Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cherry Tomato Crostata

You know, there was a time I was obsessed with Martha Stewart. I loved her and I wanted to be like her. I watched her shows and subscribed to her magazine. I only got rid of the magazines a few years ago, and that's only because my mother was cleaning out her basement and came upon them and didn't want to keep them any more. I don't blame her. I don't know when was the last time I looked through them. Probably 15 years ago.

Anyway, it was during this time in my twenties, that I decided I wanted to perfect the fruit pie. Crust and all. Especially the crust. You see, Martha was baking these beautiful pies that were made from scratch and used fruit that she grew herself on Turkey Hill in Conneticut. Go figure! So I was making and baking pies practically every week. And I think after a few months, I did perfect the pie...I also gained 20 pounds but whatever, I made beautiful pies.

So then I spent my thirties trying to lose the twenty pounds, which meant I stopped making pies. I still make a pie here and there but my crust is not nearly as perfect as it used to be. But I don't mind.

When I came upon this recipe for tomato pie, it called for a crust made from scratch. I debated whether to make it or use an already prepared crust from the frozen section in the grocery store. Ultimately the grocery store won. Martha would be very disappointed. Oh well.

I doubled this recipe because I had a lot of cherry tomatoes from my garden.

Cherry Tomato Crostata
makes one 9inch pie

1 prepared pie crust, thawed
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (optional)
5 1/2 cups grated provolone or fontina cheese
1/2 cup mayo

Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix the cheese, basil and mayo. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Top with the cherry tomatoes and press down. Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

m xo

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cucumber and Nectarine Salad

Sometimes all you need are a couple of ingredients to make a really good dish, especially this time of year. As you know, my garden is coming to end and I just picked the last of my cucumbers. I was really surprised how much my plant yielded this year. At one point, I had to bring a few to work to my co-workers because we couldn't keep up. We were having cucumber salads for lunch and dinner everyday, but I'm not complaining. They were delicious!

The farmers markets and the grocery stores are exploding with Ontario grown produce. I love it! I bought a huge basket of nectarines and made this dead simple cucumber and nectarine salad.

I peeled my cucumbers because the type that I grew had pinchy little things on them. I usually don't peel the English variety. I used nectarines but you can use peaches.

Cucumber and Nectarine Salad   

2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2-3 nectarines, sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced
3 tablespoons  rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
7-8 mint leaves, chopped

Combine everything in a large bowl. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.

m xo

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Chicken Saltimbocca

Saltimbocca means, "jumps in the mouth" in Italian. It's a traditional Roman dish made with thinly, pounded veal that is lined with prosciutto and topped with a piece of sage. I made it with chicken but you can also make it with pork. Your choice of meat needs to be thin because if it is too thick, the side with the prosciutto and sage would burn because it would take too long to cook. If you don't want to do it yourself, you can buy chicken cutlets. But I highly recommend you do it yourself. It's super easy and a lot more economical. What? Did I just say that?...We do become our mothers. Hahaha!!!

I was inspired to make this dish because the sage bush in my garden is huge! I want to use as much as I can from my garden. I can slowly see that everything is coming to end and that makes me very sad.

Chicken Saltimbocca

2 chicken breasts
4 slices prosciutto
8 sage leaves
Olive oil

Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with cling film. Using a rolling pin or something heavy, pound out until they are thin. You can cut them into pieces if they too big. Pepper each side. Lay a piece of prosciutto on each piece of chicken and top with a sage leaf or two. Secure with a toothpick.
Heat olive oil in a pan and add chicken in a single layer, prosciutto side down and cook until brown. With a spatula, carefully turn over and cook until brown. It should only take a minute. You want the sage to be intact. Serve.

m xo

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Italian Plum Cake

Boy, for someone who doesn't like to bake too much, I just noticed, I bake a lot!! I never realized how much I baked until I started writing this blog. I mean, as long as the recipe isn't too complicated, like this one, I quite enjoy it...or at least the results of it!

I wanted to bake something our 7th wedding anniversary. Although who needs an excuse for cake, right? And I love anything with fruit and with the little purple plums in season now, I couldn't resist.

I adapted this recipe from Nigella Lawson's, "Nigellissima" cookbook. It called for apples but I obviously used plums and instead of topping the cake with sugar, I crushed a couple of amaretti cookies and sprinkled the cake before baking. I also cut down the sugar by 1/4 cup. As much as I like sweets, I'm not a fan of overly sweet. This was perfect! I can't wait to have another piece in the morning with my coffee.

Italian Plum Cake
adapted from Nigellissima, by Nigella Lawson

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
Zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature (I used almond milk)
4 plums, pitted and sliced
2 amaretti cookies, crushed, or
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan and line with parchment paper.
In a food processor, put the butter, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract and blitz until it forms a thick batter. With the motor still running, pour the milk down the funnel.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan and smooth out. Arrange the plums in a pretty pattern on top of the cake batter and sprinkle with the crushed amaretti or the sugar/cinnamon.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for an hour in pan before serving.

m xo

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Caprese Salad

My garden is on its last legs. Even though the tomato, pepper, celery and cucumber plants are still producing, the plants are starting to wither, even with all the watering. I always forget, year to year, how quickly summer goes. It's amazing!

