Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dried Figs and Walnuts Spread

This easy spread may come handy during the holiday party season. It is a very simple recipe and the spread is made entirely in a food processor. It is just another variation of a fig or quince spread that have been popular in recent years and are served with cheese, but it is less sweet and more crunchy thanks to the addition of celery and walnuts.

I made it recently just to used the figs that I discovered in the deep end of my refrigerator. They were getting very dry so I soaked them in a warm water to restore the moisture and just blended with all other ingredients. The spread goes well with all kind of hard cheese, especially the Spanish Manchego. It tastes even better if finished with pomegranate seeds which add extra taste and color.

Dried Figs and Walnuts Spread

6-8 dried figs, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes, if they are too dry,
2 celery sticks, sliced,
1/3 cup toasted walnuts,
1 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp white wine,
salt and pepper to taste,
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds for decoration,
1/2 lb Manchego cheese cut into small triangles.

1. Put walnuts and celery in a food processor and swirl a couple of times until they break into smaller pieces.

2. Drain the figs and cut them into smaller pieces. Add them to the mix together with olive oil, wine, salt and pepper, and blend until figs turn into a purée but walnuts and celery pieces are still visible.
3. Transfer the spread to a bowl and let chill for two hours. Serve at room temperature spread on cheese and decorated with pomegranate seeds.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Autumn Tart with Plums and Mascarpone

This is the tart that I make most often. It is easy, delicious and, so far, everyone loved it. Moreover, the crust for it can be made up to two weeks ahead and keeping it refrigerated makes it actually more delicate. I have already shared the recipe for this tart, but recently I have been experimenting with it and, today, I would like to share of the new versions, which I think turned out quite good.

I make this tart with different fruits, toppings, or add extra ingredients to the base. Last weekend, I made it with plums. In Poland, fall is the season when we make many desserts with plums. For baking, the best are those dark blue plums called Hungarian or Italian plums but, if they are not available, any black or dark plums can be used instead.

The base is the same that I always used; however, this time I changed the topping. Since plums can be quite strong in taste and are often sour, to contrast them, instead of cream I used Mascarpone cheese to make a delicate and somewhat richer topping. This tart can be served at room temperature but it tastes even better slightly warm, especially on a cold autumn day.

Tart with Plums and Mascarpone

(For 10" tart form with removable walls)

For the crust:
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature,
1/2 cup confectioners sugar,
2 cups all purpose flour,

For the topping:
1 and 1/2 lb Italian plums (or any other not too juicy dark plums),
17 oz box of mascarpone cheese,
1 large egg,
1/3 cup sugar.

1. To make the crust, put butter, confectioners sugar and flour in a large bowl. Working with your hands make crumbles. Use extra flour to clean your hands.

2. Place the crust in a large ziplock bag, and let it chill in a refrigerator for at least an hour, up to two weeks.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F.
4. Spread the crust on the baking form and press gently into bottom and walls.
5. Remove seeds from the plums and cut them into thick slices. Arrange at the bottom of the form on top of the crust.

6. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, until set and light gold.
7. In a medium bowl mix sugar with egg and Mascarpone cheese until smooth. Pour over the pre-baked tart.
8. Place the tart in the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes until the crust is gold and topping set.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Savory Pumpkin and Feta Pie

Nothing makes me realize more vividly that another year has just past by than the mountains of orange pumpkins piling up in my local food stores. And each year I look for another recipe to use as much as possible of that giant Halloween pumpkin.

Unlike most other fruits and vegetables, which these days always grow at some point somewhere else, in a different climate zone, pumpkins are very seasonal. They appear in September and October and usually after Halloween it is hard to find them anymore. So, this pumpkin season, I would like to try two new pumpkin recipes.

The first idea, for a pumpkin and feta pie, comes from the Greek culinary tradition. It is similar to a classic spanakopita with the pumpkin filling replacing the spinach. However, in all the Greek recipes I found, dry mint was also added to the pumpkin-feta filling and, when I tried it for the first time, the taste of the mint was too dominant and overshadowed the delicate taste of the pumpkin, which is what I was hoping would give this pie its special character. So, when I was making it for the second time, I replaced the mint with a dash of dried thyme and I think this worked much better. But I also think that just a plain pumpkin-feta filling would work as well.

Savory Pumpkin and Feta Pie

(For a 9-inch baking dish>
8-10 sheets filo dough,
2 lb peeled and grated pumpkin,
1 medium leek, washed well, sliced (or one large onion chopped),
3 medium eggs,
1 cup crumbled feta cheese,
1 cup milk,
1 tsp dried thyme,
1/3 cup olive oil,
ground pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and fry leeks until transparent. Set them aside.
3. On the same pan heat another 2 tbsp of oil and add grated pumpkin. Fry it for about 5 minutes until it softens.

4. Add leeks to the pan with the pumpkin filling, mix them in, and simmer for another 3 minutes.
5. Pour milk into a large bowl. Add eggs and beat together. Add crumbled Feta, pepper, and thyme (if used). Mix all the ingredients. Add fried pumpkin to the bowl and gently mix everything together.
6. Grease the baking dish with oil and spread the first filo sheet, so that its edges hang out over the dish. Brush in some olive oil on it and put another layer. Follow the same procedure with the remaining sheets.
7. Spread the pumpkin filling on top of the filo. Fold the overhanging pieces of the pastry in and brush them with olive oil.

8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is set and the filo becomes gold.