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Archive for September, 2008

It was a grey, rainy day today. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I decided that I needed to be efficient with my time. And so I was. Figure legends! Statistics! (I give myself a pat on the back.) It also helped that I got to take breaks in-between stretches of productivity to make a dessert to bring over to our friends. Oh yes, I did end up taking a nap after all.

I settled on something that required no special pans or ingredients, a rustic, free-form tart. I roamed through the produce section of the supermarket and was inspired by the yellow nectarines. Yellow nectarines are tangy and sweet, and would go very well with a bit of crust.

Rustic Nectarine Tart

3 medium sized nectarines, sliced (about 16 slices/nectarine)
2 tbsp sugar
Pie crust (see below)

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. In a bowl, toss nectarine slices with sugar (can add more or less depending on how sweet you like the nectarines). A trick to separate the nectarine flesh from the seed is to slice first. I cut about 16 wedges per nectarine. Some smaller slices wiggle out nicely, and the empty slots they once occupied allow you to pry out the other slices more easily.
2. Let refrigerated pie crust (see recipe below) rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Roll out dough, sandwiching it between two large pieces of saran wrap, to at least 12-13” diameter. With it still adhering to one piece of saran wrap on one side, flip pie crust over and onto the prepared pan.
3. Layer sliced nectarines in a spiral pattern, leaving a few inches around the perimeter of the crust.
4. Fold over the edges of the pie crust, pleating the edges and pressing them together.
5. Sprinkle edges of tart with ½ tbsp sugar.
6. Place pan in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. The tart will be extra juicy, and some of the juice may have leaked out, but do not worry. Allowing the tart to sit and cool will thicken things up, and the bottom of the tart remains crusty.

Pie crust (makes 2, adapted from Epicurious)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4-1/2 tbsp (about) ice water

Mix flour, sugar, and salt. (You’re supposed to use a food processor here, but I just mixed with my fingers.) Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. (I know this is taboo since using your hands would melt the butter, but again, I used my fingers to pinch the butter and flour together, frequently tossing around the flour.) Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

rustic nectarine tart 1

rustic nectarine tart 2

rustic nectarine tart 3

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autumn moon festival

My aunt made me some wonderful mooncakes and flaky chinese pastries to celebrate the mid-autumn festival last week. Instead of using lotus seed paste mixed with shortening or lard for the mooncake filling, she made a paste out of mung beans and vegetable oil. Using homemade pastry dough and a mooncake mold handed down to her from my grandmother, she formed some of the prettiest and tastiest treats. Even though I was in Seattle and wasn’t able to celebrate with family, the mooncakes brought me home.

mooncake

pastry bun

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it’s not delivery

One of J’s expertise in the kitchen is making homemade pizza. His secret to homemade pizza is ready-made pizza dough from his favorite store, Trader Joe’s. The ready-made pizza dough comes to the rescue when you’re short on time. And at $1.99 per lump, your wallet can afford many more pizzas to come.

First, allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Flatten the dough out into a pie shape and rest it on your knuckles, slowly stretching it out while rotating. When it reaches the desired size, place it on a baking sheet. Spread a layer of pizza sauce (or tomato paste if you don’t mind a less saucy pizza), and top with mozzarella cheese.

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Then, add whatever toppings you wish. We made a vegetarian pizza this time, with fresh zucchini, frozen artichoke hearts, sliced tomatoes, and red onion. Top with another layer of mozzarella.

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It’s not delivery; it’s so much better.

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A good friend of J’s left Seattle for San Diego at the end of August. We said our temporary goodbyes over dinner with him and his wife, and their very energetic boy of three years.

Taking the heirloom tomatoes I found at the farmer’s market, I made a salad of tomatoes, thin slices of honeydew and thin strips of cucumber made with the long strokes of a vegetable peeler. I tossed these in a dab of oil and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and black pepper.

salad of heirloom cherry tomatoes, honeydew, and cucumbers

As promised, I attempted a beet risotto, which came out fantastically. I used a recipe taken from the Health section of the New York Times. I first roasted the beets in the oven the night before, and peeled them the next day. The undersides of my nails remained purple for a day or two. I didn’t realize how beautiful beets look on the inside, too, with concentric rings barely visible in their flesh when I cut them open.

roasted beets

The use of beet greens in this recipe really rounded out the flavor of the risotto. I was afraid that the beets would make the risotto taste too bland and sweet, although this is easily remedied by a squeeze of lemon and the addition of grated parmesan. These dark and leafy greens have a bitter bite on their own, but they are perfect as they mellow out in the creamy risotto. We had this risotto with some ridiculously inexpensive salmon fillets from Costco. (They were farmed — please forgive me!) The salmon was pan-seared and topped with a sauce of shallots, balsamic vinegar, and a spoonful of sugar.

beet risotto with pan-seared salmon

For dessert, we had cherry clafouti. I love saying “cla-foo-tee” (with empasis on the “tee”) over and over again. It makes me feel so French. But I digress. I was inspired to make a cherry clafouti by a dessert I had on an elegant dinner out this summer, and have since made it twice. A classic clafouti is traditionally made with cherries, but can be made with all other kinds of fruits as well. This dessert is so simple to make. It looks and tastes delicious, and yet it is not too indulgent. I would eat it for breakfast every day, if that were possible.

Julia Child’s Clafouti
serves 6-8

1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries, pitted (some help here may be necessary — J was my designated cherry-pitter)
1/3 cup sugar
powdered sugar

In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

cherry clafouti

As the cherry season ended, I was reminded that the last days of summer are drifting into the fall. Farewell, friend! Farewell, summer!

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