Monday, August 29, 2011

Peach-Almond Crostata, Interrupted


FEMA recommends stocking up on water, canned food, and batteries during a hurricane. Me? I rush to the Saturday Courthouse Farmers Market, to buy peaches from Toigo Orchards--I won't let little ol' Irene deny me my favorite late summer fruit.


She did, however, delay me. After I made a simple peach salsa to munch on while making dinner, Irene decided to knock over a tree down the road, and --poof-- our power was gone. So much for the peach crostata I had in the works--the filling was made, the crust rolled, and the first fruit halved, ready for slicing. We have a gas stove, but I wasn't willing to mess with the temperature regulation without electricity.

With J's help, I quickly tupperware'd the crostata's components, and crossed my fingers that we'd have the power back on before the fridge went sour. Fortunately, by Sunday night we were in the clear, and the dessert was easy to compile, delicious to eat.


The recipe comes from Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook and I followed it closely--you can find it here. I added some fresh thyme to the crumble topping, kept the peels on my peaches, and skipped both the honey butter and gelato. And as I learned, the almond filling, topping and crust can all be made the day before, making for an easy last minute dessert. The crumble starts to soften the next day once baked, so it's best eaten fresh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Vegetable Tart & Upside-down Plum Cake

Dear readers, patience is the theme of today's post. Something I've gotten a lot better at since starting this blog over five years ago. Something you must have in spades if you still check in here once and awhile to see if I'll post!

See that corner of plum cake above? I've made this cake before--every summer since I discovered it in the LA Times in 2004. But I've been lazy. When I wrote about it here in 2006, I gave you the adapted, fast version, in which I skipped browning of the butter and steeping the milk with whole vanilla bean. How wrong I was. Last night I made this in its full and fussy glory, and man, the caramel-y butter and flecks of real vanilla are worth a sink full of extra dishes. Patience.

That vegetable tart across the table? Five years ago, I wouldn't have taken the time to make it so delicious. This time, I made a pate brisee, instead of a cheap and easy puff pastry. I roasted the zucchini and eggplant, after brushing the cubes with olive oil, crushed garlic, and thyme from my garden--instead of tossing the raw cubes on the tart in the hopes they'd cook up enough there.

And--the most difficult--the patience to wait all year long--until the plums are ripe, the tomatoes are bursting, and the sweet corn is fresh from the stalk--to make a delicious summer dinner, best enjoyed on the patio, under the stars.

Summer Vegetable Tart

Pate brisee (I used Martha Stewart's recipe)
1 log goat cheese, softened
2 tbsp pesto (I used some I made/froze earlier this summer)
1/2 large eggplant, cubed
1 large zucchini, cubed
1 garlic clove, crushed
thyme leaves, about 1 tbsp
olive oil
kernels from two ears of corn
couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, chopped
fresh basil
fresh chives

Heat oven to 425. Roll out pate brisee and press into a tart pan (I used an 8 inch square pan). Chill in the fridge while you put the eggplant and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet, and brush with the olive oil, garlic and thyme. Don't forget the salt and pepper. Roast veggies in the oven until browned--about 20 minutes or so. Take out of the oven, mix in a large bowl with corn and tomatoes.

Take out your crust, put it in the oven. Blind bake for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the goat cheese and pesto together. When the crust is done, take it out, let it cool for a bit, and gently spread the goat cheese mixture across it. Then, add the veggies evenly over the top. If you have more veggies than crust space, save 'em for a salad.

Sprinkle sea salt on top of the tart, and bake it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until crust is browned and veggies are too. While it bakes, make ribbons out of your basil, and batons out of your chives. Sprinkle the herbs liberally on the top of the tart when it's done. Serve with a big spinach salad and a glass of chardonnay.  Save room for plum cake!