Nibble.

I’m always tagging recipes to refer to later; all of my cookbooks have dog-eared edges (don’t judge). I have boxes here and there with printed or hand-written favorites, tabs throughout my Cook’s Illustrated magazines, foodie folders in my email accounts. My organizational skills are a bit sub-par, so finding a reference when I’m in creation mode presents somewhat of a challenge.

IMG_0835

The other day I had a bit of time on my hands and so I sat, sifting through some recipes and came across this one from CHOW featuring a honey ricotta tart (you can find the link, here.
I’d saved it over two years ago, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my template.
I’ve been on a bit of a honey kick, as evident from recent posts, and had a craving for a pie or cheesecake at strategic points throughout the week.
Or daily.
Whatever.
IMG_0831
When I saw this pie, it brought to mind the cheesecake I’d made with chèvre. And over the next several hours, my mind wandered. I dreamt of salted pistachio with bitter orange, and floral honey with the tang of goat cheese.
Sadly my cheese benefactor was out of town this week, so rather than relying on her supply, I had to settle on store-bought chèvre.
Sadly, Beatrice could not contribute to my efforts

Beatrice.

I did manage to include the last bit of wildflower honey produced on the farm. I love using ingredients that are local and familiar; it makes the experience that much more personal.

IMG_0834
The flavors couldn’t have been more well-matched. The scent of orange, woven through the crust…it was hard to refrain from nibbling a pinch before I added the filling.
IMG_0833
A simple dollop of crème fraîche with a bit of reserved pistachios and a drizzle of honey elevate this tart to center-stage.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Salted Pistachio, Orange and Honey Hart
Ingredients:
1 1/4 c flour
1/3 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
8 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and expertly chilled
1/2 c ice water*
*Note: you will only need ~3-4 Tbsp
Filling:
8 oz goat cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 c honey
2 Tbsp sugar
Topping:
2 tbsp salted pistachios, chopped
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Method:

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and orange zest.
2. Using either a pasty blender or food processor, fold in diced butter and blend just until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with either hands or spatula until the dough just starts to come together. Mixture should be a bit craggy and on the drier side, but should come together if pinched.
4. Wrap dough in plastic or parchment and allow to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.
5. Remove pastry and using a rolling pin, roll into a flat disc and press into a 9-in tart pan with removable bottom.
6. Prick bottom several times with a fork and set in freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
6. Preheat oven to 425°.
7. Line tart pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for about 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, lower heat to 350° and bake for 10 more minutes, just until golden-hued.
While tart shell is baking, prepare the filling:
1. Cream honey, sugar, cheese and orange zest together in a large mixing bowl, scraping down sides as needed.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
4. Pour mixture into prepared crust and place on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle top with a pinch of salt and the pistachios and bake for another ten minutes, or until the middle is just set.
5. Cool completely on wire rack.
Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, and a drizzle of honey.

Puréed.

Lately, I find myself craving cauliflower soup.

Oh, and chocolate. 

photo 1
  • I’ll explore that later.
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. I love it roasted; enhanced with a touch of olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg, or chopped fine and added to a fragrant lentil dal, or baked with parsnip in a cheesy, creamy gratin. Most recently, I’ve been puréeing it with sautéed leeks to make a light, yet satisfying soup.
photo 4Apparently I am not alone; the weekly reader Notes from the Test Kitchen came out with a recipe for cauliflower soup just this last week. I found striking similarities in the components, as it is such a simple soup, however the Cooks Illustrated version was prepared sans herbs and featured a lovely garnish of browned cauliflower. To my soup, I add sweet, aromatic nutmeg and spritely thyme to complement the mild flavor of cauliflower.  I’d made it a couple of times over the past month or so, and never bothered to post, since it seemed so common. However, when I was suffering a terrible cold last week, I naturally gravitated toward this soup. See, cauliflower contains an incredible amount of vitamin C, as do leeks; not to mention a boatload of other nutritents. Both thyme with nutmeg have germ-killing properties. My body must have intuited the need for immune-boosting elements.
Needless to say, I am feeling better.
You can pretty up this soup with a bit of toasted bread in butter (aka: croutons) and a drizzle of olive oil, or serve unadorned. Either way, it’s delicious on it’s own, or as a first course in a larger meal.
Cauliflower Leek Soup

