Saturday, May 18, 2024

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Primavera

Many years ago I posted the recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara. At the time, I noted that it’s perfect for evenings when you’re feeling a little bit lazy…and your pantry is a little bit bare. It also fills the bill for those days when you are craving a little comfort food.

Sadly, it has also always felt like a bit of a guilty pleasure to me because it doesn’t have a vegetable anywhere in sight. You can of course make a salad to go with it. But that’s more work…and more dishes to wash. Today’s spring version of the dish takes care of the lack of vegetables…without adding any more work in the form of more dirty dishes. This Primavera incarnation of Pasta alla Carbonara is not only quick and satisfying…it is now a non-guilt inducing dinner (unless bacon makes you feel guilty…).

Even with the addition of vegetables, I still consider this a “bare pantry” kind of dinner. In the spring, if I don’t have asparagus on hand (and peas in the freezer…or one of those great little bag of Trader Joe’s fresh peas in the vegetable crisper), there is probably truly nothing in the house to eat. This time of year I buy asparagus every time I’m at the store or market (and I usually buy too much). I love asparagus.

I should probably point out that the fact that this dish is quick does not mean it is easy. It is in fact—at the end when you are finishing it—a bit tricky. I was reminded of this the other day when I made it for friends for lunch. I was in a hurry and didn’t pay as much attention as I should have at the very end when I was mixing in the eggs.

When you make Spaghetti alla Carbonara, you are essentially using the residual heat of the pot the pasta was cooked in…as well as the heat in the pasta…to “cook” the eggs. Yet, you don’t want visibly scrambled eggs. You want eggs that are cooked to the point of a stirred custard (like crème anglaise and similar), so that what you have is a lightly thickened, fluid sauce coating the noodles (and vegetables). This sauce is made up of egg, butter, bacon fat, Parmesan, and pasta water.

To get a sauce like this, you simply have to be paying attention. When you add the egg, make sure that you are stirring constantly. As you stir…and add each element (butter, cooked vegetables and bacon, Parmesan)…pay attention to the thickness and fluidity of the sauce. If you are having difficulty stirring (because the sauce is too tight), add a splash of pasta water. If the pasta seems like it is swimming in too much liquid (because the egg is not cooked…or you “splashed” in too much pasta water), set it over low heat and stir briskly until it begins to thicken.

The other day when I made it for lunch I didn’t add enough pasta water. The final dish seemed a bit sticky to me (noodles didn’t twirl smoothly, etc). But I share this mostly to let you know it was still delicious and I Hoovered it right up. So…if you don’t get it quite right, don’t worry. Enjoy it anyway. And then, make it again soon. So you can get in some more practice.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Primavera

1/2 lb. Asparagus, trimmed (about 4 oz. trimmed weight)
2 strips bacon (about 2 oz.), thinly sliced crosswise
3 to 4 t. unsalted butter, divided
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 c. fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen)--optional
180 g./6 1/2 oz. spaghetti
2 eggs
1/2 c. (1 1/2 oz.) finely grated Parmesan

Slice the tips off of the asparagus at an angle. Split the tips in half lengthwise. Slice the stalks of the asparagus thinly on a long diagonal so that they are the same length as the halved tips. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan set over medium-low heat, render the bacon. Stir and scrape to make sure it cooks evenly. When the bacon is browned and beginning to crisp and sizzle, add a tablespoon or so of water to cool the pan. Add a couple of teaspoons of the butter and a few grinds of black pepper and the asparagus. Season lightly with salt and toss to coat the asparagus in the butter and bacon fat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for a couple of minutes (until the pan is steamy and the asparagus is at an active, but gentle, sizzle). Uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the asparagus is just tender—about 7 to 8 minutes. If adding peas, add them to the pan a couple of minutes before the asparagus is done.

When you add the asparagus to the pan of bacon, drop the spaghetti into a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water. Stir to make sure the pasta isn't sticking. Cook until the pasta is al dente—about 7 to 8 minutes. (The pasta and asparagus should finish cooking at the same time—if the asparagus is done before the pasta, simply set it aside off of the heat.)

A couple of minutes before the pasta is ready, scoop out a half cup or so of the pasta water and set to the side. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it well. Return the pasta to the (now empty) hot pot and immediately add the asparagus/bacon mixture (scraping the pan well with a rubber spatula), the egg and any remaining butter. Stir briskly until the egg is thickened. If necessary, place the pot back over low heat as your stir. Stir in half of the Parmesan. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper. Adjust the consistency with some of the pasta water as needed—the spaghetti should be coated in a thin, fluid sauce of lightly thickened should not seem sticky or tight. Serve immediately with more Parmesan scattered over. Serves 2.

Note: Recipe is easily halved for one or doubled for four.

Printable Version

Monday, April 29, 2024

Some Updates

A little over a year ago I added a “tip jar” to my blog. It provided a way for people who wanted to support my work to do so without pressure or rules. It also provided some income for the work I do on the blog without cluttering it up with annoying ads/pop ups/etc. Many of you have contributed…and I appreciate it so much!

