Monday, June 3, 2013

Strawberry Tart

Ingredients: all-purpose flour, organic egg yolk, organic sugar, honey, heavy cream, vanilla extract, raw almonds, fresh organic strawberries

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Happy June! Summer is upon us. Which means strawberries are here! I'm on a big tart kick lately because they really highlight the fruit that you end up using for the topping. The fruit is the scene-stealer, so it's really crucial you use the freshest fruit in season. I found in a lot of other fruit tart recipes that strawberry tarts tend to be paired with creamy or cheesy custard-y fillings. 

For this tart, I stayed away from the heavy dairy filling and went back to the honey-based filling I used in my Apricot Tarte. This was not only a lot easier, but much quicker! I also used a simple syrup to help set the strawberries onto the pre-baked tart and really stick into the filling. It's necessary to blind bake the shell first, then add some toasted crushed/chopped almonds, and pour in the topping. I baked it for a final time, for about 30 minutes and allowed it to cool completely before arranging the strawberries.

The strawberries should be trimmed according to however you would like to arrange them on top of the tart. I saw other versions with sliced strawberries laid out in a line, within a rectangular tart pan (so elegant!), so you can get creative at this step and definitely get your kids involved!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Apricot Tarte


Pâte Sucrée (crust) - unbleached all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, egg yolk, sugar

Filling - organic apricots, whipping cream, honey, vanilla extract, almond extract, raw almonds, confectioner's sugar

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This tarte will make any home baker look like a pro in an instant. It looks so gorgeous and it truly is pretty effortless. The apricots do all the work for you. The key is really to get good quality apricots from either your best markets or local farmers. The season is still very early, so the apricots I used for this particular tarte turned out pretty tart and tangy. Although, super ripe, mushy apricots should not be used as they will not hold well in the oven.

You are look for firm, bright orange apricots (no green!) and these should do the trick. The pâte sucrée does take some work, but your food processor can do most of the mixing for you. The raw dough will be very crumbly, similar to a graham cracker crust which can be pressed into the tarte pan with your fingers. This dough will come out slightly different than a standard pie dough and is more similar to a cookie consistency (as opposed to a flaky pie crust consistency).

A french tarte pan with a removable bottom is of course a must! It's necessary to blind bake the crust first before adding the filling, lining the bottom of the tarte with ground almonds beforehand to keep the bottom of the tarte from getting soggy. After about 15 minutes, remove the empty tarte shell (do not unmold yet!) and add the filling and top with the halved and pitted apricots.

You can find a similar recipe here if you want to try this at home (inspired by the petit café à Paris qui s'appelle Verlet).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad w/ Farro



Salad - sweet potato, farro, Italian parsley, fresh organic garlic

Lemon Anchovy Vinaigrette - freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, anchovies, fresh organic garlic, kosher salt, black pepper, Italian parsley

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Of course you can omit the anchovies for anyone on the fence about the flavor; although I stand by them! It adds a great depth of flavor to the vinaigrette and of course the salad. Again, after giving it a whiz in the food processor, the vinaigrette is completely emulsified and super tangy, refreshing, and yummy.

A friend of mine made a version of this sweet potato salad at a bbq last summer and I adapted her recipe to include farro. It helps had texture and soaks up the flavor of the vinaigrette to make it taste surprisingly light. I was on the hunt for some good farro recently, but found a place that sold it bulk, which cost an arm and a leg. Good ole Trader Joe's sells farro now, in a small blue bag, and you cook it just like pasta. Pour in the grain in a pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 10-12 minutes. Rinse well with cold water and chill before combining with sweet potatoes.

