Monthly Archives: September 2010

Plum Almond Tart

The plums grinned at me under the promising-but-intimidating sign that read “on sale.” They screamed to be purchased and ripened and baked until, finally, their demands would subside.

Some people eat plums raw, allowing juice to wantonly drip down their chins. I, on the other hand, cooked those suckers into sugary submission.

Still, this tart popped out of my oven begging to be topped with whipped cream. I had no choice but to concede. John Edwards and Tiger Woods agree–tarts are difficult to ignore. When topped with whipped cream? Well, you know what’s next.

Consume, regret, repeat.

Plum-Almond Tart:

For crust
1 C. all-purpose flour
1 TB sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 TB ice water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first three ingredients in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
2) Mix 2 tablespoons ice water and vanilla in small bowl. Pour water mixture over dough. Process until moist clumps form.
3) Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Roll out on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. Using fork, pierce dough all over. Freeze 15 minutes.
4) Bake crust until pale golden, about 30 minutes (crust may shrink slightly). Cool on rack. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling
1/3 C. whole almonds (I bought them pre-roasted)
1/3 C. sugar
1 egg
3 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tsp lemon juice (you could also add some lemon rind)
about 6 ripe red-skinned plums, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1/4 C. red currant jelly

1) Finely grind almonds with sugar in processor. Add egg, butter and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Process until batter forms.
2) Pour filling into crust. Arrange plums atop filling. Bake until plums are tender and filling is golden and set, about 50 minutes.
3) Melt jelly with remaining 2 teaspoons framboise in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat. Brush jelly mixture over plums.
4) Cool tart. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

The summer after high school graduation, two of my dearest friends and I made a choice: to live together at the beach before college divided us. (Well, that’s overly dramatic; my roommate for my first two years at UNC was one of my summer sisters.) Our lives could’ve been torn straight out of a Sarah Dessen book, sans the car accidents and messy relationships.

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Roasted Tomatoes

I love coming home to bowls overflowing with tomatoes–their variegated colors and sizes scream potential. Particularly as fall rolls in (or, in the case of NC, drags in), I savor every last opportunity to eat local ‘maters. And when they’re from my mom’s own garden? Well, let’s just say entered my car with great alacrity.

Roasted tomatoes taste simple and sweet alone or on top of salads. Or, as pictured above, with feta cheese and basil. Or on sandwiches. Or anything, really. Just prepare for a warm kitchen afternoon, and you’re good to go.

Roasted Tomatoes:
salt & pepper
olive oil
assorted spices, if desired

1) Slice tomatoes in half and place on cookie sheet (with a lip). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2) Put in oven at 200 degrees for 4 to 5 hours, or until roasted to desired texture. (I like ’em caramelized, but a still a bit juicy.) Done!

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese

It’s another one of “those” weeks. Loaded with projects and exams and everything that senior year promised to deliver, delivered.

I’m possessed by this overwhelming feeling that I either a) should be living somewhere else, such as London, or b) should be doing something else, such as cooking all day under the ruse of “learning.” I value my university education, I do. But what if, at this very moment, I’m not actually fulfilling my purpose? Or, even more horrifying, what if I’m meant to spend the rest of my life pyschoanalyzing the moment instead of enjoying it?

With these thoughts flooding my mind during the past week, I’ve been self-medicating with inordinate amounts of pasta. Didn’t you hear? Psychologists recommend dealing with your feelings by eating them.

Recipe from here. Just happened to be exactly what I was craving.

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese:
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo
1/2 C. olive oil
2 TB. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
a few leaves of fresh basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 C. pine nuts
1 (10 ounce) bag baby spinach
1/8 C. balsamic vinegar
8 ounces package crumbled feta cheese
1/2 fresh tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. (Until firm.) Drain, transfer to a mixing bowl, and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring to blend. Stir in garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes, and reduce heat to medium.
3) Stir in pine nuts and cook until lightly browned. Add spinach, cover, and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
4) Toss spinach mixture with orzo pasta.
5) Portion onto serving plates with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

What’s your pity party meal?

Zucchini Chips

More courgette-y goodness. Paired with pesto aioli. These chips get crispy on the outside, but stay a little bit tender in the center. What a delightful way to eat your vegetables.

Zucchini Chips:
2 large zucchini
1/4 C. dry breadcrumbs
1/4 C. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1) Wash zucchini and slice into 1/4 inch slices.
2) Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan and seasoning in one bowl. Place the egg whites in another bowl.
3) Dip zucchini slices in the egg whites, then dip in the breadcrumb mixture, coating them evenly.
4) Spread zucchini out on in a single layer on the baking sheet. Cook at 450 degrees for 7 minutes. Turn zucchini over. Roast another 7 to 8 minutes, or until coating is crispy and golden brown.

Beef & Black Bean Tacos

It was one of those weeks where I rejoiced over my omnivore status. My brain has desperately needed the amino acids to cope with my workload. Also, Whole Foods was selling local ground beef for, like, $4 a pound. Are you kidding me?! Even my burnt-out brain, failing to achieve its normal level of synapses, knows a good grocery decision when it processes one. Plus, I’ve actually been to the farm where the cows/food are raised. (I find that connection very reassuring.)

Unfortunately, this week promises to be equally demanding. At least I have these leftovers to provide me with glorious neurotransmitters. I’ma need ’em.

