Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts

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“April come she will, When streams are ripe, And swelled with rain…….” (Lyrics by Paul Simon “April Come She Will”)

Somehow the end of March sneaked up on me while I wasn’t looking! I have been very aware of the trees leafing out, the tulips starting to bloom, daylight savings time of course, but the actual dates…not so much.

March was a very busy month for food styling with many photo shoots that needed a lot of my attention as well as a few garden renovation projects that have been taking up the remainder of my time. This morning I realized there is only one more day in March. I felt happy as this is a week I can stay home for a few days,  and a little sad as it is all moving by so quickly. Alas such is life! Is that not April I see on the near horizon?

I made this Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts recipe a couple of years ago for a dinner party. Perfect for an Easter brunch or lunch. Enjoy.

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Small leeks just pulled from the garden…

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….thin, tender asparagus, shallots chopped & caramelized……

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…crispy bacon crumbled.

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Flaky buttery pie crusts with just a bit of cornmeal to add some crunch. I just love these rectangle tart pans with fluted edges & removable bottoms. 

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Varicolored eggs…perfect for Easter.

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A scattering of chopped leeks over the crusts, topped with a parmesan-egg mix….

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…caramelized shallots ….

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…decoratively arranged asparagus…one tart with bacon, one without.

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Puffy, warm and ready to eat.

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Spring Leek & Asparagus Tarts

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • For 2 crusts: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal.1 tsp salt, 1 cup cold butter cut into small pieces & ice water
  • 6-8 small Spring leeks (or 2 regular size leeks), trimmed & sliced
  • 1/2 lb thin asparagus spears
  • 8 eggs
  • 7 slices bacon cooked crisp & chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped & sautéed until caramelized
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a food processor place the flour, cornmeal & salt &  pulse a few times. Add butter pieces & pulse until mixture is crumbly looking. With processor running drizzle in ice water until a dough ball forms. Remove dough & divide in half forming two balls. Flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic & chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Roll out dough and fit into two rectangle tart pans with removable bottoms, trimming edges,  or 2 pie pans.
  4. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, yogurt & salt & black pepper until well blended. Set aside.
  5. Evenly scatter the sliced leeks over the bottom of each tart shell and ladle the egg mixture over the top.
  6. Sprinkle the top of each tart with caramelized shallots & chopped bacon. I added the bacon to one tart and made the other vegetarian.
  7. Decoratively place the asparagus spears over the tops of each tart gently pressing into the filling.
  8. Place filled tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and puffy. Remove to cool a few minutes before serving on a wire rack. Serve hot or at room temp.

“Rustic Ratatouille Tart for the January Dark” (Gluten Free)

rustic ratatouille tart

“The days are short, The sun a spark Hung thin between The dark and dark. (Poem by John Updike, “January”)

January has been a month of extreme cold & many sunless days. It has been a month of long days for me on photo shoots..arising before dawn and returning home way after dark. It has been a month to test the hearty, tire out the tireless and make us all yearn for lighter times.

In January I crave homey foods such as rich hot soups, winter greens salads with crusty homemade croutons, roasted vegetables of any kind topped with crumbly cheeses.  Comfort foods that are easy to make but complex in flavor…dishes that I can whip up from whatever is in the pantry & refrigerator at any given time…dinners that require no grocery runs or long lists of ingredients.

Ratatouille Tart

This gluten-free “Rustic Ratatouille Tart”  is one such dish. It is quick and easy, full of roasted vegetables encased in a whole grain crust and topped with a good feta cheese…a pretty perfect meal for a dark winter evening.

Ingredients: Grape or Cherry tomatoes, Squash of any type, Onions, Bell Peppers, Garlic Cloves  (or use whatever you happen to have on hand such as potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, etc.) cut vegetables into bite size pieces except for tomatoes & garlic cloves

Olive oil, Herbs de Provence (recipe for making at home here)  or Italian Seasoning, Salt & Black Pepper

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère Cheese

1/2 cup good quality Feta Cheese

For whole grain pie crust: 1 1/4 c.  King Arthur gluten-free whole grain flour blend + 1/4 tsp salt +  7 tbsp cold butter cut into small pieces + 1 cold egg

1 egg + 1 tbsp water whisked together for brushing on crust before baking

whole wheat crust & vegetables to roast

Directions:

1. For pie crust mix flour & salt together in a food processor. Add cold butter cut into small pieces. Pulse until mixed somewhat. Add 1 egg to processor, pulsing as you add, until dough forms into a ball. Remove from processor, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic & chill until ready to roll out. (This only takes a few minutes to make. A store-bought crust works just fine too.)

