SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LEEK AND CHEESE TART

tart1

One more month flew by us! Last Monday of April, first Secret Recipe Club of a favorite season, Spring!  I was paired with the blog Food Baby Life, and had a blast browsing Susan’s site. She has a well-organized index which makes life a lot easier for the stalker.  Being a busy mom, many of her recipes are compatible with our own life style. You know, that life style in which the day doesn’t seem to have enough hours, and each night we ask ourselves “why isn’t tomorrow Saturday instead of Tuesday?”   😉    I had quite a few recipes on a list of favorites to choose from, including her  Spiced Meatball Wrap, but settled on this tart because of the unusual crust: instead of butter, olive oil. Instead of white flour, a combination of 50/50 white and whole-wheat. A few modifications of my own for reasons specified in the comments, and there you have it: a Leek and Kale Tart with Olive Oil Crust!

LEEK AND KALE TART WITH OLIVE OIL CRUST
(adapted from Food Baby Life

for the filling:
2 large leeks, washed and sliced thinly
1 small bunch kale, sliced thinly
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
1 cup (250ml) evaporated milk
125g cheddar cheese, grated (see comments)
for the crust:
125g plain flour
125g whole -wheat flour
1 ts salt
60 ml olive oil
100-120ml cold water
Lightly grease a 28cm (11 inch) tart dish, preferably one with a removable bottom, but a Pyrex type will work too.  Heat  the oven to 390 F  (200 degrees Celsius).
To make the pastry, place the flours and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour in the oil and stir with a fork. Add the water and continue to stir with a fork until it is just absorbed then start to knead with your hand, until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to fit the tart pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, trim the edges and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, make your filling. Melt the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, then add the kale and cook for a few minutes more, until wilted. Season with nutmeg and remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and milk along with salt and pepper to taste.

Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes lining it with parchment paper and filling it with beans. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the edges are golden and the base is totally dry to the touch. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

To assemble the tart, fill the pastry shell with the cooked leek and kale mixture, sprinkle over the cheese and then pour over the egg mixture. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. The filling should be just set and the edges of the pastry a deep golden brown. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite
Comments:
What’s life without a little adrenaline rush? You would think that by staying away from cakes I’d be safe, right?  Not so fast.  Things were going quite well up to the moment of adding evaporated milk to the game. I grabbed my can opener, a little gadget that works like a charm, smooth, graceful, leaving no sharp edges. It usually performs a little magic around the edges, so that you cannot quite tell the can is open, but it is.  Or is it really?  Something about the edge of the can of evaporated milk simply would not cooperate and it refused to open.  I had a second can in the pantry, tried to work on it,  again no luck. I searched everywhere for an old-fashioned type can opener, but apparently ours was lost during the move.  A few slammed doors and drawers, a few words not fit to print, I finally had the brilliant idea of pairing an oyster knife with a hammer.  Punched a square hole on top of the can, and back in business I was.  (BTW, I don’t recommend doing that, it is both messy and dangerous).

IMG_1627
To add a little more emotion to the day, I forgot to buy Cheddar cheese for the recipe!  I had no cheese around, except for three little triangles of “Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss Cheese”.   I ended up mixing it as well as I could to the evaporated milk, and that was that. Finally, If you followed the original link to Baby. Food. Life, you will notice that she removed the excess dough after covering her tart pan, for a very polished look. I don’t know what I was thinking, but obviously I went into a different direction.  Oh, well…   What matters is that this crust might very well become my default recipe from now on.  We both absolutely loved it, it does have a more rustic quality thanks to the whole-wheat flour and the olive oil.  Plus, making it in a bowl using just a fork and your hands was awesome!

Susan, it was great to meet you and your blog through The Secret Recipe Club, we loved this recipe, enjoyed it three days in a row, it only got better and better!

slice

For those who want to see what my fellow friends from group D cooked up this month, don’t be shy, just click on the blue frog at the very end of my post, and happy browsing!  And those who are curious to see which recipe was chosen from my blog, and who had it, jump here for a fantastic article by Fran!  She made a favorite of ours, Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

ONE YEAR AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken



TAKING A BREAK FROM THE WILD

I’ve always been fascinated by bread baking. For years I would read books and blogs, but get discouraged because the breads I fell in love with were all made with a sourdough starter. You know, that wild yeast thing.  I would close the book, click away from the site, telling myself “why can’t they bake bread with regular yeast, like normal people?”  It was so frustrating!  Of course, if you follow my blog, you’ll know that now I love to walk on the wild side…  😉   Like many bread bakers, using commercial yeast almost feels like cheating. But, a bread leavened just with instant yeast can be amazing too. In this recipe, 80% of the formula comprises flour fermented overnight with a small amount of yeast.  It comes from Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish.
ready

WHAAAT? NO RECIPE?

