Asparagus Tart

I think I promised someone I would post this recipe after Easter. As you can see, I’m really on top of my to-do list!

We had a lovely Easter potluck at my aunt’s house and one of the things I took was this tart.

So easy and delicious…and pretty!

Just a few steps…blanching asparagus, then a quick ice bath:

Roll out and pre-bake some puff pastry:

Spread the cheese mixture all over the pastry:

Lay out the cooled asparagus:

And it is ready for the oven. Really, it’s that easy.

I originally pinned this recipe on Pinterest as part of my “Holidays: Easter” board. And I’m happy to have it in my repertoire for it’s simplicity and because I love asparagus and having a new way to use it.

This tart is perfect at room temperature, so great for summer when you want don’t want to be serving things hot.

Asparagus and Cheese Tart  from FoodNetwork

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound), thawed
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

 Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

 Meanwhile, mix the fontina, gruyere, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Summertime…and the very best husband.

Well, summer is officially here again.  (And I say “officially” because summer weather is pretty much always here…so without the calendar, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.)

That means I’m already fantasizing about making it through the next 3-4 months without turning on my oven. It’s possible, right?

Especially if you are married to my husband. Who is totally OK with me putting this on the table and saying, “Dinner’s ready!”

The CSA shares these days have tomatoes in them. Beautiful, flavorful tomatoes. And so much basil that it smells up the whole house…which no one minds one little bit. I honestly think I could eat this every day and be perfectly happy.

There’s plenty of ways to have your Caprese Salad…or Insalata Caprese, if you want to get technical. And, according to a tiny bit of investigating, the original salad (popular since the ’50s) is dressed only with salt and olive oil. I personally can’t do without the balsamic vinegar. But I do love the “requirement” for buffalo mozzarella. Heaven.

So here’s to oven-free meals…and fantastic husbands.

Happy Summer everyone!

(Another great Caprese Salad favorite, not as kabobs and with the balsamic reduced…here.)

Eggs and Quiche…and more eggs

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile then you’ll know what I mean when I say that we have an abundance of “real” eggs in our house at the moment. My parents have a fabulous neighbor who keeps chickens (and reads this blog – Hi Jennifer!) so she knows about how many eggs my boys go through in a week.

Last week my dad called and told me he had some eggs for us and to “bring a cooler.” He wasn’t kidding. Four-and-a-half dozen!!

I immediately hard-boiled at least a dozen of them.  We had breakfast for dinner one night and used up a bunch more. My five-year-old loves that the eggs are all different colors and the double yolks are the biggest deal!

Even with all of that, there were still a lot of eggs hanging around. So I got busy formulating a mini-quiche my two-year-old could eat, since he is still on some dietary restrictions…it can get a little tricky.

But I was able to come up with these:

Onion and Spinach Mini-Quiche with a Manchego “Crust”

He can’t have cow’s milk products, but he can have goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. So I grated some manchego in the bottoms of the mini-muffin cups in hopes it would get just crispy enough to seem like a thin crust. Onions and spinach were sauteed in bacon grease and spooned on top of the cheese. Then the eggs…and instead of cream I used chicken broth to keep it a little moist.

You can sort of see the slight crispiness on the bottom of this one. They are flatter than a traditional quiche – partly because of the tiny muffin cups and partly because there’s no cream or cheese in the egg mixture.

But the two-year-old did not care. He ate twelve of them for breakfast. Yes, twelve. And then he finished off the rest of the batch later in the morning. I have it on my list of things to do for this weekend to make up several more batches so I can have them on-hand in the freezer. He loved them. And I loved sneaking all that spinach into him.

Since I didn’t want the rest of us to feel left out, I made a regular one, too.  Same basic process, but I used Monterrey Jack and Parmesan for the crust…onions and spinach, cream and eggs…tomatoes on top.  I had it for brunch several days this week and wondered to myself why I don’t make these more often. They are so versatile, easy to grab and go, freeze well…so more quiche is certainly on the list for next week’s meal planning.

