September 23, 2011

fig, pear and arugula grilled goat cheese flatbread pizza

Hey there.
I just wanted to drop in and let you know that I made possibly THE BEST PIZZA EVER the other night.

Remember this pizza?

Well, I just added some stuff to take it to the HNL. (hole.nutha.level.) Watch the video you should watch it.

This was so good that when I tasted it before bringing it in to present to hubby, I stood there by the sink and, like a true closet eater, finished the whole piece in pure bliss. 

Fig, Pear and Arugula Grilled Goat Cheese Flatbread Pizza

1 Pear
About a half of a sweet onion, sliced
Brown sugar

Prepare the pizza according to instructions. Here's what you'll do differently:
-Caramelize the onion: Heat a skillet to medium high, then add a pat of butter. Add sliced onions and a couple teaspoons of brown sugar, and a sprinkle of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and brown. 
-Add the pear to the pizza when you add the figs. 
-When the bottom of the pizza has finished cooking (after you've added the figs, pears, bacon and goat cheese), turn off the grill. Add the arugula on top (as much as you want), then the caramelized onions. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.

September 21, 2011

israeli couscous salad

The other afternoon I made this really good pear and chocolate tart

this isn't it.

The thing that can happen when you make really good pear and chocolate tarts in the afternoon is that you can ruin your dinner. 

It can be 8:30 and you're still not hungry but maybe your husband is, and maybe you have a fridge-full of vegetables you want to use even though you're not hungry.

Your husband you might start chopping vegetables anyway and you might start stirring around cute little balls of couscous and you might take inspiration from one of your favorite salads and make a really tasty dressing too.

You might throw it all together and decide it looks good enough to eat. Even though you're not really hungry. You might eat a whole bowl of the stuff and some of your husband's second bowl of it as well.

If you do all this, your tummy will be happy. It will thank you. Really, it will feel so good.
And then since you feel so good about what you just ate, you might decide that it's okay to have another piece of that tart.

And then your tummy might be mad at you again.

Israeli Couscous Salad
Serves 2

2/3 cup of Israeli couscous
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 persian cucumbers, chopped (or about 1/2 cup regular chopped cucumber)
1 T. chopped dill
1 T. chopped mint
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil (I use lemon-infused)
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. lemon pepper (or regular fresh ground)
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Cook the couscous according to the package instructions. While it is cooking, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a swirl of olive oil and the chopped onion and garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes until onions are tender and slightly translucent. Remove from heat.

When couscous is done cooking, add it to the skillet with the onion and garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper (I used lemon pepper) and stir to combine.
Add chopped vegetables and herbs to a medium bowl. Add couscous mixture and dressing and toss to combine. Add in crumbled feta and give it another toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

September 19, 2011

pear and chocolate cake-tart

In May, my husband took me to Paris. But let's back up.

Last Christmas, my husband gave me a blender. 

I'm proud to say that it didn't cause a Father-of-the-Bride-esque breakdown, but I should note that the second I opened it, husband quickly injected, "That's not your main present. I just knew you wanted an immersion blender." I'm not proud to say that this may have been the reason that it didn't cause a Father-of-the-Bride-esque breakdown.

He knows the rule about how you're not supposed to get a woman something she needs. He's smart.
He then offered me a smaller present.

It was a CD of French music. Cute. I'm obsessed with all things French. This he knows. Told you he was smart.
He then offered me a slightly larger present.

Two French books. One of them was called Edible Adventures in Paris. He suggested I open it to page 105. There lay two plane tickets. To Paris.

I burst into tears.

I tell you this telling anecdote not just because my husband deserves some credit for being so sensational, but also because the aforementioned book is a wonderful one that guided us well on our dreamy trip. And because in it I saw a recipe/picture of a chocolate and pear tart that I have not forgotten about. Since last Christmas

My parents have a pear tree and I have been anxiously awaiting its sweet fruit for some time, with this very recipe in mind. I don't know why I didn't ever just do the sensible thing and buy some pears from the store to make this tart. I don't know why. Don't ask.

But this thing was worth the wait. Rich, dark chocolate is accented by sweet rum-poached pears and a buttery crust. The chocolate was gooey and may have been slightly underdone and we rather liked it that way.

It was awesome with an afternoon cup of chai yesterday, it was awesome for dessert after dinner, and husband said it was awesome for breakfast this morning. 

Pear and Chocolate Cake-Tart 
Serves 12 (maybe)
Clotilde is the author of Chocolate and Zucchini

For the Crust (Pâte Brisée)
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the filling)
3 T. plus 1 tsp. ice cold water
a pinch of fine sea salt
2 T. sugar*
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for sprinkling
8 T. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat for greasing

*I wouldn't have minded a slightly sweeter crust and may increase the sugar to 3 T. next time.

For the Pears
2 T. sugar
3 T. dark rum (optional)
2 pears, ripe but still firm

For the Chocolate Filling
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
a pinch fine sea salt
4 1/2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
7 T. unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white (saved from crust recipe)

Prepare the crust: In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk, water, salt, and sugar, and set aside. Combine the flour and butter in the bowl of food processor, and process at low speed for 10 seconds, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Pour in the egg yolk mixture all at once and process for a few more seconds, just until the dough comes together. If it is too dry, add a little more ice-cold water, 1 tsp. at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball without kneading. Flatten the ball slightly, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day (if you refrigerate it for more than an hour, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before using).

