Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blueberry Amandine Tart

Blueberry Amandine Tart
A little over a week ago, the vegetarian turned 30. In his honor, I wanted to bake something. Now, as you know, I'm not much of a baker, so I needed something reliable and easy. But muffins are boring (and the only thing I bake with any frequency) so I wanted to find something more fun. And that would feel at least semi-seasonal. Something that, for better or for worse, I could feature here.

Searching for inspiration, my first stop was the freezer where I found some frozen blueberries from our frozen farm share. Great, I thought, I'll use blueberries. The next stop was the cookbook shelf, where I saw Clotilde's book, Chocolate & Zucchini. Like many, Chocolate & Zucchini was the first food blog I discovered. I was living alone in Paris, in a garret apartment in the 15th arrondissement. I was a student, studying abroad, and it was my first time living alone and being responsible for all my own meals. While I had neither the funds nor the resources to sample most of Clotilde's creations, I used to sit at my computer, reading about her delicacies while savoring my homemade eggs, lentils or pasta -- my three most regular meals in those days. This was, of course, before I moved to a real apartment in the 1st arrondissement, experimented in the kitchen and started my own blog. Six years and six apartments later (how time flies), cooking for someone who's never seen my Paris (though he was there many moons before we met) and is slowly being introduced into the world of food and expanding tastebuds, it seemed only fitting to return to Clotilde for advice.

The recipe I ultimately settled on was a Blueberry Amandine Tart. Since I don't trust myself as a baker enough to potchke with a tart recipe (and because I couldn't imagine what I would change), I left it exactly as printed in the book. Exact that I used a store-bought pate sablee.

So how was it? Delicious. My only complaint was that the center never quite firmed up. Perhaps this was because my crust was 9-inches, perhaps because my blueberries were frozen. Or maybe that's the way it was supposed to be. Anyway, the almonds were the perfect antidote to keep the tart from becoming too sweet (I thoroughly recommend buying them already blanched rather than doing it yourself. You can find the recipe on page. 188-189 of Chocolate and Zuccini. Enjoy!

Make it a meal: Whenever I make dessert, I want to ensure my diners save room for it! So I make a one-pot meal, usually pasta, to go with it. In this case, I made Spaghetti with Cheesy Tomato Sauce (tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella). And to drink, Champagne Cocktail for me and Electric Lemonade for the vegetarian. Bon appetit!

Links to other blueberry amandine tart noshes:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beetroot, Butter, Pomegranate Salad

Beetroot, Butter, Pomegranate Salad

Whew! It's been a while! And I've even been cooking (three recipes in the to-be-blogged file). So accept a few posts in short succession, if possible. What have I been doing, you ask? A whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, another show and some family medical issues (everyone's fine now and the vegetarian and I are both home).

Several weeks ago, just before we to LA, I had a few beetroots hanging out in the fridge, left over from the butter borshch. As I've mentioned, the vegetarian is not such a huge fan of beets, so I decided that a side dish (which he wouldn't necessarily eat) would be the best bet. It was warm out that day and we were tired after spending the afternoon preparing for LA so I didn't want to cook more than necessary. And I wanted something fresh-tasting. Janna Gur's The Book of New Israeli Food provided the inspiration I needed. The beets would become a salad, then, dressed with pomegranate concentrate, cilantro and some pomegranate seeds.

But, since I knew the vegetarian would eat the majority of the other meal components, I wanted to make the salad a little more substantial. On the internet, I found a Herring with Potato and Beetroot Salad. While interesting, I wasn't going to go about cooking herring, especially since I would be the only one eating them. And I had no potatoes. But what really caught my eye about the recipe was the dressing for the beetroots: melted butter! So melted butter replaced the olive oil and I had a fresh, sweet salad for dinner and several lunches as well. Enjoy!

Beetroot, Butter, Pomegranate Salad
adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food and CookEatShare

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add beets and cook for 45 minutes, until tender. When cool enough to handle, slide off peels and dice. Transfer to a large bowl and add pomegranate juice concetrate, lemon juice, chiles and salt. Let marinate 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter for about 10 seconds in microwave. Next, stir cilantro and pomegranate seeds into beet mixture. Pour melted butter on top. Serves 6.

Make it a meal: If, like me, you're feeding someone who's not very fond of beets, make sure your other 
Beets, Buckwheat, Black Beans, Cserzsegi Fuzseres
dishes can be a meal in themselves. I recommend buckwheat cooked simply with salt and black beans cooked with cumin. Mix both together and sprinkle with cilantro and pomegranate seeds. If your beets came with greens, steam them for 7 minutes over the boiling beets and add to buckwheat and black beans. To drink, I recommend gewurtztraminer or a Hungarian cserszegi fuszeres. Bon appetit!

Links to other beetroot pomegranate salad noshes:

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Butter Borshch

Butter Borshch

My show closed on Saturday night and, after 3 weeks of wearing a corset, coming home late and barely cooking, I was really looking to make something restorative and nutritious for dinner last night. That always makes me think of soup. But so soon after Passover, the last thing I wanted was matzoh ball soup. I also knew I needed this soup to be chock full of vegetables, to make up for all the fried bar food I'd been eating late nights after performances. And I have a little jar of fresh bay leaves -- a gift from a cast member that I was eager to sample. Since spring produce isn't quite here yet, I started thinking about root vegetables. But I wanted a green as well. So I asked myself: what root vegetables have delicious edible greens? Beets, of course! Borshch it was, then.

But the vegetarian isn't such a fan of beets, so I wanted there to be enough other flavors in the borshch that it wouldn't taste overwhelmingly of beets (just clean and earthy). So we added in onions and carrots and sauteed all the earth vegetables in butterInstead of cabbage, I used the beet greens and even half a package of diced tomatoes from Winter Sun Farms.

So did it work? Did the vegetarian learn to like beets? Yes and no. He loved the flavorful broth we created (and wasn't even turned off by the reddish color!) but found the texture of the beets off-putting. But that's fine; I had made enough side dishes for him to be satisfied with the broth stirred in and I was able to have extra soup for lunch today. Enjoy!

Butter Borshch
inspired by Cooking with PETA and Russian Cookbook

Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, beets and carrots and saute until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Pour in broth, tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Add beet greens stems and simer another 5 minutes. Add beet green leaves, lemon juice, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring well, 5 minutes, until greens are tender and flavors are melded nicely. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 4 1/2 cups.

Make it a meal: If, like me, you're cooking for someone who may not be crazy about borshch, make side 
Make it a Meal
dishes that could qualify as a meal in themselves. Staying in Eastern Europe, buckwheat is great either on the side or stirred into the borshch. For some extra protein, how about some nutty black-eyed peas? And traveling back around the world, some sauteed bok choy brings in an extra dose of greens. A bottle of red wine to drink and for dessert, fresh blueberries. Bon appetit!

Links to other borshch noshes and thoughts: