Salsa season is here!

My teen is bored, the dogs are hyper with anticipation of a fun activity, probably involving balls, frisbees or sticks. My husband is on a month long working trip. I’m trying to keep up with all things involved in being a business owner, mom, homeowner, activity director, pet owner, and daughter. Yay. It’s summer.

What are you doing to celebrate the season? If it involves food, salsa is a great way to enjoy some of the seasonal fresh veggies out there.  With sweet corn currently priced in my local stores at 5 for $1, and cilantro at 2 bunches for $1, my frugal self is delighted. My daughter told me she could live on this stuff.

7214CS-107

Corn Salsa
4 ears of fresh, grilled sweet corn
1/2 red onion, diced small
2 avocados, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Lots of chopped cilantro
Grill corn with husks on for 10-15 minutes (see below). Cut corn off the cob, and combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate before serving.

My favorite way to grill corn: Pull the husks back to the corn stalk, but don’t remove. Pull off the silks and discard. Return the husks back to their original position, and tie with string. To keep the husks from burning on the grill, soak the corn in cold water for about 10 minutes. When they’re sufficiently soaked, fire up the grill, and roast uncovered on medium high for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally.

63014GR-104

63014GR-105

Up next: tomato season. Tuck this one away, it’ll be here before you know it…

Garden Tomato Salsa
Start with 9-12 medium sized ripe tomatoes
Cut them in half and take out the seeds.
Chop them coarsely and throw them into a food processor
Add:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of cilantro
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 spicy pepper (I used an ‘Italian Roaster’ because there were some ripe ones in my garden, but you could use jalapeño or serrano, if you want extra spice)
1 teaspoon coriander (you could also use cumin if you like the flavor… I don’t)
Blend until the salsa is a slightly coarse consistency. Not too chunky, not too pureed. Perfect for scooping up with a corn chip. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

92412S-139

After all the salsa ingredients have gotten to know each other, call a few good friends, blend up some margaritas, grab a bag of corn chips… and all the good things summer has to offer!

Simple salad sauce

62714SD2-108-Edit

Who else is loving the abundance of fresh local veggies right now? My garden is overflowing with spinach, lettuces, peas, squash, raspberries and several herbs. Due to the wet, warm, humid weather we are experiencing here in Portland, my hair is constantly curly, and many varieties of weeds are thriving in our yard. But lets ignore those things for now, okay?

I’m grilling, sautéing, roasting… or simply tossing raw veggies into bowls and devouring them in the form of salads every day. When it comes to a dressing for my colorful creations, however, the store bought options are usually … ho hum. The bottled salad dressings are often laden with trans fats, sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial flavors. They can quickly turn fresh, crisp, organic goodness into something unthinkably unhealthy. No thank you!

Fortunately, by blending a few basic ingredients,  you can quickly and easily create healthier, delicious salad dressings, and feel much better about what you’re ingesting. This honey mustard dressing is my current favorite. It’s slightly tangy, sweet, creamy. It’s also great on grilled, sautéed, or roasted veggies, or drizzled over chicken.

Honey-Mustard Salad Dressing

2 Tablespoons pure honey
2 Tablespoons yellow or brown prepared mustard (I used yellow for the sake of a prettier color, but spicy brown is good too)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup Greek non-fat, plain yogurt
Whisk these ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or so. Recipe makes one cup.

Yay, another use for my Weck jars! I can’t seem to get enough of these.

62714SD3-103

Sweet Hood Strawberries

Hood Strawberries

We have the best strawberries here in Oregon! Pretty sure we can attribute this to the climate… lots of rain, cool nights and warm sunny days. These are perfect conditions for growing the sweetest strawberries (the weeds in my yard seem to thrive in them as well). The berries stay on the vine and ripen slowly, allowing the sugars to surge before harvest. But these lovelies don’t last long after they’re harvested, which means you won’t see them in stores across the country. They’re very difficult to ship. I guess you’ll just have to visit Oregon to try them!

