Simple, Spicy Baba Ganoush

The end of summer’s harvest approaches, welcoming in a new wave of bounty; this week, it means an abundance of dirt cheap, gorgeous graffiti eggplant for making baba ganoush. When I bought a handful of peppers, a bag full of scuppernongs, and a large basket of graffiti eggplant for only $5 from a local farm stand, I knew the creamy eggplant dish was in my future!

What Is Graffiti Eggplant?

graffiti eggplant

A smaller, white-and-purple-marbled version of traditional eggplant common at most grocery stores, this varietal is known to be less bitter than its solid purple cousin, which has thicker skin and is about twice the size. Some people even describe its flavor as fruitlike and suggest that steps like removing the skin or salting the eggplant before cooking are unnecessary given these sweet, tender characteristics. This sightly vegetable originates from the Mediterranean but grows well in most warm climates.

Health Benefits of Eggplant

Graffiti eggplant is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, manganese, and folate. Additionallyy, in accordance with traditional Ayurvedic medicine, eggplant is prescribed as a means of fighting diabetes. (Eggplant contains high concentrations of polyphenols, which help the body process sugar.)

Eggplant is, on its own, a low-calorie food. Its high fiber content makes it a great addition to any diet!

Also, eggplant is high in antioxidants. This helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Ways To Cook Eggplant

If you, like me, find yourself with an abundance of eggplants, you may be looking for cooking inspiration! Happily, eggplant varietals are interchangeable in most recipes. When cooked, eggplant takes on a creamy texture. It absorbs neighboring flavors and seasonings very well. Here are some ways to use up your eggplant:

Clearly, there’s no shortage of ways you can use this amazing vegetable! If you want further eggplant inspiration, look up some Mediterranean, Indian, or Middle Eastern recipes. Eggplant has a rich history in the cuisines of these cultures.

What is Baba Ganoush and Where Is It From?

Simply put, baba ganoush is a creamy eggplant dish blended with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tahini. Sometimes spelled “baba ganouj,” this Levantine appetizer pairs well with pita bread for dipping.

Primarily eaten as a spread, dip, or sauce, this delicious condiment hails from Lebanon. There are variants of baba ganoush in many other cuisines, including Ethiopian, Armenian, and Israeli.

How to Eat This Spicy Eggplant Dip

Think of baba ganoush as a cousin to hummus. Slather it into a veggie sandwich or drop it over your salad greens. Alternatively, dip rustic bread, pita wedges, crackers, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, or other veggies into this silky smooth dip.

Additionally, baba ganoush makes a great ingredient on any charcuterie board!

Is Baba Ganoush Vegetarian?

Yes! Baba ganoush contains no animal products, so it’s even considered vegan!

Is Baba Ganoush Healthy?

Yes. Baba ganoush boasts a modest amount natural fats from olive oil. There is also a good amount of nutrient-rich sesame seeds from the tahini. These contribute anti-inflammatory properties as well as vitamins and minerals.

Of course, the real star of the show is eggplant. Since the eggplant roasts in the skin which is later removed, it absorbs a relatively low amount of oil in the cooking process. This means the eggplant is even healthier than cubed roasted eggplant. This is about as healthy as eggplant gets.

So, this fiber-rich, filling dish is incredibly satisfying and healthy! (And yes, baba ganoush is even keto-friendly!)

Simple Spicy Baba Ganoush

One great aspect of this recipe is its wonderful simplicity! Waiting for your eggplants to roast is the hardest part.

Pierce the skin of your eggplants with a fork like you would a baked potato. Drizzle with oil and roast.

unroasted graffiti eggplant

I roasted my eggplants for around an hour. They caramelized beautifully in the oven!

roasted eggplants

Allow to cool until you can handle the eggplant. Use a knife and spoon to separate the tender roasted flesh from the skin. Drain over a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess moisture.

draining roasted eggplant removes excess moisture

Simply add all your ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy!

baba ganoush ingredients

It’s as easy as that! I plated mine with some sumac, olive oil, and sheep’s milk feta. Yum!

finished baba ganoush

A perfect summer treat! 🙂

finished baba ganoush

Simple Spicy Baban Ganoush

Fresh serrano pepper gives this take on a traditional recipe a spicy flavor boost! Serve with pita, chips, crackers, or veggies!
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Appetizer, healthy, Side Dish, Snack, vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, lebanese, middle eastern, persian, traditional, vegan, Vegetarian
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • fine mesh sieve

Ingredients
  

  • 3.5-4 pounds eggplants (I used 7 small graffiti eggplants, but 2 standard eggplants will do)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed and seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, for garnish optional
  • 1 oz feta cheese, for garnish optional
  • dash of sumac, for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplants. Pierce all over with a fork like you would a roasted potato. Drizzle with olive oil, and roll in oil to coat. Roast for an hour to an hour and half, or until eggplants are tender and collapsing.
  • Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature. Using a knife and spoon, cut the eggplants in half and scoop flesh out, discarding the skins. Place eggplant pulp in a fine mesh sieve over a medium-sized bowl and allow to drain for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, remove the seeds and stem from your serrano and set the pepper aside. Crush garlic with the flat side of a knife and discard the skin. Juice the lemon and set aside.
  • Place drained eggplant, garlic, serrano, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.
  • Plate with a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of sumac, and feta cheese crumbles. Serve immediately. Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge in an air tight container.
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Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Summer harvest means an array of sweet and spicy peppers just perfect for flavoring braised pork butt. All a good hunk of meat needs is a few aromatics, quality stock, and time to turn into tender braised shreds just askin’ to be layered into a tortilla with a squeeze of lime. (Add some raw veggies for crunch and top with fresh herbs for best results.)

