Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ratatouille with Cornmeal Thyme Crust

This is kind of similar to my last post flavor-wise. If you feel cheated, too bad! I was just bent on making one big tart with all those tomatoes. Throw in some zucchini and voila - RATATOUILLE! I embellished my version with a crunchy cornmeal thyme crust, carmelized onions and goat cheese. Besides being visually appealing, this was incredibly delicious. A blend of contrasting textures and flavors made for a perfect little lunchtime treat. It's also been fun having my husband around during the day to try out my concoctions. He approved of this one!

You may not know it, but my kitchen is pretty tiny and I finally decided to let my food processor live on the much-coveted counter space.....for the time being. Even though it is an eyesore, when I see it sitting there, it reminds me of how easy it is to whip up a little dough for crust. It makes me happy.

On to the recipe:

Ratatouille with Cornmeal Thyme Crust

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 T. fresh thyme
4-5 T. cold water
Put all ingredients except water in food processor. Pulse until crumbly mixture forms. Add the water and pulse until the dough forms. Put it in your tart pan and push it around until its evenly spread up the sides. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. You can weigh it down with rice or beans, over foil. I didn't do that because I felt like the cornmeal wouldn't puff up much. I was right. This is a dense crunchy crust, so don't expect your grandma's flakey version!
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. goat cheese
1-2 thinly sliced zucchini
3-4 thinly sliced tomatoes
2 basil cubes (from Trader Joe's frozen section*)
1 T. olive oil
Saute onion until it becomes carmelized (at least 10 minutes). Add the garlic during the last 2 minutes. Put onion mixture on top of the crust. Crumble goat cheese evenly on top of onions. Starting in the middle, layer the tomatoes and zucchini in a concentric pattern. Put the basil cubes into the olive oil and mix together. Brush this mixture on top of the veggies and then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 for about 30-35 minutes.
* Small packs of frozen herbs that come in packages of 20 cubes. Each cube = 1 tsp. fresh herbs. The package has a red lid, if you are looking for it in their freezer section. They are so handy - I always have basil, garlic and parsley in my freezer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tomato Tartlets

I had a bunch of tomatoes and really wanted to make one big tart with a sheet of dough because I think it looks so striking, but could only find the little puff pastry shells at the store. Despite the few ingredients and simplicity of this dish, these were so elegant and incredibly addicting!

Tomato Tartlets
1 package puff pastry shells
5 oz. goat cheese
1 garlic clove, minced and crushed into a paste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt/pepper to taste
4-5 medium sized ripened tomatoes, sliced and quartered

Preheat oven to 400. Take the almost thawed shells and separate them. With a rolling pin, roll them out a little bit flatter and bigger. Place on cookie sheet. This way they don't puff up so high. Mix the goat cheese, garlic, thyme and salt/pepper together. Spread about 1/2 tsp. cheese mixture on each tart shell and top with tomatos slices. Sprinkle with pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes, until desired golden color.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

When I think of fall several types of food come to mind......baked winter squash, hearty soups and poached pears. Because its still in the 80's here (temperature, not decade - hah!), we haven't quite gotten the autumn feel, but I still oven-roasted a head of cauliflower yesterday, with plans of a simple creamy and healthy soup.

I made a cheesy cauliflower soup recently, but I prefer this one, hands down. I was going for a more subtle flavor this time, with the cauliflower center stage - no onions, garlic, cheese or other herbs (besides the garnish). I think roasting the cauliflower first gave it a sweet nutty flavor which worked really well. I balanced that roasted flavor with a dash of sugar, which gave it even more depth. It's also really important to blend it vigorously so that it has a rich creamy consistency.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup FF half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 small can veggie broth
generous amount of salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar

Heat oven to 450. Cut up and spread cauliflower on baking sheet. Drizzle oil over and mix gently so it's evenly coated. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple times until soft on the inside and browned on the outside. Chill until cooled.

Put cauliflower and rest of ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat on the stove until hot. Gobble up with a nice grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Asparagus & Mushroom Quiche

Ahhh....quiche. This is most definitely my new favorite lunch...well, and breakfast...actually, it's nice for dinner too. It's just so perfectly versatile and can be whipped up with whatever you have on hand. Eating it cold is better than warm and it's also better the second day (if it lasts that long). This is my second posting for quiche in the past couple of months so you can tell I am a fan. I usually get inspired when eggs are on sale and veggies are plentiful. And the artist in me likes to make pretty patterns.