The window for Oregon strawberries (especially my favorite variety… Hoods), is so short. Sometimes I blink, and miss their quick visit. On a sunny afternoon last week, I coerced my teen into taking a drive out to a local farm with me. She had just finished high school exams for the year. I thought it might be a good way to bring her stress down a notch. An hour in the sun, talking and laughing, and before we knew it, our thoughts were lighter, and our buckets were full of these sweet red gems.

Then there was this pie…

61314SP3-107

61314SP4-108

This recipe is scribbled in a very overcrowded notebook with my other 15K or so favorites. It feels right to finally archive it here.

Strawberry Pie (recipe from my pie-baking Mother)

1 9-inch pre-baked pie crust (see detailed instructions below)
4 cups of fresh, sweet strawberries, hulled and washed immediately before use

Add about 3 cups of whole strawberries, (or however many will fit) in one layer on the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust.

In a small saucepan, bring to boil:
1 cup of crushed strawberries
3/4-1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

1. Boil the above ingredients for 2 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Add 1 Tablespoon butter. Mix and let cool.

2. Pour the glaze over the whole berries in the pie crust. Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Pie Crust (makes 1 9-inch crust)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8-1/4 cup ice cold water

1. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and blend for a few seconds. Add unsalted butter pieces and pulse 4 times. Add shortening and pulse 4 more times. The mixture will look like coarse cornmeal and the butter and shortening bits no larger than peas. Add cold water and blend just until dough begins to stick together. Do not over blend.

2. Remove the dough and place it in a mound on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a 4-inch disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

3. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat, clean work surface and on top of the disk of dough you intend to roll out. (My favorite rolling surface is a pastry cloth, but I also have a Silpat that works pretty well too). Using a rolling pin, apply light pressure while rolling outwards from the center of the dough. You have a big enough piece of dough when you place the pie dish over the dough and the dough extends by at least 2 inches all the way around.

4. When the dough has reached the right size, gently roll it onto the rolling pin. Place it into a pie plate, and simply unroll. Do not stretch the dough. Finish the edges by pressing against the edges with your finger tips or a fork.

To pre-bake the dough:

Once your crust is in the pie dish, freeze it for at least a half hour, until well chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. line the chilled pie crust with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or stainless-steel pie weights. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and carefully remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

Hello

Hello there, friends! I didn’t mean to be gone so long. I know you understand how life gets really busy, and it’s hard to find time to do all the things we want to do amongst all the things we have to do. Our kitchen remodeling is complete with the exceptions of adding a backsplash, sewing bench cushions and finding the right rug. Beyond cooking/baking, I’m taking a short break from projects in there momentarily. I’m sure by fall I’ll feel the need to finish up these loose ends though.

Then there’s this project:

52714T2-103

While Craig’s List shopping for a small freezer, I found this darling table (that I forgot to take a picture of before I began refinishing). Even though it was covered in white latex paint, for $35 it was too good to pass up. I’d heard about Annie Sloan chalk paint from a friend, and I’ve been wanting to try it. It’s true you can paint right over almost anything with this paint, but this thickly covered table needed to have more definition of edges and curves than I would get by painting over its old layers. So I purchased a heat gun (also through Craig’s List), and began the long, arduous process. What I discovered under that first layer was not pleasant… purple and green very sticky, glue-like gunk that didn’t bubble and peel off, but melted and coated the wood when heated. Hours of sanding later, I had a pretty good surface. I covered the top in Old White with a bit of Louis Blue around the edges, the legs in Louis Blue, added some flour sack stripes to the top, and two coats of clear wax. More hours were spent that I care to admit, but I’m pretty happy with it. I’m thinking it will be my photo table. The sides pull out, which is nice for holding props during shoots.

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo

These stripes were really fun to do! I was tempted to freehand a stripe in the preexisting groove, but I’m so glad I took the extra steps to make it look pro.

