May 27, 2018

Frozen Lemonade Tart

Memorial Day is generally regarded as the start of summer, at least for those of you who don't live where it's been 90 degrees for the last month (yes, I'm back in Atlanta!). My family has a barbecue lined up for tomorrow, which means that we will have plenty of burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, corn, and other tasty treats. For reference, "a barbecue" refers to grilling burgers, hot dogs, etc. while "barbecue" encompasses all those long-smoked meats like pulled pork and brisket. I can rant on for a while, but I'll spare you the details and get right to dessert. This year, I'm thinking a frozen lemonade tart, much in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo's frozen margarita pie, but more kid-friendly and suited for any summer festivities you may have planned.

Since it's already Memorial Day weekend and you may be looking at this for a last-minute dessert, you can speed up the process by turning it into a pie and using a store-bought graham cracker crust. However, I'm a crust girl and prefer the look and crust-to-filling ratio of a tart, so I tend to take 15 minutes to make my own graham crust in a tart shell. It's just graham cracker crumbs (again, save time by buying a box of crumbs instead of grinding your own), butter, and sugar, and it only needs to bake for a few minutes until golden and toasty.

The filling is essentially a frozen mousse: it has a delicate, airy structure that is set by freezing for a few hours. See how the tart looks kinda droopy in some of my pictures? That's because I'm very impatient and just had to try it before letting it freeze fully. Make sure your cream is whipped to stiff peaks and is gently folded in to avoid destroying the foam when you combine it with the sweetened condensed milk, lemon, and sugar, and let it freeze for as long as you can stand it. I use both lemon zest and lemon juice for an acidic punch of flavor and unbeatable freshness.

I like to garnish this tart simply with some fresh whipped cream and decorate it with some fresh fruit. Here, I just used some extra slices of lemon I had on hand, but you can decorate it with berries for a red, white, and blue patriotic feel for the holiday weekend or just with some of your favorite fruits. I'd recommend garnishing just before you serve because freezing berries in particular tends to ruin them and leak juices everywhere. Like I said, though, this tart is so tempting you might just eat it too fast for that to matter.

1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/3 + 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Stick Butter, Melted
2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Lemons, Zested & Juiced (2/3 cup juice, 2-3T zest)
3 T Powdered Sugar

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-11" tart pan.

Combine the graham crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the butter and quickly press into the prepared pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Alternatively, use a pre-made graham cracker pie crust.

Whip 1 cup cream until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt together. Gently fold into the whipped cream. Spread into the cooled pie crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Whip the remaining 1 cup cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and whip until it holds stiff peaks. Use to garnish the tart, along with lemon slices and graham crackers if desired.

Serves 8

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