Folded Pear Tart

September 9, 2007

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You can make this folded fruit tart with our old standby, the oil-and-ice water crust. Just for fun, though, try a classic pastry. With 10 tablespoons of butter, it’s wonderfully rich. The technique of pressing together the crumbly dough with long, sliding motions is an old French technique called ‘frisage.’ You’re actually layering the shortening and flour in long, thin strands, which makes the crust light and flaky. It takes a little longer than the oil-and-ice water version, but it’s very easy and you’ll be amazed at the results. SAM

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons cold sweet butter
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

For the fruit filling:
1 pound ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
7 ounces dates, pitted and chopped (10)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fig jam
2 teaspoons cognac
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons light brown sugar or honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream

To make the dough:
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour and salt and pulse 2 times to mix. Cut the butter into half-inch cubes and distribute evenly over the flour mixture. Pulse until butter is the size of small peas. Stop the processor and sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of ice water. Pulse 1 second. Repeat 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is crumbly and sticks together when pinched. Turn out onto a marble slab and with a bench knife form the crumbs into a 12- by 4-inch pile with the narrow edge closest to you. With the heel of your palm, press away from you 1/6th of the crumbs on the farthest edge with long, sliding motions. Repeat in sixths until the dough is cohesive. Shape into a 5-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.

To make the filling:
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the dates, fig jam, lemon juice, and cognac. Stir until bubbly. Add the pears and cook until hot, stirring frequently.

To make the tart:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chilled dough between two lengths of plastic wrap, and with a rolling pin roll, roll it into an 11-inch circle. Peel off one piece of plastic wrap and flip the dough onto a 9-inch pie plate. Peel off the remaining plastic wrap and press the dough into the bottom of the plate, leaving the sides loose. Pile the pear-date mixture in the center, sprinkle with Parmesan and sugar, and fold in the sides, leaving a two-inch center opening. Pour the cream into the center. Bake for 1 hour or until browned and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream, heavy cream, or crème frâiche.
Makes 8 servings.

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Fig Jam

September 8, 2007

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If you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh figs, this easy, stir-together jam is a treat. The recipe comes from Emily’s friend Cindy, the gifted cook. She suggests serving it on breakfast toast or as an appetizer with Manchego cheese or any other tasty hard cheese. But there are other wonderful things you can do with fig jam. Tomorrow, we’re using it to sweeten a Pear Tart. YUM! SAM

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, trimmed and quartered
2 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

I a large heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the sugar and water, simmering and stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the figs, zest, and lemon juice and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until syrupy, 1 3/4 to 2 hours. It may not get thick in the pan but will set up in the fridge. Add the sesame seeds. Store in a clean, tightly covered container in the fridge for 1 month.
Makes 3 1/2 cups.


Fresh Tomato-Basil Gratin

September 7, 2007

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With this basic gratin formula, you can make any number of vegetable, meat, or fish casseroles. This version is a delightful way to finish out the summer’s tomatoes and basil. And, it’s bound to please any vegetarians you might be feeding. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds sweet onions, thinly sliced (4 medium)
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (5 medium)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon marsala wine
3 ounces log goat’s cheese
3 ounces water
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup torn, loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside. In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. In a medium chef’s pan over medium-high heat, sauté the tomatoes and bay leaf in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring frequently, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and reduce, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the goat’s cheese and water, stirring until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the onions, tomatoes, feta, goat’s cheese mixture, eggs, basil, parsley, and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into the prepared gratin pan and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 50 minutes or until browned.
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.


Raita

September 6, 2007

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Raita is a South Asian condiment made of yogurt, herbs, spices, cucumber, and/or onion. It is very much like Greek tzatizki. Because it is cooling to the mouth, raita is traditionally served with hot curries. You can season this basic recipe with cilantro, mint, ground cumin, and/or ground hot peppers such as cayenne, if you like. For serving with Curried Red Dal, though, I prefer the simple cucumber version because the dal has its own seasonings. SAM

PS I have read that in the Indian Ayurvedic healing tradition. cucumber and yogurt are not served together. Maybe some of our very knowledgeable Indian readers can enlighten us.

