Monday, March 9, 2009

Rustic Fruit Tart

This was originally posted on my other blog last summer...

I'm loving all the fresh fruit available now. I tried making a fruit tart the other day and mmm, it was so good, and without the fuss of fitting the crust into a pie plate, covering it, crimping it and so on. This went together in a snap.

I got this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine - the August/September 2005 issue. Use your regular pie crust dough. I make mine with whole wheat flour - I like the nutty flavour, and it makes me feel like I'm maybe eating something healthy!

Roll the dough into a 14 inch circle. It's all right if the edges are a little ragged. Fold into quarters and lift carefully onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Unfold.Prepare the filling:4 cups fruit - I used plums and a few apricots. Slice them thinly, no need to peel.

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonToss everything together.

Heap the fruit in the center of the dough round. Then fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit, creating a rim about 2 inches wide. Work your way around the circle, pleating the dough as you go. Brush the dough with light cream and sprinkle with sugar - I used gold sanding sugar since I had some in the cupboard. But any sugar will work. Bake the tart at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Some of the juice is likely to escape, but that's okay. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream. Or maybe some custard sauce. Leftovers are great for breakfast!
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Chilled Avocado Soup

This is perfect for a hot summer evening. Cold and creamy with a hint of mint. I like to serve it in martini glasses (I've never actually had a martini - I tend to stick with wine, but I love the shape of the glasses.)

This can be made ahead, in fact, it needs to chill for an hour or so. It's fast and delicious. I found the recipe in the June 2007 issue of Country Living magazine.

1/2 seedless cucumber, chopped
1 medium avocado, peeled and pitted
1 shallot, chopped ( I used a slice of Vidalia onion)
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons fresh mint (I use a lot less, just a few leaves)
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (I prefer it without)
1 cup cold water

Throw everything into a blender and process until smooth. Chill for at least 1 hour. Serve garnished with a sprig of mint.
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Floating Island

In early January I hankered after a light and white sweet, and this was it. Delicious, with lots of texture - melting smooth crème anglaise, marshmallowy meringue, bitter burnt sugar sauce and crunchy sweet praline. Also known as Isle Flottante, in French, and probably Isla Flotante in Spanish. It tastes great in any language.

Although this recipe has a lot of steps, it's not difficult at all. Most of it can (and should be) made ahead, even a day or two. I spent a couple of hours puttering in the kitchen in the early afternoon, then did the meringues at the last minute.

Step One: Burnt Sugar Sauce

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
another 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the sugar and 1/4 cup water in small, heavy sauce pan, stirring once or twice until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat, not stirring, but swirling every few minutes, until the syrup turns a light caramel. Remove from heat and add the water mixed with vanilla. Be careful as the mixture tends to pop and bubble. Return to heat and stir and cook until caramel reached 230 degrees F (thread stage). Remove 1/4 cup of caramel for the praline (recipe follows). Set the remainder aside to cool slightly, then add the cream and stir until combined. This can be made ahead and then reheated slightly when you are ready to assemble the dessert.

Step Two: Praline

3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup of the caramel sauce

Combine almonds and sauce. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until almonds are toasted. Let cool, then break into small pieces. (I like mine quite fine and smashed them with a rolling pin.)

Step Three: Crème Anglaise

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
dash salt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until just hot. (Steam should rise from the milk, but it shouldn't boil.) Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar with the salt. Add a small amount of the hot milk to the eggs, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens slightly - about 175 degrees. The mixture should not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain mixture into a glass or metal bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper onto the top of the sauce to prevent a skin forming. Chill. (Will keep up to 3 days.)

Step Four: Meringues

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat 2 egg whites with a dash of salt and 1/8 tsp cream of tartar until foamy. Then increase the speed and add 1/2 cup of white sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla. Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet, forming 6 mounds. Bake for 20 minutes (they will be soft).

To assemble the Floating Islands, pour a puddle of Crème Anglaise onto a dessert plate, place a Meringue on top, drizzle a little Burnt Sugar Sauce over top and sprinkle with a bit of Praline.


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Roasted Carrots

The picture shows the pan of carrots before roasting - I'll try to remember to take a "roasted" photo the next time I make them.

Cut carrots into 1/4 inch slices. Toss with 1-2 Tablespoons of oil (canola or olive) and spread on a baking sheet. They don't have to be in a single layer, but not too piled up, either.

Sprinkle with coarse salt (or fine if you prefer) and some dried thyme, if you like. They are delicious with or without the thyme.

Roast at 420 degrees for 30-50 minutes, or until tender. Stir after about 20 minutes. They should begin to caramelize around the edges, but not get too crispy and burned.
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Sauteed Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

This is fast and easy - crisp asparagus spears and sweet cherry tomatoes.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium hot heat. Cut asparagus spears into 1 1/2 inch pieces and sauté for 5-8 minutes or until tender crisp. Add cherry tomatoes and 1 clove garlic, minced, and continue sautéeing until heated through.
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Baked Onion Slices

I love onions and these are easier and tastier than fried onions. They would be great with baked chicken or beef, or with a grilled steak.

Baked Onions

4 medium onions, peeled
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the onions crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them in a single layer onto a greased, rimmed baking sheet. (I lined mine with foil, then brushed a layer of canola oil on top.)

Combine the mustard, honey, salt and thyme and brush the mixture over the onion slices. Sprinkle each with the pepper.

Cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes or until tender and golden brown around the edges.