The weird shadows on the food are due to the fact that I was taking these photos at sunrise...which means I wasn't awake enough at the time to notice them and reshoot shadowless ones. I trust you all can overlook my early morning deficiencies. 🙂

There are still plenty of eggs in my house so, I’m guessing there might be Buttermilk Pie and Angel Food Cake posts coming soon.  Maybe I’ll finally make it around to another try at the elusive macaron! Either way, a big *thank you* to Jennifer R. and her “real” chickens!! (I’ll send the empty cartons back soon.)

Crustless Onion and Spinach Quiche

1/2 cup each Monterrey Jack and Parmesan cheese, grated

1 onion, diced

4-6 ounces baby spinach, chopped

2-3 TB bacon grease (or olive oil)

2 cups eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups cream

2 TB corn starch

salt, pepper

1 large tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 425°. Spread the cheese across the bottom of an ungreased pie plate. Saute the onions and spinach in the bacon grease or oil until the onions are starting to brown. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly over the cheese. Mix the beaten eggs and cream and corn starch until well mixed. Add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture through a strainer into the pie plate. Place tomato slices evenly around on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes (until center seems set and the edges have browned.) Let cool slightly before cutting.

 

Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

I know we’ve already talked about the heat around here. So I won’t mention it again. And I won’t mention how I have heart palpitations (not the good kind) if I think I’m going to have to turn on the oven.

I’m currently obsessed with/addicted to sushi.

And lettuce wraps. I really crave lettuce wraps.

A good Caesar salad will make me swoon.

Yes, there’s a theme.

A no-heat theme that I’m really attached to here in Texas in late August where we’ve lost count of how many records have been broken by the endless string of triple-digit days. Don’t get me started on the need for rain.

These are pretty simple to make once you get an assembly line set up. The rice wrappers can be a little tricky, but with a practice roll or two, you’ll do just fine. Trust me.

Here is a poorly-lit photo of all the components for spring rolls

One of the fun things about these is you can customize to your heart’s content. I have made these before with basil and cilantro in them…avocado…crab or chicken instead of shrimp…rice instead of vermicelli noodles. Consider this a guideline rather than a recipe.

The rice wrappers come dry and brittle and don’t seem like something you would want to eat. After 5-10 seconds in some warm water, they are ready to roll.

Warm water in a shallow dish or plate…that’s it. After the wrapper has gotten soft it is ready to be filled.

These had a layer of baby spinach, cucumbers, carrots, vermicelli noodles (the mung bean variety) and shrimp. Then you roll it. Then you re-roll it. Then you throw the first wrapper out and start over. From there on, you’ll be just fine.

I always forget to leave enough room on the ends for the wrapper to fold all the way over…as evidenced by the peek hole here on the first roll. Which is not the end of the world, it just makes it a little messier. By the time I get to the last roll I’ve remastered the technique once again. Which I will forget by the next time I make them.

I wasn’t thrilled with this dipping sauce. I thought it was the same one I’ve made before which we really like…but it wasn’t. So I’m not going to bother you with the recipe. When we realized the sauce wasn’t right, I whipped up a peanut sauce to use instead…that was much better.

I will be eating these until it cools off a little. So, sometime right before Christmas I guess. Signing out for now…from my air-conditioned, no-oven-allowed house here in the seventh ring of you-know-where.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

from Martha Stewart

1 cup smooth peanut butter

2 TB dark sesame oil

3 TB soy sauce

1 garlic clove

1 teas sambal (chili sauce…or heat of your choice)

1 TB sugar

fresh lemon juice

coconut milk

1 scallion, chopped

In a blender or food processor, combine peanut butter, oil , soy sauce, garlic, sambal and sugar until smooth. Add splash of lemon juice (I used about 1/3 of a lemon.) With machine running, add coconut milk until sauce is desired consistency. Garnish with scallion, if desired. Sauce may be made ahead of time and stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (And I’ve put a batch in the freezer, so I’ll let you know how that works out.)