Here’s the deal: I sent a couple of messages to Mr. Forkish asking his permission to publish the recipe, but got no answer. Of course, it’s quite possible he never checks his Facebook account.  I know many people who don’t even remember having one!  😉   Without his permission, I don’t feel it is right to include the recipe. You can read more about this subject at the end of my post.

If you want to try his method, you can click here for a great variation on his recipe that includes barley flour in the formula. The technique is exactly the same, though. I intend to make it myself soon, as I am quite fond of barley flour.

photo(1)

Comments: Of all breads I’ve made, this one was by far the loudest singer.  The noises it made while it sat on the counter, cooling, were unreal!  Interestingly, Jane, the blogger behind The Wayward Oven, had this to say about her version of Forkish’s White Bread with 80% BIGA:

“It had a wonderful aroma and the crackling as it cooled was so loud I could – no exaggeration! –  hear it across the room.”

Yeah, that was exactly the case!   I also loved Forkish’s approach of letting the bread rise with the seam side down, and then invert it for baking, without scoring the crust. The bread opens in a natural,  more rustic-looking way.  This bread has a double personality:  the taste and crust of a regular sourdough, and a crumb with the softer texture usually found in breads made with commercial yeast.  Quite an interesting combination!

shot2_opt

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

And now, for something completely different…

When I started blogging, I did not give too much thought about publishing recipes from cookbooks. I changed the wording around, gave credit, and felt it was good enough.  As time passed, my views on the issue started to change, in part because I learned that some cookbook authors are completely against having their recipes out in the blogosphere, even if proper credit is given.  Then, my virtual friend Joanna published a thoughtful article on her blog, and that pretty much did it for me.  Ever since I read her post, I decided not to transcribe a recipe from any cookbook here, unless I get permission from the author, which unfortunately is not always that easy.  

If I adapt a recipe, I will publish it and link to the “inspirational source”. In fact, that is a practice considered ok by copyright laws. A very good article on the whole subject was written by David Lebowitz and is available here.  As to recipes published in food magazines,  Fine Cooking editors told me they do not mind their recipes being published as long as a link is provided to the source.  And other magazines –  such as Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Cooking Light – have their content online for public access, so it is not a problem to blog on them.

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini-Spinach Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Pollo en Mole en Cacahuate

THREE YEARS AGO: Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread

KINPIRA GOBO AND JAPANESE HOME COOKING

burdock2_opt

Of all types of cuisine, Japanese is the one that intimidates me the most. Making sushi at home is out of the question for me, but even other types of Japanese cooking give me pause.  In a recent trip to California, we met a wonderful couple who takes a different approach: they are both Americans, but mostly cook Japanese food at home and are really serious about it.  Their bookshelves are loaded with cookbooks devoted to Oriental (and vegetarian) cooking, their pantry stocked with the most exotic ingredients.  They mentioned a dish they love so much that it’s not uncommon to have it twice in the same week.   It uses a strange-looking root called “gobo“, also known as “burdock“.   They gave me the perfect spice mix to season this traditional Japanese dish (see my previous post) and wished me luck finding gobo in Manhattan, KS.   I was very optimistic, though. It turns out “The Little Apple” is home to one of the most amazing food stores I’ve ever been to, called quite simply “Asian Market“.    I could not wait to get there to search for the elusive root.  Not only they had a ton of it, but the owner said it’s always in stock.   Call me a happy camper. And call this dinner one of the healthiest meals I’ve ever put together.   And very delicious too!
served1

KINPIRA GOBO (Sautéed Burdock)
(adapted from Hiroko Urakami Japanese Family-Style Recipes)

1 medium gobo root
2 carrots
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 Tablespoon grape seed oil
2 Tablespoons mirin (or sake)
1 + 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 + 1/2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Nanami togarashi to taste

Set up a large bowl with cold water. Peel the carrots and cut in julienne strips. Peel the outer dark skin of the gobo root, and working quickly, cut it in julienne strips.  Soak the gobo and the carrots in water for 10 to 20 minutes.  Drain well, and dry the strips using a kitchen towel.

