Sunday, November 26, 2017

Soup from the Late Autumn Market Pantry: Cabbage & White Bean with Root Vegetables

Last Sunday we woke up to what seemed like the umpteenth day in a row of gray skies.  I love gray days...but they had been around for so long at that point that even I was tired of them.  I just wanted to hole up in the house with a book....and put on a big pot of soup for dinner.  I didn't even want to go to the store, so whatever soup I made had to be something that could be made with things I had on hand.

Fortunately, my pantry is well-stocked with winter storage vegetables from my famers' market right now.  Cabbage, turnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic, leeks...  Not to mention my regular staples of cured meats (bacon/pancetta, prosciutto/ham)....and a couple varieties of dried beans.   I even had some stock on hand.  (Although, I am not afraid to make my soups with water, so lack of stock would not have been a deal breaker...I would have just added more onion and/or leek to the soup.) Knowing I had the makings of soup on hand I decided to put some beans on to soak (using my modified quick soak method) and wait until later in the day to think about exactly what kind of soup I was going to make. 

As I considered what to make, the presence of the cabbage and dried beans in my stash put me in mind of a classic hearty soup-stew from the Southwest corner of France (the Landes, the Béarn and the Pyrénées) called Garbure.  In addition to cabbage and beans it typically includes one of the famed preserved meats of the region—duck, goose or pork confit, along with the gelatinous broth produced by the confit process (sometimes called "duck/goose jelly").  Unfortunately I don't live in the south of France so these things aren't to be found in my working pantry.  But rich meats and broths do not have to be included in a Garbure—there are many versions that are made with a simple broth or even a combination of water and broth.  The real hallmark of Garbure is the cabbage.

The remaining vegetables that are included in the soup are those that would be abundant on the farm during the winter months—leeks, onions, potatoes, turnips and carrots.  If you shop at your Farmers' market, these will be the things you will have too. 

Traditional versions of Garbure are said to be so thick that a wooden spoon or a ladle will stand erect when thrust into the center of the soup. This thick mixture is then ladled into individual bowls over slabs of brown bread (in much the same way Americans sometimes serve Ham & Bean soup ladled over a chunk of cornbread or a split biscuit). 

The soup I made for our dinner was much lighter and broth-y than these traditional Garbures.  I didn't add any starchy white potatoes, which tends to thicken a soup (and is particularly noticeable in successive reheats).  Furthermore, I added a higher proportion of liquids than is probably typical. 

The vegetables you use when you make Garbure are up to long as they are winter vegetables.  I liked the idea of an all white/cream/pale yellow/pale green soup, so I didn't include any carrots...or orange sweet potatoes or winter squash.  All of these would be at home in this soup, but I happened to have some white sweet potatoes (Bonita) from my market, so I chose to use them and forged ahead with the idea of a monochromatic soup.  Potatoes would obviously have been fine, but as mentioned above they add thickness, and I really wanted a lighter soup.  I also added leeks and turnips (some lovely Goldball turnips...but classic white, purple top turnips would be fine). I could have included celery—adding them to the soup with the leeks and onions—but just chose not to.

As you can see, this is a homey, flexible soup.  For the given quantity of cabbage and beans, four or five cups of additional vegetables is about right.  Water/stock/bean cooking liquid can then be added to achieve the body and thickness that you prefer. 

After I made my soup I realized that it would make a perfect post-Thanksgiving soup... if you happened to be the one who roasted the bird.  Chunks of dark meat...along with a dose of any of the salty pan drippings left from the roasting process...would make fantastic stand-ins for the traditional duck or goose confit and accompanying "jelly." Unfortunately, it didn't fall to me to roast the turkey this year.  But I know it would be delicious, so I will have to keep it in mind for the next time it is my turn to host the big meal.  Cold, gray days...perfect for soup...are never in short supply in late November.    

