Friday, August 27, 2010

Ahh... Tomato time!!!

I love tomatoes, all colors, shapes sizes, sweet, acidic,... I love them all. I wait all year until I have my own tomatoes from my modest garden. Last year around this time I panicked, every gardening source published horrid stories of various tomato plant diseases that struck Northeast.

Combined with a rainy, cold summer, there were no tomatoes to be had. Price of tomatoes went up in all the farm stands, some did not have tomatoes at all! Unheard of for New Jersey in August.

Amid all this, mine flourished. I had so many that I ended up pickling some of them.

This summer, which has been declared one of the perfect “Tomatoes summers” ever, farm stands are full of variety of delicious New Jersey tomatoes, yet mine are sick. By the sorry looks of the vines and the fruit, they will not recover. I am not even sure where I went wrong, although I did not pay as much time to my veggies this year. My son would water them every day and I would glance once in a while, but I didn’t pay as much attention as I did in the past. I feel guilty now, I killed my tomatoes…

Oh, well, I got over it real quick when I saw beautiful cherry tomatoes in three colors at the farm stand. Time for one of my favorites… Savory Tomato Tart.

It is one of the easiest things to make and is hit every single time. The pastry is flaky, tomatoes are sweet and acidic at the same time, and depending on your choice of secondary toping ( feta, goat cheese, basil, coarse flaky salt, etc…) a little different every time.

Here is the recipe. Enjoy!

1 ½ all purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

8 tbs ( 1 stick) of very cold unsalted butter

¼ cup of cold heavy cream or half-n-half

¼ cup of ice water

2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes ( different colors make a prettier tart)

Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9” tart or pie form.

In the food processor combine flour and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter in small cubes. Pulse again until the dough looks like course corn meal. Add the heavy cream and water while the food processor is on. You may not need all of the liquids. Stop as soon as the dough comes together in one clump.

Turn out the dough on the floured surface and roll out a circle at least 12” in diameter. Place inside the tart pan and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.( see note***). When ready to bake, place all of your tomatoes inside the tart pan. Don’t worry if they look crowded, they will shrink a bit when baked. Pepper the tomatoes. Don’t put salt or olive oil. The tomatoes will give off too much liquid while cooking and the tart will be soggy.

Bake for 1 ½ hrs or until the dough is golden and flaky and the tomatoes just start to break apart.

Salt the tart immediately when it comes out of the oven and cool on the cooling rack. You can top it with a little bit of feta cheese, goat cheese, drizzle of good olive oil, more pepper or basil or any combination of the above.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note*** I sometimes stick the dough in the freezer for 20 min if I am short on time. The dough can be pre-made a day or two in advance, just make sure to wrap it tightly before putting it in the fridge. Because the dough is made is butter, it starts to pick up all kinds of funky odors.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lemon Scented Goat cheese cake with fresh Peaches.

Ahh.. peach season! What a sexy, sweet treat. Every year we pick peaches and nectarines at a local farm. Ripe, juicy, fuzzy little things. You really cannot beat the taste of fresh, in season fruit. Here in New Jersey, peaches taste good 2 month out of year when they are local and fresh. The rest of the time you get the green, under-ripe, rubber tasting, supermarket variety. So in my zeal to indulge in the best, we picked too much, I now have 50 pounds of peaches and nectarines in my kitchen.

Oh well, after making Peach Gelato, Sweet wine and peach Sorbet, Peach and Nectarine Sorbet and Peach Jam, I still have some left, time to get creative.

My son’s yacht club has a final “Sail by” this week. The parents get together, bring some food, and watch the kids sail their boats for show. I wanted to bake an easy, light desert, including peaches of course.

This is one of my favorite cheesecake recipes. I am not a fan of NY style cheese cake, I like the crumblier Italian versions made with ricotta or the French goat cheese one. This works well with any fruit compote on top, I’ve made it with fresh berries, cherries, you name it.

For the cheesecake:

12 oz. Of good quality goat cheese

¾ cup of granulated sugar

3 tbs all-purpose flour

Zest of 2 lemons

1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 eggs separated

½ tbs of Lemon extract or Fiori Di Sicilia ( see note)

For the topping:

3 ripe but not mushy peaches

½ cup of peach or apricot jam

½ cup of water

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9 inch spring-form pan.

Wisk together on low speed the goat cheese, sugar, lemon zest, lemon extract and lemon juice. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, making sure that each one is well incorporated before adding another.

Wisk in the flour. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to medium peaks. Fold the egg whites with a spatula into the goat cheese mixture.

You will now have a light and fluffy lemon scented batter. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake at 350F on the middle rack, for about 40 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. When done, turn off the oven and let stand for another 5 to 7 min before taking the cake out.

Prepare the peach topping. Combine peach jam, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Skin, pit and cut the peaches into thin wedges. Poach the peach wedges in the sauce for 1 min, be careful not to cook them too much or they will fall apart. Set aside the peaches to cool and reduce the syrup to a glaze consistency. It should be very thick and glossy.

When the cake cools completely, arrange the peaches on top and glaze with prepared syrup


Note: Fiori Di Sicilia is wonderful flavoring extract from Arthur King Flour Company. I am not sure if anyone sells it. It has a nice lemony flavor and is great for pound cakes, cheese cakes, anything that calls for lemon extract.

Very first post.

Here we go… my first post! I am very excited, now my madness will have a purpose. I find that I am completely obsessed with food, this really all I ever think about. Yes, I realize I have a job, a husband, 2 kids and a very full life, but I still think about food all the time. Cooking it, eating it, finding recipes, shopping… I mean, give me a nicely stocked grocery store or better a farm stand and I can get lost there.

Cooking is what I do when I am stressed, relaxed, tired, happy, sad, for fun, for chore, for any time of day and night. I bake when I am tired and angry… it relaxes me. I can’t wait to get home from work on Friday and start baking, when my husband walks through the door he knows exactly how bad my week been… stress equals sweets!

“Baking should never be rushed or stressed.” That what my mother used to say. “Relax and take your time, or you will end up with the cake in the garbage”.

There is something about the smell and feel of dough or batter, the predictability of what the ingredients will do when treated properly, the smell of spice and sugar and lemon… it whisks the day away.

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this blog, but I will cook and write about it and maybe even take pictures…. That reminds me, I need to start getting used to using the camera in the kitchen.