My favorite St Patrick’s Day dinner

32113M-141

In Ireland, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. It turns out this peasant corned beef and cabbage meal is just an American way to celebrate Irish heritage. So, if you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional non-Irish dinner Monday, I have a few recipes you should try. For those of you who have been following me forever, (thank you!) this will be a familiar post. Every year, I alter my recipe just a little, and it just gets better, so I wanted to share the latest with you.

32113M-134

First, you need to buy the best piece of corned beef you can find. This is of utmost importance to the entire meal, so splurge on a roast that’s the real thing. We’re fortunate to have several stores nearby that sell local beef. Beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics on farms where they graze on natural native grasslands, pastures and forests. My favorite local store is New Seasons Market, and this is where I buy corned beef. Their corned beef is a beef brisket that is not overly salted or seasoned.

I’ve often wondered why some meats sold as corned beef are red and others gray, so I emailed the friendly people at New Seasons to find out. Within 24-hours, I received a message back from Daniel Menashe, a customer advocate at the market, who took me to beef school.

According to Daniel, “Red corned beef is a more modern invention. It’s the result of adding potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve the red color. It may look prettier, but some folks take issue with the safety of these compounds, and most chefs and gourmands feel that they can rob the subtlety from a cured meat.” “Our corned beef is classic gray and proud of it.”

32113M-118

At New Seasons they use beef brisket because it’s the most tender and well-marbled.

He also explained where the term corn comes in. “The corn in ‘corned beef,’ doesn’t refer to the New World grain, but rather an Old English term for salt — a corn of salt used to mean the same thing as a grain of salt.”

To sum it up — “Brisket is best. Go for the gray. It has nothing to do with corn.”

Now that you know everything you need to know about corned beef, pick up a 3 lb. piece of gray beef, perfectly cured with herbs and spices at your favorite local store. The best way to cook it, in my opinion, is slowly in a Dutch oven.

32113M-112

32113M-121

St Paddy’s Day dinner

3 lbs corned beef
24 oz Guinness (or other stout beer)
2 leeks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 green cabbage, sliced into 8 wedges
12 small red potatoes
Bunch of carrots, with tops snapped off
Bunch of asparagus, washed and snapped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
Sea salt
Horseradish for serving or creamy horseradish sauce (see recipe below)

Place beef, sliced leeks and garlic into a large (7 quart) oven-proof dish and add enough beer to cover the meat. You may need to add some water to fully cover the meat. Place a lid over the dish and place into a 325°F oven for about 3 hours. Add cabbage wedges and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Place the potatoes, carrots and asparagus into a large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt and the parsley and basil. Roast in a 325°F oven for at least an hour, or until veggies are tender. You can also throw these items in with the meat and cabbage for an hour or so if you wish. My husband has a thing about carrots cooked with meat, so I roast them separately to accommodate him. I actually prefer this method now.

Lay out the vegetables onto a serving platter. Slice the corned beef, against the grain into thin slices and top with some of that delicious cooking liquid. Serve warm.

Oh, and this soda bread is an absolute must served alongside…

The following recipe is the original Irish soda bread from Grand Central Baking Company, a fabulous local bakery here in Portland.

Grand Central’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 8 pieces, or two large rounds

4 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
2-1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 cup currants
14 Tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, divided
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a high-sided mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in orange zest, caraway seeds and currants.

Dice butter in 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment to mix butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight, or proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients and add remaining buttermilk.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 chunks. Gently shape the pieces into dome-like disks and score each one into quarters.

Place disks on the baking sheet and brush liberally with egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until disks are shiny and golden brown.

Creamy horseradish sauce
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. In another medium size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish, and mustard. Fold in whipped cream, and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Stir well.

Voila! Just add good friends. And Guinness!