Cabbage & White Bean Soup with Root Vegetables

2/3 cup (about 4 1/2 to 5 oz.) dried great northern beans, soaked (overnight or with quick soak method)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Several sprigs thyme

1 to 2 T. olive oil
2 oz. bacon (or salt pork), cut in a 1/4-inch dice
1 large or 2 small leeks—white and pale green parts only, halved, well-rinsed and cut in a 1/3-to 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced cross-wise
1/2 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
2/3 lb. turnip, peeled and cut in a 1/3- to 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
2/3 lb. sweet potato (a "white" variety, if available), peeled and cut in a 1/3- to 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
3/4 lb. wedge of cabbage, cored and cut into a rough 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
4 c. Chicken Stock
2 c. Water
Olive oil
Finely minced flat leaf parsley

Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and skim off the foam that has risen to the surface.  Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, the garlic and thyme.  Cook the beans at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.  Or, place the soaked, drained beans in a shallow gratin with the garlic and thyme.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover with boiling water by an inch, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, or a piece of foil.  Transfer to a 325° oven and bake until tender.  Whether you cook the beans on the stove top or in the oven, they will take about an hour and 15 minutes to cook.  Add salt to taste when the beans are half cooked.  Beans may be cooked ahead.  Cool the beans in their cooking liquid.

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until rendered and beginning to turn golden and crisp around the edges. Add the leeks, onions, and the garlic along with a pinch of salt and continue to cook until the vegetables have begun to soften—about 10 to 15 minutes.  (If you are adding any carrots or celery, add them with the leeks and onions.)

Add the turnip, sweet potatoes and cabbage and stir to coat in the fat and cooked vegetables.  Add a good pinch of salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until you can hear the vegetables sizzling and see that the cabbage has begun to wilt/soften.  Add the stock and enough water to just cover the vegetables—they should be snug, but move freely and easily when stirred.  In any case, the amount of liquid is up to you.  Use less water if you want thick, hearty soup and use more if you want a lighter, broth-y soup.  Be mindful that the cabbage will collapse a bit as it cooks. 

Bring the soup to a simmer.  Taste and season the soup with salt.  Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender—about 20 to 25 minutes.  Add the cooked beans with their liquid.  Return the soup to a gentle simmer and cook briefly (5 minutes or so) to allow the flavors to blend.  Correct the seasoning, adding freshly ground black pepper, if you like.  Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled generously with parsley.  Serve with a loaf of crusty bread and some cheese.

Makes 2 1/2 quarts soup (enough for 5 or 6 servings)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Chocolate, Caramel & Nut Tart...for Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season to come

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.....  And as has been increasingly the case in recent days (and months... even years....), I haven't had the time to post as much as I would like.  This is especially disappointing to me as we approach my favorite holiday of the year—a day that is all about the Table.  I love it that almost everyone cooks for this particular feast. And I love it that I get to participate—even if in just a small way—in the tables of many through the foods that I teach and recipes that I post.  I console myself about the scarcity of recent posts with the thought that visitors can still find many delicious Thanksgiving recipes that I posted in previous years.  To find them, check out the old October and November posts (click the links on the right), or visit the recently updated Thanksgiving appetizers, side dishes, desserts and all-things-pumpkin photo albums on my Facebook page.

Today, I thought I would sneak in a dessert post.  I have been making this Chocolate, Caramel & Nut Tart for a little over a year.  It is rich...but not too sweet.  A small sliver would be just the thing at the end of the big meal.  It would satisfy the chocolate, caramel and/or nut lovers in the well as those that really want pecan pie, but don't know if they can manage something so rich and sweet after a meal of Turkey with All the trimmings.  I have also discovered that unlike pumpkin pie, this tart keeps very well for several days at room temperature—providing a little something sweet for everyone to nibble on in between the flurry of holiday activities. 

The tart is simple to make...and if you keep nuts and basic baking supplies on hand, you probably have everything you need to make it already.  If you have crust phobia, there is no need to fear this crust.  Like the plain sugar dough that I have posted several times, anyone who can make rolled sugar cookies, can make this chocolate crust.  

