tomato + ricotta tart

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

– Rumi

I’m feeling it all right now: nervousness, excitement, anticipation. In two days, what has long been nothing more than a vision will become my reality. In two days, I will be donning my chef whites and stepping into the kitchens of culinary school.

It’s a huge step, and a decision that I (nor Henry) made lightly. As much as I’d like to portray a romantic image of me leaving my job without hesitation and blindly pursuing my passion, it wouldn’t be honest. It took a lot of self-reflection and contemplation. It took long nights of conversation, of financial planning, and preparation. We made sacrifices, and will continue to make sacrifices for a while to come. But, in the end, it’s all worth it.  

We made this decision, together. Henry believes in me – believes in my passion and what I am capable of. But, more importantly, I believe in myself. I’m proud to say that I am acting on the sentiment I so often share here: I’m casting aside my fear and hesitations and letting my ambition and passion take the driver’s seat. I have a choice, and I’m choosing to be brave.

It’s a new path, and one that I’m sure will have its fair share of bumps and unexpected turns. I’m really not even sure where the path will end up. All I know is that it points in the right direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride.


tomato + ricotta tart

A crisp, buttery crust, a melt-in-your-mouth rich filling, and bursting, sweet summer tomatoes — does it get any better than that? This tart would be delicious served with eggs for brunch, with lightly dressed greens for dinner, or even packed up for a picnic lunch.

 

ingredients

prepared pastry dough

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg, separated

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces [I used cherry tomatoes, but any tomato would do well here]

splash of milk

 

First, prepare the pastry dough

and place in the refrigerator to chill.

After the dough has chilled for at least an hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch x 15-inch rectangle (approximately). Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a baker’s quarter sheet pan (9-inch x 13-inch) so that the dough is falling over the edges on all sides. If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan, you can use a half sheet and use a folded up piece of aluminum foil to create a false side in the middle of the long edge so that the pan measures 9-inches x 13-inches. Trim the overhanging excess dough, so that the crust reaches just to the top of the edges of the pan [see note below for a fun use for the excess dough]. Cover the pan lightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

While the dough chills, prepare the ricotta mixture: in a medium bowl add the ricotta, egg white [reserve the yolk for the egg wash later on], oregano, thyme, garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine.

Remove the chilled prepared dough from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the middle of the tart and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the bottom. Arrange the tomato slices over top of the ricotta and garnish the tart with more oregano leaves and flaked or coarse salt.

In a ramekin or small bowl, beat together the reserved egg yolk and splash of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the exposed parts of the crust.

Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. [The tart is delicious served either warm or at room temperature, garnished with more fresh oregano and thyme leaves].

 

for the pastry dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

pinch of salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter, and using your hands, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal [the butter pieces should be about the size of large peas]. Add the water and mix until the dough just comes together. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.

 

*Note: Don’t throw away your pastry dough scraps! Collect and reform them into a disc, and roll out on your floured work surface until about 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into pieces [triangles, squares, circles, whatever!] and place about 1 – 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the pieces with cinnamon and sugar and transfer to a preheated 400 degree F oven [you can bake them at the same time as the tomato tart]! Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, and cool on wire racks before serving. These are delicious eaten as cookies, or served as a garnish to a bowl of ice cream.

chilled corn + fennel soup with crab

chilled corn + fennel soup with crab

This soup highlights the sweetness of fresh summer corn, with a subtle anise flavor from fresh fennel. All of the scraps from the vegetables in this recipe are used to make an easy, and flavorful, homemade vegetable stock — so you don’t have to feel badly about wasting a thing. The recipe is a bit loose, and the consistency of the soup will depend on how much corn your 6 cobs produce — luckily, it is easy to adjust by just adding more vegetable stock at the end. You can also omit the crab if you do not have access to fresh crab meat or would like to make this soup vegetarian.

