Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mini Stone Fruit Galettes

The heat is on. 120 mini desserts down, 1 two-tiered wedding cake to go.

I am officially halfway through another baking marathon, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as you may imagine, I don't find myself with a lot of free time right now. So I will let these next few desserts mainly speak for themselves through their pictures.

I will say though that I tried a new pate brisee (sweet shortcrust) recipe, and I won't be going back to the old one. Ever. The last one I used from Dorie Greenspan was good, almost sugar cookie like in taste and texture (maybe I did it wrong, who knows) but this one, oh my god, this one turned out flaky, buttery, and almost like a dense puff pastry. My boyfriend actually uttered the words "this is my favorite thing you have ever made". It's that good.

Take that crust and fill it with fresh stone fruit and ground nuts, and you have a winner. This is my kind of dessert, lots of butter, not too sweet, and comes in a compact size.

I made these galettes miniature of course, but you could also use this to make one big galette, for a fairly quick and quite easy dessert. Personally though, I can barely handle how cute the little guys are. I mean come on, look at them.

You know how some people gush and coo at any little baby they see on the street? Well that's how I am with miniature baked goods. I think I have a problem.

Mini Stone Fruit Galettes

makes 20-24 galettes

1 batch Pate Brisee (sweet shortcrust pastry), rolled out to two 1/8 inch thick discs and chilled (see recipe below)
2 large nectarines (or 4 large black plums), pitted, cut in quarters, and sliced crosswise very thinly
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup pistachios (I used pistachios with the nectarines, and almonds with the plums) ground finely
1/2 cup turbinado sugar

In a medium bowl, mix together your fruit, 3 tablespoons of sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let the flavors mingle for at least an hour in the fridge. Meanwhile, remove one disc of dough from the fridge and use a 4.5-inch round cutter to cut 10 circles. (you may fit more, I got 12 out of some of my dough). Place circles back in fridge, and repeat with the other disc.

Pour fruit mixture into a sieve and set over a large bowl. Let as much liquid drain off as possible so your galettes don't get soggy.

I didn't get my dough as thin as I wanted it, so as I was assembling these, I placed each disc between two sheets of parchment paper and rolled them a bit thinner, and wider (about 5-6 inched across).

Working with 6-7 discs at a time (if you can fit all 20 of these onto two baking sheets, go for it, I chose to work in smaller batches) re-roll each disc if needed, and space evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place about a teaspoon of you ground nuts in the center of each round, and top nuts with about 1-2 tablespoons of your fruit mixture.

Gently fold dough up around the fruit, crimping and pinching it together every so often. A trick here is to dip your crimping finger into your egg wash before each pinch, this way, they won't unfold and fall apart in the oven, as the egg acts as a glue. Brush some more egg wash over all the exposed dough (I just used my finger) and sprinkle about a teaspoon of turbiando sugar over dough and fruit. Repeat with remaining dough.

Chill assembled galettes for at least 20 minutes before baking. This will also help them stay together in the oven, and encourage the flaky dough to develop properly.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on middle racks for 25-30 minutes, depending on how big your galettes are, and how thick the dough is, until the fruit is a little bubbly and the crust is a deep golden brown, switching pans top to bottom, and front to back halfway through baking time. Let cool completely on a baking rack, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you are able not to eat them all straight from the oven.

These are delicious served warm, but were really really good served the next day at room temperature. Three days later, they are still wonderful straight out of the fridge.

Pate Brisee
recipe from Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook

400 grams (14 oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
100 grams (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup water, chilled
665 grams (1 lb 7 1/2 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Remove butter from fridge 20 minutes before mixing.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, water, and vinegar, stir to aid the dissolving of the sugar. Set aside in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then, stir again to completely dissolve sugar.

In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse in one second bursts about 3-4 times until butter is cut in and evenly dispersed. You should have visible chunks of butter in your flour mixture, this is where the flakiness comes from.

Pour mixture into a large bowl and make a little well in the middle of the flour. Pour the vinegar water mixture into the well and gently mix liquids into the flour with a fork. When liquid is evenly dispersed, dump dough out onto a clean surface and knead gently a few times, just until dough comes together in one cohesive ball. It may be a bit shaggy or falling apart, but that's okay, while it is resting the moisture will bind everything together.

Cut ball of dough in half and shape each half into a disc about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours, or overnight. Take dough out of fridge about 30 minutes before you roll it out. Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to a 1/8 inch flat disc. Always start in the center of the disc and roll outward, turning the disc 30 degrees after each roll to get an even thickness throughout. Place thin discs on a flat platter or pan, and chill for two hours to let the gluten relax. You are now ready to cut dough into circles for the galettes.

I used this crust for another yummy dessert for this bridal shower, so stay tuned, more minis to come!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A New Kind of Breakfast

How have I never eaten avocado toast before? How have I never even seen this dish before two weeks ago? It is an absolute tragedy that avocado toast has not been in my life until now. It's so easy, so rich and decadent, yet so healthy and full of protein. I know it may seem melodramatic, it is just toast after all, but seriously, it is so good. This isn't a complicated recipe, its barely even a recipe for that matter. You toast a slice of bread, smear on half an avocado, top with fresh ground pepper and sea salt, drizzle on some good olive oil, and call it breakfast.

When the avocado softens and melts from the heat of the bread, almost mimicking butter, you will think you have gone to breakfast heaven. Make that a bacon-y breakfast heaven. The addition of paper thin layers of prosciutto take this toast to the next level. Plus, the fact that prosciutto is so thin and lean also means not feeling guilty about adding a bacon-like component to your meal (not that you need to feel guilty when it comes to bacon, EVER).

This may not be a fancy breakfast, but it is fast, filling, and satisfying. This is exactly what I needed to jump start this week. The past few months have been absolutely crazy as I have mentioned, and I am in the middle of gearing up for a bridal shower this weekend (making desserts for 60 people) and a wedding next weekend (making my very first wedding cake....wish me luck on that one). I haven't had much time to cook lately, so this meal fits perfectly into my hectic schedule.

It's hard to believe that something this simple can be so amazing, but if you like avocado, please please try this. It might just blow your mind.

Avocado Toast with Crisped Prosciutto
serves 1

1 large slice of thick cut rye bread (or any bread you fancy)
1 half avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed (save the other half for about 10 minutes after you finish eating this, cause you'll want to make another slice, to which I say: go for it)
4 thin slices of prosciutto
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a small non-stick skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the slices of prosciutto and cook until just crisped. Set aside.

Toast your bread, and with a fork smash the avocado onto the toast. Drizzle toast with a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and lay slices of prosciutto on top.

I have a million ideas for riffs on this toast. Eggs, cheese, tomatoes, spices, fresh herbs, all would make great additions. Just be sure to keep the avocado front and center, it's called avocado toast for a reason.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Winner!

Thanks to all those who entered my giveaway! Time to announce a winner!

Courtesy of

That means TC is the winner:

"pizza with fresh figs!

I had some at the beginning of summer at one of my favorite restaurants and it just begs to be recreated."

TC you will receive an email soon from CSN with your $40 online gift card to spend as you wish! Have fun with your purchase, and hope you all find the time to make your summer favorites before fall arrives!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer-ish Chili + A Giveaway

Is there such a thing as summer chili? If you read my last post I may be a wee bit obvious in my disdain for summer right now, so it should come as no surprise that I have been busy in the kitchen making soup. I am combatting the 105 degree heat index by cranking down the air conditioning and filling my 13-quart LeCrueset full of soup and chili. Delusional? Maybe, but I have a stomach full of chili right now, and that delusion tasted damn good.

Here's where my ADD kicks in. Don't forget to enter my giveaway! Leave a comment by this Monday on the linked post telling me what summer dish is on your list to make before fall arrives and you could win a $40 gift card to CSN online stores.

Okay so about that chili. I have made this chili at least ten times over the last few years. It is based on Michael Chiarello recipe but I change it a little bit every time I make it. It is chock full of zucchini and summer squash, corn, all kinds of peppers and three kinds of beans. It is best made with chicken thighs (trust me on this) but made easier and quite healthy if you use ground turkey. I keep meaning to try a new chili recipe but I just can't stop making this one. It may be an addiction.