Last week I had to take the tip jar down. It was apparently being used by thieves to vet stolen credit cards. Most transactions (over 350 over the course of a month by the time I caught it) were unsuccessful. Two went through for very small amounts and with similar names (which is how I caught it). The only solution appeared to be removing the payment link since I didn’t want to force people to tip over a certain dollar amount—which would be the only way to discourage thieves who were using it.

The Departed Tip Jar

As much as I didn't want to do it, taking the tip jar down has given me an opportunity to promote another way for followers to support the work I do.   As I mentioned in my last post, I have started a monthly subscription newsletter.  It costs $30 a year to subscribe. The newsletter—called “Notes from For Love of the Table”—is very much like my blog: filled with recipes, tutorials on techniques…as well as my not-so-humble opinions. You can read more about it in my previous post (at the end)…or on the “About” page of the newsletter.

Because it involves money/income, the removal of the tip jar also provides an occasion for me to explain a little bit about what has happened with my cooking classes over the past few years. I know that many of the people who took my in-person classes have been disappointed that I am no longer offering them.

Prior to the pandemic, the place where I taught most of my classes operated the class program on a non-profit basis. Even so, they compensated the teachers generously while offering the classes at a price that anyone could afford. When the pandemic ended and the program started up again, they made the decision to restructure the way instructors were compensated. I was no longer able to make enough for teaching the classes to cover my time. I was very sorry to see my time there come to an end.

Around the same time all this happened, I was pursuing increasing the number of in-person classes I offered at another venue. My classes there never really took off. It takes years to build a consistent clientele—years when you often teach for the sake of building up a following and don’t earn enough to cover the costs and time involved. I am no longer in a position to be able to do this.

Zoom classes have been my solution…at least for now. I can offer classes on Zoom at a price most can afford (I charge $35—in-person classes cost upwards of $75, which many cannot afford) because I don’t have to cover the cost of ingredients for tastings or the considerable amount of time it takes to stage an in-person class. With these Zoom classes, even when only a few people sign up, I can make enough to cover the time I have spent.

Some (many? most?) people don’t like Zoom. I totally understand. Mostly I have shared all of this to explain why my in-person classes came to an abrupt halt—seemingly out of the blue. But I have to add here: if you liked my in-person classes, consider giving my Zoom classes a try!

As far as the tip jar is concerned, I was thinking about taking it down when I started the newsletter anyway since the newsletter had provided an avenue for people who enjoy my blog to support me. It had occurred to me that it would be unlikely that someone would tip and pay $30 a year to receive a monthly newsletter. But I could be wrong about that…so I had left the tip jar up (until last week).

The idea of the newsletter came about as I have tried to rework my career in the wake of the pandemic and my shifting teaching situations.  Like teaching, the blog was something I was already doing.  I have always loved my blog. I love everything about it: testing recipes, writing recipes, writing posts, taking pictures….   (And I’ve always been so gratified when I learn that others have enjoyed reading it and cooking from it.)  Unfortunately, I have never been able to figure out how to justify it financially. When everything came to a grinding halt in March of 2020 and every working moment had to produce an income, I had to let the blog go. I have posted a few times over the past four years…but obviously not as much as I would like. By adding a paid subscription newsletter, I will be able to give extra content to those who subscribe (plus Zoom class discounts!) and, if all goes as planned, eventually provide enough income for me to post regularly to the blog again (which will remain free and public). I might even be able to do an in person class or two.

To those who have subscribed already:  Thank you so much!  I hope you are enjoying it and looking forward to cooking from it...or enjoying the things you may have already cooked.

For those who didn't know about the newsletter yet: If you use my blog…and learn from it…and want to see more of the kinds of things I share here, I hope you will consider subscribing to my newsletter. Doing so will bring more content your way (right into your inbox every month) and it will help me continue to teach, write, and develop recipes.

Thank you so much for taking a moment to read this post that doesn't even include a recipe. I have always been so amazed by—and appreciative of—those who have followed along and cooked with me over the years. Thank you...  I'm looking forward to many more.

Subscribe to "Notes from For Love of the Table"

Monday, April 1, 2024

White Chocolate Cheesecake Tart with Lemon Curd Topping…and an announcement!

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. As has frequently been the case with me over the past few years, I am posting the holiday appropriate recipe after the fact. Three or four years ago I posted my recipe for Hot Cross Buns after Easter had passed. But as I pointed out at the time…the holiday happens every year. Posting the recipe while it is fresh and new works well for me…and makes the recipe available to all when the holiday does come around again.

In the case of the dessert that I made for yesterday’s festivities, the white chocolate and lemon flavors will be appropriate for many occasions. Mother’s day…for example (and which happens to be right around the corner). So in the long run, I don’t feel too bad about my tardiness…and I hope others won’t mind it too much either.

