Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mini Rhubarb Tarts

Hello everyone!  I’m sorry for not posting anything on here for a while.  I’ve started working a second job, so my free time is limited.  Also, summer’s heat is now in full swing and my small apartment is always super warm.  So, turning on the stove or oven is the last thing I want to do. But, no more excuses!
There are few shopping experiences that can compare to a local farmer’s market: outdoors with the wind in your hair and the sun shining down (or sleet coming down, whatever it happens to be!), that's how I like to buy dinner.  Call me sappy if you want, but there’s something about a community coming together to buy and sell fresh food that warms my heart.

Anyways, I stopped at my local farmer’s market the other day.  After weeks and weeks of rainy, dreary weather, it was one of the first sunny days we’ve had, so it was extra special.  Because it’s so early in the growing season, there wasn’t much produce for sale, but there was one thing that almost every vendor had: rhubarb!  I purchased a huge bunch for a shockingly low price and was ready for a fun afternoon in the kitchen.

A certain somebody was very curious!

Once back at home, I had a hard time deciding what to make with my rhubarb.  Should I play it safe and make a crisp?  Nah.  A tart sounds fun, but I don’t have a fluted tart pan, and the crinkly edging is necessary to make a tart fun.  Mini things are fun too.  A mini tart without crinkly edging would be acceptable.

And that, good people of the internet, is how my mini rhubarb tarts came to be a reality.  *Cue triumphant music*  

The crust of these tarts is Smitten Kitchen’s great unshrinkable sweet tart shell and the filling is my own original creation.  This recipe will make 12 cupcake sized tarts.  Here’s the printable recipe.

Mini Rhubarb Tarts

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

For the Filling
2 cups rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1. Let's start on the crust.  Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor or a plain bowl and blend them together.  Take the cold butter and chop it into small chunks.  Place the butter into your food processor or bowl and blend it in.  If, like me, you are using a plain bowl you can use a fork and your fingers to blend the butter into the dry ingredients.  You want the butter to be in oatmeal sized chunks.  
2. Take your egg and it to the butter and flour mixture.  Stir and knead the dough until the egg in mixed in well.  
3. Grease your cupcake/mini tart pans very well.  You don't want your tart to stick or break as you pull them out of the pan.  Take your dough and divide it into twelve balls, one ball per tart.  Press one ball into the sides of each cup to form the crust.  Place you crusts into the freezer for at least a half hour.  
4. Now we can work on the filling.  Finely chop about two cup of rhubarb. Add it into a medium bowl along with the sugar, flour, egg and mix it all together.  This is probably a good time to preheat your oven to 325 degrees. (The lower temp will help the filling cook completely without letting the crusts burn.)
5. Once you crusts have been chilled for at least 30 minutes, evenly distribute the filling into your twelve crusts.  You want each crust to be about 90% full.
6. Bake your tarts at 325 degree for 30 minute or until the crusts are golden brown and the filling has firmed up a bit.  Let the tarts cool and then carefully remove them from the pan.

These little tarts are so cute!  I think they would be a perfect addition to a dessert buffet or with some iced or hot tea in the afternoon.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Veggie and Pesto Pasta Salad

I love the freedom of mealtime in the summer: grilling on the deck, ice cream at the beach, iced tea on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Food always seems to taste the best when everyone is laid back and surrounded by the ones they love, and summer seems to give us the most opportunities for these meals.  

One dish that’s a staple to any summer get-together is the pasta salad.  I like my pasta salads swimming in mayonnaise, but not everyone likes mayo ( I have no patience for these people.) and it’s a pretty unhealthy choice.  Italian dressing is another option, but by the time August rolls around, maybe you want something new?  I’ve got just the thing: Pesto!    
I’ve only had pesto a few times and it was always from a seasoning packet.  To me, it tasted like buttery noodles with some seasoning salt.  Plus, I would always get the little green pieces stuck in my teeth. Annoying!  When I tried making my own homemade pesto, I was shocked at how much flavor it had.  At least it worth getting pesto stuck in my teeth!

Life is better with fun shaped pasta.

This recipe was inspired by Joy the Baker.

Veggie and Pesto Pasta Salad
4 cups of spinach, packed loosely
2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 spoonfuls of minced garlic (two garlic cloves)
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 pound of uncooked pasta (about 8 servings)
A variety of vegetables

1. Bring a pot of water to a roiling boil and drop in your pasta.  Stir occasionally until the pasta is cooked.  Drain, then let the pasta cool by running cold water over it.

2. While your pasta is cooking and cooling, coarsely chop you spinach and put it in a blender or food processor with the EVOO, garlic, lemon juice and parmesan cheese.  Blend until the spinach is almost liquified.  This is your pesto sauce. 

3. Chop your veggies into bite sized pieces.  Use whatever veggie make you happy.  I used green bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, and green olives.  Others that would be good: broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, black olives, celery, mushrooms, carrots, even kernels of corn.  So, yep, you’ve got lots of options.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, noodles, veggies, and add salt and pepper to taste.

So, now I’m confused: is all homemade pesto this good or am I just an excellent pesto cook?Anyways, this dish seems to keep very well in the fridge overnight ( I was worried about the olive oil separating), so it would be a wonderful item to make ahead for a backyard BBQ or a potluck. After all, garlic breath is best when it’s shared!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

I love eating fruits and veggies and when it comes to dessert, I’m no different.  Rhubarb crisp, carrot cake, or pumpkin bars; they’re a nice change from chocolate. (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a chocoholic from waaay back.)

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits to cook with... and of course eat too!  And now, after my trip to Maine, I’m going crazy for them.  Lucky for me, I found this recipe on Sweet Anna’s, but I wanted to make it a bit healthier.   

Also, this is the first recipe you can print!  I hope you’re all impressed by my technological skills!

Anyways, let’s get started:

Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oat flour*
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk (any kind, I used soymilk)
4-5 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, do not thaw)

For the crumble topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons of sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 9x13 and set aside.
Let’s start on the cake:
1. Stir together the two types of flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl (or a stand mixer, if you have one) cream together the sugar and butter. Then add the eggs and vanilla. Stir together.
3. Add in the flour mixture and milk alternately (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour) to sugar mixture.  
4. Then, gently fold in your blueberries.  The batter will be rather thick, so try not to mash the berries.
5. Evenly spread the cake batter into your greased pan.  
Now for the crumble topping:
6. In the bowl that you had the flour mixture in, add the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter.  Mix them together.  If the topping doesn’t seem crumbly enough, add a bit more sugar to dry it out.

7. Crumble this on top of your cake batter.

8. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool and serve.

*You can make your own oat flour by grinding up oatmeal in food processor, blender, coffee grinder, or spice grinder.  However, make sure you’re measuring 1 1/2 cups of the oat flour and not 1 1/2 cups of plain oatmeal, because you won’t be adding enough flour.  If you want more information about oat flour, here’s a great article.

This coffee cake is great because it’s not too light or too heavy.  It’s perfect for a summertime dessert or for brunch.  Enjoy!