There was a piece in Sunset magazine from writer Anne Lamott awhile back, and I was redirected to it recently from Orangette. Anne Lamott is a great writer, I have read a couple of her books, and appreciate how she makes points with both humility and humor. The line that struck me the most was "Time is not free - that's why it is so precious and worth fighting for". I make plans with my sister-in-law months in advance, or start discussing a date for a dinner with friends weeks before it's a reality, but isn't that how time goes? We fill it up in trying to get the most out of it, and then end up a bit drained. I just think you should read the article, it will mean something.
I've been envisioning this tart for awhile now, after seeing the posts from the two ladies mentioned below. Hugh shakes his head when we do a post over something I haven't ever made before (which is actually pretty frequent). It is time consuming, especially at the moment while both of us have pretty full plates, but I took a chance. The crust is great, with a nice crunch of cornmeal, and not so much butter than you feel a bit of guilt with each bite. The plums are sweet, barely tart, with some nice texture from not being cooked much at all. Then there's the filling, which may have turned out a bit gooey on first run (I made changes below, don't fret!), but it tastes quite nice. We started this blog as a creative outlet - a place for both of us to collaborate on things we enjoy, food and pictures. The moment it becomes solely about perfect food and a perfect story and mass traffic, I'll have lost sight of why we started doing this in the first place. I love sharing this space, am grateful for relationships I've started and opportunities that have come from it, but every now and then, the tart turns out a little gooey, alright? We ate it anyway, cause time is precious, and if you're waiting for everything to be perfect... you're going to be doing a lot of waiting. Cheers.
PLUM TART WITH MASCARPONE CREAM
With influence from Not Without Salt and Beyond The Plate
As mentioned, the first time around I used honey and cream to thin out the mascarpone, which was unnecessary once it went back in the oven. Even if you want to play around with the sweetener, just make sure it is a dry one, as things melt during its second trip to the oven.
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tbsp. Natural Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
4 Tbsp. Cold Butter or Coconut Oil
2-3 Tbsp. Ice Cold Water
4 Ripe Plums
1 Tbsp. Tequila
Bit of Orange Zest
1/2 Cup Mascarpone, room temperature
2 Tbsp. Muscavado or Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Walnuts
2 Tbsp. Turbinado Sugar
1. The crust can be done in a processor, or by hand with a pastry cutter. For the processor, put all the dry ingredients in the bowl and give them a quick pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into cubes, add it to the processor and give it a few more pulses so there are little pea size flecks of butter. Add the cold water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until the crust just begins to hold together (Alternatively, you can cut the butter into the flour mix with a pastry cutter, and add the water 1 Tbsp. at a time as well). Press the dough in an even layer, into a 11x5 rectangular tart pan and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 400'. Bake the crust on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes until golden on the edges, remove to cool.
3. While the crust cools, cut the plum into thin slices and gently toss it in the tequila. In another bowl, mix the mascarpone with the honey. Chop up the walnuts pretty fine (you can use the processor, but I hate washing that thing), mix them in a bowl with the turbinado.
4. Set the oven to 475'. On the cool crust, spread the mascarpone cream, drain the plums if needed then layer them nicely on top of the mascarpone. Lastly, sprinkle the walnut turbinado mix across the top. With a rack in the upper third, bake it another 5 minutes just to toast the top. Put it back in the fridge to cool and set the cream. Eat it!
There is all this chatter about 'back to school' and I feel like I just got in the summer mood! Not that other people going back to school means that much to me, but I know what is coming. It is just around the corner when people will start talking pumpkin and apples and the holiday Starbucks cup. I still need to go for another swim in the ocean, have a beach picnic and make popsicles! Let's just enjoy the corn and tomatoes and peaches a bit longer. I can see those of you in other parts of the country, the ones enduring some crazy weather patterns, shaking your head.
As simple this recipe is, it needs some defense in case you are thinking it looks too basic. First off, I used the corn I got in my CSA basket this week from the organic farm down the road and OH MY goodness, it was unbelievable. It's the end of August, and if there is ever a time to find sweet, creamy corn from a farmstand or farmers market, it is now. I've watched enough documentaries on the food system to make the effort for organic corn, and besides the ethics of it, the flavor and texture is completely different. The raw corn kernels marinate and soften up a bit, absorbing all the flavor (hence 'ceviche'). You could very well eat this as a side salad, in a quesadilla, mix it with a bit of queso fresco and use it as a condiment for whatever you're bbq-ing. The finely chopped serrano brings the perfect amount of heat, enough to warm up your mouth but not send you searching for a drink. I know I already said this about the tomato soup, but I mean it, this recipe is only as good as the ingredients you use. It is raw corn after all.
SWEET CORN CEVICHE // Makes 2 Cups
Inspired by a picture in Food&Wine
I paid attention to chop the ingredients pretty small, as I wanted the corn to be the star, and the rest to merely compliment - I really think this made a difference.
2 Farmstand Corn Cobs
Zest and Juice of one Lime
1 Generous Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the good stuff)
1 Green Onion, finely chopped
1 Serrano Chile, seeded and minced
1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro*
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1. Shuck the corn and use a sharp knife to cut off the corn kernels from all sides. Put them in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the zest and juice of the lime, good olive oil, green onion, serrano and stir to coat. Add the cilantro and sea salt and give it another stir. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before eating for the flavors to blend. Taste for salt. Keep in a covered container in the fridge, it gets slightly more spicy with age.
* I know there are people who despise cilantro, but don't let that deter you from making this. You could substitute 2 Tbsp. finely chopped, fresh oregano leaves. It won't be quite as 'mexican' tasting, but it does need a fresh herb, and this is the second best option.
There is something that stirs in me as soon as I get off of a plane. It is a relief.
