Apple Tart

Apple Tart 

Recently I made an apple tart that I really liked.  It wasn’t too sweet and the thin layer of apples made for a great balance of crust and filling.  Another reason why I like the tart format is because it is less indulgent than a piece of pie, because there is a little less crust and filling.  Aside from the time it takes to peel the apples, the tart came together very quickly.  This is a pretty adaptable recipe so if you want it more or less sweet, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar.

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Ingredients 

Crust

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 c butter (1 stick), cubed
1/4 c cold water

Filling

4-5 Granny Smith or other Tart Apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbl of brown sugar
1 tbl of butter, cut in pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Topping

4 tbl butter, cubbed
3/4 c flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Flakey sea salt
Method 

Start with the crust.  I cube the butter first, then, put it in a bowl and stick it in the freezer while I measure out the other ingredients.  It won’t freeze while it hangs out there for a few minutes, but it will stay nicely chilled.  Next, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the butter and either with your hands, a mixer, a pastry blender, a food processor, etc.  incorporate the butter until the mixture is course, but some pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Add the water and mix until it holds together.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and pop it into the fridge for about an hour to chill.

In the same bowl that I use to make the crust, I will start to make the topping.  The topping recipe is pretty… open to interpretation.  The key elements are flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt, but I add to the crumble until it looks, feels, and tastes right. Sometimes I add oatmeal, different spices (maybe some cardamom, or cloves?), nuts, etc. In this case, I think walnuts work really well. The end result is sort of like wet sand.  If it’s too wet, add flour, and if it’s too floury, add butter.  I use a similar method to the pie crust – first add all the dry ingredients and mix well, then incorporate the butter.  Once a good consistency and taste is achieved, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge.

Peeling and prepping the apples is probably the most time consuming task.  I really think it is worth it to put effort into slicing the apples into reasonably equal pieces and arranging them in the tart, even though it will be covered with topping.  After peeling the apples, I cut 1/4” slices.  I piled all the slices into a bowl and doused them with brown sugar, pieces of butter, cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt.  After stirring to incorporate, I let the apples macerate for at least 30 minute, stirring occasionally.

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Finally, it’s time to assemble the pie.  Start by pre-heating the oven to 350F.  Roll out the dough into a disc about two inches larger than the pan.  Then, roll it back onto the rolling pin and slowly unfurl it over the pan.  I gently lift the overhang and use my fingers to make sure the dough is nestled in the fluted edges of the pan, and finish by trimming the excess. Arrange the apples.  I think of the tart like the face of a clock and start by putting a few at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and then filling in the gaps.  Repeat with the inner circle.  This also makes it really easy to cut and serve.  Drizzle the apples with the juices left from maceration and add crumble topping.  Bakes at 350F for 45-55 minutes.

 

Helpful Tools: 

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Baking Mat, Oven Thermometer, Tart Pan.

Cooking with My Paris Kitchen

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Some of my favorite recipes have come from David Lebovitz’s blog, but truthfully I have never cracked open one of his many books.  I love the writing on his blog, and the food is always excellent.  His Tomato Tart is my favorite way to use the best-of-summer tomatoes.  David also has great Instagram stories.  I love seeing the messy honesty of his recipe testing, antiquing, and exploring.  

I read his cookbook cover to cover, because My Paris Kitchen is much more than lists of ingredients and instructions.  His stories about traditions, dinner parties, lessons learned, and his life in France make the book worth reading, even without the recipes.  After studying French during high school and college and doing a study abroad, France has had a special place in my heart.  Lebovitz’s anecdotes about French culture brought back a lot of my special memories.  My Paris Kitchen is worth reading, even if you don’t plan on cooking any of the recipes.  

The cooking is a little advanced with a lot of specialty ingredients, but Lebovitz encourages readers to used their judgement and focus on intuition and senses rather than precisely following exact details.  Which I did, liberally.  It took me a while to pick the recipes I wanted to cook, but ultimately I ended up going for recipes that included ingredients I already had on hand to cut down on the shopping I’d have to do.  

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The Israeil Couscous has become a fast favorite for us, but I did have to make two major substitutions.  While I always have plenty of lemons on hand, I have never preserved one.  Rather than letting a lemon brine in salt for a week, I just used zest and extra salt.  I’m sure it’s not as complex of a flavor, but it was still delicious.  Next, I substituted walnuts for pistachios.  Honestly, I just wasn’t going to shell any amount of pistachios, and I already had walnuts on hand.  I am curious to try the recipe as Lebovitz intended, but I hope he would be proud of my ingenuity.  And it turned out great.  I have already made the salad again.  I like to make it on a day off and bring it to work for lunch.  

The chocolate mousse recipe has often been hailed as one of Lebovitz’s best.  He recently demonstrated the recipe on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.  During my time in France, I remember buying cups of Mousse au Chocolat from the grocery store.  It was stocked near the yogurt in little plastic cups.  It’s one of my favorite desserts and only takes a few ingredients.  Honestly I don’t know why I never made it before.  The hardest part is waiting for the mousse to set (it needs to sit for eight hours).  Lebovitz’s version is way better than anything found in a plastic cup. 