As for the caramel, just make sure you have all of the ingredients measured and ready and that you pay close attention as the sugar syrup cooks.  There is no need for a candy thermometer, simply stop the cooking by adding the cream (stand back and use a long handled spoon) when the sugar syrup has turned a deep golden amber (you will even notice a small wisp or two of smoke when it is dark enough...but don't cook it much further than that or it will be bitter).    

The choice of nuts for this tart is up to you, but I find that walnuts, pecans and cashews (alone or in some kind of combination) make the best tart.  These nuts all have a softer, more delicate crunch to them and have just the right texture when mixed with the medium soft caramel.  As much as I love almonds, they are simply too hard for this tart. They make the tart not only difficult to cut, but also difficult to eat.  Pistachios (which I used in the tart pictured in the post) fall somewhere in the middle.  Their texture is a bit more obtrusive than I would like, but most people would probably not be bothered by it...and they add nice flavor and color.   

Finally, I want to wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings.  If you are cooking, I hope you find pleasure in the process.  And I hope that wherever you are—surrounded by many or few...with family or friends—that you find yourself at a table where for a window of time the frenzied pace of life slows, and you revel in the gifts of the food, the fellowship, the conversation, and the moment. 

Caramel Nut Tart

Chocolate tart dough (below)
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (3 oz.)
1/4 c. water (55 g.)
1 c. sugar (200 g.)
2 T. light corn syrup (41 g.)
2/3 c. heavy cream (155 g.)
2 T. honey (42 g.)
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 c. mixed nuts (see note), lightly toasted and coarsely broken

On a lightly floured surface, or between sheets of plastic wrap, roll about 3/4 of the chocolate dough out into an 11-inch round that is 3/16 inch thick.   Transfer the dough to a buttered, 9-inch removable bottomed tart pan and ease the dough into the pan, being careful not to stretch it and pressing it against the sides of the tart pan.  Use your hands to gently cut the dough flush with the upper rim of the tart pan.

To blind bake, place the shell on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350° oven until set—10 to 15 minutes.  (It is not necessary to fill this crust with pie weights.)  Remove the tart shell from the oven and immediately scatter the chocolate over the bottom of the shell.  

Let the chocolate sit for five minutes in the warm crust.  When the chocolate is soft, spread it out into a thin layer that covers the entire bottom surface of the shell.  Set aside.

To prepare the filling, place the water in a large saucepan.  Add the sugar and corn syrup and stir and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium-high, stop stirring, and bring the syrup to a boil.  Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until you have a deep amber caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully and slowly pour in the cream (the mixture will hiss and bubble up, so stand back).  Return the pan to medium-low heat and whisk until the caramel is homogenous and any lumps have dissolved. Carefully stir in the honey, vanilla, salt and nuts. 

Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the nuts to the prepared shell, spreading them in an even layer.  Slowly pour the hot caramel over and around the nuts, being careful not to let it may have some caramel left over.

Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the caramel is bubbling all over...about 15 to 20 minutes.  Let the tart cool at least 2 hours before serving (the tart is even better if made a day ahead). 

Slice with a sharp knife.  The tart is delicious served with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce.  Store the tart at room temperature.

Note:  You may use any combination of nuts that you prefer for this tart, although your tart will have a better finished texture if you avoid almonds.  Almonds are quite hard and their texture is noticeable in the finished tart.  My preferred choice is 2/3 cup each of walnuts, pecans and cashews.  Toast each variety of nut separately (different kinds of nuts will take different lengths of time to toast) in a 350° oven, spread on a baking sheet, until golden and fragrant.

(Caramel adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Chocolate Tart Dough:
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick), at a cool room temperature
1/2 c. powdered sugar (55 g.)
1 large egg yolk (20 g.)
3/4 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (162 g.)
1/4 c. unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (22 g.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar until just combined. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until the dough comes together in clumps.  Press into a disk.  The dough may be used immediately or be chilled or frozen. 

