Category Archives: vegetarian

Savory Tart Two Ways: Tomato & Goat Cheese and Asparagus & Mushroom

tomato tart
asparagus tart
tart plate

It’s been three years since my last first day of school, but every August I still sleep restlessly the night before it all starts again. I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m going to be tardy for class the next morning.

This year, that feeling was exacerbated by the promise of waking up to a new job, but going to bed remembering where I was just one year ago — in a city that moved even faster than I imagined and left me dazed and adrift.

I can officially say that this year served as my quarter-life crisis. Reading over the blog posts I wrote in high school, I can see how the seeds were sown years earlier. A girl so eager to bust out of where she was that she forgot to stop and take a look around at what she might already have. And I’d been on that trajectory ever since, hurling toward a life I thought I wanted, of working hard and playing hard and collecting stories and battle scars along the way.

As it turns out, I’ve managed to assemble quite a good collection since coming home. The pace is better for me here. And, lucky for you, I have plenty of time to invest in things that I love… like baking tarts.

Tart Dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water

1) Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2) Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Tomato & Goat Cheese Filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
4 ounces of goat cheese, room temperature
bunch of basil
salt & pepper
1 pint of cherry heirloom tomatoes
1 garlic clove, slivered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon of water

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
2) Combine the goat cheese, a few of the basil leaves, salt and pepper, then spread over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Place the tomatoes evenly across the goat cheese. Sprinkle with garlic and drizzle with olive oil.
3) Fold the border over the cheese and tomatoes to make a crust. Mix the egg and water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Asparagus & Mushroom Tart:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
1 tablespoon butter
1 pint mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 bunch (about 15 pieces) of asparagus
1 garlic clove, slivered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon of water

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
2) Heat a pan over medium heat with the butter. Once melted, add mushrooms and cook until softened and browning, about 10 minutes. Add rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
3) Remove tart dough from the fridge and spread with mascarpone cheese. Top with mushroom mixture, then arrange the asparagus on top. Sprinkle with garlic, then drizzle with olive oil.
4) Fold the border over the cheese and asparagus to make a crust. Mix the egg and water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Peach & Blueberry Bruschetta with Ricotta

fruit bruschetta

The moment I discovered this recipe, I knew it was going to change my potluck game forever.

bruschetta close-up

Oh, and also breakfast. Leftovers make the perfect breakfast.

Change out the fruit for whatever you prefer, but I like peaches and blueberries for this time of year.

My recipe is adapted from this one from Bon Appetit.

Peach & Blueberry Bruschetta with Ricotta:
Makes about 24 pieces

3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick, toasted
Olive oil for drizzling
Basil, optional

1) Combine peaches, blueberries, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Let the fruit mixture sit for at least 15 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, whisk ricotta and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl until smooth.
3) Spread toasted baguette slices with ricotta mixture, then top with fruit. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and top with basil, if desired.

Avocado & Walnut Pesto

avocado pesto pasta

When summer hits here, and I mean really hits, it means we’re in for 2.5 months of humidity that penetrates so deeply that even ones bones feel saturated with sweat.

I rarely relish the thought of spending any time at all in a kitchen with a heated oven, which means I become even more committed to meals that require a pot, a stovetop, and little else (although, in this case, a food processor helps).

I’ve made this recipe twice in the past month and I expect to make it a lot more. Topped with roasted or grilled veggies, it’s a complete meal. The avocado imparts a smooth, buttery texture while the walnuts add just enough crunch.

Plus, skip the Parmesan, and you have a sauce fit for a vegan.

Avocado Pesto
Makes 4 healthy servings

1 pound of pasta
2 ripe avocados
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
olive oil, as needed

1) Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside both the water and the cooked pasta.
2) Place the avocado flesh, basil, lemon juice, garlic, grated Parmesan, walnuts, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until the walnuts are finely chopped. If the mixture is too thick to blend, slowly pour in some olive oil.
3) Spoon the pesto over the pasta and toss together. Add in the pasta water a little at a time if the pesto still needs to be thinned out. Serve immediately.

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres

gougere side view

We stood schmoozing around the kitchen island, savoring pillowy gougeres followed easily with sweet champagne, when it happened. Maybe the threat of the impending winter chill drew us closer together, or perhaps it was our need to tangibly express the deep connections we had formed, but suddenly, each person’s arms encircled the two waists of those standing closest, and we broke into singing the alma mater “Hark the Sound.”

When we completed the song, we were changed. What began as a class of strangers became a family. As I would later tell tour groups of potential students and their parents, that fleeting moment reaffirmed my love for the community I found at UNC.

gougere top view

I suppose that’s what I’ve sought to recreate since I’ve graduated. Wherever I go, I crave those arms around me, and I’ve been lucky enough to find them.

Tomorrow I go into surgery, and already I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from people both near and far. I’ve realized how much I value community — sometimes one needs a reminder. It’s nice to have lots of arms to fall into.

Once again I find myself in a moment like the one that occurred around my professor’s kitchen island, where everything came together in a moment of delicious clarity. And I thank you, friends and family, for that.

Recipe based of off this one. The best smoked cheddar ever can be ordered online here.

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres
Makes about three dozen

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

1) Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
2) Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl; let cool for 1 minute. (Waiting a bit ensures that the eggs won’t cook and scramble in the dough.) Beat the eggs into the dough, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
3) Transfer the dough to a large plastic bag and cut about 1/2 inch off the corner diagonally. Pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350° oven until piping hot.

One-Pot Pasta

pasta pot

Sometimes you need to be able to throw everything into a pot and call it a meal.

