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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roasted Ratatouille Tart

I got this recipe from an Ellie Krieger (Food Network star) cookbook called The Food You Crave. I added the garlic and yellow pepper and upped the cheese. The crust recipe is the original. I had a 10 1/2-inch tart pan, so I increased the crust by half. Next time I'll add fresh herbs, perhaps thyme, for even better flavor. I also used slightly more vegetables then she called for. A time-saving tip would be to roast the vegetables ahead of time.

Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart

For the crust:
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. canola oil
3 tbsp. water

For the filling:
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cooking spray
1 small eggplant (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 small zucchini (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 yellow pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 medium ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup. shredded part-skim mozzarella (I used 2 cups, which is an 8-oz. package)
1/4 cup. shredded fresh basil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I doubled this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make crust, combine the cornmeal, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough. Remove from processor and press into the bottom and about 1/8 inch up sides of a 9-inch tart (or quiche) pan with a removable rim.

Press aluminum foil into the bottom and up the sides of the pan on top of the dough. Weight it with uncooked rice, uncooked beans or pie weights. (Don't try to use rice or beans used this way in meals. Keep them in a jar to use as weights again.) Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake for another 5 minutes (I think skipping the additional 5 minutes is fine). Remove from oven and let cool. Increase oven temperature to 400.

To prepare filling, heat 1 tsp. of the oil in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook shallots, stirring, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, adding garlic for the last minute.

Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Arrange eggplant, zucchini, pepper and tomato slices on the sheets in single layer (it took me three sheets) and brush with remaining 2 tbsp. oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature back to 350. Lay eggplant slices on bottom of tart, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle one-third of the mozzarella and some of the basil over it. Layer zucchini and sprinkle with shallots, one-third cheese and more basil. Top with tomatoes, then the rest of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan.

Bake until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, remove rim and cut into servings (Krieger suggested eighths, but those are pretty small servings). Serve warm.

It's pretty, tasty, and good for you if you don't go crazy with the cheese.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Making Chai. . . . . sweet

Mmmmmm, chai.

I researched chai online and tried a few versions before I felt as though I hit the jackpot. Some recipes called for more spices -- nutmeg, coriander and ginger. I also read that the spices are fat soluble, the author insisting that cream is necessary to bring out all the flavors.


This is my version of a Madhur Jaffrey recipe I found online. I think the flavor is fab without the fat, though it's certainly nice and rich with it. It takes a little time, but it's a lot worth it. It keeps for a few days in the fridge, so you can have it on hand to reheat in a snap. And I discovered it's quite good cold, too!


3 cups water
1 stick cinnamon
8 cardamom pods*
8 whole cloves
1 1/3 cups milk (skim is fine) or half and half (fat-free or low-fat fine), or a combination
3 tbsp. white sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar
6 teabags vanilla-flavored tea (I use decaf because I'm caffeine-impaired)**

Add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves to water in pan. Bring to boil, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add the milk and sugars and bring to a simmer again. Throw in teabags, cover and turn off heat. After 5 minutes, remove teabags and strain tea into cups or a pitcher.

*The best place I've seen to buy cardamom pods (read: best price) is World Market.
**You can use plain teabags and add a little vanilla if desired.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I love muffins, and I love to make them. My go-to muffin cookbook is Mostly Muffins by Barbara Albright and Leslie Weiner. I’ve “gone to” it so often it’s now filled with stains and held together by a rubber band.

I also have a pristine copy, but I haven’t gotten around to transferring all my notes to the new one, so there it sits.

This is the muffin recipe that taught me to sprinkle the tops with sugar just before baking. It makes for an attractive, crunchy top.

In these moist muffins, stuffed with blueberries and flavored with lemon yogurt and zest, the blueberries seem to burst during the baking process and create a sort of marbled effect throughout the muffin that’s visible when you tear it open. Sometimes I add ½ tsp. nutmeg to the batter. I always use the zest from a whole lemon.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
8 oz. (about 1 cup) lemon yogurt*
¼ cup lightly salted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 to 2 tsp. grated lemon peel (I use the zest from one lemon, about 1 tbsp.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups fresh or thawed, drained frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl stir together flour, the 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, stir together yogurt, butter, egg, lemon peel, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add yogurt mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in blueberries.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp. sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
Cool muffin tin(s) on wire rack 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups to racks. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
These freeze well.
Makes 12 muffins.

* NOTE: The size of yogurt containers has changed in recent years. Most brands now offer 6 ounces rather than 8 ounces. I've found it works fine to use the smaller "cup" and add a little liquid. Lemon juice is perfect here.

White Bean, Butternut Squash and Chard Stew

December was a crazy busy month, plus I was sick and very nearly useless for a week. My sister and I decided to save some money by making each other (and our respective brothers-in-law) gifts. We loved it, but it was time-consuming. So please forgive my absence.

Every now and then we get a big envelope in the mail stuffed with clippings and such from my mother-in-law. She sends me recipes from newspapers and magazines, and I need to tell her again how much I appreciate that. The ones I keep go into my 8 or 10 three-ring binders full of recipes copied from library cookbooks, printed from the Internet and torn from newspapers, magazines and catalogs.

This recipe is from a clipping sent by my mother-in-law, so it’s probably from the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier Journal. This is my slightly revised version: I wanted it to be a bit soupier, so I nearly doubled the broth, and used chicken rather than vegetable because I prefer the flavor. I’ve never made it with the expensive truffle oil and don’t miss it.

City Cafe White Bean, Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Stew
1 medium butternut squash
1 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 medium shallots, peeled and minced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 15-oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken broth
Parmesan cheese
White truffle oil (seriously optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the squash, cut in half and scoop out seeds. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Put in a large bowl, sprinkle with thyme and 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Toss to coat squash with oil and seasonings. Place squash in single layer on baking sheet and roast 45 minutes or until browned and tender, turning once. You can do this much ahead of time and refrigerate it till you are ready to make the stew.
Wash Swiss chard well. Pinch off stems from leaves. Chop stems and leaves separately. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pot. Add minced shallots and garlic and chopped chard stems. Sauté until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add drained beans, roasted squash and 2 cups broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the chopped chard leaves and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Add more broth if stew seems too thick.
Serve in bowls with shaved Parmesan cheese and topped with a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.
Serves 4.