Tomato-Lemon Tart

Lucky me- I recently received several beautiful homegrown tomatoes from friends. ūüôā This quick and easy tart was a great way to showcase them.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit. I modified the method and proportions and added parmesan in lieu of creme fraiche. The punch of lemon surprised my son but I thought that it added bright and fresh flavor.

We ate this tart for dinner with a green salad. It would also be lovely served as an appetizer. A dollop of ricotta cheese may also be nice, so I included it as an option for next time.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (one 14-ounce package or half of a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced into 1/8-inch rounds on a mandoline, seeds removed (5-6 slices)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup basil leaves, to taste, divided
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • ricotta cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 375¬į, preferably on convection.
  2. Place tomato slices on a paper towel-lined cutting board. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roll out puff pastry on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper, smoothing out creases, to a large rectangle measuring about 10×14 inches.
  4. Prick pastry in a few places with a fork, leaving a 1″ border around the edges, then slide parchment paper onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Combine grated garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl and brush dough with garlic oil, staying within border.
  6. Arrange 5 to 6 lemon slices over the brushed pastry, then scatter 8 basil leaves over lemon slices.
  7. Pat the tomatoes dry with additional paper towels. Arrange tomatoes on top of the pastry (a little overlap is okay). Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  8. Bake tart until edges of pastry are browned, puffed, and crisp, about 30‚Äď35 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and top with grated parmesan and basil (chiffonade).
  10. Let tart cool 10 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces. Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if desired.

Grilled Vegetable & Fresh Ricotta Sandwiches

One of our absolute favorite dinner sandwiches is filled with garlicky grilled eggplant and feta cheese. After seeing this recipe, I kept thinking about making this version on freshly baked sourdough bread. I loved the idea of slathering the bread with fresh ricotta cheese too. Yum!

The recipe was adapted from SaraMoulton.com. I used my favorite recipe for fresh ricotta and served the sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread. I added garlic and grilled the vegetables instead of roasting them as well. We ate them with creamy cucumber-avocado salad on the side. It was an amazing vegetarian meal.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 6 to 8 Campari tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fresh ricotta cheese (see Note)
  • 8 slices of no-knead sourdough bread, crusty bread, or whole grain bread
  1. The evening before serving the meal, start the homemade sourdough bread process, if using. Bake the bread the day of the meal. (Alternatively, use another crusty bread or whole grain bread.)
  2. Place the vegetable slices in a single layer on a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press and spread the garlic over the top of the eggplant slices. Let rest a minimum of 30 minutes (the longer the better).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh ricotta cheese. I made it according to the recipe but simmered the mixture for approximately 5 minutes, until it was visibly curdling. I strained it for about 15 minutes and omitted the addition of lemon zest. (The longer it is strained, the thicker the consistency.) Set aside.
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil. Toss the zucchini slices with olive oil.
  5. Grill the vegetables separately until slightly charred and tender; grill the eggplant directly on the grates and grill the zucchini and tomato slices using a grill basket. (Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.)
  6. Divide the warm ricotta among 4 slices of bread and top with the hot vegetables and remaining 4 slices of bread. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: Making fresh ricotta can have varied results- sometimes it has large curds, sometimes it has small curds and occasionally it has no curds. If this should happen to you, don’t panic, just add another tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the curds will appear.

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! ūüôā

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard.¬†Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. ūüėČ

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ‚̧

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450¬į.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

Strozzapreti with Roasted Tomatoes

My husband is SPOILED. He said that this dish was “standard” fare. “We always eat fresh tomatoes and basil, ” he said. What could be better than two (plus) pounds of local farm stand tomatoes smothered in backyard basil, garlic, and loads of cheese? (That’s what I say!) Yummy!

Well… It would have been better is I had made fresh pasta, I suppose. I substituted store-bought (but special) pasta. I did include the directions to make the homemade strozzapreti because it would bring this tasty dish to a new level. It was absolutely delicious with dry pasta too! This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by¬†Chris Warde-Jones. I tripled the recipe, reduced the oil, and used dry (store-bought) pasta.

BTW- I am so proud of my backyard basil! I told my kids (who ALWAYS want to set up a lemonade stand) that they should have a basil stand! ūüôā

IMG_0181

Yield: 6 servings

For the Sauce:

  • 2 1/2 pounds¬†cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 5¬†tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more to taste
  • 15 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups finely grated pecorino cheese
  • 3/4¬†cup, firmly packed, fresh basil or parsley leaves
  • 14 to 16 oz strozzapreti (or fresh pasta- recipe below)


For the Fresh Pasta:

  • 1 cup grano duro flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, 3 tablespoons oil and 12 minced garlic cloves. Toss well, then spread tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut sides up.
  3. Roast until soft and collapsing, about 45 minutes; do not allow to dry or brown.
  4. Meanwhile, in a food processor combine remaining minced garlic, cheese, and basil (or parsley). Process until very finely chopped.
  5. When tomatoes are soft, immediately spread cheese-herb mixture on top and lightly mash with a spoon so cheese melts. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons oil (or more to taste), and set aside.

For the Fresh Strozzapreti: (I substituted store-bought pasta.)

  1. On a wooden counter or large cutting board, mound 1 cup flour and make a well in center. Break eggs into well.
  2. Using your hands, mix eggs in well, gradually pulling in more and more flour to make a pasty dough. Knead dough briefly, using lightly floured hands if dough is very wet; it should be moist but not sticky.
  3. Scrape wooden board clean. Using a wooden rolling pin (and a very light dusting of flour if necessary), roll dough out as thinly as possible into an approximate rectangle.
  4. Using a knife, score rectangle into strips an inch wide and about three inches long. Pick up one piece of dough and press it around a bamboo meat skewer about the diameter of an umbrella spoke. This is most successful if done quickly and not too carefully, so that dough fits tightly round skewer with an overlapping, visible seam. Slide skewer out of pasta and set pasta aside on a plate. Repeat to use remaining dough. Pieces should be irregular in size and shape.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. If desired, return baking sheet of tomatoes to a 300-degree oven just to reheat.
  2. Add strozzapreti to pot and cook until tender, slightly chewy and no longer raw in center. This is best done by tasting after strozzapreti float to surface; be careful not to under- or overcook. Alternatively, if using store-bought pasta, cook according to package directions.
  3. Drain cooked pasta and pour into a large bowl; immediately add tomatoes. Toss quickly and serve hot.

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Creamy Tomato Risotto with Crispy Garlic Crumbs

This wonderful dish is truly season-less. I made it with canned tomatoes but it would be amazing adapted to use fresh summer tomatoes and garden herbs. The crispy garlic breadcrumbs add crunch and a burst of flavor.

I modified the original recipe to cook in a pressure cooker- making it an elegant weeknight meal. (I use my pressure cooker almost exclusively for risotto!) This recipe was adapted from Nicky @Kitchen Sanctuary.com. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Risotto:

  • 800 g/28 oz can diced¬†tomatoes (or peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 400 ml/16 fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 T¬†tomato paste
  • 2 T extra-virgin¬†olive oil
  • 1 large¬†yellow or sweet onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 300¬†g/11 oz/ 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 150¬†ml/5¬†fl oz white wine (optional, replace with stock if you’d prefer)
  • 100 ml/4 fl oz light or heavy¬†cream
  • 60 g/2 oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
  • 2 generous¬†pinches of coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Crispy Garlic Crumbs:

  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • generous pinch or two of coarse salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 60 g/2 oz panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 T chopped chives or parsley
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 40 g/1.5¬†oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano

To Make the Tomato Stock:

  1. Using a colander or sieve, strain a can of chopped tomatoes over a bowl. Use a spoon to mash the tomatoes left in the sieve to a fine pulp, then pour this pulp back into the tomato juice in the bowl.
  2. Add in the stock and tomato paste and stir. The total yield will be a scant 6 cups.

To Make the Risotto:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pressure cooker (5 to 7 quarts). Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion starts to go translucent, add in the garlic, stir and cook for a further minute.
  2. Add the rice and stir until it turns opaque, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the unheated tomato stock and the wine. Stir to combine.
  4. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  5. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running (drizzling) cold water.¬†

To Make the Crispy Garlic Crumbs:

  1. Heat the butter in a small frying pan until it starts to foam.
  2. Add the salt and the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add in the breadcrumbs and stir to ensure the butter covers all of the breadcrumbs.
  4. Allow to cook until the breadcrumbs start to brown a little, stirring often. Keep a close eye on them as they burn very easily.
  5. When ready, turn off the heat and add in the herbs, lemon zest and parmesan.

To Finish the dish:

  1. Open the lid of the pressure cooker, being careful of the steam. Add in the cream, cheese, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.
  2. Scoop portions out onto shallow bowls or plates. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top and serve.

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