Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Caramelized Onion & Cauliflower Tart

I haven't posted a recipe in quite some time. While I'd like to tell you its because I've been traveling the globe exploring far off places, I've really just been busy with work and family. I was fortunate enough to get to visit San Francisco at the end of November and found some real restaurant gems that I could talk about for hours - - Scoma's, Wayfare Tavern, Waterbar - - just to name a few! All that and my husband got to see Alcatraz for the first time and visit the Mikkeller and 21st Amendment breweries. Come to think of if, maybe I should do an entire blog post dedicated to that trip if people would be interested. It was quite the foodie adventure!

Amazingly, the end of the year is fast approaching so in the midst of the busy holiday season I wanted to share one of my all time favorite dishes that is perfect for Christmas and New Year's guests. Delicious eaten warm out of the oven or at room temperature this tart is absolutely decadent. It's also a show stopper. It is one of the dishes I get asked about most frequently from people who I've made it for, and it has garnered favor with everyone from young children to my parent's retirement community of friends. How's that for range?  If you're looking for something special to make this year to really wow your family and friends, this would certainly fit the bill.

You want to see those roasted brown nuggets of goodness! 
To get started, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Scatter the cauliflower onto a rimmed sheet pan and toss with several tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the cauliflower over and continue roasting until it is brown and tender. This will depend on your oven and the size you chopped the flowerets so just keep an eye on it. Once its done cooking, remove it from the oven. The original recipe calls for a drizzle of truffle oil and/or truffle salt when you remove it from the oven, but if you don't want to splurge to buy that or don't care for the flavor you can certainly leave it off.  After you take out the cauliflower, reduce the temperature to 350°F.

The blind baked crust is cooling and ready for
the delicious filling.
A close up for how you should slice the
onion.  Its a bit different than the norm.
While the cauliflower is getting all roasted and delicious, I encourage you to try your hand at making the tart crust.  If you don't have time or the inclination, then by all means use a store bought crust. No one will care and it will still be delicious. If you are using a store bought crust, press it onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan.  If you have one with a removable bottom, that would work nicely for presenting the tart outside of the pan. Gently line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights (or dried beans) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake again until the crust is golden, about 5 more minutes. If it puffs up a little bit that is ok, just press it back down gently when you remove it from the oven. All that fuss is called blind baking. It's going to ensure the crust doesn't get soggy when you add the wet filling later on. (If you make the crust recipe listed below, you do NOT need to blind bake it.) Once blind baked, allow the crust to cool.

You will start to see the onion
brown slowly.  Be patient!
To caramelize the onions, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. I love to use my stainless steel skillet when making these onions. You don't need a non-stick surface and it helps with the color and browning you are looking for. But any large heavy skillet will work. Add the thinly sliced onion, season with salt and pepper and then cook until it becomes a dark golden brown color. You will want to stir it occasionally to keep it from getting too dark in places. I find this process takes anywhere from 30 - 40 minutes depending on the size of the onion I'm using and the heat level of the pan. Once cooked, allow them to cool slightly.

The finished caramelized onion
goodness.  Mmmmm!
Spread or brush the bottom and sides of the crust evenly with the mustard. Sprinkle the cooked onions over the crust and then place the cooked cauliflower on top of the onion. When you bake the tart, be sure to set it on top of a sheet pan so if it leaks you don't have a mess on your hands. Whisk the eggs, mascarpone, cream, and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the Gruyère. Once well combined, you are going to pour this mixture over the fillings in the tart pan and sprinkle liberally with the Parmesan. Pour slowly so the mixture can work its way into the nooks and crannies of all of the filling. Don't overfill the shell.  If you have too much of the custard mixture don't force it. Bake until it is golden on top and the center is completely set, 35-45 minutes. 

You can serve it after it has cooled slightly all the way to room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers covered tightly with plastic wrap or in tupperware.  If you decide to give it a try, let me know what you (and your guests) think.  Or maybe wait and make it after the mad rush of the holidays are over when you can enjoy it solo as a special treat.  Either way, you can't go wrong.