 

 

Mini Burgers

Most people who know us are aware that for long periods of time we go without any TV. This doesn’t mean we don’t have a television in our house, we do. But for months and months on end we don’t have it hooked up to anything (cable or satellite) except a DVD player. And a Wii.

But it’s football season. So, the television is alive again.

There’s a game on right now. We are in two different fantasy leagues. When a game starts, my four-year-old asks, “Which guy are we cheering for? And which guy do we hope gets no points?” Of course, he’s partial to whichever team has the most red in their uniforms because, as everyone knows, that’s the fastest color.

One great thing about football/party/finger foods is that they usually double pretty well as kid food. We love the idea of the mini burger, “sliders” some call them. However, I do not like how time consuming it can be to make those little patties and then stand at the grill and flip all those little patties. So I make them all at one time. In the oven.

This is super lean, all-natural, grass-fed beef with chopped onions, garlic and salt and pepper. You can also add in herbs like parsley or your other favorite flavorings. I kept it simple because of the kiddos…and, actually, I should have cut back on the onions (or just made them much, much smaller) because my four-year-old was not so enthusiastic about them.

Once the ground meat and seasonings are well mixed, you press it into a cookie sheet. This is about 2 pounds of ground beef pressed into a baking sheet that is roughly 9x13x1. It bakes at 450° for about 10 minutes.

The beef will shrink up a little as it cooks (the leaner, the less it will shrink) and, after pouring off any liquid, you will have one giant patty to cut into little squares…or circles…or whatever shape your bread is.

One advantage to this method is not having to worry about individual patty shrinkage…the patty can always match the bun perfectly since it is cut to fit after the shrinking happens.

There are endless possibilities for the little buns. Individual rolls, those bake-n-serve kind or little specialty rolls from the bakery. These are whole wheat hot dog buns.

The ends are trimmed off and then the buns are cut into thirds. That way they are already split for you! This will make burgers that are pretty tiny – which is good for kids – but, if you are doing these for a more grown-up party you could certainly go with a larger roll of some kind and simply cut the large patty to the appropriate size.

We keep a bag of bread scraps in the freezer “For The Ducks.” My four-year-old doesn’t like the crust on his sandwiches, like a lot of kids, but it irks me to throw them away. So we stash them in the freezer with plans to take them to the park with us and make friends with the ducks. Ask me how many times we’ve arrived at the park just moments after I say, “Oh man. We forgot the bread, again!” Someday, I’ll remember to take the duck food.

Another fun way to have these mini burgers at a party would be to have a toppings bar alongside of a big platter of plain burgers. Guests could dress them up with pickles, different kinds of cheeses, sautéed mushrooms and onions, jalapeños, green chili, guacamole, pesto, roasted tomatoes, bacon, chili…you get the idea.

Mini Burgers

1.5 – 2 pounds lean ground beef (or turkey or lamb)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, finely minced (more finely than in that photo!)

salt/pepper

other herbs/seasonings of your choice

hot dog buns, trimmed and cut in thirds (total of 24 mini buns)

sliced cheese

pickle slices

mayo, mustard, ketchup…you know what goes on a burger! 🙂

Mix the ground meat and minced garlic and onions and seasonings, salt and pepper. Firmly press the meat into a baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes (until pink is gone…careful not to over cook – these can get dry easily.) Drain any liquid off the pan. Cut into 24 squares. Top with cheese, if desired. Build little burgers to your heart’s content.

Great Hosts

Do you ever visit a friend and feel so at home that you just wish you could stay? Maybe move in? I think there is a little bit of art to being a great host. And lots of practice helps, too.

I felt this way when I went to visit our friends near Ft. Worth. They have recently moved there from San Diego and I was excited to see their new house and welcome them to Texas! It was close to my birthday, so Christy went above and beyond for the weekend…it was a perfect getaway. There were gifts and spa appointments and fantastic food and lots of lounging in the pool and playing with the new puppy. I did NOT want to drive home on Sunday afternoon.

