Thursday, September 20, 2012

Risotto with Arugula and Blisted Cherry Tomatoes

I saw a sign at the grocery store that read, “Go from cook to chef with my cherry tomatoes.” Oh, if only it was that easy.
I picked the cherry tomatoes at a local organic farm where I could wander into the field and pick them right off the vines: tiny yellow ones, heirloom Cherokees, sweet small orange ones. As a bonus there is the smell given off by the leaves of the tomato plants as you reach in for your treasures. Heady stuff.
For the purpose of this recipe, I have scaled it to two portions. For larger portions, figure 1/3 cup Arborio rice,  4 ounces cherry tomatoes, extra arugula  and additional broth per person.
Once again, I will call upon the services of my youngest daughter/risotto whiz before we lose her to her last year of college. It’s been a good summer for us. We have been very lucky.
Even though I have made risotto for a long time, I still set a timer (for 18 minutes after the wine is added) and cook the risotto while eyeing the timer.

Risotto with Arugula and Blistered Tomatoes

2/3 cup Arborio rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
8 ounces “blistered” cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
2 handfuls baby arugula
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the blistered tomatoes: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the cherry tomatoes under cold water. Toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes onto a baking tray. Scatter a few sprigs of fresh thyme over the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for 15 minutes, until they take on some color and have begun to split. Remove from oven and let cool while making the risotto.


2. Place the broth into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Keep it at a low simmer as you cook the risotto.
3. Place a second saucepan for the risotto over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust heat if necessary. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the olive oil.
Pour in the white wine and stir. Stir until the wine is almost absorbed. Ladle about ¼ cup of the hot broth into the rice. Now begins the process of stirring the rice and adding the broth, about ¼ cup at a time. Adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a gentle simmer. Add broth when the liquid is almost absorbed into the rice; stir throughout at this point of the cooking.
4. Continue cooking the risotto by adding more broth as needed. After about 10 minutes cooking time, you won’t need to stir constantly but watch that there is enough broth in the pot and that the risotto isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Season the risotto with a little salt. After about 18 minutes, taste the risotto. The rice should be firm but it shouldn’t have any undercooked crunch to it. If it does, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
6. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in the blistered tomatoes, their juices and the arugula. Add the butter, Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper and stir. Cover the pot and set it aside for two minutes. After two minutes, check the risotto. Add a little extra broth if you like your risotto a little loose. Taste and adjust seasoning. Portion the risotto into two bowls. Drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil and additional grated Parmesan cheese. Yes, we’re going to miss her around here.

Chocolate Walnut Pie

(Listening: David Murray Octet : Octet Plays Coltrane *

We missed the farmers market. We were away, taking our youngest daughter back to college for her senior year. As the season winds down, our favorite fruits will soon disappear so the questions about future pies arise. Granted, we can keep enjoying the same pie but that makes for dull reading.
Something with nuts?”
It was my wife, my red haired food co-pilot who suggested a walnut pie, a chocolate walnut pie.

This will also work as a 9” tart. It has a little too much filling for a 9” tart, so if you want to use up the filling you could make a 10” tart. You will need additional walnuts, too. Instead of regular sablee, try it with chocolate sablee (recipe follows). For a tart, you will want to blind bake the shell first.
This is based on the traditional pecan pie filling, except it has melted chocolate and a touch of cornstarch added. It could be made with pecans or even macadamia nuts.
The recipe calls for chopped walnuts. You can use whole walnuts but it is easier to cut the pie if the walnuts are chopped. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your style for convenience.

Chocolate Walnut Pie
For one 9” pie

3 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/8th teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
6 ounces walnuts, chopped

1. Roll out the pie dough and fit it into the pie pan. Trim the excess and crimp the dough around the edge. Refrigerate or freeze while you prepare the filling. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the melted butter and set aside.
3. Place a second bowl over gently simmering water. Add the chocolate to the bowl. When ½ of the chocolate has melted, stir the chocolate until the chocolate is smooth. With the chocolate still over the warm water, whisk the filling into the chocolate and blend until smooth. Whisk in the cornstarch and set aside.
4. Remove the prepared pie pan from the refrigerator or freezer and place it on a baking pan. Place the walnuts into the pie shell. Pour the chocolate mixture into the pie shell; the walnuts will float to the top of the filling. Place the baking pan with the pie into the oven. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove pie from the oven and let cool before serving.

Chocolate Pate Sablee
Since this dough is basically a  cookie dough, it can be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups cake flour

1. Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder. Mix until incorporated: scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time. Add the egg yolk, salt, and baking powder and mix together. Add the cake flour and mix until combined. Remove the dough from the bowl; knead into a ball if necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours before using.

