Friday, 29 August 2014

Peach Crostata

I bake because I want the end result. I love my sweets. I have a huge sweet tooth. That's no surprise here, It's not a secret. But the thing is, I'm not that great at it. It's really not my thing. I have no patience with the little details when it comes to baking. So it was no surprise when I made this crostata, brought it to a family function and my sister (the baker) started to kill herself laughing.

The recipe calls for using 3/4 of the dough to use as the base and the other 1/4 of the dough to make decorative ropes and top the crostata. Well as you can see from the photo, you can understand why my sister laughed. Hahaha. I can't blame her. It looked funny. I don't know what I was thinking with those ropes...Well, I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking I was too lazy to get my rolling pin  and roll out the dough to make lattice, like you see on a lot of pies and crostatas.

But I will tell you, this crostata was delicious! Not overly sweet and easy to put together. Please don't let the look of it deter you from making it. The only thing I would do differently is sprinkle LOTS of powdered sugar on cover up the obvious!!! Hahahahaha!

Peach Crostata
makes one 9 inch crostata
use a pan with removable bottom

1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or extract
2 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup peach jam
2-3 peaches, sliced

Preheat oven to 350F.
Place flour on a work surface and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the salt, sugar and baking powder and add the lemon zest.

Crack the eggs in the well and using your finger, stir them in to break up the eggs and start incorporating the dry ingredients. Then add the butter and the vanilla and keep stirring until the dough starts to come together. Knead gently until it is smooth.

Take a 1/4 quarter of the dough and set aside for the lattice. Pat the remaining dough into the pie pan and push the edges of the dough about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan to create the crust.

Spoon the jam into onto the crust and spread evenly. Lay the peach slices on top. Take the remaining dough and decorate the pie however you like. Either roll out and make lattice or as I did and pinch off pieces, roll into ropes and place on pie. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for an hour before cutting into it.

Happy Labour Day weekend!
m xo

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blossoming Zucchini Pie

I had a little helper today. My niece Ella again. Thankfully she loves being in the kitchen just as much as I do, so when she is around and can spare a few minutes away from her iPad, she comes over to help with the chopping and stirring.

Today we decided to make zucchini pie because I had a few zucchini laying around from my moms garden (we didn't grow any this year). She also gave me a HUGE bag of zucchini blossoms (flowers), so I decided to use them in the pie also. But this totally optional as I know that they are hard to find. I, myself have gone to the farmers market down the street from me on a few occasions and they were sold out. I need to get there as soon as they open, which is like 7:30 in the morning. And well, I never did that. The flowers aren't really nessessary for this, I just think they make it look pretty. Lol.

To prepare the flowers, if you are using them, cut the bottoms off and split the flower lengthwise to remove the little pistil in the middle. Depending on how many you have, leave 5-6 to decorate the top of the pie and chop up the rest for the filling.

I normally make a frittata in a pan, but decided to change it up a bit by baking it a quiche baking dish. I sautéed the zucchini and an onion and mixed it in with eggs, a bit of cream, some herbs and cheese of course. I used Compte because, well, thats what I had. You can substitute Gruyere or mozzarella.

This dish is really nice because it can be served at room temperature, which means it can be made ahead of time. Great for brunch!

Zucchini Pie

Butter, to grease baking dish
Bread crumbs, to coat dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini
1 medium red onion, chopped
6 eggs
1/4 cup half and half cream
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
2 cups Compte cheese, grated
12 zucchini blossoms or flowers, totally optional
Salt for the zucchini

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and coat a 12 inch, round baking dish. Set aside.
Place the sliced zucchini in a colander and salt liberally. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the zucchini and the chopped onion. Cook until soft. Set aside and let cool. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream, parsley, herbs de provence, cheese and half the zucchini flowers, if using. Add the cooled zucchini mixture and pour in baking dish. Place 5-6 of the flowers decoratively on top and drizzle a little olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes until golden or a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

m xo

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Purslane Salad with Mozzarella and Plums

Where have I been? Living under a rock apparently because I have never had purslane before!!

I had never had nor come across purslane but was intrigued when I saw it at the local farmers market in Borough Hall. Not only is it delicious and crunchy but it is packed full of nutrients like vitamin E and essential omega 3 fatty acid. Apparently it grows everywhere and under many conditions. A very hardy plant. I think I might try to grow it next year in my garden. If you can't find purslane, you can easily substitute watercress or spinach.

