Chili Cornmeal Tart

This hearty dish has been a staple in my cooking for over a year, so I was surprised when a friend asked me for the recipe and I wanted to direct her here, only to realize I hadn’t done a post about it. Like so many of my favorite dishes, this is just a slight variation on a recipe from the Chef’s on the Farm cookbook from Quillisascut Farm School. I do the crust with whole wheat flour because I like the texture and I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream to cut back a bit on the dairy fat. The tart is listed in the summer section of the cookbook, as it should be with its peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn at the peak of freshness in the hottest months. Yet, the comfort food feel of the crunchy crust and cheesy interior lend it just as much to a cool, rainy day. I found the perfect happy medium the other day since Seattle unseasonable rain and highs in the upper fifties. I still had the warm summer produce, but I also had the kind of cozy feeling that makes this tart even more of a treat.

 

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Ingredients:

Crust:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 cup corn meal

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sea salt

Fresh corn kernels cut from one ear of corn (about 1 cup)

5 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup greek yogurt (or sour cream)

Blitz dry ingredients (including corn) in a food processor or mix with a wooden spoon. If using a food processor, add in butter and blitz until incorporated, then add in yogurt and pulse until dough comes together. If not using a food processor, cut in butter by hand and then mix in yogurt. Either way, form dough into a ball and chill in fridge at least 30 mins before using.

Filling:

5 medium poblano or pasilla peppers

5 medium heirloom tomatoes or 2 cups cherry tomatoes (sungolds work best!)

5 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Begin by roasting the peppers. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet coated with olive oil and roast at 400 for about an hour, turning over once. You can do this before you make the crust. In the meantime, thinly slice large tomatoes or slice cherry tomatoes in half and let sit in a shallow bowl sprinkled with salt. Once the peppers are done. Take them out and let them cool for about 20 minutes. Then you can slowly remove the skin while running them under water and then open them to remove the seeds and stem. Thinly slice them and place in a bowl. Finely chop garlic and mix peppers with garlic, lemon juice, basil, oregano, oil oil and salt and pepper.

Once fillings and crust are done, preheat oven to 350 and roll crust to 1/8 inch thickness. Drape into an 8-inch round pie pan (crust will be much bigger than pan) and begin by adding a layer of cheese on the bottom. Follow with a layer of the pepper mixture (using half the mixture) and a layer of tomatoes (make sure you drain the salty water from the tomatoes first). Add another layer of cheese, the other half of the peppers and the rest of the tomatoes and, finally, a topping of cheese.  Fold the crust that is spreading over the edge of the pie dish over the filling, creating a crostada-like tart with a small opening on top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is beginning to brown and cheese is bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

Lemon Curd Berry Tart

This tart has come to be my ultimate summer night dessert. I’ve probably made it every week for the past 2 months for whoever is around and willing to taste it. I just think the contrast between the bright yellow lemon curd and the little circles that form around the berries when the tart is baking is so striking. Plus the crust is so easy and the whole process only takes about 25 minutes of prep time. I originally got the lemon curd recipe online from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), but I’ve discovered that I like the texture better with one less egg, the zest of four lemons instead of three, and close to half the sugar. Really the more lemon zest the merrier–the essential oil in the zest give the lemon curd it’s depth of flavor. I’m always looking for ways to cut sugar in recipes and I can’t imagine using the full amount of sugar suggested in the original recipe–how would you taste all the lemon-y goodness?

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Ingredients:

Lemon Curd:

zest of 4 lemons

scant 1 cup sugar

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened

3 eggs

juice of 3 lemons

pinch of salt

Zest the lemons using a microplane zester or the finest side of a box grater. Mix the zest with the sugar in a large bowl. Cream the butter and sugar with the back of a wooden spoon, smashing them against the side of the bowl to combine. Once the butter and sugar are well incorporated, beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing with a fork. Next add the lemon juice and pinch of salt. Stir well. Heat mixture in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, for about 7-10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Crust:

scant 2 cups flour

1 stick butter, chilled

6-7 Tbs. ice water

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Cut butter into flour and salt using a pastry cutter or your hands. When butter resembles small peas, add 4 Tbs. water and begin mixing with your hands. Add the rest of the water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until dough comes together. Chill in plastic wrap or a ziploc bag for at least 30 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 325. Press dough into the bottom of a pie or tart pan. I like to press it instead of rolling it out because then I don’t have to dirty a counter top and a rolling pin. Plus a bit of a thicker, more rustic crust, works well here. Use a fork to press along the edges of the tart to make it a little fancy. Pour in your lemon curd. Finally, arrange blackberries or raspberries in circles or lines in the lemon curd. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is slightly golden.

Serve with fresh cream!

Serves 6-8.

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polka dots

 

Bright, “Sweet Home” Tomato Salad

I’ve been packing and on the road for the past week and arrived at my new apartment in Seattle this past Wednesday afternoon. On my drive up, I stopped at Sweet Home Ranch, a family friend’s farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley. This special spot is the orchard of my father’s college roommate, Paul Buxman, a farmer and painter whose life revolves around stone fruit and zealous community building. The farm was a childhood second home to me and each time I stop over for a night, it’s as if no time has passed. My stay was all too brief this time around, but we managed to squeeze in two glorious meals full of treats from the garden. My contribution to our dinner was this salad made with stunning tomatoes from their garden and cucumbers from the neighbors. When produce is this fresh, simplicity wins.

