Tag Archives: garlic

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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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.

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Sandwich

I’m back from my accidental hiatus. For good this time. It’s easy to disappear in NYC, and I don’t necessarily mind, but I also missed it here.

I came to this city to consume — experiences, my energy, and, of course, food. I didn’t expect that I, too, would be consumed. Caught up in work (of course), but also in the sensory overload of living in a place so frenetic that I am grateful for my windowless cave of a bedroom, the one space I can enter where the only movement is the flickering of a candle. (And, on occasion, my insanely antsy foster cats.)

That I found myself moving to New York a mere month after returning from Munich I can only attribute to a favorable combination of luck and pluck. That I have managed to survive four months here, well, it’s due to more of the same. I’ve yet to have my first New York City street cry, for example.

So, yes, I’m surviving, to say the least, and thriving, at best. It really depends on the day and the amount of good food I’ve eaten. And I really mean that.

Due to a combination of Restaurant Week and my body’s desire to enter hibernation mode, I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of food recently and show no signs of slowing down. Enter the roasted portobello mushroom sandwich — as close as I’ll get to a detox.

I prefer roasting veggies in winter, but this sandwich would be good on the grill come summertime, if you happen to have the luxury of outdoor living space.

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Sandwich
Serves 2
2 portobello mushrooms
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
1 red pepper, chopped in strips
1 white onion, chopped in strips
2 sesame rolls
mozzarella cheese, if desired

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stems from the portobello mushrooms and place stem-side down on a cookie sheet.
2) Make the mushroom marinade by combining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Brush or spoon onto the mushrooms. Set aside.
3) Set a pan on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the red peppers and onions. Cook for about 1 minute, then add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Lower heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes.
4) Place the portobello mushrooms in the oven once the peppers and onions have been cooking for 10 minutes. Roast until slightly shrunken, about 10 minutes.
5) Remove the portobello mushrooms from the oven. If adding cheese, place the cheese on the mushrooms and put back in the oven for another 2 minutes.
6) Toast the buns and place the mushrooms on the buns. Top with the red peppers and onions.

Eggplant, Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Oh, hey there. Have you missed me? I’ve certainly missed this blog. And cooking.

In the past three weeks, I lunched with friends in Raleigh and said my goodbyes, I packed my life into boxes and suitcases, I flew to New York City, I started a job, and I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn. Somehow, the move was easier than it sounded. I survived, at least.

And now I have a NYC kitchen. You might be surprised to learn that I managed to fit all of my kitchen supplies into it, with room to spare.

The first thing I made was this sauce, just like mom makes. Sweet and savory and hearty and just right for these first cold days of fall.

Folks, I’m baaaaaaaaaack.

Eggplant, Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce:
Serves 8
three tablespoons olive oil, divided
two red peppers, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound sausage, removed from casings
16 ounces tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
feta cheese, if desired

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread chopped red peppers evenly on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and put in oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until soft and slightly blackened around the edges.
2) 10 minutes before the red peppers are done, place a pot on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add eggplant and onion. Cook until soft.
3) Meanwhile, cook sausage until browned. Add sausage, roasted red peppers and minced garlic to pot.
4) Stir in tomato sauce, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until bubbling.
5) Serve with pasta and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Grilled Chicken & Pesto Pasta

Happy Father’s Day! Sadly, mine is across the ocean from me, so I cannot cook for him today, but at least I can promise to make this recipe, or any other, for him when I return. (Dad, this blog post serves as a coupon, of sorts. Redeemable for whenever I’ve recovered from jet lag and financial destitution caused by the unforgiving euro.) I love you, daddy! Thanks for passing on to me your height, sardonicism, and love of cats. I’ve forgiven you for not endowing me with your math skills, don’t worry.

Holiday aside, I was recently accused of not posting enough chicken recipes. I’ve already shared a few of my thoughts on chicken back when I roasted a chicken for the first time, but I do not especially enjoy cooking meat in general, and avoiding meat purchases at the grocery store saves me a decent amount of money. When I do buy meat, I’m pretty particular about where it comes from. A local producer is preferable, but, at the very least, I always buy organic meat, for a variety of environmental and ethical reasons. Still, I’m not as particular as these people:

Nope. I haven’t reached that point… yet.

Since I’m always open to recipe requests, I searched for a simple, summery recipe where I could satisfy my friend Kasey’s desire for more chicken and my desire to become more comfortable in front of the grill. Hopefully I satisfied the former, although my cousin grilled while I prepared the other ingredients, so my grilling experience has not developed further. If one person’s on the grill and the other at the stove, you can knock out this dish in under 30 minutes.