And just in case you’re wondering…
IT’S PADDY, NOT PATTY. EVER.
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY? GRAND.
PADDY’S DAY? SURE, DEAD-ON.
ST. PAT’S? IF YE MUST.
ST. PATTY? NO, YE GOAT!
Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig: the source of those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.
Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.
There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.
Source: paddynotpatty.com

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Pancake Day

In honor of National Pancake Day, we had pancakes for dinner last night, just so I could share this fabulous pancake recipe with you today. Well, that and the fact that I’m running out of ideas for meals made in a skillet, in our dining room. So these fluffy little stacked cakes happened…

3314PC-155-2

Today is Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday. This day was created as a religious-based tradition. It was a good way to use up peoples’ supplies of butter, eggs, and milk, which were all forbidden foods during the season of Lent. But that’s tomorrow… Bon Appétit!

This recipe is a new tradition in my house for a few reasons. The ingredients are ones I usually have around, they are light and fluffy, and incredibly easy to make. I like to crisp the edges ever so slightly in a hot skillet, stack ‘em high, and pour on the pure maple syrup.

3314PC-188

Delicious Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients
3/4 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 Cup all-purpose unbleached flour
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking spray

Directions
Combine the milk and vinegar in a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to sour the milk.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Whisk the egg and butter into the soured milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, and blend with a whisk until all the lumps are gone.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with a little cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cups full of batter into the heated skillet and cook until little bubbles appear on the surface. Flip and cook on the other side until browned.

Next week I should be cooking in our new kitchen. The counters and sink are scheduled to be installed tomorrow!

3314PC-217

Coconut Chicken Curry

February in Portland always fools us with its sunny, springlike days. Then, just as you think it’s safe to go outside, the cold winds knock you down. I was able to sneak away to the beach last weekend, and returned to a husband and daughter who appear to have caught the flu. Let me tell you, not having the flu while everyone else in your house does, is almost as bad as all that. They seem to be on the mend, and as a way to stay clear of their germs, I spent some time creating comfort food. I’m not sure they loved it, but I sure found it comforting.

22414KR-143-Edit

If you’re still in the wintery season where you are, you need this in your life.

22414KR-148

Keep in mind that I am still without a stove or kitchen, so I made this in my life-saving skillet.

This could easily be turned into a vegetarian or vegan dish. I’m thinking of trying it with cauliflower, green onions, maybe some chickpeas. Once you get the curry sauce to your taste, you can build it however you like.

Coconut Chicken Curry

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 sweet onion, diced
1 delicata or butternut squash, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
2 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
2 Teaspoons tumeric
2 Teaspoons coriander
2 Teaspoons curry powder
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Rice or pasta to serve alongside

Directions
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet (or Dutch oven) over high heat. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces and cook until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Reduce heat and add remaining 1 T olive oil to pan. Add diced onion, diced squash and ginger powder. Cook for a few minutes until the onion and squash is soft. Add pressed garlic and cook for another couple minutes.
Add tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until puree is lightly browned.
Add broth, coconut milk, tumeric, coriander, curry and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Stir in cilantro.
Serve with rice or pasta, and a glass of red wine.

Kitchen chaos and a yummy treat

Our kitchen remodel is underway. There’s no turning back now. To catch you up: old cabinets have been demoed, the ceiling repaired and resurfaced, woodwork paint burned off…

12714KR-160

12714KR-172

Fresh new paint has been applied to all woodwork, the ceiling, and walls.

13014kr3-115

I look forward to sitting in this little nook with coffee and a hot scone.

13014kr3-100

Behind the scenes, in a shop across town, cabinets are being made, and scheduled to arrive here, ready to install, beginning Monday morning.

We’ve set up camp in the dining room, and although it’s not really that fun washing the dishes in the bathtub, eating at home is not as challenging as you might think. The slow cooker, rice cooker and microwave have served well. But the $30 electric skillet I picked up at Target has been a godsend! Last night I made spaghetti and meat sauce, in that handy appliance. If you’ve never made pasta in a skillet, I can assure you, it’s very efficient. The water boiled quickly, and having the noodles laying flat made for quick, even cooking.