Caramelized Onion & Cauliflower Tart
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appetite, 2007
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small flowerets
Olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 (8- ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)
1 refrigerated pie crust or a homemade tart shell (recipe below)

Savory Tart Shell - recipe from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny pieces. Add the egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. I usually find that I have to dump it out onto the counter and give it some old fashioned kneading to get it to come together properly.  

Just when you think its a failure and you should have just bought a store bought crust, it takes the heat from your hands and becomes the savory tart dough you've been dreaming of.  Once combined, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press lightly to remove any air bubbles or gaps. If it breaks or tears, just piece it back together and mend the flaws.  No one will see them in the end. Clean up the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with a filling of your choice, no blind baking required.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Very few ingredients are needed to make delicious pickles!
I love my garden.  Even in years like this one when many of my plants aren't doing great, and the new varieties I'm trying to grow haven't been successful, I still enjoy spending time there.  Our elderly neighbor Barb was someone who could completely relate to my love of fresh veggies and homemade food.  I've never seen anyone love a radish as much as that woman! That's one of the reasons it was so sad when she passed away this past winter.  I used to share my harvest with her. So this summer just hasn't been quite the same.  

I decided to make the pickle "chips" this time and cut the cucumbers
 into coins.  These are great for putting on burgers.
I don't have the same feeling of joy I used to have when I found the perfect pepper knowing she would be sharing in the bounty, or appreciating the wonder that is a freshly picked sugar snap pea still damp from the morning dew.  In some ways though, I appreciate it even more.  I know how much it meant to her, how much she loved it.   And how amazingly lucky am I to have the opportunity to have the miracle that is a garden?  

One of Barb's favorite things (aside from radishes!) were my Garlic Dill refrigerator pickles.  I still have her handwritten note that she stuffed into one of the empty jars she returned to me where she told me that these were the best pickles she'd ever had.  The plastic bag hanging on the back handle of the screen door as if to say, "more please".  Man, I am going to miss that sweet lady.  I will never forget her, and now every time I make these pickles I think of Barb and her love of nature and gardening.  

I add extra garlic cloves that are delicious served with
the pickles as a garnish on meat and cheese boards
I've tweaked this recipe a bit since I started making them a few years ago.  It's flexibility is one of the things I love so much about it.  When I made them for Barb, I went easy on the heat and just used a few slices of jalapeños so it wasn't overpowering.  For my husband and I, some of the batches are super fiery.  It all depends on what you like and the mood you're in.  If you have fresh dill on hand then by all means use that.  I've even done a combination of the dried and fresh. Honestly, it's pretty hard to mess these babies up.  

The first thing you do is wash and slice the cucumbers. You can cut them in traditional spears or into coins.  Barb taught me a great tip - - you have to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber (opposite of the stem) to ensure you get crisp and crunchy pickles.  The enzymes in the blossom can lead to soggy pickles.  In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer. 

Arrange the cleaned and dried jars on the counter and dole out the spices and garlic to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don't want to damage the cucumbers, but you do want them packed tight.  I like to transfer the hot brine to a measuring cup that has a pour spout.  Then pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch headspace.  Pour slowly so the liquid has time to seep down into the nooks and crannies of the jar. Tap jars gently on countertop to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.  Apply lids and let jars cool on the counter. 

You can see how tightly I layer in the slices in
this picture.  You want to fit as many as you can
without crushing them.  
When they've returned to room temperature, turn them over carefully to distribute the spices and place the jars in refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 48 hours before eating (if you can resist!) Because these aren't preserved or boiled they must stay in refrigeration at all times.  I use this same recipe for pickled Jalapeños and Serrano peppers.  I  leave out the red pepper flake when making those so the flavor of the hot peppers can stand on their own.   

These pickles have always been one of my favorite things to make and now they will forever be tied in my heart to my special neighbor.  This one's for you Barb!  