2 cups flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
1 T. light olive oil
6 T. cold water
egg wash

Pulse the flour, butter, oil and salt in a processor until crumbly. Add the water and pulse a few times until it comes together. Carefully dump it out onto a board and push it together gently! Roll into the shape of your pan. My tart pan has a removable bottom for easy serving. Brush egg wash on the edges and bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Let cool off a bit while you make the filling.

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 T. olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 10 oz package sliced mushrooms
1 clove chopped garlic
1 T. chopped basil
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 bunch very thin asparagus

Mix eggs, milk and parmesan together in a bowl and set aside. In a pan, saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add the basil or any other herbs and remove from heat.

Put mushroom mixture onto crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese. Pour egg mixture over that. Arrange asparagus in a starburst pattern. You may have to trim the asparagus down into 2-3 inch pieces. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Baked Flautas de Carnitas

Who doesn't love fried flautas smothered with salsa, guacamole and sour cream?? I sure do, even though I've never made them myself. These are just as good, in my humble opinion and much better for you. You can surely use chicken to save even more calories.

Flautas are a nice alternative to enchiladas and are a snap to assemble after you've let the pork cook in the crockpot all day. It took me all of 5 minutes to get the meat going. I definitely prefer the "butt" roast (no snickering, kids). For some reason, the last few times I tried using a pork shoulder, it came out kind of gamey.

Put into crockpot:
1/2 cup water
3-4 lb. pork butt roast with dry rub*
sprinkle 3 sliced jalepenos on top of meat

Cook on high for 5-6 hours. Remove from crock and shred meat, picking out obvious fatty spots.

* My favorite dry rub seasoning is something called "Santa Maria Style Seasoning" which is salt, garlic, black pepper and parsley. I used about 2 tablespoons of this along with 1 tsp. of cumin.

10-12 flour tortillas
shredded carnitas (above)
2 cups shredded cheese
1 can black beans
1 cup salsa
1/2 onion, minced
Olive oil for brushing over tops

Preheat oven to 375. Warm tortillas in foil for 10 minutes in oven. Spread a little of each ingredient in a line down the middle of the tortilla and roll up as tight as possible. Place on greased cookie sheet, seam side down. Once, you've made them all, brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with salsa and guacamole.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fruit Pizza

Okay, I've been out of order for awhile, as a couple of you have pointed out. Thank you so much for caring, I feel so special...sniff sniff. I was actually on a family vacation for a couple weeks and unable to check my e-mail for over 9 days. In a row! After the first couple days of going through the shakes and feeling disconnected from my virtual life, I really got the hang of it and enjoyed just playing with my family. I even read two whole books....like real books, the kind with no pictures! Besides doing all things San Diego, we got to visit some relatives that we had not seen for many years, including my aunts and uncles from Oklahoma who were visiting California.

That's it for the update. Hopefully I will be back to blogging, but I'm working on another project which has been keeping me occupied. So this morning at about 9:30 my kids were asking for pizza because they were soooooooo hungry. I decided to let them make their own fruit pizza, and they were thrilled with that prospect.

Owen keeps telling me that he wants to be a chef (and I get a pang of pride each time I hear that), but then again, he also wants to be a Super Spy, an astronaut, a doctor, and a pilot. So I'm not holding my breath.

Notice below, Wesley licking his hand. Awesome! Clearly no rules around here for fun-time cooking. I try to bite my tongue and just let them make a grand old mess. They were so proud of themselves, and that was my goal here. It didn't matter that the sugar melted and ran off the pizza stone into the bottom of my oven. It didn't matter that the crust was hard as a rock. Nor did it matter that I had to sweep up a pound of flour from the floor. They ate it and beamed. Mission accomplished.

Not sure if you knew this, but getting a loaded pizza onto a pre-heated pizza stone is not easy. Especially when your topping is sugar and round berries. Next time I will use a plain ol' rimmed cookie sheet.

And I might "help" with the cinnamon-sugar portion control so it doesn't melt off the pizza and do this:
When they are all grown and married with their own kids, I can only hope that they remember mornings like this and smile. And their wives can sit back with a cup of coffee and the newspaper while dad whips up some gourmet breakfast!