November 30, 2009

Simple Apple Tart

I think this tart speaks for itself.  It's gorgeous and simple and just makes you feel content.

So simple, in fact, that you don't even need a tart pan.  And if we're being totally honest, you don't need a rolling pin either.

That's right, I didn't have a rolling pin because I don't own one.  I went to two stores to buy or, more accurately, look at rolling pins the day before Thanksgiving but in typical Lynna fashion, I couldn't make a decision (what if there's something better? cheaper? more productive?).  Foolishly, I thought I could just go to the grocery store and buy a rolling pin ON Thanksgiving.  But apparently, places are closed on holidays.

But I forged on and all was well.  I did this "galette-style" as Deb suggested, which took care of my pan-less problem, and had my Sigg water bottle play the part of the rolling pin.  So, I'm here to stand as evidence of the fact that you can make a perfectly lovely dessert with minimal ingredients, minimal cooking utensils, and not too much time.  You should try it.

Simplest Apple Tart
From Alice Waters via smitten kitchen

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup sugar

MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.

DRIBBLE in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.

PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400F.

OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.

BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over dough edge and the other 2 tablespoons over apples.

BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

BRUSH glaze over tart, slice, and serve.

November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving for One (or Two): Butternut Squash Soup and Sausage and Leek Stuffing

I spent Thanksgiving alone this year.  It sounds scary but I'm not trying to make you feel bad for me.  I was ok with it.  Sure, I made a few people who tried to make small talk with me by asking, "what are you doing for Thanksgiving?" a bit uncomfortable but, really, spending Thanksgiving by myself was kind of nice.

No family stress.  No people you haven't seen in a few years asking, "So, now that you've graduated from college, what are you going to do?" or perhaps more acurately, "You graduated?!?"  It was refreshing to be able to cook whatever I wanted, eat whenever I wanted, and not have to worry about what other people might like.  Yes, I love to cook for other people and eat with other people but something that not many people realize is that being alone can also be just as enjoyable.  And I don't feel like I missed out on food either, probably because I spent awhile planning my own Thanksgiving menu.  Here's what I ate:

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage
Italian Sausage and Leek Stuffing
Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Cranberry Sauce with Star Anise
Simple Apple Tart

The only problem with cooking and eating by myself was that I found it hard to keep from picking at everything (mostly the yummy stuffing) while I was cooking.  Needless to say, I ended up a bit too full when I was finished but isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about?

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 small onion or half a large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons olive oil
5- 6 sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1/8- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you can also use a pre-shredded Italian cheese blend, which is what I did because I didn't have any Parmesan)
2 tablespoons half and half
1- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or 1 tablespoon flour, optional
salt, to taste

Saute the squash, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic together in olive oil in a large pot.  Once the vegetables have softened slightly and the onions are translucent, add half the chicken broth and sage leaves and boil over medium heat until the squash is soft. 

Next, add the soup and the rest of the chicken broth to your blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the blended soup back into your pot over medium heat and stir in the cheese, half and half, and cornstarch if you're using it.  (Note: I find it works best to put the cornstarch, or flour, in a small dish and stir in a few tablespoons of soup and then add it to the pot.  This prevents lumps).  Add salt to taste and serve.

Sausage and Leek Stuffing

1/2 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage
1 stalk (?) leeks, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3-4 cups country bread, cubed
1 egg
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread bread cubes out in a singe layer in a large baking dish and bake until pale golden, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Brown the sausage in a medium saute pan over med/high heat breaking up with a spoon as it cooks.  Once the sausage is cooked through, transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon leaving the drippings behind.  Add the leeks, celery, and carrots to the saute pan with the sausage grease and cook until just softened.

Mix together the sausage, vegetable mixture, and bread cubes and transfer to a 6x6 baking dish or small casserole dish (alternatively, if you'd like a thinner layer, you can use an 8x8 brownie pan). 

In a seperate bowl, mix together the egg, chicken broth, and milk.  Pour the liquid mixture over the stuffing and break up the butter in small piece over the top.  Place in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes.

November 10, 2009

Spelt and Oat Fruit Bars

 I don't feel much like talking today except to say that these are lovely, simple, and very adaptable breakfast bars.  Reminiscent of something you'd find at a small town B&B.  Great with yogurt, coffee, or tea.

Spelt and Oat Fruit Bars
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

1 ¼ cups spelt flour
1 ¾ cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter (to ensure a crisp crumble topping)
1 ¼ cups naturally sweetened fruit preserves [I used no sugar added white peach and blackberry- thanks Julia!]

1. Preheat your oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together (spelt flour, 1 ½ cups oats, salt, cinnamon, baking soda).

2. In a second bowl, whisk the brown sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extracts and applesauce. Add in the dry mixture, and mix to incorporate. It should look like cookie batter at this point.

3. Spray a 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the preserves evenly over the bottom layer.

4. With the remaining mix, add another ¼ cup oats and 2tbsp of butter. Mix with your fingers. Crumble it on top of the preserve layer.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is a bit crispy. Let them cool a bit before cutting.

November 2, 2009

Black Rice and Butternut Squash Bake

Oops, I know I promised this yesterday (or more accurately, two days ago since it's now 12:15am) but I got caught up in other, arguabley more pressing, things like applying for jobs.  But here it is! And it's very simple.  Something you could throw together with any mix of starch, veggies, and cheese you desired.  I chose black rice and orange vegetables because, well, it was festive and as we all know, I'm into things like that. 

Here are some other options:
Quinoa topped with zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and swiss
Millet topped with broccoli, chopped spinach, and cheddar
Brown rice with tomatoes, peppers, onion, and pepper jack

If you try something delicious, let me know.  This is a great go-to meal on a night when you don't have much time because you can just use whatever leftover vegetables and starch you have, top it with some cheese, bake it, and there's dinner.

Black Rice and Butternut Squash Bake

3/4 cup black rice, cooked according to package directions
2 cups cubed roasted butternut squash
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil, for sauteeing

1 small casserole dish (I think mine is 6x6)

Preheat the over to 350 F.  Sauté the onion and carrot until onion is translucent and carrot is slightly softened.  Add the cubed butternut squash and heat til just warm.  Evenly spread the cooked black rice into the casserole dish, spread the vegetable mixture over the rice and press down with a spatula.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the top.

Place in the oven for 20- 30 minutes and then under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and blackened in certain areas.