Yesterday’s dessert was mostly the serendipitous result of my continually changing pantry of leftovers. Due to some over-purchasing for some recent events, I had cream cheese, lemons and graham crackers on hand. All of this of course suggests cheesecake. But since I’m usually not in the mood for a tall slab of rich cheesecake after a holiday meal, I opted instead to make a “cheese tart,” (similar in style to the Marbled Chocolate & Pumpkin Cheese Tart I shared several years ago). The thin flat tart allows you to cut attractive, wider portions—without serving a dessert that is just too rich.

Because my favorite cheesecake happens to be white chocolate cheesecake, I decided that I would make a base layer of white chocolate cheesecake and top it with a thin layer of lemon curd. I thought the contrast in tastes: tangy cream cheese and sour cream…sweet white chocolate…and tart lemon—would be fantastic. And they were.

The tart is very straight forward to make if you are familiar with making cheesecake. There are no surprises in the crust…and the main thing to be careful about when you are making the batter is the addition of the chocolate. White chocolate is even more temperamental than chocolate and can seize or clump pretty quickly. When you add it, don’t mess around: add it all in one go and immediately whisk it in by hand so that it is fully distributed as quickly as possible.

If you have never made lemon curd, check out my post on the classic Tarte au Citron. You will be making half of the recipe described in that post. Applying the curd to the tart is the trickiest part of making the cheesecake tart. It must be applied to the cheesecake base while it is still warm, soft and wobbly. The surface tension of the mostly baked cheesecake will work in your favor, but you must be careful to apply the curd by holding your spoon/spatula/ladle very close to the surface—without  touching the surface—and apply it in a sweeping sort of motion (basically laying the curd in slabs/strips rather than plops). If you are too far above the surface of the tart when you apply it…or you apply it all in one spot…the weight of the curd will penetrate into the tart and you won’t have even/level layers of cheesecake and curd. Once all of the curd has been laid down on the tart, using a small offset spatula, go back and gently smooth it out to the edges, filling any holes left from the application process.

I was very pleased with this tart. Sometimes when you make something with flavors you think will be happy together, you can be disappointed when they all somehow manage to mute one another rather than enhance each other. I’m happy to report that this tart tastes of all the things you expect: cheesecake…white chocolate…and lemon. And it is just as delicious as you would expect. Berries, sweetened lightly with sugar, are an excellent garnish.


Finally, in the title I promised an announcement. Starting this month, I am offering a subscription newsletter! I am calling it “Notes from For Love of the Table.” I will be publishing once a month. There will be recipes…techniques…and of course, my opinions. For now I envision it as being primarily focused on the needs of those of us living in small households. Recipes will be mostly calibrated to one or two portions. And I will have a lot to say about how to go about organizing food preparation in a small household so that it isn’t wasteful or repetitive. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know that this is right where I live. (Frequently the recipes I post have been inspired by the current contents of my pantry and leftovers. Today’s tart is a perfect example of that.) If you would like to read more about the newsletter, you may do so on the public “about” page. Subscribers will receive discounts to all my online classes…and right out of the gate will receive a free archived Zoom class of their choice.

I am excited about this newsletter. Charging a subscription fee (only $30 for a full year) will allow me to return to doing what I love to do best—developing recipes and writing about them. My focus will be on the newsletter, but if all goes as planned, I will also be able to post more here, on my blog (which will remain ad free and public).

I hope you will subscribe! You may do so here: Notes from For Love of the Table.

Lemon & White Chocolate Cheese Tart

Graham Cracker Crust:
167 g. (1 2/3 c.) finely ground graham crackers
40 g. ( 3 T.) granulated sugar
70 g. (5 T.) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Base:
14 oz. (1 3/4 packages) cream cheese, room temperature (see note)
1/2 c. sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz white chocolate, melted

Lemon curd:
100 g. (1/2 c.) sugar
75 g. (1/3 c.) strained lemon juice
2 eggs
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Make the crust: Butter a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan. Combine the crust ingredients until homogenous and press to the bottom and up the sides of the pan in a compact even layer. Place on a baking sheet and transfer to a pre-heated 350° oven. Bake until set and beginning to brown—10 to 12 minutes. Cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°.

Briefly beat cream cheese to break up. Beat in the sugar and salt until smooth; scrape the sides. Add the sour cream and beat in. Scrape the sides. Beat in the eggs in two or three additions, just until smooth and fully incorporated. By hand, quickly whisk in the melted chocolate. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust.

Bake the tart in a pre-heated 325° oven until just set—about 30 minutes. The filling will be just beginning to soufflé up a bit around the edges and the center will appear jiggly.

While the cheese tart bakes, make the lemon curd: Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until homogenous. When the lemon syrup boils, whisk it into the eggs in a thin stream. Return this mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is visibly thickened—this will only take a minute or two. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, piece by piece. When the butter is fully incorporated, strain the filling into a small bowl and set aside.

When the cheesecake base is done to the point described above, remove it from the oven. 