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I have never made dry caramel before, and it was a little nerve wrecking.  It took two tires to get it right, but the payoff was worth it.  The caramel and salted butter made the chocolate mousse so much more interesting than it would have been as just a chocolate one.  The mousse is so light in texture but extremely rich — an intense and delicious dessert.  Eating the mousse was so indulgent, it was like eating chocolate frosting.  Because it is so rich, a little goes a long way.  We divided it into six portions but should have done eight.

 

I found that the recipes in My Paris Kitchen are better suited to special occasions and weekend projects than everyday cooking.  Many of the recipes required specialty ingredients that would take some effort to hunt down.  The food is also very indulgent -lots of fat, butter, cream, meat, cheese, etc – not foods I want to eat every day.  Lebovitz tells a story with each recipe that compels the reader to try it out, no matter how complicated or expensive or caloric it might be.  

Chicken Soup

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Every one I know seems to be under the weather right now, making it the perfect time to make a pot of chicken soup.  The beginning of fall signals the beginning of soup season in my kitchen.  A big batch of soup is easy to make and lasts all week.  This chicken soup recipe is great because feels light, but is very filling.  Soup is also very customizable and adaptable.  Some variations I’ve tried are leaving out the noodles or potatoes to cut carbs, and swapping the chicken stock for veggie stock and omitting the chicken to make it vegetarian.

I take a few short cuts to make this recipe easy.  First I pre-chip mirepoix and freeze it in advance.  Whenever I want soup, I just take some out of the freezer.  This really cuts down on the labor.  You can also purchase pre-chopped mirepoix, but it’s usually a little pricy.  I also use store bought chicken stock (I like to have a few boxes on hand in the pantry).  I have never made my own stock, but maybe someday I will.  I use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.  I have poached chicken breasts before for this recipe and it works really well, but rotisserie chicken is usually more cost-effective and makes for easier prep.  This recipe makes a lot of soup, which I like because it can be frozen for later or shared. Packing up some of this soup into a beautiful Weck Jar and picking up a baguette from a local bakery would be a great gesture to a sick friend.  
Chicken Soup

2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil, or 1 tablespoon of each
2 trimmed leeks (I like the package you can get at Trader Joe’s), sliced
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 quarts chicken stock
4 small or 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in one-inch pieces
1/2 lb small noodles
1 rotisserie chicken or poached chicken breast, shredded
Salt and Pepper

Start by chopping and prepping all the ingredients so when it’s time to cook everything is ready.  Add the butter or olive oil to a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrot) and leeks to the pot and cook until soft.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Once the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery give a little, add the stock, potatoes and noodles.  Bring everything to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer until the potatoes are cooked (usually takes at least 25 minutes).  Add the shredded chicken and season with additional salt, pepper and thyme.  Let the soup cool and transfer it to containers to refrigerate or freeze.  When reheating a portion of soup, I like to add 1/2 cup of water because the stock tends to get absorbed by the chicken, noodles and vegetables.  

Potato Leek Galette

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What’s a reasonable way to have pie for dinner? A savory galette, naturally. Recently, I made one featuring leeks and Yukon golds. The beauty of the galette is that it really doesn’t have to be much of a beauty. The scraggly, folded edges give it somewhat of a rustic charm. A galette comes together pretty quickly and bakes for less than an hour. I was very tempted to use a store-bought pie dough, but it didn’t seem reasonable since I had all the ingredients for dough on hand. Galettes work well in a lot of places: a small wedge could be an appetizer or side dish with salad, roast chicken, or scrambled eggs. The versatility of a galette really lends itself to a lot of dishes. We had ours with a glass of White Burgundy.

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Potato Leek Galette 

Pie Crust 

1 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Butter
2-3 tbl. Water

Filling 

2 Leeks
2 Large or 4-6 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes
Thyme
3 tbl. Butter
1 tbl. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt & Pepper
1 beaten egg
Assemble the pie dough by mixing the dry ingredients, cutting in the butter, and bringing together with water.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  For the filling, thinly slice the leeks and add to a pan with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook until leeks soften.  Thinly slice potatoes (either using a mandolin, a knife, or a vegetable peeler).  Toss the potatoes with the cooked leeks.  Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  Roll out the dough into a large circle.  I can’t emphasize enough that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Add the filling to the center and fold up the dough around it.  Brush the pie dough with the beaten egg.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until crust is golden brown.

 

 

 

Recipe: Baked Coconut Shrimp

Baked Coconut Shrimp

 

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Eating healthy while on vacation is absolutely a challenge.  For me it’s so hard to pass up the opportunity to try new things.  Back in April on a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, I made a point to cook a healthy (Whole 30-compliant) meal.  Inspired by Florida flavors, I made coconut shrimp with an avocado-lime slaw.  I love this dish because it has a great balance of protein, healthy fat and nutrient-dense vegetables.  To cut down on cooking time I bought a pre-made slaw mix and just made the dressing.  Simplicity is key when cooking in someone else’s kitchen.

