Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rosemary-scented Caramel Pine Nut Tart

I try to go out to dinner with a couple of different friends at least once a month to try new restaurants.  A month or two ago I went out and had this tart for dessert.  When the server was explaining the desserts (which I usually don't order), I decided a rosemary infused pine nut tart had to be mine to try.  I like different flavor combinations and this one intrigued me enough to try it.  Not only was it very delicious it stuck in my head.  I searched the internet for a way to make this.  The only place that has a recipe is a recipe by Claudia Fleming when she worked at the Gramercy Tavern.  So this recipe is adapted from her cookbook The Last Course.  Though I tend not to make many desserts, I think this will become a cookbook that I use for those adventures.  

Rosemary-scented Caramel Pine Nut Tart
Serves 8-10

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup almond meal

1 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 sprigs rosemary (about 5 inches each)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Crust: In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar for about a minute.  Add the lightly beaten egg and mix together.  Whisk together the flours (white and almond meal) with the salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar and egg mixture.  Mix only until just combined.  Wrap the dough and chill for at least an hour.

 Preheat oven to 325F.  Roll the dough out into a 12 inch round which should fit into a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Trim extra dough and prick with a fork.  (I used a 10 inch spring-form as my tart pan does not have a removable bottom.)  Chill for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the refrigerator and bake for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool.

 Filling: Preheat oven to 350F and toast the pine nuts for about 7-8 minutes or just until starting to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and let the pine nuts cool.

In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Once melted add the honey, corn syrup and sugar.  Keep the heat low until the sugar is dissolved and then raise the heat to high.  Let the mixture boil, stirring to keep it from burning.  It will turn a dark amber color color after about 14 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream.  It will sputter, so it is better if you add a little at a time and keep the caramel over low heat.  If the cream is too cold the caramel will seize.  Keep stirring and it will become smooth.  Turn off the heat and add the toasted pine nuts, vanilla, rosemary sprigs and salt.  Let the rosemary infuse for about 15 minutes.

Wrap the outside of the cooled tart shell with aluminum foil.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and pour the filling into the shell.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dakos (Tomato and Cracker Salad)

I have mentioned before that I like reading cookbooks.  I used to preview the cookbook before deciding if I would like to invest the money to buy it.  However, I spend some time now reading reviews and making the decision as not all cookbooks are available from the library to read before deciding to buy or not.  Certain authors or blogs I trust pretty explicitly.  Sometimes I buy a cookbook, read some or all of it and never cook from it, but still they are valuable to me.  I think some people think I am crazy to own so many cookbooks, but at times the conversation comes to a recipe and I go get the book that I am talking about as I nearly always know which cookbook something came from.  Given that I have about 200 hundred cookbooks, I think that some people are amazed that I can do this; however, some recipes are just stuck in my brain and they get filed until further need of them.  All this leads back to the cookbook that I am dedicating to March.  It has been a weird winter with a bunch of warm days in January and now again a few days of warmer weather, so now I am craving all the summer produce.  This month's task is to get to know Plenty More by Ottolenghi.  I have cooked from his other cookbooks, but this one I think will be quite a favorite by the time we start getting all the wonderful fresh summer foods.

Dakos (Tomato and Cracker Salad)  (Serves 4)
This actually reminds me of the bread salads that Italian cookbooks offer, but it is a recipe based a Greek recipe.  I can image eating this in Greece as it has many of the components of a Greek salad (which does not have lettuce) while I spent a week on a smaller Greek Island.  This can only be better in summer, but it satisfied my craving for a salad just before Spring.

1 pound cherry tomatoes (find the sweetest ones you can), cut into halves
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used one with pomegranate in it)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3.5-5 oz. rye crispbread, broken into about 1 inch pieces or smaller
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese(the closest I have been able to find to Greek feta is the Whole Foods 360 brand)
5-10 black olives (I used Kalamata olives), pitted and roughly cut
4 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Put the tomatoes, red onion, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon) in a large bowl, mix lightly and set aside.  I let mine sit for about 30 minutes so all the flavors and get mixed together.

Spread out crackers in the bottom of a salad bowl (divide into 4 bowls).  Spoon the tomato mixture equally on top of each set of crackers.  Sprinkle on feta cheese, olives, parsley and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.  (Add additional salt or pepper if desired.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Brussel Sprouts with Chickpeas

Brussel sprouts are something I never ate as a kid.  I don't know if my mom didn't like them (which was the case with asparagus) or if they were not as widely available as they are now.  I remember eating them once when I lived in New Zealand, but I don't remember anything remarkable about them.  I don't remember hating them, now liking them.  But since I discovered how much I like them roasted, any other form of cooking them doesn't quite live up to the test.  I have had a different experience with chickpeas.  I like them in the form of hummus, but haven't found too many more ways that I really like them.  I did roast them once and I really liked the texture of how they turned out.  That being said, the method to cook these together was on the stove top, but I think both the brussel sprouts and the chickpeas would be better in the time I will have to do that instead.  (This recipe is adapted from Bitter by Jennifer McLagan.)

Brussel Sprouts and Chickpeas
1 can no salt added chickpeas (drained, thoroughly rinsed, and dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1.25 pounds brussel sprouts, outer leaves removed and cut in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle chickpeas with salt.  Set aside.  Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan with a lid and place over medium heat.  When hot, add the shallot and cook until lightly browned.  Add the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned.  Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken stock.  Deglaze the pan by bringing to a boil and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat and put into a bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Put over high heat.  When the oil is hot add the brussel spouts.  Cook until dark, but not black.  Add the rest of the chicken stock, then season with salt and pepper.  Lower the heat and cover until the sprouts are tender, but still crisp.   Return the chickpea mixture to the pan.  Check the seasoning and add the balsamic vinegar.  Cooked until warmed throughout.  Remove from heat and serve.