Weeks pass and the weight of everyday life builds up - the deadlines, cleaning, relationships, creative pressure, social planning and what not. I mull around in my own angst, which makes the world seem small. I lay awake at night worried that I am fresh out of ideas for the book - what vegetable have I not exhausted in my recipe writing yet? I needed this trip to get out of my own head. I needed to leave and to be reminded that this world is actually huge, that there is SO much out there, so many stories and things to try. I sat on the lightrail of Seattle en route to our hotel, just staring at all the people waiting to go somewhere and I wondered what they were worried about. We're all going to be alright... is it weird that I wanted to yell that out the window? For them and for me. Despite the amount of cheese and sugar I consumed in the past four days, my mind feels healthier.
I was thrilled to finally meet some friends I had, so far, only admired from my corner of the internet. We've exchanged emails and blog comments, but I got the chance to look at them in the face. It's strange how you feel like you know someone from behind a web address or twitter avatar, isn't it? Truth is, if they do it well and honestly, you pretty much do. Genuine people are easy to spot and a pleasure to know.
We spent our days with eating, walking, drinking coffee, and seeing friends on repeat. I just wanted to pop in here with a few words and a couple photos (Hugh didn't take many, he was busy eating), and assure you that after weeks of being burnt out of cooking in general, I feel more excited about being back in the kitchen. I'll bring you food next week, but 'til then, I think you should start planning a trip. Somewhere.
Ahhh, it feels kind of nice to write a recipe without instructions. This is just to get you thinking beyond the usual, or maybe this is your usual with a few little additions. There is always a reason for a cheese plate, and I think one with a little extra thought goes a long way. We're going camping by the beach this weekend with family, and that's as good a place as any for a cheese plate, if you ask me.
I've catered a handful of dinner parties, and the selections below are some choices I've come to find popular by extremely close survey. We each have our favorites, and you should by all means include yours, but this combination is what makes sense to me for the end of summer. I like to keep the cheeses on the lighter side for warm weather, saving the cheddars, bries and bleus for the cooler months, this being an exception.
PARMIGIANO REGGIANO // RAW COW'S MILK
chisle off a few pieces, drizzle raw honey
CHEVRE // SOFT GOAT'S MILK CHEESE
rolled in finely chopped lemon thyme, chives, pinch of rosemary and ground pepper
MANCHEGO // AGED SHEEP'S MILK
with a bit of apricot jam
BABY MOZZARELLA // FRESH COW'S MILK
with slow roasted yellow tomatoes, basil and balsamic reduction
Here is a recipe for Heidi's tomatoes, mine were so juicy, I used half the oil suggested.
To make your own balsamic reduction, just simmer balsamic vinegar until it reduces to 1/3 of its original volume. Remember it will thicken even more as it cools. I suggest transferring it to some sort of glass vessel before it cools, as it is quite sticky.
Fresh Grapes or Figs
Let the cheese sit out a bit, don't serve it straight from the fridge.
And drink wine with it, because life's short and cheese and wine make all sorts of sense.
(update for those asking) Cheese forks are from Napa Style.
I have three more months until my final manuscript is due for the cookbook, and to be honest with you, I've been a bit paralyzed in creativity. I know that process ebbs and flows, but when it comes to having a due date, I need a bit less ebb-ing and more flowing these days. I've kept a pretty good pace so far, a few bad calls (did you know that roasted pluots are, without question, too tart to eat? who knew?!), but I'm really happy with what we have so far. Now, about that last 30% of the content...
The thought of this combination had me quite excited yesterday, a little something different to throw on on your pizza. I would have hoarded this recipe for the book, but I have something similar in there already, so I can share the tastiness now as opposed to over a year from now ;)
I'm fairly new to using za'atar, and have come to love its unique acidity from the sumac, the ever familiar dried thyme and a bit of nutty crunch from the sesame seeds. You can buy it at spice shops, online, middle eastern grocery stores or Sarah at My New Roots has a recipe to make your own. It's great on top of hummus, used in a marinade, on grilled vegetables, etc.
ROASTED EGGPLANT + ZA'ATAR PIZZA // Serves 2-4
I give cheese measurements, but you can use your discretion depending on how you like your pizza, and how many vegetables you throw on there. The melty cheese is necessary in combination with the feta. The feta provides saltiness and flavor, but the mozzarella makes it a pizza.
I've given directions for baking, but you could just as easily do this on the grill if you don't want to turn on the oven. You can alternatively saute the eggplants, instead of roasting.
3 Tbsp. Tahini
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Pinch of Salt + Pepper
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Generous Pinch of Dried Oregano
1 Small Yellow Onion, halved and sliced
Whole Grain Pizza Crust (This recipe gives you two crusts. You can also buy a fresh dough ball from your local pizza place for convenience)
3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1 Tbsp. Za'atar
1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta
Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt + Pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 500'. Mix all of the tahini spread ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.
2. Peel the eggplant (doesn't have to be perfect) and cut it in to small pieces. Drizzle it with the olive oil, generous pinch of salt and dried oregano. Toss to coat. Spread it on a baking sheet and roast it for 15-20 minutes. Note, you could also throw the onions on there to streamline the recipes, but I like to do it in a cast iron to really char those babies.
3. To char the onions, heat a pan over medium high heat with a dash of oil (I like to use cast iron here), add the onions and char them for about 10-15 minutes, tossing them around occasionally . The point is to cook them on high heat, without a lot of moisture, to char the sides, as opposed to caramelizing them.
4. Roll out your crust and put it on a floured/cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. Spread the tahini spread across the surface, sprinkle the mozzarella, the eggplant chunks and charred onions, the za'atar, and the crumbled feta. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and baking the pizza for 12-15 minutes until the edges crisp up. Garnish the top with a generous sprinkle of the fresh thyme leaves.