*This album was released back in 2000. Murray, whose work leans to the left of the jazz mainstream, visited a number of Coltrane classics and arranged them for octet. There is great, joyous playing throughout this recording. Coltrane’s ground breaking solo from his 1960 recording of “Giant Steps” is orchestrated for the ensemble. The CD is still available from Justin Time Records. 
Also released about the same time was Joe Lovano’s 52nd Street Themes, a recording of arrangements of tunes associated with 52nd Street in NYC (Tadd Dameron, Monk, Billy Strayhorn, along with some originals). This was the music that would eventually lead to Miles, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane and others. This video features the nonet with the late, great Dennis Irwin on bass, who played on over 500 recordings. 

Editorial oops! There is a slight mistake in the cornmeal crisp topping recipe for the peach and blueberry pie. While it works perfectly as is, you can double the butter (use an entire stick/ or 1/4
pound unsalted butter) for larger crumbs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce for grilled meats, but it works well with anything grilled. Great also as a pregrill marinade, it is a combination of fresh herbs, usually parsley and cilantro, plus garlic, onion, olive oil and vinegar. It is grassy, herbaceous, and tangy.
There is no one correct way to make chimichurri. I used flat leaf parsley, cilantro, and since I had it outside I also used fresh marjoram, for its floral and lemony accent. You could use fresh oregano. I know some use sage or rosemary. I use a combination of red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice, along with a little red onion, garlic, and jalapeno. This is a sauce that you can customize to your taste.
The herbs are chopped together but instead of chopping them on a cutting board and leaving some of their flavor behind on the cutting board, I pulse everything together in a food processor and add the oil and acids by hand. A simple seasoning with salt and pepper and you’re ready. Fire up the grill!

1 cup flat leaf parsley
1 cup cilantro
3 to 4 Tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
1 or 2 cloves garlic, lightly chopped
¼ cup red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped.
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Combine the herbs, garlic, red onion and jalapeno in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped. Remove the herb mixture to a bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Cover and set aside until needed.

Grilled New York Strip Steak with Chimichurri

"This is just to say" : A Plum Tart for the Poet's Daughter

We were short one person on our recent pie night. Our friend was away on his silent retreat, which his wife informed us might have been silent but far from austere. She came alone (unless you count the copy of Mother Angelica’s biography she smuggled into the house, much to the glee of our youngest daughter) and we had a plum tart, remembering William Carlos Williams’s poem. An appropriate dessert for the daughter of a poet, I thought.
The almond butter filling is based on a recipe from Spago Desserts, by Mary Bergin and Judy Gethers. The filling works for just about any fruit, especially stone fruits (cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines) and even non-stoners, like blueberries. (“Dude!”) Make the filling, spread it into a blind baked tart shell, top with the fruit and bake.
If you can’t find almond flour (or if it’s too pricey), grind 4 ounces of slivered almonds with the sugar in a food processor until the almonds are as finely ground as you can make them and proceed with the recipe.

Plum Tart with Brown Butter and Almond Filling      
For one 9” tart
You will need one recipe pate sablee, which is available on a prior post.

1 quart plums (you will need about 8 plums or so, depending on their size)
1 cup almond flour (4 ounces)
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract                                                   
¼ pound (one stick) unsalted butter

1. Roll out the pate sablee dough and fit it into a 9” tart pan, trimming off excess dough at the edge of the pan. Lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell for at least 20 minutes before baking.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator or freezer. Place the pan on a baking pan. Fit the tart shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill the foil with pie weights (dry beans and/or rice work just as well and they can be reused). Place the baking pan with the tart shell into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the aluminum foil and the pie weights; return the tart shell to the oven for an additional 5 to 7 minutes of baking. Remove the partially baked tart shell from the oven and set it aside to cool.

3. While the tart shell is cooling, prepare the fruit. Cut the plums lengthwise, exposing the pit. Remove the pits, discard them, and set the halved plums aside. Prepare the tart filling.  Begin by browning the butter. Cut the butter into pieces. Place the butter into a sauté pan and place the pan over medium heat. As the butter melts, a fine filigree of foam will rise to the surface and then disappear. Stir occasionally as the butter continues cooking. A foam of small white bubbles will appear on the surface of the melted butter. This is about the time the butter will begin to brown. Stir and watch; when the butter turns a nutty brown color, remove it from the heat and let it cool.