Let’s take a look at what makes this chunk of meat so special!

What is Pork Butt?

My boyfriend and I received a hunk of pork labeled “pork butt” in our most recent Butcher Box. I stood over the freezer with the massive chunk of meat in my hands, staring at the sticker on the plastic as somewhere in the catalogue of my cooking knowledge, dim recollections started bubbling towards my consciousness. Somewhere, somehow, at some point along my foodie journey, I remembered that pork butt is not in fact a pig’s butt.

We’ve all had ham, right? Well isn’t ham from the hindquarters of a pig? A quick Google search confirmed this.

where does ham come from?

Boom. Confirmed. Ham = rump. So why didn’t the massive slab of meat in my hands (which looked nothing like a ham, by the way) say “ham” if it was, in fact, from a pig’s butt?

Deep in the recesses of my brain, memories continued to stir, leading me to ask:

Are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

I googled diagrams of pork cuts. Let’s just say humans have certainly figured out how to get the very most out of the animal.

pork cuts

There it is: Boston butt, clearly distinct from ham!

But to make matters even more confusing, continued Googling revealed that Boston butt is also sometimes called Boston shoulder. Naturally, this lead to further questioning…

are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

As you can see in this diagram from The Spruce, the Boston butt sits just above the picnic shoulder on the pig.

 

Why is the Boston Butt Called the Boston Butt?

So, if the Boston butt doesn’t come from anywhere near the animal’s rump, why is it called a “butt”?!

As is true of many mysteries, the answer is rooted in history. In colonial New England during America’s fledgling years, butchers used to pack inexpensive cuts of shoulder meat into barrels, called “butts.” Used for transporting their wares across New England, the contents of these barrels became known as “pork butts,” the name we still call some shoulder meat today.

So yes, pork butt and pork shoulder, Boston butt and Boston shoulder, are all referring to the same cut of meat.

Primal Cuts of Pork

As you saw in the second diagram above (which is not even a complete breakdown of every cut of pork), we parse out many pieces of meat from a single pig.

First, however, a butcher must make several initial cuts, called primal cuts. These are shoulder, loin, belly, and hind leg cuts.

From there, an experienced butcher will continue to cut out pieces we know and love, like spare ribs, tenderloin, and bacon.

What Makes Certain Cuts of Meat More Expensive Than Others?

There are several factors in play when determining the value of a price of meat. These include but are not limited to:

  • flavor
  • tenderness of cut
  • fat marbeling
  • animal diet
  • USDA certifications, like organic or grass-fed and finished

Another influential factor is supply and demand. For example, Bacon is rich in fat marbling, inherently tender because of its cut, and also happens to be extremely flavorful. It is also simple to prepare because of these positive characteristics. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here when I say that these are the reasons why bacon is so popular. In short, it’s truly delicious.

What this means for the market, however, is that bacon prices range from $6.99 for 16 ounces to $17.50 for the same weight. Bacon quality ranges from the cheapest money to buy to the most luxuriously-seasoned, thick-cut bacon available. Unless we collectively undergo a radical cultural shift around the cuts of meat we love, there will always be a market for bacon.

Less favorable cuts from the pig, like pig feet, can go for as little as $2.00 per pound. Typically, people purchase pig feet for traditional recipes or for dog food, but still others work to break ground on new ways to use these less sought-after cuts. (For the curious, check out Serious Eats’ recipe for crispy grilled pig feet here.)

Cultural Shifts Affect the Price of Meat

Flank steak is an example of a cut of meat that has had its reputation revamped. Years ago, flank steak was dirt cheap. Flank steak is a very lean cut on the cow that generally has little fat marbling. If handled poorly, this cut of meat can be tough and flavorless.

But when certain diet trends suggested ways of preparing the lean cut of meat, like the South Beach Diet in the mid-1990s, it gained popularity. The price of flank steak last year according to the USDA was $8.25 per pound. This month, it’s $9.16.

From this example, we can see that cuts of meat we value culturally can shift. So who knows: maybe someday we will be inviting neighbors over for grilled pig’s feet!

How to Prepare Lean Cuts of Meat

There are several things to consider when you work with a lean cut of meat. When a cut of meat has little marbling, that means it will tend towards toughness and may be low on flavor.

Fortunately, there are certain tricks you can employ in order to make the most out of your lean cut of meat. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Marinate your meat. Marinating your meat in acid or vinaigrette helps to tenderize it before the cooking process. Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all great bases for marinades. Don’t forget to add a little honey to balance your flavors–honey is also acidic!
  2. Use a meat mallet. Physically tenderizing your tough cuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin helps to break down thick muscle fibers.
  3. Allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. This will help the meat to cook more evenly, especially for bone-in cuts. More control over your meat temperature means more control over moisture and overall “done-ness”.
  4. Rest your meat after you cook it. This helps restore the natural juices in the meat by allowing them to redistribute around the whole cut, rather than spilling out under your knife once you start cutting. A general rule is, rest for five minutes per inch of thickness.
  5. Cook lean cuts low and slow. Slow-roasting lean cuts can reduce the risk of “shocking” the meat or causing unnecessary loss of moisture. This is especially true for braising, during which process the meat is completely submerged in tasty cooking liquid like broth or wine.
  6. Cook meat to the right internal temperature. It may seem obvious, but overcooking your meat highlights any negative characteristics, like toughness and dryness, which can be avoided by cooking it on the rarer side.
  7. Cut against the grain. Cutting against the grain of long muscle fibers makes for tender bites that are easy to chew. You might be amazed at what a difference this simple step can make!

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how simple it is. The primary flavor comes from whatever peppers you have in abundance, onion, and aromatic herbs. The soft, flavorful peppers make an excellent addition to your tacos as well as the meat from the braised pork butt.

sweet and hot peppers, candle, olive oil

Brush olive oil on your peppers and broil on high until the skin is blistered. I used red bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, and spicy Fresno peppers.

braised pork butt ingredients

After your peppers are blistered, allow them to rest in their own flavorful juices while you brown the meat. No need to get fussy over peeling garlic or mincing onion–big chunks here are great!

browned pork butt

Sear your pork butt, fatty side first, and save the rendered oil! Set meat aside while you sear your onion and garlic.

seared onion and garlic in pork fat

Once you’ve browned your meat on all sides, sear the garlic and onion to flavor rendered pork fat. Settle your meat, herbs, peppers, vinegar, and stock into the dutch oven and bring to a boil.

braising pork butt

Ideally, your meat will be completely submerged. My pork butt was MASSIVE, however, and would barely fit in the dutch oven. I compensated by leaving the dutch oven covered for the entirety of the cooking process and by rotating the meat halfway through.

After about four hours have elapsed, shred the pork butt into bite-sized chunks, cutting any particularly long muscle fibers against the grain for maximum tenderness. Spoon braised pork butt and sweet peppers into warm tortillas with some fresh vegetables and herbs, and top with a squeeze of lime!

sweet pepper braised pork butt tacos

For more braised meat recipes, check out this recipe for miso-braised au jus sandwiches, or for garlic and wine-braised short ribs!

braised pork butt tacos

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Using a few choice ingredients like garlic, onion, and aromatics, this dead-simple recipe is big on flavor and low on effort!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 35 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Intuitive, Mexican, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 5-7 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, at room temperature
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, whole
  • 4-6 sweet mini peppers, whole
  • 2-6 spicy peppers of your choice (I used Fresnos)
  • 1 white onion, skinned and cut into quarters
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 cups chicken or pork broth, or enough to completely submerge the pork
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 ears raw corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Instructions
 

  • Turn the broiler on high. Brush your peppers in olive oil on all sides and arrange on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast under the heat until the skin begins to blister, turning peppers as necessary so they roast evenly. This should take between 4-7 minutes per side. Once your pepper skins have blistered, place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously season the pork on all sides with salt. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until drops of water quickly evaporate. Add pork shoulder, fattiest side down, and sear 5-8 minutes per side, or until deeply golden brown. Turn heat to medium-low and set the browned pork butt aside.
  • Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally and sear the exposed garlic cloves in the rendered pork fat until a nice caramel color, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from heat and add the onions. Sear undisturbed until the onion quarters take on some color, about 3 minutes.
  • Add stock and vinegar to the pan, scraping up any flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Settle the pork butt into the liquid, fat side up, and add the two halves of the seared garlic head, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover, then place in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until pork is falling off the shoulder bone.
  • Pull pork out of the liquid using tongs and, once it has cooled slightly, break apart using a fork or gloved hands. If necessary, cut any long muscle fibers against the grain to enhance tenderness.
  • Gently pull peppers from the cooking liquid and remove seeds and stems. If desired, roughly chop into bite sized chunks. Using tongs, place pork, peppers, corn, and cilantro into a warm tortilla and squeeze lime over the top. Serve immediately. Pork keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones

Summertime in the south means peaches, peaches, peaches! These ephemeral delights are best enjoyed at peak ripeness, whether raw, baked, blitzed into ice cream, or preserved. For this peach and ricotta spelt scones recipe, adding a bit of spelt flour into the all-purpose helps the mixture stand up to the juicy peach chunks, while ricotta makes for a moist, loose crumb. With just 1/4 cup of brown sugar, these scones are scarcely sweet at all, allowing the peach flavor to really shine!

These scones are not a low-fat food! While the addition of real fruit chunks and spelt flour does help to offset the added sugar, ingredients like ricotta, heavy cream, and butter bring the dough together. Fat content aside, these scones are fun to bake and a treat to eat.

What is Spelt Flour?

If you are a seasoned baker, you understand different flours tend to behave…differently. Some have higher protein content than others, like bread flour. Some have low protein content like cake flour. Then there’s the wide range of alternative flours, like rice, tapioca, chickpea, amaranth, etc. And let’s not forget about whole wheat!

While each of these flours is worthy of a lengthy discussion in and of themselves, let’s start by taking a look at spelt flour.

Spelt flour is a stone-ground ancient grain that was a precursor to modern wheat. It can be used in lieu of all-purpose flour or, commonly, whole wheat.

Once a prolific crop in the Middle Ages, spelt flour has a pleasant, sweet and nutty flavor. It adds a reddish tint to your baked goods, and is capable of light and airy baking. Whole grain spelt flour and spelt berries are available at most grocery stores or online at Bob’s Red Mill’s website.

Reasons to Use Spelt Flour

Whole grain spelt flour is an ample amount of fiber as well as:

  • Vitamins B1, B3, B6
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

This is a far cry from all-purpose flour, even enriched flour, which has additives not naturally occurring in the wheat flour. For a list of the nutrition facts of enriched flour, click here.

Furthermore, spelt flour helps in reducing blood sugar spikes after eating, making these scones taste even sweeter. Because of spelt’s easy digestibility, it has even been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healthy digestion!

Ways to Use Spelt Flour

Spelt flour is more versatile than it might seem! A wonderful way to begin incorporating spelt flour into your baking is to add it half and half with regular flour. (For example, if a recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, add 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1.5 cups of spelt flour.)

When you’re not making peach and ricotta spelt scones, some popular ways to use spelt flour include:

  • cakes
  • muffins
  • waffles or pancakes
  • breads
  • cookies

Looking for a savory application? Check out this recipe for herbed spelt scones packed with parsley and lemon zest!

Juicy Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones

This recipe comes together with a few choice ingredients. Gather your perfectly ripe peach, dry ingredients, ricotta, cream, and lemon.

ricotta peach scones ingredients

Then add butter to your whisked dry ingredients and chop your peaches.

chopped peaches, ricotta, butter in dry ingredients

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers.

cut butter

Toss in your chopped peaches.

chopped peaches in butter and flour

Mix to incorporate, then mix your buttermilk with your ricotta.

wet and dry ingredients

Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Shaping Your Peach Ricotta Scones

peach ricotta spelt scone dough

Mold into a disk about 1 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into 8 even triangles, or into squares if you prefer.

peach spelt dough disk

I chose triangles 🙂

cut peach scones

Brush with cream before baking.

peach scones brushed with cream

If you like, sprinkle some large crystal sugar over the top of these beauties!

cream brushed scones

Bake for 15-17 minutes aaaand…

finished peach and ricotta spelt scones

Best eaten warm. These scones keep wrapped up tight or in an airtight container up to 3 days.

juicy peach and ricotta spelt scones

Juicy Peach and Ricotta Spelt Scones (Low Sugar)

Based of of Smitten Kitchen's Rasperry Ricotta Scones recipe!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 17 mins
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, baking, Intuitive, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 scones

Equipment

  • pastry brush

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 Tbs cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 heaping cup peaches, cut into cubes (about one large peach)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 lemon, seeds removed, juiced
  • large crystal sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Add strained lemon juice to heavy cream and stir. Let mixture sit 10-15 minutes.
  • Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Cut the peach into cubes and remove the pit. Cut butter into 1 Tbs pieces.
  • Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, cut the butter into the combined dry ingredients. Once the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the peach chunks and stir to combine.
  • Combine ricotta and heavy cream with lemon juice (buttermilk replacement). Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Heavily flour a countertop or cutting board and shape the dough into a disc about 1" thick. Cut into 8 even scones (square or triangular work).
  • Place scones on baking sheet, brush heavy cream and sprinkle with optional sugar. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature before eating. Best enjoyed within 3 days after keeping in an airtight container.
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Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

If your vines are sagging with tomatoes and your larders are looking perilously full of produce, may I present to you a simple solution: rustic tomato tart. It has been a while since I’ve made anything so thoroughly gratifying in the kitchen, from the process of crafting this elevated form of tomatoes to digging into a savory bite of this delicious tart.

While this recipe happens to be vegetarian, what it lacks in meat it more than makes up for in flavor. Layers of spicy mustard, rich gruyère cheese, earthy herbs, and juicy, roasted, umami-rich tomatoes come together beautifully in this culinary delight, which seems to be at least cousins with pizza. You won’t even miss the meat. Promise.

This show-stopping rustic tart is definitely a labor of love. It takes nearly two hours to prepare from start to finish, but is definitely a dish you’ll want to share with other tomato fans. (Or pizza fans…or savory tart fans…or fans of wholesome-feeling food…)

There is something so comforting about ingredients enveloped in pastry, and this tomato tart is no exception. This is not a dish to get fussy over, or to try to make look perfect. The point, if I may say so, is to put summer’s voluptuous tomatoes on the pedestal they deserve, all in one scrumptious buttery crust. Forkable and finger-food-able, chances are you will not be able to cut yourself a big enough wedge of this mouth-watering rustic beauty!

Why Tomatoes Are Good For You

Whether you’re munching on a cherry tomato or digging into a funky heirloom varietal, there are certain nutritional elements that are universal in the delicious world of tomatoes.

Red tomatoes are high in an antioxidant called lycopene, for example. This gives them their red color which helps to protect them from ultraviolet light damage from the sun. Eating high amounts of lycopene can likewise protect your cells from ultraviolet rays, so eating tomatoes in summertime (i.e. when they naturally are abundant) just makes sense. Isn’t it great when nature works with us?

Additionally, lycopene is associated with cancer prevention. It also reduces “bad” cholesterol, which may help to prevent heart disease.

All tomatoes contain substances called lutein and zeaxanthin. These substances have been correlated with protecting your eyes from blue light from smartphones and computer screens. These compounds may also help to prevent age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in the United States today.

Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin have also been associated with lung health. Tomatoes may be beneficial to patients with asthma as well as those at risk for emphysema.

Tomatoes are also rich in:

  • potassium
  • vitamins E, C, and K
  • folate (vitamin B9)
  • soluble and insoluble fiber

Tomatoes’ high vitamin C content gives an added boost to your immune system. Their antioxidants help to reduce inflammation, and they even prevent your blood from clotting. All of these benefits are associated with stroke prevention.

Is It Better to Eat Raw or Cooked Tomatoes?

Certain nutritional elements are more easily absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, like lycopene. However, cooking the tomatoes (even gently) removes some of the vitamin C.