12714KR-167

Beyond the obvious inconveniences and disruption to our everyday lives, the most challenging part of this project, is the number of details…

Paint: what colors? what sheens? I’ve learned more about sheens in the past few weeks than I ever thought possible.

Cabinet hardware: what style? what finish? Who knew the finishes on oil-bronzed hardware could be so different?

Granite: which slab? where should it be placed? should it have a 4″ backsplash? should it go behind the stove? around the sides of the stove? what should the edges look like?

In my opinion, it’s these small details that are most important in the final focus and look of the room. As much as I love poking around stores like Rejuvenation, my over-stimulation issues surface, and make seemingly easy decisions painful for everyone around me. Yesterday, after we spent five hours shopping for cabinet hardware, my often not-so-patient husband told me he actually admires my detail neurosis! Yay! After nearly 19 years of marriage, he gets me!

Unfortunately, this remodel has kept me from baking… that is until I discovered individual chocolate chips cookies microwaved in a jar!

2114CCC3-113

Moist, gooey, delicious!

2114CCC3-123-Edit

With or without ice cream…

2114CCC2-120

Microwave Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar
Serves 1

Ingredients
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
3 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
In a microwave safe jar, mug or ramekin place 1 Tablespoon of butter. Melt it in the microwave for 15 seconds at 70% power. Add sugars, vanilla and salt. Stir well. Add the egg yolk and stir well. Add the flour and mix well. It will be the consistency of cookie dough. Add the chocolate chips and stir just to distribute. Microwave for 30-40 at 70% power. Continue to microwave 10 seconds at a time at 70% power until the dough begins to puff up a bit. It will look like it’s not done, but it will be cakey in the center. The cook time depends on your microwave. Do not overcook, check at 50 seconds. It may not need any more than that.

Oh my, sweet potato pie!

pie!

Raise your hand if you’ve never had sweet potato pie. Much like pumpkin in its consistency, sweet potato pie is custard-like and creamy, but the spices in this recipe create a dessert that is nothing short of heavenly. Trust me on the coriander… I hesitated on that one too.

In my family, no one likes to break tradition (except yours truly), and this pie seemed to set off some alarms. Or maybe it was the color, or the thought of a soggy crust (which this does NOT have)… either way, I got to take most of it home from our family Christmas gathering. Yeah! More for us!

Sweet Potato Pie
(thank you to Joy the Baker (and her Dad) for sharing the filling recipe)

1- 9″ pie crust (chilled)

2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2- 5oz cans evaporated milk (1 1/4 cups evaporated milk)
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Boil three sweet potatoes, with their peeling on, in a covered pot over medium heat, until the sweet potatoes are very soft and tender. Test with a sharp knife. If there is any resistance, boil until a knife penetrates the potatoes smoothly. Remove potatoes from the water and let them cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel potatoes, cut into chunks and place in a large bowl or food processor. Mash potatoes thoroughly until completely smooth.

Measure two cups of the sweet potato mash and place it into a medium sized pan with the packed brown sugar, all of the spices, salt, the 1/2 stick butter, and one 5 oz can of evaporated milk. Cook on low for about 5 minutes, whipping with a wire whisk until butter and brown sugar are completely melted, and the mixture is blended, smooth and just beginning to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool in the pan.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the three eggs with a fork. Add the second 5oz can of evaporated milk, granulated sugar and vanilla to the eggs, and continue beating until creamy. Pour the cooled sweet potato mixture into the egg mixture. Blend thoroughly with a whisk and refrigerate mixture overnight or use immediately.

Pour into a 9-inch prepared crust.

Place a cookie sheet into the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place pie directly onto preheated cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes to set the crust, and to keep it from getting soggy.  Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. and bake for another hour. The crust should be brown and the sweet potato mixture will be puffed up, but still slightly wiggly in the center. After 1 hour, remove pie and place onto a wire rack to cool. The pie will firm up more as it cools.

Serve room temperature with whipped cream.

pie2

pie3

Where have you been all my life?