The sweet potatoes are really straight forward to roast. Peel with a veggie peeler and throw on a baking sheet with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees for about 40 mins. They caramelize beautifully and come out tasting sooo sweet and sugary. Chill overnight. After both the farro and the potatoes are cool, combine with the garlic and the chopped parsley and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Again, this is a great side dish to accompany a meat-y bbq and a healthy alternative to old fashioned potato salad!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cantaloupe + Lime Agua Fresca


 Ingredients: one whole cantaloupe (aka rockmelon), lime juice, water

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Agua fresca is my go-to refresher as the weather gets warmer or when I'm craving something non-alcoholic, not caffeinated, and easy to make. This is a really versatile drink that can be made with pretty much any fruit you want, or whatever you're in the mood for! (or whatever's in season)

For this one, I peeled a whole cantaloupe, removed the seeds, and whizzed it in the blender with about 1 cup of water and the juice of one lime. The mixture will be foamy, but don't worry - you will need a fine mesh strainer for this to strain out all the chunky bits and reserve only the concentrated juice. It's important to use a fine mesh strainer, or sieve, for this. A regular strainer or colander will NOT work. 

Depending on the fruit, you may have to run it through the sieve twice. This is the step where it can get a little messy, but then it gets super easy! All you need to do at this point is add one more cup of water, shake it up, and it's ready. You can add sweetener or simple syrup to taste; but usually, if using seasonal fruits, you won't need to! This one, for instance, I added the juice of an extra lime to give it an extra tartness.

Served best over ice with sugar (or salt, depending on the fruit) rimmed glasses.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mixed Berry Protein Smoothie w/ Flax Seeds

 Ingredients: organic strawberries, raspberries, and boysenberries, Greek 0% Fage yogurt, juice of one organic naval orange, cracked flax seeds

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Smoothies made at home are possibly the quickest and most convenient meal you could make. Literally pop everything into a blender, give it a whiz, and you're all set. This smoothie, especially, is so filling and packed with vitamin c, fiber, and protein, that it's perfect for a post-workout refresher. I have it for breakfast when I'm in a rush, plus the Greek yogurt is so loaded with protein that it gets me through to lunch.

If you're not a fan of mixed berries, this smoothie could really go with any fruit of your liking. The flax seeds are pretty fragrant, so I like to pour it about 2 tablespoons (max) - it gives it a really nutty, earthy flavor. Depending on how thick you like your smoothies, you can adjust the orange juice accordingly.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chomping Ground // Delirio Monica Patiño, Mexico City, MX

Delirio Monica Patiño
Monterrey 116
Colonia Roma
Mexico City, Mexico (centro)
+55 5584 0870

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This was one of our first stops during our stay in Mexico City and possibly one of the more charming (and trendy) little gourmet eateries nestled on a corner in the middle of Colonia Roma. Snagging an outdoor table here is usually impossible, but inside doesn't disappoint!

Stepping in you're greeted with a bit of the usual suspects when it comes to decor: subway tile, reclaimed wood tables, concrete floors, and chalkboard menus. The one bit that was a nice surprise, was that some of the tables were actually reclaimed sewing tables (with the inverted, built-in sewing machines removed).

There's a beautiful bread station, with various freshly baked artisan breads for sale and nearby, a beautiful larder of jams, marmalades, and chutneys. The main deli case holds a huge variety of pastries and desserts, next to another case holding a myriad of charcuterie and cheese selections. A few memorable bites I had were the buffalo mozzarella and the prosciutto and figs - plus their olive oil is to die for! (available for sale)

There definitely is something for everyone here, if you're a little nervous of trying the Mexican palette on your first day. Tons of Italian and Spanish-inspired dishes, sandwiches, cold salads, pizzas, and of course, an entire bar filled with varieties of agua fresca!


Spanish Chopped Salad w/ Tuna + Pimentón Chick Peas


Salad - butter lettuce, canned tuna, flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chick peas, Spanish pimentón, kosher salt, red pepper flakes

Spanish dressing - membrillo (quince paste), red wine vinegar, anchovy, anchovy oil, olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper

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This is such a super flavorful Spanish salad that's protein-packed and incredibly refreshing. Perfect for a quick lunch or a late dinner, I love this recipe, especially the dressing. I was always one to use only lemon juice-based dressings on ALL my salads, making them all taste the same. It got boring, to say the least.  The food processor is your best friend when it comes to dressings, and this one can keep in a jar for about a week. 