So, why are you eating tomatoes? (Other than their wonderful, tangy taste?!) If you are boosting your immune system, eat raw tomatoes. If you are hoping to incorporate more lycopene into your diet, cook those fruits!

Are Tomatoes Really a Fruit?

The short answer is yes. Fruits are ripened flower ovaries with seeds. By this definition, lots of produce we think of as a vegetable is actually a fruit. Zucchini, pumpkins, avocados, cucumbers, and okra are all “vegetables” that are actually fruits. For a longer list, click here.

Over time, however, botanists distinguished fruits from vegetables by their relatively higher fructose content.

Today, most nutritionists clump tomatoes in with vegetables. Turns out the answer is complex as the flavor profile of a tomato itself!

Rustic Tomato Tart

It’s time to use up those uber-ripe tomatoes! Gather your ingredients for the filling and prepare the shortcrust pastry.

super ripe tomatoes and tart filling ingredients

Simple ingredients, big flavor…what could be better?

short crust ingredients

Familiar ingredients come together in a unique way for this shortcrust pastry. If you don’t have a food processor, feel free to make a pie crust following my recipe. The recipe in the link above utilizes both rye and regular all-purpose flour, but you can feel free to use only all-purpose flour.

Are Shortcrust Pastry and Pie Crust the Same Thing?

Yes, both shortcrust and pie crust are referring to a flaky, fatty pastry that it’s best not to overwork. Shortpastry relies on minimal gluten development for its flaky nature. This means that the more you work your dough, the more you form gluten networks. Overworking means chewy crust, not flaky crust–a shortcrust faux pas!

shortcrust pastry

Roll out the pastry to fit a pie dish or tart pan between 9 and 11 inches.

unbaked rustic tart shell

Save any residual dough, as it can be used to patch any seams in your tart shell!

blind bake

As you can see, I ran out of dried beans and improvised with some rice to weigh down the crust. This is important to prevent large bubbles from forming in the shell as well as preventing the sides from slumping down. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

thick tomato slices "sweat" with a layer of salt

Salt your thick tomato wedges and allow them to sit for a few minutes and “sweat.” Blot them with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

basil, parsley, olive oil, salt, and garlic

Blitz herbs, garlic, and oil until relatively smooth.

basil and parsley herb puree

Once you’ve created your herb puree and blotted your tomatoes, you are ready to assemble your rustic tomato tart!

disassembled tomato tart

Spread the dijon in a thin layer over the base of the par-baked crust.

layer 1 tomato tart

Next goes the cheese…

layer 2 of the tomato tart

Over the cheese goes the herb puree. Spread it as evenly as you can, bearing in mind it will level as the tart cooks and relaxes in the hot oven.

layer 3 tomato tart

Layer your tomato slices over the top of the herb puree. Be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Keep in mind they will shrink in the hot oven, so don’t be afraid to layer them.

unbaked tomato tart

Roast in the oven until the tomatoes have caramelized nicely and released some of their juices.

slice of tomato tart

If you must serve yourself two helpings of this rustic tomato tart, there will certainly be no judgment from me…ENJOY!

This recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s tomato tart.

rustic tomato tart

Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

Thick wedges of tomato roasted over a bed of herbs, sharp cheese, and shortcrust pastry make this tart a show-stopper!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Freezer Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Happy Hour, Main Course, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Comfort Food, French, Intuitive, Seasonal, Vegetarian
Servings 6 people

Equipment

  • food processor

Ingredients
  

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  • dried beans, rice, or pie weights, for par-baking

Tomato Filling

  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes (heirloom or beefsteak work great)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 oz grated sharp cheese (Gruyere or Pecorino Romano are great picks)
  • freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Add dry ingredients and butter to a food processor and pulse until the mixture has formed a coarse crumb. Add water and egg and pulse until dough just comes together. Using two sheets of wax or parchment paper, form the dough into a disc and roll it out between the two sheets using a rolling pin or wine bottle until it will fit into a tart pan or pie dish. Transfer the sheet of dough onto a plate or cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • While the dough is chilling, slice the tomatoes into 1/2" wedges and lay out on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and allow to sit at room temperature while you work on the tart shell.
  • Remove the sheet of shortcrust from the freezer and work the dough into the pie dish or tart pan. Trim the edges as necessary and save any remaining dough for patching any tears that may have occurred. Prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell with a fork and place back in the freezer for another 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • While the tart is chilling for the second time, prepare the herb puree. Rinse out your food processor and add herbs, salt, and garlic and pulse until the herbs are finely cut. Add olive oil and pulse again until the mixture forms a paste. Set aside.
  • Pull the chilled tart shell out of the freezer. Line with parchment paper and add dried beans, rice, or pie weights until they climb up at least half the height of your tart shell walls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust has begun to solidify. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the bottom of the tart is no longer shiny. Allow the tart shell to cool to room temperature.
  • Blot the tomatoes with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Spread mustard in the bottom of the ambient temperature tart shell. Sprinkle grated cheese over the mustard. Add an even layer of herb puree over the cheese, then arrange the tomato slices on top of that. Keep in mind they will shrink in the oven, so be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Crack pepper over the top layer of the tart.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the tomatoes are nicely roasted. Allow the tart to cool slightly. Best served warm. Keeps in the fridge up to 4 days.
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What to Serve With Tomato Tart

I definitely ate generous slices of this as my dinner, but this tart works great as a side dish as well. Natural choices are a protein-rich salad, hearty sausages, or a balsamic-glazed flank steak. Don’t forget to eat this tart in the sunshine!

