Savory Potato Tart

A potato and herb tart

After last week’s Thanksgiving dinner, I was left with one Yukon Gold potato, one orange sweet potato and one white sweet potato – orphaned potatoes looking for a home. I thought about making something healthy – simmering them in the remaining turkey stock for an autumn soup (Yawn, Borrrrring!), but soon, I was dreaming about layering them with Gruyere and tons of herbs for a rich, French-style gratin – hmm, delicious and comforting, but more of a side dish than entrée. And then I hit upon the winning gilded-lily combination…

Why not take something as decadent as a potato gratin and encase it in a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, thyme-scented pastry crust? Oui!


Savory Potato Tart

A rich potato gratin encased in a flaky thyme-scented pastry.


Ingredients

    Tart Shell
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • Tart Filling
  • 2-3 potatoes, a mix of white and sweet, sliced very thin
  • ⅔ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and thyme. Combine canola oil and cream in a measuring cup. Pour oil mixture over flour mixture and mix well*. Place dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Transfer to pan and press dough into pan. Chill for 30 minutes while oven preheats to 400 degrees. Cover tart shell with parchment paper and fill with rice, beans, or pie weights. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove parchment and rice and bake another 10 minutes until tart shell is light golden. Remove from oven.
  2. Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the tart shell, followed by ½ of the cheese and ½ of the rosemary and sage. Follow with another layer of potatoes, cheese and herbs. Finish with a layer of potatoes.
  3. Whisk together egg, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over potato layers. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for an hour until potatoes are tender and golden brown and tart is bubbling. Cover with aluminum foil if top browns too quickly. Serve warm.

* This crust can be a bit crumbly. Don’t be afraid to mix it well to form a bit of structure.
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Savory Beef Stew

This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings.  Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.”  Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.

A bowl of savory stew over a bed of polenta


Savory Beef Stew

  • Servings: 6 Servings
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This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings. Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.” Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chuck eye roast, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 1 bag frozen pearl onions, defrosted
  • 2 cups baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth (I use Pacific brand)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1 white sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 bunch chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the meat in batched in a bit of oil. Do not overcrowd pan. Remove meat and set aside. Add pearl onion, 1 cup baby carrots and chopped celery and sauté until vegetables are golden. Add tomato paste and flour and cook for a minute or two until a golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Add red wine, beef broth and instant coffee, scrapping up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring to boil, cover, and move to oven.
  2. Let stew simmered in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then add potatoes and remaining carrots. Let stew with potatoes simmer an additional 30 minutes then add chard. Return to oven and simmer an additional 30 minutes (total time 2 ½ hours).
  3. Remove from oven, defat liquid if needed. Add fresh sage, thyme, soy sauce and ground black pepper. Serve over polenta or egg noodles.

a dutch oven full of bubbling stew

Cavatappi with Pork Sugo

A long simmer turns cubes of pork fork-tender in this rich sugo.

A bowl of Cavatappi with Pork Sugo
The other night, my friend, Pam, and I ventured into the city for dinner and Portugual. The man at the Shrine Auditorium. We ended up at Josef Centeno’s Bäco Mercat in the old bank district for the meal. His Spanish-fusion fare was the ideal aperitif before anything with “Portugual” in the name and his flavors did not disappoint. My favorite dish of the evening was a pork sugo on maltaglianti with soujouk sausage, raisins, kale and pine nuts.

This version, although very different than the dish I had that night,  is a take on this Bon Appetit recipe, but using some of the ingredients from my beloved Bäco Mercat dish.


Cavatappi with Pork Sugo

A long simmer turns cubes of pork fork-tender in this rich sauce.


Ingredients

  • Ingredients here
  • 1½ lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1½” cubes
  • ½ cup pepperoni, finely chopped
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup dried golden raisins soaked in hot water then drained
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed, torn into 2” pieces
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving-
  • 1 lb. cavatappi, cavatelli or other short pasta, cooked al dente and drained

Directions

  1. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Working in batches, cook meat, turning occasionally, until browned; transfer to a large plate.
  2. Add pepperoni to pot and cook until beginning to brown. Add onion, carrot, and celery to pepperoni and cook until golden. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with red wine, scraping up any browned bits. Tie rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf into a bouquet garni with kitchen twine; add to pot along with pork and any accumulated juices, tomatoes, pepper, nutmeg, and clove. Add water just to cover meat (about 1 ½ tomato can’s full) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is very tender, about1½ hours.
  3. Discard bouquet garni. Using 2 forks, shred meat in pot; cook, uncovered, over high heat until sauce is thickened but still saucy, about 8 minutes.
  4. Cook pine nuts in butter until golden watching closely so they don’t burn. Reserve butter and pine nuts.
  5. 5.Add golden raisins and kale to sugo; cook until kale is soft, about 4 minutes. Mix in ½ cup Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve sugo over pasta; drizzle with pine nuts, browned butter, and top with more Parmesan.