Cauliflower Leek Soup

Cauliflower Leek Soup

Ingredients

1 large head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
2 leeks, washed
2 tbsp butter
Splash olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp fresh thyme
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat butter and oil in large stockpot over low-medium heat.
Add leeks; sauté until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Monitor closely and turn down heat if they start to burn.
Add cauliflower, broth, nutmeg and thyme; turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a summer and cover.
Cook for about 20 minutes, then purée in batches.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and croutons, if desired.

Rêver de l’été (Dreaming of Summer)

The heaps of gray, shadowy, wet days and Winter’s chill have left me with a sweet longing for Summer. At the market, I seem to gravitate toward citrus; the shiny orbs of Cara Cara pink navels, with their pink-hued flesh and pucker-y sweetness; the kumquat, with its deceptively-sweet peel and shockingly sour insides; the crimson flesh and clean bright taste of blood oranges..mmm. And so to nurture my creative side as well as satisfy a roaring sweet tooth, I drew upon citrus as inspiration.

Orange Almond Sablés

Orange Almond Sablés

Often, I do my best creative work while running. That may seem odd to some, however I’ve found that running serves as an outlet not only for expending physical energy, it is a catalyst for new ideas. These seedlings are kneaded and churned about as I navigate urban trails and sidewalks; often as the sun is just starting to make its presence known. I see flavors and textures come together, then the vision takes form, and I’m off to the store, list in hand.

IMG_0614

I recalled a luxuriously silky buttermilk panna cotta I’d made this summer that involved steeping lavender buds and vanilla beans in buttermilk and cream. That fragrance! The buttermilk added a nice perky bit of tart, fooling the palate and masking some of the richness of the butterfat. A friend of mine with whom I’ve shared several meals over the years said it was probably the best dessert they’d had. A high complement, for sure!

Panna Cotta (honey orange rosemary)Rosemary-scented honey and orange panna cotta

And so this weekend, with citrus on my mind, I came up with not one, but two desserts to share. Neither of them yield instant gratification, however if you are willing to set aside an afternoon, I assure that dessert will be stunning. The honey panna cotta has only the faintest hint of rosemary and marries nicely with the orange zest. The cookies are based off a classic French butter cookie, the sablé. They make a perfect tea cookie; lightly scented with almond and the essential oils of orange zest. I recommend using unsalted European butter, if you can find it, as European butter has a higher fat content that is fabulous in baked goods.

best butter.

best butter.

Sablé dough

Of course, cookies are always good for sharing, so I managed to set aside a few for a neighbor.

Sablé, ready to go.

Enjoy, and much love.

J

Honey Panna Cotta with Rosemary and Orange

1 packet gelatin
1 c  whole milk
2 cup whipping cream (not half and half)
1/3 c honey
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 sprigs rosemary
*Simple Syrup (optional)
1/4 c orange juice
 2 Tbsp honey

/–

Method
pour milk into a saucepan; sprinkle gelatin atop and allow to soften for ~5 minutes.
Add cream, honey, and remaining ingrediets. turn heat to low, whisking steadily to combine.
Add rosemary and zest; furn heat to medium and stir occasionally until barely steaming. Remove from heat and steep ~15 minutes.
Pour into ramekinsand allow to chilll nthe referigerator for at least four hours
Pour into 6 ramekins and refrigerate for ~4 hours, until set.

*For simple syrup, combine honey and orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat; stir and allow to bubble softly for ~ 5minutes. remove from heat. Reserve and pour over panna cotta prior to serving.