1 (16-ounce) carton plain yogurt, whole-milk, reduced-fat, or non-fat
2 (4- to 5-inch) cucumbers, peeled and coarsely grated

This is same procedure we followed for Yogurt Cheese. Line a 7-inch sieve or colander with two layers of paper towels, letting the edges hang over the rim. Place it over a large bowl and spoon in 16 ounces of plain yogurt. Fold the paper towels over the top, anchor with a small plate, and place a 5-pound weight on top. Let drip for 3 or 4 hours or overnight in the fridge. Meanwhile, place the grated cucumber in another sieve over a large bowl with a weighted plate on top and let drip for 1 hour. Save the juice in the bowl for thinning the Raita. Combine the Yogurt Cheese and cucumber, thinning with juice, if necessary. Serve on Curried Red Dal or as a dip.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.


Curried Red Dal

September 5, 2007

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Like New Orleans red beans and rice, this hot, spicy lentil stew is the ultimate in comfort food. It’s great in winter made with canned tomatoes, but fresh summer tomatoes take it to new heights. Serve it with Pickled Slaw and Raita, that cooling combination of yogurt and cucumber

, and bask in the compliments. SAM

2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced and divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound new potatoes
3 cups water, divided
1 cup red lentils
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 teaspoons hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted, ground cumin
1/3 cup marsala wine or dry sherry
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
4 cups fresh peeled, chopped tomatoes or 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes in juice
Sea salt to taste

Set aside one slice of onion. In a large chef’s pan sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon oil until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. In a small saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water. Simmer, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Rinse the lentils and place in a medium chef’s pan with 3 cups water and the reserved slice of onion. Simmer, covered, until soft and flaky, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf. When the onions are sweated, raise the heat to medium high and add the curry powder and cumin. Stir until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the lentil mixture, potatoes, black beans, and tomatoes and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until creamy, about 30 minutes. Serve over basmati rice or couscous with Pickled Slaw and Raita, or thin with yogurt, cream, or water for soup.
Makes 3 quarts.


Eggplant Tapenade

September 4, 2007

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Serve this addictive eggplant dip as an appetizer, and it might just segue into an easy meal. SAM

1 large globe eggplant
1 tablespoon water
1 large roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot curry powder or more to taste
1/2 cup tahini
2 tablespoons canned tuna, if desired
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt to taste

Cut the eggplant in half and place cut-side down in an 8- by 8-inch baking pan. Add the water, cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open, and microwave on high for 9 to 10 minutes or until collapsed. Microwave longer in 1- or 2-minute intervals, if necessary. Cool and scrap from the skin into the bowl of a food processor or a mixing bowl. Add the roasted pepper, olives, capers, cumin, curry powder, tahini, tuna, garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Pulse 5 or 6 times with the food processor or an immersion blender until roughly pureed. Season with salt. Serve with crackers, chips, or pita.
Makes 2 cups.


Summer Squash Gratin

September 3, 2007

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Summer squash is one of nature’s bountiful blessings. You can pickle it, sauté it, put it in everything from cakes to salads to breads. This simple gratin is crunchy and rich and wonderful, especially if you make your own breadcrumbs. It’s a great entrée for a vegetarian dinner, and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, you’ll have a ready-made lunch for the next day. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium sweet onions
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound summer squash (crook-neck or zucchini), trimmed and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 ounces log goat’s cheese
2 ounces water
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish and set aside. In a medium chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and continue sweating until translucent, about 15 additional minutes. Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan over medium heat, cook the squash with the bay leaf in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and sauté, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry and reduce, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the goat’s cheese and water, stirring until melted. Combine the onion-garlic mixture, squash, melted goat’s cheese, feta, parsley, and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until browned.
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.