Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Roasted Tomato Tart

The book club ladies were coming and I was craving a late-summer treat. If you haven't noticed from my keyword sidebar tool, I'm addicted to tomatoes. This time of year, I literally eat them almost every day and I'm trying to get every last sweet bite in before fall arrives. And goodness, with a monster basil plant in the backyard -- you heard me right, I didn't kill it yet -- my tomatoes have had the perfect compliment all summer.

Okay, okay... you get it... I love tomatoes. But I love this tart too. It's a show-stopper. Bright and beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes roasted until they just burst with juice. Needless to say, it was completely gone by time the book conversation ended and the wine glasses were emptied.

With a puff pastry shell, it's a pretty quick turn dish. You could easily repurpose the filling to suit what's in season too.

Book clubs and tomato tarts. Pretty much the best.

Roasted Tomato Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
Flour -- for sprinkling
1 small log goat cheese, softened
2 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil, for garnish

Allow puff pastry to thaw according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flour your surface and rolling pin and then roll out puff pastry large enough to fit a 10-inch tart pan. Carefully lay into tart pan. Use a paring knife to lightly score the pastry along the bottom rim, where the bottom meets the sides. Prick the bottom of the pastry surface all over with a fork.

Bake puff pastry for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and remove carefully from tart plan. If preparing a day ahead, store in an airtight container.

Preheat broiler on the low setting.

On the day of serving, melt butter and sugar together in a pan over medium heat until caramelized. Add tomatoes to pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat tomatoes in caramel mixture. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While tomatoes cook, spread softened goat cheese in the bottom of the tart shell. Broil on low for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melty. Use a slotted spoon to carefully arrange tomatoes on top of goat cheese. Drizzle remaining sauce over tart and garnish with basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weeknight Idea: Nectarine Shrimp Tacos

Okay okay... I know your Facebook feed is full of first day of school pictures and you're dreaming of a new Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, but Fall's not here yet. Especially in the produce aisle. So put off that damn Pumpkin Spice Latte for a few more weeks and enjoy the freshness while you still can.

When fruit is this good, take it beyond breakfast and try a savory preparation. I love sweet stone fruits in cool dishes this time of year and the flavors of Mexican cuisine lend themselves really well to using fruits. I whipped up these nectarine tacos in under 20 minutes on a weeknight. Fresh, spicy, sweet and crisp.

Pumpkins and boots are coming, but live in the moment why don't you? The nectarines will thank you.

Nectarine Shrimp Tacos
1/2lb cooked shrimp (thaw the frozen stuff or use grilled, if you have it)
1 large avocado, chopped
2 ripe nectarines, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon mango chutney
2 generous pinches salt
6 corn tortillas

Toss together shrimp with avocado, nectarines, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, chutney and salt. Serve in warm tortillas and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kale and Tahini Salad

I've been hitting the kale salads hard this summer. I've done a lot of different versions here -- from massaged to citrus to anchovy -- but this tahini take may be my favorite yet. With a nutty flavor and creamy texture, it gives kale some flavorful heft without the insane calories of a cheese or mayo based dressing. 

If you're not familiar, tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is common in Middle Eastern dishes. When you put it with lemon juice it's got a depth of flavor that's sometimes hard to put your finger on, but makes you say "hmmmm."

The dressing and kale would be great on it's own, but with some spiced chickpeas, veggies, quinoa and grilled chicken this summer salad sings with flair and is a fulfilling dinner or lunch. 

Kale and Tahini Salad
1 shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups kale, washed and chopped
2 red peppers, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 cup spiced chickpeas
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced

Combine shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt and pepper in a jar and shake. Toss together dressing with kale and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Top with red peppers, tomato, quinoa, chickpeas and chicken. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sweet Corn Succotash

The truth is, I don't really cook that much in the summer. Okay, that's relative... I mean, I'm always cooking, but the way I do it changes big time in the warmer months. In the winter I make more composed, planned dishes, but summer is more freewheeling. If you let the produce lead you in the summer, you'll not only have delicious meals, but spare time to slip n'slide and chase the ice cream man.

This week's corn was too gorgeous to pass up, so I found it some friends for the world's freshest summer succotash.

Summer corn, tomatoes and green beans were basically born to be best summer friends. They even made friendship bracelets at camp. Shallots, basil and chives are part of the group too, but let's get real, corn, tomatoes and green beans are really the most popular ones. 