Heat the sesame and grape seed oil on a large skillet.  Add the carrots and gobo root, and sautée them together for about 4 minutes, until they are tender.  Add the mirin, sugar, and soy sauce, and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Transfer to a serving bowl, add the sesame seeds and the nanami togarashi right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite

I have a bit of  trivia about gobo for you:  in the 40’s, a Swiss inventor called George de Mestral was walking his dog through some woods and noticed that the seeds of a particular plant glued to everything, from his clothes to his dog’s fur. He collected some seeds, and inspected them under the microscope. He was amazed by its hooks and loops, and thought that it could be the basis of a new material. From that observation, Velcro was born.  The plant was burdock. Apart from its technological impact, gobo is considered by the Japanese as one of the healthiest types of food, that they claim to “purify the blood”.   It contains a lot of minerals (including iron),  it is high in fiber, low in calories, and has a very unique taste.  The soaking in water is necessary to get rid of tannins that can give it a harsh taste.
soakingI love to find a new ingredient to play with!   Our kinpira gobo was served as a side dish for boneless chicken thighs on the grill (marinated with yogurt and a few spices), snow peas, and brown rice.  It was the type of meal that makes you feel healthier with each bite.  I hope you can find some gobo and give this recipe a try, it’s a keeper…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Walnut Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

THREE YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

SECRET INGREDIENT TURKEY MEATBALLS

served22No worries, I won’t take my sweet time to divulge it.  The secret ingredient in the meatballs is… rolled oats!   And, I have one word for you:  WOW!  I loved their texture and taste, no way you can detect oats in them (not that there’s anything wrong with it… ;-)). They are soft and tender, very light and flavorful. The meat? Ground turkey, white meat only, not the mixture of 50/50 white and dark I normally go for. Ginger and lime tie it all together.  Smoked paprika adds some warmth.

TURKEY MEATBALLS WITH ROLLED OATS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by my niece Raquel)

1 to 1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey meat
1 egg white
1/2 cup dried quick oats
2 tsp grated ginger root
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
ketchup for brushing (optional)

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, then add all other ingredients.  Mix well with your hands,  but do not squeeze the meat too much.

With wet hands, form large balls and place them in a muffin tin or on a roasting pan covered with parchment paper.  Brush the surface with a little ketchup, if you want.  Cook the meatballs in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes, turning them midway through cooking time and brushing the top again with ketchup.  Serve them right away, or simmer gently in the sauce of your choice for 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here
IMG_1635

Comments:  I made these meatballs on a Saturday to freeze and enjoy later in the week.  I thought they would go well with plain rice and a simple salad.  But then, Phil saw them thawing in the fridge and got all happy about “spaghetti with meatballs”.  Some major change of gears was needed, so I prepared a simple tomato sauce with some orange zest added to it. Simmered the meatballs in it for a few minutes, cooked some whole wheat pasta, and we were all set. Unexpected fusion of east and west…

I must thank my niece Raquel  who raved about meatballs with oats and urged me to make them. A softer texture than breadcrumbs, they end up more like the traditional meatballs prepared with bread soaked in milk. But, of course, considerably lighter in terms of calories.  Next I will be adding rolled oats to my meatloaf, I bet it will be equally awesome!  And, by the way, feel free to add onions and garlic to your meatballs, by now those who follow my blog know that we use those ingredients sparingly.

ONE YEAR AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

TWO YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

THREE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

IN MY KITCHEN, APRIL 2013

Last time I joined this fun party initiated by Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial was…  June 2012.  Almost a full year!  I wanted to compose a post about our kitchen once we changed a few things around, but the harsh reality is that our home in Oklahoma is still in the market (can you detect some anxiety?)  so all the changes we’d like to make in our new home are on hold.  But, that doesn’t prevent me from highlighting a few things we have around…

In our kitchen…  (click to enlarge any of the photos)

spicesFinally a drawer that can hold all our precious spices! Or… almost all!.  A few are in the lower level, bay leaves, whole star anise, cinnamon sticks… but most players live together in this huge drawer.

rollpaperThe best ever kitchen paper holder…  I love it!  Until now I had those flimsy thingies that promise to hold the roll while you pull a  sheet, but instead you’ll end up with is 5 ft of paper hanging between you and the roll, most of it on the floor… Frustrating.  Not anymore, though.  The Polder Single Tear  does the job. Cannot recommend it enough – and yes, I read a ton of reviews online before getting it.

