Peach Bruschetta

PeachBruschetta

For the past year, I have been listening to two of my most reliable sources rave about an Italian restaurant in Northern Liberties. My friends, Meredith, a Jeff med student and native Philadelphian, and her fiancé Matt, a private chef on the Main Line, rank Sovalo as one of their favorite spots in the city.

Joseph and Karey Scarpone, a husband and wife team with children named Sophia and Valentino (hence Sovalo), left the Napa Valley to open this bistro in early 2005. With a great wine list and a menu filled with homemade pastas such as burrata-filled ravioli and seasonal items such as chilled melon soup and local heirloom tomato salad, Sovalo has earned a reputation as one of the city’s best new restaurants.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to experience this highly praised establishment with none other than the restaurant’s two biggest fans. To celebrate Matt’s new job and Meredith’s start of her final year of med school, and in general, to continue celebrating their recent engagement, the three of us trekked across town to Sovalo.

As we approached the front door of this adored Northern Liberties bistro, however, Meredith expressed some anxiety. She worried that the peach bruschetta she and her family had enjoyed a week earlier might no longer be offered: Sovalo prints its menu daily, changing its dishes depending on ingredient availability. To everyone’s relief, however, this peach, robiola, arugula and prosciutto topped grilled bread again starred on the menu. We all savored the delectable combination as a second course and ultimately pegged it the highlight of the evening.

Fortunately, this peach bruschetta, unlike Sovalo’s homemade ravioli or ricotta fritter dessert, can easily be replicated at home. I have a weakness for Claudio’s fresh ricotta and have used that in place of the robiola, but a number of cheeses — fresh mozzarella, mascarpone, goat or Brie — would work well in this tasty summer starter.

Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta
Serves 6 as an appetizer

1 baguette
olive oil
2 peaches
6 oz. fresh ricotta*
2 oz. baby arugula or watercress
12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
*I love the fresh ricotta from Claudio’s. At Sovalo, the chef uses robiola, also very delicious. You could also make your own.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (or preheat a grill to high). Slice the baguette into 12 ½-inch thick slices, place on a cookie sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. (Or grill for 1-2 minutes a side). Transfer to a cooling rack. Slice each peach into about 12 wedges.

Spread each slice of bread generously with ricotta. Top each with a small handful of arugula or watercress. Top each with 2 peach wedges followed by one slice of prosciutto. Serve.

Gluten-Free Cooking Spree

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First let me make known that I’ve borrowed this “Gluten-Free Cooking Spree” slogan from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), an amazing organization started by Alice Bast, a Philadelphia woman full of energy and initiative. I spoke with Bast over the phone a few days ago and listened to her recount her tragic yet inspiring story.

Bast, after suffering the trauma of delivering a stillborn baby followed by several miscarriages, visited 23 doctors before learning she had celiac disease. When she discovered that all of her health complications could have been prevented had she changed one aspect of her life — her diet — she quit her job (a top executive at a tech firm), started the NFCA, and resolved to devote her life to raising awareness about this debilitating digestive disease. Read Alice Bast’s whole story on the NFCA’s Web site.

One out of every 133 people has celiac disease — 3 million Americans — yet 97 percent of celiacs don’t know they have it. Through the efforts of Bast, the NFCA and other organizations sharing the same goal, more doctors are recognizing the prevalence of the disease, and fewer people as a result are suffering. Currently the only cure for this disabling disease is to eliminating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, from the diet.

While Bast told me a half dozen or so stories about celiacs restoring their health and reclaiming their lives after adopting a gluten-free diet, one is particularly poignant. Last August, a woman who had been trying to get pregnant for 10 years without success, read Bast’s story in Good Housekeeping. The woman sensed she had celiac disease, began the diet, and within 6 months became pregnant.

Other celiacs have seen their migraine headaches, incessant stomachaches, diarrhea and nausea — stresses they have suffered their whole lives — disappear within days of beginning the gluten-free diet.

The “Gluten-Free Cooking Spree” is the name of an event the NFCA is bringing to cities across the country. This past June, 10 chefs and doctors in Philadelphia teamed up to prepare tasty gluten-free dishes in a competition judged by George Perrier of Le Bec-Fin and Christina Pirello of Christina Cooks. Read more about the event on the NFCA’s Web site.

