Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lemon-Raspberry Tarts

When my friend Lauren Carmen San Diego came to visit this spring, she brought the sunshine with her.  It was glorious.  Summer had given us a sneak preview, and we were determined to make the most of it.  We went to the beach and attempted to frolic in the waves, until we realized the water was too cold and we were better off sunbathing.  We wore sundresses and flip flops, and in my case, yellow plastic sunglasses.  We walked around in the sunshine with ice cream cones in our hands.  We went out for Mexican food and ate at a picnic table outside as the sun began to set. 

And we ate these lemon-raspberry tarts, which tastes like an edible bowl of crisp buttery goodness filled with summery sunshine. Looking back on it, the lemon cream might be too soft and runny to put into a tart shell, but it is so, so yummy. I had a large bowl of unused lemon cream in a bowl in my fridge, and every 10 minutes or so, I would scoop a huge spoonful of lemon cream straight from the fridge just to satiate my lemony lust. Seriously. It is really, really good.

In short: make these tarts.  Or at least make the lemon cream.  If you're too lazy to make tart shells, just layer the lemon cream and raspberries in a glass to make a parfait.  Actually, that sounds really good.  I think I'm going to go do that now.

Lemon Raspberry Tarts

Tart Crust

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
9 tablespoons butter (very cold and cut into small pieces)
1 large egg yolk

Combine flour and powdered sugar in a bowl, stirring to combine. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (you can do this with your hands) until the mixture resembles wet sand (the pieces of butter should be no larger than a pea). Stir the yolk to break it up, and add a little of the time, stirring it in with a spatula until the dough forms clumps and curds. Knead the dough lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients.
Divide the dough into six portions.  Press each portion of dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of 4-inch tart pans. You might want to save a little bit of dough to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before before baking.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Butter the shiny side of some aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against each crust, butter side down. Put the tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully removie the foil. If the crusts have puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 5 minutes until it is firm and golden brown. Cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

Lemon Cream
Adapted from Tartelette

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
zest of one lemon
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and egg yolks until pale.  Slowly add the milk and whisk well.  Bring the mixture to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer til thick.  Remove from heat and slowly add lemon juice.  Return to medium-low heat and let cool. 

Raspberry Topping

2 pints raspberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar

Gently toss the berries in lemon juice and sugar until evenly coated.  Let macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

To Assemble Tarts

Coat the inside of each tart shell with some melted white chocolate.  Let the chocolate harden.  Divide the lemon cream among the tart shells.  Place plastic wrap over the top to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

When ready to serve, top with the raspberries.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I know this may seem shocking, but between the pounds of butter, sugar, and eggs that I go through each week, I occasionally make dishes involving vegetables.  Vegetables that are not hidden in muffins.  Because as adorable as those floating blob-people were in Wall-E, I do not aspire to be one of them.

Despite the fact that this involves 7 - 8 different kinds of vegetables (depending on whether you consider potatoes to be vegetables), it was really, really tasty.  It even tasted meaty.  I think it was the Worcesterschire sauce.  Or the mushrooms.  So add the mushrooms, even if you don't like them.  David hates mushrooms, and he had no idea they were in there.  Though I guess he does, now.

This dish is ridiculously filling, so even if it looks like there are four servings, there are actually probably enough servings to last two people an entire week.  I am not kidding.  As delicious as this was, by the time David and I finished all the leftovers, we never wanted to see another lentil again.  So if there are only two of you, and you're not big eaters, do yourself a favor and halve this recipe.  

Lentil Shepherd's Pie
Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shiitake mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas.)
1 zucchini, diced small ( 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (I skipped this, as I am not a garlic person)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup carrots (about 3), peeled and diced small
3/4 cup du Puy lentils (also called French lentils), rinsed (I used green lentils.)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 recipe Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)

Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and saute them until translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, lentils and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

By this point, the lentils should be tender, and most of the broth should be absorbed. (If that hasn’t happened, then keep the pot covered and simmer the lentils a while longer. Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are not soft, then add a bit of water and simmer.)

When the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, corn and peas. Let the mixture sit off the heat for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To Serve: Spoon a cup of Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes into a bowl, and top it with a cup of lentils.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

2 russet potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (1 pound, or about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot, and fill it with enough cold water to cover them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top (for when you add the cauliflower). Bring the potatoes to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, add the cauliflower, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato masher to mash them a bit.

Add the oil, 2 tablespoons of broth, and the salt and pepper. Mash a bit more. Use a fork to make sure all the seasoning are mixed well.

If needed, add another 2 tablespoons of broth. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Serve warm.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carrot Apple Muffins

As much as I love eating desserts (and trust me, I love to eat desserts), I find the process of baking just as enjoyable as the end product.  In fact, I often get the urge to bake without even knowing what it is that I want to bake.  I usually end up scrounging through my pantry and refrigerator for inspiration.  On Thursday night, my refrigerator was pretty bare, but I did end up finding a few carrots and an apple.  I figured that between those two ingredients, I could make a delicious and healthy breakfast muffin.

While these muffins are delicious fresh out of the oven, I enjoyed them even more the next few mornings, when I toasted them before slathering them in butter and honey.  Have you tried toasting muffins before?  You should.  It's delicious.

Some notes: I had shredded the carrots coursely, and I think next time I would shred them more fine - the carrots were still a little crunchy right out of the oven, though they softened after sitting for a couple of days.  Also, if you want, you can pack the muffins even more full of healthy goodness by adding dried fruit or nuts.

Carrot Apple Muffins
Adapted from Gourmet, 1998

1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded carrots
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs
1 cup corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large apple, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, Combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk in both kinds of sugars.  Add the carrots and coconut; stir until completely combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, vanilla, and shredded apples.  Add the apple mixture to the carrot mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide equally between the muffin cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. 

Cool muffins for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto the racks to cool completely.  Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

S'mores Cookie Bars

It pains me to admit this, but I have never been one for the great outdoors.  For my family, camping meant going to a cabin in the mountains, complete with electricity, a fully functioning kitchen, and furniture...though I still slept in a sleeping bag, if that counts for anything.  During the day, we went hiking in the forests, had picnics in parks, picked plums from trees, and, if we were brave enough, swam in the ice-cold fresh water streams.  At night, we retreated back to the cabin, played board games, and made s'mores, not over a campfire, but in the cabin's fireplace.  I have to admit, I never got my marshmallow in between the graham crackers and chocolate, as I usually ate my charred, gooey marshmallows straight off the stick I toasted them on.

I haven't been camping in a while, in any sense of the word.  One day, David and I will go camping for real, with tents and bug spray and the whole sh'bang.  But until then, I am content to recreate camping memories with these s'more cookie bars.

These are best when cooled but still slightly warm - if it's still too hot when you slice into it, the filling oozes out, but if you let it cool too much, the chocolate re-hardens. 

S'more Cookie Bars
Adapted from Baking Bites

1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 king-sized chocolate bars
3 cups marshmallow fluff

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Add to butter mixture and mix until combined.  Divide dough in half.

Press half of the dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.  Place chocolate bars over the dough.  Spread marshmallow fluff over the chocolate.  Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool before cutting into bars.