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May 19, 2018

Summer Vegetable Tart

Based on my observations at the farmers' market this morning, the best way to take advantage of summer produce is to eat it all at once. I'm talking corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and more summer squash. And what's the best way to combine them? With plenty of cheese in a buttery, flaky crust. Yep, that's right: a savory tart. There's minimal cooking involved so you retain the freshness of the veggies (plus you get to eat it that much faster).


I typically make this tart with some sauteed onions, zucchini, and yellow squash. I then add tomatoes, herbs, and garlic and let a lot of the water cook off so the crust doesn't get soggy during baking. The trick is to cook it just enough so you lose some moisture but not too much that they turn to mush in the oven. Since the corn doesn't need to be cooked beyond the time in the oven, I stir it in at the very end with the olive oil and the parmesan.


The crust is my traditional buttery crust for savory recipes. I'm firmly in the all-butter camp, so no lard or shortening here. Butter just has the best flavor and a superior flakiness that can't be beat. Like with all my pie and pie-esque recipes, keep all the ingredients cold (especially the butter) and work them as little as possible. Once you roll it out to fit the tart pan, keep it chilled until you're ready to bake. I like to blind-bake my crust before adding the veggies, meaning that you bake it while covered until mostly cooked through. This prevents it from getting too soggy if the vegetables are too liquidy and ensures it is cooked through without overcooking the vegetables.


To dress the tart up a bit, you can add more of your favorite veggies, sub in colorful cherry tomatoes, or even throw in some bacon or crispy ham. You can also add some cheese to the crust, like in this mushroom galette. For extra cheese, try spreading a layer of ricotta or your favorite soft cheese on the base of the crust. If summer vegetables haven't quite hit you yet, this would be delicious with some asparagus or mushrooms as well. It's easily adaptable to your taste and to the season, so don't limit this recipe to just the summer.


1 Recipe Savory Crust, Blind Baked in an 11" Tart Shell
1 Small Zucchini, Sliced Thinly
1 Small Yellow Squash, Sliced Thinly
1 Small Onion, Diced
2 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2 Sprigs Thyme
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Ear Corn
2 T Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan


Heat oven to 375F.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the zucchini and squash and cook of 3 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Add the tomatoes, thyme, and garlic to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Combine all the sautéed vegetables with the kernels from the corn. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until cool. Toss with the oil and parmesan and transfer to the crust.

Bake the tart for 12-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the crust is golden.

Serves 8
Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

May 8, 2018

Mushroom Ravioli with Parmesan White Wine Sauce

For some reason, everyone is obsessed with brunch for Mother's Day. All the restaurants are booked, and brunch at home never works out as well as you think it will. Breakfast in bed is the worst of all: you have to get up extra extra extra early, pray your mom doesn't get out of bed before you're ready, force her to listen to you make a mess in the kitchen while she can only wait to see what she inevitably has to clean up, and you're guaranteed to have crumbs and/or maple syrup in the bed for days. Now, I do have some pretty tasty brunch recipes (quiches'mores French toastblueberry muffin bread, and plenty more in the recipe index), and I completely understand wanting to start Mom's day off right. However, I just think you can accomplish so much more when you have more time. This mushroom ravioli with a parmesan white wine sauce is definitely a time investment, but it is so luxurious and flavorful your mom won't mind the wait.


Fresh pasta is absolutely essential for ravioli. If you are lucky enough to have a pasta shop or gourmet grocery store with ready-made sheets, feel free to save yourself some time. Making pasta is an art, but you shouldn't be afraid of learning. To make pasta from scratch, put your flour in a big bowl and make a well in the center. That's where you add your eggs (usually about one egg per serving), gently stirring to bring in flour from the sides until you have a cohesive, slightly tacky, and elastic dough. You might need a bit of extra flour or a splash of olive oil to get the texture just right, and keep in mind that as it rests and hydrates it will become slightly more sticky.


The filling consists of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, spices, an egg, and plenty of mushrooms. I use ricotta as the base because it as a nice creamy texture, mozzarella for some gooeyness, and parmesan for saltiness. The egg binds everything together and helps the filling set up a bit when cooked. The mushrooms are prepared simply with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper and cooked to draw out a lot of the moisture. This prevents the filling from getting too wet, plus the pasta only cooks for a few minutes and you still want the mushrooms to be cooked through. As with most of my mushroom recipes, my go-to is usually baby portobellos or button mushrooms but fancier ones like oyster or king mushrooms would add a bit of flair. Just make sure that they're diced pretty finely so that you don't end up with one big mushroom chunk and a little bit of cheese in your ravioli.


The pasta must be rolled extremely thin (almost see-through) to avoid gumminess after cooking. You can do this manually with a rolling pin, use a manual pasta roller, or use something like the pasta rolling attachment for your stand mixer. I typically go with my manual pasta roller, which only cost about $25 and has been well worth the investment. With any rolling equipment, you can't go from a block of dough straight to see-through pasta; I like to press my dough out to about a centimeter thick so it will go through my pasta roller on the widest setting then keep adjusting the dial so it gets thinner and thinner. Not only does this reduce the strain on your rollers but it also aligns the gluten and starches so you have a better texture when cooked.


If you don't have a ravioli former or mechanical filler (another common mixer attachment), a cookie cutter or glass would work well too. I take two similarly-sized pasta sheets and dollop the filling about 2" apart on one sheet. I brush egg wash in the gaps between, press the second sheet of pasta on top (pressing out all the air bubbles and adhering the sheets), and use the cookie cutter/glass/knife to shape the ravioli. The key here is to avoid air bubbles and leaky filling (make sure the edges are sealed well) so your ravioli don't fall apart or explode in the water. They only take a few minutes to cook in boiling, heavily-salted water, so make sure to cook in batches to avoid sticking.