Gently lay the lemon curd on the surface. Do this by carefully spooning it on with the spoon held very close (but not touching) the surface. If you just pour the curd on from too high above the tart, it will make holes/divots in the surface since the cheese custard will still be very, very soft. Don’t worry about making the curd perfectly smooth…or covering the entire surface…as you put the curd on the tart. Just get it on the tart so it is fairly evenly distributed. Then, when all the curd is on the tart, use a small offset spatula to gently smooth it out and make sure that the whole surface is covered.

Return the tart to the oven and bake until the curd is just set (like the cheesecake, it will still be a bit jiggly in the center)—about 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Chill, uncovered, until cold (at least 2 hours). Once cold, cover with plastic wrap.

To portion, remove the sides of the tart pan. Cut the tart using a thin, sharp knife dipped in hot water (and wiped dry) in between cuts.

Serve accompanied by fresh berries. Serves 10.

Note: If you don’t like it that this recipe uses a portion of a package of cream cheese, you may adjust the recipe to use 2 full packages (l pound) and then reduce the quantity of sour cream to 1/3 cup. If you follow the recipe as written you will have a little cream cheese left…to spread on toast/a bagel…make a half recipe of marbled cheesecake brownies…or maybe fold into some macaroni and cheese….

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Light Wheat Seeded Dinner Rolls

Last fall, a long time client requested a “brown seeded” roll to go with a luncheon that I was preparing for her. This wasn’t an item I had in my repertoire. Whole wheat is something that I enjoy in hearty, substantial loaves (brown soda bread…the home-made hippy-style whole wheat loaves of my childhood—toasted and drowned in butter…), but that I don’t tend to want in things that to me are inherently light or delicate—or that are typically made with white flour. I don’t really like whole wheat pasta, for example. And I was most definitely not a fan of my mother’s stealth additions of whole wheat flour to things like pancakes and French toast when I was a kid.  Even though I favor dinner rolls that are light and fluffy (like my Grandmother’s pan rolls)…or possibly light and crisp (like a classic petit pain)…I admit that I have on occasion had delicious light wheat dinner rolls, so I was certain I could find something I would feel good about making.

I looked in a few cookbooks…and online. I eventually decided to try out a recipe published by David Tanis. I have great respect for Tanis…the way he handles ingredients…his palate…the simple finesse of the foods he prepares. I figured anything he made would be good…if not excellent.

The recipe I found was called “Seeded Molasses Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls.” I’m sure they would have been fine if I had followed the recipe as written, but I admit that my desire for something lighter led me to cut some of the whole wheat flour with bread flour (the sponge in the original recipe was already all bread flour…but the rest of the flour was whole grain). I knew that this adjustment would produce something one would identify as a wheat roll, without it being too heavy.

Other than that, my changes were minor. I added more salt. And I altered the finishing mixture of seeds. The original rolls had a topping of mixed spices/seeds that seemed to be too strongly flavored for the luncheon I was preparing. So I just topped mine with sesame seeds (I love sesame seeds on rolls...sourdough loaves...hamburger buns...).

After testing the recipe, I looked no further. The rolls were fantastic. They have a complex flavor…are sufficiently “wheaty”…yet have a nice light texture. The mixture of seeds

Clockwise from top: Flaxseed, Millet, Sunflower seeds, Pepitas

is flavorful and adds a subtle crunch. I suspect you could alter the mix to suit your pantry. But I like it so much as is that I haven’t bothered to experiment.

I have since made these rolls several times. You could definitely say they are now a part of my regular repertoire. I love having them on hand to go with soups and salads (they freeze/thaw beautifully). I like serving them just slightly warm. And they are delicious when split and toasted. The recipe makes 24 fairly good sized rolls (about 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall). This is actually larger than what I think of as a dinner roll, but it somehow seems just perfect with the aforementioned soups and salads. They could be made larger and serve as a sandwich roll (would be amazing filled with egg salad)…or they can be formed into 32 smaller rolls and tucked into square baking pans to make “pan rolls.”

Split and toasted with a salad and frittata....

Even if you are not adept at bread making, if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you should be able to make these rolls without difficulty. The most important thing is to resist the temptation to keep adding flour. The rolls will be heavy if you add too much flour. The dough will seem wet…and will remain slightly sticky as you work with it. If you are worried that it will be unmanageable, follow the original recipe’s instruction and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. The chilled dough is much easier to handle. If you must add more flour, I included a measured extra amount in the recipe (45 grams) to be added gradually as necessary during the kneading process.  You may add up to the full amount listed without adversely affecting the lightness of the rolls.

I'm so glad my client requested these rolls.  I hope you will give them a try...even if you think you're not really a fan of whole wheat bread....

Light Wheat Seeded Dinner Rolls

20 g. molasses
7 g. instant yeast (2 t.)
350 g. room temperature water
250 g. unbleached bread flour

40 g. flaxseed
50 g. millet
40 g. sunflower seeds
40 g. pepitas
100 g./2 eggs, beaten
55 g. olive oil
140 g. spelt flour
200 g. whole wheat flour
100 g. unbleached bread flour, plus up to 45 g. more for kneading
14 g. kosher salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt
2 1/2 T. sesame seeds
Flaky salt for sprinkling

Place the molasses, yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve. Whisk in bread flour to obtain a batter-like consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until mixture looks active, about 30 minutes.

the active sponge....