Q. Why not use a can of diced tomatoes? Canned diced tomatoes usually have added calcium chloride, which helps them hold their shape through cooking – exactly what I don’t want when making a sauce. I use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes and chop them myself so they melt into the sauce.

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

Myriad spices and preserved lemon come together in this exotically flavored chicken dish with minimal hands-on time, making Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon an ideal recipe for entertaining.

A platter mounded with Moroccan Chicken

Looking back at one of my old blog posts feels like pulling out an old high school yearbook from a dusty closet shelf. I first prepared this recipe in February 2014. At the time I hit “post,” I was feeling reasonably accomplished and proud to post both recipe and photograph. Four plus years later, I cringe – at the poorly lit and composed image and appallingly written recipe, for starters. What. Was. I. Thinking. In the future, when I’m exasperated by my lack of noticeable improvement, I’ll revisit a post from 2014 to remind myself how far I’ve truly come. Oh, the horror.

Inspired by Epicurious’s Chicken Tagine with Olives and Lemons.


Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

Myriad spices and preserved lemon come together in this exotically flavored chicken dish with minimal hands-on time, making Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon an ideal recipe for entertaining.


Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • Handful Italian parsley
  • Handful cilantro
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (about 3.5 – 4 lbs.)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” slices
  • ¾ cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 1 ½ preserved lemons, sliced (or one fresh lemon very thinly sliced)

Directions

  1. In a food processor, process first 12 ingredients through saffron to make a marinade. Arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon in a 13×9” pan and pour marinade over and around ingredients. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least two hours and up to one day.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place dish, covered with foil, in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 additional minutes until chicken is cooked through. If desired, broil for an additional 5 minutes to crisp skin on chicken.
  3. To serve, arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon on a platter. Degrease sauce and pour over chicken and vegetables. Serve with aromatic rice.

The author in a photo from highschool

Speaking of school years…yep, gloves, a walking stick, and check out those shoulder pads!

 

Poached salmon with fennel salad and creamy caper sauce

Poached Salmon with Fennel Salad

“You breathe in experience, and you breathe out what you make.”
– Doug Aitken

This quote has been swirling around my brain today. Does this mean creating shouldn’t be a struggle – that making art is as natural as aspiration? That sounds so effortless. I wish. Or does it suggest that limited experiences, like inadequate oxygen molecules in toxic air, results in an insipid and shallow creative exhale?

In yoga, there’s a Sanskrit word, pranayama, which translates as “breath control” or “control of life force.” Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered to produce specific results. In practice, when we focus on our breath, it becomes fuller, richer, more rounded. A deep, expansive inhale yields an equally full exhale.

Applied to the quote above, it would imply, indeed, that the best art requires a cache of rich experiences. Or does our internal creative process provide an avenue to transform any experience, even the drone of suburban monotony, into something wonderful?

Speaking of turning something mundane into something wonderful…this creamy, flavorful lemon, dill and caper sauce paired with fennel salad elevates humble poached salmon into something both healthy and crave worthy – fancy enough for company.


Poached salmon with fennel salad and creamy caper sauce

Starting the poaching process in cold water ensures the fish remains incredibly moist.

Ingredients

    Fennel Salad
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Poached Salmon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 sprigs dill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 4 8-oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • Caper Sauce
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon dill, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine fennel salad ingredients and set aside to marinate.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine water, lemon juice, shallots, celery, dill, bay, peppercorns and salt. Add salmon to poaching liquid and additional water, until poaching liquid just covers salmon (about 2 more cups).
  3. Cover, turn heat to medium and cook salmon until internal temperature reaches 115°F, about 18 minutes. Carefully transfer salmon to a plate and chill until cold.
  4. To make yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients and chill. If too thick, add a bit of water or milk.
  5. Serve salmon over fennel Salad liberally drizzled with yogurt sauce.