The membrillo paste adds sweetness, the red wine vinegar adds tang, and the anchovy adds the salty bite (and not fishy at all, trust me!). Anchovies are the best-kept secret when it comes to salads and my go-to secret ingredient. Plus, it's healthier than just plain salt.

The toasted chick peas add another depth of flavor to this recipe as they're pretty much drenched in Spanish pimentón, or, a smoked Spanish paprika, with olive oil and salt. Toast these up in the oven for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees and your whole kitchen will smell like Spain! Another alternative to pimentón is to use regular paprika with a dash of cayenne - this will definitely do the trick.

Recipe can be found in Ms. Paltrow's latest and greatest It's All Good. (shut up, haters!)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, sugar, unsalted butter, organic eggs, vanilla extract, semisweet chocolate chips

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There's no better way to ring in the summer season than with a decadent triple chocolate chip cookie! I was always a fan of these melty chocolate cookies that are soft and gooey on the inside, but a little crunchy on the outside. The best thing about this cookie recipe is that even when it cools, it tastes pretty much how it does when it comes right out of the oven.

The key to all chocolate recipes, of course, is the double-boiler: melting the chocolate in a bowl which is set over a pot of boiling water (not touching the water). The idea is to evenly disperse the heat, warming the chocolate very slowly, so that it doesn't char or burn. If you've ever tried melting chocolate in the microwave, you'll get why the double-boiler method is the only way to go.

The recipe is a bit involved, with a couple extra steps, but definitely worth it. You literally introduce chocolate three times to the batter, thus earning the "Triple-Chocolate" title. Both wet and dry elements of the recipe are folded into one another - a bit of a delicate process which is key to yielding an airy yet chewy cookie.

Also, lining your baking sheet with parchment paper is a must, or else you'll end up with a chocolate flavored baking sheet! 

The best thing about these cookies are being able to eat them with pretty much everything and anything: milk (of course) and my favorite, ice cream sandwiches (whose possibilities of flavors are endless).

You can find the recipe here, thanks to Bon Appétit Magazine.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Tart w/ Bourbon Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream


Pâte Sucrée tart crust - egg yolk, unsalted butter, sugar, all-purpose flour, kosher salt

Filling - toasted chopped pecans, whole raw pecans, vanilla bean, unsalted butter, sugar, dark and light corn syrup, kosher salt, eggs, dark chocolate

Whipped Cream - Bulleit Bourbon, crème fraîche, heavy cream

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Happy Thanksgiving! As usual, Bon Appétit Magazine never fails me. Inspired by the beautiful photograph of this tart in the November issue, I thought I'd take a stab at this recipe for dessert this year - it turned out just as delicious as it looks. Not a recipe for the faint of heart, as it took a few hours (not including chilling time), but worth the effort. It was the perfect finish to a great Thanksgiving meal and upstaged my pumpkin pie this year.

This was my first venture into tart territory and was a bit nervous having to work with a different crust entirely from pie crust, and then nerve wrackingly un-molding it from the outer scallop tart mold. I compared a few recipes for the pate sucree, a sweetened, cookier version of a pie crust. This dough is more crumbly, less flaky, and would also be great for thumbprint or sugar cookies. The only difference with this, is the addition of sugar and egg yolks, but some recipes also add milk or cream. I used Alice Waters's recipe for this tart, as she's my go-to guru for all things food; she suggested using ice cold water as the combining agent for the dough. The tricky part is always rolling out the dough (after chilling overnight); I needed to add a bit more water and work the dough for a few minutes with my hands to reactivate the gluten just slightly, so it could be more malleable when rolling out - otherwise it would've just crumbled into a pile of flour on my board.
I then chopped and toasted/roasted some raw pecans in the oven for about 10 minutes, although it could've gone a bit longer. Remember to chop these pieces up fairly small, as they will line the bottom of the tart. A food processor would be great to use at this step - I wish I used one! While these are in the oven, chop up the dark chocolate into really small, irregular pieces. Don't use the food processor for the chocolate, as it will cause the chocolate to form into little round balls, which don't melt as nicely once baked. 

