Sunday, April 19, 2015

Goat Cheese and Herbs Tart

My new double oven works perfectly and even though lately I have been very busy with my life I have no more excuses not to bake. Therefore, today, I am putting out something straight from the oven, and my favorite kind of dish--a tart.

I made it already a couple of times for lunch with friends and have been asked to share the recipe. I think this tart is a perfect spring dish--light and very aromatic thanks to herbs.

Many of my herbs did not survive the harsh winter we had but those that did and a new I planted last week are already big enough to be picked up. Any kind of herbs can be used for that tart but my favorite ones are chives, lemon thyme, and Greek oregano, all of which combine nicely with the cheese filling.

As always, I made my own crust for this tart and it makes a huge quality difference so I would not use any store bought dough. Pastry dough is very easy. It can be made in no time, a couple of days ahead in a food processor or by hand and baked just before serving.

With a light salad and a glass of wine there is nothing better for a Sunday lunch than this tart.

Goat Cheese and Herbs Tart


For the pastry:
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour,
6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes,
2 tbsp vegetable shortening,
a pinch of salt,
4 tbsp ice-cold water,

For the filling:
1 cup cottage cheese,
1 large log ( 10 oz) goat cheese,
3 egg yolks,
1/4 cup all purpose flour,
4 tbsp unsalted room temperature butter,
3 tbsp chopped chives, thyme and oregano.

1. To make a dough, in a bowl of a food processor mix flour, butter, shortening and salt. Mix together until large crumbs form. Add ice-cold water and pulse until a smooth dough forms. Flatten the dough into disk, wrap in a foil and let it chill in a refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Roll the dough to a size of an 11'' tin and transfer it to a 10'' baking tart shell with removable walls. Bake it for about 15 minutes minutes until set but still pale gold.
4. To make a filling, in a food processor beat the cheeses, yolks, flour, and butter until smooth. Add chopped herbs.
5. Spread the filling on the pre-baked crust and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is set and the crust turns gold.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Saffron Parfait with Pistachios

A couple of weeks ago my oven broke irreparably and I had not been able to bake anything before the new one arrived just this week. This also meant that I could not bake any cakes. Luckily, I have many recipes for the desserts that are not cakes but can be served cold. I tried a couple of them instead as I can hardly live without any dessert.

I read recently a lot about desserts made with saffron. They usually come from the Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine. Saffron adds beautiful color to desserts and also has this nice mysterious flavor which makes the dessert taste even more interesting.

The dessert that I made recently is most of all very easy to make. Since it is frozen it can be prepared ahead. It can be a great finale to any spicy or grilled dinner, especially on a warm day like we had for the first time this year.

Saffron Parfait with Pistachios
(Makes four servings)

A pinch of saffron thread or saffron powder,
4 eggs yolks,
1/2 cup sugar,
1 cup half and half,
1/2 cup chopped pistachios.

1. Put the saffron in milk and heat in a small pan until it nearly boils. Set aside to cool, then drain on a sieve.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes pale. Pour in the saffron milk to the yolks mixture and heat without letting it boil. A mixture should be thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.

3. Pour the mixture in a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
4. Whip half and half until almost stiff. Fold in gently the saffron mixture and pistachios. Divide between small bowls and put in a freezer for 8 hours.

Take it out from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Leeks Baked with Cream and Gorgonzola

Years ago, when vegetables and fruits were only available in certain seasons, leeks were one of the few that survived winter and lasted until the first new spring vegetables were available. Maybe for that reason I still like most to cook and eat leeks from late fall to early spring. So the other day, which was still very cold and windy, I made a leek dish for dinner.

I wanted to try a simple Italian dish of leeks baked in cream. But when I was about to put a dish in the oven, I found in my refrigerator a piece of Gorgonzola cheese. I thought that Gorgonzola would go well with leeks in cream since this was an Italian dish. It seemed also that a slightly sharp cheese would add a little bit of spiciness to the mild and slightly sweet leeks. Then I came with the idea to finish the dish with shredded almonds to add some crunchiness. The dish turned out very nice and a combination of sweet leeks in cream and melted, spicy Gorgonzola was perfect.

It is a very simple dish that can be prepared ahead and finished (baked) at the last moment. It tastes great with baguette, tomato salad, and a glass of wine.

Leeks Baked in Cream and Gorgonzola

4 medium leeks (only the white and light green parts can be used),
1/2 cup table cream,
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese,
2 tbsp slivered roasted almonds,
1 tbsp butter,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Wash leeks thoroughly, especially between the leaves to remove all the dirt.
2.Put them in a pot of salted boiling water and cook about 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and cool down them down.
3. Preheat oven to 370F.
4. Butter an over proof dish (large enough for leeks to fit in) and place the leeks in it.

5. Pour on top the cream and crumbled Gorgonzola. Season generously with freshly grated pepper. Sprinkle with almond slivers.
6. Place the dish in the oven and bake about 20 minutes until the cheese melts. Serve hot.