I had one of those days yesterday. April was taunting me with one of its proverbial showers when I’d already grown re-accustomed to the warm North Carolina spring and my sewing machine wasn’t cooperating and I was grumpy and the pimple on my chin was growing large enough to declare autonomy. Basically, in no mood for cooking. Or human interaction, for that matter.

The last time I had this dish it was made for me by a dear friend, and I find that when I need a lift, summoning up a fond food memory often does the trick. (With the proper meal accompaniment, of course.)

Now that I’ve made it myself, I am officially a convert. The pasta starch imparts a creamy texture to the sauce and the steps could not be easier. It’s a meal worth sharing, and I am grateful that I was able to share it with my friend — and now with you.

plated pasta

I adapted my recipe from this one.

One-Pot Pasta
Serves 4

12 ounces linguine
16-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
4 sprigs basil, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Parmesan cheese

1) Combine first eight ingredients in a pot wide enough to allow the pasta to lie flat against the bottom. Add 2 sprigs of basil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2) Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes.
3) Serve the pasta with the remaining 2 sprigs of basil, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash & Crispy Sage Savory Tart

butternut tart

butternut tart slice

A Sunday night followed by a Monday off holds such promise for a prolonged evening meal with several courses and a luxe bottle of $15 wine.

Even when you’re dining alone.

Moving to NYC solo (or, frankly, under any circumstances), you may have heard, is not for the faint of heart, the codependent, the wary-of-public-transportation. Despite the endless number of people I encounter everyday, I have never experienced a living situation as profoundly lonely as life here. I’ve always considered myself an independent person, but existing here means I also have to be an entertaining one — to myself.

Many of you have heard the trials of city singledom, whether from me or from Girls or from Sex and the City or from the countless movies that portray Strong Female Leads Living in Metropolitan Areas (with absurdly, unrealistically large apartments) who are secretly desperately lonely. (Presumably because they have invested too much in their careers and not enough in their romances? Can we possibly try for new plotlines in 2013, please? There is not a small number of us who seek more than one objective in life and balance them all just fine.)

But if you haven’t heard about dating in NYC, I’m not going to regale you with the specific foibles and follies. It’s been covered, I think, and also my parents read this blog. I will say, however, that it is incredibly taxing despite what seems like overwhelmingly good odds. I mean, there are 8 million people in this city, and based on my very precise Algorithm of Eligible Bachelors Dwelling in the Five Boroughs, there must be a solid 10,000 who meet basic criteria.

As it turns out, though, basic criteria is not enough. Because as you can imagine, 10,000 men is a challenge to weed through. And every one I meet, I think “Oh yes, this is one is acceptable. But I bet I could find one who also understands my deep and sustained love for the emo music I listened to in high school.” (See: The Paradox of Choice.) (Also, that’s just an example. I definitely don’t listen to emo anymore! Seriously! I don’t!) I, too, am a victim of too much choice, the possibility of someone somehow better existing too tantalizing to pass up, as I found out recently after being rejected by an unemployed man who’s “too busy” for a second date.

So, more often than not, I find myself “stuck” with, well, myself.

Living in NYC solo means needing to enjoy dating the only person I can rely on 100% of the time. It means I take myself out to dinner, buy myself a nice new outfit, make myself an extravagant meal that, under circumstances involving another person, would be considered a downright romantic one.

I cannot recommend that kind of meal enough. Dining alone, living alone, travelling alone, is the kind of soul-satisfying, sometimes saddening/maddening, always reflective activity that reminds me that I am enough. That I will never be a lot of things, but I will always be enough things. At the very least, I crack myself up, especially toward the end of the night/glass. I can’t always say that about my dates.

Last night, I made myself this tart. It’d be great with a side salad, but when you’re dating yourself, you hardly need to impress anyone with the number of vegetables you’ve consumed in a given day. In fact, the best way to show your appreciation for you is to cut yourself another slice.

Tart Dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water

1) Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2) Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Tart Filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
olive oil
1/2 butternut squash, peeled & sliced thinly width-wise
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of fresh spinach
1/2 cup of ricotta
parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon of water
about 15 leaves of sage
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons of canola oil

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay butternut squash slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt on both sides of the slices. Roast squash for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
2) Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine the spinach, ricotta, and some salt and pepper in a bowl.
3) Once the squash is removed from the oven, lower the oven heat to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4) Spread ricotta cheese/spinach mixture over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Place butternut squash slices in one layer over top of the mixture, again leaving a border. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5) Fold the border over the squash layers to make a crust. Mix the egg and water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
6) Heat canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Place in a few leaves of sage at a time, fry for about 5 seconds each, then place on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle over the tart.

Rice, Lentils, and Caramelized Onions with Spiced Yogurt

lentils and yogurt

lentils

People often ask me what I make for lunches, and I have to be honest; I will make one meal on Sunday night and eat it everyday for lunch the entire week, provided that it’s adequately delicious.

Even better is when the meal gets better over the course of the week, like this one. The longer the flavors mingle, the more comforting this dish becomes. (For the record, it’s actually called mujaddara.)

Even even better is when that meal maintains some semblance of “healthy.” Granted, I doubled the yogurt sauce recipe, but I also added carrots and celery because I’m aware that some of you have New Year’s resolutions that you’re interested in keeping, and my cupcakes are no help. I wanted to redeem myself this week.

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions — what meals are you looking to make more of in 2013? I’d love some new post inspiration.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting the butter for more olive oil, and using a vegan yogurt. (My real vegan roommate suggests the coconut alternative as the almond was too sweet.)

Recipe from Food 52. I added carrots and celery.