3 Bean Chili with Zucchini and Turkey
adapted from Michael Chiarello

3 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or ground turkey or chicken)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3 teaspoons paprika
1 cup AP flour (not needed if you are using ground meat)
1/2 cup olive oil (again, if you are using ground meat you will not need as much)
2 large red onions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 green jalepenos, diced (remove seeds if you want it a little less spicy)
2 red jalepenos, diced (remove seeds if you want it a little less spicy)
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons minced thyme leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatos
2 cups white wine
4 cups chicken stock
2 small-medium zucchini, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 small-medium summer squash, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 can canellini beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chickpeas
2 small cans corn
1 piquillo pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
grated parmesan cheese to garnish (goat cheese crumbles are also delicious, but I put goat cheese on everything so don't hold me to that)

If you are using chicken thighs, place in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper, along with the paprika. Toss with the flour to coat. Skip this step if you are using ground turkey, you can add the salt, pepper, and paprika to the pot while the turkey is browning.

Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large heavy bottom pot, such as a dutch oven, over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add meat (in batches if needed) and cook until brown on all sides. Remove meat and set aside, leaving juices in pot. Add a few more tablespoons olive oil to the pot and when it is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until softened and starting to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes. Add the jalepenos and saute another 2-3 minutes, until softened.

Add the tomato paste, chili powder, and thyme and stir to combine. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, then add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and cooked meat. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, until chicken is falling-apart-tender.

Add the beans, zucchini, summer squash, corn, piquillo pepper, bell peppers, and green onions. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are tender. Stir in basil and serve immediately topped with cheese. This also freezes wonderfully.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Simple Summer Salad + A Giveaway!

Don't you hate it when life gets in the way of your hobbies? After weeks of working 14 day stretches with no time off, followed by a serious, back-woods, roughing -it, camping trip filled with bears and wolves and too many bug bites to count, I am back home and back to the blog. Finally. And what a better way to start a new stretch of (hopefully much more frequent) posts than with a giveaway for a $40 gift certificate to CSN stores. CSN stores is a group of online stores where you can purchase anything from dinnerware, to picnic baskets, to kitchen gadgets, plus lots of other fun things for your home and garden. Exciting huh? More on that in a bit.

For the past few weeks, I have noticed that I keep stumbling upon blogs which start out with something like: "As the summer is winding down..." or "Now that summer is almost over...". Excuse me? Where are you living? Here in chicago, we've got another 5 day 90+ degree heatwave coming at us. This hardly screams 'fall is coming', as much as I would love for that to be true. This may sound weird but I am ready for fall. I am sick of it being hot and sticky and rainy, it may be the Minnesotan in me. Give me changing leaves and fuzzy sweaters and big ol' pots of soup over the hot and humid weather any day.

Oh well, I will wait patiently for fall. Meanwhile, I will console myself with summer's bounty and tell myself that when it is 10 below zero I will be wishing I had fresh zucchini and cauliflower to make this bright, healthy grain and cous cous salad (either that or I will just tuck into the couch with a blanket and a big bowl of chili, my bets are on the latter).

Now about that $40 gift certificate. (I just wanted to make you read my whole post first :-) All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave a comment on this post and tell me:

What summer dish you are itching to make before fall arrives?

Leave a description or even a link to a recipe, and I will pick one using a random number generator. You have until Monday, August16th at midnight to enter (sadly, this is open to US and Canada residents only). On Tuesday, I will announce the winning comment here so be sure to check back then to claim your prize! Until then, go outside, put your feet up, crack open an ice cold beer, and enjoy this cous cous salad.

Israeli Cous Cous & Wheat Berry with Veggies and Goat Cheese
makes enough for 6-8 main courses or 12-14 side dishes, easily halve-able

1 cup Israeli cous cous
1 cup wheat berries
2 small-medium zucchini, quartered and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
4-5 green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh italian parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

To finish:

1-2 tablespoons chopped parsely
3/4 - 1 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a small sauce pan, combine wheat berries with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain off any excess water and set aside to cool.

In another small saucepan combine cous cous with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain off any excess water and set aside to cool.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute a few minutes just until fragrant. Turn heat to high and add the zucchini and cauliflower and saute until starting to brown a bit, but still retain some crunch, about 3-5 minutes, tossing a few times. Set veggies aside to cool.

In a small, sealable bowl (or mason jar) combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper. Close container tightly and shake until completely emulsified. Set aside until just before serving.

In a large bowl, combine cooled wheat berries, cous cous, veggies, green onions, parsley, to disperse evenly, and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can store this mixture in the fridge overnight, but I would recommend dressing just before serving, otherwise the zucchini and cous cous will get soggy. When ready to serve toss with just enough dressing to coat, and top with a generous amount of goat cheese crumbles and parsley.

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