Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Fennel and Red Bell Pepper Tartlet

prosciutto chevre fennel red bell pepper tartlet, savory tart recipe, cooking, recipe, baking, maine windjammer

“Summer’s here!” proclaimed my youngest daughter several years ago as she climbed into bed full of satisfaction that she was without the need to set her alarm in preparation for another day of school. The time for formal education had come to a close for the year. The structure and the rhythm of a school year released into the dreamier, looser days of summer, opening up the unstructured, but no less important, time of summer discovery and adventure.

At least that’s what we think summer should be – one big adventure. My memories of summer, on the other hand, are like a jigsaw puzzle of moments of boredom interspersed with swimming, reading, and capture the flag which then circled back around to boredom. I lost myself in books time and time again, then would leave that imaginary world for another by the creek or in the swimming pool and then onward to a game of capture the flag. Back to listless ennui and the cycle repeated itself.

As I look back on my childhood and compare a similar rhythm to my own children’s summer days, I don’t regret that boredom.  From those moments of lethargy came inspiration and imagination.  As my girls grew, I was privileged to witness the same transformation in them.  And what came after boredom was always full of creativity and fun.

Just as the schedule of summer loosens and becomes more elastic and flexible, what we eat and how we prepare it does too. The structure of recipes and needing meals to be on time and planned around family schedules relaxes. The found treasures of the farmer’s markets turn into impromptu salads, pastas, pizzas, grilled anything or… tartlets.

This is the time of year to be playful and creative with your time and your meals. Enjoy both!

Prosciutto, Chèvre, Fennel, and Red Bell Pepper Tartlet
While this dish is delicious with the fennel and red pepper, the sky is really the limit when it comes to the meat, cheese, and vegetables that you use. Substitute some Genoa salami, an aged cheddar, spinach, and spring onions OR bacon, Parmesan, zucchini, and tomatoes OR grilled chicken, mozzarella, and pea shoots OR strips of salmon, farmer’s cheese, fresh corn, and cherry tomatoes…. Play with what you find from the farmer’s market or what you have leftover in the refrigerator from another meal.

Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
9 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice cold water

Filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced fennel; about 1/2 bulb
2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper, seeded and cored; about 1 pepper
1 cup thinly sliced onion; about 1 small onion
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
4 ounces crumbled chèvre; about 1 cup
3 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about ¼ cup lightly packed

Crust
In a food processor pulse flour, salt, and butter. Add the egg yolk and water and pulse until combined. If the mixture is too dry, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time until it forms a ball. Remove from processor, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When ready, dust the surface of the counter with flour and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. Press into an 11-inch tart pan. Cover with parchment paper and beans or pie beads and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden brown. Meanwhile prepare the filling. When the crust is done, remove from oven, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, and add the filling mixtures beginning with the fennel and then the chèvre. Lay the prosciutto slices on top and sprinkle with thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese.

Filling
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the fennel, peppers, onions, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and pliable, about 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, mash the chèvre with a fork and add the eggs one at a time incorporating each time until there are few if any lumps in the mixture. Add the half and half and mix well.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the center is just barely cooked and still wiggly. Serve hot or room temperature.

Serves 6

Annie
Get bored, then get creative

Seared Salmon and Arugula Salad with Lime Crema

Snap.  The weather turned ever so slightly warmer and now all I want is salad for dinner.  With protein.

A trip to our local fish monger, Jess’s Market, solved that healthy problem and not that long after, dinner was on the table.  While I was waiting my turn to be served, another customer had some curiosity about how to cook the beautiful shad roe resting in the display case like ruby jewels.  Sharon, one of the owners, shared a couple of Maine ways it’s often prepared.  One being to par-boil it and then sauté the slices in bacon fat.  We then started talking about chives and garlic chives shooting up in the garden and how a little lemony beurre blanc flavored with one or both would go great with shad roe and some greens.  With capers maybe.  Hmmm, I may have to go back and get some shad roe for this recipe floating around in my head.