This salad was so yummy that we had to have it twice in two days. And the only reason we didn't have it again was because the farmers market didn't have the purslane when I went back a couple of days later.

I knew that I definitely wanted to make a salad and knew exactly what I was going to put in it. My next stop was the market down the street where I bought fresh mozzarella. The combination of the crunchy purslane, the creamy mozzarella, sweet plums and salty French, oily olives made this salad one of the best ones I've made so far (I don't mean to toot my own horn...but I just did)!! lol

There aren't any amounts here. Just use however much you want in your salad. Customize it to your liking. You want more greens, use more greens, want less cheese, use less mozzarella. The point is to make it yours.

Purslane Salad with Mozzarella and Plums

Purslane or watercress or spinach
Fresh mozzarella
Black, oily, wrinkly olives
Olive oil
Red or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

I like to dress the greens first with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and then place the other ingredients on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

m xo

Monday, 25 August 2014

Farmers Market Bucatini

The month of August is the best time of year to prepare meals because Mother Nature has done all the work for us. I totally get inspired by what is at the market, especially the farmers market.

We recently went to the Hamptons for a few days and as we were leaving East Hampton to go back to the city, the street was lined with farmers markets and I stopped to pick up a few things.

What's nice thing about this quick sauce is that the time that it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, it's ready!

Farmers Market Bucatini

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cob of corn, kernels removed
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 quart cherry tomatoes
A big handful basil
1 small hot pepper, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2lb. bucatini pasta
Grated pecorino
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, optional

Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Salt the water and cook the bucatini pasta as directed on package or until al dente (which most of the time is less time than directed).
In the meantime, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the corn kernels, zucchini, tomatoes and hot pepper, if using. Salt and pepper the vegetables. Cook over medium/high heat for about 10 minutes or until the bucatini is cooked. Tear the basil and throw in the vegetables. Drain the pasta and mix with the corn mixture. At this point if you are serving the pasta with an egg, heat olive oil in a non stick pan until hot. Break the eggs, one at a time until the edges are crispy but the yolk is still a little runny. Serve on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with the pecorino. Yummy!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Stewed Green Beans

Boy!! Do we have a lot of green beans growing in our garden. It still amazes me every summer how well our garden does. It's just so hard to imagine when you plant in the spring, that you will actually have fresh vegetables in a few months.

We especially have a lot of green beans at this time and this is how I grew up eating them. Stewed, very lightly with a few tomatoes and some aromatics. Actually, we also use this method for zucchini, cauliflower and broccoli too. So easy and delicious.  You will definitely need some crusty bread to sop up all the wonderful juices from the tomatoes.

Stewed Green Beans

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut in 2 inch pieces
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, ripe
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Handful basil leaves, torn
2 teaspoons salt
peperoncino, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil and more to drizzle over beans
1/2 cup water

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft. Add the cherry tomatoes, salt, torn basil leaves and water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 15 minutes or until the cherry tomatoes have all burst. Add the green beans and cover with lid again for 12 minutes. At this point the green beans should be tender without being over cooked. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

m xo

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Goat Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Chicken

I didn't always like goat cheese. In fact, I quite detested it. Every time I tried it, I always thought it tasted "goaty". It just wasn't my thing. Until recently. All of a sudden I developed a taste for the tanginess of the goat cheese. I really enjoy it! You just never know. One day your palette just changes.

I decided to make stuffed chicken breasts with goat cheese and spinach that I had hanging around and needed using. I first cooked the spinach in a pan until wilted. Let it cool and then chopped it. Sauteed an onion and mixed it together with the spinach, the zest of a lemon, salt and pepper to taste and of course the goat cheese. Stuffed the chicken breasts and baked them. They were so delicious and I almost forgot I was eating chicken breast. The cheese was so creamy. Mmmmm!!! I can't wait to make these for a dinner party. You can make them ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Goat Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Chicken

5-6 chicken breasts, boneless
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup cooked spinach, chopped
1 cup goat cheese, room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil to sauté the onion and drizzle over chicken

Preheat to 400F.
In the meantime, in a pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion until soft. Set aside and let cool for a couple of minutes. In a bowl, mix the spinach, goat cheese, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and add the sautéed onion.
Using a sharp knife held horizontally and starting at the thinner side of the chicken, cut in half almost but not all the way through, like a book. Spread approximately 1 tablespoon stuffing on one side and fold over with the other side. Salt and pepper the top and place in a greased, oven proof dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is golden and no longer pink inside.

m xo