In our kitchen….  many very special gifts!

JapaneseSpicemixFrom a couple of new friends from California, a Japanese spice mix, Nanami Togarashi, that contains chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed.  It adds quite a kick to a marinade, and it can also be used as a dry rub on chicken, fish, even vegetables.  Stay tuned for a special recipe coming soon…

BrazilianPepperFrom Ivan, my former husband (and great friend),  a collection of pepper sauces from Brazil, made by a company called “Bravo”  (= Angry).   It gives you an idea of the level of heat of these babies!  Some include habanero peppers, others are made exclusively from peppers native from Brazil.

chocsauceFrom my virtual friend Marilyn, a regular contributor at the discussion forum eat.at, a chocolate sauce that can also be spooned out while cold to roll as incredibly tasty truffles!   The concoction, which she calls “chocolate dyslexic sauce” has a funny story associated with it; click here to read it. After a lot of tweaking, her final recipe can be found  here. I wish Marilyn would start blogging,  she is a fantastic cook and a hoot to boot!

figsFrom David, that superb baker at The Fresh Loaf Forum, a bag of the most delicious dried figs we ever had! They are from a company called Sierra Nut House.  Since in my post about David’s sourdough recipe I mentioned having to use dates for not finding good quality figs, he shipped a bag for me… Am I lucky or what?   Even though someone repeatedly attacked the bag, I had more than enough to make two loaves of his fig and walnut bread.  Recipe as posted earlier here, just substitute figs.photo(1)Verdict: better than dates. By a long shot.

macaroonsHome-made macaroons from a friend and colleague from KSU.  I often make long experiments involving repetitive and precise movements with radioactive iron.  Concentration is a must. Needless to say, by the time I’m done, I’m pretty exhausted.  Last week I crawled back to my office after one of these experiments, and found a cute little box with 5 perfect macaroons inside.  Again, am I lucky or what? They were amazing!  And… she shared the recipe. Now I wonder if I have what it takes to make a batch.  😉

PeanutScavengerIn our kitchen, Buck, the Peanut Scavenger Extraordinaire!  Whenever Phil starts shelling peanuts, Buck positions himself glued to him, and stares at the floor, ready to grab any piece of nut that might fly off.  He won’t blink, won’t look up, won’t make a sound.  Of course, every once in a while, peanuts are dropped “by accident”. Patience  does pay off.

and… in the room next door to the kitchen:

IMG_1698Chief, from the top of his more than 14 well-lived years, does what comes most naturally to him now…  Cuddles in a cozy corner, and dreams…..

… oblivious to his naughty young brother….
osky1osky2oskylaugh

Well, I hope you liked the little glimpse of our home…  Visit Celia’s site to see what goes on in many kitchens around the blogosphere!

ONE YEAR AGO: Thrilling Moments (CROISSANTS!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

CLEMENTINE CAKE

cake

Clementines will always remind me of my stepson Alex, as he and his Dad would sit together devouring a few of them after dinner or mid-afternoon on weekends. We made sure to keep a backup bag stored away, just in case.  In our neck of the woods, they are sold as cuties, a well-chosen name. This cake – made in the food processor – is supposed to be very easy.  Of course,  Sally + Cake = Drama.  But it  ended reasonably well, except for a burn on my right hand. Actually, two burns.  A sticky kitchen floor. And a major spill of orange extract.

served2

CLEMENTINE CAKE
(From Razzle Dazzle Recipes)

Cake:
3 clementines
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Icing:
1 clementine
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (I used orange extract, about 1/4 tsp)

Grease an 8-cup bundt pan. Peel clementines; cut into quarters. If there are seeds, remove them (they are normally seedless).  Process with sugar in food processor until smooth. Add butter, then eggs; processing after each addition until smooth.  Add flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt; process until combined. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan.