I decided to see for myself what gluten-free cooking entails. I’ve now introduced my pantry to a host of ingredients I never thought it would meet — brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, tapioca flour and xanthum gum. And, I have to say, the two recipes I tested were delicious. I have been slathering fresh ricotta on the focaccia for breakfast, and enjoying a brownie each night after dinner.

I am not in any way trying to prove that anyone can easily conform to this diet by simply purchasing the necessary ingredients. This diet requires celiacs to inspect all food labels thoroughly and question restaurant wait staff and chefs exhaustively, because even the tiniest trace of gluten — present in soy sauce, vinegars, lunch meats, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and most soups — can trigger an adverse immune response.

While I’ll likely never know what life as a celiac is like, I have a better understanding after speaking with Alice Bast and reading other personal stories on the NFCA Web site. I greatly admire Bast’s many noble efforts to prevent others from suffering the same tragedies she unnecessarily endured.


Gluten-Free Brownies
Adapted from Karina’s Kitchen: Recipes From a Gluten Free Goddess
www.glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com
Yield = 16

5 oz. dark chocolate chips (gluten-free) + more for topping
½ C. butter
2 eggs
1 C. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ C. almonds, processed into a fine meal (or ½ C. almond flour)
¼ C. brown rice flour
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan.

Microwave the dark chocolate and butter in a Pyrex bowl for 45 seconds, stirring once halfway.

In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat well for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and whisk until blended. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy. Remove bowl from stand and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ground almonds (or flour), rice flour, salt and baking soda. Add this dry mix to the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle another 2 to 4 tablespoons of chocolate chips evenly over the batter if desired. Place in the oven and bake for 32 to 34 minutes. Test with a paring knife or a toothpick.

Cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan. Turn pan over quickly and slam onto a cutting board. The whole block of brownies should come right out. Leave the brownie block face down and cut into 16 squares, wiping knife in between cuts. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Gluten-Free Focaccia
Adapted from www.celiac.com
Yield = 8 sandwiches

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
1½ C. brown rice flour
½ C. buckwheat, amaranth or teff flour
2 C. tapioca flour
2/3 C. instant non-fat dry milk powder
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 T. active dry yeast
1 T. sugar
1½ C. lukewarm water
4 egg whites at room temperature
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
sea salt for sprinkling

Grease a parchment paper-lined or Silpat-lined sheet tray with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flours, milk powder, xanthan gum, salt, yeast, and sugar. In a large bowl, combine the water and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add olive oil-water mixture to dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Transfer dough — it will be very sticky — to the prepared sheet tray. With greased hands, gently spread dough out, dimpling the dough slightly with your fingers — dough will not fill the entire tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes.

Remove plastic wrap, gently dimple dough again with your fingers, being careful not to deflate. Lightly drizzle olive oil over top, sprinkle with the rosemary and salt to taste. Place in the oven, close the door and reduce the heat to 400ºF.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer until the focaccia is nicely golden. Remove from the oven and transfer bread from pan to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing and using for sandwiches.

Nectarine and Blackberry Crostata

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Nectarine and Blackberry crostatas

Whenever I have a question regarding a recipe or a cooking technique, I consult the authorities: my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. Sometimes I need to know if I can safely substitute one ingredient for another, sometimes I may need an old family recipe, and sometimes I just need to know if what I plan to do is acceptable.

Let me explain. These women have established some unwritten rules — chicken stock should always be homemade, pie dough should always be all butter, lamb should be from New Zealand and chickens from a kosher market — that, while sometimes I want to challenge, I ultimately fear breaking.

Another one of their rules regards crisps. Crisp toppings, according to the family arbiters, should not contain oats. Their favorite recipe contains flour, butter, sugar and slivered almonds. It’s perfectly sweet and crisp, and it works well on any seasonal fruit.

I love their recipe but I have found one that I love even more (gasp!) and that fortunately doesn’t break the rule: the recipe requires no oats. This Michael Chiarello crostata topping recipe, made with a mixture of cornmeal, flour, butter and sugar, crisps up beautifully in the oven and tastes perfectly sweet, buttery and crisp.