Pasta has been on my mind a lot recently because tomorrow I head to Italy for two weeks. I’ve never been before, and I’ll be staying with my family on an agriturismo in Tuscany. My dreams are saturated with images of fresh, plump mozzarella, vibrant tomatoes and warm bread, all drizzled with silken olive oil, frolicking through lush Italian fields and into my belly. At the very least, I’ll write a mental draft of the version of Eat, Pray, Love that I’d actually want to read, entitled Eat, Eat, Eat. (Interspersed with some sleeping, sunning, and a short walk or two, but that title is significantly less marketable.)

Grilled Chicken & Pesto Pasta:
Serves 4
4 small, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
10 ounces of pasta (noodles are fine, but bowties would be wonderful, too!)
3 tablespoons reserved pasta water, divided
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup milk, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons pesto (I’m going to try this recipe with homemade walnut pesto soon)
6 tablespoons cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1) Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Marinate chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. (I let my chicken marinate for a few hours ahead of time, but right before should be fine, too.) Grill chicken for about 10 minutes, 5 per side, until insides are no longer pink. Set chicken aside to cool, then slice into generous chunks.
2) Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving 3 tablespoons or so of pasta water. Set pasta aside to cool. Add 1 tablespoon of pasta water to a bowl with the sundried tomatoes to restore some of their moisture.
3) Whisk together 1/4 cup of milk and flour in a bowl and set aside. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic to pan and cook for 1 minute, then add then milk and flour mixture, stirring constantly. Mixture should thicken almost immediately. Stir in pesto and remaining 1/2 cup milk and all the cream. Cook until sauce thickens (about 5 minutes). Add remaining 2 tablespoons of pasta water to the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
4) Pour sauce on top of pasta, along with the chicken. Drain any remaining pasta water from the sundried tomatoes, then add to the pasta. Toss the pasta to coat thoroughly, then garnish with basil and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Tomato & Mango Salsa


It’s really difficult for me to construct legible sentences right now. ‘CAUSE I’M BOOKING MY TICKET FOR MUNICH. I really want to abuse the exclamation point and assault the keyboard with my hands to construct made-up expletives, but I’m refraining from both. I will say this, however: I am ecstatic. And beneath that excitement, I’m harboring a whole gallon of tears in thinking about leaving this place.

This place. Oh, this place. I believe this blog entry sums it up nicely, with a freshman perspective that still resonates with me, sans a few perceptions that desperately needed three more years of college. (And now they get to face “real” adulthood, lucky them.) My favorite line is “Maybe Disney is the happiest place on earth for some people, but mine is right here, with Roy Williams as our Mickey Mouse.” I always used to say that when I gave tours, because I absolutely mean(t) it. I’m leaving here happier than I was when I entered, which is quite an endorsement when I consider how much more I know about the world now. Like Disney World, however, I can’t stay here forever, nor should I. How else will I know what’s Out There?

So, yes, I could cry (and I will). I could cry for what I’m leaving behind, for who I’m leaving behind, but the real value is in what I’m bringing with me. And those things make me smile. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut said:

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

I can’t promise I’ll remember this bit of wisdom when I’m throwing my mortarboard into the air and hugging my beautiful friends and packing up the last of my clothes before boarding a plane to Munich, but I promise I’ll follow up those tears with a healthy dose of laughter. What’s Next could be even better than What’s Now, and I refuse to preface the future with an excess of sadness.

In other news, I made this salsa just in time for Cinco de Mayo, a holiday whose significance I always forget.

A Cinco de Mayo celebration. That also makes me smile.

Tomato & Mango Salsa:
Makes about eight cups of salsa
4 cloves of garlic
2 jalapeños, roughly chopped and de-seeded to desired heat level
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
a few sprigs of cilantro
fresh oregano (optional)
4 small mangoes, diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced (I also blanched them first)
1 lime
1 tablespoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add the jalapeños, onions, cilantro and oregano and pulse until the onions are diced well.
2) In a large bowl, combine the mangoes and tomatoes with the jalapeño and onion mixture. Squeeze the lime over the top.
3) Stir in sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate–this salsa is best served cold.

I eat this salsa with tortilla chips and black bean quesadillas. I think it’d be wonderful with grilled fish, though. I’ll keep you posted. Or maybe you can tell me?