Pardon my imaginary foray into pre-teen vegetable social dynamics. The bottom line is that corn, tomatoes and green beans taste amazing in July and you should eat them all together. And you don't need to do much to have a delicious dinner. That's the beauty of summer cooking.

Sweet Corn Succotash
2 ears sweet corn
2 cups green beans, ends snapped off
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Prepare corn according to your preference -- either boiled or grilled (my preference). Once cooked, cut the kernels off the cob and place in a large bowl.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add green beans. Cook for 1-2 minutes until they turn bright green. Remove from boiling water and immediately put in an ice bath. Once completely cooled, drain and add to large bowl with corn.

Toss corn and green bean mixture with tomatoes, basil, chives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cocktail Hour: Bourbon Slush

It's summer and the living is easy. We spent the weekend front-porching and relaxing by a river at a ranch with old friends. And after a full day sweating it out in the sun, having a refreshing slush waiting in the freezer was pretty amazing. What bourbon too? I could feel the unwinding down to my sunburnt toes.

This make ahead wonder is fabulous for a summer crowd. It's ice-y texture and sweet, tart flavor hits the spot.

Bourbon Slush
6oz frozen lemonade, thawed
12oz frozen OJ, thawed
2 cups good-quality bourbon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups brewed tea, cooled
5 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving and stir to "slush it up." Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Hang a Gallery Wall

The devil is in the details. While all the big things are done in our new house, it feels like there are thousand small things -- namely about a thousand pieces of art that need to be hung. Give an art history nerd a nice camera and you get a lot of hanging to do. 

In my past few places I've had a nice gallery wall of special stuff, including our engagement photos, vintage photos of people we love, some photobooth shots and even some cute little notes from the Husband from when we were dating. I love every piece of it, but hanging it was, frankly, a bitch. 

The first time, nothing was aligned (and not in a cute way), there were holes everywhere and it was in no way was what I had in envisioned. Turns out you don't have to jack up your walls and drive yourself into a decorating fugue state. There is a better way. 

The DIY geniuses over at Young House Love have a templating technique that is just too good not to share. Here's how it works...

Pick your spot and the art you want to put up. It's good to have a mix of sizes and shapes, so that you get that collage effect, but every space is different. The good news is, you'll have a chance to feel it out before you ever start hammering, so you can be flexible. 

Use some old newspaper to trace and cut a template for each frame. Great way to recycle your old copy of a local food paper (thanks Sauce!). 

Here's where it gets brilliant, use a pencil to polk through the newspaper where the frame hangers are on each. No measuring needed and no worries if your cheap-frames have inconsistent hardware. The template is doing the work here, not you.

Once all of your templates are cut and marked, start arranging with tape on the wall. Give a few arrangements a try and add/remove items until it's just right.

Once you find the arrangement that speaks to you (I sound like Oprah and that's fine by me), simply hammer in nails where you marked for the hardware on the template. See? No measuring... I promised. 

You hammer right through the newspaper and then just tear it away. Hang your art on the perfectly placed nails and make sure nothing is tilted. Voila... gallery wall complete!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad

Vacation is coming! It's true. I'm headed to the mountains with my two life-long besties, husbands in tow. For three gals that couldn't be much more different in adult life, there is an intangible something that makes it feel like we haven't been apart a day, even when it's been a few years. Isn't that wonderful how that works in life? Those relationships are rare, so I count mine as pretty special.

And to make it all the better, we all three love to cook and eat, so you can better there is some bites (and sips) in store. The menu is filled with all kinds of grilling and cocktail goodness, but we have to have some standby sides on tap too.

One of the girls is vegetarian and loves fruit, so I was trying to come up with a few hearty salads to have on hand. I recently tried out this rice salad from Plenty and man it is good! This cookbook has gotten me so inspired to try new veggie recipes. This one from the grains chapter will be perfect as a dinnertime side and the leftovers will make for great snacking fare on the mountain.

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad
2/3 cups brown jasmine rice
1 cup black rice
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mint leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup basil leaves, roughly choppped
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 mangos, chopped
1 head green leaf lettuce

Prepare jasmine rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet to cool. Separately prepare black rice and allow to cool.

Toss cooked jasmine and black rice together with red bell pepper, basil, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno, lemon, peanuts, coconut and peanut oil. Gently fold in mangos, taking care not to overstir (they'll fall apart).

Serve over lettuce and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Yottam Ottolenghi