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White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie is a Sugar Pie

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White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Today’s a special day. I’m pretty sure I was conceived on this day a bit more than a half century ago! This little fact has never actually been confirmed by the only two witnesses to the act, but I can do the math. I was a honeymoon baby, born nine months and eight days after my parents’ wedding night. What this has to do with White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie with Sugar Cookie Crust (what I’m calling a sugar pie) is a little less evident than the circumstances of my conception – but if you give me a moment I’ll connect the dots for you.

My Aunt (my mother’s sister) called me (and probably everyone else) sugar pie or just plain sugar. I’m pretty sure she knew my name, but I can’t really recall her ever calling me anything other than sugar pie. Maybe she called me sugar cookie once or twice – it wouldn’t surprise me. The point is she used the endearment sugar pie not the much more common sweetie pie. Now I’m no linguistical expert but it seems to me that sugar pie is a much more Southern moniker than sweetie pie (with Texas being the exception). Maybe I’m wrong, but endearments tend to be cultural and regional and they always have. Let’s boil it down – so to speak.

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Have you ever noticed that so many of our sweetest terms of affection (also known as hypocorisms) are delicious? By that I mean food related.

babycakes, cookie, cupcake, honeybun, muffin, bonbon, chicklet, lambchop, peach, dumpling, bean, sugarplum, pumpkin, peanut, etc…

It’s not just my Southern relatives either. The French also have edible endearments: petit chou (little cabbage), petit pois (little pea) mon cochon (my pig). The Japanese have an interesting turn of phrase as well: tamago gata no kao (egg with eyes). Which makes the Italian term “meatball” (polpetto) sound downright delicious, I mean romantic.

Appetite inducing endearments aren’t strictly modern day sobriquets either. Huny gukus was a popular 16th century term to express fondness that was also a type of honey cake. Crowdie Mowdie (a type of porridge) is another archaic English nickname sure to get a love struck maiden blushing.

Anyway, it was my endearment-slinging Aunt who first planted the idea in my head that (in all probability) I was a honeymoon baby. Which I guess is the sweetest sort of sugar baby you can be (at least in her eyes). So let’s raise a glass my little jellybeans and pull up a slice of White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. It’s the sugar pie I conceived to celebrate my special day. GREG

White Chocolate Banana Cream PievWhite Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie with Sugar Cookie Crust

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published

You may also use a 16½ oz package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough. Knead about ½ cup flour into the dough and chill thoroughly before lining pan. Also, this is a pudding pie, so expect messy slices!

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie with Sugar Cookie Crust

Ingredients

  • 16 ounce raw sugar cookie dough (formulated to rolled and cut cookies) see notes
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter (cut into small dice)
  • 4 ounce white chocolate (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3-4 ripe but still firm bananas
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 2-4 ounce white chocolate shavings (to taste)

Directions

Roll cookie dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to a 12 or 13-inch round about ⅓-inch thick. Chill 20 minutes then peel off the top layer and invert the dough, centered, onto a 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Gently fit the dough inside. Be quite gentle as the tender dough breaks easily. Peel off the remaining plastic, trim the edge neatly, crimp decoratively if you like, then repair any tear or holes with the trimmings. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Freeze the crust for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile set the oven rack in the center position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the frozen crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully pat down crust where it is puffed. Return to oven until lightly browned, about 6 more minutes, then remove from oven and cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine granulated sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to pull away from the sides when stirred. Remove from heat, but leave the burner on.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until very frothy. Slowly ladle in about 1 cup of the warm, thickened milk mixture, stirring the whole time. Then slowly add the mixed egg mixture to the saucepan with the remaining thickened milk mixture, stirring constantly. Return the sauce pan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, about 3 to 4 more minutes. Remove from heat and add diced butter and chopped white chocolate, stirring until melted. Stir in vanilla; set aside.

Add the water and lemon juice to a medium bowl. Peel the bananas and slice into ½-inch rounds. Place the rounds in the acidulated water for about 30 seconds, drain and gently pat dry with paper towels.

Arrange as many of the banana slices as will fit in a single layer on the bottom of the prepared crust. Strain the warm pudding through a fine mesh sieve over the bananas, use only enough pudding to almost fill the shell to the top, but not quite. Cover the pie with plastic wrap laid directly onto the warm filling; chill until firm at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 4 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar; continue whipping on medium speed until the soft peaks return, 2 to 3 minutes.

Spread the whip cream on top of the pie, sprinkle with white chocolate shavings. Serve.