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles
(Makes 3 pints)
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp pickling salt (If you use Kosher use heaping Tbsps)
6 - 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half if very large (2-3 per jar)
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper (divided equally)
3 tsp dill seed (divided equally) or use fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns (divided equally)
1 jalapeño or serrano, sliced (optional)

The delicious finished product after the brine has been added and the lids applied.
I use both the traditional screw top jars as well as the Weck jars with the metal clips.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Chili Cheese Dog Bake

 I ended up leaving out the can of black beans
you see pictured, and apparently forgot to
include the ketchup.
One of the latest social media fads that I absolutely love are those short video clips that demonstrate how to make a fun recipe.  The recipes usually involve just a few steps and the speeded up "how to" shows you how to make the dish.  I love anything that attempts to demystify cooking.  I could watch those videos for hours.  Like me, your Facebook feed is probably full of friends and family "liking" recipes or sharing them to be sure they can find them again when the mood strikes.  This particular recipe idea came from one of those video clips; as soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it.

My husband has very few "favorites" when it comes to savory foods.  He loves desserts and anything "donut", but if he had to choose just one guilty pleasure that was savory it would be Chili Cheese Dogs.  One too many late night stops at Steak 'N Shake in graduate school has positively imprinted his brain with the nostalgic memory I suppose.  :)

Just cutting these reminded me of being
a kid - Spaghetti-Os with hot dogs!
Like most of those video recipe clips, the concept for this dish is extremely simple.  You can make it your own in so many ways so take the term "recipe" lightly here.  If you want to watch the video that inspired my dish, you can find that here.  Since this recipe calls for a version of 'chili' I embellished what the original recipe called for.  Mostly because I had some red peppers in my fridge I wanted to use up and I like to season my chili with more than just chili powder.  (If you have a go-to recipe for a simple chili, just use that.)

In a deep skillet, cook the onion and pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened.  Add the ground beef and salt and pepper.  Cook thru. Add in the diced tomatoes, ketchup, sugar and seasonings to your liking.  Bring it to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes (or longer if you have time).  Just because this is simple comfort food dish doesn't mean you can't pay attention to layering your flavors.  The better the chili tastes, the better the overall dish will taste.

Pieces of biscuit dough, coated in butter,
parsley and cheese.  Use your fingers to
get it mixed evenly.
While the chili cooks, cut the hot dogs into coins and set aside.  Open the can of biscuits and cut each one into 6 equal sized pieces and put them in a glass bowl.  Add the melted butter, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, salt, pepper, parsley and shredded cheese. Mix until everything is coated evenly.

Mix the hot dogs into the chili so they
are spread throughout.
Spoon the chili into the bottom of your baking dish.  I used an 8x8 glass dish but you could use a 9 x 13 if you're feeding a larger group.  The layer of chili will just be thinner (or you can double up the chili recipe).  Add in the chopped hot dogs and stir them into the chili.  Cover with the pieces of biscuits, spreading them out across the top to cover.  You will have some gaps, but they will fill in as the biscuits puff up in the oven.  As I got to this part of the assembly, I thought it might be fun to sprinkle black poppy seeds on top to simulate the buns in a classic chili dog.

The puffed up biscuits covered in cheese
make the perfect crusty topping
for the chili and hot dogs.  
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown -- check to make sure the biscuits are cooked through - - and then serve.  This probably isn't going to be the most "gourmet" recipe you read on my blog, but I can guarantee that it is delicious!  And sometimes, eating those foods that remind us of childhood or fun times is the best way to relive those memories.  Enjoy!

Chili Cheese Dog Bake:
1 yellow onion (diced)
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes or 1 can sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Cumin
11/2 Tbsp Garlic Powder (separated)
1 tsp granulated sugar
10 hot dogs
1 can biscuits (pre-made)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
Fresh parsley (or dried if you don't have fresh)
1 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar or blend)

See the chili peeking out the sides?  Let it set for a few minutes
before serving.  The chili was less thick than I thought
it would be, but I think that was from the fresh red peppers I used.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

I'm so excited to share this recipe with you!  I would never have thought to try and make Crushed Red Pepper Flake at home.  And I certainly wouldn't have thought it would be so easy.  This all came about because I had such an amazing bounty of Serrano peppers from my garden last year and I needed to find a way to use them.