(Crust recipe from The Last Course:  The Desserts Of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Savory Winter Squash Tart with Mushrooms & Apples

Over the years I have posted a lot of recipes for savory tarts.  A tender, buttery crust makes an admirable blank canvas for the products of each passing season.   Whether a custard-based, quiche-style tart...or a free form galette...or a simple flat crust topped with cooked vegetables...I love them.   

A selection of local squash...the mottled yellow and green in the center are "Carnival" squash preferred squash for this tart.

This week I will be teaching a class on winter squash and sweet potatoes.  One of my favorite ways to use squash happens to be in a tart...and I will be including a tart in this class.  Most of the time when I put squash in a tart, I leave it in slices or chunks that are roasted (or sautéed) before they are put into the crust.  But this of course isn't the only way to present it and this time I will be turning the squash into a purée—and smearing it onto a flat rectangle of dough where it will act as an edible (and delicious) glue to hold all of the other toppings in place. 

I have posted a couple of other examples of this style of tart...using ricotta instead of squash puree as the "glue."  Both the ricotta and the squash (reinforced with an egg yolk) do a great job of holding the other components in place.  I particularly like using the squash though.  When making such a thin tart, you need to get a lot of bang for your flavor buck in the individual components...and the squash adds a lot of flavor.  It is also the perfect counterpoint to the savory mushrooms and sweet tart apples that make up the rest of the topping.   

If the combination of mushrooms and apples strikes you as odd, I encourage you to try it in this tart.  I think I first encountered this combination in a traditional chicken dish from Normandy.  The dish—Poulet Vallée d'Auge—is a classic French sauté of chicken cooked in stock, cider and cream...with mushrooms and apples.  Every time I eat it I am amazed by the subtlety and balance of this pairing.  Both the apples and the mushrooms are enhanced by it.  The dish would not be the same if it were garnished with just the apples...or just the mushrooms.  It is the same with the tart.

With a small green salad this tart makes a wonderful light dinner...or satisfying lunch.  But since we are on the verge of our annual holiday party season, I have also included instructions at the bottom of the recipe for rolling the crust and building the tart in such a way that you can cut small squares that make a perfect finger food.  Since all of the components (the crust, squash puree, sautéed apples, sautéed mushrooms and candied pepitas) can be made ahead, it would be the perfect thing with which to greet your Thanksgiving guests.  Simply make the components at your leisure in the day or two preceding the feast.  Then, on Thanksgiving morning, build the tarts and place them on a sheet pan in the fridge, baking them as oven space allows, and as close to the arrival of your guests as you can.

Let the holiday cooking and feasting begin. 

Savory Winter Squash Tart with Mushrooms & Apples

1 recipe pâte brisée (below)
1 egg, separated (yolk and white both reserved)
1 T. butter
1 medium shallot, about 1 oz., minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t. minced fresh rosemary
3/4 c. (185 g.) Roasted Winter Squash purée (see below—I prefer Carnival Squash in these tartlets)
1/3 c. (1 oz.) finely grated Parmesan
1 large apple (7 to 8 oz.)—something that is sweet-tart and that holds its shape when a Braeburn...or a Pink Lady
1 T. butter (more as needed)
6 oz. crimini (or other favorite) mushrooms, sliced 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick
1 T. olive oil (more as needed)
1 T. minced flat leaf parsley
4 oz. goat cheese
3 to 4 T. Candied Pepitas (see below)
Salt & Pepper, to taste

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out into a thin (1/8- to 3/16-inch thick) rectangle that measures at least 10- by 14-inches.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Before baking trim the pastry sheet to a 9- by 13-inch rectangle.  

Prick all over with a fork.  Beat the egg white until foamy and loose.  Brush the whole surface of the pastry with the beaten egg white and return to the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, garlic and rosemary and cook until very tender and beginning to caramelize.  Let cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the squash purée, Parmesan, cooled shallot mixture and yolk.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Set aside.