Meanwhile, soak the larger seeds for the dough: Put flaxseed, millet, sunflower and pepita seeds in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cool water and drain well (let sit in a strainer if necessary…seeds will absorb anywhere from 120 to 150 grams water). Stir the soaked seeds into the sponge mixture.

Add eggs, olive oil, spelt flour, whole-wheat flour, bread flour and salt. By hand, mix well until dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Using the dough hook, knead on medium low for about 10 minutes to develop the gluten, adding more flour if necessary (only add enough so that the dough can be handled). Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a smooth ball.

Transfer dough to an oiled bowl 

and let rise until doubled (about 1 to 2 hours).

Fully risen/doubled when you can stick  your finger into the ball of dough
and the hole doesn't fill back in.

Alternatively, transfer the dough to the refrigerator for a slow, cool rise overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put risen dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut dough into 24 65-gram pieces. Form each piece into a tight ball. Divide among 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing evenly. Cover dough balls loosely with a large piece of sprayed plastic wrap and place baking sheet in a warm spot until balls have doubled, about 1 hour.

Uncover and paint tops of balls lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and with sea salt, if using.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool on a rack.

Makes 24 large dinner rolls.


  • Making the dough a day in advance and letting it rise slowly in the refrigerator gives it a more complex character and makes it easier to handle. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking, or freeze raw dough for up to 1 month.
  • For a smaller roll, form into 32 50-gram balls and place in two 9- by 9-inch greased baking pans. After the rolls are cooked through (about 20 minutes) tip them out of the pan. If the bottom of the raft of rolls isn’t slightly golden, place them back in the oven (directly on the rack) for a few minutes.
(Adapted from New York Times, David Tanis)

Monday, September 25, 2023

Late Summer Zucchini & Corn Galette with Tomato & Browned Butter Breadcrumbs

In the early days of the pandemic I started doing curb side pick up dinners. It was a good option for people who wanted to "eat out", but didn’t want to eat in a restaurant filled with people. The dinners were 3 courses and packaged with instructions for any last minute heating/dressing/etc. I enjoyed the change of pace…as well as the additional work…so have continued to do them occasionally—even though there is no longer the same “need” for them.

Just as with my private dinner menus I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my menus for these dinners always highlight seasonal ingredients. I usually start with an idea for one course and then create the remaining two courses around it. For the recent September dinner I started with the idea of Applesauce cake. It is still warm where I live so I opted for a room temperature roast pork with green bean and potato “salad” for the entrée. 

This meant I didn’t really want to do a true salad for the first course (it seems repetitive to have a salad in 2 of 3 courses…). Since the dessert was cake, a tart or pizza seemed like a good starter.

As I considered my seasonal options, corn and zucchini…and tomato!...came to mind. These things are at the end of their season. I always feel a nostalgic desire to eat lots of the waning fruits of the season—even as I look forward to the new crops coming in. (The “cusp” seasons are always exciting moments in the culinary year.)

I found a couple of interesting savory tarts on line that included these ingredients. And what I ended up making is a bit of a blending of these two…plus my own style of savory galette (with a creamy ricotta base)…and a favorite summer squash gratin. I was struck by the observation from the creator of one of the tarts I found that her tart was “something in between” a quiche and a gratin. I didn’t want to make a quiche, but the “gratin” part appealed to me and that favorite summer squash gratin came to mind as I was drifting off to sleep one night, noodling on how I was going to build my tart.

There are a lot of component parts to this galette. If you just want to make dinner, it will seem a bit fiddly. But it is actually pretty easy to put together once you have the components (all of which can be made ahead except for the salted squash)—making it perfect for entertaining. If you have your own favorite tomato sauce on hand, you can use it as long as it is very thick (cook it down a bit until it no longer weeps and it mounds on a spoon). You will need about 3/4 cup. The one I use here is my favorite summer tomato sauce—nothing more than vibrant, vine ripened tomatoes (skin, seeds and pulp) cooked down with a generous amount of garlic, pepper flakes and olive oil. You could likely omit the ricotta—the thick tomato sauce providing enough of a barrier to keep the crust from becoming soggy—but I like the richness that it adds. (If you were to omit the ricotta, I would probably increase the Gruyère a bit.) The tomato sauce, on the other hand, should not be skipped. Its tartness adds essential balance and interest to the other mild flavors.

The tart made a great first course for my curbside dinner—a wonderful addition to the end-of-summer theme. I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch…and then a light dinner…along with a nice green salad. I’m only sorry that the season for these vegetables is rapidly coming to a close and it will probably be next year before I make this vibrant tart again. Maybe you will find a way to squeeze it in this year.