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Stove Top Smoked Salmon Salad with Swiss Chard

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Stove Top Smoked Salmon Salad with Swiss Chard

Stove top smoked salmon at home? Really? I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to tackle that project when I saw a recipe at Williams-Sonoma. I figured they were trying to sell me a $200 smoker (for the low, low price of $100). I’ll admit a bright-shiny stove top smoked salmon device sounds like fun, but honestly I avoid gadgets that do one thing and one thing only – even if they do that one thing really well. Yes there are exceptions, so don’t gripe at me. I have an ice cream maker, but I figure it makes ice cream and sorbet. Though I can see how you might think I’m threading the needle with the wrong color thread (or whatever).

However I was pleasantly surprised that williams-sonoma.com dedicated valuable content space explaining how to improvise a contraption from items you already have around the house. Things like a cast iron pan and a metal rack. You could also use use 2 multi-purpose baking pans sealed with aluminum foil I read. Though I found my salmon fillets to be too thick to follow this procedure.

I’ll admit that I improvised their improvisation a bit to suit my needs and I purchased specialized hardwood chips. I doubt the wood chips in my garden were intended for anything other than mulch. Don’t ah-ha! me. For your information I not only use the wood chips to retain soil moisture, but I throw them at squirrels too.

Stove Top Smoked Salmon

I found the whole project much more straightforward than I expected. The results were luscious and delicious too. Of course if you’re particularly persnickety or very, very lazy you can go ahead and purchase the specialized pan because making stove top smoked salmon will very likely scorch your pan (even when it’s lined with foil). Not permanently, but it will take a certain amount of elbow grease to get it clean again. This matters less with a well-used, well-loved, well-cured cast iron pan than it does a baking pan or a stainless skillet, but the clean up will be no small task in any case.

The other caveat is this: Start your exhaust fan and open a window (or two or three) because things get smoky. I had to take  the battery out of the smoke alarm because it thought that my stove top smoked salmon project was a very bad idea. GREG

Stove Top Smoked Salmon Red ChardStove Top Smoked SalmonStove Top Smoked Salmon

Simple Smoked Salmon

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Williams-SonomaPublished

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (divided)
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 ½ - 2 pound center cut salmon fillet (skin on, pin bones removed)

Directions

Season the salmon: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the salmon on a plate and spread the seasonings over the flesh of the fillet, applying them more heavily on the thickest parts. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Set up the smoking pan: Choose a deep cast-iron or stainless-steel fry pan sized to hold on wire rack can that it rest on the rim of the pan. Cut a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil 18 inches wide and 3 times as long as the width or diameter of the rack. Center the foil in the pan and press it against the surface. Sprinkle a large handful of fine hardwood smoking chips in the middle of the pan and set the rack on top.

Rinse the fillet and pat dry. Cut the fillet into 4 equal portions and place on rack without touching, skin side down. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and remaining black pepper. Bring the edges of the foil up and crimp together to form a tent over the fillets, allowing some room above the fillets for the smoke to circulate and leaving a very small vent at the top.

Smoke the salmon: Turn on the stove exhaust fan and open some windows. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until smoke begins to emerge from the vent. Reduce heat to medium-low, crimp vent closed and cook the salmon for 10-12 minutes. Open the foil to check for doneness; the salmon should be opaque throughout. If necessary, reseal and continue to cook until done. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Smoked Salmon Salad with Pineapple, Chard and Chili-Coriander Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from the Lemonade CookbookPublished
Smoked Salmon Salad with Pineapple, Chard and Chili-Coriander Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup fresh lightly packed cilantro sprigs cilantri sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Sambal Oelek chili paste
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 green onion (whites and greens, sliced)
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ¼ cup canola oil (or other light flavored oil)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 - 1 ½ pound smoked salmon (skin removed and torn into bite size pieces)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (stems removed and leaves cut crosswise into bite size strips)
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • ½ cup toasted cashews (roughly chopped)
  • ½ cup lightly packed cwhole cilantro leaves

Directions

Make the chili-coriander sauce: In blender combine cilantro, mirin, vinegar, chili paste, garlic, ginger, green onion, coriander seeds, oil, salt and pepper. Process on high speed for at least 1 minute, scraping the sides as needed, until the seeds are well ground. Pour into a small jar. Set aside, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days.

In a large bowl toss the salmon, chard, pineapple, together with about ½ cup of the chili-coriander sauce (or to taste). Spread the mixture out onto a serving plate. Garnish with cashews and whole cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Hand Pies

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Butternut Squash Hand Pies

Fruit pie. Meat Pie. Veg Pie. It’s easy to love pie and it’s pastry that makes pie so lovable. Sure, pastry is good when pressed neatly into a fluted tart pan. In fact a tart is the most elegant form of pie I know. However, pastry is just as delicious when treated casually – draped over a pot pie and gently crimped, glazed and scored. But, in my opinion, the best pastries are the little hand pies that verge on messiness. The kind of pie that toys with falling apart in your hands. These Butternut Squash Hand Pies have just the right crumble to defy the knife and fork.

