mission figs & ricotta tartine

Ricotta, Mission Figs & Honey tartine
After a long day of shopping and running errands, I popped into one of my familiar haunts – a French cafe in the West village that serves the very best tartines. A tartine is a popular Parisian dish, in which different ingredients are arranged and served on a slice of bread that rests on a bed of greens. Picture a open-faced sandwich, where you are only limited by your pantry’s ingredients, but limitless in your culinary creativity. I usually opt for prosciutto  and grilled peaches on arugula or the perennial: smoked mozzarella & grilled chicken, but today I was feeling cheeky, aching for something sweet, but not too much so, and so I settled on the mission figs, honey, and ricotta on slices of wheat sourdough.

I love this play on texture and taste. The super sweet, almost syrupy quality of the dried figs paired with the ricotta (which is a cheese made from whey and is used in both savory and sweet Italian dishes) with honey for additional sweetness and tomatoes, sliced radishes and cucumbers tossed in for good measure. Cream and crunch. Sweet and peppery – this sandwich had it all, and here’s how you can recreate it in your own home.

Ingredients (serves one)
Note: I use only local/organic ingredients because that’s how I roll

2 slices of toasted whole wheat sourdough bread
3 dried mission figs (you can use regular dried figs), finely diced
1/4 cup of drained fresh ricotta cheese (please, please do not get the Polly O brand. Invest in the good stuff; you’ll taste the difference)
1 cup of mixed greens
1 plum tomato, seeded, finely diced
1/4 of cucumber, sliced paper thin
scattering of sliced radishes (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
honey for drizzling

Optional: want to jazz up the figs? soak the figs in a few tablespoons of brandy or a medium-heavy bodied red wine until the luscious dried fruit reconstitutes a bit and plumps up. I’m a no-alcohol kind of gal, but I do remember how amazing figs were when immersed in a fine Burgundy.

On the toasted bread, slather on the ricotta. Top with diced figs & tomatoes. Drizzle honey on top and then add a sprinkling of the black pepper. Cut the bread into small rectangles. On a plate, place greens, radishes and cucumbers – this will act as the bed for your ravishing tartines. Place tartines on top of the greens. Voila! Tartines. It’s that simple. And remember, this recipe is to my taste. You may want more/less of the above ingredients – adjust to your liking.

walnut pesto pasta

yummy pesto pasta! When people think of basil, pesto immediately comes to mind. This verdant and aromatic herb–-which has hints of licorice, lavender, clove, mint and pepper–-is a staple in Italian cooking. Yet, few people know that basil is actually native to India, South East Asia, Africa and South America and varieties of the herb are used in spicy noodle dishes and baked goods.

Basil is the very essence of summer and what better way to usher in the warmer months than with a sauce that is not only fresh and affordable, but also velvety and decadent. If you’re familiar with making pesto, this version is savory, delicious and is easy to make!
Continue reading “walnut pesto pasta”

get ready, kitchen aid, for you. are. mine.

kitchenaid recently, i came into a tiny sum of money. stop salivating, blackmailers. those rotten whores at the student loan corporation and various credit card agencies (note to all: don’t get addicted to drugs or alcohol – they’ll put you in debt and cloud your judgment when you’re determined to purchase those $400 chanel slides) will be reaping the benefits of my blood, sweat and tears.

but i have a little bit of money left over to play with and i’ve been twiddling my thumbs. i’ve been frugal for so long (half my wardrobe comes courtesy of my coworker and two clothing swaps, and one of my friends who gets my clarkson potter cookbooks had to shackle my hands from typing any more email requests that start with BY GOD, PLEASE. IT’S CRUEL THAT I DON’T HAVE X’S COOKBOOK!) that i’m paralyzed. what to do? my little fingers are quivering. i want to treat myself to something, but what?

then i had a conversation with myself. i have these often but i’ve determined that i’m not insane for having them. i said: self, what is the one thing you would never buy unless you got married, tortured your father for a combo christmas/birthday gift or stole one, ala vegas style, from bed, bath and beyond? you guessed it, culinary cuties. A KITCHEN AID.

