Hi there. Remember me? Cooking. Heels. Oh yeah…her. It’s been a while, but I have a really good reason. When I started this whole adventure in food and fabulous footwear, it was to find something positive in an otherwise crappy time. It was fun, frivolous, and gave me a reason to talk about, think about and play with food — which was something I did anyway, but now I had a somewhat legitimate reason. Life continued on, so did the blog at a weekly pace, and all was running in greased grooves. Then I decided to actually try to make money thinking about, talking about and playing with food. And whaddya know, it seems that living is starting to happen, causing my weekly blogging to sit on back burner, turned down to a once or twice a month simmer. Now about that step in the “making a living” direction. It happened about two weeks ago, precipitating an even BIGGER step yesterday (you see a pattern here…) All of which brings me to Bond…James Bond.
What could 007 and I possibly have in common, other than a penchant for martinis?James had a license to do what he does, and now so do I. So what if his was for killing bad guys. A license is a license, right? Mine, l assure you, is not for anything as sinister. What it does is allow me to do what I now realize is the work I was born to. As of two weeks ago, that kitchen where the cooking and heels-wearing occurs is fully licensed, meaning I can now make products for sale to the public. All official-like, with a bureaucratic-looking paper certificate, check payable to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and everything. It seems I am now, a brand. Me, Famous Amos, and Sara Lee, all in the same club! Leading me to the second big step in my quest for total yummy stuff world domination (cue the “dah dah DAAAAH” music). As of yesterday, cooking in my heels products are available in places other than the doggy bag I hand you at the end of a dinner party, or send in lieu of an actual birthday present.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there’s a bit of terror in my heels about all of this. Perhaps terror isn’t the right word. Respectful of the leap off the cliff I’m about to make seems more like it. Sort of like peering over the edge of the ledge right before you bungee jump. Then today, as I was in a local gallery with my visiting mom, the woman behind the counter asked what cooking in my heels was (mom was sporting a swell new CIMH sweatshirt). She had seen it recently and was curious. Turns out she was a customer in the market I just delivered to yesterday. Suddenly, that leap off the cliff doesn’t seem so scary anymore…
Between working 40+ hours at the hotel (and creating a menu for a soon-to-open new cafe therein…more on that next blog), licensing my kitchen, promoting my brand, and producing product, I’ve gotten pretty good at adapting master recipes to many (MANY) variations. Which is actually pretty fun to do. Take for example, the crostata. I’ve been focusing a lot on them lately at the hotel (in their schmancy french incarnation, la galette), because if you have a great dough, the incarnations in free-form tart heaven are infinite. I’ve featured both my pate brisee and semolina crusts here before – they are my go-to dough recipes and have never failed to be crispy and versatile. Here’s how I’ve played with dough of late, in fabulous sweet and savory ways.
Sweet Crostatas (with Pate Brisee)
- Blueberry Frangipane: Roll out some pate brisee into a circle (doesn’t have to be precise – this is a rustic tart). The size of the circle and amounts are up to you – a 6″ circle makes a nice tart for two, 9-10″ can easily make 6 servings. Place the dough on parchment, and the parchment on a cookie sheet. Spread frangipane in a thin layer over the bottom of the tart, leaving about an inch border. Pile a layer of fresh blueberries on top on the frangipane, covering it. Sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of almond/tapioca mix (1/4 cup almonds and 1 TBSP tapioca, ground fine in a food processor). Top with a teaspoon or two of sugar (I love using vanilla sugar for this if I have it) and a few chopped almonds. Fold the crust border over and pinch where crust meets crust. You’ll have what is basically a pentagon-shaped pastry when your are done, or 5 edges. Brush the crust lightly with cream, half and half or milk, sprinkle lightly with sugar and bake at 400 °F for about 20-25 minutes. The key to this crust is color, so you are looking for a nice medium golden. Don’t be tempted to pull it out when it’s pale. Color means crisp when it comes to crust.
- Strawberry Rhubarb: This is so basic and simple it’s downright silly. Use strawberry rhubarbcompote as a base –a cup strawberries, a cup chopped rhubarb, up to a 1/2 cup sugar depending on how sweet you like, 1 tsp lemon zest, a pinch salt, cook until it’s thick and had a consistency like jam. If you don’t have the time or inclination, strawberry jam will do in a pinch. Thinly slice fresh rhubarb stalk (about 1/8″ thick), and arrange in a circle over thecompote, leaving about an inch border of dough.
Sprinkle turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw) generously over the rhubarb. Bake as directed in the blueberry crostata.
- Ginger Peach: Here’s the thing about frangipane. It picks up other flavors beautifully. Orange or lemon zest, ginger, even cocoa powder added into a bit of frangipane creates a brand new base to play with. To 1/4 cup frangipane add 1 tsp grated fresh ginger. Use that as a base, slice fresh peaches thinly and arrange on top. Top peaches with a sprinkle of sugar (more or less, depending on ripeness of fruit), and some chopped almonds if you like. Fold, brush, sprinkle and bake as above.
Savory Crostatas (with Semolina Crust)
When it comes to a savory tart, I love the little bit of texture, crunch and color the semolina crust provides. The technique is the same as sweet – a base of flavor, a fruit on top, and cheese instead of sugar. Brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper or grated parmesan, bake. Here’s a few examples:
- A base of herbed ricotta (whole milk ricotta, your preference of chopped herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper), strips of prociutto, and thinly sliced apples on top.
- A base of thinly sliced gouda, topped with caramelized onions, diced and sautéed pancetta, and thinly sliced red pear.
- A base of herbed ricotta, garlic and olive oil sautéed spinach, toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan and plumped golden raisins.
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