I pickled some of them, used them in guacamole, made tacos and many other traditional dishes that call for hot peppers.  I even placed a few in with my jars of pickled cucumbers for some added heat.  Even after all that I still had several Serrano plants weighed down with beautiful peppers.

When I came across this idea for using them to create Crushed Red Pepper flake it was a real "ah-ha moment".  Why hadn't I thought of that?  I use crushed red pepper flake in so many different recipes that making my own seemed like a super fun idea.

Such a beautiful vibrant red color!
So as the summer started to wind down, I gave my peppers a little extra time on the plants to allow them to turn from green to red.  Then I harvested.  So. Many. Peppers.  I was proud of my little plants for all the hard work they had put in.  And as I collected them from my garden I was even more grateful for the harvest knowing what I had in mind for the bounty.

I lined my sheet tray with aluminum foil to keep the
peppers from sticking as they dried.
Now, there really isn't a "recipe" per se since it is just one ingredient - - fresh Serrano peppers.  The peppers and some patience is all you need.  To get started, just cut the stems off the peppers, being sure to keep as much of the pepper as you can.  They are small so you want to utilize as much of the pepper as you can.  Cut them in half lengthwise.  You are going to use the entire pepper, seeds and all.  If you are sensitive to peppers you might want to wear gloves while you do this.  I find that if I just wash my hands with soap a few times during the process that works well for me.  But, whatever you do DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE!  I learned the hard way working with habanero peppers a few summers ago, and trust me it is nothing you want to fool around with. 

After being dried the Serrano peppers still
retain their color.
Once you have the peppers sliced, space them out cut side up on an ungreased baking sheet. Place them in a 175 degree oven.  If you have a "dehydrate" setting you can use that as well.  Some ovens have a "keep warm" option and that works too. The idea here is not to cook the peppers but to dry them out completely.  The length of time this takes is determined by the size of your peppers.  For my batches, I kept them in the oven for about 8 hours, shut off the oven and let them sit there overnight.  By morning they should be completely dried out and crispy.  If you pick one up they should crumble or shatter in flakes.  If they aren't dried out enough, you can put them back into a 175 degree oven again until they are finished.  I found that I had to remove some of the peppers that got done more quickly while some of the larger ones took more time. 

To create the finished product put the dried peppers into a food processor and give them a few quick pulses.  Be careful about the pepper dust that is created when you do this as breathing that in can trigger watery eyes and burning just like touching your face with the raw peppers.  Once the pepper flake is at the consistency you like, place it into air tight jars for storage.  I like to use glass Weck jars.  If you want to create a pepper powder (think Cayenne only with Serranos!) just keep on pulsing until you have a fine powdery end product.  You could also use a spice/coffee grinder for this if you have one.  If you want a more rustic texture you can also break them up in a mortal or pestle.

A close up of the final product;  I got enough from one batch
to fill two cute little glass Weck jars.
Once you have homemade crushed red pepper flakes the possibilities are endless.  You can use them in chili, soup, pasta sauce, pizza or different kinds of marinades.  I add them to meatballs and meatloaf to add a kick of heat, or sometimes I will add them to taco meat to add depth of flavor. The best part of making this at home for me is knowing it came out of my garden and not a jar that has been sitting on a shelf.

I'm already planning out my garden for this Spring and am excited to grow different kinds of peppers to experiment drying.  I'm interested to see what the heat levels are like in the final product depending on what kinds of peppers I use.  I think the jars would make great hostess gifts too!  I hope you will try this recipe and let me know how you use your newest homemade creation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Too Good To Be True - Flourless Chocolate Cake

On my favorite Saturday mornings, I often lay in bed and browse through recipes.  I try and come up with something new to try or something to experiment with and then head down to the kitchen to make breakfast.  Between the various food blogs I follow, the piles of cookbooks I collect and of course Pinterest, there is no shortage of delicious ideas.  But when I came upon this recipe for a flourless chocolate cake on Gimme Some Oven it stopped me dead in my tracks.  I couldn't wait to try it.  It seemed somehow, too good to be true.  I didn't eat it for breakfast, but this cake is so good, no one would blame you.