So pick one up and see why the best pies are the handheld sort. You can buy them on a street corner wrapped in brown paper and eat them on the run, or make them at home to serve with a special wine. Either way hand pies are a treat. Fragrant and savory, these Butternut Squash Hand Pies have just the right ratio of crust to filling. They define that magic moment when tender crust meets sumptuous filling. The kind of pie that automatically leaves buttery fingers reaching for napkins and slick lips begging for more. Butternut Squash Hand Pies.

Butternut Squash Hand Pies

Wine Pairing

Hilliard Bruce Moon 2012

Hilliard Bruce Moon 2012
Helen Melville

Price $80

Pairs well with lamb, lentil soup, all root vegetables, mushroom risotto, most vegan dishes, spicy dark chocolate truffles, or all on its own.

Of course a savory hand pie can be filled with almost anything. I’m taking my cues from the season and choosing a mash of simply seasoned butternut squash. Butternut squash can be steamed, sautéed, or microwaved. All these methods will result in a perfectly fine mash. However, I prefer to roast butternut squash whenever possible. Roasting will reduce the moisture (winter squash is 89% water) and intensify the flavor. You don’t want a wet, bland mash when you’re making a hand pie. Besides, roasting is also one of the easiest cooking methods I know.

So why are you still reading? What’s stopping you from making these Butternut Squash Hand Pies? I’ve pulled out as many rhetorical flourishes as I can in order to whet your appetite. I’ve invoked buttery lips and aural delights. I’ve kept the filling as simple as possible. My good friend Helen has even provided a wine of inspirational greatness and still you hesitate. I just have to assume that the culinary logjam is created by the pastry itself. I am told that pastry sometimes prevents folks from making pie at home. But I have to ask, what’s so difficult about rubbing butter and flour through your fingertips or pulsing these ingredients together in a food processor until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs? After that good pastry is as simple as adding a little (teeny, tiny) bit of water to bring the mixture into jagged ball of softly sumptuous dough? You can use my recipe or any other recipe you fancy, though I prefer you use an all butter recipe. After all, it’s hard to get buttery lips eating Crisco.  GREG

PS Did you know I wrote a whole book on Savory Pies?

Butternut Squash Butternut Squash Hand Pies

Butternut Squash Hand PiesButternut Squash Hand Pies

Savory Butternut Squash Hand Pies with Taleggio Cheese

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10Published

You can make the filling up to two days ahead of time. Keep covered and refrigerated.

Butternut Squash Hand Pies

Ingredients

  • all-butter pie pastry of your choice (enough to to make 1 double-crust 10-Inch pie)
  • 3/4 pound peeled butternut squash (cut into 3/4-inch dice)
  • 2 carrots sliced into ½-inch rounds)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed, finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoon lightly toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3 ounce taleggio cheese (cut into twelve ¼ oz slices) or more to taste
  • egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water (as egg wash)

Directions

Prepare Pie Pastry recipe of your choice. Divide dough in half, shape into 2 discs about 5-inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days), or freeze up to 1 month.

Make the squash filling: Preheat oven to 400 F.

Toss squash, carrots, garlic, olive oil and a generous pinch each salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Spread vegetables out on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet in as close to a single layer as possible. Roast, stirring halfway through, until squash mixture is very tender and beginning to color on the edges, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool somewhat then scrape the squash mixture along with any accumulated liquids into a food processor, add Parmesan cheese and process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl, stir in the pine nuts, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and additional salt and pepper if necessary; set aside.

Make the hand pies: On a lightly floured surface use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out one disc of chilled dough to a 12 or 13-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Cut out six 4-inch rounds, using a round cutter or appropriately-sized saucer and knife. Gather scraps and re-roll as needed so you can get six rounds. Repeat with second disc of dough. Lay the 12 rounds out evenly spaced onto 1 or 2 parchment-lined baking sheets (as needed depending on size).

Bring the oven temperature to 425 F.

Dollop about 2 tablespoons squash filling onto each round mounding in the center, leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Don’t overfill or they will be difficult to seal. Lay 1 slice of cheese on top of filling, nestling it into mixture. Brush edges lightly with egg wash. Carefully bring both sides up and towards center so they meet at top forming a football shape. Pinch edges together to seal. Then decoratively crimp or scallop edges as you like. Leave hand pie sitting with decorative edge facing up or lay it on its side, whichever you prefer. Brush with more egg wash. Sprinkle with salt. Make 2 tiny slashes in crust with the point of a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining dough rounds. Refrigerate on baking sheets until chilled, about 20 minutes.

Bake in the 425 degree F oven, rotating sheets halfway through, until pies are golden brown; about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Hilliard Bruce Moon 2012

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Hilliard Bruce Moon 2012

In the final lines of Now Voyager, Bette Davis says, “Don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars.” (Romantics, reach for a tissue.)

