Tag Archives: cheese

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.

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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.

Confetti Vegetable Sauce

I’ve been keeping something from you.

More than a year ago, I was hanging out in Italy. Mostly just eating, but sometimes cooking. Obviously, my life tends to revolve around food as it is, but my fixation was only exacerbated by being in a place where food serves as a language of its own.

The point is, I learned how to make this really amazing, really simple sauce, and then I proceeded to not share the recipe with you for more than a year. My host in Pisa taught me how to make this sauce. That’s right; you’re looking at a real Italian recipe from a real Italian person.

Once you make it, I imagine you’ll forgive me. Basically everything in here is easily substituted, too. Try it with eggplant. Try it with sour cream. Try it without any dairy at all. Then, let me know how it turned out!

Confetti Vegetable Sauce:
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 zucchini, grated
1 squash, grated
1 red pepper, grated
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
your favorite pasta, cooked and drained

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash and red pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the water has been cooked off. Drain the vegetables.
2) Place the pan back on the stove and lower the heat to medium-low. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of butter. Stir in the garlic. Cook until light brown.
3) Stir in the well-drained vegetables until the mixture is very warm. Turn the heat to low and combine the mascarpone cheese. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper.
4) Spoon sauce onto your favorite pasta and top with fresh basil.

Apple Onion Cheese Tart

I am not private in my opinion of comfort foods. This blog, if nothing else, serves as a testament of my devotion to all things warm and buttery. Living so far from home necessitates cooking with an excess of butter from time to time. Is a flaky tart an acceptable replacement for my brother’s bear hugs or my sister’s permeating laugh? Well, no. But it makes a decent consolation prize.

Being a resident of New York City is taxing in all the ways you’ve heard (including, quite literally, taxes). There is no loneliness quite so profound as the one experienced while surrounded by a sea of strangers. Cures are difficult to come by. When home is a few bites away, sometimes that’s enough. In any case, it has to be.

This recipe comes from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, which is my go-to resource for fresh and, obviously, simple food. Alice actually has the onion tart and the apple tart listed as two different recipes, but the two foods seemed like such a complementary pair. The dough recipe required no modification. It actually bubbles butter. Now that, my friends, is enough.

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!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup cheddar or goat cheese

1) Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan on medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are brown and soft. Let cool.
2) 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.
3) Spread cheese over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Starting at the outside, layer the apples slightly over one another and work toward the center. Apple slices in the center should be layered about 1 inch thick.
4) Sprinkle the apples with the cooked onions. Fold the border over the apples and onions to make a crust.
5) Mix the egg and milk or 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.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese


In case you were wondering, I made macaroni and cheese for my grandparents this evening. Sure, it’s 70 degrees outside (I can’t stop dwelling on that glorious detail, sorry), but my grandpa is sick and cheese makes everything better.

I followed this Mark Bittman recipe pretty closely, but I used more bread crumbs and grated extra cheese to sprinkle on the top. I’m clearly thumbing my nose at weight-loss-related New Year resolutions.

Next time, I’m using more cheese and adding bacon. Boo-yah!