Eggs, butter, and chocolate.  How
could we go wrong?
With only 3 ingredients, you won't believe how easy it is to make.  That's right - 3 ingredients.  Eggs.  Butter.  Chocolate.  It's the perfect recipe to make for your Valentine to show him or her how much you love them.  Or honestly, just make the cake for yourself because you deserve it.  2016 is the year of self-admiration and positive thinking!

Be sure the bowl is microwave safe and
large enough to hold the entire batter.
You start by breaking up the chocolate into smaller pieces to help with melting and set it aside. If you're planning on using chips then you are all set.  I had a bag of semi-sweet chips and some Hershey's milk chocolate bars in the pantry so that is what I used.

Next, whisk up the 8 large eggs.  Beat them until they double in size, get pale in color and frothy.  In my stand mixer with the whisk attachment that took about 4 minutes.   While you've got that going, its time to melt the chocolate and the butter together.  This part couldn't be easier.  I just put them both into a microwave safe bowl and heated them for 30 second intervals.  Stir in between each interval until the chocolate and butter are melted and combined.

Nice and fluffy and frothy and
double in size.  Check! 
Take 1/3 of the egg mixture and fold it carefully into the chocolate.  Repeat with another 1/3 of the egg mixture - - being sure to fold it in gently and with love so that all that fluffy air you beat into the eggs doesn't get too deflated.  Add in the final 1/3 of the mixture and stir just until combined.  And that's it!  You just made CHOCOLATE CAKE!

Ok, I'm getting a little ahead of myself since you still have to bake it but seriously, how ridiculously easy is that?  How did I go almost 40 years not knowing that this was something I could have been making?  Live and learn they say, and then eat cake!

The melted chocolate mixture
will be smooth and shiny.  Mmmm!
Now that you have the batter prepared, carefully pour it into a springform pan lined on the bottom with parchment (or waxed paper) and greased on the sides.  If you want to find one for yourself, this Wilton Baker's Supreme Glass Bottom Round Springform Pan would be a great option.  
Don't be afraid to get the sides good and greased.  We don't want that baby to stick!  Smooth out the top of the batter so it is even.  Then carefully wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.   I know it seems strange, but the main objective of this step is to keep any water from getting into your delicious batter.  Once you have your wrapped pan full of batter, place it inside a larger pan (you want to have a little space all the way around it) and place it into your oven on the lower-middle rack.  I used a roasting pan that had high sides.

You can see the foil around the outside and a
small hole from where I tested the cake for
doneness with a toothpick.
Use a teapot or large measuring cup of boiling water and pour hot water inside the outer pan so it comes about half way up the sides of your springform pan.  Now you get the need for the aluminum foil, right?  I kind of rushed this step and ended up with a bit of water inside the foil.  It didn't ruin the cake but is something I will be more careful about next time. When you're pouring in the hot water be careful not to get water into the batter or to splash yourself.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is a water bath.  Pretty fancy, eh?

Bake the cake at 325 degrees until a thin crust has formed on the top and the edges are just starting to set, about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven, once again being careful of the hot water and remove the springform pan from the water bath.  Set it aside to cool and then once it has reached room temperature refrigerate it until chilled.   It will be much easier to slice (and not run all over the place) when it is chilled so don't try and skip this step no matter how loudly that chocolatey siren song is calling to you...

Just a touch of powdered sugar. :)
While you are waiting for the cake to chill you can be dreaming up delicious toppings.  I love the simplicity of the powdered sugar and fresh fruit but you could really go crazy if you wanted to.  Whipped cream, drizzled chocolate or raspberry sauce (Why not guild that Lilly, right?) or even candied orange slices would be amazing.  I can't wait to try this recipe with some flavored chocolate in the future.  They make all sorts of delicious bars now that are readily available, so the skies the limit.

When you are ready to serve the cake, remove the sides of the springform pan and invert it onto a piece of wax paper so you can remove the bottom liner from the cake and then flip it back over onto your serving platter.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with fruit or whatever toppings you like.  It's actually best if you let the cake warm up just a bit before serving it so if you get it out while you eat dinner it will be just perfect when you're ready for dessert.