While the chopped pecans were cooling, I started working on the (very sugary) filling. The mixer did all the work; you first combine the sugar (I reduced this to 1/2 cup instead of 1 whole cup) and both corn syrups, then the eggs and salt. Using the whisk attachment folded a lot of air into this mixture, allowing it to be silky and creamy and easy to pour.

When assembling the tart the dry ingredients are arranged first, with the chopped pecans at the bottom of the unbaked tart shell (no blind baking for this one), then sprinkling the chopped chocolate for the second layer. The fun part is arranging the whole raw pecans in concentric circles over the top of the chocolate layer, giving way to a decorative and festive presentation. (This is a good step to get your kids involved in!)

After the whole pecans are placed, transfer the tart onto your baking sheet and carefully pour the sugar/corn syrup mixture evenly over all the pecans, until the tart shell is filled. I would work as nearest to your oven as possible at this step, so you won't have to carry a filled tart shell across the kitchen! Carefully transfer into the preheated oven, with the rack in the middle. After about 50 minutes or so, you can check on the tart to see if the filling has set yet. My trick is to just pull out the rack, and if the filling jiggles too much, it's not done yet. It will be firm to touch and the top will be a nice light golden brown.
Serve with some chilled Bourbon Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream, which goes perfectly with the tart (no sugar in the cream, so it balances nicely). This is also great for breakfast the next morning, with some coffee - if there's any left over.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake w/ Buttermilk Icing


Ingredients: unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt, canned pumpkin, buttermilk, vanilla extract, granulated sugar, confectioner's sugar, eggs

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I've made this cake at least a few times now and it's a hit every time. It's by far, my favorite cake for fall and gets you in the perfect mood for Thanksgiving. It's pumpkin-y, cinnamon-y, and all things great. The cake is very dense and so yummy with pretty much anything warm to drink (coffee, tea, mulled wine, apple cider, whiskey, etc.).  It is very easy if you're confident with your baking skills; it's just a multi-step process that yields a longer prep time - but it's worth it!

I've done variants on the icing/frosting - once with a cream cheese whipped frosting and this time, with a thinner buttermilk icing. Both are great, depending on the occasion. Icing the cake with the buttermilk icing is more dramatic, but can be very messy (although the icing hardens slightly after about 10 minutes). The cream cheese frosting makes for a much richer cake; perfect for birthdays. 

Find the recipe here, at

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Winter Carrot-Apple Soup

Ingredients: medium-large carrots, fuji apple, garlic, vegetable stock, nutmeg, allspice, kosher salt, black pepper

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Allspice is possibly my favorite dry spice for the fall/winter season; it makes everything more earthy, fragrant, and savory all at the same time. I wish I came up with this allspice/soup pairing all on my own, but I was browsing for a different rendition of a carrot soup and stumbled upon this one.

I altered it slightly (omitted the apple juice concentrate and fresh mint, added garlic) and was pretty happy with it. The soup is incredibly filling and hearty and perfect if you're nursing a cold. The carrot and apple pairing makes the soup nice and thick, with a subtle hint of sweetness that balances perfectly with the nutmeg and allspice. Using the organic fresh produce definitely helped add to the sweetness, texture, and color of the soup; for some reason, non-organic carrots render dark yellow and watery soups for me - not sure if anyone else has had this problem.

It's served best with some raw apples and carrots which help add texture and crunch to the soup; also good topped with freshly grated parmesan or some garlic croutons.