Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Parfaits

It’s peak summer season, which means it’s peak tomato season. The farmer’s market tables are piled high with tomatoes galore, and if you have a garden, chances are your tomato plants are weighed down with ripe cherries, robust Beefsteaks, and sassy Early Girls ready for the picking. The best way to enjoy a fresh picked tomato, in my opinion, is as simply as possible, so its natural sweetness and sun-kissed flavor shine through.

In our kitchen, a favorite preparation is the Italian Caprese salad, a platter of thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, and just-plucked basil leaves. All that’s needed is a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the ingredients speak for themselves. Another equally popular preparation is tomato bruschetta – thick slices of grilled garlicky bread topped with a jumble of juicy chopped tomatoes, basil, and, ahem, more garlic. This is finger licking hands-on fare, best served family-style accompanied by a pile of napkins to wipe up the sweet dribbling juices.

This past weekend, I combined these two recipes into one for a simple yet elegant presentation, including burrata cheese, grilled bread, and fresh basil, layered into small glasses. It was a smart and fun way to portion the tomatoes and dress things up for entertaining, while saving our summer whites from wayward juices. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes with their variety of colors, patterns, and bulbous shapes, and these glasses perfectly displayed them like confetti. A dollop of creamy burrata and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar resulted in a fresh and savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Choose firm yet ripe tomatoes with a range of colors, and be sure to use a good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. You will need six (8-ounce) glasses for this recipe.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Crostini:
6 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal, about 4 inches in length and 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt

Parfaits:
2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 burrata, about 8 ounces
6 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup small basil leaves (or large leaves, chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the crostini: Preheat the oven broiler or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Lightly brush each bread slice with the oil. Broil or grill the bread until crisp and golden on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside while you assemble the verrines.
2. Combine the tomatoes, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Divide the tomatoes between six (8-ounce) glasses.
3. Cut the burrata into 6 wedges and place one wedge in each glass. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in each glass, and garnish with the basil and black pepper. Top each glass with a crostini and serve immediately.

5 Veggie Sides for a Grill Party

Memorial Day weekend is all about the grill, but it doesn’t have to be all about the meat. Here are a bunch of side dishes to round out your party and ensure that you and your friends eat their vegetables.

broccoli rabe tastefoodGrilled Broccoli Rabe
Char, garlic and red chili flakes transform this bitter-leaning crucifer into a delicious side dish.

pepper potatoes tastefood

No -Mayo Peppery Potato Salad
Hard to believe there’s no mayonnaise in this creamy salad, chock-a-block full of peppers, chiles and onion.

Corn Tomato SaladCorn and Tomato Salad
This classic summer salad is sweet, juicy and fresh with the kick of poblano chiles and crisp red onion.

mustard blue potato tastefoodBlue Potato and Mustard Salad
Another no-mayo potato salad, napped with olive oil and spiked with fresh mustard leaves. Use blue potatoes if you can find them for color value. Otherwise, yellow potatoes will work too.

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad
A fresh and satisfying Middle Eastern salad fragrant with mint and coriander, composed of crisp greens, crumbled feta and grilled pita bread.

Homemade Country Pâté (Pâté de Campagne) with Cranberries and Pistachios

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios ~

I always make homemade pâté for the holidays. It’s a great appetizer to serve at a party with charcuterie, as well as a delicious savory addition to a fireside dinner. Homemade pâté is surprisingly easy to make and can be prepared well in advance of any festivities. Its method incorporates “packing” – which, in charcuterie terms, involves jamming a terrine mold with ground spiced meat, spirits, eggs, and cream and baking it in a water bath. The resulting baked brick of spiced and fortified meat is weighted down and banished to the refrigerator to sit for a day or two to become comfortable with it’s brash flavorings while anticipation builds –  just as it would the day before Christmas as you eye unopened presents placed beneath the tree. When the time is right (2 days at least) the terrine is retrieved from the refrigerator and its wrapping discarded, uncovering a rich, meaty country pâté, chunky with nuts and fruit.

I have fiddled with this recipe over the years, and lately become enamored of wild boar. Boar reminds me of Europe, where it’s a frequent ingredient in charcuterie. It may be purchased in specialty stores, through a butcher or mail order. Since it’s so lean, it’s important to combine the boar meat with a fattier cut such as pork shoulder. Alternatively, you can substitute veal for the boar meat.

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios

Begin at least two days before serving to allow the flavors to develop. You can either grind your own meat, or simply have your butcher grind the meat for you.