The pure chocolate flavor you get from this cake is simply to die for.  Dense but smooth and fudgy - - really in a class by itself.  It's the perfect sinful way to celebrate this Valentine's Day, and with only 3 ingredients it's a nice reminder sometimes it's the simple things that are most worth celebrating.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

8 large eggs, cold
1 lb. dark, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks, unsalted butter cut into pieces

You can see I cut this piece before I sprinkled on the
powdered sugar.  My taste tester husband was a bit impatient. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Savory Palmiers with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Happy 2016 everyone!  I'm looking forward to another new year and lots of great recipe ideas to share with you.  What a whirlwind the end of 2015 was - - I think we have been either out of town or preparing to be out of town since Halloween - - so it really made the end of the year fly at lightening speed.  The amazingly unseasonable weather also meant we were able to be outside all the way through November and even a little of early December which was great.

Toasting them brings out
their nutty flavor. Keep an eye
on them because it is very easy
to burn them.
I am happy to be home for a while though where I can get back to my regular routine.  After all, I have a garden to plan for and lots of new recipes to try.  As always, if you have something you'd like to see me make, I'd love to hear from you!  Just leave a comment below or send me an email at framework1005@gmail.com

I used homemade but you
can find jars in any grocery store.
Buy ones in olive oil, they
have way more flavor!
One step outside and it doesn't take long to notice that the cold weather has indeed arrived and with it comes the need for warm and satisfying food.  This quick and easy appetizer is fun to put together and will disappear faster than you can put them on the table.  They are the perfect thing for a football party if you're looking for something a little bit fancier that you won't feel so guilty about eating (by the handful).  But honestly, I haven't met anyone who didn't love these little guys.  A warm plate of these savory palmiers and nice glass of wine in front of the fire might help you forget about the snow and ice at least for a few minutes.

Buy the goat cheese already
crumbled and it's easier
to assemble.  
This is one of my favorite "tried and true" recipes from Ina Garten.  It is one of those recipes you can adapt based on what you have on hand or what flavors you like.  It is more about learning the technique and then the sky is the limit.  Traditionally, palmiers are sweet and covered with cinnamon sugar - - think little miniature elephant ears for those of you who might have eaten those delicious carnival treats growing up.  But I like the savory version even better.  The buttery puff pastry and the tangy ingredients make it the perfect pairing for cocktails.  And since you don't need a lot of the ingredients these make for a pretty cost-effective treat as well if you want to impress without breaking the bank.  You can get double duty out of the remaining ingredients for a week night dinner without anyone being the wiser.

Fold each end halfway to the center.
Lightly flour a board or your countertop and carefully unfold one sheet of thawed puff pastry.  Roll it out lightly with a rolling pin until it is about 9.5" x 12". Keep moving it to make sure it isn't sticking.  Once its rolled out, all you need to do is add the toppings.  The only ingredient that needs a little prep are the pine nuts.  You need to toast them by putting them in a dry sauté pan for a few minutes until they start to get golden brown.  Watch them closely though because they can burn quickly.  Once you have that ready, you can being to assemble.

Then fold each side again until the folded
edges almost touch.
Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half of the pesto (being sure to get all the way to the edges), then sprinkle on half the goat cheese, half the sun-dried tomatoes and half the pine nuts.  Season with salt.  If you don't care for goat cheese, you can leave it out or replace it with feta or ricotta salata.  But it has to be a cheese that won't melt too much, which is why the goat cheese works so well.

A side view after it has been chilled
and removed from plastic wrap.
Once you have all the toppings on, you need to fold the puff pastry.  Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center.  Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch in the middle.  Fold one side over the other and press gently.  Wrap the roll in plastic wrap  and chill for about 45 minutes.  Repeat the same process with the second piece of puff pastry.  If you skip the step of chilling the rolls your palmiers will not bake correctly and they will be very difficult to cut, so don't try and cheat! Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and clean up your work space while you wait.

Work quickly and get them in the oven
so the pastry remains chilled.  That will
keep them from spreading too
much when they bake.
Once chilled, you can remove one of the rolls from the plastic wrap and cut little slices, about 1/4 in thick.  You might find this easier with a serrated knife. Place the cut pieces face up, about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat.  Bake for 14 minutes, until they are golden brown and delicious.