Late Summer Zucchini & Corn Galette with Tomato & Browned Butter Breadcrumbs

Pâte Brisée (tutorial):
175 g. all purpose flour (about 1 1/3 c.)
1/2 t. salt
132 g. cold butter (about 9 T.)
50 to 66 g. water (about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 T)

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub/cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the appearance of cornmeal and peas. Drizzle 3 1/2 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump (if you grab a handful and squeeze it will adhere), adding more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes (overnight is even better, if you have time).

To roll out the dough, let it warm up for a moment or two at room temperature. Line a baking sheet (preferably rimless) with parchment paper; set aside. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 1/8-inch thick and is 14 inches across. Brush off the excess flour. Trim any ragged or uneven edges if you like. Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Ricotta Base:
150g whole milk ricotta (drained before weighing if very wet)
2 t. olive oil
2 t. flour
Salt & pepper

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the olive oil and flour. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Chill until ready to use (can be made a day or two ahead).

Summer Tomato Sauce:
2 1/2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch hot pepper flakes
340g. vine ripened tomatoes (preferably red or yellow), cored and cut into a rough dice

Place the oil, along with the garlic and pepper flakes in a wide sauté pan and place the pan over moderately high to high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle enthusiastically and is just on the verge of taking on a bit of color, add the tomatoes (along with all of the juices) to the pan. The tomatoes should immediately begin to simmer rapidly. Allow the tomatoes to cook, shaking the pan back and forth occasionally, stirring at regular intervals and regulating the heat in order to maintain a brisk simmer, until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce is thickened and emulsified (a path should remain when you draw a spoon across the pan and the sauce should mound on a spoon). You should have a scant 3/4 cup. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat. Sauce may be made ahead.

Browned Butter Breadcrumbs:
3/4 c./41g. fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/2 T. butter

Place the bread crumbs in a bowl. In a small sauté pan cook the butter over medium heat for a few minutes, whisking occasionally, until it begins to brown and smells nutty. Pour the browned butter over the breadcrumbs, scraping in all of the browned bits. When cool enough to handle, toss to combine. Set aside.

Vegetable and Cheese Filling:
400g (about 2 large) zucchini, sliced 1/8-inch thick (use a mandolin)
1/ 2 t. kosher salt
41 g. (1/2 c.) finely grated Pecorino
100 g. (a scant cup) grated (medium fine) Gruyère
1 T. minced fresh thyme
2 T. minced parsley
2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 c./225g fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large or 2 small ears)

Cut the squash into 1/8-inch thick rounds (use a mandolin slicer). Toss the squash slices with 1/2 t. kosher salt and place in a colander set over a plate. Let stand 10 minutes. Spread two layers of paper towels on your work surface and transfer the squash to the towels, shaking off as much of the liquid as possible as you do. Blot with another layer or two of paper towels. (The squash does not need to be spread in perfect single layers—you just want to have it spread out so that you can blot away the majority of the liquid).

Combine the pecorino with the buttered breadcrumbs and set aside.

Build the tart: Spread the ricotta mixture in a circle in the center of the chilled pâte brisée, leaving a 2-inch border of dough. Dollop and spread the cooled tomato sauce over the ricotta. Scatter half of the Gruyère over the tomato sauce.

In a large bowl, combine the squash, half of the pecorino/breadcrumb mixture, the remaining Gruyère, the herbs, olive oil and corn. Taste and correct the seasoning. Arrange this mixture on top of the ricotta/tomato/ Gruyère base on the pastry crust. Use your hands to do this, simply grabbing a handful of the mixture at a time and arranging the mixture in and even layer (your hands work best—rather than just dumping it out—because you can make sure you get a nice mix of corn and zucchini with each handful). Spread the remaining pecorino/breadcrumb mixture over all.

Pull up the edges of the crust and gently flip them over the filling to form a rustic edge. Pleat the dough as necessary, pressing lightly into place.

Bake the tart in a 400° oven on the lowest rack (or in the middle with the sheet pan sitting directly on a preheated baking stone). Bake until the filling is bubbling in one or two spots, the breadcrumbs are golden, and the crust is crisp and golden brown—about 30 to 40 minutes. Slide the tart onto a rack and let rest for 15 minutes (or cool until just tepid) before serving. The tart is also delicious made a day ahead. Slice while cold to get beautiful, clean slices and reheat for 15 minutes in a 350° to 375° oven. Tart serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate-Coconut-Pecan Streusel


