Friday, August 21, 2015

Savor Summer with a Savory Summer Tart!

Continuing my month of recipes that utilize the best the season has to offer, I must include this fabulous recipe for "Wild Onion and Spinach Tart!" I don't know if the title of this recipe gives it justice? Perhaps I should call it "Kick-Ass Summer Tart," because that's what it is! This recipe, that I was fortunate enough to run across, is from Amy Crowell of Edible Austin, and includes a fantastic "no-roll" pastry crust enhanced with Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper, a base of salsa- or jalapeno-flavored cream cheese, sauteed wild onions (I used leeks) and spinach, mozzarella cheese (I used Monterrey Jack), all crowned with home-grown or farm-fresh local tomatoes! The filling is light and luscious and packed with a wonderful melange of flavors! This is perfect for a light al fresco summer supper, along with a green salad, glass of wine, candles, and the wind gently blowing by! You'll LOVE it!

Wild Onion and Spinach Tart (aka., Kick-Ass Summer Tart)

Serves 4-6

For the crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup wild onions (bulbs and/or leaves), finely chopped, or 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (To clean leeks, see Techniques.)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups firmly packed spinach or other tender greens
4 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used heavy cream, because I had some!)
1/3 cup jalapeno- or salsa-flavored cream cheese, at room temperature (I mixed 3 spoonfuls of my favorite salsa to 1/3 cup plain cream cheese.)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (I used Monterrey Jack because that seems more appropriate for this recipe.)
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta, optional (I didn't use.)
4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 2 home-grown tomatoes.)

For the crust
In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, Parmigiano, salt, and pepper. Pulse to combine. Add in the butter using a few short pulses until the mixture contains pea-sized lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse, adding more water gradually by tablespoons, if needed, just until the dough is moist enough to clump together in a ball.

Hand press the dough gently and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10"-diameter tart pan. (I used a 9 1/2" tart pan and it was fine, no overflow of filling!) Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Into a fine-mesh sieve or strainer set over a medium bowl, transfer the mixture and, using a wooden spoon, gently squeeze out most of the excess moisture; set aside.

*To make ahead of time, stop here until ready to proceed.*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; set aside.

To assemble the tart
Remove the tart pastry from the refrigerator. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and the feta, if using, evenly on top.

Spread the onion/spinach mixture evenly over the cheese.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the spinach mixture. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top.

Bake the tart until the center is puffed up and lightly browned and no longer wet to the touch, 35-45 minutes. Allow the tart to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Confessions of a Cookbook Junkie

I wasn't looking for another cookbook...I already have a bookshelf full...but...I just happened by a bargain book bin and just had to take a peek! There it was, laying right on top, my newest resident to join my cookbook microcosm: edible: a celebration of local foods, by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian (cofounders of Edible Communities Publications)! Edible Communities, Inc., is a publishing and information services company that creates community-based, local-foods publications in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada, concentrating, of course, on eating local and seasonally. I was immediately drawn to this book because three-quarters of it focuses on stories about local farmers, fishermen, distillers, wine-makers, ranchers, butchers, chefs, and artisans dedicated to creating the best quality products utilizing local and seasonal ingredients. The remainder of the book provides a modest seasonal recipe collection. So, it's really more of a book than a cookbook...right?

Perhaps it was guilt that prodded me to make my purchase, I have two kids, a husband, a house to take care of, a garden to try to manage, etc....a real life. I don't always have the pleasure to eat only local fresh ingredients. As long as I can get my beloved harticot verts from Guatemala, I'm happy. I honestly don't have the time to think about where they come from, I'm just happy they're available. However, maybe I do care... After all, this year I'm growing tomatoes in large pots that are overtaking my deck, zucchini stuffed into the very corner of my yard, apples in espalier form, poblanos snuggled next to my basil and lavender, and my very own harticot verts happily swaying in the breeze! (Take that, Guatemala!) Apparently, I do like to know where my food comes from! So, this month, in an attempt to join the "movement," I am dedicating Dinner Night to my favorite seasonal recipes that utilize and enhance the bounty of the season, either from my garden or local providers!

My first recipe, courtesy of Edible Cape Cod, is for a fantastic "Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese!" Seriously, this is one of the best new recipes I've tried this summer! It is so satisfying with it's simple grilled chicken breasts, peaches macerated in Cognac and grilled, served on a bed of baby lettuce and goat cheese medallions, then topped with caramelized onions and a drizzle of honey! The creative combination of flavors is surprisingly delicious! I served it with a bottle of Barton & Guestier Vouvray 2011 (***see note below) and was absolutely thrilled! You have to try it!

Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

For the Caramelized Onions
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

For the Grilled Chicken and Peaches
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and halved (You better use local, if available!)
1/4 cup good brandy, such as cognac, optional
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (get fresh ones from your butcher, not the previously frozen abominations they sell already packaged...remember, it's all about fresh here!) 

For the Goat Cheese and Greens
2 cups local young mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1 goat cheese log (12 ounces) (I used 8 ounces and it was plenty), sliced into 12 equal rounds (Use unflavored dental floss to cut the goat cheese, it's brilliant!)

For the Caramelized Onions
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the cover from the pan. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown, 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Place the onions into a bowl; set aside.

For the Grilled Chicken and Peaches
If using the brandy, while the onions are cooking, place the peaches and brandy into a large bowl; toss well to combine. Preheat a gas grill on medium heat or prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper evenly over both sides of the chicken breasts. Lightly grease the grill rack. (I just drizzled a little olive oil over the chicken breasts instead.) Place the chicken breasts on the rack and cook for 5 minutes. Turn each breast over and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate, tent the plate lightly with foil, and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes.

Remove the peaches from the brandy and pat dry with paper towels. Place the peaches cut-side down on the grill. Grill until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the peaches from the grill. Sprinkle the grilled side of each peach half with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; set aside.

For the Goat Cheese and Greens
In a medium bowl, toss together the salad greens, oil, lemon juice, if using, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Plating the Dish
Place equal portions of the salad greens on 4 plates. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the honey evenly over the greens. Place 3 slices of goat cheese over the greens on each plate. Slice the chicken breasts on the diagonal, keeping the slices from each breast together. Fan each chicken breast over the greens and cheese on each plate. Scatter the caramelized onions evenly over the chicken. Place the peach halves grilled-side up next to the chicken and greens. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of honey evenly over the components on each plate. Sprinkle each plate with a pinch each of salt and pepper, if desired.

(The perfect bite!)

*** I strongly recommend a bottle of Barton & Guestier (aka., B&G) Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2011 to serve with this dish. It's floral notes, peach and pear flavors go very nicely and it's not expensive!