Monday, April 20, 2015

Rhubarb-Orange Cream Tart

                                           “You can never hold back spring.
                                        Remember everything spring can bring.
                                          Baby, you can never hold back spring.”*
It’s time to begin year three of “Pie Night," our weekly evening of pie with friends. And we begin with rhubarb, one of the early signs of spring although in complete honesty it hasn’t pushed its way up toward the sun around here just yet.
For this year, it’s a tart filled with an orange pastry cream, topped with rhubarb and a simple crumb mixture. I know it might appear to be a lot of steps, but relax.  The different “components” of the tart can be made over a couple of days and assembled when needed. Each step will take a small amount of time and then they will all be ready when you are.
Since it’s a new season I included the sablee crust recipe below so you don’t have to go digging through the archives for the recipe. And if you panic at the thought of making a crust, this is easy to make. It’s essentially a cookie dough and it’s very forgiving. Any mistakes can be easily repaired. It’s not the prima donna that some find the standard flour-shortening-water pie crusts to be. The sablee dough needs be made at least a day in advance and allowed to chill in the refrigerator. It can hold for well over a week, longer if frozen. The pate sablee can be made by hand, mixing it together in a bowl the way you would make a cookie dough or with an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
The pastry cream filling should be made at least a day in advance. Pastry cream is usually thickened with flour or cornstarch (I prefer the texture of cornstarch) but lately I have been playing with rice flour and use it for the pastry cream. If rice flour isn’t available to you, you can substitute with cornstarch.
The crumb topping can be made in a mixer or by hand. You can make it ahead of time and store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb- Orange Cream Tart
For one 10” tart
1 pound rhubarb stalks, sliced into ½” wide pieces (about 4 cups sliced rhubarb)
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Orange Pastry Cream
1 Grade A large egg
1 egg yolk (from a Grade A Large egg)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ Tablespoons rice flour (or cornstarch)
pinch salt
1Tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cups milk or half & half
1 to 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg and yolk together. Whisk in the sugar and then add the rice flour (or cornstarch) and salt, mixing until smooth. Set aside.
2. Place the milk/ half & half and butter into a stainless saucepan. Place the pan onto the stove over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and the milk is hot. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk some of the hot milk into the egg mixture (This is known as "tempering" the eggs). Pour the egg mixture back into the pan, whisking it together with the milk in the pan. Place the pan back over medium-high heat and whisk until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove pan from the heat. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl or a container. Cover the top pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the pastry cream. Let the pastry cream cool then place it into the refrigerator to cool completely.

Pate Sablee
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Grade A large egg yolk
1 1/3 cups plain cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder

1. Place the butter into a medium-sized bowl and beat until smooth. Add the sugar and blend until fluffy.  Mix in the egg yolk and then add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix until all of the ingredients are combined. Remove dough from the bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Crumb Topping
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
pinch salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground (dry) ginger
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Place all of the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the bowl and mix together until small crumbs form. This can either be done in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or by hand using a pastry blender or mixing it with your impeccably clean hands. Set aside completed crumb mixture or store it in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator until needed.

Assembling the Tart
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. When you are ready to roll the dough remove it from the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow it to begin to soften. While you are waiting for the dough to soften, rinse the rhubarb under cold water. Slice the rhubarb crosswise into ½” pieces. You should have about 4 cups sliced rhubarb. Place the sliced rhubarb into a bowl. Add ½ cup sugar and mix together. Set the rhubarb aside.
3. Working on a floured surface, cut the dough into pieces and knead until the dough is smooth. Roll
the dough out to 1/8th” thickness; for a 10” tart, the dough should be  about 12” in diameter. Use extra flour to prevent the dough from sticking as you are working. Fit the dough into the tart pan. Lift and place the dough into the pan; don’t stretch it into place. Remove any excess dough by cutting it off of the edge of the pan. Save any scraps if you need to make any repairs. Just press pieces of the soft dough into the crust if necessary. Using a fork, lightly prick the crust on the bottom and sides. Refrigerate before baking.
3. To bake the crust, line the dough with a piece of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with rice, dried beans, or pie weights. Place the tart shell onto a baking tray and bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the foil with the rice/beans or pie weights. Return the empty tart shell to the oven and bake for 5 additional minutes. Remove and let cool. Any rice or dried beans used to line the foil can be saved and reused.
4. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and stir with a spoon until smooth. Spread the pastry cream in an even layer in the tart shell. Mix the rhubarb with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. Spoon the rhubarb and half of the juices in an even layer on top of the pastry cream. Cover the rhubarb with the crumb mixture; there will be some crumb topping left over.
5. Place the tray with the tart into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for an additional 45 to 55  minutes, when the rhubarb is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool.
Serve with some whipped cream. Spring is here.

