Archive | July, 2010

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

28 Jul

My very dear friend Rogena visited me for just one evening on her whirlwind tour of Seattle.  She is getting ready to start graduate school in Paris, and we are meeting up there in October for what I can only imagine to be one of the most fun episodes of my life.  There will be three of us and we are planning to eat, drink, and shop our way through the city in the time we have there.  I can hardly wait.

Rogena loves food the way I do, and our visits together (both in Seattle and San Francisco, where she lives) are always predicated upon good food.  We spend hours catching up over incredible meals, many of which I have cooked at home.  For her visit this time, my fridge was bursting with fresh produce from my farm share, and going out to eat seemed wasteful.  I wanted to use the gorgeous tomatoes I had on hand and so made this for her, along with a salad of local greens, tiny fresh strawberries from Nash’s Organics, fresh local chevre from Port Madison, pistachios, and a vinaigrette with blood orange olive oil given to me as a gift and which makes salads really sing.

For dessert, I wanted to make something really special and beautiful that would be worthy of a pastry case in Paris, to celebrate her imminent move there.  I settled on a white chocolate raspberry tart from the book “Pure Chocolate” by Fran Bigelow, the creator of Fran’s chocolates here in Seattle.  The crust is a simple blend of walnuts, almonds and butter and is one of the best crusts I have tasted.  The raspberry filling makes use of the fresh raspberries that are abundant and lovely right now, and the white chocolate ganache gives it a nice rich depth.  This is one is ready for Laduree.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart
From “Pure Chocolate”

9-inch Walnut Tart Crust (recipe follows)
1/2 recipe Raspberry Filling (recipe follows)
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
2 pints fresh raspberries

Remove the sides of the tart pan and place the crust on a serving plate.  Thinly and evenly spread the raspberry filling over the base of the tart shell.

In a saucepan, heat the cream on medium-high heat until it begins to simmer.  Immediately remove from the heat.  With a rubber spatula stir in the chopped chocolate until smooth.  Let cool until about 80-85 degrees.  Slowly pour over the raspberry filling in the tart shell, up to the rim.  Let set in the fridge for about 4 hours.

When the tart is chilled, arrange fresh raspberries, pointy side up, in a circular pattern over the white chocolate filling. Best served and eaten the day it is made.

Raspberry Filling
From “Pure Chocolate

8 oz fresh or thawed raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring all the ingredients to a simmer.  Cook, stirring often to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens, about 10 mins.  Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.  Set aside to cool.

Walnut Tart Crust
From “Pure Chocolate”

2 1/3 cups walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup blanced almonds
3 tbs sugar
6 tbs butter
1 tbs pure vanilla

Lightly butter a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removeable bottom.

Pulse walnuts in food processor until finely ground.  Remove and set aside.  Add the almonds and sugar.  Pulse, scraping down the bowl several times, until ground into a powder.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-hight speed until fluffy, about 2 mins.  Add the vanilla and blend thoroughly.  Add the nut mixture and mix on low speed until the dough begins to hold together.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the tart pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or freeze until firm, about 30 mins.

Old-Fashioned Cherry Pie with Lavender

18 Jul

This July I am celebrating eight years of marriage to a pretty fantastic guy.  I won’t go on and on about him here (as he embarrasses easily!), but suffice to say when the marriage fairy was handing out husbands, I got a prince.  Truly.

Paris, April 2009

He also likes to cook.  But, being married to a woman who is fanatical about cooking, he doesn’t get a lot of time in the kitchen.  Or if he does try to cook something, I am usually full of  “helpful” hints that only muck up the process.  And so, over the years, I have become the cook and he has become the dishwasher.  He loves to eat good food, and so doesn’t complain about the demotion, and I love to cook but hate to clean up afterward.  We are a good team.

Lately, he has been taking on more sous chef tasks which he completes with alacrity.  We make our pasta from scratch and he has become the pasta dough master.  Really, his is better than mine and always ends up in nice, silky strands.  It is now his official kitchen job, and I am actually enjoying handing some tasks over to him.

A few years ago, we stopped by Blue Mountain Lavender Farm on our way to a wine weekend in Walla Walla.  They have a lovely property there inspired  by the rolling lavender hills in Provence.  We fell in love, of course, and brought many things back with us, including a great little cookbook and lots of culinary lavender.  I use both of them all the time.

I really love to pair lavender with any fruit.  Right now cherries are bursting forth at the market and I came across a recipe in the Lavender Cookbook that sounded perfect.  I handed the book to husband (with only one or two little “tips”) and sat back and relaxed while he made this pie.  He is just as good with pie dough as he is with pasta dough (I had a feeling that would be the case), and the pie turned out perfectly.