The addition of cornmeal — an uncommon crisp ingredient — adds a wonderful texture, and the subtle corn flavor really complements the fruit. While I love a mix of stone fruit and berries such as nectarines and blackberries, peaches and raspberries, and apricots and blueberries — any seasonal fruit will do.

I know the authorities will approve.

Nectarine and Blackberry crostatas

Nectarine and Blackberry Crostatas
Crostata topping comes from Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne
Serves 8 to 10

for the topping:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal
½ cup sugar
large pinch salt
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon aniseed, toasted (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten lightly

for the filling:
2 T. sugar
2 T. all-purpose flour
butter
3 lbs. nectarines, pitted and sliced into thick wedges
8 oz. blackberries

for serving:
vanilla ice cream for serving

1. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and aniseed (if using) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Cut butter into bowl. Pulse until butter resembles the size of large peas. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the egg. Using a fork, gently work the flour into the egg until the egg is uniformly mixed throughout the dough. Note: The dough will not form a mass like a traditional dough would. Rather, it will clump together if pressed together.

2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish or individual ramekins or crème brulee dishes. Stir the 2 T. sugar and 2 T. flour in a large bowl. Add the nectarines and blackberries and toss to combine.

3. Spoon the fruit into the prepared dish or dishes. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Bake until the nectarines are tender and the topping is golden and crisp, about 30-40 minutes for individual servings and close to an hour for a large dish. Cool at least 10 minutes.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Nectarine and Blackberry crostatas

Korean Flank Steak and Chilled Soba

STEAK

Korean Flank Steak

Most people go to Morimoto for sushi. For fatty tuna rolls and tuna belly sashimi, some aficionados will pay any price. Indeed, the sushi at this Stephen Starr, Iron Chef-run restaurant is arguably the best in the city.

I go to Morimoto, however, for something else. Morimoto’s cha-soba — chilled green tea soba noodles served with dashi-shoyu, a savory dipping sauce — cannot be found anywhere else in the city. Many sushi restaurants serve soba noodles, hot and cold, but few serve this green tea variety.

Cha-soba translates to tea-soba and describes the noodles, which are made with matcha (green tea powder) and buckwheat flour. Partly I enjoy the dish’s assembly — seaweed-green noodles nested on ice in a bamboo box arrive next to a bowl filled with the dashi-shoyu and a plate of sesame seeds, scallions and freshly grated wasabi — but mostly I love the chewy texture and distinct green tea flavor of the noodles.

Chilled soba made with traditional buckwheat noodles:

Chef Masaharu Morimoto suggests, as communicated through his attentive servers, tasting the dashi, seasoning it with wasabi, dipping the noodles into the sauce and eating directly from the bowl. A combination of kombu (dried kelp seaweed) and bonito shavings (dried, flaked mackerel) steeped in mirin, soy sauce and water make the dashi, a flavorful and aromatic stock. Dipping the noodles, as opposed to dressing them, in a chilled broth spiked with fresh wasabi — a treat for any sushi lover — ensures a perfect ratio of sauce to noodle.

Ordered on its own, this dish, costing $12 a serving — although not the best deal for noodles in the city — makes a perfect summer lunch and when paired with sushi or grilled fish or steak, a side dish worth sharing at dinner. Cha-soba for me, like a toro-stuffed maki roll for most Morimoto patrons, induces a bliss matched by no other noodle-serving restaurant in the city.

And before I went green, I used to enjoy — adore — Morimoto’s kobe beef carpaccio: thin slices of delectable, tender meat, rubbed with ginger and garlic and seared with a hot sesame-olive oil mix. Now, however, I don’t know how I feel about kobe beef. Is it grass fed? I really don’t know enough about the treatment of kobe beef cows, but I do know that the grass-fed beef from Livengood Farm in Lancaster is delicious. All who enjoyed the grass-fed hamburgers for the Fourth of July can attest. This marinade for flank steak (grass-fed, purchased from Livengood’s at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market this past Tuesday) can also be used for skirt or hanger steak.

Like Morimoto’s carpaccio, this steak recipe has tons of ginger and garlic. The sugar in the marinade helps the meat char nicely on the grill and the soy sauce balances the sweetness. The Asian flavors in this Korean-style flank steak makes it a perfect entrée to serve with the chilled soba.