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place vegetables on a sheet pan. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil, sprinkle Herbs de Provence, salt & black pepper over all. Roast for about 15 minutes just until tomatoes collapse & other vegetables are still firm. Remove pan from oven. Set aside to cool somewhat. Turn oven to 350 degrees.

3. On a flat surface dusted with additional whole grain flour roll dough out to a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Edges can be ragged and uneven. A gluten-free crust is not as “elastic” as a high gluten flour crust, more like a short-bread crust.

Pie crust

4. Sprinkle crust with shredded Gruyère Cheese. Pile roasted vegetables over cheese,  leaving a 2″ edge all around uncovered.

shredded Gruyere over crustroasted vegs on crust

5. Gently fold edges of crust up and over the vegetables leaving  center open. Brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle feta crumbles over vegetables. Transfer tart to a baking sheet covered with parchment & bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp.

Pie crust filled with vegs

Ratatouille Tart

Stay Warm. Keep it simple. Eat well.

Baby it’s cold outside!

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Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart

A very fine “Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart”

Recently a small package, neatly wrapped in brown paper arrived at my home. It was post-marked from Victoria, British Columbia. A bright red “fragile” sticker was prominently displayed on the front. I knew immediately that my “prize” had arrived. And indeed upon tearing open the box I found, nestled snuggly inside, cushioned with bright turquoise tissue paper, 3 beribboned jars of “Cardamom Blueberry Butter”. Two of favorite flavors melded into one knockout treat!

The lovely trio of jars was homemade using fresh Canadian Blueberries by another blogger-friend, Kristy Lynn, who has a great blog at: gastronomicalsovereignty@blogspot.com. I have been following and enjoying Kristy’s blog for a while now and recently she did a “giveaway” of three jars of her homemade blueberry butter & I was the lucky winner. British Columbia to Tennessee….a long trip for some little glass jars.

Lucky I was indeed! The first thing I did was grab a spoon, open a jar & eat it straight from the jar. Mmmmm. It was so delicious & unlike any fruit butter I’ve ever had.  Beautiful color & texture, a definite fresh blueberry taste with just a hint of the cardamom. I love thinking about how far these berries-turned-into-butter traveled….where they came from,  Kristy making the butter and canning them in her kitchen far, far away. Here I was in Nashville enjoying the flavor of British Columbia right in my own kitchen. Two degrees of delicious separation.

Next…a few days later, my toast test….slices of buttered toast with a smear of Kristy’s blueberry butter. Oh yes…the perfect venue. Kerrygold Butter & Blueberry Butter on hot toast…if it’s good on toast, then it’s good.

Not nice to hoard my treat not sharing with others…even though that thought went through my head. This week I used some of Kristy’s Cardamom Blueberry Butter as the main ingredient for a tart I developed. I had some sweet little ripe Seckel pears and a tub of Mascarpone cheese which seemed like a nice pairing with the butter along with a sweetened pastry crust.

For this recipe I used:

5 ripe Seckel pears, peeled & cored, cut in half lengthwise

1 (8oz) tub of Mascarpone cheese

4 generous tablespoons Cardamom Blueberry Butter (this recipe could be made with any really good homemade butter such as pumpkin butter)

1 pastry slightly sweetened

Raw or Turbinado sugar

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll pastry dough out  on floured board to about a 12 inch circle more or less. Fit into an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

                                                                      

2. Use a knife to cut away any pastry that overlaps the edge of the pan.

3. Spread the container of Mascarpone cheese over the bottom of the crust evenly.

4.  Top with Cardamom Blueberry Butter.

5. Peel pears with a sharp knife. Cut pears in half longways. Carefully remove core. I used the sharp edge of a small table-spoon to remove core as pears were very ripe and small. Place pear halves face down on top of the blueberry butter.

6. Sprinkle pears with a bit of the raw sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly, crust is a deep golden brown & tops of pears are starting to brown. Remove from oven. Let cool on a rack for about 30 minutes to serve warm. This tart is also delicious served at room temp.

7. Serve cut into wedges with an additional sprinkling of sugar to add just a bit of crunch to each bite.

There were a few friends…the tart was cut, it was shared, it was eaten with Relish, it was enjoyed on a fall day at the end of October.