Beef & Black Bean Tacos:
Ground beef (about a pound)
Canola oil
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 can black beans
1 jalapeño
a few sprigs of cilantro
1 lime
a few generous shakes of cayenne pepper and oregano
1 small can of tomato paste
flour or corn tortillas
cheese (cheddar, Colby Jack, or a four-cheese blend)

1) Add a bit of Canola oil to a pan on medium heat. Add the beef and stir regularly to brown.
2) Meanwhile, add some Canola oil to another pan on medium heat. Add diced onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook until soft.
3) Drain the beef of any excess water. Stir in cayenne pepper and oregano. Add to onion mixture.
4) Add black beans, cilantro, and tomato paste. Combine well and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes.
5) Heat a frying pan on low-medium heat. Place tortilla on pan, add cheese and let melt briefly. Top with beef filling. Fold over and weigh down with a heavy pan, pot, or heat-safe dish. Cook for two minutes per side.

So, perhaps these are taco-dillas. In any case, they pair well with salsa and some sour cream since they’re stable enough to take cold dips.

What’s your favorite Tex-Mex meal? I love spicy food and am trying to increase my repertoire.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Courgettes. They sound so sophisticated, so French. Of course, when I first arrived in London, I stared dumbly down the produce section looking decidedly unsophisticated; I felt up several of the green squashes before confirming that courgettes are, in fact, zucchini. Turns out that the British are Francophiles, and I am just a woman who creeps people out while shopping for vegetables.

But I digress. The end of zucchini season means that those lovely green squashes must find their way into new foods. I’m tired of roasting ’em and frying ’em and putting ’em in pasta. They deserve a sweet ending. Plus, chocolate courgette bread sounds so lovely. It smells even lovelier. Plus, zucchini is healthy. By extension, anything that contains zucchini is healthy. So chocolate zucchini bread is healthy.

I made this bread only to give it away. (Hint: if you help me find a job, I’ll bake you something.) Yeah, you can call me Magnanimous Meghan. Because of the gift-like nature of this bread, I have not yet tasted it. (It is pending review by a very well-respected Yelper.**)

See? I have self-control. I really do. Excuse me while I go eat three chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (with skin)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Combine oil, sugars and vanilla. Mix in eggs and shredded zucchini.
2) In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Slowly add dry to wet. Beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.
3) Scrape batter into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean.

**Yelper and Meghan approved. Lawdy, is this bread divine.

More Cupcakes

Variety pack: raspberry, vanilla, mint, and chocolate buttercream frosting.

Seriously, no more cupcakes for awhile. I mean it.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Nothing gets my family out of bed faster than the smell of buttermilk pancakes puffing up on the stove. (Also true for roommates.) This particular recipe tastes like weekends should: light and easygoing, but a little bit indulgent. Like staying in bed snoozing for that extra hour on Saturday morning. Delicious accompanied with a dab of butter and a generous gulp of maple syrup, they also taste amazing peppered with blueberries or chocolate chips or pecans or… I love that this recipe helps me get rid of all the extra buttermilk I perpetually have in the fridge, but I’ve heard rumors that yogurt makes an equally yummy substitute.

One added benefit of these pancakes: they’re just a bit spongy, soaking up maple syrup on your plate and, once consumed, that last regrettable cocktail you had last night.

Buttermilk Pancakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 TB sugar
3/4 t baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
blueberries or chocolate chips or pecans, if desired

1) Whisk dry ingredients together.
2) In a separate bowl, blend butter and eggs, then add buttermilk and milk.
3) Add wet to dry and stir until well-combined.
4) Let batter rest 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, set a pan on medium heat.
5) Depending on pancake size preference, pour batter onto pan. Add blueberries or chocolate chips or pecans, etc.
6) When batter has been bubbling for about a minute, flip the pancake. Cook for another minute or two.
7) Eat with maple syrup. The real kind. I promise, it’s worth it.

Zucchini, Squash and Tomato Gratin

One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. Or, in this case, my mom’s surplus of squash is my opportunity to get a lil’ crazy in the kitchen. I need to know more people with CSA memberships. They have so much to give. Like vegetables. Especially as the summer comes to a close, I’m trying to find ways to throw those last lovely summer squashes into everything I consume.

So, I made a gratin. The word rolls off the tongue almost as deliciously as the meal tastes on the tongue. Sure, roasted vegetables are great, but when you add cheese and bread crumbs, there’s really no need to eat anything else. Unless you’re a lush like I am and put the gratin on top of pasta with walnut pesto.

The recipe came from Healthy Delicious. I’m kind of in love with that blog–yummy recipes. (And I won a Dutch oven from a contest held there. I admit my bias.)

Zucchini, Squash and Tomato Gratin:
olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB fresh thyme
1 zucchini, sliced
1 summer squash, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 TB Italian herbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook stirring occasionally, until golden brown and very soft — about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Spread the onions in the bottom of a baking dish.
2) Layer the squash, zucchini and tomato in the dish. Alternate layers of vegetables with some cheese and herbs.
3) Top with the rest of the herbs de Provence and the cheese. Sprinkle a thin layer of panko bread crumbs over the top and drizzle with more olive oil.
4) Bake at 375 for 60 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

What recipes are you making to commemorate the end of the summer?