Grass-fed cows at the Livengood Family Farm in Lancaster, PA:

Korean-Style Flank Steak
Serves 4

¼ C. sugar
¼ C. + 2 T. soy sauce
1 T. + 1 tsp. mirin
6 large cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, white part only, minced
1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 T. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
1½ lbs. flank steak
oil for greasing
kosher salt to taste

Whisk together the sugar, soy, mirin, garlic, scallions, ginger and sesame oil until smooth. Transfer to a resealable plastic storage container or a Ziploc bag. Place the meat and let marinate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the grill to high. Remove steak from marinade and discard. If meat has marinated overnight, season it very lightly with salt or not at all . If meat has marinated for just a few hours, season lightly with salt. Grease the grill grates with oil.

For flank steak about 1-inch thick, grill four minutes on one side. Flip, grill three minutes on the other side for medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes before slicing across the grain.

Chilled Soba Noodles with Dashi-Shoyu
Adapted from Sally Schneider, A New Way To Cook, (Artisan, 2001)
Serves 6

½ oz. kombu (kelp seaweed)
2½ C. water
½ oz. dried bonito shavings
½ C. mirin
½ C. soy sauce or tamari
12 oz. soba noodles or green tea soba noodles
wasabi powder
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
sesame seeds
1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips

Place the kombu and the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer. After one minute, remove the kombu and discard. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bonito shavings and do not stir. When the bonito has sunk to the bottom, after a minute or two, strain the broth through a fine strainer, pressing on the bonito shavings with a spatula to extract all the liquid, then discard.

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin to a boil. Add the kombu broth and the soy sauce and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water or plunge into an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

When ready to serve, mix wasabi powder with water to make a paste and set aside. Place all of the garnishes — scallions, sessame seeds, nori and wasabi — in separate bowls. Divide the noodles among six plates. Pour the dashi-shoyu into 6 small bowls large enough to handle a serving of chosptick-filled noodles dipped inside, (much larger than what is pictured.) Give each diner a bowl of noodles and sauce and let them garnish their noodles as they please.

Grand Marnier Summer Berry Trifle

trifle1

If you’re looking for a summery dessert that feeds many mouths for an upcoming dinner party or potluck, consider this trifle. I only wish I had had such an event to attend before I made this massive concoction of Grand Marnier-soaked cake, creme anglaise, whipped cream and berries. With each day that passes, it seems to get better and better, and as it is slowly disappears from my refrigerator I really am afraid I may just polish off the whole thing myself.

Mixed Berry Trifle
Serves 8 – 10

for the cake:
½ C. all-purpose flour
1½ C. sugar
½ tsp. salt
8 large egg yolks
3 T. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg whites

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10 x 15 x 2-inch or 9 x 12 x 2-inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, 1 cup of the sugar and the salt. Add yolks, milk and extract and whisk again until smooth.

3. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly sprinkle in remaining ½ cup sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks — don’t over-beat. Stir one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. It’s ok if white streaks remain.

4. Pour batter into pan, place in the oven and bake until cake is golden and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, invert cake onto a cooling rack, peel away parchment paper and let cake cool completely. Set aside.

Note: Cake will fall considerably once removed from the oven and will be very moist.

for the custard:
4 yolks
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1¾ cups scalded milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat yolks and sugar on medium high speed for 3 minutes until thick and pale yellow. Reduce heat and add cornstarch. With mixture on low, slowly pour hot milk into eggs. Put back on stove, stir with a wooden spoon until thickened, strain, add vanilla and chill.

to assemble:
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. Grand Marnier plus more for sprinkling*
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
6 cups mixed berries such as strawberries (stemmed and halved), blueberries, blackberries and raspberries

*optional, if children will be eating the dessert, leave it out

1. Cut the cake into ¾-inch slices, then cut each slice in half. Set aside. Whip cream on high speed. Drizzle in the Grand Marnier. When cream begins to thicken, slowly sprinkle in the sugar. Beat until thick. Fold into custard and chill mixture until ready to assemble.