I had heard tell about the Moon – an enigmatic wine from Hilliard Bruce, comprising of their most exquisite five barrels of Pinot Noir, with standards so exacting, some vintages don’t make it. I was over the moon, when a 2012 bottle of Hilliard Bruce Moon was included in my wine club shipment. The precious was mine, burning a hole in my wine cellar, demanding to be experienced. Who better to seduce into the decadence than Ken? Who better to come up with a worthy food pairing than Greg?

Hilliard Bruce Moon

The visual decanter displays a mesmerizing ruby sparkle. The nose is an intoxicating enchanted forest of bramble fruits (no thorns!), cassis, candied cherry, with a waft of spice. The wine itself surprises and delights the senses. It feels huge, fruit forward, rich and luscious in scope, but it is also light and silky with perfectly present and balanced acidity. It is like drinking a super ripe organic raspberry that has been dipped in anise flavored artisan dark chocolate… whilst you are in a woodland clearing, watching fairies dancing by the light of a full moon.

Greg’s Butternut Squash Hand Pies are an incredible accompaniment to the dazzling Hilliard Bruce Moon 2012, combining rich flavors to stand up to the strong spine of the Moon, and yet delicate enough not to compete with the wine for the spotlight. Specifically, the earthy character of the wine complements the savory squash while the Moon shows sufficient mineral to balance the sweetness. Plus, the good dose of acidity provides a foil for the butter in the pastry.

Yes, stars are astounding, but with Valentine’s Day coming up, I can assure you that asking for this Moon is the most romantic thing you can do. HELENHilliard Bruce Moon 2012

Jarlsberg Cheese and Pears: A Simple Cheese Course

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Jarlsberg Cheese and Pears: A Simple Cheese Course

I read in the LA Times this week that pear season in Southern California is winding down. Which means these next few weeks might be my last best chance to enjoy local pears. The best way to highlight the last of the best of something is as simply as possible. I’ve decided to serve these pears in a cheese course: fresh, raw and simply paired. Cheese and pears. I’ve chosen Jarlsberg cheese because I almost always have it on hand. Any other Swiss-style, Emmental cheese will work just as well. As would something blue or green veined on the other end of the spectrum.

I love any excuse to serve a cheese course. Though I admit it’s not an everyday occurrence. In fact I’m far more likely to face a cheese plate before the meal begins, than as it winds down. Which doesn’t really make sense culinarily speaking. Big mouthfuls of fat can easily fill you up and numb the palate. Then again so can a big, brisk gin martini and you don’t hear me complaining about that.

It’s possible that the modern day cheese course got moved to the beginning of the meal because most folks prefer to end their meal with something sweet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even a simple cheese course consisting of nothing but cheese and pears can be special enough to end a casual meal, or act as a bridge to that sweet treat you know your guests are expecting.

Jarlsberg Cheese and Pears

Which means when it comes to an end of the meal cheese course I tend toward simplicity. Even a modest pairing of a single cheese with a lone fruit, nut or condiment can make a meal feel special. As long as the partners compliment each other. You might call this Jarlsberg cheese and pears a monogamous cheese course.

Of course, as with all things monogamous, you’ve got to keep the spark alive – so presentation counts. In this version I’ve sliced, stacked and reassembled the ingredients to keep this cheese and pear pairing simple, but unexpectedly seductive. GREG

Jarlsberg Cheese and Pears: A Simple Cheese CourseCheese and PearsJarlsberg Cheese and Pears: A Simple Cheese Course

Pear and Cheese Stacks

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published

The pears may be assembled, lightly covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 4 hours in advance.

Pear and Cheese Stacks

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe but firm pears (peeled)
  • ½ lemon
  • 4 ounce Jarlsberg cheese slices (or other Swiss-style cheese)

Directions

Slice off the bottom of each pear just enough so that it stands straight. Use a small pointed paring knife to bore out the cores from the bottom of each pear. Take care not to push the knife through the sides or top. Slice each pear crosswise into 4 or 5 slices at least an inch thick. Rub the slices all over with lemon.

Tear the cheese slices into appropriately sized pieces. Reconstruct each pear, nesting a cheese slice between each section. Serve.

 

 

 

My Chocolate and Lime Tarts Have a British Accent

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Chocolate-Lime Tarts

I know you love chocolate. It seems everybody does. Here’s an amazing little fact: every ten years, most adults eat their own body weight in chocolate! I love chocolate too, but I’m sure I eat far less than 150 lbs each decade. However, I’m more likely to indulge in my fair share of chocolate if it’s paired with something delightful. Combinations like chocolate and nuts or chocolate and strawberries are time-tested and well-loved combinations. Chocolate and citrus too – especially if that citrus is orange. However the very things that make chocolate and orange such delicious partners make chocolate and other citrus just as delightful. Have you considered chocolate and lime?