We have been having tomatoes, every night, in many combinations, including this classic salad.

Caprese is a traditional Italian salad made with tomatoes and mozzarella that I'm sure you've had many times. It's a standard in every Italian restaurant. This time of year, of course is the best time to have this. I added cantaloup because, well, as I'm sure you know by now, I have a sweet tooth and I try to incorporate any sweetness, any way I can.

Real simple here. Tomatoes, preferably heirloom, fior di latte, cantaloup and basil. Doesn't get any better than this.

Caprese Salad

Fior di latte
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Layer the tomatoes, cantaloup, fior di latte and basil on a platter. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

m xo

Friday, 29 August 2014

Peach Crostata

I bake because I want the end result. I love my sweets. I have a huge sweet tooth. That's no surprise here, It's not a secret. But the thing is, I'm not that great at it. It's really not my thing. I have no patience with the little details when it comes to baking. So it was no surprise when I made this crostata, brought it to a family function and my sister (the baker) started to kill herself laughing.

The recipe calls for using 3/4 of the dough to use as the base and the other 1/4 of the dough to make decorative ropes and top the crostata. Well as you can see from the photo, you can understand why my sister laughed. Hahaha. I can't blame her. It looked funny. I don't know what I was thinking with those ropes...Well, I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking I was too lazy to get my rolling pin  and roll out the dough to make lattice, like you see on a lot of pies and crostatas.

But I will tell you, this crostata was delicious! Not overly sweet and easy to put together. Please don't let the look of it deter you from making it. The only thing I would do differently is sprinkle LOTS of powdered sugar on cover up the obvious!!! Hahahahaha!

Peach Crostata
makes one 9 inch crostata
use a pan with removable bottom

1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or extract
2 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup peach jam
2-3 peaches, sliced

Preheat oven to 350F.
Place flour on a work surface and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the salt, sugar and baking powder and add the lemon zest.

Crack the eggs in the well and using your finger, stir them in to break up the eggs and start incorporating the dry ingredients. Then add the butter and the vanilla and keep stirring until the dough starts to come together. Knead gently until it is smooth.

Take a 1/4 quarter of the dough and set aside for the lattice. Pat the remaining dough into the pie pan and push the edges of the dough about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan to create the crust.

Spoon the jam into onto the crust and spread evenly. Lay the peach slices on top. Take the remaining dough and decorate the pie however you like. Either roll out and make lattice or as I did and pinch off pieces, roll into ropes and place on pie. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for an hour before cutting into it.

Happy Labour Day weekend!
m xo

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blossoming Zucchini Pie

I had a little helper today. My niece Ella again. Thankfully she loves being in the kitchen just as much as I do, so when she is around and can spare a few minutes away from her iPad, she comes over to help with the chopping and stirring.

Today we decided to make zucchini pie because I had a few zucchini laying around from my moms garden (we didn't grow any this year). She also gave me a HUGE bag of zucchini blossoms (flowers), so I decided to use them in the pie also. But this totally optional as I know that they are hard to find. I, myself have gone to the farmers market down the street from me on a few occasions and they were sold out. I need to get there as soon as they open, which is like 7:30 in the morning. And well, I never did that. The flowers aren't really nessessary for this, I just think they make it look pretty. Lol.

To prepare the flowers, if you are using them, cut the bottoms off and split the flower lengthwise to remove the little pistil in the middle. Depending on how many you have, leave 5-6 to decorate the top of the pie and chop up the rest for the filling.

I normally make a frittata in a pan, but decided to change it up a bit by baking it a quiche baking dish. I sautéed the zucchini and an onion and mixed it in with eggs, a bit of cream, some herbs and cheese of course. I used Compte because, well, thats what I had. You can substitute Gruyere or mozzarella.

This dish is really nice because it can be served at room temperature, which means it can be made ahead of time. Great for brunch!

Zucchini Pie

Butter, to grease baking dish
Bread crumbs, to coat dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini
1 medium red onion, chopped
6 eggs
1/4 cup half and half cream
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
2 cups Compte cheese, grated
12 zucchini blossoms or flowers, totally optional
Salt for the zucchini

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and coat a 12 inch, round baking dish. Set aside.
Place the sliced zucchini in a colander and salt liberally. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the zucchini and the chopped onion. Cook until soft. Set aside and let cool. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream, parsley, herbs de provence, cheese and half the zucchini flowers, if using. Add the cooled zucchini mixture and pour in baking dish. Place 5-6 of the flowers decoratively on top and drizzle a little olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes until golden or a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

m xo