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Ingredients:

8 large, ripe, fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges

3 large english cucumber, cut into half rounds

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

salt

pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

oregano

thyme

 

Combine the veggies in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and herbs, salt and pepper to your liking. Toss gently with the veggies. And that’s it!!

 

Serves 4-6.

 

Kitchen Love

I’ve just moved into a new place in Seattle–my first time living on my own. This means my life has been speeding along as I packed my car, drove from Los Angeles to Seattle and have been frantically running to IKEA and target–setting everything up before I start my summer job on Monday. Thus the recipe post hiatus. But there is plenty of cooking on the horizon for me, and I had to get my new kitchen just right. Having my own space and organization is the ultimate inspiration. Wherever my passion for food leads me in the next year, I feel ready!

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Summer Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Lime

Happy Solstice!

Today seems like the perfect time for a recipe that uses distinctly summery, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Watermelon, peppers, corn on the cob. All nutritious fruits and veggies that are coming into the peak of ripeness in the next month or two (depending on where you are in the country). This salad celebrates heat and lazy days with its light and refreshing ingredients and is so simple to create.

This recipe is my take on a salad I once had at Altadena restaurant, Alta Eats, last fall. I thought the idea of watermelon in quinoa was genius, so I had to try my own version!

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups quinoa

3 cups filtered water

pinch salt

3 cups watermelon, cut in small cubes.

1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), cut into small pieces

2 ears fresh corn on the cob

1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

juice of one large lime

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and pepper

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fresh summer flavor

Bring quinoa and water to a boil with a dash of salt in a medium pot over high heat. Turn heat down to low, cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, shuck each corn cob, then stand them, one at a time, on a cutting board and slowly cut off the kernels. Preheat oven to 400. Spread corn and halved cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until kernels start to brown and the tomato skins looks wrinkly, stirring every five minutes.

Combine quinoa, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and pepper in a large bowl. Make dressing by whisking together mint, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and olive oil. Stir into salad. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chill. Serve topped with fresh mint leaves.

Serves 6-8.

Lemon Raisin Scones

I’ve made these scones in several different variations, all with tasty results. They are inspired, once again, from one of my favorite cookbooks, A Homemade Life. You can try lemon raspberry, whole wheat flour and mixed berry, ginger apricot, or even chocolate chip! Scones are hard to mess up. Just add roughly half a cup of your fruit or other mix ins, and if you’re using something moist like fresh berries, cut down on the amount of half and half in the recipe by about 2 tsps. Play around with it!

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 1/2 Tbs. cold, cubed, unsalted butter

3 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. lemon zest

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/2 cup half and half

1 egg

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Brunch happiness

Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter cubes and mix with fingers or a pastry cutter until butter becomes small, pea-sized pieces. Add sugar, lemon zest and raisins. Stir well. Beat egg with lemon juice and half and half. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until it gets too sticky. Switch to using your hands to bring the dough together into a loosely formed ball. Turn out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to press the dough into a flat circle, about 8-9 inches across. Divide the dough into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Grease a cookie sheet with butter. Arrange scones on sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just barely golden on top. You’ll want to check the bottoms because those will brown before the tops. If the bottoms are brown, take them out. Serve warm with butter and jam or lemon curd.

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Cherry Chocolate variation

Makes 8.

Tomato Pepper Soup and Caramelized Onion Panini

Time got away from me again, but I’m back! Classic comfort meal for any occasion and any time of year.

Tomato Pepper Soup:

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried oregano

sea salt and black pepper

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/2 large can whole tomatoes in juice

1/2 large bell pepper, roughly chopped (whatever color you have)

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a soup pot. Add the garlic and sauté about a minute until it just barely starts to brown. Add the thinly sliced onions. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and bay leaves. When onions start to become translucent, add the vinegar and sugar and let cook down over medium heat until the onions are slightly caramelized. Add the fresh and canned tomatoes with their juice and the pepper. Turn heat back to medium high and bring to a simmer. Add broth, turn down to low, cover, and cook 35 minutes to let all the flavors come together. Turn off the heat, pick out the bay leaves and either eat as is, or use an immersion blender to puree into a smooth soup.

Serves 4.

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Eat up!

Caramelized Onion Panini:

Ingredients:

8 thick slices sourdough or other rustic bread

1 large ripe tomato, cut into thin slices

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

sea salt and pepper

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

12 slices of your favorite cheese

butter and olive oil for cooking

In a small frying pan, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. unsalted butter. Add the sliced onions and season with sea salt and pepper. Once onions begin to become translucent, add the vinegar and sugar and let cook down over medium heat until the onions become sticky and sweet. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

To assemble panini, arrange 3 slices of cheese, 2 slices tomato, and about 1/4 cup onions between two slices of bread. Lightly butter the outsides of the sandwich. Heat the small frying pan with just a drizzle of olive oil. Add the panini, one at a time. Use a small saucepan (preferably a heavy one) to press down on the panini. Repeat on the other side. Continue flipping and pressing, until each side is a deep golden brown and the cheese is nice and melty.

Serves 4.