Continue reading “Recipe: Baked Coconut Shrimp”

My Go-To Smoothie Recipe 

BlenderI don’t have a cutsie name for the green smoothie I start my day with every morning but I would describe it as well-balanced and tropical.  It’s made with spinach, pineapple, orange and coconut.  The spinach is packed full of vitamins, the fruit adds sweetness and potassium, and the coconut milk adds plenty of fat to keep me full.  I usually have this with eggs for breakfast but will sometimes just take the smoothie alone to go.  No, I do not have a Vitamix.  I use this blender by KitchenAid.  I would recommend this blender because it’s only $100 and has never given me any issues.  I make a big batch of the smoothie, pour it into silicone ice cube trays and freeze.  When I want to make a smoothie I just blend a 5 cubes with a half cup of water. Surprisingly to me the cubes keep their flavor for well past a week in my freezer.  I love making the smoothie with frozen cubes because it creates a refreshing, slushy effect and the smoothie will stay cold for a long time on the go (I love Working Glasses because they are inexpensive, durable, and easy to clean).

Continue reading “My Go-To Smoothie Recipe “

Hot Chocolate

ImageWhen the weather looks like this (my actual back yard) and people are throwing around terms like Polar Vortex nothing is more appealing than a little hot chocolate.  Now I can’t hate on Swiss Miss too hard, but, Parisians are the true masters of Le Chocolat Chaud.  Powder packets are a staple in American “rip and dump” cooking.  But you know what tastes better?  Actual melted chocolate.

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1 c. Milk

1/3 c. Chocolate Chips

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

Let me talk about the milk situation for a second.  People are really weird about milk.  I’m team skim milk and it’s honestly the only milk I’ve ever known.  Now I understand that sometimes for cooking skim is not ideal but I usually just use it anyway.  The milk isn’t really the star of this recipe, now is it?  Just use whatever milk you have and I’m sure everything will be fine.  I’m sure a heavier milk would make this taste better but it’s fine with skim milk.  When I want to get fancy I might do like 3/4 skim milk and 1/4 half and half or whatever.  I’m sure almond milk would also be pretty awesome here.

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Anyway the direction is pretty simple.  Just throw the milk in a little sauce pan (it’s better if it has a pseudo spout on the end for the sake of pouring) and put it on medium-lowish heat.  It shouldn’t boil.  Now I chose to get fancy and use two milks here but again the milk thing is really not a big deal.  Whisk that milk until it’s a little foamy looking.  Here’s an action shot.

Now turn the heat down a bit and slowly pour in the chocolate chips and brown sugar.  The brown sugar is critical, it makes the stuff taste like a cookie.  I caution the chip pouring because of the splash factor.  This hot chocolate is so good you won’t want to waste even a single drop.  When you pour in the chips stir it up until it’s all melted and the mixture is a really nice rich brown.  Now it isn’t going to look dark enough but as the chocolate melts the color deepens so just be a little patient before dumping in more chocolate (I’ve made this mistake).

And that’s it!  This is really strong so serve it in an espresso cup.  It’s not a lot of effort and usually the ingredients are on hand but it’s way more impressive than powder packet hot chocolate.  A little suggestion, if I may: skip the marshmallows.  This is super sweet and it doesn’t need anything add ins.  I know mini marshmallows would look adorable in this mini cup of hot chocolate, but it would just be a mistake.  You have to be strong and resist.

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Bialetti Moka Pot

Recently I purchased an Italian coffee pot and it makes a truly great product.  I love coffee and espresso but not enough to spend thousands of dollars on a legit espresso machine, but my Bialetti Moka Pot works just fine.  From what I’ve heard, the more the pot is used, the better the coffee tastes.  The Internet is full of stories about people pulling these out of their grandma’s attic and using them for years.  They are relatively inexpensive ranging from about $20 upwards depending on retailer and capacity (note that the capacity is measured expresso cups, approximately 2 oz, not 8 0z of liquid).  The coffee is not a true espresso but it is very strong and richer in taste than drip coffee.  I hear the coffee produced makes a great cappuccino or latte but I only like black coffee.  These little pots are pretty intuitive but don’t actually come with instructions.  After scouring YouTube tutorials, articles, and forums, lots of trial and error, and a moderate dose of patience, I think I’ve come up with a good method.

Here’s what to do:

  • Warm up a burner to medium heat
  • Boil water
  • Once water is boiled and the burner is warm, add hot water to the bottom chamber of the moka pot, fill just below the steam valve
  • Place in coffee holder and fill with coffee (I used Illy), then screw on top.  Make sure to hold the bottom with a pot holder (it’s hot)
  • Set the pot directly on the stove until coffee erupts and fills the pot (listen for a gurgling noise), remove from heat when top is full
  • Place hot pot on a trivet
  • Serve coffee with a small cookie and enjoy.

Bialetti Moka Pot Sur La Table (34.95), Illy Coffee Sur La Table (15.95), Plate CB2 (1.95), Espresso Cup and Saucer Crate and Barrel (3.95), Espresso Spoon Crate and Barrel (2.50)