Orange Almond Sablé

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter; softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
*Decoration
1 egg yolk
Granulated sugar

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix orange zest with granulated sugar until fragrant. Add powdered sugar and sea salt to combine
  2. In a stand mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and mix to combine.
  3. Add egg yolks and almond extract; beat until incorporated
  4. Lastly, add flour. Mix only until pastry forms a cohesive mass; this is reminiscent of pie pastry; you’ll want the end result to be light and crumbly
  5. Form dough into two, 9-inch logs, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (at least 3)
  6. When ready to bake. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  8. Remove dough from refrigerator, brush logs with egg yolk and granulated sugar.
  9. Using a sharp knife; slice into 1/3 to 1/2-inch rounds.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes; longer if the cookies are on the thicker side. Cookies are ready when the bottom and sides are golden; the tops should remain pale.

Allow to rest for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet, then remove to cool completely on wire rack

Striking a balance.

It seems like the last couple of days have been bustling as I recover from the holidays. The New Year promising exciting things; opportunity for creativity and adventure. An occasional craving of a hearty meal, balanced by my perpetual indulgence in sweets.

Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thousand-layer Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, it is rare to let a day go by with at least a few bites of chocolate, a piece of pie, a cookie. Something. Unfortunately, when it comes to sugar, I am unaware of my threshold, and what often occurs is I substitute these things for real food, or miss a meal entirely.
PicFrame
And so for me, it becomes absolutely necessary to have a contrast, something grounding, that pulls me back in, reignites my connection to hunger and satiety. The savory always does that for me.
Roast Pork Shoulder

Roast Pork Shoulder

I am desperately in need of a vacation, so any dispensable time is spent dreaming about Paris, reading about Paris, listening to French podcasts; falling in love with MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me and giggling my way through Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating…all the while craving cassoulet, crepes and tarts.
However, when it came to planning last night’s dinner, I ventured to make something decidedly un-French, albeit quite deliberate and requiring an investment of time. The slow roasted, mahogany-hued pork was truly impressive; the aroma of sage and garlic and the warmth of the kitchen helped burrow its scent into my clothing. The pork required minimal work, just a periodic spooning of juices to keep it moist. After several hours, it developed a crust that was sweet, salty, crunchy; with just the right amount of fat to keep the flavors lingering, if only for a moment. I served it with creamy polenta, garlic-y sautéed kale and pickled onions; the latter of which were quite easy to prepare and provided a nice contrast to the pork.
IMG_0605
I’ll provide a recipe for the pork, and the pickled onions. The roast is quite forgiving; feel free to play with the spices a bit. The onions need about an hour to cure. Polenta is quite easy, though also will take an hour to cook and a bit of a stir every few minutes. There are loads of preparations available online, and most basic cookbooks have a recipe for polenta tucked inside. To sauté a large pot of greens, simply warm a bit of garlic in olive oil, add greens toss every few minutes, adding a bit of broth or water if the pan seems dry. season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.
__
Enjoy, and much Love,
J
IMG_0604
Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 4.5-5 lb pork shoulder, bone-in
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 Tbsp fresh sage, or savory herb blend
Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Combine salt, pepper garlic and herbs to make a paste; rub into pork shoulder.
Set pork on a baking rack, lined with parchment, in a large roasting pan
Roast pork, uncovered for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 325 degrees.
Continue to roast, basting pork every 20 minutes for ~2 hours.
Check internal temperature with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should reach 155 degrees when pork is finished. Continue to roast; checking every 20 minutes to baste until temperature is achieved (this may take 3 hours).
Remove from oven, and baste again.
Increase oven heat to 500 degrees.
Return pork to oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, with close monitoring. It will smoke a bit; remove from oven if this is excessive.
Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for ~20 minutes.
Pickled Onions:
 
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp salt
juice of two limes.
Place onion in small, non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over and let sit for ~20-30 seconds; drain. Return to bowl or jar and combine with salt and lime juice. Let stand for ~60 minutes. Serve with pork.

