April 24, 2010

Egg tart with ramps and wild mushrooms

This is one of the dishes I've made so far with the GIANT pile of fresh ramps (or wild leeks) that my husband dug up in the woods the other day. Ramps are delicious and taste like a cross between an onion and garlic. Plus, they are quite pretty (look at the photo below - lovely green, purple, and white). I served this quiche/tart for dinner with a side salad, but it would certainly make a wonderful breakfast, brunch, or lunch as well (and the leftovers are great served at room temperature). You can use a store-bought crust if you want, but I like to make a quick, easy olive oil based crust. You can check out the recipe here.

Egg tart with ramps and wild mushrooms 

1 crust
Press the dough into your 9-inch tart pan and then place the pan in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Then bake the crust in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the crust and set aside until you are ready to fill it.

4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cups fresh mushrooms (I used oyster), cleaned and roughly chopped
about 12-15 small ramps
about 5-6 slices of Prosciutto
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
olive oil for cooking

Lay the Prosciutto in an even layer over the bottom of the crust. In a saute pan, warm your olive oil and cook your mushrooms until they are soft and browned. Place the mushrooms in the crust as the next layer. If there's excess moisture in the pan, use a slotted spoon or drain them first so as to not get the crust too wet. In the same pan, saute the ramps for just 2-3 minutes so they soften. In a medium bowl, add the eggs, milk, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper and whisk together. Stir in the cheese. Pour the mixture into the tart pan. Arrange the ramps on top. Bake on a baking sheet for another 10-15 minutes, until the eggs are set and lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes and then cut into wedges and serve.

April 17, 2010

Beef pho

This is my easy, at-home, westernized version of pho. I usually get pho at a local restaurant and decided to try my hand at making it. This recipe is pretty simple and it's really tasty. I recently read an article about pho in Smithsonian magazine. In Vietnam, the broth is quite complex and slow-cooked. I used beef stock for my broth (because I was making beef pho, but you can certainly swap it for chicken and chicken stock). As in the restaurant, pho is all about the accompaniments - chili sauce, soy bean paste, fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, fresh lime... The recipe will make about 3-4 bowls of pho.

Beef pho
about 1 lb of sirloin, sliced into thin strips
1 package of stir-fry rice noodles
4-5 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced (but keep them separated)
about 2-1/2 cups of beef broth
about 2 cups water
about 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
fresh basil (Thai basil is best if you can find it, otherwise sweet basil will work)
bean sprouts
lime wedges
chili sauce
soy paste

In a soup pot, begin to slowly warm the beef stock and water over medium heat. Add the whites of the scallions. Continue to heat until the broth comes to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the beef, scallion tops, and cilantro and stir. Continue to simmer until the noodles are soft and the beef is cooked. Ladle the soup into large bowls. Top with fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, and a squeeze of fresh lime. Let each person add their own amount of soy paste and chili sauce to taste. 

Serve with a spoon and chopsticks.

April 16, 2010

Shepherd's pie

During the recent cold snap, I found myself craving something warm and comforting for dinner. I know this Shepherd's is not an authentic version, but it's really good none-the-less. Plus, we recently acquired a whole bunch of parsnips and I like to add them to this dish. It takes a bit of time to make, but it's worth it -- especially on a chilly day. This recipe will serve four to six people, depending on hunger level and if you have any sides with it like a nice green salad.

Shepherd's pie
1 lb lean ground beef
4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 rib celery, finely chopped.
2-3 medium carrots, chopped
2-3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons paprika, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup frozen peas
about 1/3-1/2 cup milk or cream
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for cooking)
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water and the potatoes and cook over medium heat, covered, until it boils and the potatoes become soft (begin the next steps below while you are waiting for the potatoes to cook). Then drain the potatoes, add milk/cream, salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Mash with a potato masher until your preferred texture. Set aside covered.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan, heat some extra virgin olive oil. When it's warm, add the onions and celery and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the carrots, parsnips, and garlic along with some salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Once the onions are translucent and the vegetables are beginning to soften, add the ground beef. Break it apart and cook until it is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Once it is browned, add the flour and stir. Let the flour cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef stock and stir (making sure to de-glaze all the good bits off the bottom of the pan). Let the mixture come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the thyme and paprika. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Continue simmering until the vegetables are soft and the gravy has thickened. If you want more gravy, add a bit more stock. Add the peas and stir.

Pour the meat/vegetable/gravy mixture into a large baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, spreading them over the top until they evenly coat the bottom layer. Sprinkle the top with some paprika. Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown and the gravy is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for a couple of minutes before digging in.