Serves 20

1 pound ground boar shoulder (or veal)
1 pound ground pork shoulder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing terrine
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Calvados
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Coarsely ground peppercorns for garnish

1. If you are grinding your own meat, then cut the boar and pork in 3/4-inch cubes. Place the meat in a large bowl and add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Grind with a meat grinder before proceeding.
2. If you are using ground meat, combine the boar and pork in a large bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) Add the bacon to the meat and return the meat to the refrigerator while you prepare the onions.
4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add to the meat.
5. Combine the eggs, cream and calvados in a small bowl. Add to the meat and mix well.
6. Butter a loaf pan or terrine. Press one third of the meat into the terrine. Sprinkle half of the pistachios and half of the cranberries evenly over the surface. Press another third of the meat into the terrine. Top with the remaining pistachios and cranberries and cover with the remaining meat. Cover the terrine tightly with foil and prick 2 to 3 holes in the foil. Place the terrine in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the baking pan halfway up the sides of the terrine.
7. Bake in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 155°F, about 1 1/2 hours.Remove from the oven and remove the terrine from the water bath. Place a terrine press over the pate (or a cutting board with cans on top) and cool completely. Transfer the weighted terrine to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before serving.
8. To serve, un-mold the pate and scrape off any congealed fat. Cut into slices, about ½-inch thick. Garnish with the peppercorns. Serve with cornichons, Dijon-style mustard, and fresh French baguette or country bread.

Cranberry Pear Galette


cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free-form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered and folded around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.

Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

chipotle short ribs tastefood

I won’t lie: These ribs take two days to make. Now, before you click away from this page, just hear me out. I promise that if you make these ribs, you will be a very happy cook. Your family will be eternally grateful. Your guests will be impressed. And you will be rewarded with a deeply flavorful, warmly spiced, tender and rich braise. The only people who might not be pleased will be your neighbors, because they will have to live through a day of incredible aromas wafting from your kitchen window, knowing full well they are not coming to dinner.

Now if that is not enticing enough, here is some more good news: While it takes two days to make these ribs, most of the time you will have little to do in the food prep department, because the ribs will take care of themselves, braising in the oven or sitting in the refrigerator. You will  be actively involved in the beginning, when you brown the meat (a very important step which will make you feel useful), then when you reduce the sauce (which technically your stove will do for you), and then finishing the braise for serving. Your most difficult task will be…waiting. All of the time invested is for good reason: to tenderize the beef to a supple version of itself, and to infuse the meat and sauce with knock-your-socks off flavor. So go ahead and give it a try. Start on a Friday and eat it over the weekend. And feel free to double the amount so you can freeze extras for another day or have a party – it might be a good time to invite the neighbors.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

If you have the time (and patience) rub the short ribs with the spices the  night before browning to develop the flavor. The chipotles in adobo will add a nice kick of heat to the braise. Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rub the meat:
Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning.

Braise:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.

Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, carrot, and garlic. Saute the vegetables over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the beef stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and slow cook until the ribs are very tender, about 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.

Refrigerate:
Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Cover the pot and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which will be easily removed before proceeding. It also allows the flavors to develop overnight.)

Reduce:
At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.

Strain the sauce through a strainer, pressing down on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible, and transfer the sauce to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half and has a thickened to a rich sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over and around the beef. The beef should not be entirely submerged; if you have extra sauce, reserve for serving. Cover the dish with foil. (The beef may be prepared up to 3 hours in advance of serving to this point. Keep refrigerated until finishing.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the short ribs in the oven and cook until thoroughly heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve with mashed root vegetables or mashed potatoes.

 

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

potato poppers tastefood

I was tempted to give you a recipe for a deflated cheese soufflé for the upcoming Superbowl, but decided to rise above deflategate and make these little poppers instead. Twice baked mini-potato poppers are a great appetizer to enjoy while watching the big football game. While they are a little time consuming to make, they can easily be prepared in advance then popped into the oven at the last minute.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

Something tells me that crispy bacon bits would be a great extra addition to the filling…. just saying. If you agree, then consider mixing a small handful of rendered bacon bits into the potato filling, or sprinkle on top in place of the thyme.

Makes 20; serves 4 to 6

20 round small potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh thyme leaves

Heat the oven to 425°F.
Trim the potatoes: Slice a small tip off of each potato to create a flat bottom for the potatoes to stand without rolling or tilting. Slice about 1/4 off of the tops and discard the tops. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out the centers of the potatoes without piercing the bottoms. Place the potato flesh, garlic, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until well combined. Carefully spoon the filling back into the potato shells, mounding the stuffing. Arrange the potatoes, stuffed-side up, on a baking sheet. (The potatoes may be prepared up to 2 hours in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before continuing).
Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the potatoes, then transfer the potatoes to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.