Homemade pies

I’m pretty sure this is the best dessert I’ve ever made! I’m really excited to share it with you! I actually made two new-to-me desserts over Thanksgiving. The second one was a sweet potato pie. Both pies were good, but this Pear-Almond Tart turned out especially fabulous!

French Pear and Almond Tart

It’s a bit time consuming to make, but once you’ve tickled your taste buds with its deliciousness, you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.

Slice of pie

Start with a base pastry that is sturdy enough to cradle the almond filling and poached pears, yet light and flaky so it melts in your mouth. The recipe I used is from Martha Stewart, but there are steps you’ll need to take to make sure the baked crust is perfect, so read through all the recipes that follow carefully.

Start with the freshest, best ingredients. A food processor comes in very handy for the crust, but it can be done by hand too if you’re feeling energetic, or you don’t own one.

Basic Pie Crust (You will be pre-baking this – don’t worry I’ll tell you exactly how to do this)
(this makes a base for one 9 inch tart)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/4-1/3 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for just a few seconds. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds, or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add ice water a little bit at a time, and run the processor until the dough holds together, but not for more than 30 seconds. If the dough is still crumbly, add a little more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press the dough into a flat circle. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove the chilled dough and let it rest for a few minutes. Roll it out so that it’s large enough, with a few inches of overhang, to fit a 9″ tart pan (that’s the one with straight fluted sides). Cut off extra dough so that it is just to the top edge. Freeze the crust for at least a half hour, until chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. When the pie crust is sufficiently chilled, line the pie crust with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or stainless-steel pie weights. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and carefully remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool completely before filling. You may need to tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil when you bake your pie, to keep the edges from getting too dried out and burnt.

Now that you have a perfectly baked tart shell, you can proceed to the filling part.

Step 1 of the filling:

Poached Pears

1 quart water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Bosc pears; peeled, cored, and quartered
Additions: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices
1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add any of the additions that you wish.
2. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center.
3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears.
4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.
Optional: After poaching the pears, while the liquid is still warm, add approximately 1/4 cup dried sour cherries, cranberries, raisins, or dried currants and let them plump.
Store the pears in their liquid in the refrigerator, in a covered container, until ready to use. Remove the pears from the refrigerator a few hours prior to serving, and re-warm them gently in the liquid, if you wish. The pears will keep for up to 5 days.

Now, lets put it all together…

Pear-Almond Tart
Recipe from David Lebovitz
8 servings

NOTE: If your almond paste isn’t very fragrant with the smell of almonds, add a drop or two of pure almond extract to the filling. You don’t want to dump a spoonful in, which would overwhelm the pears, but a tiny bit highlights the almond flavors. You can use canned pear halves packed in light syrup, and drain them well, in place of the poached pears, if you wish.

6 ounces almond paste (this is sold in most grocery stores, just make sure you pick up the one without sugar added)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour
3 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, cubed, at room temperature
1 large egg, plus one egg white, at room temperature
a few drops almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons rum, Calvados, or kirsch

3 poached pears, cored, drained and blotted dry, then cut into 1/2-inch slices
One pre-baked 9-inch tart shell, at room temperature (see above)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Set the pre-baked tart shell on a baking sheet.
2. In a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the almond paste with the sugar and flour, until smooth. Some almond pastes may be drier than others. If yours is dry, just mix until the almond paste is finely-broken up.
3. Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth, then beat in the egg and the egg white, the almond extract, and the liquor.
4. Spread the almond filling evenly over the tart shell
5. Fan the pears out evenly over the almond filling, then press them in slightly.
6. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the almond filling between the pears has browned.
7. Cool slightly before serving, or serve at room temperature.

Oh yeah, the little pitcher nearby in my image is a bit of the sauce from poaching the pears. Just before serving the tart, reduce the juices by boiling for a few minutes in a pan and serve alongside. Pour a little, or a lot of it onto the tart… ooh and ahh over your masterpiece! Celebrate the happiness of your tastebuds!