 A Small All Hallow’s Eve Gallery

adios October, hola November…..

“End of September Still Life Using Plums & Paper”

“Plums in Bowl” (magazine paper & paint markers)

I don’t talk much about my work, but I am a food stylist and September is the start of the busy season after a more languid summer of work. September is the time to rev up the cookbook projects, magazine articles, restaurant menus…get back into the swing of things…and it pretty much doesn’t slow down until the Spring thaw…so I have been away from my kitchen more than I like, not so much time to experiment and play. Not so much time to ponder food and drink…Along with food styling assignments I have found a bit of time here and there to make some of my quick & easy mini art pieces that always seem to have food as the subject..and I recently made the quickest plum tart in the world for a photo shoot. So this is my “End of September Still Life Using Plums & Paper”.

“A Recipe for the Most Simple Plum Tart in the World”

Ingredients: 3 or 4 ripe plums or plucots, Turbinado Style Vanilla Sugar or any Vanilla Sugar, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 pie crust (use your favorite recipe or a store-bought crust), 3 tbsp butter cut into chunks, powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash & pat dry plums. Cut in half & remove pits. Slice & place in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar & the cornstarch over the fruit and toss together well. The plums will release a bit of juice which is just perfect. Set aside.

2. Roll pasty out into a large circle about 12 to 15 inches in diameter and place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Spread Plum mixture over the center of the pastry leaving a few inches all around uncovered. Dot with butter. Sprinkle a bit more vanilla sugar over all.

4. Fold excess dough up and over the fruit, overlapping & crimping together a bit. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar. Very easy, very quick…

Yum.

A  few more “Plums on Paper”

“eat more plums”

“The Last Pear(s)”

“after the fall”

I was told by a friend, Abby,  recently,  “You have this thing about pears” and it is true…I love the juicy taste, the sexy shape, the variety of colors & textures, how they work with both sweet and savory recipes…they complement, they enhance and they stand alone beautifully. It is mid-November, Winter in Nashville and I just picked the last pears from a tree on my street. Many from this tree have been food for the birds, many have fallen on the ground to beautifully rot, but I have the last of the edible pears and that is all there will be for this year.

“Dried Pears for Winter Dishes”

1. Wash & dry pears. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven temperature to 200 degrees.

2. Cut whole pears, stems, core and all into thin slices using a “mandolin” or sharp knife. I used one of my three mandolins to slice these pears for drying. This one is the most simple and inexpensive one I own, but works the best. You can pick up a mandolin at most shops that sell cooking supplies.

3. Lay thin pear slices out flat on parchment paper.

4. As you can see I put multiple trays of pears to dry in my oven at the same time by stacking them askew so the air could circulate throughout all the trays during the drying time. Turn your oven timer to 7 or 8 hours and walk away. During this drying time you might want to check pears, turning them over once. This is not necessary, but something I like to do. After this day of drying, check pears, if not dried out completely then leave in the oven for an hour or so more. Whether you have a dry day or rainy day will often affect the pears so keep this in mind. When pears are dried enough I just turn the oven off, leaving pears inside while oven is cooling down.

….perfectly dried pears…

5. Store dried pear slices in a container with an airtight lid for later use in your favorite recipes.

“The Last Pear Tart In a Cornmeal Crust”

Left photo: I really like these pre-made frozen “Vicolo” organic corn meal pizza crusts for quick and easy savory or sweet tarts. There is something about the idea of combining yellow cornmeal, pears & brown sugar that really appeals to my winter palate so I created “The Last Pear Tart” with these and a few other simple ingredients.

Right Photo Ingredients : One pre-made Vicolo, or other brand, corn meal crust; 1/2 cup plain yogurt; 2 eggs, 2 to 3 tbsp brown sugar; 3 or 4 thinly sliced, peeled, cored pears.

To Make: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.                                                                                                                       1. Whisk together the yogurt, eggs & brown sugar.                                                                       2. Arrange pear slices over thawed corn meal crust and pour yogurt                                            mixture over pears letting it run up under and around all pear slices.                                   3. Place filled crust on a baking sheet and pop into the oven. Bake for                                       about 20 minutes or until tart is golden brown, pears are softened and                                   edges start to caramelize. Remove tart from oven. Let cool a bit                before serving cut into wedges.

“….the last pear…..”