Chocolate and lime may not be as common as chocolate and cherry or chocolate and peanut butter but there is a precedent. Especially “across the pond” – I mean in Great Britain.

I’m talking about the “pure confectionery” deliciousness of Chocolate-Limes. They’re not common in North America, but in England they’re classic chocolate and lime candies that many a darling young poppet find impossible to suck on for more than a minute without crunching through the zingy, hard candy shell to get to the smooth, milk chocolate center. In this country we may have Tootsie Pops in a plethora of flavors, but these chocolate and lime sweets from Britain are far more irresistible to my palate.

chocolate limes

Chocolate and Lime Tarts

My taste for Chocolate-Limes may seem surprising. After all, I grew up in the United States to American parents. Still, thanks to my mom, I was exposed to these candies at a young age. She may have been fascinated by French cooking, but she was an Anglophile when it came to all things pop-culture. She even went out of her way to pronounce words like schedule and garage with an English accent. To a socially awkward 12-year-old her “mispronunciations” were as cringeworthy as an aloha in New Hampshire. But those chocolate and lime candies somehow made the embarrassment tolerable. The combination of lime and chocolate may seem a little odd, but (to borrow a another of my mother’s Anglicized phrases) it works brilliantly! GREG

Chocolate and Lime TartsChocolate and Lime Tarts

Chocolate-Lime Tarts

Chocolate-Lime Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published
Chocolate-Lime Tart

Ingredients

  • 220 gram all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon), plus more for dusting
  • 60 gram granulated sugar (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 pinch kosher salt
  • zest of 4 limes (divided)
  • 140 gram unsalted butter (about 11 tablespoons, chilled and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon ice water (plus more if needed)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounce semi-sweet chcolate (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 very thin slices fresh lime (optional)

Directions

Make the pâte sucrée: In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and half the lime zest. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 20 seconds.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks with ice water. With machine running, add the egg/water mixture in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together. It should hold together when pinched. If it is too crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Form dough into a disk about 5-inches in diameter; wrap in plastic. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out chilled dough to a 12 or 13-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 6-inch rounds, using a round cutter or appropriately-sized saucer and knife. Gather scraps and re-roll as needed so you can get four rounds. Line four 4-inch individual tart pans with removable bottom with the rounds. Refrigerate the lined tart pans at least 20 minutes.

Make the filling: Meanwhile, heat the cream and the remaining zest in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture almost to a boil then remove from heat. Add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted; stir in the lime juice.

Divide the mixture evenly between each of the prepared tart pans, set aside to firm up at least 1 hour. Do not refrigerate. Garnish with a lime slice just before serving (if using).

Mushroom Walnut Tarts with Caramelized Onion

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Mushroom Walnut Tarts with Onion

Where do you get your motivation for creativity? Did you answer pasta? Can a bowl of bucatini be inspirational? Well, I think so. In fact I’ve done some of my best thinking while slurping noodles. I’ve laid the plans for a remodeled bathroom while lingering over linguine. I never watch presidential debates without pappardelle (well, almost never). And I’m constantly stealing flavor combinations for everything from burgers to pies from the world’s greatest pasta producers. These Mushroom Walnut Tarts with Caramelized Onions were inspired by (you guessed it) pasta.

Could I take the flavors from a well-loved mushroom walnut pasta dish from Suzanne Goin and turn it into something else – like say a tart?

Well yes and no.

Mushroom Walnut Tarts

My first attempt at making these Mushroom Walnut Tarts led me to wet, weepy mushrooms that did not sit nicely on puff pastry. I think that’s why most mushroom tarts use pre-roasted or pre-sautéed mushrooms, or revert to an old-fashioned mushroom cream sauce plopped on pastry.  While these directions can be delicious, they’re hardly groundbreaking.

Ms. Goin’s pasta is very unique. She pairs chewy (charred on the outside but barely cooked on the inside) mushrooms with sweet caramelized onions and well-browned walnuts. If found the dichotomy of textures to be addicting. I was also inspired. I decided to develop a tart that reflected these flavors and textures.

The taste part of the equation seems rather straight-forward – caramelized onions and toasted walnuts. However, the texture of the mushrooms is more difficult to emulate. As I said, raw mushrooms arranged on puff pastry and baked in a blazing oven leads to a culinary fail.

I could have dropped this whole Mushroom Walnut Tarts experiment right there. After all, I rarely (well, never) post my failures. I prefer to pretend they never happened.

Wine Pairing

Château Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

http://chateaux.vins-saint-emilion.com/chateau-8690-chateau-tour-peyronneau-langue-en
Ken Eskenazi

Price $23 (WTSO) - $75 (retail)

Pairs well with beef, lamb, pork, duck, pasta, mushrooms and fresh herbs, cured meats, grilled or smoked foods.