Some of the slices will spread a little more than others, but that just gives you something to taste test before you serve them to your friends and family.  They are great served warm, but also do well at room temperature which makes them a great make-ahead appetizer.  I hope you give these a try and let me know what you think. I'm looking forward to a 2016 filled with good food! Stay warm and best wishes for the New Year!

Savory Palmiers
[adapted from Barefoot Contessa]
1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup of pesto, store bought or homemade
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt

Golden brown and delicious and ready to be devoured! 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jalapeño-Cilantro Pickled Corn

We've lived in our current house for 5 years.  Our neighbor Barb used to live in our house when she was younger.  She's only ever lived on this street her entire life.  Isn't that just amazing?  She often shares history about the property or how things "used to be" when she was growing up - - that tree was a gift she gave her mother on Mother's Day, those Black Walnut trees were planted to help make money for the family during the Depression…just fascinating things to learn.  She is a pure treasure.

All the kernels removed
from the cobs.
One of the more interesting things we learned is that where I currently have my garden planted was where the old barn used to be.  To this day I credit the great luck I've had with growing vegetables with what has to be awesome soil and a foundation of years of horse manure!  I always make a point of bringing her fresh veggies from the garden or items I make like pickles or jams.  She gets so excited and is so gracious.  In fact, she discovered my husband and I love to grill sweet corn so now each time I bring her vegetables she brings over a few ears of corn for us from the local farmer's market.   She even puts hand written notes in with the corn thanking me and sharing how she used the harvest.  "I candied those delicious carrots." or "Best pickles I've ever had!"  I even planted an extra harvest of radishes this year because I know they are her favorite.  Sweetest.  Lady.  Ever.

I used a few smaller 8 oz jars so I could
give them to friends and family to taste.
So, anyway, back to the corn…. After about the fifth or sixth time she brought us the corn this summer I realized I was going to have to find some new ways to use it up.  That's how I came to discover this recipe for Jalapeño-Cilantro pickled corn.  It is such a delicious way to preserve the corn and it adds a pop of flavor to whatever you serve it with.  The sweet delicate kernels married with the heat from the jalapeño and red onions, combined with a recognizable cilantro backdrop - - it is the perfect combination.  And it couldn't be easier to make.

I just loved the bright colors.  So pretty!
Take 4 ears of corn (husks removed) and cook it in a large pot of unsalted boiling water until the corn is bright yellow and just cooked through.  Depending on how large the ears are, it shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes.   Carefully remove the corn (I used tongs to make sure not to splash myself!) and place it in a ice bath.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cobs.  There are a lot of different tricks to how to do this but I like standing the cob up (stem side down) on a clean dish towel and then carefully running my knife down along the cob.  The towel keeps the cob firmly in place and also prevents the kernels from bouncing off the counter or getting all over the place.  Once you've cut off all the kernels you can place them in the jars with the onion, jalapeño and cilantro.  Bring the vinegar, salt, sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Be sure to stir to help dissolve the salt and sugar.  Once everything is combined and dissolved you pour the hot brine over the prepared jars of corn and cover them.  Let them cool on the counter before putting them into the fridge to chill.

Lightly tap the jars on the counter to get rid of any air
bubbles that might be in the jars before sealing them up.
The finished product can be used as a garnish on tacos, grilled meats or fish.  Its also good as a salsa or just piled on top of crackers.  I've been serving it alongside my Charcuterie boards as a pickled item that cuts through the richness of the different cheeses and meats.  It would also make a great mix-in for summer salads with couscous or rice.

If it wasn't for my wonderful neighbor and her gifts of peak-of-the-season corn I likely would have never discovered this dish.  I'll never be able to express to her how much her stories and history about our home mean to me, but I know I will always remember her when I eat this dish.

Jalapeño-Cilantro Pickled Corn
4 ears of corn (husks removed)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
5 large sprigs Cilantro
1 cup distilled White Vinegar
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp granulated sugar

1 qt Mason (canning jar) or two 1-pint jars with lids