Copy Cat. Or, if Baklava had a Sister.

Even though I’ve completely saturated myself with sweet indulgences this holiday season, I’ll never deny a good pastry. My oh so lovely friend Donna sent me a link a few week’s back to an online zine that featured a couple of pies from the famed Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. She’d made a pear pie with juniper berries that sounded fantastic. You can find the link, here.

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava's sexy sister

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava’s sexy sister

Once I saw the recipe for a salt-studded honey pie, I knew I had to make it mine. It looked simply stunning. And yet…I thought I could personalize it a bit with a few enhancements. I’d recently been gifted a jar of fabulous local honey.  I wanted to do right with it, and this pie seemed like the perfect vehicle to transcend it into something extraordinary.

IMG_0528

The recipe called for vanilla paste. I thought I could do a bit better by using whole vanilla bean. I scraped the seeds out of the bean and set them in sugar, with a bit of freshly-grated lemon zest. I love the sensuous feeling of using my fingers to combine the sugar with aromatics, the sugar crystals unlocking the essential oils and perfuming the air with vanilla and lemon-scented goodness.

IMG_0530IMG_0533

I added sliced almonds to the top, to accentuate the crunch of salt and contrast the silky filling. This pie and baked went from a pale sandy yellow to a dark caramel brown; the almonds developing a tan as the crust bubbled and spit.

IMG_0532

Drizzled with a bit of thyme and vanilla-infused honey, sprinkled with flaky Maldon salt and crunchy toasted almonds, this pie is pure heaven. Probably one of the flakiest pastry crusts I’ve made in some time, which I attribute to a bit of old-school pastry cutter technique. A quick blitz in the food processor flirts a bit too much with the gluten in the flour. If nothing else, this crust inspired me to go back to my humble ways of tactile experience with the dough. When you work with your hands, the hands become the intuitive barometer of when something is near completion. The bits of butter strewn throughout the dough formed delicate air pockets that left layers of flaky, meltingly-tender crust.

IMG_0536

Oh! And the flavor! The filling, similar in consistency to pecan pie, but without the cloying, one-dimensional sweetness of corn syrup. The elements of buttery pastry, crunchy almonds, and sweet honey reminded me instantly of baklava, the incredible Turkish sweet.

I am already dreaming of when I’ll make it again.

Much Love,

J

Honey Almond Pie

Note: I used a basic recipe for pate sucree; you can find recipes and techniques in previous blog posts, however I encourage you to try to make the crust without using a food processor. There are excellent tutorials for basic pie crust techniques available online.

For the filling:

3/4-cup sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

Seeds of one whole vanilla bean pod (reserve pod for later)

3/4-cup honey

1/4-pound (one stick) butter, melted

1/2-cup cream (not half and half)

3 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp cornmeal

2 tsp white vinegar

You will also need:

1 prepared pie crust, frozen

~2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds

1/4 c honey

Several sprigs fresh thyme

Vanilla bean pod

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, rub together sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds until aromatic. Set aside.
  3. Combine honey, salt, and cornmeal; whisk together, then add melted butter, cream and eggs, one at a time, whisking until well-incorporated.
  4. Add scented sugar and whisk again well, then pour through sieve into prepared crust.
  5. Bake for ~35 minutes, then sprinkle with slivered almonds. At this point, you may need to cover lightly with parchment to prevent excessive browning. Bake for another 20 minutes until set. This is best tested by giving a gently nudge to the pan; it’s okay if the filling is slightly jiggly; it’ll continue to cook once removed from the oven. However, if it’s sloppy, keep pie in the oven and check at ~5-minute intervals until set.
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with a flourish of sea salt and let it cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, warm honey with a few sprigs of thyme and the vanilla pod, then let steep for ~10 minutes. Strain into a jar, then drizzle over pie and garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves.