Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Week 7: Rustic Onion Tart

This week I've been all for simplicity. Boiled corn and new potatoes ... grilled pattypan and yellow squash ... sauteed kale ... you get the idea.

The most ambitious bit of cooking for the week was an onion tart. And by "ambitious" I mean: has more than two ingredients. This is one of those recipes where the individual parts (butter, flour, onion) add up to so much more (sweet, caramelized onions and a flaky, buttery dough). I suspect any kind of yellow or white onion would work in this recipe, giving it year-round possibilities, though my motivation was a large bunch of spring onions from my share.

The tart was equally delicious served warm at supper and eaten cold, straight from the refrigerator. If making tart/pastry dough intimidates you, try this one; it's quite forgiving.

Rustic Onion Tart
(Adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)

   For the Dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice-cold water

   For the Filling:

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 lbs onion, thinly sliced (about 6 medium onions)
1/2 to 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste

Stir the salt into the flour. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until only a few large pieces of butter remain. Pour in about three-quarters of the water and stir the mixture with a fork until the dough forms clumps, adding the remaining water in small increments as needed. Bring the dough together into a ball, wrap in plastic and flatten the ball into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or more.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and juicy, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt to taste and continue to cook the onions until they begin to turn golden and caramelize. This could take another 15 to 20 minutes. The liquid should evaporate as the onions cook. Transfer the onions to a bowl (draining any excess liquid, if necessary) and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll out the tart dough to a 14-inch circle. (If the dough is too hard to work with, let it warm up 15 or 20 minutes at room temperature first.) Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and return it to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to firm up.

Spread the onions on top of the dough, leaving a 1.5-inch border all around. Fold up the border over the onions to create an edge to the tart. Bake the tart for about 50 minutes, or until the crust on the bottom is golden brown. Slide the tart onto a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Week 6: Raspberry Yogurt Cake

We didn't plan it this way, but summer so far has been as busy as the school year, chock full of work, volunteer obligations, family gatherings, and camp preparations. I have plenty of washing and labeling and packing left to do, but I'm putting it all aside for a moment for a nice glass of iced tea and a slice of cake.

Not a fussy cake, mind you. Nothing heavy; no buttercream frosting. (I'm saving that for fall.) Just a humble, single-layer cake studded with summer fruit.

We are delighting in raspberries from the farm, so raspberry cake it was, but it could just as easily have been a strawberry or blueberry cake. This is a fine cake for a picnic or a beach outing -- or for just sitting around the kitchen table avoiding the laundry.

Raspberry Yogurt Cake
(adapted from Gourmet, by way of Smitten Kitchen.)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1.5 Tbsp sugar, divided use
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 egg
1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, lemon zest, and egg. With the mixer on low, add in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the yogurt, until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the raspberries over the cake batter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on a rack and cool another 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week 5: Fresh Pea Soup

Lots of good stuff in the share this week: Lettuces for salad, beets for roasting, onions for sauteing, summer squash for stuffing, more squash for roasting, and raspberries (yes!) for eating out of hand while cooking all that other stuff. Plus, a good friend gave us a taste of her CSA with a gift of some beautiful scallions and fennel and chard and herbs, in exchange for a couple of squash and some peas.

Let me tell you about the peas. Caboodle and I have shelled a good 10 pounds of peas over the past two weeks. We may have reached the end of the season, as the pea pods this week were positively enormous -- a tad overgrown, really -- with individual peas the size of chickpeas. Still, the peas were nibble-worthy raw, and even better in soup.

Split pea soup, made from dried peas, is definitely stick-to-your-ribs, cold-weather comfort food. I found fresh pea soup, on the other hand, to be something of a revelation: far lighter, more delicate, and quick to cook. As hot soups go, this is a plausible one for a summery day.

Fresh Pea Soup

(Inspired by Ina Garten)

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 medium carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups vegetable stock
5 cups shelled fresh peas
2/3 cup chopped mint leaves (loosely packed)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables soften. Add the stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas, lower the heat, and simmer the soup until the peas are tender, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on size. Remove from the heat and add the mint.

Let the soup cool a couple of minutes, puree it in batches in a blender or food processor, and return it to the soup pot. Add the lemon, salt, and pepper, adjusting seasonings to taste. Reheat the soup if necessary, and serve hot, garnished with chive if desired. Serves 6.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Week 4: Minted Simple Syrup and Honeydew-Mint Sorbet

Oy, mint. Garden herb and invasive weed. We pulled up a patch of it years ago, and I haven't missed it much. Except ... every now and then I come across a good use for mint -- tabbouleh or this falafel and tzatziki combination  -- and I think: Maybe we could keep a container of mint growing outside. A small container. One that's quarantined from the actual garden.

The spearmint that came from the farm in our share tasted a lot better than whatever variety of mint we once grew. Spearmint, lime, sugar, and rum are the flavorings of a classic mojito. Drop the rum and add in cubes of honeydew and you have the makings of a refreshing melon salad. Freeze the honeydew and you are on your way to making a minty sorbet.

The real find of the week was the recipe for the minted simple syrup that flavors the sorbet. It's ideal for sweetening glasses of plain-brewed iced tea, and would no doubt be handy in all sorts of mixed drinks. You can swap out the mint to make other herb-infused syrups.

Minted Simple Syrup
(From Gourmet)

1.5 cups packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Chop the mint. Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer the syrup, without stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour the syrup through a fine sieve, pressing on the chopped leaves to extract as much liquid as possible, and cool. Makes about 1.25 cups.

Honeydew-Mint Sorbet
(Adapted from Gourmet, using the food-processor sorbet technique.)

6 to 8 cups frozen honeydew cubes (cut from 1/2 large melon)
About 1 cup minted simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lime

Place half of the frozen melon, lime, and simple syrup in a food processor bowl fitted with a steel blade. Process until pureed and creamy, but not liquified, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Remove from the food processor and process the remaining ingredients the same way. Combine the two batches. Eat immediately or transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze. Makes about 6 cups. If the sorbet freezes too hard for later scooping, allow it to sit at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes to soften before serving.