Martha Stewart Baking Book think of the endless possibilities. think of my shame and alientation when i can’t make the fucking recipe out of the very beautiful martha stewart (god) baking book because it requires 35 goddamn minutes of stirring, and why oh why are my souffles so flat? after many woeful lamentations and shin kicking on the subway, i said forget it, man.

i’m getting the goddamn kitchen aid. i don’t know where i’ll store it (who’s kidding here, i’ll toss my cat out the window for a spot) or when i’ll use (morning muffins at 4:30 am, anyone?) it, but i’m getting it. and there is no stopping me (stomps foot).

on a related note, i should point out that i penned a quick tip sheet on how to buy a cookbook for ehow.com. i own a shameful amount of cookbooks that should my house blow up from a gas fire, my cookbooks and the cat are the first thing out the door.

cripe. would you get a look at the dough hook?! fox trot, i say.

calling all cookies!

who said green ain't yummy come fall i have plans to launch a syndicate of foodie sites. get ready because it’ll be all food, all the time. food for people who love to it. foodies who don’t take themselves all that seriously. the sites will have recipes, food writing, interview, features, and other delectable goodies which i’ll announce at a later date.

the first site to launch will be Cookie Couture. i’m seeking your very best cookie recipes, stories, shoppes, et all. we’ll road test your concoctions, post your recipes (with attribution, of course) and share your finds with the free world. and we’re talking WORLD. as in international.

feel free to use the comments space below to get all cookie with it.

Fried Apples – Why, Yes! Yes! Please

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Dutch Baby, originally uploaded by twelve22.

years ago, i remember watching nigella lawson fix up a blistering hot yorkshire pudding. out of the oven, it resembled a blooming cloud of pastry that would somehow implode on itself when dolloped with a generous serving of whipped crème. although the recipe seemed easy enough: flour, milk, eggs, a hot oven, i was suspect. i could fix a trifle, a soufflé, a mousse, but a muffin? a loaf? forget about it. easy recipes were a mystery to me and my alchemy in the kitchen for such concoctions was helter skelter.

so when jasmin (who is the owner of chekhov, a feline i want to smuggle back to my crib) emailed anna’s recipe for a dutch baby with fried apples which puffs up golden and unimaginable light, my response was a resounding HELL NO! i’ll retreat to the safety of my crumbles and cherry chocolate trifles, thank you very much. but then i kept returning to anna’s images, which are incredibly simple, clean and comforting and i kept thinking about a sunday morning: the paper, a cup of hot english breakfast and a spoon diving into a hot baby.

i’m sold. bring on the rapture and fried apples – i’m in. this weekend – it’s me and the pudding.

the ultimate blueberry pie with a crisp topping!

Blueberry Pie with Crumble topping. I just burned my mouth and I have no regrets. Trust me, if you pulled this pie out of the oven, you’d need a fire extinguisher and then an air-conditioner blazing in your mouth. From yesterday’s post, you’ll see that I made a peach pie. The pie, although gorgeous and juicy, was a little heady. The cardamom overwhelmed the peaches and I knew, deep down, that I didn’t have enough for the pie. I keep having to remind myself that baking is all about precision and chemistry, none of this improvisation business of which I so love. This morning I was determined to make up for the peach snafu with a fruit I know and adore quite well – the blueberry. oh! how it blisters and turns violet when cooked and spritzed with lemon juice!!!

So what I’m looking for is a pie without all that dreaded heaviness. Something light. A topping that is a vehicle for the fresh local berries. I recently made a pie with a marzipan crumble, but while delish, not light. So I turned to one of my favorite foodies, Heidi Swanson. She recently posted a recipe for a peaches and plum crumble and the topping seemed perfect (a great mixture of textures and suitably sweet, but not overwhelmingly so), and a little on the lighter side, courtesy of the yogurt rather than dumping in a stick of butter (I only used 3 tablespoons and, in retrospect, I think I could have gotten away with less). So a marriage was in the making. My pie from July’s Bon Appetit combined with Heidi’s crumble, and voila! light! delish!

If you want to go even crazier, you can nix the pie crust on the bottom and roll with crumble.

Note: I use all organic and/or local ingredients, because that is just how I roll.