This tart keeps in the fridge up to 4 days. It doesn’t do great in the freezer due to the tomatoes’ high water content (water expands in the freezer, cell walls rupture, and you end up with tomato mush). This tart is for sharing, so eat it up quick!

Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

I know what you’re thinking.

How did it get to be nearly June already? How has this year been simultaneously so fast and so slow?

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Maybe it’s…just me??

So, maybe you were wondering what in the lord’s name a “clafoutis” is. Y’know, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what on earth it could be either. It sounded French and according to the internet, it is made of a few simple ingredients. I decided to give it the ol’ college try. If you’ve ever made and/or enjoyed a dutch baby, chances are you will probably enjoy a clafoutis. If you did a DNA test, I’m sure it would tell you they are siblings; or, at the very least, first cousins. And tasty too!

What’s a Clafoutis and How Do I Pronounce It?

According to the dictionary, a clafoutis (klah-foo-TEE) is a tart made of fruit baked into a sweet batter. A traditional version of this is made with cherries, so stone fruits are a natural choice. The spongey batter is higher in eggs and milk than it is in flour, which makes for a springy forkful. What’s not to love about this simple confection?

Tell Me More…

So, your typical cherry clafoutis as it would be made in France (after all, it IS a French word) would be served warm and dusted with powdered sugar. Fun fact: the French traditionally leave the pits in the cherries to impart an almond character to the sponge. (If you, like me, feel that you already spend enough time and money at the dentists’ office, adding a kiss of almond extract is a safe substitute for the pits.)

Originally from Limousin, France, “clafoutis” comes from the root “clafir,” meaning “to fill.” Thus, it is a baked dessert “filled” with fruit. However, while the simple nature of the recipe makes for easy substitutions, the French have dubbed any version containing a fruit other than cherries a “flaugnarde.” Being a little more–erm–progressive, I personally am willing to call this plum version a clafoutis. One can only keep so many French words in ones head, after all.

Not All of Us Live in South Carolina…

If I am going to tout myself as a seasonally-minded blogger and eater, I have to address the fact that the plums I found at the farmer’s market are not available everywhere in the U.S. Strictly speaking, it is a little early for plums. The good news? Strawberries are starting to emerge, and rhubarb has been in full force for some time now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t make yourself a strawberry rhubarb clafoutis, and enjoy every minute of it. (If using strawberry rhubarb, replace vanilla bean with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.)

However You “Clafoutis,” Here’s How It Goes:

Assemble your ingredients. Chop your plums into chunks, macerate in sugar. Scrape vanilla bean into milk, and throw the pod in with the plums to hang out and impart flavor.

Whip up your batter and arrange plums in the bottom of a cast iron or oven-safe pan; no need to go overboard arranging your fruit. Chances are, the batter will cause the plums to float off the bottom of the pan.

Before pic, featuring floating plum wedges and aromatic batter. Make sure not to overbake your clafoutis to prevent it from becoming rubbery. This recipe calls for a high egg/milk: flour ratio, which should further prevent a rubbery dessert. If, however, you encounter a clafoutis quandary, consider adding another egg and/or more milk in the future.

After! Feel free to dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Or, add a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or full-fat yogurt and enjoy!

This dessert is light, so feel free to dish yourself a hearty slice.

Serves 8 people, keeps in the fridge up to four days, and reheats well. Who’s ready for summer?!

Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

Fruit studs a custardy sponge in this simple and rustic dessert. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or with a dusting of powdered sugar!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French, Intuitive, Seasonal
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • butter, for buttering the cast iron or oven-safe dish
  • 6 plums (mine were small so I used 7)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped (alternatively, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)
  • vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking dish and set aside.
  • Remove pits from plums and cut into thin slices. Place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean husk and toss. Set aside, allowing the fruit to macerate at least 10 minutes.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and salt. Add eggs, milk, vanilla bean seeds and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
  • Arrange macerated plums in the bottom of your baking dish. (You can add the vanilla bean husk if you want, but keep in mind you will have to remove it after it bakes as it is inedible.) Pour batter into the skillet and place on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until set, between an hour and an hour and 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and puffy.
  • Allow to cool before slicing into wedges. Dust with powdered sugar and/or add a dollop of ice cream or vanilla yogurt and serve immediately. May be frozen up to one week, and keeps well up to four days in the fridge.
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Braised Short Ribs (Based on Alison Roman’s Recipe)

Spring has sprung! (Yay, daffodils! Yay, tulips! Yay, every other form of emerging life!!) For some people, this means lamb or rabbit; for others, it means welcoming in the coming year’s harvest via sprouts, spring vegetables, kale, and the like. Whether you eat meat or not, spring is an undeniably exciting time of year–the world around you begins to stir and life resumes its cycle of defying death in beautiful and surprising ways.

Speaking of beautiful and death-defying, there is truly nothing like sinking your teeth into a skillfully-prepared piece of meat. Flavorful, tender, juicy and decadent, meat is a luxury consumed quite casually in modern American culture. If I were to wet my finger and stick it to the air, however, I might be inclined to say this attitude is changing…but I think there will always be something primal in us that is hardwired towards calorie-rich foods, meat being no exception to this rule. Wherever you choose to guide your diet, from vegan to carnivorous paleo, we must nod to our ancient brain development and growth as being linked, at first, to hunting and cooking. (Edit: This is still debated in the scientific community; here is an example of a counterpoint which posits that bone marrow and fatty brain tissue, not flesh, were the key players in brain development.)