You’ll notice that this recipe calls for reusing the same pan several times.  Reusing the pan is something that happens a lot in my kitchen.  Rather than dirtying 5 pans and creating a mountain of clean up, rinsing a pan between uses is a simple way to make light duty of the dishes once dinner is finished (Jon loves me for this).  This is especially true when the flavors will compliment each other and are all going into the same dish in any case.

Simple, simple, simple.  My favorite.  Also, side note, I used my new favorite olive oil, a l’Olivier, from Maine Street Meats to drizzle on the salad.

Seared Salmon Arugula Salad with Lime Crema
2 (6 to 8 ounce) skin on salmon fillets
several pinches kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 ounces arugula, about 4 cups lightly packed
1/2 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
zest from 1 lime; about 1 teaspoon (for both sour cream and arugula)
juice from 1 lime; about 3 tablespoons (for both sour cream and arugula)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 roma tomatoes, quartered
2 ears of corn with corn removed
1 (16-ounce) can black beans
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves

Sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Add the arugula to a medium salad bowl and using a spoon, scoop small pieces of avocado onto the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Toss to combine.

Combine the sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in a small bowl. Set aside for garnish.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the 2 salmon fillets, skin side down. When the salmon is cooked half way through, about 5 minutes, turn carefully and cook the second side for another 4 minutes. Remove the salmon from the pan when it is still dark pink in the center and set aside on a platter or cutting board. Clean the pan and return it to medium-high heat.

Add grapeseed oil to the pan and add the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and sear until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to the edges of the salad bowl and return the pan to the heat. Add the corn and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and transfer to the salad bowl as well.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet over medium heat and add the black beans, bring to simmer and set aside. Serve with the salad and the salmon. Garnish with the sour cream and cilantro.

Serves 2

Annie
Happy, healthy dinner (and one still creating in my head)

French Apple Cake – I Wouldn’t Change a Thing!

Most of the time when I follow a baking recipe, I have to change something.  It might be the extract or the zest or the alcohol or the fruit that I change, but I must change something.  When I made this recipe, for some reason, I just followed like a sheep in a herd and I’m so glad I did.  It’s lovely.  It’s delicious.  With coffee, with tea, by itself.  I’m a fan.

IMG_9873-001a

French Apple Cake
Published September 1, 2012,  Cook’s Illustrated.
Serves 8 to 10

The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again. If Calvados is unavailable, 1 tablespoon of apple brandy or white rum can be substituted.
Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon Calvados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with Calvados and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.
3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.

Annie
This is me, not changing a thing

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup

Farmer Tom from Hope’s Edge delivered gorgeous fronds of leeks to me in early May last year – not nearly far enough into the growing season to have them as large as they were.  But these leeks were special.  They’d been heeled in and over-wintered under a deep layer of straw.

Spring pulled Leeks

When we had a bumper crop of King Richard leeks last fall, I decided to give it a try.  Who knows, right?  As E and I tromped out to the garden to take a look, I could see bits of brown stem poking through the straw and I wasn’t sure they’d made it.  Our property is windy and the deep bed of straw had been partially blown off – by all those blizzards this winter.  But some stuck and that was enough!  While I couldn’t make a stock out of the tips, I was  sure I could use the tender white and lime green parts closer to the roots.

This recipe used up the rest of the watercress from a batch of local cress which I wrote about in the Maine Ingredient – Creamy Potato and Watercress Soup.  Similar, to this soup, but creamier and more elegant.

Potato, Leek & Watercress Soup by Annie Mahle

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups diced onions; about 1/2 a large onion
4 cups diced leeks; about 5 medium leeks
6 cups white potatoes, quartered and sliced thinly; about 4 potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups lightly packed watercress leaves and stems, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup cream fraiche

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onions, leeks, salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and white wine and bring to a simmer.  Add the broth and bring to a simmer again.  Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to break apart slightly, about another 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the watercress.  Serve immediately with a dollop of cream fraiche on top.

Serves 4 to 6