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or more) sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
5-6 cups fresh wild or regular blueberries (32 ounces) or 32 ounces frozen wild or regular blueberries (do not thaw) or 2 pints from your local market
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Crisp (adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Plum & Peach crisp recipe):
3/4 cup rolled oats (I used toasted oats because I couldn’t find rolled oats in my local market)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup yogurt (I used low-fat yogurt)

Blueberry Pie HOT out of the over For filling:
Whisk 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan to blend. Stir in blueberries and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens, frequently stirring gently, about 13 minutes. Chill filling until cool, about 1 hour (I shoved this in the fridge and it cooked in 1/2 hr, just fine).

For the topping
Combine the oats, flour, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the blueberry mixture.

In a 9inch pie dish (please do not use aluminum or one of those pie crust pans as this will be a disaster), add a rolled out pie crust (i use store bought, because no way am i making dough until autumn). Add filling. Add topping, ensuring you distribute evenly. In a pre-heated 400 degree oven, place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust and topping are golden and filling bubbles thickly, about 25 minutes.

Serve lukewarm/chilled with gelato!

the perfect peach pie!

Peach Pie, the finale!When your best friend finishes her novel (four years in the making), what other way would one celebrate than with blueberry pomegrante spritzers (juice, lime perrier, freshly squeezed lime juice) and the ultimate peach pie flavored with vanilla and cardamom?!

From the July issue of Bon Appetit

2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
–I actually used vanilla sugar, which was easier and cheaper!
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom
3 3/4 pounds firm but ripe unpeeled peaches, halved, pitted, each half cut into 4 slices (about 10 cups)
2 Best-Ever Pie Crust dough disks (I used pre-made pie crust dough as it’s almost 90 degrees here in NY and no way in hell am I making dough in this heat. i’m waiting until fall)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Whipping cream (for glaze) (I didn’t use this)
Vanilla ice cream (I used gelato)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Combine 2/3 cup sugar and vanilla bean in processor; blend until vanilla bean is very finely minced. Sift vanilla sugar through strainer into large bowl; discard any large bits in strainer. Mix flour and cardamom into vanilla sugar. Add peaches to flour-sugar mixture and toss gently to coat.

Roll out 1 pie crust disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Spoon peach mixture into crust; dot with butter. Roll out second pie crust disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Drape dough over peach filling; trim overhang to 1 1/2 inches. Fold top and bottom edges under, pressing together to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Using small sharp knife, cut 2-inch-long X in center of top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush crust lightly with whipping cream; sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden, peaches are tender, and juices bubble thickly through cut in top crust, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool until lukewarm, about 2 hours.

Serve pie lukewarm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

the fig tart with cream cheese filling – oh my!

Fig Tart You are the only person I know who plans their baking a week in advance, one of my coworkers says. To which I responded with a resounding HELL YEAH (in all caps). This weekend will be all about the succulent fig. Eat your heart out, foody people. It doesn’t quite get as good as this (unless you count my pumpkin spice loaf or chocolate mousse with orange).

Recipe cribbed from the master, Martha Stewart.

Serves 8 to 10
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint black or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1/4 cup fig or red-currant jam
2 tablespoons dry red wine


Cream together butter and granulated sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Add yolks, and mix just to combine. Whisk together dry ingredients, and add to yolk mixture; mix just until it comes together loosely. Transfer the dough to plastic wrap, press together, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

Prepare a 4 1/2-by-14-inch rectangular fluted tart tin with cooking spray. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to about 1/8-inch thickness. Discard the top plastic wrap, and gently invert dough over the prepared tart tin. Discard the remaining piece of plastic wrap. Press dough into tin, and trim so dough is flush with edges. Repair tears or cracks by pressing together dough with your fingers. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prick crust all over with a fork, and bake on the middle rack of oven until crust begins to color, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, remove from the pan. Place on a serving platter or board.

Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat until smooth. Add crème fraîche and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Spread filling into cooled crust, and arrange figs on top, pressing them in slightly.

To make glaze, combine the jam and wine in a small saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, and simmer until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, and brush warm glaze over figs with a pastry brush. Chill the tart in the refrigerator if not serving right away.

Serve within several hours.