Today, of course, there’s no strict need to kill for calories; if you look for it, you can find frozen cauliflower crust pizza at the grocery store. We’ve come a long way since crafting stone tools and crudely practicing butchery as early as 3.4 million years ago. But who knows, maybe there were those among us who opted instead to find essential amino acids in ways other than animal-based proteins…

For me, meat is an indulgence, so I tend to choose when and how I eat it deliberately. While shouldering the climate crisis responsibility (specifically as it relates to deforestation, water pollution, and methane gas emissions, all associated with overconsumption of meat) is a heavy cross to bear, chances are we could all afford to eat a little less, and a little more “cleanly.” Soap box aside, these short ribs are incredibly simple, elegant, and decadent–and very rich and filling. Do your part and support a local butcher, if you can; splurging here on high quality meat is really worth it. Make this a special occasion meal, and you will not be disappointed.

What Are Short Ribs?

Short ribs are a cut of meat typically taken from the chuck or brisket areas of a cow and are formed from the shortest portion of the rib cage where the bones are not quite long enough to be considered “ribs.”

Short ribs are typically cut into two ways: either in individual pieces with meat around the bone (English style) or in one long piece of meat holding three cross sections of rib together (“plate” style).

On the left is plate style short ribs, and on the right is English style. (from Google images)

What’s Great About Short Ribs?

Short ribs have a naturally high fat content and therefore, if cooked properly, they can be incredibly flavorful and tender. They are also very rich and filling, so less meat “goes further” when it comes time to eat.

Where Can I Purchase Short Ribs?

This is a great excuse to head to your local butcher and strike up a conversation! Supporting local always feels good. If this option is not accessible to you, I recommend checking out delivery services such as Moink Box or Porter Road.

Ok, I’m Hungry…Show Me The Recipe!

First, gather your ingredients.

For this recipe, I used Kettle & Fire brand bone broth–and no, they are not paying me to say this. I find it is readily available in most grocery stores and is a good quality for the price. Of course, you can always substitute regular stock or broth, but low-sodium is good here, unless you factor that in as you season the dish.

What I love about this recipe is how straightforward it is. Brown the seasoned meat, flavor the remaining oil with two heads of garlic, then add your chopped vegetables and tomato paste (also known as mirepoix).

Garlic flavored rendered fat and canola oil coats the vegetables as they removed all the crispy browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your liquids and thyme…

Then in go the browned short ribs so that the meat is submerged (bone up).

Then cover and bake at a low temperature for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Serve with rice or potatoes, and don’t forget to enjoy it with your sauce, fresh herbs, and Alison Roman’s recommended lemon zest!

…did I mention the knife is optional? And don’t miss out on all that flavorful fat–after all it is good for your brain 🙂

Braised Short Ribs (Adapted from Alison Roman)

Deeply flavorful, these garlicky short ribs fall off the bone after 4 hours of braising.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, meat
Cuisine American, traditional
Servings 3 people

Equipment

  • 6.2 liter heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 3-4 lbs short ribs, at least 2 per person but no more than 5 lbs
  • diamond kosher salt, for seasoning
  • finely ground pepper, for seasoning
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 heads garlic, halved crosswise through the bulbs
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 bottle dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth, preferably bone broth, or one package Kettle & Fire bone broth
  • 4 grams fresh thyme, tied in a small bundle if you have the baker's twine
  • chopped parsley, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving
  • freshly grated lemon zest, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Generously season dry ribs on all sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside 15-30 minutes before browning to allow the meat to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 275°F.
  • Chop celery, carrots, and onion into large chunks and set aside. Uncork wine.
  • Heat canola oil over medium-high flame in a heavy bottomed dutch oven. Working in batches if necessary, brown the meat on all sides until golden, about 10 minutes. Place on a wide plate, then pour rendered fat into a liquid measuring cup. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the fat back into the dutch oven, then add the chopped vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the browned bits from the bottom of the pan have been lifted from the moisture from the vegetables.
  • Add tomato paste and stir. Cook about 3 minutes, or until the paste has begun to caramelize, become fragrant, and turned a rusty color.
  • Add wine to the pot, slowly at first so you can scrape up any remaining brown bits. Add the remainder and simmer about 2 minutes. Add the broth and thyme and stir. Add browned ribs, meat side down, into the liquid and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with a lid and bake in the oven 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The short ribs should be falling off the bone and very tender.
  • Gingerly remove short ribs from the dutch oven using tongs. Place on a serving platter and cover with tin foil, allowing them to rest about 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, skim as much fat as possible from the liquid in the dutch oven. Drain over a bowl using a fine mesh seive and discard the vegetables and garlic. Return the liquid to the dutch oven and cook over medium heat, until the mixture has reduced noticeably, about 10 minutes.
  • As the sauce is reducing, chop parsley and chives and zest the lemon. Uncover short ribs and garnish with herbs and zest, and plenty of sauce. Enjoy with rice or potatoes, and the last 1/4 bottle of wine.
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Cranberry Orange Sablés

Any fellow cranberry junkies out there? (It’s okay to raise your hand, this is a safe space…!)

Consuming cranberries is my favorite way to maintain basic urinary health while boosting my immune system. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is like absorbing pure vitality; even the shocking taste is bracing, like taking a polar bear plunge or throwing back a shot of fresh ginger juice.

With every passing year, I place more and more cranberry sauce on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. It becomes a welcome addition to turkey, bacon sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes…I pass it around my dish like a rumor, allowing it to shapeshift and add brightness to every decadent bite.