Peel, quarter and core the apple.  Cut each quarter into 5 or 6 lengthwise slices (about 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick).  Sauté the apples in the butter until they are golden and just tender.  (Choose a sauté pan—preferably non-stick—that is just large enough to hold the apple slices in a snug single layer.  Start over medium-high heat, letting the butter melt and waiting to add the apples until the foam subsides.  Toss/turn the apples occasionally and reduce the heat if the apples are browning too much/too quickly.)  Set aside.

If the apples were sautéed in a non-stick pan, wipe out the pan and set it back over high heat.  If not, set a non-stick sauté pan (one that is just large enough to hold the mushrooms in a snug single layer) over high heat.  When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms.  Sauté until the mushrooms start to brown—about 2 minutes.  Add a good pinch of salt and continue to sauté, reducing the heat if the mushrooms threaten to burn...but still maintaining an active sizzle, until the mushrooms are tender and browned...about 5 minutes total.  Remove from the heat and add the parsley.  Transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the apples.  Fold the apples and mushrooms together.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

When ready to bake the tart, preheat the oven to 375° and adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven.  While the oven heats, build the tart.  Spread the squash mixture over the chilled crust, leaving a half inch border of crust visible all the way around.  

Scatter the apples and mushrooms evenly over the squash.  

Crumble the goat cheese over all.  (The tart may be made a few hours ahead to this point.  Cover and chill.)

Bake the tart on the lowest rack until the cheese is tipped with gold and the edges and bottom crust are golden brown—about 25 to 30 minutes.  Slide the cooked tart onto a wire rack and scatter over some of the candied pepitas, pressing lightly if necessary to help the seeds adhere to the cheese.  Cut and serve warm.  Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer or light entrée with a salad of baby lettuces or arugula. 

Variation:  If you would like to make this tart into small passed appetizer portions, instead of cutting the sheet of dough into one large rectangle, cut it into three 5- by 9-inch rectangles.  Top the smaller rectangles exactly as you would the large, using a third of each of the components for each smaller rectangle.  Bake as for the large.  To serve, cut each rectangle in half lengthwise and then crosswise four or five times to make 8 to 10 small rectangles out of each tart.  Because each small rectangle will have been cut from the edge of the tart, each piece will be more stable and it will be easy to pick up with the fingers (you will have a total of 24 to 30 rectangles from the whole recipe).

Candied Pepitas:  Place 1/2 t. fennel seed and 1/8 t. coriander seed in a medium sauté pan and toast over medium heat.  When fragrant, transfer to a plate to cool.  Grind in a mortar and pestle.   In a small bowl, combine 1 T. sugar, the toasted fennel & coriander, 1/8 t. cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and a generous pinch of salt.  Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in a medium sauté pan set over medium heat.  Add 1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds and toss to coat in the butter.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and toss to coat.  Continue to cook, stirring and tossing until the pumpkin seeds are popping and lightly colored.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Wait 30 seconds.  Drizzle a teaspoon of honey over and toss to coat.  Spread the nuts on a plate to cool. 

(Candied Pepitas adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin)

To Roast a Winter Squash for a Purée: Preheat oven to 375° to 400°.  Halve the winter squash.  Scoop out the seeds and discard.  Place the squash on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil or melted butter.  Season with salt and pepper.   Place the squash in the oven and roast until fork tender and caramelized in spots—about an hour.  When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh away from the skin with a spoon.  Purée the flesh in the food processor or pass through a food mill fitted with the fine disc.  A 2 pound squash will produce a scant 2 cups of purée, or about a pound.  Depending on the desired use of the purée, the butter or oil with which the squash is brushed prior to roasting may be augmented with any number of things—honey, molasses, maple syrup or balsamic vinegar—alone or in combination.  If you prefer that the squash not caramelize during the roasting process, either cover with foil or oil the pan, add a splash of water and roast the squash with the cut surfaces down. 

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (6 oz.)
3/8 t. salt
9 T. cold unsalted butter, sliced 1/4-inch thick (4 1/2 oz.)
3 to 4 1/2 T. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture has the look of cornmeal and peas. Drizzle 3 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture.  Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, 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 rectangle.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

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