For icing: Grate and squeeze juice from clementine. In food processor, measure 1 teaspoon rind and 2 tablespoons juice; add butter, confectioners’ sugar and liqueur. Process until smooth. Drizzle over cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite

At some point I would like to be able to bake a cake smoothly. No bumps, no boo-boos.  In this particular case, the cake part went fine, except for the fact that since our oven is a perverse piece of equipment, I had to keep moving the pan around to try to cook it evenly.  Burned my hand twice in the process, touching the grids. I thought I was off the hook, and proceeded to make the icing.  Knowing how powdered sugar has a tendency to make a mess, I was extra careful measuring the first cup, and then, all confident in my flawless technique, grabbed the 1/3 measuring cup but the bag literally Poltergeisted on me!  Powdered sugar everywhere, counter, floor, rug, my shoes…   Truth be told, not the first time it happened, and I suspect it won’t be the last.  (sigh)  No time to clean then, just chased the dogs away, failing to  notice I had the bottle of orange extract already open next to the food processor.  I bumped it. Double mess to clean up, a sticky mixture of powdered sugar and orange extract.  Its smell lingered for a looong while…

Although I greased the pan well, some parts of the cake stuck while unmolding.  I went Zen, and carefully lifted the stuck parts, patching them nicely back on top of the cake.  I expected the icing to hide my poor baking skills.   That takes me to the icing part. Since I did not have orange liqueur and the orange extract seemed quite strong, I reduced the amount to 1/4 teaspoon.  Eyeballed a little water to compensate. It seemed too thick, so I added more water.  That was a mistake in judgment.  The icing ended up too thin and failed to cover the cut and paste job on the surface of the cake. It explains why you only see a close-up photo of my production… I may not know how to bake a perfect cake, but I can point the camera like a pro!  😉 Anyway, I took the cake to the department already sliced, so the boo-boos were less evident.

The cake has a very intense clementine flavor, if you like cakes that are not too sweet, this is a great option.  Of course, it does have a lot of sugar in it, but the clementine juice and zest comes through loud and clear.   A perfect cake to make graduate students happy.  And lots of staff and faculty members too…

served1

ONE YEAR AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

TWO YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

THREE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

WHOLE-WHEAT PASTA WITH LEMONY TOMATOES AND SPINACH

Every once in a while I read an article that excites me from the very first phrase. This essay on the state of restaurant dishes, from the latest issue of Bon Appetit, is one such piece.   It expresses  the sense of frustration I sometimes feel when we visit a nice restaurant and have a hard time finding a meal that’s not overly rich.  And that includes the salads!  😉 These days the safest option for a meal out – if we want to still feel great 4 hours later –  is a Japanese restaurant.  But, enough complaining, this pasta typifies the cooking we like the most.  Light in fat, full of flavor, and quick to put together!

served

WHOLE-WHEAT PASTA WITH LEMONY TOMATOES AND SPINACH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Whole-wheat spaghetti (enough for two people)
1 cup red grape tomatoes
1 cup yellow grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
zest and juice of 1 lemon
big bunch of baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Cut each tomato in half, place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, shaking the bowl to uniformly coat the tomatoes.  Spread them in a large baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 420F for 25-30 minutes, until their skin starts to develop a brown color, and they release liquid.  Reserve.

Boil salted water to cook the pasta. When the pasta is almost ready, transfer the roasted tomatoes to a sautée pan on medium-high heat, making sure to include all the liquid released during roasting.   Add the spinach, squeeze the juice of the lemon all over, and cover the pan until the spinach starts to wilt.

Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and add it to the spinach and tomato mixture.  Cook everything together for a couple of minutes, if needed add some of the pasta cooking water. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and right before serving add a very generous amount of lemon zest all over it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  We absolutely loved this pasta!  The lemon zest is a key ingredient, don’t skip it.   You’ll notice I didn’t add any garlic, onions, or herbs.  This dish is all about the tomatoes and spinach, with the intense citric tone in the background.  Phil and I were talking the other day about how we prefer food prepared in a simpler way.  Of course, if I’m making a curry I will need to grab a good number of spices, it’s part of the deal…  But, we find something pleasing about allowing the ingredients to shine, rather than the spices.  In this case, to savor the tomatoes, the spinach and the pasta itself.

This dish was simultaneously satisfying and light.  Next day it made for a wonderful lunch, and I even confess to eating it cold from the refrigerator…   Impromptu Pasta Salad!

ONE YEAR AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

TWO YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

THREE YEARS AGO: Memories of Pasteis (and my Dad)