So this year, when I passed by the cranberries in the grocery store only to discover that they were on sale, I ended up celebrating this fact by buying a lot…as in, over five bags of fresh cranberries…

After making cranberry relish, I still had four bags of cranberries. These are destined to become a cranberry curd tart, cranberry simple syrup, cranberry apple handpies…anything left over will head straight to the freezer for mocktails.

Before the holiday was up, I’d made cranberry cookies. The recipe is fresh-tasting, delightfully simple, and can all be combined in one large mixing bowl. (I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary dishes I have to do.)

sugar, flour, orange zest, pulverized dried cranberries and walnuts…what’s not to love?

Once combined, the dough is shaped into a log, rolled in sugar, and placed in the fridge for at least two hours.

cookies are cut about 1/2″ thick

With these flavorful, sightly cookies, erring on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking, is key.

ever so slightly golden on the bottom with a moist crumb, these simple cookies may end up a seasonal staple!

Cranberry Orange Sablés

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Seasonal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, salted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • zest of one orange
  • 2-3 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
  • additional sugar to roll over cookie log

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor or blender, combine cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar and blend until the cranberries are fine and mostly uniform in size. Place in a large bowl.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor, add walnuts, and cut until they resemble coarse meal. Add to the large bowl with the cranberries.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor once more. Add the flour and remaining sugar, and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. Add to the bowl with walnuts and cranberries. Add orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
  • Knead the dough until a ball comes together, adding orange juice as needed to moisten the dough. Form into a log about two inches in diameter, and roll in sugar if desired. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge between two hours and three days.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut cookies using a large knife to about 1/2" thickness. Place cookies on a baking sheet with at least 1" of space between them. Bake 13-15 minutes, being careful not to overbake.
  • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the warm baking sheet before removing and placing on a wire rack to continue to cool.
  • Save in an airtight container up to 4 days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 3 months.
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Savory Bay Bread Pudding

One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding.

Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.

This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)

Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?

the custard base is flavored with salt, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns.

It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.

the leek is optional, but I added it for a boost of alum flavor

Throw it all in a pan and bake.

bay pairs great with potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce…!

Savory Bay Bread Pudding

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, traditional

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups bread, chopped into 1" chunks
  • 2 Tbs butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 leek, washed and cut into 1/4" chunks

Instructions
 

  • Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
  • When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.
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Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.

“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”

Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.

And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.

Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.

This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…

To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.

frangipane ingredients

Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:

as you can see i beat this by hand, but feel free to use and electric or stand mixer if that’s what makes you happy : )

(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)

As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.

before
after. i used quince jelly because i had it, but the original recipe calls for red currant.

By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.

are you enticed yet? : )

Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French, traditional

Ingredients
  

Sugar Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 7 Tbs chilled butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Poached Pears

  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly (or other preserves with mild flavor)

Instructions
 

Sugar Crust

  • Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
  • Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frangipane

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
  • Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
  • Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Poached Pears

  • Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
  • Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.

Tart Assembly

  • Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
  • Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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No Fuss “Green Goddess” Salad Dressing

I don’t know about you, but as the seasons slowly develop into the colder months, I crave fresh foods from spring and summer all the more. This isn’t to say I don’t love the indulgences of the holiday season…but the snap of a freshly picked pea can be the sweetest memory in the depths of winter.

In the same way that dried flowers can hold their charm for years if treated properly, preserved foods are decidedly delicious–but they will always be just that: preserved.

I have learned to compensate for this fact by throwing in fresh herbs wherever I can. Not only does this taste delicious and feel wholesome and healthy, but I can also grow herbs inside by the window regardless of the time of year. This way I don’t feel like I’m cheating too much about the whole “seasonal eating” thing, not that I’m prepared to crucify myself by keeping kosher with an exclusively biodynamic diet. I am an intuitive eater, after all. Sometimes you just want an orange, carbon footprint be damned.

This dressing is a great way to pack in a lot of the freshness and flavor and make your vegetables a little more exciting. Heck, you can even use it as a marinade for grilled chicken skewers, spread it on a sandwich in lieu of mayonnaise, or use it as a dipping sauce for chicken wings. To say that I am obsessed with this recipe would be an understatement. I probably make a batch of it once a month, and mix it up based on whatever herbs I have on hand, especially if I’ve got some which have been wilting in the fridge and need to be used up, stat.

i used parsley, dill, and cilantro for this batch; i find that parsley and cilantro are always a must, but i’ve substituted basil, chives, and even mint or added them in addition to dill

Part of the beauty of this recipe is the simplicity of the process: everything goes in a blender or food processor and gets blitzed until it’s of a cohesive texture.

BEFORE:

i add stems and all, because they hold a lot of great flavor–but there are probably some purists out there who might insist that you add only tender leaves. i have found, personally, that the stems do not noticeably impact the overall quality of the dressing in a negative way.

AFTER:

i had about 2 cups of dressing when all was said and done

This will keep for several weeks in the fridge and still taste great–but I dished myself up a bowl immediately…

the new york times recommends making all all-green salad to pair with this dressing: green apple, fennel, cucumber, celery, etc. here i am, breaking the rules with the addition of carrot…(for those who are interested, in spring and summer, calendulas would make a lovely addition to this delightfully monochrome dish)

No Fuss “Green Goddess” Recipe

Adapted from Samin Nosrat's recipe in the New York Times.
Prep Time 10 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Healthy, Intuitive, Seasonal

Equipment

  • blender or food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup whole fat yogurt
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 15 grams fresh dill, about 1/2 bunch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and mix until a homogenous mixture forms.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
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