2. Line the bottom of a bowl (ideally a clear glass bowl with straight sides) with cake. Sprinkle with Grand Marnier. Top with 1/3 of the fruit mixture. Top with half of the custard. Layer more cake on top. Sprinkle with Grand Marnier, top with 1/3 of the berries and the rest of the custard. If more cake remains, layer it on top, sprinkle with Grand Marnier and top with the rest of the berries.

Zucchini Pappardelle

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My favorite restaurant in Philadelphia is Melograno, a BYOB at 22 and Spruce. Every time I go I can’t help but order the pappardelle tartufate, a mix of homemade pasta, wild mushrooms, walnuts, Parmigianno Reggiano and truffle oil. I try to branch out, but ultimately never have the courage — I always give in when the waiter appears.

This recipe only resembles Melograno’s signature pasta by way of the shape of its noodles. I purchased a fluted roller at Fante’s and fresh, whole pasta sheets from Talluto’s on the Italian Market and cut the pasta into 2-inch wide strips. The noodles cook in three minutes and their heat instantly cooks the thin ribbons of zucchini when gently tossed. A recipe for linguini with julienned zucchini in Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne cookbook inspired this recipe. Tons of basil and parsley make this a perfect summer pasta.

Zucchini Pappardelle
Serves 4

¾ lb. fresh pappardelle* pasta
¾ lb. zucchini
kosher salt
pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped parsley
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or peeler, cut the zucchini lengthwise into long thin ribbons about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside in a large serving bowl

Place the oil and the garlic in a large nonstick sauté pan and turn heat to medium. Heat only until garlic begins to sizzle. Add the pepper flakes and remove from the heat.

Eggplant, purslane and summer squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market:
Add the pasta to the water, and using tongs, gently move pasta around to make sure it is not sticking. Cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta — do not rinse — and add to the bowl with zucchini. Return the sauté pan with the oil to a burner over medium heat and when the garlic begins to sizzle again, add the parsley and the basil and immediately pour over the pasta and zucchini. Add the Parmigiano, season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and toss gently. Taste, adding some of the reserved cooking water, more olive oil or more salt and pepper if necessary.

*Delicious fresh pasta sheets can be found at Taluto’s on the Italian Market. For a pretty presentation, purchase a fluted roller at Fante’s and cut the fresh pasta sheets into 2-inch-wide strips. Dried pappardelle works well also.

CSA Week 11

1 bunch Chiogga beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
1 head red leaf lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
3 candy onions grown by Back Forty Ranch
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
6 tomatoes grown by Green Valley Organics and Countryside Organics
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Countryside Organics
2 green cucumbers grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green zucchini grown by Meadow Valley Organics
4 patty pan squash grown by Green Valley Organics
1 pint grape tomatoes grown by Farmdale Organics

Summer Squash Tart

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Frozen puff pastry is amazing. I finally found a use for the box I’ve had in my freezer for three years now — the box that survived a move across town in 2005 — and it baked off perfectly. This tart requires a fair amount of summer squash — a perfect showcasing of the season’s produce — and takes little time to prepare with puff pastry on hand.This recipe has been slightly simplified from one I saw recently in Saveur, which called for grating, salting and sauteeing some of the zucchini, and also called for chopped and strained cherry tomatoes. With a simple salad, this tart, served at room temperature as suggested by the author, makes a wonderful summer dinner, and leftovers make an even better lunch.

Summer Squash Tart with Ricotta and Feta
Serves 6

1 10” x 13” sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
parchment paper
pie weights or dried beans wrapped in plastic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. mix of zucchini and yellow squash
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
¼ cup feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place pastry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, gently score (being careful not to go all the way through) the pastry about one inch from the edge on all sides. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork, line center area only with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Remove weights and parchment paper.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and let sauté until slightly caramelized about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.

