Hidden Rose Apple Tart

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I could hardly believe that December is here and in a blink of an eye the new year will be upon us. I’m not ready for fall to be over let alone for 2017 to arrive. So many fall dishes still on my list to cook and bake. Another squash and apple soup. A pear and chocolate tart. Chicken stewed in apple cider. A savory fig and goat cheese tart. Butternut squash and ricotta ravioli. And many more apple cakes and tarts. One dessert that I was really happy to cross off my list was this hidden rose apple tart. These hidden rose apples came all the way from Oregon and are famous for their deep red fresh and crisp with balanced flavor of tart and sweet. I was lucky enough to get my hands on them soon after they arrived at Specialty Produce.

When it comes to desserts, I kept things simple to enhance the flavor of these delicious apples. Paired with puff pastry for a shell and flavored with a touch of cinnamon were all they required.

Not too long after the tart came out of the oven, my little guy caught sight of it and demanded to try it. So there we sat in the kitchen, just the two of us, and polished off this tart. He picked off the best part, the apples and crunchy crust, but I didn’t mind one bit. He liked it so much that I made it again the next day. And hopefully again next year when these apples are in season.

Hidden Rose Apple Tart

½ pound of puff pastry
2 hidden rose apples, sliced thinly
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
2 tbsps granulated sugar
2 tbsps almond meal
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp turbinado sugar
¼ tsp Saigon cinnamon
powdered sugar for dusting
vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche for serving

1. Place the lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Peel, core, and slice apples into ⅛ inch with a mandoline. Gently toss with the lemon juice to prevent the apples from discoloring.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to about 5mm thick and trim it into a 10 inch circle.

6. Sprinkle the sugar and almond meal over the top, leaving a 1 inch border.

7. Arrange the apple slices on top of the dough with slight overlap, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges.

8. Fold the edges of the puff pastry over the apple slices and press gently to seal. Pop the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes or until the dough is firm.

9. Mix the the turbinado and cinnamon until combined.

10. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the apple slices and edges.

11. Bake the tart for 30-40 minute on the middle rack, turning halfway through to ensure even baking.

12. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

13. When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar.  Slice the apple tart and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.

14.The tart will keep for another day in an airtight container.

Cookbook Review: French Country Cooking

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I was really looking forward to the release of Mimi Thorisson’s French Country Cooking given how wonderful her first book is.  French Country Cooking is as gorgeous as her first book and similar in term of style but it delves deeper into how her family bought their chateau in Medoc and turned into a restaurant/workshop space.  

From the sweet recipes I really enjoyed Plantia’s tarte tatin, fig and pistachio cake, beignets with apricot filling, and strawberry tart.  The beignets were so good warm and tasted similar to the beignet mix we got from Cafe du Monde but we skipped the apricot filling since it wasn’t apricot season.  For the savory recipes, chanterelle and garlic tartlets, roast duck with cherries, and lobster bisque. There were other recipes that looked really interesting but ingredients were hard to find like the guinea hen ravioli, quail stuffed with foie gras, and turbot with vin jaune sauce.  

Even though I really enjoyed the recipes from French Country Cooking, they do require a lot of planning and prep work.  These recipes aren’t meant for a beginner cook.  Overall French Country Cooking is a beautiful book full of delicious recipes and perfect for anyone who wants to delve deeper into French country cooking or entertain family and friends.          

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher 

Roasted kabocha soup

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A few weeks ago I caught a bad cold, or so I thought. It started with a sore throat and progressed to complete exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting. I knew something was wrong when I could barely move or eat. My husband drove me to urgent care and I was diagnosed with Strep throat. I had to take time off from work, was put on antibiotic, and quarantined myself. The first three days were the worst. I felt like there were pins poking at my throat everytime I tried to talk or eat. My mom’s kabocha soup came to the rescue. 