However, my partner Ken is starting a class this week about the wines of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a French wine region gathered along the banks of the Gironde estuary, and the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Being the largest fine wine region in the world, there’s quite a bit of wine lore to literally drink up. I figured if Ken can master 57 appellations in one semester the very least I can do is figure out how to keep mushrooms from weeping all over a tart’s crust.

The good news is that failures can be inspirational too.  Which is something that has taken me seven years of blogging to learn.

You see I started this blog because thought I was a pretty good cook. All these years later that statement seems naive – at least knowing what I know now. These days I blog not so much to share what I think I know, but to learn the things that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. One of the things I didn’t know, but learned for this post, is that blanching mushrooms in boiling water causes them to loose enough moisture that they can be sliced and set upon a tart without weeping during baking. It seems counter-intuitive, but (as I’ve learned) many of the best kitchen tricks are. In fact did you know that soaking eggplant in water before you fry it keeps it from getting soggy? Well, it took a couple of fried eggplant failures before I learned that this too is true. GREG

Blanched MushroomsBlanched MushroomsMushroom Walnut Tarts with Onion

Mushroom Tarts with Walnuts and Caramelized Onions

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Adapted from Jean-Georges VongerichtenPublished
Mushroom Tarts with Walnuts and Caramelized Onions

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 (10-inch) puff pastry sheets
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 onions (peeled and cut into ½-inch slices)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 3/4 pound baby bella mushrooms (or similar, stems trimmed)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • chopped chives (as garnish)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a pie plate, bake the walnuts for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned, then let cool and coarsely chop. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Lay the puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut out eight 4-inch rounds about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and set a baking sheet on top. Bake the pastry for about 25 minutes, or until it is cooked and lightly browned; remove the pastry from the oven, take off the top baking sheet and discard top piece of parchment. Set rounds aside. Increase the oven temperature to 425°.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes; then bring the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until golden and jammy, about 55 minutes. Set aside a few moments to cool then, using a food processor, coarsely puree the onions with the toasted walnut pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add mushrooms and blanch until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, pat dry and slice ¼ inch thick.

Spread the pastry rounds with the onion/walnut puree and arrange the mushroom slices, overlapping, on top. Choose the best looking slices as you might not use them all. Brush tops with olive oil and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Garnish with chives and serve.

 

Château Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

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http://chateaux.vins-saint-emilion.com/chateau-8690-chateau-tour-peyronneau-langue-en

I’ll admit it, I like to bargain hunt and I’m also somewhat fond of wine. So when my iPhone alerts me that wine discounters like Last Bottle, Woot or Wines Til Sold Out has a new deal I just have to check it out. It’s all in the timing. Since I knew I’d be starting my Bordeaux class at UCLA Extension this week, I thought I’d better jump on a four-pack of 2012 Château Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru from WTSO (it’s prep! it’s research!). Surely Greg could concoct a delightful dish to enhance my experience of this right bank Bordeaux.

Château Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

Right bank = Merlot (primarily, with 5-15% Cabernet Franc and maybe some Cab Sauvignon in the blend)– juicy, round and full of flavorful black fruit. The tannins are generally softer and more velvety than their left bank Cab cousins (they may speak more quietly, but still carry a big stick). Expressive blueberry, boysenberry or even black cherry flavors are interwoven with herbal or vegetal notes along with an earthiness or minerality reflective of Bordeaux’s legendary terroir. Famously extravagant right bank examples include Château Pétrus in Pomerol (a bottle from the 100-point 2009 or 2010 vintage will set you back about $5,000) and Château Cheval Blanc in Saint-Émilion (Wally’s has a 1947 on offer for a mere $28,000). But we’re not talking Grand Cru Classé here at Sippity Sup, we’re a bit more down to earth.

Earth: nothing says “forest floor” like mushrooms. Greg’s Mushroom Tarts with Walnuts and Caramelized Onions is certainly earthy, mirroring the herbaceous notes expressed in the nose of the Château Tour Peyronneau. And the umami richness from the caramelized onions and buttery pastry are taken to another level of lushness when complemented by the wine’s deep boysenberry flavors. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an overblown “fruit bomb”. At a reasonable 13% ABV, this Bordeaux has a good typicity– not at all “declassé.” KEN

Wines of Bordeaux

Left bank:

  • Planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Gravelly top soil with a limestone bedrock. The stony top soil makes the vines reach down deep for their nutrients, creating a more desirable environment for old vines that create age-able wines.
  • Most famous regions: Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, St. Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, St. Julien.

Right Bank:

  • Planted largely to Merlot, with a lot of Cab Franc, some Cab Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Limestone emerges at the surface here (rather than being buried, as it is on the Left Bank). Gravel is less predominant.
  • Most famous regions are St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.