Zucchini and yellow squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market this past Tuesday:
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the squash crosswise into ¼ – inch thick rounds. Add to the pot of boiling water, cook for 30 – 60 seconds, drain and let dry on a paper-towel lined cookie tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread onto puff pastry. Top with the onions. Arrange squash pieces in overlapping rows until tart is filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven for five minutes longer. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with feta, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

CSA Week 10

1 bunch of beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
3 Cubanella peppers grown by Green Valley Organics
1 head lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 Walla Walla onion grown by the Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
1 bag of potatoes grown by Green Valley Organic
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Hillside Organics

Best Granola Ever

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Of all the baked treats I bring my husband on our weekly weekend meetings, I think this homemade granola — maybe even more than chocolate-chip cookies and rich, fudgy brownies — makes him happiest. With a tub of this oat-, nut- and fruit-filled mix on hand, and with the barest of kitchen equipment, Ben can enjoy a homemade breakfast with little effort. Mixed with yogurt or milk, sliced bananas or peaches, blueberries or strawberries, homemade granola truly is a treat.

And as a last resort, granola also makes a fine dinner, as my high school friends — subjected to institutional dining hall food three times a day at an early age — can attest. Amazingly, they still never tire of granola and appreciate a homemade batch all the more.

This recipe has been adapted from Ina Garten’s “the bare foot contessa cookbook.” While the amounts of oil, nuts and dried fruit have been significantly changed, the proportion of the foundation — a mix of oats, sliced almonds and cococut (the secret ingredient) — remains unaltered.

Homemade Granola

4 cups (14 oz.) rolled oats
2 cups (6.5 oz.) sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups (6.75 oz.) sliced almonds
½ cup (4 oz.) vegetable oil
2/3 cup (7.25 oz) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping cup (5.25 oz.) dried cherries or cranberries

candied nuts (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut and almonds and gently stir or toss with your hands to mix well. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, vanilla and salt and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to emulsify slightly. Pour over the oat mixture and with a spatula stir until evenly coated. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well. Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Stir well again. Repeat twice more until the granola is golden — be very careful at the end: The coconut will burn easily, leaving the granola with a bitter, burnt taste. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack and leave undisturbed until completely cool, at least one hour. Meanwhile prepare the nuts:

Candied Nuts:
neutral oil such as canola or vegetable
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups raw, unsalted cashews
1½ cups raw, unsalted almonds (skin on)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar with ¼ cup water, the salt and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and let the mixture simmer for one minute, stirring constantly to coat them with the syrup. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and spread them on the prepared baking sheet — don’t be tempted to drizzle the excess syrup on the baking sheet as well (it will just burn). Bake for 15 minutes, stir and return to the oven until golden and crisp, about another five minutes. Remove pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool, about an hour.

To finish the granola:

Using a bench scraper, carefully remove the granola from the pan and transfer to a bowl, keeping the granola in chunks as best as possible. Add the nuts to the bowl, breaking up the mass into small clusters. Add the dried fruit and toss mixture lightly to combine. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Although I picked up my 10th CSA today, I am still playing catch-up in my documentation of produce deliveries and am thus posting a recipe I made way back in week 4. While banana bread is probably my favorite quick bread, I look forward to making this zucchini bread every summer. Spiced with cinnamon and sweetened mostly with brown sugar, this moist seasonal bread makes a wonderful addition to breakfast coffee or afternoon tea all summer long. It takes no time to make and, when prepared in mini loaf loaf pans, makes a nice gift as well.

Week 4
1¼ pound bag of pea tendrils
1 head green butterhead lettuce
1 crown broccoli
2 small zucchini
1 bunch scallions
1 head green or red leaf lettuce
1 kohlrabi root
1 quart strawberries

Zucchini Bread
Yield: 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves

a scant 2 cups (8 oz.) flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2½ cups grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease loaf pan or pans. Whisk together first five ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk remaining ingredients except zucchini. Add zucchini to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add dry to wet and stir till until combined. Pour into pans. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 35 – 45 minutes for mini loaves, and 45 minutes to 1 hour for a standard loaf pan.

Food Blogging Class In NYC

salsa toppings

I just returned from a short trip to New York City where I attended a two-hour food blogging class in the Bowery Culinary Center at Whole Foods Market. Matt Armendariz, the teacher and author of the amazing blog mattbites, guided the class through the “ins and outs of food blogging,” imparting along the way some invaluable insights and tricks regarding food photography. The photos on his blog — visit a recent post entitled “Sunday and The Perfect Lunch” — and on his new site mattphotographs are stunning.