Since one of the meals included a recipe from The Pioneer Woman – and if you know me, you know what a fan I am of PW – I thought I would share some of the yummy meals I was served while I was there.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Mushrooms. Garlic. Brie. Butter. Oh my. I could probably live on these. Here’s some step-by-step instructions on how to make them. And with a recipe this simple you could change the cheese or change the herbs for all kinds of variations on flavor. Seriously delicious.

We were happy to have those little gems to snack on…Christy and I got a little carried away doing nothing in the pool and by the time we started on dinner we realized it probably wouldn’t be ready until nearly 10 o’clock! Not that anyone was going to mind that, by the way. Braised short ribs that could bubble away for hours and hours.

Apologies for the picture quality – or lack thereof. I was taking photos with my phone so I could taunt my husband about all the yumminess he was missing out on. I know: not nice.

And the first night I was there…grilled swordfish under a fabulous relish/sauce next to mashed potatoes. Totally scrumptious.

A really organized food blogger would have gotten copies of these last recipes ahead of time and posted them along with much nicer photos of the dishes. But I’m not that blogger…so we’ll have to just wait for Christy to read this and post links for us. OK? And that relish on top of the fish – seriously – you want to make that and use it on anything. Everything. It’s so yummy.

Here’s to great hosts!

More on Birthday Celebrations

When our youngest turned one last month we had a little family celebration with snacks and cupcakes. I tried to keep the menu pretty simple with some tried and true favorites.

I wasn’t organized enough to get photos before everyone started eating…so please excuse the messy, unstaged plates. Those are little roast beef sandwiches in the top corner with a variety of spreads, a Greek salad with fresh mint and a classic Pampered Chef favorite that has been around for roughly 87 years, Chicken Florentine Ring.

There was one recipe that was a new one…kind of odd, but yummy. Pesto Squares…or Pesto Cacti, depending on which one you took.

They look like a dessert because of the green food coloring I put in the top layer. But they aren’t. They are like a cream cheese pesto dip on crackers. And I have to credit my aunt for being able to get the cactus-shaped ones out of the pan in one piece – it wasn’t easy! The recipe is below, with my suggested tweaks.

In addition to the red velvet cupcakes which are a regular feature on here, I also made these fun-shaped chocolate chip cookies. Confession: they were not from scratch. They came in a plastic-wrapped tube. I baked them in a big sheet and then cut them into shapes. No one knew the difference.

And because I always hate wasting the “scraps” created by using cookie cutters, I saved them and later in the week they appeared on top of bowls of ice cream and as two-bite desserts after dinner. You can also chop them into tiny bits and mix them into frozen yogurt for a homemade Blizzard-type thing.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Scraps

You could even keep them in the freezer. Is that taking the not-wasting-thing too far? OK maybe. Anyway, here’s the recipe for the little pesto squares, which, by the way, can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time:

Pesto Party Squares

from The Pampered Chef, circa late 90s

1 1/4 cups round buttery crackers (about 30) crushed – I think that means Ritz 😉

3 TB butter, melted

2 pkgs (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 container (7 oz) pesto

1 container (8 oz) sour cream, divided

3 eggs

4 green onions with tops, thinly sliced

1 plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°. Finely crush crackers in a sealed bag. Combine crackers and melted butter, mix well. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 casserole. Bake 15 minutes. Whisk cream cheese and pesto until well blended. Add 1/3 cup of the sour cream and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Pour mixture over crust. Bake 20-25 minutes or until center is set. Carefully spread remaining sour cream over hot filling. Cool completely and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Just before serving cut into squares and sprinkle with green onions and tomatoes.*  Yield: 40 small squares.

*I meant to sprinkle with tomatoes because I thought it would look like pretty red flowers on the cactus – but I forgot. Also, I don’t recommend doubling this recipe as it becomes a little too thick to really set up as well as it should. If you need more than 40 squares, make two pans. And lastly, I thought the crust could be thicker so it would feel more like dip on a cracker. Next time I make them I’m going to increase the amount of crackers.

Spreading filling over pre-baked crust