*"You Can Never Hold Back Spring" by Tom Waits

If you'd like directions for a plain rhubarb crumb pie, that's available in the archives, May 4, 2012. My first post.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes

   “I think the President put it best
                                                            When he gave his big address
                                            He said, I know what they told you in the press
                                                But people, spring is just around the corner
                                                 Trust me, spring is just around the corner.”*

I was listening to the radio the other week when I heard a comment that surprised me. It was that while many people cook confidently, many get apprehensive when it comes to cooking something vegetarian.
Well, this is vegetarian and I hope most cooks will find this easy, the experienced and the apprehensive alike. Don't be put off by the number of steps; it's just a way of making each step clear as you will see when you read it.  Although there is an added step of making a cauliflower puree as a sauce base, you can ignore it (and I’ll give you an easy substitution) but I’ve included it to boost the flavor of the dish. The puree makes use of leftover cauliflower. You can use the stem or some florets or both. The puree enriches the pasta without using cream. It's an easy technique to add to your skill set. And it uses something you might think of tossing out. Remember, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." That was Teddy Roosevelt, not some famous chef, who said that but that's what cooking is all about.
This is a dinner for spring, when cauliflower is enjoying its last days of “winter vegetable” status but it will also work in the summer. Cauliflower and tomatoes appear at our local farmers market about the same time so don’t think about this as only for early spring, although some may question my sanity by suggesting that you roast cauliflower on a hot summer night. 
Since I’m most often cooking for two, I select small-sized heads of cauliflower but sometimes that isn’t an option.  I added some grape tomatoes for sweetness. They can be roasted at the same time as the cauliflower. I used whole wheat pasta because it works well with the flavor of the roasted cauliflower. I chose rotini because I thought the sauce would work its way into the little spirals of the pasta, which it does, but you can use what you like.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes
For two servings
4 ounces (dry) whole wheat rotini (or other pasta)
2 cups cauliflower florets, cut into bit-sized pieces
16-18 grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped trimmings from the cauliflower
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 to 3 Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan cheese)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, optional
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower pieces with salt and pepper and olive oil to coat and spread the cauliflower out in one layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place the cauliflower into the oven and roast for 16 minutes; remove the cauliflower from the oven after that time and turn the cauliflower so it browns evenly. Return the cauliflower to roast for and additional 5 or 6 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender; a knife should easily pierce the cauliflower. Remove cauliflower from the oven. Wrap the foil around the cauliflower to allow it to steam while it cools. Set aside.
2. At the same time, place the grape tomatoes into a second foil-lined pan. Drizzle the tomatoes with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes into the oven to roast for 16 minutes or until slightly blistered. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. While the cauliflower and tomatoes are roasting, place the chopped cauliflower trimmings into a small saucepan with the water and ½ teaspoon salt. Place onto the stove over high heat and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the cauliflower pieces are completely soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly before pureeing.
4. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for one minute less than suggested cooking time: the pasta is going to finish cooking in the pan with the sauce. While waiting for the pasta to cook, puree the cauliflower pieces until smooth using either an immersion blender or regular blender and set aside.
5. Place a sauté pan onto the stove over medium-high heat. When hot, swirl in about two tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the roasted cauliflower and tomatoes to the pan; add any juices from the tomatoes, too. Add the cauliflower puree (or ½ cup of the pasta water) to the pan. Let the sauce begin reducing.
6. When the pasta is ready, drain the pasta and add it to the pan; season generously with ground black pepper, the chopped basil and cheese. Mix together and let the sauce thicken. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Add the butter, if using, right before serving and mix together.
7. Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve. Add additional cheese if you wish.

*from Spring is Just Around the Corner, by Richard Julian