In my first blog post after my long hiatus I mentioned that much of my personal cooking these days is centered around using things up: ingredients/partial containers left from cooking classes…private events…etc.  But as I pointed out then, anyone who lives and cooks in a small household is familiar with the need to learn to cook with the odds and ends left from previous meals.
As I reassemble my career in our post-pandemic world, I have begun to focus on my online cooking classes more and more.  I have been teaching cooking classes for over twenty years, but early in the pandemic it became obvious to me that the kinds of things that had worked well for in-person classes were not the same things that would work well for an online session.  So I’ve been adjusting a bit. 
It has occurred to me that the online format is perfect for giving people a peek into the actual workings of a small household kitchen.  I can make the things I actually cook for myself…in the portion sizes I cook them in…basically showing my cooking reality in order to encourage other people who are living the small household life that it is totally possible to cook and eat well when there is “just” one…or two…of you.  As it turns out, those of us living this life are not a small group.  I read the other day that as of 2021, 28% of American households were comprised of single adults.  35% are made up of two adults.  It is clear that small households are the majority of us.  We should be eating well at home!
So you might be wondering what all of this has to do with coffeecake.  Well…besides the fact that I regularly make big coffeecakes and cut them into portions for the freezer (and because it’s just me, they are mine…all mine…), this particular coconut streusel coffeecake came about because I had some ingredients leftover from a curbside dinner.  

I had made a Coconut Bavarian Parfait and had an open can of coconut milk, a partial bag of shredded coconut, and extra egg whites.  Not to mention the big container of granola-like (i.e. eminently snack-able) graham cracker-coconut crumb crust that was left in my pantry.

So I created a coffeecake that used all of these ingredients.  At the time I thought it was a one-off…a never-to-be-duplicated treat…because I was unlikely to ever make the crumb crust again just to fill a coffeecake.  But of course the cake doesn’t need a crumb crust middle.  And as I have been getting ready for my first “cooking for a small household” class, I remembered this coffeecake because one of the recipes in the class includes a can of coconut milk.  

The recipe in question is a delicious purée of spicy roasted cauliflower and chickpeas.
  You can make a big batch and use up the whole can (and freeze or share the extra portions of soup).  Or—like me—you can make a small batch….in which case, you’ll have some coconut milk leftover.  You could roll that can of coconut milk into another dinner later in the week (these pork meatballs are fantastic)…or you can make a cake.  I know.  Tough decision.

You’ll notice when you look at the cake recipe that it uses all egg whites.  I almost always have a container of egg whites in my refrigerator.  I frequently make things that use just egg yolks and I save the whites.  They keep well in an airtight container for several weeks (just mark the date so you won’t keep them for six months…).  But if you don’t have egg whites, just use two large eggs instead. 

I have not included the graham cracker-coconut crumb crust filling in the recipe I’m posting.
  But if you would like to add it, the recipe can be found on the post for my Coconut Bavarian Cream Tart.  Just make the crust…toasting the clumps spread out on a baking sheet instead pressed into a pie or tart pan.  Break the clumps up a bit when they are cool.  To add this to the cake, spread half of the batter in the pan, scatter 2/3 to 3/4 cup (or however much you like) of the toasted crumb crust over the batter, dollop the rest of the batter over the crumbs and smooth out.  Top with the streusel and bake.  Increase the baking powder to a tablespoon if you add a layer of crumbs—the cake batter will need a little extra oomph because of the weight of the crumbs. 
If you make this coffeecake, you’ll have a little over half a can of coconut milk left.  There are lots of great things you can do with that half can.  But if you happen to see this post before February 28, I hope you’ll consider joining me for my “Cooking for a small Household: a Head of Cauliflower and a Can of Chickpeas” class.  I’ll be making that delicious soup…as well as a couple of other nice dishes using cauliflower and chickpeas.

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate-Coconut-Pecan Streusel
80 g. (scant 3/4 c.) pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely broken
115 g/4 oz. (2/3 c.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
50 g (1/2 c.) sweetened shredded coconut
25 g. (2 T.) sugar
25 g. (2 T.) melted butter
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200 g.)
1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 t. baking powder
10 T. plus 2 t. (150 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar (200 g.)
100 g. egg whites (see notes)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2/3 c. coconut milk (160 g.)
75 g. (3/4 c.) sweetened shredded coconut

Butter a 9x9-inch baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment.  Butter the parchment.  Flour the pan.  Tap out the excess and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350°.
To make the streusel, place the pecans, chocolate chips, coconut and sugar in a bowl and stir until everything is evenly distributed.  Drizzle the melted butter over all and fold with a rubber spatula until the butter is well distributed.  Set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar until smooth.  Increase the speed and cream until fluffy.  Beat in the egg whites in two or three additions.  Beat in the vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Add the coconut with the final addition of the dry ingredients. 

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Scatter the streusel evenly over all.  

Bake in a 350° oven until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean—40 to 45 minutes.  Serve warm.  Serves 9 to 12.
Note:  If you don’t have any egg whites on hand, you may replace the 100 grams of egg whites with 2 large eggs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Creamy Gingered Carrot Soup

As is my habit during the early days of the new year, I have been making and enjoying lots of soup.  It really is the perfect food for January.  Not only is it soothing and warm on a dark, cold…and more often than not, wet…day—it is just the thing after the dietary excesses of the holidays.