Made with roasted kabocha squash, scented with lemongrass and ginger, and enriched by coconut milk, my mom’s soup was the perfect antidote to my sore throat. Her kabocha squash soup is one of my favorites not only for those times I’m feeling under the weather but for those chilly, autumn and winter days.  

Roasted kabocha squash soup

1 2-lb kabocha squash, quartered

2 tbsps olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 knob of ginger, peeled and crushed
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into 2 inches, crushed
1 can of 14 oz coconut creme
1 cup of water
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
Micogreen for serving
Freshly ground pepper for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. To prepare the squash, scoop out the seeds and remove as much of the soft, sticky pulp as possible. Brush the squash pieces with olive oil, place cut side down on a roasting tray, and roast in the oven for 60 minutes, turning halfway through.

3. Remove the squash from the oven, remove the skin with a knife, and chop the squash into chunks.  Reserve 1/2 a cup of squash chunks for serving.

4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the ginger and lemongrass.

5. Add in the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil.

6. Add in the squash and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

7. Remove the ginger and lemongrass pieces and set aside.

8. Use a handheld blender and puree to a smooth consistency. Add back the ginger and lemongrass.

9. Season with fish sauce and sugar and let it simmer on low heat for another 15 minutes.

10. Ladle soup into serving bowls, top with squash chunks, microgreens and freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately.

Salted Caramel Quince Tarte Tatin

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A few weeks ago, I took a short trip to Seattle and fell in love with the Emerald City all over again. I had forgotten how gorgeous fall in Seattle is with all the red, orange, and ochre foliage lining streets and city parks. The rain, fog, and its melancholy made me miss the bay area, where I grew up. I spent a lot of time meandering different parts of Seattle, from Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill to Ballard, popping in random shops and restaurants.  My favorite meal was at Lark where I indulged in oysters and ended the night with a delicious quince tarte tatin, smothered in salted caramel sauce and topped with old fashion vanilla ice cream.  It was probably the best thing I ate on that trip!

 The next day, I drove around Seattle for looking for quinces and totally lucked out on my way to the airport. I stopped by a gas station and spied a small market across the street. With three hours to spare, I made my way to the market.  It had a nice selection of fruits and to my delight a huge bin of pineapple quinces. I probably bought about five pounds and carefully stuffed them in my carry on. Instead of taking a nap on the plane, my thoughts were occupied with how to recreate the salted caramel tarte tatin from Lark.

When I came home, I left the quinces in my kitchen and let their heavenly fragrance fill my favorite space. After a few days, I dug out an old recipe for apple tarte tatin and substituted the quince for the apple. I altered the cooking time for my tarte tatin since quinces are virtually inedible raw and required a little more cooking than apples. It’s a bit of work to make this classic French upside-down dessert but worth every bite. The quince tarte tatin that I had at Lark was paired with vanilla ice cream and I wouldn’t eat it any other way. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin 

4 small quinces, peeled, cored, and halved
¼ tsp salt
½ cup of sugar
2 tbsps of water
½ stick of unsalted butter, cubed
1 lb all butter puff pastry
All purpose flour for dusting
Vanilla ice cream for serving
One 8” flameproof tart pan or heavy-based, oven proof pan

1. In a flameproof tart pan, on low heat, add water, salt and sugar, and cook gently until sugar has dissolved.

2. Increase heat to medium and bring to boil. Cook without stirring for 7 minutes or until light golden.

3. Add the butter and stir until melted and well combined.

4. Put the quinces, cut side up, into the pan. Return to low heat and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

6. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry on a floured surface. Cut a round circle slightly bigger than the pan.

7. Place the pastry circle over the quinces and fold the edges under to tuck in the apples. Use a small knife, make 3 small slits in the center of the pastry.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden.

9. Let the tarte tatin stand for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges and carefully turn out the tarte tatin onto a serving plate. 

10. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream. The tart is best eaten on the day of baking but will keep for 1 day.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I grew up with Vietnamese food and it wasn’t until I met my husband over 15 years ago that I was introduced to Italian food. For the first year that we dated, we ate mainly Italian food because it was a novelty to me--spaghetti, lasagna, gnocchi, and all kind of pasta. I owe my love of Italian food to my husband so I make one of his favorite dishes often, spaghetti and meatballs. 

I like adding fresh tomatoes to the tomato passata for that extra tomato umph. I love using tomato passata because it’s made with high quality ripe tomatoes resulting in a well flavoured tomato base that is more delicious compared to the standard canned tomatoes.   Every family has their own meatball recipe but we found the combination of pork and veal make really moist meatballs.  Spaghetti and meatballs is such a tasty and classic dish that can feed the whole family and make for great leftovers.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
14 oz of dried spaghetti
½ tbsp of salt
2 tbsps of olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to serve
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Extra basil leaves to serve

For the sauce:
2 tbsps of olive oil
1 tbsp of garlic, chopped
1 cup of fresh San Marzanos tomatoes, chopped (can substitute with Roma tomatoes)
1 24-oz bottle of passata
½ cup of red wine
1 cup of spaghetti water
½ cup of basil leaves, chopped

2 tbsps sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the meatballs:
½ lb ground pork

½ lb ground veal
½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
¾ cup panko
2 eggs
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
¼ cup white onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
2 tbsps olive oil

1. For the meatballs, in a large mixing bowl combine pork, veal, cheese, panko, eggs, garlic, white onion, salt, and pepper and mix well to combine.

2. Using wet hands, roll 2 tbsps of the mixture into balls and place them on a plate. Cover and refrigerate the meatballs for 30 minutes to allow the flavor the develop.

3. Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs in batches, turning frequently for 5 minutes or until browned.

4.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside.

5. In the same pan, add 2 tbsps of olive oil and the garlic and let it cook and become fragrant, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the fresh tomatoes, tomato passata, and red wine to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and the meatballs are cooked through.

7. While the meatballs are cooking, place the spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain well but do not rinse. Toss the spaghetti with olive oil.

8. If the tomato sauce becomes too thick, add the spaghetti water to thin it. Add basil and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. 

9.Divide the spaghetti between serving bowls, top with meatballs, extra sauce, basil leaves, and Parmesan cheese.

Honey roasted figs with goat cheese and Serrano ham on sourdough toast

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fig is hands down one of my favorite fruits, and I eat my weight in figs when they are in season. Lucky for us, figs appear as early as late spring and last all the way until fall. My favorite farmer told me that there are a few weeks left of figs so I’ve been hoarding them for jams, tarts, ice cream, salad, and other dishes. 

Today, I’m sharing an easy dish that we often snack on at home or serve as an appetizer at our dinner party--honey roasted figs with goat cheese and Serrano ham on sourdough. These toasts have a lot of flavor--sweet, salty, and tang from all the ingredients. Make sure you get the soft and sweet figs for this dish. Enjoy!

Honey roasted figs with goat cheese and Serrano ham on sourdough toast

8 figs (brown turkey, black mission, or your favorite figs), quartered if big, halved if smaller
2 tbsps honey
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sherry
¼ cup goat cheese
2 tbsps toasted hazelnuts, crushed
4 slices of sourdough bread, toasted
4 thin slices of Serrano ham

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a small sauce bowl, whisk the honey, water, and sherry.

3. Drizzle the cut-side of figs with honey mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes until the figs are just caramelized.

4. Spread one tablespoon of goat cheese over the bread slices. Top with Serrano ham, caramelized figs, and crushed hazelnuts.

5. Serve immediately

Cookbook giveaway: Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The really nice folks over at Abrams Books gave us a copy of Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow to give to one of our lucky readers.  To enter, please leave a comment below and let us know your favorite fall ingredients to cook with.  The winner will be selected at random.  Comments will close on Monday, October 31st at 9 P.M. Pacific. US residents only please :)

*This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party