculously easy and gourmet. Plus most of it, even lots of her pasta dishes, can be called healthy. I love that. Anyways, I can go on all day about GDL, but back to Target. Here are few of her products that I absolutely crave and love!

The Panini Press
I love this piece. It's red enamel is so clean and modern but the fact that it's the ones with the lid press, makes it a little traditional, and that's exactly what Giada is about. I have a panini press with a hinged lid, but I like the idea of doing it myself. That's what I love about cooking; its not just about the result, it's every step of the process that I love. I'm the girl who buys the fresh green beans and sits for an hour and trims them myself!

Giada is famous for her incredible paninis. I am constantly making them as a snack for my husband, and I love that you can make delicious ones with a great selection of vegetables. I want this!

Sicilian Sea Salt with Fresh Lemon Zest
If you think Giada is just another chef that smacks her name onto products, that are labeled with false and fancy names, you are so wrong. This Sicilian sea salt is definitely straight from Sicily, and I am so sure she taste tested different local sea salts before selecting the perfect one. And the lemon zest? Totally her own idea! It's just so Giada. This is the perfect way to add the finishing touch on a great grilled fish or that extra zing of flavor to salads and veggies. This makes my mouth water.

I hope you enjoyed this non recipe post. Like I said I love everything about being in the kitchen, from choosing ingredients all the way to that first bite. So when I see a product or technique I'm excited about, I will definitely be sharing it with you! Leave a comment and tell me: WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE TV CHEF?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Garden Vegetable Frittata with Sweet Potato "Fries"

I think everyone loves a frittata. It's like a meal in one dish. And its universally satisfying. With two kids in the house, I love to make frittatas because its the perfect way to get a whole range of veggies into them without them putting up a fight. There are so many versions to a frittata but this one is my favorite.  It's got a rainbow of delicious veggies that I first saute to bring out their ultimate flavors before pouring on the eggs.  I like to add a good melting cheese like fontina to the egg mixture, but that's totally optional, and so are the selections of veggies. Switch them up for the ones you like the most, but the key is to get at least three different color veggies. I like purple onions, red bell peppers, asparagus and I almost always add mushrooms. To top it all off are sweet potato "fries", which I julienne and stir fry in a separate pan. It adds a subtle sweetness and crunch which is my version of hash browns for this dish.

Garden Vegetable Frittata with Sweet Potato "Fries"
 Serves 8

  • 1 large purple onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of asparagus tips
  • 1/4 cup chopped chive
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melting cheese like fontina or mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 small sweet potato peeled and julienned.
Pre-heat broiler.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a deep saute pan heat olive oil over medium- high heat and add the onions. Cook until translucent, stirring often, about five minutes. Add carrots, bell peppers, asparagus and mushrooms. Season lightly with salt to release juices and flavor from the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Add the egg mixture and stir to combine.Using a spatula or wooden spoon pull away the cooked sides to allow uncooked egg to seep to the edges. Do this often. Add the chives and parsley. Stir lightly and cover the pan. Lower heat to medium and cook until set. Uncover and transfer to the broiler until cooked through and lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes. 
In a separate pan heat vegetable oil and cook the sweet potatoes, stirring often until golden and cooked through. Sprinkle over frittata and serve hot.

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars with Sea Salt

I have my issues with Martha Stewart recipes. Their "yield" is always a quarter of what it says or else her cookies are the size of dimes. The recipes are not all tested, which causes me to be very cautious of falling into her trap of making recipes that display gorgeous, tempting photographs. Some of her ingredients are pretty much ridiculous for the average cook. "Only the finest handmade chocolate from a village in Switzerland"... (OK I made that up, but it's pretty much that) Really? And lastly, I usually have to tweak the recipes with the thought in mind: "It's OK Martha, your intentions were good". Which brings me to my point. She has great ideas for recipes, but they don't usually come out as she says they should, unless you know where to add and subtract on your own. With that said this recipe is out of this world! It's one of those that I will only make once a year, because if I make a batch, I will eat it alone... in a dark that my husband won't see me. Too much?

This recipe actually does make the amount that it says it will. And it's actually one of the few that I didn't have to fix at all. Which is why I am posting it. I wont have to take responsibility if something goes wrong in your kitchen.

What I love about these bars is that their crust is so delicate and crumbly and which grounds the ultra sweetness of the chocolate caramel on top. But the best part is the crunchy sea salt that swirls around your taste buds to give your mouth an incredible sweet/salty experience.

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars with Sea Salt
Makes 16 bars.

For the Chocolate Caramel
  • 4 1/2 ounces (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for parchment
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 10 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the crust: Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter parchment, excluding overhang. Beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt, and beat until just combined. (The mixture is going to be extremely crumbly and you are going to wonder if there is enough fat in it. DO NOT adjust anything.)
  2. Press dough evenly into pan, (this part takes some work. Since its so crumbly you have to play around with it in the pan to get it to reach all the edges and stay together tightly) and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
  3. Make the chocolate caramel: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, washing sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, until amber, 10 to 12 minutes. (It took longer than 10 minutes for me, so don't panic) Remove from heat. Add butter, cream, and table salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Stir to combine, and let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture over crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. Run a knife around edges; lift parchment to remove whole bar from pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Trim edges, and cut into 16 bars. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

One Ingredient Ice Cream

Listen clearly. I can eat rich, creamy, NOT non fat ice cream every day and not gain weight. Jealous? Don't be. I'm having my "ah ha" moment and so can you. An ice cream so rich and creamy, you would swear it has milk, cream and sugar in it. But it just takes one simple healthy ingredient to make this baby. Bananas.

I don't know if this is really old or really new, but I don't care. It's simple and delicious.

There are three steps to this recipe, if you can even call it a recipe.
1. Slice bananas.
2. Freeze on a plate in a single layer
3. Blend in a food processor.
The result? A cool and healthy treat to fool even the greatest ice cream connoisseur.

BTW: My sister in law suggested I add candied pecans, and although this is famous for its one ingredient appeal, I think any pecans would be fantastic!