getting my bearings again

Sheesh, this has been a crazy month. It’s been so long since I’ve posted here I haven’t the slightest idea where to start. There was a trip to Orcas Island to scatter my grandparents’ ashes, immediately followed by a trip to Kansas City for a memorial service for my mother-in-law. A few great dinners with friends at which I took no pictures because it seemed too much like work, and a few meals cooked at home in between various outings. I definitely have some great stuff to post here but my brain doesn’t seem to working in a straight line (the 90 degree heat may have something to do with that). How about I start with our last supper club event?

Birch Bay

The theme was Tuscan family dinner. It was a lovely evening on Birch Bay, and we started with a bocce tournament, at which Jon and I stomped everyone until the very last game where we were soundly defeated. I have seldom met a sport better suited for playing while holding a glass of wine in one hand. The only downside of winning so many games is that we hardly had any opportunity to help eat the wonderful prosciutto and steamed artichokes that Jenise put out for antipasti. Continue reading

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savory

tart

Ever since I brought home a tub of leaf lard from Art of the Pie I’ve been itching to use some of it in a savory pie. My chance came this week, as we had a bunch of spinach from Frog’s Song Farm, a bag of mustard and kale greens from Blue Heron, and a wedge of fresh goat feta from Gothberg Farms. If that doesn’t say “savory tart” I don’t know what does.

I began by completely screwing up my pie dough. I usually stick with a part-whole wheat, all-butter crust for my quiches, but I wanted this crust to taste distinctly of lard. Unfortunately I added too much lard, especially given the warmth of the kitchen, and the dough became unwieldy. I ended up patting it into a tart pan with my fingers instead of rolling it out all the way. Then I prebaked it for a few minutes to make sure it would set and not just melt in the pan. It actually worked OK, so I got started on my filling. 

I wanted this to really be about the greens and feta rather than the binder, so instead of following my usual quiche formula I made up something a little different. I blanched the greens in salted boiling water, then squeezed the liquid out and chopped them. I mixed up two eggs, then added the cooled greens, some sauteed shallot, the crumbled feta, a dollop of cream, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I piled all this into my tart crust and baked it for a while at 375° – sorry, I wasn’t really paying attention, but I think it was about half an hour. Basically, when the egg had set and was beginning to puff up, I called it done.

We let it cool briefly, then carefully (as the crust was very tender) cut wedges and ate them with glasses of chilled rosé. Despite the haphazardness of the preparation, it was really, really good. How about that?

cranberry crumble tart

cranberry crumble tart

Here’s something a little different. I wanted to make a pie, but couldn’t decide what kind (pear? apple? brown butter cheesecake?), so I started flipping through a few baking books. What caught my eye was a recipe for “Warm Cranberry Crumble Tart” in The Art and Soul of Baking, one of the books I brought home from the International Food Blogger’s Conference last spring. Festive, seasonal and something I’d never thought of trying – perfect.

cranberries

In some ways, this tart is kind of odd. The cranberry-orange flavor is so strongly associated in my mind with turkey that I find it hard to remember I’m eating dessert. But it goes great with vanilla ice cream (especially homemade), which makes up for the fact that the tart isn’t very sweet on its own. The more I ate, the more I liked it.

Continue reading

asparagus tart

asparagus tart 3

One of my various jobs at work is managing the library’s collection of periodicals. This keeps me splendidly up to date on all kinds of important stuff, like Britney’s latest debacle or who’s crushing on who this week. It also lets me peek at all the food magazines I don’t bother to subscribe to, like Gourmet and Bon Appetit (full disclosure: I do get Gastronomica, Saveur, Cook’s Illustrated, Simple Cooking and Food & Wine (hey, F&W was cheap)). When the latest issue of B.A. crossed my desk I picked it up and flipped through it to get rid of the subscription cards, and was immediately caught by an article on things to do with all the vegetables in your CSA box, by Molly Stevens of All About Braising fame. Not that we get a CSA box (nearly all the farms around here only produce May through October). Sigh. But anyway – the very first recipe was a tart made with asparagus, whole-milk ricotta and comte cheese, and I instantly knew I had to try it.

After some careful searching at the co-op, we were able to come up with whole-milk ricotta, a small chunk of comte cheese, nitrate-free soppressata salami and a bunch of fresh, fat asparagus from California. I had a leftover sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry in the freezer, so that was taken care of. We also picked up a small pack of pork chops to give us some protein with our puff pastry.

pureeing ricotta and asparagus Continue reading