Not surprisingly, this is also the time of year when I have traditionally taught soup classes.  Most of the recipes that were part of my class rotation have already appeared on my blog.  The carrot and ginger soup I’m posting today was always a class favorite.  I’m not sure why I never posted the recipe here.  It might be because the presence of fresh ginger…and lime…and cilantro…put it just outside the reaches of my normal home pantry.  But I have had fresh ginger on hand quite a bit in recent weeks for various things I’ve been working on…and since I always have carrots (and I’ve been in the mood for soup)…the other day I thought of this soup.  I was so glad I did.  The warm color—and tummy soothing ginger—make it a great post holiday/mid-winter soup.
I’m sure that in previous posts for puréed soups I have had a lot to say about the process.  But since it’s been a while since I wrote one of those posts, I’ll just repeat a few essentials here:
First…make sure you aren’t shortcutting the initial cooking of the onions and carrots in the fat.  This process allows the flavors of these vegetables to infuse the fats and give a deeper flavor to the final soup.  And along those lines, make sure your vegetables are fully cooked before you purée the soup, or you’ll have a coarse purée.  (The cooked vegetables should be tender to the tip of a knife—and you should be able to mash them against a plate with a fork or spoon).

Also, when adding liquid to a soup that is to be puréed, always hold back some—adding just what is necessary to cover the vegetables well and cook them through.  If too much liquid is added at this early stage, the final soup might be way too thin (and I say this as someone who prefers thinner soups).  You can always (and likely will) add more liquid while you are puréeing the soup.  I like the final consistency of my puréed soups to be like thick cream—it shouldn’t mound in the bowl or on the spoon (and should be “sippable”).
If you are using a traditional blender, don’t fill it too full with the hot soup (2/3 full is about right).  The pressure build up when you turn on the blender will push the cap up and off and if the blender is too full you’ll have a mess—and possibly a burn. 
Finally, I always pass my puréed soups through a fine meshed sieve.  I think it gives the most suave and velvety texture.  But I understand that some find this step to be a bit persnickety…and it also adds to the washing up.  Be assured that the soup will taste just as good without straining out the lingering fibrous bits.  Whether you are straining the soup or not though, take the time to run the blender until the soup is super smooth (you’ll be glad you did!). 

If you make this soup, be aware that its flavors are an interplay of strong and subtle…and that they change a bit over time.  On the day it is made, the ginger flavor is strong…and the soup has a warm spiciness.  The next day, the ginger flavor will be much more subtle.   If you like a stronger ginger flavor, simply add a grating of fresh ginger when you are reheating the soup on subsequent days.  If you want to eat it the day you make it…and you don’t like the strong flavor of the ginger, just add the ginger with the stock—its flavor will soften under the longer cooking time.  As far as the lime goes, it is added to balance not only the sweetness of the carrots, but also the honey.  It should not really be seen as the addition of lime flavor (although it will add a little)—but rather as a way to lift and brighten the flavors of the whole soup.  If you want a stronger lime flavor, add a grating of zest to the final soup (or as a garnish). 
As I type this post today, I have a lovely view of snow covered trees.  For the most part, people in my area are staying in after last night’s snowfall if they can.  It is just the right kind of day for this soup.  And even if you don’t typically keep fresh ginger in your home pantry, you can still make a carrot soup (without a run to the store) because this soup also happens to be a great template for a basic carrot soup.  Simply omit the honey, lime & ginger and you will have a delicious soup, the makings of which will already be in most home pantries. 

Gingered Carrot Soup
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion (8 to 9 oz.), thinly sliced
1 T. unsalted butter
1 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T. rice (Basmati, Jasmine, Arborio, etc.)
1/2  t. ground coriander
1 t. paprika
1 t. cumin
1 T. honey
3 to 4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 T. (18 g.) minced fresh ginger (or more to taste)
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 T. freshly squeezed lime juice (or to taste)
Salt & Pepper
Possible garnishes (alone, or in a combination that pleases you): Fresh Cilantro chiffonade, thinly sliced green onion tops, chopped peanuts, toasted pepitas, lime zest, olive oil, crispy fried shallots

In a medium stockpot or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion along with a generous pinch of salt and sweat, covered, until the onions are soft and translucent—about 10 to 15 minutes.  

Add the butter and melt.  

Add the carrots another good pinch of salt and cook for 5 to 10 minutes—until carrots are beginning to soften.  

Add the spices and the rice and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to toast the spices and rice.
  Add the honey, stirring and cooking until the vegetables are coated and everything is sizzling nicely.  Add 3 cups of stock (or whatever you need to cover all the vegetables so that they are moving freely—reserve the remaining stock to add as needed when pureeing the soup).  Bring the soup to a simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are very soft—about 20 to 25 minutes, adding the ginger during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  

Purée the soup (using a traditional blender or an immersion blender), adding more stock as is necessary to produce a smooth, thin purée.  Pass through a fine meshed strainer if you like to achieve an even more suave and velvety texture.
Return the soup to the pot and add the cream.  Heat through.  Remove from the heat and add the lime juice to taste.  You may also add more freshly grated ginger if you like.  Correct the seasoning and serve immediately, garnished as you please.  Makes a scant 6 cups.