While the dough chills, poach the pears. Combine 1 cup water, the sugar and the rum in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Peel and core the pears. Cut each of them lengthwise into sixths, rather than quarters, in order to get twelve pieces total. Add the pears to the saucepan, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 4 minutes, until tender and slightly translucent. Lift the pears from the syrup cautiously with a slotted spoon and and set aside in a colander to drain.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Grease an 11-to-12-inch tart pan with a pat of butter (see Note). Working on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13 to 14 inch circle and line the pan with it, trimming off the excess dough. (All I had was a 9-inch pie pan, so I rolled the dough to about 11-12 inches and just had a thicker crust.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 30 minutes; this will prevent the dough from shrinking as it bakes. Preheat the oven to 350 and put the tart pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prepare the chocolate filling. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring regularly to combine. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and egg white, stirring well between each addition. Add the flour mixture and stir again until just combined.

Remove the crust from the oven but leave the heat on. Pour the chocolate filling into the tart shell and even out the surface with a spatula. Arrange the pear pieces over the filling in a sun-ray pattern, the small ends pointing towards the center of the tart. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is just set at the center (it will continue to cook as it cools) and the crust is golden. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before serving.

Note: The recipe can be made in eight 4-inch tartlet molds, rather than one large tart. You should then cut each pear into fourths rather than sixths, and reduce the baking time of the chocolate filling to 15 minutes.

You can serve it plain with a glass of milk or tea, or you can serve it with some gelato or whipped cream or ice cream. Just eat it, whatever you do.

September 9, 2011

fig and goat cheese grilled flatbread pizza

No beating around the bush today. 
No fun stories. No hilarious jokes. No charming anecdotes.
Just pizza. 

Just delicious, sweet, salty, tangy pizza. 
Just chewy, crispy (yes, both at once), ridiculous flatbread pizza.

Fig and Goat Cheese Grilled Flatbread Pizza

1 ball of pizza dough (you can use pre-made or make your own. I used the recipe from here, I just prepared the dough without baking it)
4-5 ripe figs, sliced 1/4 thick, skin on
2-3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
4-5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil plus more for the grill
Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the dough. Spread or roll it very thin, but even. Try not to get areas which are too thin because these will form holes and burn easily. 

When the dough is ready, start the grill and get it very hot. If your grill has a temperature gauge, let it get to about 400 degrees.

Prep all the toppings. 

Spray or brush the surface of the dough with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Place that side down on the hot grill. Cook until the dough begins to firm up on the bottom and gets a nice brown color. Brush the uncooked side of the dough with olive oil and flip over.

Add the figs, goat cheese and bacon to the top of the grilled flat bread and shut the lid of the grill for about two minutes so the toppings can get warm and the bottom of the bread can finish cooking.

When the bottom is well toasted, remove the flatbread to a platter or cutting board and sprinkle it with chopped basil and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Tip: If using an outdoor grill, rub the surface of the grill with a rolled kitchen towel (use an old one you can throw away), lightly dipped in oil (be careful, use tongs to do this). This will help keep the dough from sticking. If you are using an indoor grill, it is probably nonstick and you will probably not need to do this.

September 6, 2011

green bean salad with feta and dill

Did you have a good Labor Day weekend? I hope so.

Want to know what I did for the holiday weekend?
I fed the mosquitos.

I sacrificed my body to the little bloodsuckers for the sake of camping in the woods. These weren't just any mosquitos, no, I think they're special mosquitos. Mosquitos that have built up an immunity to Off. Mosquitos on steroids. Bold, persistent mosquitos.

I counted 16 bites on the front of the upper half of my right leg. Like from knee to hip, just on the top side. 
I hope those mosquitos choke on my blood and die.

But you know what else I did for the holiday weekend?
I camped in the woods with some of my favorite people. We ate hot dogs around the campfire, and spun around in the dark, and had volleyball tournaments, and played scattergories under tarps in the rain. We ate s'mores (have you ever spread peanut butter on your graham cracker first? Amazing.) and drank instant coffee in the cool of the morning, and laughed until we almost peed our pants. We all sacrificed our bodies to the mosquitos together and it was so worth it. I wouldn't trade it.

This has nothing to do with green bean salad. But. Make this salad anyway, it is so delicious. The green beans are crunchy and the dressing is tangy and the feta is cheesy and it will make you happy.

Green Bean Salad with Feta and Dill
Serves 2

About 2 cups of fresh green beans
1/4 cup of a vinaigrette dressing, like Italian Dressing. I used Brianna's French Vinaigrette.
2-3 T. crumbled feta
2 T. chopped red onion
2 T. chopped fresh dill

Cook beans in boiling water about 3 minutes or until tender crisp (I like mine on the crispier side, but if you prefer a little more cooked, increase time to 4 minutes or so). Drain and rinse well with cold water to stop cooking. Toss beans with dressing, cheese, onion and dill in a bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.