4. Place the almond flour, sugar, and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir together. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the brown butter and stir until the butter is incorporated into the mix. Spread the filling into the tart shell. Arrange the plum halves, cut side up around the tart shell, pressing them gently into the filling. When the tart is filled, return the tart to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the filling has set and has turned a golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Dust the tart lightly with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

             This is just to say we have eaten the plum tart. Sorry about the paraphrase, WCW.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roasted Peach and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto

"Do I dare to eat a peach?"

Let us go then, you and I, into the kitchen and roast some peaches for a salad. I liberally paraphrase St. Louis’s most famous poet (and Marx Brothers fan) but where else can you go for a recipe and literary allusions?
So why bother to roast a perfectly ripe peach? The brief roasting lightly caramelizes the surface of the peach and dries it slightly so the arugula doesn’t get too wet.

You can skip the prosciutto if you avoid things such things, but if you don’t, a domestic prosciutto from the deli counter will do the job; no need for the expensive imported kind.  Try to avoid the packages of sliced prosciutto because you’ll end up paying almost twice as much as you would if you got a quarter pound sliced at the deli counter. If you have prosciutto on hand, you’ll end up using a little to accent pasta dishes, and other recipes.

For the blue cheese, I chose Valdeon, a Spanish blue. We are unapologetic blue cheese junkies around here. Gorgonzola is our usual choice, but I wanted to change it up a little so I chose Valdeon. Use what you like, just don’t buy it crumbled.

This recipe is scaled to two servings but can easily be increased depending on how many you plan to serve. The vinaigrette makes more that two servings so keep it in the refrigerator for other salads. It slightly strays from the usual 3 parts oil for every one part vinegar ratio.

Roasted Peach and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto
One ripe peach
2 slices prosciutto
Two handfuls of baby arugula (about 1 ½ to 2 ounces)
3 to 4 Tablespoons blue cheese

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Half the peach lengthwise; pit and peel the peach. Slice the peach halves lengthwise in thirds or quarters, depending on the size of the peach. Place the peach slices into a small bowl. Mix the peaches with a tablespoon olive oil and a teaspoon of sugar. Place the peach slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or piece of parchment paper. Roast the peaches in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. While the peaches are roasting, slice the prosciutto crosswise into thin strips. Place a small non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan; add the prosciutto pieces and cook until crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Set aside.

3. To assemble the salad, place the arugula into a bowl. Add the roasted peaches, crisped prosciutto. and crumble the blue cheese over top. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the sherry vinaigrette and mix to combine. If the salad appears too dry, add a little additional vinaigrette. Divide the salad between two plates and serve.

Sherry vinaigrette:
3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 Tablespoon shallot, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons canola oil

1. Place the sherry vinegar into a small bowl with the shallots and let stand for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the shallots to flavor the vinegar.
2. Add the Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and whisk together. Add the oils while whisking to create a smooth emulsion. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a container in the refrigerator.
(Alternately, you can mix this vinaigrette in a small jar, shaking to combine the ingredients).

Peach and Blueberry Pie

Aren’t you reaching now?  You made a peach pie and now it’s peach and blueberry?
Well, that’s precisely the point. Find what’s available at the market and use it before it’s gone.
Peaches are still abundant and they were sitting next to some blueberries. It’s a no brainer.
The slight twist is a crumb topping with yellow cornmeal and chopped almonds. You will need pie dough for a 9” pie.

Peach and Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal-Almond Crumb Topping

4 cups sliced peaches (about 1 ½ quarts)
1 pint blueberries
½ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch

1. Pit and peel the peaches. Slice the peaches into a bowl. Rinse the blueberries and let drain. Pick over the berries for any stems and remove them. Add the berries to the bowl with the peaches. Add the sugar and carefully stir together trying not to crush any berries. Set the fruit aside for 30 minutes.

2. Roll out the pie dough and fit it to the pan; trim excess dough and crimp the edge. Refrigerate the crust until needed.

3. To make the crumb mixture, place the flour, cornmeal, almonds, sugars, cinnamon and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix to combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into pieces, add it to the bowl and mix until crumbs form. Set crumb mixture aside. (This can also be made by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender).

4. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. Add the cornstarch to the bowl of fruit and mix until combined. Pour the fruit and the accumulated juices into the pie pan. Spread the filling evenly into the pan. Top the pie with the crumb mixture. Place the pie onto a baking pan; place the pie into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking the pie for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Remove the pie from the oven and let cool before serving.


Cornmeal- Almond Crumb Topping
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup slivered almonds, chopped
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature