Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sassy Sweets: Tartlettes aux Pommes

***I am reporting this from my 2014 post as I remade this lat weekend and retook some photos that really does these delicious apple tartlettes much more justice!  They are seriously still one of my favorite apple recipes EVER, and not just because Paris still owns my heart.  Plus I'll be there in a few weeks, what better to get in the mood?!**

In about 12 hours, I will be on a plane to Paris (aka one of my favorite places on Earth).  I'm both slightly anxious (read:  terrified) and excited.  I'm going for work and it's the first time I'm being trusted to go all on my own.  Granted, I'll have a few guys from the London office there with me but I'm the only one coming from stateside.  Plus, John isn't coming with me so I have a whole weekend entirely by myself.  I try to wonder if I've EVER had a weekend like that before in my life and I'm hardpressed to think of one.  It should be fun, and lonely, and Parisian.

Since I booked my tickets a few weeks ago, I've been alternatively dreading / loving watching the few weeks fly by.  John will be meeting me in London in a week's time (where I'm working next week) and when we get back it will be November.  And I'm sitting here feeling like - did this year even happen?!  What the heck have we done to show for it??

In the midst of all this anxiety, I have lost the kitchen.  Not completely but a lot.  So last weekend, when I decided to use up the last of our apples from apple picking into something dramatic and French and autumnal and lovely, this was the only thing I could think of.  Truth?  The recipe was so good that I felt like we were in Paris.  I'll be there soon enough but if you're not as lucky, these tartlettes will do the trick!
Tartlettes aux Pommes (adapted from Joy of Baking)
Serves:  6 (6 6-inch tart pans)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour

Apple Filling:
8 medium-sized apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Calvados
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Crust:  Beat butter until softened; add the sugar and beat until sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is light and fluffy.  Add egg beating until just incorporated.  Add flour and with your clean hands, mix until the dough forms a ball.  Flatten the dough into a large round disk and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate about 60-90 minutes, until firm. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Have six 6-inch tartlette pans with removable bottoms ready.  Cut the pastry into 6 even pieces.  Remove one piece keeping the rest refrigerated.  On a lightly floured surface, carefully roll the pastry into a 6-inch circle.  Folding the circle in half, then half again.  Pick it up and transfer it to the tart pan, unrolling it onto the top of your tart and using your fingers to press the pastry onto the bottom of the pan.  Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork.  Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Repeat so all 6 tartlette pans are used. 

Remove the unbaked shells from the fridge.  Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is only golden brown on the edges.  Remove from oven.  Let cool

Apple Filling:  Take 5 of the apples and chop into bite-sized pieces.  In a small saucepan combine apples, sugar, water, Calvados, and cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8-12 minutes, until the apples have reduced and the compote is still slightly chunky (consistency is like apple sauce with small apple chunks).  Slice the remaining 3 apples in thin slices.

Fill the crusts evenly with apple compote.  Then, top the apple compote with thin slices of apples.  Brush butter over the tops of the tartlettes and bake for 15-18 minutes until the crusts are browned.  Allow to cool slightly.  Then, remove the tartlettes with the removable bottoms.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store the tarts for up to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fancy Pants App: Loaded Nachos

Now that football is BACK and we have a gorgeous new living room in which to watch it, I am loading up on the football snacks.  After making homemade salsa, I knew that the best way to enhance that was with a delicious plate of nachos.

The nachos were made better, in my humble opinion, by my brand new toaster/convection oven.  It's tremendous but it really works.  You'll see it featured next week but for now just know the broiler function WOW!  The cheese on these nachos was probably the best I've ever made at home.

The secret to loaded nachos is all about the layering.  Plate just one layer of chips, then beans, meat, toppings, then another layer, if desired.  Don't try to crowd the chips because then you get those sad chips that have nothing accompanying them.  The other secret?  Make more than you think - for some reason, these fly off the table!  I won't tell you that John and I fought over the last bit of it.  No, we won't mention that.
Fully Loaded Nachos
Serves: 4
2 cups tortilla chip rounds
1 can black beans, drained
1/4 pound ground turkey, cooked
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablepoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 avocado, sliced
2 jalapenos, sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup salsa (homemade if desired)

Place tortilla chips ont he bottom of a large sheet pan.  Mix in a small bowl black beans, ground turkey, cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  Layer this on top of the tortilla chips.  On top of this, evenly cover with shredded cheese.

Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 4-7 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Let sit for 1-2 minutes.  Then add avocado slices, jalapeno slices, dollops of sour cream, and salsa.  Serve immediately with extra chips if desired.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fancy Pants App: Homemade Salsa

It's amazing to believe that fall is really here!  I have to admit, as much as I love summer, fall is a glorious season too.  First of all, it gets a little chilly and although in the city this year it wasn't grossly stifling, it was still HOT!  Especially for a new house without air conditioning!  But, it's also the start of football which the whole family loves without abandon, especially when our Giants are playing.

And Patriots, sorry John. Over the summer, I challenged myself - now that we have a backyard, and porch, and SPACE, I wanted to start growing some of our own food.  My grandfather, dad's dad, had an amazingly green thumb.  The man could grow anything.  Unfortunately, he passed away almost 20 years ago but I remember so vividly his backyard garden.  He had zucchinis the size of my arm and so many blueberries on his blueberry bushes.  The adults used to send my sisters and I to the blueberry bushes with tremendous buckets and we'd pick for what felt like hours - and you wouldn't be able to tell!

I had none of those aspirations, I just wanted to keep some plants alive.  First, Dad started me off with little seedlings.  Of course, it seems I overwatered them (hello, food = love, and I wanted to LOVE my plants) and so they died.  Slowly...but eventually all of them were dead.  Not one to give up easily, John and I went to Home Depot and bought real plants (hopefully hardy) and Dad chipped in again with larger plants he didn't have the room for.  So all in all, we ended up with cilantro, basil, oregano, mint, tomatoes of 3 varieties, hot peppers, and poblano peppers.  A good first year effort, if I say so myself.

We had a plethora of tomatoes at the end of the summer so I peeled them, roasted the with garlic (too much garlic in John's humble opinion), paired them with our cilantro, and made my own salsa.  Yes, it was that easy, and that delicious, and right now I actually REALLY want some more!!
Homemade Salsa (adapted from Food Network)
Serves:  2 cups
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled*
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded
1/2 small red onion
2 limes

*To peel tomatoes easily, just dunk them in boiling water for about 5-15 seconds.  Immediately put them in ice water and peel.  Or substitute for one 15-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cover tomatoes evenly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Place on 2 large sheet pans and roast for 20-30 minutes, until they start to carmelize.  Remove from pan and let cool.

In a large food processor, add cilantro, jalapeno, and red onion.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add tomatoes and lime juice and continue to pulse until thoroughly combined and the chunkiness is to your liking.

Serve immediately or place in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator (the flavors get better!!).
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Date Night Dinner: Ratatouille Tarts

This past weekend, we were apple picking and cabining with the family, which is really my favorite highlight of the season (and more to come from that soon).  This year has been a rough one for the whole family for all different reasons and the fact that we were all on the other side of it and were able to be together and just frankly, enjoy being together was wonderful.

The 20 of us always have a good time and every single one of them I cannot imagine my life without but I have a special place in my heart for my young cousin, H, who is only 10 but Paris-obsessed like me.  It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with her and plan our own special Paris trip.  I think we should go when she's 13; her mom does not agree, and H just giggles every time we talk about it!!!  I think every girl needs a romantic trip to Paris in their teenage years.

There's something romantic about these ratatouille tarts too.  Using the last bounty of the summer garden, and enjoying the summer tomato flavors before they get mixed into heavier pasta sauces and chili is a great way to welcome in fall and say goodbye to summer at the same time. It's like a fleeting Paris romance - bittersweet to see it end but at the same time, oh so tasty!
Ratatouille Tarts
Serves:  2
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 baby eggplant, chopped
4 baby bell peppers, diced
1 summer squash, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
2 pie crusts (I love this recipe)
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.   In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the eggplant in a single layer on the skillet and let sit for 3-4 minutes, without stirring, until lightly brown.  Add the sweet peppers, summer squash, and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, 1-2 minutes, or until slightly softened and fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and stir quickly, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of water to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper, as desired.  Cook about 1-2 minutes, until water has cooked off.  Remove from heat.

While warm, spoon the mixture into each tart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crusts are golden brown and flaky.  Remove from the oven and place dollops of goat cheese and fresh chives evenly on top.  Serve immediately.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Time-Out: Basil Fettuccine

I have been so lucky that the past 2 years, I've had a few projects for my job in Milan and so I get to frequently find myself in Italy.  My family also took a dream vacation to Italy last summer so I've got a lot of Italian exposure lately.
I'm always looking to bring home interesting things home to my family when I travel overseas.  One of the entire family's favorites is flavored fresh pastas.  These are pastas I just can't find in the normal grocery store at home and are all different flavors - mushroom, tomato, egg, basil, and John's favorite - spicy pepper.

This summer, we've had a real bumper crop of basil.  In fact, the basil is still going strong, three weeks into September.  I love making homemade pasta - it really is so easy and with a hand-cranked pasta maker, I can get rid of my rolling pin method!  Anyway, I thought there had to be a way to create that basil pasta at home and so I went to work adding about 20 basil leaves to my pasta.  And WOW, it came out delicious!  Pasta is all about the ingredients, and then the drying.  Drying the pasta is essential before cooking so it doesn't get all gloppy and stuck together.
Basil Fettuccine (adapted from Serious Eats)
Serves:  4
1/2 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt

In a small food processor, pulse chop basil and olive oil until basil is in small slices.  Transfer the basil mixture into a bowl.

On a clean surface, pour out the flour and form a well with high walls (the higher the better).  Pour the eggs, egg yolks, salt, and basil mixture into the well.  Using a fork, mix the eggs into the flour, pushing the walls back each time to ensure no eggs escape, until a scraggly dough forms.  Work the rest of the flour into the dough, until the dough becomes uniform.

Using your hands, knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until the dough becomes very smooth and somewhat elastic.  At first, the dough will seem fairly dense and dry.  Keep working it and it comes together very nicely.  Rest the dough for 30 minutes on the counter.

Cut the dough into 2 halves.  Keep one in the fridge until ready to use.  With the first half, roll out into an oblong shape.  Using the biggest opening in the pasta roller as possible, roll the dough through once, then again.  Using a book fold, fold the two edges of the dough into the center, and then over once, like a book.  This will make the dough a perfect rectangle.  Roll out slightly.  Then, roll through the pasta maker again 3 times.  Choose the next setting on the pasta roller and roll the dough through that setting twice.  Choose the next setting on the pasta roller and roll the dough through that setting twice.  Then, roll once through the 4th setting and once through the 5th setting. 

Finally, cut into 18-inch sheets.  Roll through each sheet on the fettuccine setting.  Let dry on a pasta dryer or over the back of a bowl.  Cook in boiling salted water for 90 seconds, stirring once to ensure the fettuccine separates.  Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

Freeze for later - freeze small nests of pasta on a cookie sheet.  Once frozen, place into a large zipper, freezer-safe bag, making sure there is no excess air in the bag.  Freeze for no longer than 3 weeks.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brilliant Brunch: Homemade Maine Blueberry Maple Syrup

That's a mouthful!  This is actually one of my favorite new recipes I'm sharing with you.  First of all, John and I were able to pick some blueberries on our way home from our amazing vacation in Maine.  Maine blueberries are something special.  In New York, we're sort of spoiled because New Jersey blueberries are also delicious but picking your own berries is just an experience and in my opinion, the berries taste better than if you picked your own berries at the supermarket.  But that's just me.

Now the maple syrup is also really special.  For my birthday this year, my family and I went to Crown Maple Syrup during one of their open house days.  They are one of the top producers of maple syrup in the world and I enjoyed asking the makers of the syrup all types of questions.  We also got to sample every flavor they made, maple sugar, maple popcorn, maple ice cream, and we ate lunch there where everything had a maple syrup twist.  Needless to say, we also bought a lot of maple syrup to take home.

Breakfasts in our house on the weekends are usually pretty decadent affairs.  Both John and I love breakfast and it's fun to make something hearty and delicious.  We decided to make blueberry pancakes with our Maine blueberries and I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to make blueberry-flavored maple syrup too!  I have a fondness for flavored maple syrups because grandma, A, used to take us to IHOP when we were little - at that time, they had 4 syrups on the table and blueberry was always my favorite (do they still do this? I can't remember the last time I was at an IHOP).
Homemade Maine Blueberry Maple Syrup
Serves:  2 cups
2 cups blueberries
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely grated

In a large saucepan, combine blueberries, maple syrup, lemon juice, and mint.  Simmer blueberries for 5 minutes in maple syrup, stirring often.  You can choose to blend it at this point, but I like to just mix vigorously - some blueberries will dissolve, some will stay chunky.

Serve immediately or put in a small jar and seal.  Stores for up to 4 weeks.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sassy Sweets: Open-Face Berry Pies

One of the nicer things that happened this summer is that John and I went up to Maine.  John and I try to go for at least a few days every summer to see his family and catch up with everyone.  The year has been completely stressful for me and work has been crazy too.  John was incredibly thoughtful and selfless (as usual) by giving up two of the days with his family and taking me away where we could relax and just BE.

He chose the perfect place in Peaks Island.  We went there about 5 years ago for the first time but had never stayed on the island.  Well that was going to change!  We stayed at an inn on the island with our own balcony of the ferry landing and just chilled.  As soon as we stepped on the ferry, it was like a calmness washed over me and although I still had my Blackberry and worked, and took phone calls of all kinds, I was, for once, just content.  Even John was shocked at the change - he can't remember the last time I was that relaxed.
We rented a golf cart and the biggest decision every day was there to eat, picnic, look for sea glass, etc.  Just writing about it makes me want to go back so badly.  Of course, the sunset views weren't bad either!  And, while were there, we toured a few open houses.  Perhaps one day we'll be able to go back there every summer to a house that's just our own.  One house at a time Danielle (I'm getting ahead of myself here!).  But I do work in real estate so even when on vacation, I like to have a look at the local housing stock!  John and I have promised ourselves a full week up there next year, just enjoying one another, surf, sun, sand, and relaxation!

The summer should be all about relaxation so when you decide to make a pie, you shouldn't have to fuss with annoying things like top crusts and rolling dough.  Hence the open-face berry pies.  Use whatever berries you have around.

Open-Face Berry Pies
Serves:  12 (6 mini pies)
4 cups of mixed berries, diced or sliced (I used raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  First, in a large tupperware container with lid, add berries, sugar, and cornstarch.  Cover with a lid and shake well so sugar and cornstarch evenly cover (you can also do this in a bowl and toss with a spoon but shaking is more fun and cleaner too!).  Set aside.
Combine butter, flour, sugar, salt, and milk.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Divide into 6 and press into the pie pans.  Pour berry mixture evenly into each pie tin (no prebaking of dough required).
Bake for 15-19 minutes, until golden brown and berries are bubbling.

Let cool and serve warm, room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Serve with vanilla ice cream (of course).
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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