Old-Fashioned Cherry Pie with Lavender
From The Lavender Cookbook

1 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapoica
1 tbs dried lavender, finely ground
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 cups frozen or fresh cherries (you’ll need about 2 pounds of fresh)
2 tbs vanilla
1 tbs lavender sugar (recipe follows)

Prepare the pie dough (recipe follows) and refrigerate for one hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, tapioca, lavender, salt and cinnamon.

Place cherries in  large saucepan and stir over med-high heat for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cherries to a large bowl.  Add the sugar mixture to the cherry juices in the pan and simmer, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until thickened.  Pour over the cherries.  Add the vanilla and stir to mix.  Let cool.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into an 11-inch round.  Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang.  Pour in the filling, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill.

Roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch round and use a sharp knife or fluted pastry wheel to cut into 1-inch wide strips.  Working on a sheet of parchment paper set on a baking sheet, weave the pastry strips in a close lattice pattern.  Refrigerate or freeze the lattice for 20 minutes, or until firm.

Brush the edges of the filled shell with cold water and slide the lattice off the parchment and onto the pie.  Let stand for 10 minutes to soften the lattice.  Trim the edges flush with the rim of the pie plate and crimp decoratively.  Gently brush the lattice top with cold water and sprinkle with lavender sugar.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling bubbles.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.  Serve warm.

Lavender dough

Lavender Pie Dough
From The Lavender Cookbook

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs dried lavender, finely ground
1 tsp salt
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup cold water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, lavender, and salt.  Pulse to mix.  Scatter the butter and shortening over the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Do not overprocess.  Add the water and pulse until the dough starts to clump; if the dough is not clumping, add water 1 tsp at a time.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half.  Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for one hour.  (Note: we make our dough by hand with a pastry cutter, and you could do the same with two forks.)

Lavender Sugar
From The Lavender Cookbook

1 tbs dried lavender
2 cups sugar

In a spice grinder or with mortar and pestle, grind the lavender with 1 tbs of sugar until finely ground.  Transfer to a bowl and add remaining sugar.  Transfer to a jar, seal tightly, and let stand for at least three days before using.  (Note: lavender sugar is great in making fresh lemonade or to sweeten iced tea. Try it on the rim of cocktails for something extra special. )

Fresh Garbanzos with Lemon and Pecorino

18 Jul

Today was our first day to pick up our CSA shipment from Nash’s Organics.  We did so at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, which is my favorite place to spend a Sunday morning.  We got the most incredibly candy-sweet little strawberries from Nash and ate them one by one right out of their blue container.  We bought fresh chevre with herbes de provence, perfectly ripe peachy-pink apricots, and, for the first time ever, fresh garbanzo beans still in their pods.

Fresh garbanzo beans on the vine

Before today, I had never even seen garbanzo beans in their nascent form.  I didn’t even know that they are really green and not beige.  Their leaves are so pretty that I would easily consider buying a bunch of them just to display in vases around the house.  In fact, I did put them in a vase in the kitchen.  But my desire to eat them was even stronger than my desire to look at them, and so they didn’t last long on our counter.

There have been posts about garbanzos on my favorite blogs, like this one or this one, and Dana sold me recently on the idea of using them fresh.  The only problem was… where to find them that way?  I was completely surprised to find them at the market today, and they were so amazingly good I will be looking for them again next week.

The gist is that simple flavors work best with these lovely little beans, and they are well worth the time it takes to shell them.  They take about as long to shell as peas, but feel a little more like fava beans do in their pods.  They taste about a million times better than the ones in a  can.  Raw, they taste more like fresh peas with a pleasant green, grassy note.  In this recipe, they are perfectly married to some lemon and pecorino, and you could easily toss any kind of fresh herb in the mix as well.  Fried sage would knock these out of the ball park.

Garbanzo Beans with Lemon and Pecorino
From Danatreat and Orangette

2 cups fresh garbanzo beans
1½ tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ tsp. kosher salt
Lots of coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup ground Pecorino Romano

Shell the beans and blanch them in boiling water.  In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and add garbanzos.  Saute lightly 3-4 minutes until color just begins to change.  Juice the lemon over the beans, add the cheese, salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Serve warm.

Basil-Crusted Breakfast Tomatoes

14 Jul

Today was a glorious day at my local farmer’s market, because my favorite vendor, Billy’s, has finally arrived.  It is not truly summer in Seattle for me unless I have stopped at Billy’s stand and purchased as many heirloom tomatoes as I can possibly carry.  Billy has been growing vegetables since 1972, and his dedication and experience are evident in the incredible finished product.

My bounty from today's market outing

Last summer I waited patiently until Friday, when Billy and his #2 tomatoes showed up at my neighborhood market.  I filled my basket with big fat heirloom tomatoes, fresh parsley and basil, deep lavender bell peppers and sweet onions, and carried them all home to make gazpacho.  Every week.  Neither my husband nor I ever tired of that gazpacho.

I have a feeling I will be making more of that soup this summer, but this week I came across a recipe in my Edible Seattle magazine that looked too good to pass up.  If you aren’t yet familiar with  Edible Communities I do hope you will pop over to their site and take a look around.  I love their podcasts, which encompass many food-related topics, as well as author interviews and more.  The local magazine that I get from them is beautiful, well-written and for sure the one magazine I can’t wait to arrive.

This recipe makes use of the glorious tomatoes in season now, as well as the herbs crowding each other for space in my garden.  The magazine suggested this dish as a breakfast recipe and I am sure it would be lovely served with eggs scrambled with mascarpone and chives, but I served it with lunch alongside grilled baby Walla Walla sweet onions and the last asparagus of the year.

Basil-Crusted Breakfast Tomatoes
From Edible Seattle

2 large beefsteak (or similar) tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped basil
2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
2 tbs chopped fresh chives
about 1/3 cup olive oil
(I also topped mine with a little shredded gruyere)

Slice the tomatoes into 1/2′” slabs and season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Mix the breadcrumbs and the herbs together in a shallow bowl.

Heat 3 tbs olive oil in a large, heavy pan (cast iron works well) over medium heat.  Press the tomato slices into breadcrumb mixture one at a time, coating both sides of each slice well.  Fry about 4 at a time for 4-5 minutes per side., until the breadcrumbs are well browned on each side.

The crust won’t stay intact if you fuss with them, so be patient and dont try to turn them too early.  Repeat with additional tomatoes, adding more oil as needed.  Serve immediately.

Almond and Mint Cream

9 Jul

Tonight I am having a little soiree at my real job.  I am ridiculously excited to have Dana, from, catering the event.  She is one of my favorite food bloggers, and I have made more things from her site than from any other food site out there.  All of her recipes are vegetarian and many of them are sweets, and if you can’t already tell, I have a major sweet tooth.  To have her cater an event for me is pretty much like having your favorite rock star come sing at your birthday party.  I am very happy today.

When it comes to throwing parties, there is something in the Seattle DNA that pretty much precludes folks from RSVP’ing.  I have no idea why, but folks around here cannot be counted on to say whether they will bother to show up at your event or not.  I don’t know if this is because many people here don’t entertain and don’t know all of the planning and calculating and preparation that go into party planning, or if folks here just have a fear of commitment.

So, I gave Dana the catering numbers last week and what do you know, many folks have just called today to say they can make it after all.  While I am excited to have them come, I am also now nervously biting my nails over whether or not there will be enough food.  There isn’t time for Dana to make more– she has already been working hard (in 90 degree heat, no less) to get things ready.  And lord knows I do not want to turn on my oven in this heat.  So, I have decided to supplement my little soiree with an incredible dip/spread that comes from a cooking class I took in Paris with Susan Hermann Loomis.  Trust me when I tell you this dip is amazing.

This dip is a great way to use up some of the mint that might be growing wild in your garden, as it is in mine right now.  This recipe has only a few ingredients, comes together in less than a minute in the food processor, but can also be made by hand.  I have served it to all kinds of people for all kinds of occasions, and it is always a hit.  I like it best served with fresh veggies (cucumber, radishes and celery make particularly nice pairings) but it would be lovely served on top of any kind of fish or chicken.

Almond and Mint Cream
From Susan Hermann Loomis

2 tbs fresh lemon juice
fine sea salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (a nice fruity one if you have it)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup warm water
1 bunch (about 1 cup) fresh mint

Place the lemon juice in a medium-sized bowl and add a generous pinch of salt.  Whisking constantly, add the olive oil.  Whisk in the almonds, then whisk in the warm water.  Mince the mint and then whisk it into the olive oil mixture.  Season to taste and serve immediately.

This can also be made in your food processor if you have one.  I grind the almonds in it first, then the mint, then add the liquids.

Herbed Olive Oil Crackers

6 Jul

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to make everything we eat from scratch, and I must say that I have done very well the last seven months. It wasn’t like we ate much processed or packaged food before, but I really just wanted to try to make everything by hand that I could, in order to see if it really was an impossible task. I kept thinking back to my grandmother and great-grandmother and all that they did every single day, and felt like a slacker in comparison. Feeding ourselves is the most basic and most important human endeavor, and I really wanted to take responsibility for every morsel entering my body, and also for every dollar spent in the pursuit of food.