Château Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand CruChâteau Tour Peyronneau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

Breaking Rules: Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

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Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Look at me – breakin’ all the rules. Don’t I even read my own words? Haven’t I said plenty of times that Florida grown, mass market tomatoes in January are crap? Better to be skipped and mourned than choked down like sliced hockey pucks. Why can’t I follow my own advice? Well, because (as with all rules) the “no tomatoes in January” rule was made to be broken. I’m not saying I would serve them in a salad and I certainly wouldn’t serve them on a sandwich. Or would I? There’s a trick to eating tomatoes out of season: oil and vinegar. Marinated tomatoes can be served in a salad or on a sandwich. A perfectly seasonal Smoked Gouda and Marinated Tomatoes Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Typically, I only buy and eat in-season, locally grown tomatoes. Which for me is not that difficult. I live in Southern California, my Farmers Market is open all year long and vine-ripened tomatoes are available from one farmer or another 10 or 11 months out of the year. It’s no great sacrifice to forgo tomatoes for the 6 to 8 weeks that constitute winter in Los Angeles.

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Recently, the LA Times (like a lot of bloggers) did a roundup of 10 Great Recipes from 2015. One of the recipes they included was for Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes. This recipe seems to have been developed in the test kitchen of the newspaper and first appeared in May, 2015. In most of the country May is still a little bit early for good tomatoes. In So Cal there’s no problem getting good tomatoes in spring, so May seems like a reasonable time to run a tomato-centric sandwich. But I remember making a mental note to revisit the recipe in August or September when our tomatoes go from good to mind-boggling. Only I didn’t. The recipe slipped my mind. I guess our summer tomatoes were so mind-boggling that I ate most of them simply sliced and served.

With that mindset I was surprised when, come January 2016, the LA Times re-ran the Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes recipe. I thought to myself: Darnit, how can they tease me like this? Why would they run a tomato sandwich during the brief time of year I forgo tomatoes.

But then I thought about it some more. Maybe they know something I don’t know. I’ve roasted out of season tomatoes and was rewarded with intense tomato taste. Could something similar happen with marinated tomatoes? So I scooted myself out the door and to the grocery store where I bought the tomatoes of my nightmares – January tomatoes, as pale as a baby’s bottom and hard as asphalt. The kind that lack flavor because they weren’t bred to taste good, they were bred for enduring cross-country, wintertime journeys to the supermarket. My supermarket.

The LA Times Marinated Tomatoes recipe calls for “very ripe large tomatoes”. My January tomatoes were very large but they were not at all ripe. Still I persevered. I placed the tomatoes on my kitchen windowsill and waited until they got as ripe and red as I thought they could and then I marinated them as instructed.

Surprisingly, the end result is delicious. No, they’re not at all like summer tomatoes, but they have a luscious, silky texture. The acidity gets boosted from the vinegar. Herbs add the complexity typically lacking in raw January tomatoes. Add to that smoky cheese and toasty, buttered bread and you’ve got a sandwich that breaks the rules by earning a permanent place in my January rotation. GREG

Grilled Cheese with Marinated TomatoesGrilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Los Angeles TimesPublished

Do not crowd the pan when toasting. Work in batches if necessary and use more butter as needed.

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • ½ red onion (peeled and very thinly sliced lengthwise)
  • 10 large basil leaves (thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoon capers (rinsed, drained and crushed)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and very thinly sliced)
  • 2 pound very ripe large tomatoes (cut into ½-inch-thick slices)
  • 8 slice country white loaf,
  • 10 ounce sliced smoked cheese, preferably comte, provolone or gouda (or to taste)
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (or more if needed)

Directions

Make the marinated tomatoes: In a bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, thyme, pepper flakes, salt and several grinds of black pepper. Stir in the onion, basil, capers and garlic. Spread a little of the marinade on the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with a layer of tomatoes. Spread over a little more marinade, then another layer of tomatoes. Top with the remaining marinade, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. The marinated tomatoes will keep up to 2 days.

Make the sandwiches: Place four slices of bread on a cutting board. Divide half the cheese slices evenly between the four slices, then top each with the 2 or 3 marinated tomatoes (with some herbs etc clinging). Top the tomatoes with the remaining cheese slices, then cover with the remaining slices of bread to form four sandwiches. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and swirl in the pan until it is melted and starting to bubble. Place the sandwiches in the pan and grill until the bread is a rich golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Carefully flip the sandwiches over, add the remaining butter and continue to grill until the other side is browned and toasted. Slice the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

 

Old School Caesar Salad with No Shortcuts

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Old School Caesar Salad with No Shortcuts

When it comes to kitchen routines I’m all for easy (once in a while). There are some perfectly acceptable shortcuts that I’m happy to take – as long as the compromises in quality are kept to a minimum. When I make a tri-tip roast in the oven I don’t always sear the outside first. That’s because (contrary to popular wisdom) searing doesn’t lock in the juices. It does however add a subtle layer of depth and complexity that I find necessary in braised meats. Less so with roasted meats. For me a perfectly acceptable brown crust naturally occurs in roasting. However, when it comes to the swagger of an Old School Caesar Salad there are no shortcuts.

