Sunday, August 30, 2015

Provençal Tomato Wellington

I’ve been craving the summer pizzas I used to get in the south of France that are often called tomato tarts here.  We bought them at beach side patisseries, cut into square slabs and wrapped to go in waxy paper.  We ate them room--or rather beach—temperature.  The small Nicoise olives lent a saltiness that perfectly complimented the season's ripe tomatoes.

I stumbled across a simple tomato wellington recipe using Pepperidge Farm® puff pastry on their online recipe collection and thought that with a few extra ingredients this would satisfy my travel taste memory.  It turned out pretty close and makes a great vegetarian main entree or, if cut a little smaller, a nice side dish to grilled dinners. 

Now is the right time to make this dish.  Farmers markets are selling the last of the summer tomatoes on the cheap and their sweetness can stand up to oven roasting.  Later in the winter you can make Provençal Tomato Wellingtons with hardier Roma or plum tomatoes sliced in half and roasted low and slow to develop their sweetness. 

This recipe can be prepared through step 7 several hours ahead.  If you are having guests this is a nice option.  Goat cheese is used here but you can also use any soft cheese or a Swiss style (Gruyere for example).

Provençal Tomato Wellington
Serves 4

1 sheet puff pastry (about 8 ounces), defrosted
1 large beefsteak tomato
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence*
1 ounce goat cheese
4-6 black olives (Niçoise or oil cured work nicely)
2-3 anchovies (optional, but give it a try)
½ teaspoon capers

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Slice tomato in ½ inch slices.  Place on a lightly oiled sheet or pie plate and sprinkle with half the herbs de Provence and some salt and pepper.  
  2. Roast uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and have released much of their juice.  Set aside to cool.  
  3. Prepare pastry by placing on a floured board and rolling into a 12” square, cutting away any extra for another use.  Lay pastry onto a small sheet pan.  
  4. Crumble goat cheese over center of pastry, leaving a 1 inch edge at the top and bottom and 2-3 inches along the sides.  
  5. Cover cheese with cooked tomato slices.  Distribute olives, capers and anchovies over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle remaining herbs de Provence over filling.  
  6. Using a pastry brush or your finger, run a little water along the top and bottom edges of pastry.  Fold over one side of the pastry and seal edges.  Run a little more water along the long edge and fold over remaining side of pastry.  Use a knife to cut small slices through edges to ensure they are well sealed.  Next, make decorate slashes into pastry cutting through most of the pastry layers so it will puff nicely.  Cut through the pastry in several spots so that steam can escape during baking.  
  7. Cover wellington with loose plastic wrap and place sheet in refrigerator for at least half on hour (or up to several hours).  
  8. When ready to enjoy, preheat oven to 400˚F and remove plastic wrap from cold, unbaked tomato wellington.   At this stage you may brush some milk or a light egg wash over the top of the pastry to encourage browning.  
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is cooked through, crisped and golden-brown.  Remove wellington from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Slice into 3-inch slabs and serve over greens.  
They are also quite tasty cooled and served at room (or beach) temperature. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cucumber Rice Milk Soup

This is a heat wave two-fer.  Make a simple cucumber-dill yogurt dip on night one then enjoy a cold soup the following day.  No need to even look at the stove. 

Cucumber Rice Milk Soup

For the dip (feeds a small crowd):
3 small cucumbers, 3-4 inches long (or one regular cucumber, peel if waxed)
2 cups plain yogurt, drained
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

For the soup (serves 2):
1 cup cucumber dip
1 cup rice milk

  1. To make the dip, slice cucumbers very thin.
  2. Fold into drained yogurt and add dill, salt and pepper. 
  3. Serve with warmed pita, vegetable sticks and other dippers. 

  1. To make the soup
  2. Mix equal parts leftover dip with rice milk. 

How to Drain Yogurt
You can use a Greek-style yogurt for this recipe but if you have some wonderful real whole milk yogurt, it is easy to drain it quickly for the recipe.  Use a coffee strainer/filter placed over a bowl.  For 1 1/2 cups drained yogurt, add 1 3/4 to 2 cups yogurt. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. If you do not have a coffee filter, use a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a paper towel.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Beet and Pepita Salad

Beet salads have been featured here before.  Every summer the heirloom varieties come to farmers markets and August is a great time to celebrate these special vegetables again.  These beets are generally milder than their dark red cousins, the ones seen most of the year.  If you want to try beets out on your family, now is the perfect time.

Wrap them in aluminum foil, roast them in a very hot oven (450˚F) and test with a fork after 30-45 minutes.  Larger ones will take longer.  Wait a few minutes then peel easily to reveal their inner beauty.

Keep it simple.  Serve sliced beets with some goat cheese and toasted pepitas over bibb lettuce. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Good Morning California! Croissant Avocado French Toast

California cousins inspired this Good Morning California! Croissant Avocado French Toast filled with savory ingredients including bacon, cheddar cheese and fresh summer tomatoes.  Slices of avocado as garnish signal the west coast nod.  Thanks to croissants being available in most supermarkets, you can make this simple baked french toast on either coast.

It's summertime and no one wants the kitchen to get too hot so we baked this pie-plate recipe in a toaster oven.  The dish serves two to four people so if you are making this for a brunch crowd, bake three of four using a regular oven. 

As with most baked bread puddings and quiches, this very likely keeps well and can be reheated or served room temperature with a side salad.  Sadly, we have no leftovers remaining to help us test the theory.

Good Morning California! Croissant French Toast
Serves 2-4

2 large croissants, split horizontally
1 teaspoon vegetable oil to oil pie plate
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
salt & pepper
3 slices cooked bacon
1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 sliced tomato
1/2 avocado

  1. Toast split croissants on lightest setting to help dry out the centers.
  2. Meanwhile, oil 9" pie plate. 
  3. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
  4. Lay toasted croissants, face up, in pie plate.  
  5. Mix together eggs, milk, sat & pepper.  Pour over croissants.  Use a fork to ensure egg custard mixture moistens all crevices of bread.  Let dish sit at least 15 minutes (covered and refrigerated overnight is OK too).
  6. Break apart bacon and tuck in between croissants.  Lay tomato sliced in a nice pattern as top layer.  
  7. Bake dish for 20-30 minutes at 325˚F until egg custard is slightly puffed and beginning to brown on top.  Check the center with a knife to ensure that the egg custard has cooked through.  
  8. Let rest five minutes.  While dish is resting top with avocado slices.