 

for the vegetable stock + soup:

6 fresh corn cobs

1 leek

1 fennel bulb (stalks and fronds still attached)

5 cloves of garlic [4 smashed and peeled, 1 peeled and minced]

2 bay leaves

2 large handfuls of roughly chopped fresh chives

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

for the crab:

1 cup fresh lump crab meat

1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel fronds

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

 

First, prepare the vegetables and vegetable stock:

Corn: shuck the corn, and cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels in a medium bowl and using the back of your knife, scrape the milk from the cobs into the bowl with the kernels. Set corn kernels and milk aside. Add the empty cobs to a large stock pot.

Leek: Fill a small to medium-sized bowl with cold water. Cut the dark green part of the leek from the white and light green portion. Slice the white and light green portion in half lengthwise and chop into thin half-moons [should measure about 1 cup of chopped leek]. Transfer the chopped leek to the bowl of water, using your hands to separate the pieces and allowing all the grit to sink to the bottom of the water. Once clean, remove leeks from the water and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Chop the dark green part of the leek into large pieces and add to the stock pot with the corn cobs.

Fennel: Remove the fennel stalks from the bulb. Reserve a few of the fronds for the crab and garnish, and chop the rest of the stalks into 3 – 4-inch pieces and add to the stock pot. Core the bulb and dice [I used a mandolin to slice a couple of pieces from the bulb before coring for garnish, but this is optional]. Measure 1 cup of diced fennel and set aside [this should be about 3/4 of the bulb, depending on the size of your fennel]. Add any remaining fennel to the stock pot. 

To the stock pot, add the 4 cloves of peeled + smashed garlic, bay leaves, chives, peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 9 cups of water. Set over high heat, uncovered, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and keep at a fast simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the stock into another stock pot or large bowl and discard all solids. Set stock aside to cool.

While stock is cooling, prepare the soup: to a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup of the reserved diced fennel, the chopped and washed white and light green parts of the leek, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until leek and fennel soften and start to caramelize, about 20 – 25 minutes. Add the remaining 1 minced clove of garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved corn kernels and milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute, stirring until butter has just melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3 cups of the reserved vegetable stock.

Working in batches, blend the corn mixture until smooth [making sure to only cover the blender with a kitchen towel so that steam can escape]. Depending on your preference, at this point you can adjust the consistency of the soup with more vegetable stock [remember to just add a little at a time — you can always add more — and also remember the the soup with thicken slightly as it cools]. Once your desired consistency is reached, pour the soup into a large bowl or stock pot, cover, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Once soup has chilled, prepare the crab: in a small bowl, combine lump crab meat, fresh fennel fronds, lemon juice, and melted butter. Ladle soup into bowls and spoon crab over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with flaked salt, fennel fronds and fresh chives if desired.

serves 4

garlic scape pizza

I came across these twirling green beauties at my farmer’s market the other day and couldn’t resist taking home a bundle. If you have never cooked with them before [which I hadn’t either] garlic scapes are the stems and unopened flowers of garlic bulbs. They have a sweet, mild garlic flavor, so they are perfect for subtly flavored dishes that would otherwise be overpowered by actual cloves of garlic.

Without any practice cooking with them, and wanting to experience their flavor, I decided to start with the blank canvas of a simple white pizza — nothing more than some cheese, olive oil, and fresh thyme. I have to tell you: it ended up being the right choice. Unlike so many white pizzas that are overwhelmed by the pungency of traditional garlic, this pizza has just the right amount of sweetness and garlic aroma. There are very few ingredients, but each each flavor fulfills a distinct purpose, contributing to the whole. It’s flavorful but not forceful, simple but not plain.

I think I see more garlic scape pizzas in my future.


garlic scape pizza

Garlic scapes add a sweet, mild garlic flavor to this pizza without overpowering its other subtle flavors. It is delicious eaten both hot from the oven, or at room temperature, when the cheese has had a chance to settle into the crust. Fresh, flavorful summer pizza at its finest.