My favorite part about this recipe is the sauce. It's garlicky, buttery, herby, cheesy, and salty but still somehow light enough to let the ravioli shine. The garlic and herbs cook in a shamelessly large amount of butter before being deglazed with white wine. I suppose you can add in chicken stock for an alcohol-free version, but it's just not quite the same. From there, all it needs is a touch of salt and pepper, a handful of grated parmesan, and enough starchy pasta water to make a smooth, velvety sauce.


I garnish the ravioli with some prosciutto for extra saltiness and a sprinkle more of parmesan because I've already committed to eating too much cheese anyway. You could also elevate it with some fresh peas, extra mushrooms, or even some asparagus ribbons for a springtime treat. Of course, you can't forget dessert on an occasion like Mother's Day, so I'd recommend something along the lines of some brown butter biscottibuttermilk pie with roasted fruit, or some rich chocolate mousse. Just make sure you don't leave mom with the dishes!

4 Cups Flour
7 Eggs
14 T Butter
12 oz Mushrooms, Diced
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Sprig Rosemary
2/3 Cup White Wine
Prosciutto for Serving, Optional

Transfer the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Beat 5 eggs together lightly, then pour into the center of the well. Gradually stir the flour into the eggs, scraping from the sides of the well to incorporate. Stir until combined, then knead until elastic and just tacky, about 4 minutes, adding additional flour or a splash of olive oil as necessary. Form into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and set aside to rest.

Heat 2 T butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-6 minutes or until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, spices, and 1 egg. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms.

Roll out the pasta dough to form thin sheets (2nd thinnest setting on a manual pasta roller). Beat 1 egg with 1 T water to form an egg wash. Using a ravioli mold if you have one, spoon the filling onto the pasta sheets, brush the edges with egg wash, top with another sheet of pasta, press to adhere, and cut into individual ravioli. Set aside on a flour-dusted tray.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and boil for 4 minutes or until floating and al dente, working in batches as necessary.

Meanwhile, heat 12 T butter in a large skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Deglaze with the wine and stir for 3 minutes or until mostly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan and whisk until smooth, adding starchy pasta water as necessary.

Toss the ravioli in the sauce, adding prosciutto as desired.

Serves 6

April 29, 2018

Frozen Margarita Pie

The weekend is winding down, but I'm already excited for the next one. I'll be done with classes and homework, I'll have more time to cook, and it will be Cinco de Mayo. Even though my friends are going all out at the bars, I know the real fun is with the food. There's nothing better than a party with a taco bar, and don't forget the salsa and guacamole. As for dessert? This frozen margarita pie is like the best key lime pie that made a pit stop at the bar. It has a bright, citrusy lime filling spiked with tequila cradled in a sweet and salty pretzel graham cracker crust, all topped with a torched meringue topping.


Normally I prefer a graham cracker crust for my custardy pies, especially the lime ones. I didn't stray too far off with this recipe, but I did add a secret ingredient: pretzels. They maintain the crunch and add some notable saltiness, which contrasts well with the sweetness and the tartness of the rest of the pie. Also, margaritas need salt and this is easily the tastiest way to incorporate it into the pie. I use the same method as a homemade graham crust: pulse the graham crackers (and pretzels) in a food processor until fine, add some sugar and melted butter, and quickly press into your pie plate. I pop it in the oven for a few minutes to firm up and toast a bit, then let it cool until the filling is ready.


The filling is surprisingly easy compared to other pies. I combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest (no need for key limes here unless you really want them), a splash of orange juice, some sugar, and, of course, tequila. I've made this recipe with other citruses and other (or no) alcohol, but I've found that the combination of lime and orange is unbeatable, and you really need the tequila to capture the essence of a margarita and hold on to the spirit of Cinco de Mayo. That all yields a very tasty but poorly textured filling, so I combine it with some stiff whipped cream to make a mousse-like filling. I prefer it frozen for a few hours to firm up and provide more textural contrast since you'll also have the fluffiness of the meringue.


The meringue is also very straightforward. I whip egg whites with some cream of tartar to stabilize them until soft peaks form. I then add some sugar and whip until the peaks turn stiff and glossy. There's a lot of debate about when to add the ingredients, how fast to whip the eggs, what order to do everything in, etc. but I've found that this turns out just fine. For some extra pizzazz, I broke out my new kitchen blowtorch and toasted the swirls of meringue. It adds that nice toasted marshmallow-y flavor and makes the dessert truly show-stopping. This could also be achieved by broiling it very carefully for about a minute on the top rack of your oven, though it runs the risk of melting the filling. If you've more risk-averse, this pie is still very tasty without the topping.


If this pie isn't enough, I have plenty more recipe ideas in my recipe index, so make sure to look for more dips, salsas, tacos, and other mains. I'm not sure what else could top this pie, but I'm sure I'll come up with something eventually. For now, enjoy this creamy, cold, refreshing dessert, and I'll get back to you soon.


1 Cup Pretzels (2 oz)
3/4 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
3/4 Cup Sugar
6 T Butter, Melted
1 Cup Heavy Cream, Chilled
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Limes, Juiced & Zested
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
2 T Tequila
3 Egg Whites, Room Temperature
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie plate.

Pulse the pretzels in the bowl of a food processor until only small bits remain. Add the graham crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar; pulse a few times until sandy. Add the melted butter. Quickly press into the prepared pie plate. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until set. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest (1/2 cup lime juice, 2-3 T zest), orange juice, tequila, and 1/4 cup sugar together. Gently fold in the whipped cream in 3 additions. Spread into the cooled pie crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium speed until they reach soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Spread the meringue onto the pie and toast with a kitchen torch or under the broiler for 1 minute or until golden.

Serves 8