April 11, 2010

Baked eggs in portobello mushroom caps

I like baked eggs and I usually make baked eggs in the form of a frittata, quiche, or in ramekins. Our grocery store has had the most beautiful portobello mushroom caps lately. I thought that they would make a great base for a baked egg -- and, I was correct. I tried to find two caps that looked the most cup-like (versus rather flat ones) so that they would hold the eggs and any other goodies I wanted to put in there. I baked the mushrooms for a bit first to make sure they were soft and the get rid of a lot of the juices before adding the eggs. I made two (one of each of us) and served them with some whole grain toast. You can make just the eggs with the mushrooms, or you can add other veggies, cheese, herbs, etc. in between the mushroom and the egg for some extra fun.

Baked eggs in portobello mushroom caps
2 large portobello mushroom caps
2 large eggs
1 clove garlic, minced
about two tablespoons diced onion
about 1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 grilled piquillo pepper, chopped (you can find them in jars in water) or any pepper you like
about 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
paprika for garnishing
olive oil for cooking

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and drizzle a bit of olive oil in small baking dish. Wipe the dirt off your mushroom caps with a damp towel. Gently scrape the gills out from the underside of the mushrooms with a spoon. Place in the baking pan and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the mushrooms and a bit of black pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the begin to get soft and shrink up a little. While they are baking, heat some olive oil in a small pan and saute the garlic and onions for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the spinach and cook until it's wilted. Add some salt and pepper. Set aside. If you are using fresh peppers, you can saute them with the onions, garlic, and spinach (or any other fresh veggies you are using).

Remove from the oven and dump all juice off the mushrooms. Dump all of the juice out of the baking dish. Take a towel and gently press the inside of the mushrooms to get out any excess juice. Place the mushrooms (bottom facing up) back into the baking dish. Put half of the spinach mixture into each mushroom. Then place the peppers into each mushroom followed by some cheese. Try to leave a "hole" in the center so there is room for the egg yolk. Crack an eggs on top of each mushroom (carefully!). Sprinkle with some salt, pepper, paprika, and some extra cheese. Carefully place the baking dish back into the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are cooked and the yolk is set.

April 6, 2010

Lemon and vanilla bean sugar cookies

These cookies were the second of my Easter dinner desserts -- something a bit more kid friendly and that you can just pick up and eat. I found cute daisy and tulip cookie cutters that I thought would be perfect for spring. I decided to just make a basic sugar cookie, but to flavor the two different shapes in different ways. I made the daisy cookies vanilla bean and the tulip cookies lemon. I'm not a big fan of using frosting, food coloring, and/or a lot of sprinkles because they are all loaded with a bunch of stuff I prefer to not eat. I used turbinado sugar to decorate the tops of the lemon cookies and unbleached fine cane sugar that had been sitting with used vanilla bean pods (so a vanilla sugar) on the vanilla bean cookies. I used the recipe that I found here and modified it. The recipe will make about two dozen cookies.

Sugar cookies
1 cup organic butter at room temperature
3/4 cup fine organic cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Add butter, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer until smooth. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing on low speed. When they are just combined, add the flavorings of your choice (or none if you want just plain sugar cookies). I split the dough in half and added the zest of 1 lemon and about 1 teaspoon of juice to half of the dough. To the other half, I added about another 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and seeds from about 1/2 of a vanilla bean. After adding the extra ingredients, continue mixing until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be crumbly and not held together. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough rolls best when it's slightly warm. Roll until about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Top with sugar, if desired. Place about 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheets and bake for about 8-10 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Continue until all dough has been used. Let cool on a wire rack.

April 5, 2010

Chocolate peanut butter tart

This was one of the desserts I brought to Easter dinner. I almost didn't get a photo of it because it went quickly (this photo is taken on my aunt's front porch - this was the first Easter that I ever remember being able to eat outside!). This tart is super delicious. It's basically like a giant peanut butter cup! It does take some time to make, but most of that time is waiting for different layers to chill...the actual cooking time isn't very long and it's pretty easy. I found the recipe here and I followed it pretty much exactly (the only difference being that I almost always use organic ingredients as much as possible).

Chocolate peanut butter tart 

for the crust:
I used the same recipe as other tart crusts in the past. This one was chocolate so I'll refer you to this one. Let the crust cool before adding the filling.

for the filling:
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup creamy all natural (peanuts or peanuts and salt only) peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the glaze:
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli chips)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and salt over medium-low heat until it comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks, brown sugar, and flour until well blended. Slowly add the hot milk to the bowl, whisking constantly. Then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook until it comes to a boil and thickens (about 3 minutes), whisking constantly. Continue to cook for one more minute, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter and vanilla until well blended. Pour the hot mixture into the cooled tart shell. Cover with plastic wrap making sure to place the wrap directly on top of the filing so a skin won't form. Refrigerate for about two hours.

After the filling is cooled, make the glaze. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate. When it's melted, add the butter and corn syrup and whisk until it's smooth. Remove the plastic wrap from the filling and top with the glaze. Spread until it's evenly coated. Refrigerate uncovered until the glaze hardens (about 30 minutes). If not serving right away, cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. Remove the tart about 15 minutes before serving to get the chill off.