In the first few months of the new year I made homemade cinnamon rolls, baked fresh bread (which I had never done before), fermented sauerkraut, and made my own ricotta from goat’s milk. I made ice cream and pasta from scratch, and was having a ball. I saw Michael Pollan discussing his book, Food Rules, and it just. made. perfect. sense.  And I am happy to report that I have not looked back.

Cooking for friends is something I absolutely love to do.  Cooking is how I show people I care about them, and making a glorious meal for friends and family is pretty much the best way for me to spend a day, topped only by sharing said meal with said friends.  And wine.

Rolled dough with herbs

My friends Cheryl and Bryan, who also like to cook, came for dinner recently and I couldn’t wait to put together a menu.  For appetizers I knew I wanted to serve this amazing local chevre with Herbes de Provence (from Port Madison Goat Farm and Dairy), and needed something spectacular to serve with the cheese.  Voila!  The trusty Herbfarm Cook Book had just the recipe I was looking for: herbed olive oil crackers.

The crackers turned out amazingly well, and were super easy to make.  In fact, once you have homemade crackers it is pretty hard to go back to the cardboard taste of most anything that comes preserved forever in a box.  The recipe calls for rye flour which you can find in bulk at your local grocery store, and any herbs you have on hand would be lovely. Unlike bread, you don’t have to wait for these to rise, so they are super simple and quick to make.

Fresh out of the oven

Herbed Olive Oil Crackers
From The Herbfarm Cook Book

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup medium rye flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
5 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup cold water, plus more if needed
1/4 cup thinly sliced sage leaves
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Dough: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Stir the flours, 3/4 tsp salt, and rosemary together in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in 3 tbs of the olive oil, then rub the mixture between your fingers to break up any lumps and work the crumbs into the texture of cornmeal.  Stir in the milk (I used plain soy milk because I am allergic to cow milk) and water to form a medium stiff dough.  (I did this all in my Kitchenaid.)  If it is too dry to easily come together into a dough, add more water 1 tbs at a time.

Rolling: Line a large cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet (about 16 x 12 inches) with parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a rectangle the same size as the pan.  Roll it up on the rolling pin and unroll it onto the parchment.  With a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut the dough into a 6 x 4 grid for 24 crackers.  (They don’t have to be uniform.)  Brush the tops of the crackers with the remaining 1 tbs olive oil and sprinkle them with sage leaves and kosher salt.

Baking: Bake the crackers until they are browned around the edges and in spots throughout, 16 to 18 minutes.  Slide the crackers into a wire rack to cool.  If the crackers that were baked in the middle of the pan seem softer and less done, return them to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool the crackers for at least 30 minutes before serving to give them a chance to crisp.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Black and White Banana Bread

2 Jul

Oddly enough, growing up I was never a big fan of banana bread.  It might have been that I was the victim of dry bread once or twice, which in my mind is a death sentence, and I was also not a fan of nuts in sweet things.  But oh how my mind (and palate) has changed!  Now I adore banana bread, and I like to add all kinds of things to it, depending on what I have in the cupboard.

Banana bread is a great staple because we always have bananas in various stages of decay.  My husband likes to eat one every day, but for some reason they are still always perishing on our countertop.  I used to compost them, but within the last year I have developed a liking for my old nemesis banana bread, and so have been busy experimenting with different concoctions.

I always have different kinds of nuts in the pantry because I use them a lot in cooking and baking, and there are always two or three kinds of chocolate at least.  You can experiment with your favorites in this recipe, as any kind of nut would be good (walnuts, of course, but even pecans or cashews would be good).  Try adding some white chocolate chips if you like them.

Lastly, the best ambassador for my banana bread is our cat, Seamus.  He is the. pickiest. eater.,  but for some reason adores my banana bread.  He doesn’t even get this excited when we cook up bacon.

Black and White Banana Bread
La Femme Original

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2-cup mashed ripe banana
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup hazelnuts chopped

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter standard-sized loaf pan.  Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas and vanilla.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and gradually add to mixture.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts and stir to combine.  Add 1/2 of the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Add cocoa powder to remaining batter and stir well.  Add chocolate batter on top of white batter in pan, and take a knife to swirl top into bottom, if you like.  Alternatively, you can keep the layers separate.  Either way looks nice when baked.  Bake about one hour, testing the center for doneness.


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