Well, no acceptable shortcuts.

Old School Caesar Salad

That’s because a Caesar Salad, at least a real, true Old School Caesar Salad is classically bold: rich, and tart, and pungent. The more punch the better. An Old School Caesar Salad gets that punch from plenty of dressing. Too many New School Caesar Salads are horribly under-dressed and make too many concessions to modern-day haters. The anchovy-haters, the raw-egg-haters and the homemade-dressing-haters. “Why make it yourself if Wishbone sells it in jar?”

Ugh, it’s no wonder I shun most Caesar Salads these days.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we shun the phrase “these days” and instead embrace the Caesar Salad of “those days” we can have an Old School Caesar Salad with a good old-fashioned punch in the taste buds. There are just a few old school rules to remember:

The Method: The first rule is to grind the ingredients yourself (with your own two hands). Food processors have a hallowed place in our kitchens. However, when it comes to Guacamole, Pesto and Old School Caesar Salad Dressing, machines make these condiments too mechanical and too perfect. In fact if you use a blender or a food processor with oil and egg yolk you’re likely to end up with Caesar-flavored mayonnaise. When it comes to Old School Caesar Salad Dressing you want it a little rustic and not too creamy. Elbow grease is just right.

The Bowl: An Old School Caesar Salad starts with a wooden bowl. A wooden bowl just as huge as you can find. It shouldn’t be too precious or too smooth or too perfect. It should be a work bowl.

The Cheese: Yeah. The cheese matters. It must be imported Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. If it comes in a green tube it won’t and can’t be an Old School Caesar Salad. In fact it won’t even be edible.

The Garlic: You want really fresh, really sticky, really stinky garlic. Jarred, pickled, pre-peeled or granulated varieties are categorically unacceptable.

The Lettuce: Choose as many whole leaves from the interior of the lettuce as you can. Bigger leaves can be torn into smaller pieces, but not too small. A Caesar Salad is a special event. Big leaves encourage diners to use a knife and fork. Speaking of leaves: baby field greens? arugula? mesclun mix? No. Leave those emaciated, limp little leaves out of the picture. Romaine. Romaine. Romaine.

The Croutons: You’ll notice that I didn’t include an actual recipe for the croutons in this salad. That’s not because croutons are optional. Croutons are the jewels in an Old School Caesar Salad – a delicious excuse to use just a little more dressing. However, I can never decide if I like roughly torn, lightly toasted, still chewy stovetop croutons, or the crunchier, hard-edged baked variety. So choose the croutons you like best. Just don’t choose store-bought.

The Anchovies: Anchovies are the essence of an Old School Caesar Salad. Many people claim to loathe them, refusing any dish with even a whiff. It’s easy for an overwhelmed cook to just leave them out. However, it’s the anchovies that provide the briny blast (and that whole umami thing that makes a Caesar sing).

The Raw Egg: I prefer to use raw egg yolks. I don’t buy pasteurized eggs because I steer clear of mechanized and/or processed foods whenever possible. However, I’m not pregnant or elderly and I do not have a compromised immune system. There are legitimate reasons to avoid raw eggs if you fall into these (and possibly a few other) categories. For everyone else raw eggs shouldn’t be an issue. You’re far more likely to get run over by a car than get sick from raw eggs. But if it makes you feel better to worry about it – go ahead and worry about it. That’s what the marketing folks want you to do.

GREG

Caesar Salad IngredientsCroutons

Old School Caesar Salad with No Shortcuts

Old School Caesar Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Bob BlumerPublished
Old School Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper (plus more for serving)
  • 3-4 clove fresh garlic (lightly smashed and peeled)
  • 5-6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • ⅓ cup Canola oil (or other mild flavored oil)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce (washed and lightly trimmed. Small leaves left whole. Large leaves torn into pieces big enough for the diner to cut into 2 or 3 bites each)
  • 2 cup croutons (or more to taste)
  • 2 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano (finely grated)

Directions

Place the salt and pepper into a large wooden bowl. Add the smashed garlic. Use the back of a wooden spoon and enough pressure to grind the mixture using a repetitive circular motion against the side of the bowl. Once a rough mash is achieved add the anchovies and continue to grind the mixture into a paste. Grind in the Dijon, followed by the egg yolk, lemon juice, and Worcestershire (if using). Add these ingredients one at a time, thoroughly grinding between each addition.

Change the spoon out for a rubber spatula and slowly beat in the oil and vinegar, scraping the sides of the bowl as you work.

Add the lettuce to the bowl and fold the leaves into the dressing until thoroughly coated. Fold in the croutons and cheese and serve immediately with additional cracked pepper to taste.