 

1 pound fresh pizza dough, recipe below

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic scapes, ends trimmed

9 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

 

First, prepare the pizza dough

.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the whole garlic scapes and cook, flipping them occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the pizza dough had rested and doubled in size, punch it down and transfer to a lightly floured board. Roll [or stretch] the dough into a large rectangle or circle.

Place a large baking sheet [large enough to fit the dough] in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F [you can use a pizza stone here if you have one]. Once oven is preheated, remove the baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil [be careful, as the oil might splatter when it hits the hot pan]. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and unroll onto the hot oiled pan. Arrange the slices of mozzarella evenly over the top of the dough, leaving a small border of dough around the edges. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and thyme and arrange the garlic scapes over top. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed edges of dough.

Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly, and crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves for garnish. Transfer to a large wooden board and cut into pieces to serve.

Serves 4.

 

for the pizza dough 

:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

1 envelope active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix the water with the yeast and sugar. Let stand until mixture starts to foam, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and salt and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. 

Lightly oil the bowl and return the dough it, turning the dough to coat it in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. 

yield: 1 pound of dough


fresh pea + mint soup

Summer has arrived in whirlwind, as it always does. Our weekends have been filled with travel, loved ones’ weddings, and countless activities. But, even with the added activity, our pace is still slower and more relaxed. Every to-do is on hold because there is just too much to enjoy in the present moment. Things are busy, but life just seems simple and uncomplicated.

In the spirit of simplicity, I wanted to share this fresh pea soup that I made this past weekend. Unadorned and unfussy — just a bowl full of peas in all of their summertime glory. Shelling the peas takes a bit of time, but it’s one of those classic summertime dinner activities — much like shucking corn on the cob — that you can’t help but enjoy. And, once the peas are shelled, the soup takes less than 15 minutes to put together: just a quick sauté of some chopped onion, a swift boil of the peas in some vegetable broth until just tender, and then a spin in the blender with a handful of mint, and a few dollops of creme fraiche. If that isn’t a simple summertime meal, I’m not sure what is. I hope you give it a try.


fresh pea + mint soup

This soup is as simple as it is versatile and is delicious served both hot and chilled. Its flavor depends on the quality of its ingredients, so make sure to use fresh peas for the best possible flavor (they are everywhere this time of year).

This recipe makes a small batch (makes 1 very large bowl, or 2 smaller bowls) but can be easily doubled or tripled as you see fit.

 

a few notes: This recipe is a bit loose and depends on your personal taste. Add more vegetable broth if you prefer it thinner, less if you’d like it thicker. If you serve the soup cold, it tends to thicken a bit as it chills.

If possible, buy the peas unshelled and shell them yourself just before cooking. It requires a bit of work, but the flavor is worth it! Pre-shelled peas (even when they are fresh) tend to loose some of their flavor and sweetness over time.

 

ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds unshelled sugar snap peas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1 tablespoon heavy cream + 1 tablespoon creme fraiche, combined for garnish

extra virgin olive oil, for garnish

salt to taste

First, shell the peas: snap the end of each pod and pull the string down the center seam of the pod. Use your fingers to pry open the seam and release the peas from their shell. Add peas to a bowl and set aside. *The discarded shells are delicious eaten raw as a snack while you’re cooking!

Place a small stock pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chopped onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth to the onions and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add peas and boil until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. *Don’t cook the peas for too long as they’ll lose their sweetness and vibrant green color!

Transfer soup to a blender, and add mint and creme fraiche. Blend until completely smooth. *Be careful when blending the hot liquid — make sure not to overfill your blender (if your blender is small, blend the soup in batches), and cover the top with a kitchen towel rather than a lid so that steam can escape while blending. If you find your soup to be too thick at this point, add vegetable broth, a little bit at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.

Transfer soup to a bowl and serve garnished with chopped mint, a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of the creme fraiche and cream mixture. Serve hot or chilled.

serves: 2 as an appetizer, 1 as an entree