November 21st, 2012 § § permalink
If there’s one thing missing in my life, it would have to be pecan trees. I remember when I would pick them around this time of year in Tennessee – bags and bags of fallen nuts, free to pick and eat. I’d eat one pecan for every two shelled. It was the good (and nutty) life.
Pecans are much more expensive than most other nuts in the Bay Area, so I tend to buy walnuts, but they lack that maple-like flavor that pecans naturally possess. Pecans are also easier to shell. I’ve purchased a bag of fresh walnuts and a bag of fresh chestnuts, and I’ve already punctured myself once trying to obtain chestnuts. Self-injury is no way to start a recipe. I’m waiting for a slower day to attack the walnuts but they look so monstrous compared to the thin-shelled pecans.
Pecan vs. sweet potato pie is another Thanksgiving dilemma I am always trying to resolve, which brings me to this leafy tart. It’s inspired by a pistachio frangipane tart I saw in Brooklyn’s One Girl Cookies recipe book. I knew I had to try making it with sweet potatoes and pecans – two pies in one! I’m a sucker for beautiful presentatiosn so I wanted to make something reminiscent of fall with bright orange leaves laying on earthy frangipane. It would be like eating an edible forest floor that was covered in magic dessert fairy syrup.
This is my first time making the dish, so it was not perfect. I didn’t poach the sweet potatoes enough – they were still rather hard and chewy. This is a fairly simple fix so I’m pretty stoked about making this centerpiece for Thanksgiving.
1 1/2 c flour
1 TB sugar
1/2 ts salt
8 TB very cold butter, cubed
3 TB iced water
1 egg yolk
1/2 c shelled pecans
1/4 c sugar
zest of 1 orange
Poached Sweet Potatoes
Juice & rind of 1 orange
1/2 ts cardamom
1/2 ts cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
1 c sugar
2 c water
+ Prepare the crust by pulsing flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter cubes and pulse until coarse crumbles are the size of peas. Whisk together ice water and egg yolk in a separate bowl. Add to food processor and pulse until dough holds its shape. Place dough onto a floured surface and work it into a 5″ disk. Wrap tightly with saran and place into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
+ Next, prepare the poaching liquid. Bring orange rind, juice, spices, and 2 cups of water to a boil then turn off. Slice sweet potatoes as thinly as possible. Mine were about 1/16″. I did not use the mandolin because the potato was too large and I had chosen them for the width of my leaf cookie cutter. Use a metal cookie cutter, cut leaf shapes out of the thin slices of sweet potatoes. Sometimes, this is easier if you turn the sharp edge up, and place the potato onto the edge. Roll your pastry roller over the cookie cutter like you would to cut a tart pastry shell.
+ Bring your syrup back to a boil and poach the leaves for at least 4/5 minutes depending on the thickness of your leaves. I only poached mine for two minutes but it was not enough. Allow the potatoes to sit in syrup while you make the frangipane paste.
+ Turn on your oven to 350F
+ Prepare the frangipane in your food processor by pulsing pecans and sugar for about 1 minute. Add orange zest and butter, pulsing until well combined. Add egg and pulse until mixture is well combined. If you like your nuts coarse, this could be finished by hand in a small bowl.
+ Drain leaves* from syrup and arrange them in a circular fashion on top of the tart. Place 3 pecan halves in the center of the tart.
+ Drizzle two tablespoons over the sweet potatoes and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate the tart and cover with foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
* The leaves should be very soft at this point… they will dry out with baking so do not hesitate to cook them a bit more. I’ve served this to a few people who did not think the leaves were undercooked, but you want to bake these with soft leaves that can stand a bit of drying out.
October 17th, 2012 § § permalink
Rare fruits create their own occasion, the kind that warrants a splurge at Sur la Table following days of thought experiments, a whirlwind of mixing, rolling, and the attendant short lived joy of tart consumption. I’ve spent the past month in such delights but hardly had the time to commit such felicity to an audience… until I bit into my first kiwi berry. They are quite expensive – at three dollars for half a pint they rival the costliest of berries but are worth each penny. That’s why I sent my boyfriend back to the store to fetch me three containers of the fruit the very next day. Did I mention they look like miniature kiwis and taste like flowers?
Kiwi berries are actually not the same specie as the larger, more familiar fruit, but their flavor dwarfs their larger cousin. The berries typically grow in siberian climates but have a tropical overtone. It’s stunningly floral.
I’m so in love with these, I’ve considered buying my own vines. You need both a male and female vine to fruit and they cost about $20 each…
Thinking about the shape of things keeps my mind occupied. This habit is especially true when I am in the kitchen.
That’s why I purchased a rectangular tart pan. The architect in me likes its geometry, an elongated rectangle, like a prairie house sitting in the desert or nestling in the slopes of gentle, grassy hills. I have a thing for long and thin.
While I am not oft to think of my food forms as architectural elements, I do like to vary them because it makes serving the same types of dish more amusing: round tarts are usually cut into wedges and rectangular ones into smaller rectangles. Perhaps the difference is negigible, but pastries live such short lives.
Pate Sablee recipe adapted from Tartine
This is a more traditional crust for sweet tarts and are crumbly in texture, unlike the usual flakey crust.
1c. unsalted butter @room temperature
1/4 ts salt
2 large eggs @room temperature
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 Rosewater Custard Recipe (use only 1 ts. of rosewater!!!)
1 c. of kiwi berries, halved
+ In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and salt until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Add flour and mix until well-combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
+ Divide dough into four equal portions. Flatten each dough ball into a disk and allow to chill for at least two hours.
+ Remove one dough portion from the fridge, and on a floured surface, roll dough out into 1/8” thickness. Transfer the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides. Cut the excess dough with your rolling pin. Cover your tart pan and refrigerate until firm.
+ Preheat the oven to 325 °F.
+ Line your tart dough with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights – such as beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the shell(s) from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing pie weights.
+ Fill each shell about halfway with custard and bake until set. I place my kiwis into the custard about halfway through to get them to sit fully in the custard but in hindsight this was unnecessary – doing so made the kiwis soft.
+ Remove the custard from the oven and allow to cool. Top the tart with kiwi berries or other fruits.
+ If you want a glaze on raw kiwis, heat a few table spoons of apricot jam and brush it onto the berries.
October 1st, 2012 § § permalink
I can only imagine how many terrible childhood okra stories are out there… slimy, mushy, overcooked dramas that line the plates of discontent. That’s why I like to throw okra around my kitchen and see who runs away first. Honestly though, while most people carry these dreadful vegetable experiences around for a lifetime, I prefer to hang with adventuresome eaters who climb the mountain of plant phobias by eating their way through food fears.
That said, my experience tells me the best way to make amends with strange vegetables tend to be when they change their guises and make an appearance in something familiar like a cute tartelette. Anyone who runs away from a tart doesn’t deserve to eat animals because these tarts are mostly harmless – however, I put serrano peppers in them, so they might kick you a bit when you bite into them. There’s also a lot of corn in this recipe – it’s corny in all the ways you’d want it to be really – a corn crust you don’t have to pre-bake and fresh corn kernals!
Earlier this summer I had a great time grilling okras, but I also eat them raw as often as I can find them. Chilled, raw, and tender! Young, uncooked okras are less slimy this way and their crunchy greenness is refreshing compared to typical gumbos and fried okras. Additionally, my favorite sushi restaurant in this city, Ryoko, serves the best okra tempura. It’s so perfect, I don’t bother trying to make my own.
This recipe was inspired by Maria Speck’s Artichoke-Rosemary Tart and uses the same crust.
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 ts. salt
1 1/4 c. polenta or coarse grits
1/2 c. shredded parmesan ~ 2.5 oz
1 large egg, @ room temperature
1/4 ts. freshly ground pepper
1 c. yogurt
2 oz. goat cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 ts. salt
1/4 ts. freshly ground pepper
2 TB cilantro
1 corn on the cob, removed from cob and steamed
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 serrano, thinly sliced
1 c. tender young okras shorter than 4″, sliced @1/4″
+ Make the crust by bringing the water and broth to a boil. Add salt and dissolve. Slowly pour in the polenta in a thin stream while whisking for 30 additional seconds. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring at least every two minutes to prevent sticking.
+ Turn off heat completely and cover polenta for 10 minutes. Stir in cheese, egg, and pepper.
+ Grease your mini tart pans with olive oil or give it a liberal spray of non-stick spray. Dip your wooden spoons in water and distribute evenly between 7* mini tart pans (I just did two batches using 4 pans) – this is about 2.5 TB of polenta per tartelette. Press the polenta evenly onto the bottom of the tart pans.
+ After 15 minutes, fill a bowl with a bit of water to wet your fingers and press the polenta into the sides and bottoms creating an even crust. This part is messy, tedious, and rather fun.
+ Create the custard by mixing together yogurt, cheeses, egs, salt, pepper, corn and cilantro. Pour the blended custard into the tart pans, leaving a 1/2″ gap from the crust’s top. Distribute three slices of serrano peppers per tart and fill in the remainder the raw okras and slices of scallions.
+ Preheat oven to 325 °F and bake tartelettes for about 10 minutes, or until the custard is firm.