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Fennel, Mushroom, and Roquefort Tart

I was in the mood for a savory, vegetable tart. I’d made, in the past, a Stilton and fennel tart, but that wasn’t quite right. And I have an old Williams-Sonoma recipe for a mushroom galette, but that wasn’t quite right either. So, I thought I’d mix and match, which turned out to be a good idea. Usually, I’d make a rough puff pastry, but I found this recipe for a savory tart crust on Smitten Kitchen, and it was different enough from my usual crust that I gave it a whirl.  In the end, the tart is a rich, savory, fulfilling main course.

Ingredients

1 small fennel bulb, stems removed, quartered and thinly sliced
1 small leek, white part only, quartered, thinly sliced and washed
8 oz. white button mushrooms or crimini mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin
6 oz. fresh wild mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin (I used oyster, but anything that looks good, or a mix, will do)
1/2 tsp dried sage
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz. Roquefort cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Tart crust, either store bought, or homemade

Equipment

9″ two-piece tart pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment cut to fit.

Crust

If you’re using a Store-bought crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, gently place the crust in the tart pan, pressing it down into the edge, trim, then chill for 30 minutes. Place the pan on a cookie sheet, line the crust with foil, fill with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, return the crust and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the crust is light golden. Remove to a cooling rack.

If you’re making a crust from scratch, it doesn’t need to be blind baked. assemble the crust, line the tart pan, and tuck the crust in the fridge while you work on the filling.

Filling

In a 12″ cast iron skillet or saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium low heat. Add the fennel and leek and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is soft, 20 minutes or so. Scrape the fennel and leek into a bowl, wipe the pan clean. Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and add the mushrooms, stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the sage, a generous grinding of pepper, and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking until the liquid in the pan is gone, another 7-10 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms into the bowl with the fennel and leek, stir to combine.

Beat the eggs and milk together until combined.

Assembling the Tart

Take the tart crust from the fridge. Spread the filling evenly over the crust, pressing it gently flat but not compacting it. Crumble the Roquefort and scatter it over the mushrooms. Take the egg-milk mixture and pour evenly over the filling, top with the Parmesan cheese, and another few grinds of pepper.

Bake at 350 until well browned and fragrant, 30 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool until just lukewarm. Remove the tart from the tart pan, serve warm.

 

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Beet Ravioli (Casunziei all’ampezzana)

These are an attractive, dish to serve to your vegetarian friends. Garlic-infused beet and potato ravioli, topped with a simple butter and poppy seed sauce. If you want to get extra-fancy, make batches with red beets and golden beets for a multi-colored main course.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) of fresh beets (about 3 medium beets)
  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) of potato (about 2 small potatoes)
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves, whole
  • Olive oil
  • pinches of freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinches of ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated

The Pasta

Combine the flour and the pinch of salt in a bowl, make a well in the center and crack the eggs into it, add the oil, then, using a fork, whisk the egg and oil until combined. Slowly start working the flour into the eggs. The mixture will become very stiff, eventually, you’ll have to switch to your hands. Work the dough until it is no longer sticky. When it is smooth and bounces back when poked with a finger, shape it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

The Filling

While the dough rests, wash and quarter the beets and the potatoes (don’t bother peeling them). Place together in a pot, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender (the potatoes may finish faster than the beets, if so, remove them with a slotted spoon and let the beets finish). Puree both the beets and potatoes using a food mill (the skins will be left behind in the mill).

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over gentle heat in a pan large enough to hold the beets and potatoes. Add the garlic cloves and saute for a moment. Over medium-low heat, add the potatoes and beets and cook until they thicken and start to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Add the nutmeg,  cloves and some salt, remove the garlic and take the mixture off the heat, letting it cool completely.

Making the Ravioli

Roll out half of the pasta on a floured surface until it is thin enough to see your hand through (a pasta machine works, too, of course). Cut out rounds with a drinking glass or a 3″ diameter biscuit cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round, then fold over to make half-moon shapes. Seal the edges firmly with your fingers or with a fork. Set the ravioli aside, uncovered, on a floured surface as you finish them. Save the scraps of dough under a tea towel while you work. Continue to roll and fill until the filling and dough are used up.

At this point, the ravioli can be placed on a cookie sheet, so they’re not touching, and frozen. Once frozen, bag them and return to the freezer. To cook the frozen ravioli, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and place the frozen ravioli straight from the freezer into the water. Do not thaw them first.

If you are cooking them fresh, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and drop the ravioli in. Remove them when they float, 2-3 minutes. Toss with melted butter, poppy seeds, and freshly-grated Parmesan (a grinding of black pepper, while non-traditional, is welcome, too). Serve immediately.

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Texas-style Chili

I had a hankering for real, Texas-style chili: no beans, stew beef rather than ground beef, and a slew of different chiles, both dried and fresh. Your mix of peppers determines the heat; I opted for milder spiciness, if you like things hotter, add in some dried Thai bird chiles or some fresh scotch bonnet or habaneros.

 

2 dried red New Mexico chiles
3 dried pasilla chiles
1 chipotle in adobo
1 tbsp of adobo reserved
1 tsp cumin powder
4 lbs grass-fed beef, sliced into 3/4″ cubes
1 white onion, diced
2 fresh green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup masa harina

split and seed the dried chiles, toast them on a hot, ungreased cast iron skillet, one at a time, pressing them down, flipping and pressing them down again, 10 seconds or so per pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes or so.

Transfer the peppers to a blender, add half the garlic, the cumin, the reserved adobo, a bit of salt, and enough of the soaking liquid so you can puree the peppers. Work the puree through a medium mesh strainer back into a bowl. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet and add the pepper puree, cook, stirring over high-heat for 2-3 minutes, until it darkens slightly and becomes a bit glossy. Transfer back to a bowl.

In a six quart dutch oven or pot, heat another 2 tbsp of oil. brown the beef in batches. remove to a bowl. Once all the beef is browned, without wiping out the pot, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the green chilis and the remaining garlic, cook, stirring until the pepper softens slightly. Add back in the beef, toss to coat, then add the chili sauce, tomato, and oregano, stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the beef is tender, 2-3 hours. Right before serving, stir in the masa (which will thicken the sauce slightly) taste, adjust salt, if necessary, and serve with corn bread.

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Cheddar Herb Biscuits

I’ve been making biscuits for years, using them to top cobblers, making them to accompany breakfast. When I the herb garden is producing, I like to make these, they’re slightly showy (if a biscuit can be called showy) and I find a savory breakfast more appealing than a sugary sweet one. These are best served warm, but reheat well. They’ll keep for a few days, not that I’ve managed to keep them around for more than a day.

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (yellow looks better than white)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced: Sage, thyme, chive, and parsley work best.
1-1/2 cups buttermilk (approximately)
Melted butter, for brushing

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. With your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal (alternatively, you can put all of the ingredients up through the butter in a food processor and pulse until combined). Add in the garlic powder, herbs, and cheese, toss lightly to combine with the butter/flour mixture. Add 1 cup of buttermilk and stir gently until a loose dough forms. If it is stiff, or there is still dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, add more buttermilk and gently stir until everything is taken up.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface press it into a rectangle 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough over on itself once and press it out again to 3/4″ thick. Cut the biscuits into your preferred shape. The quickest cuts are square, using a bench scraper. I usually make triangles by cutting the squares in half. A juice glass or biscuit cutter will give you round biscuits. Any scraps from cutting can be pressed together into more biscuits.

Set the biscuits on the baking sheet, brush the tops with melted butter and bake 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden and the bottoms brown. Cool for five minutes and serve.