I've had the chance to travel to the West coast and back twice in the last couple of weeks and twice I had high hopes of experiencing some lower, nice Fall-ish temperatures. I was ready. Sweaters picked. Scarves tied up to my purse. Instead, it was tank top and summer dressed that ended up in my suitcase. It felt exactly like what October is here in the South. A soft stroke of the sun, a lull of breeze in the trees. A delicious moment.
Since we never really get a transition between seasons, it's always a bit difficult to feel in an autumnal mood with food and recipes. I do, however, like to get in the kitchen and try to conjure up some wicked good Fall recipes whenever possible. It most often involves roasting, slow simmers, braising. Warmth and aromas filling the house with the comfort of nostalgia and the promise of another season ahead. Yes, it does make me mellow.
One of the dishes I made recently that really invoked Fall as I knew it back home was artichokes, braised with plenty of onions, lemon, olives, thyme and feta. I did not vary much, if at all, from the original recipe I found in a magazine my mom sent me. I usually ad lib the recipes I read but this one was too intriguing to pass up.
When it comes to artichokes, we usually fix them two ways: steamed ad served with vinaigrette to dip or barigoule (barigoule is the name of a certain kind of mushroom in Provence by the way). We had this with sauteed scallops one night which turned out to be a perfect match. Hearty and light. Not quite Summer anymore and not yet Fall either.
I made the artichoke dish the evening before a trip to Portland last week and fully expected to have some leftover for B. to warm up while I was gone but we almost polished the entire thing with our dinner companions that evening.
Tonight, I prepared a Lavender and Buttermilk Tart for tomorrow's dinner, right on the eve of my departure for New Hampshire. I am teaching two food photography and styling workshops at the bi-annual creative retreat Squam Art Workshops. I like for Bill to have a little something sweet while I am gone. In moderation right now because I'm pretty much here and gone for another couple of months for various work projects.
The tart is from Holly Herrick's newly released "Tart Love: Sassy, Savory and Sweet" and for which I was honored to be commissioned to do the photography. I must tell you why I dig this book so much. Beside the fact that I am thrilled of the work that the designer and publisher did with the photos and lay out, I am completely enamored with all the recipes in this book. Holly is not only a prolific recipe writer but a darn good one to boot. Her flavor combination were at times intriguing but always spot on and a sure success. Trust her to know what flavors and tastes work together and in what quantity.
The woman is an amazing chef. Her pastry crust is flaky, rich, easy to make and easy to roll and re-roll without ending with rubber. The recipes are creative, fun and quirky at times: Feisty Shrimp & Grits Pockets, Salad Nicoise Tart, Raspberry Creme Brulee Tartlets, Butterscotch & Caramel Apple Tarts. I love her titles as much as I love that Holly's personality and love of seasonal produce comes through each recipe.
I could talk about the tarts in this book for hours. I loved making all of them as much as I loved photographing them. Whether you are a novice or an advanced cook, you will find more than ten tarts you can start baking right from the start. Seriously. If you are nervous about making a tart crust, Holly takes you through each step with care and ease. If you wish you had more interesting or just some new/other tart fillings in your repertoire, this is also the book for you.
Trust me. I just received my "official" copy the other day and I have rediscovered, with great excitement, recipes I had cooked just a year ago. I am thrilled to give away two copies of Holly's book, Tart Love. Fresh from the press, tested, tasted and approved by yours truly. And my husband and about everyone in the neighborhood when I was done taking the tarts mug shots, ahah!
All you have to do to enter the giveaway is to:
- leave a comment at the end of this post. One entry per person, duplicates will be rejected and anonymous will not be accepted (unless you are my mother, but she knows better...!)
- Please allow 48 hours for your comment to be moderated and to show up on the blog as I will be traveling this week.
- The giveaway will close Sunday September 18th 2011, at midnight Eastern time
Keep your eyes peeled for other reviews and giveaway of the book as some bloggers have graciously offered to take it on a virtual launch tour! Could not be more excited for Holly to give her hard work the recognition it deserves.
Braised Artichokes With Onion, Olives & Thyme, barely adapted from Saveurs (France)
6 baby artichokes
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup white wine or stock (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 sprigs of thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
Turn the oven to broiler setting. Slice one of the lemons horizontally and spread the slices on a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Place under the broiler until the lemons turn a bit dark on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Fill a large bowl with water and the juice of the remaining lemon. Cut the top of the artichokes and remove the outer leaves almost down to the core (only the softer leaves should remain). Save the leaves to steam later and snack on if desired.
Cut the artichokes in half and clean the inside of that fuzzy part (in France, we call this the "hay"). Cut each half once more and place each quarter immediately in the lemon water to prevent oxidation.
Heat up one tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauteeing pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes, until tender.
Add the artichokes to the pan, the white wine (or stock) and the same amount of water (1/2 cup). Season with salt and pepper according to your preference. Cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Place the artichokes and onions on serving plate, randomly add olives, feta cheese, lemon slices and chopped thyme. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and the vinegar. Check the salt and pepper if necessary.
Lavender & Buttermilk Tart, adapted with permission from Holly Herrick's Tart Love: Sassy, Savory and Sweet.
(Serves 6 to 8)
2 1/4 cups White Lily all-purpose flour (or other brand if White Lilly is not available)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice-cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together
At least 30 minutes before rolling and baking (or up to one day in advance), prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse rapidly, 40 – 50 times, or until the butter is blended into the flour and is coarse and the butter is the size of small peas. Gradually, add the water in a small trickle, with the processor running. Continue adding just as the pastry starts coming together in the shape of a loose, crumbly ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a disc, about 1″ high, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together
For the lavender infused buttermilk:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole cream
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers or lavender leaves (available at most gourmet specialty stores and some groceries)
For the custard dry ingredients:
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
For the custard wet ingredients:
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons sweet butter, melted
1 teaspoon best-quality vanilla extract
Prepare tart crust. Chill 30 minutes (or overnight), and roll out into your preferred tart pan, creating a little border above the rim of the pan itself. Chill 20 – 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the prepared shell on a baking pan and partially blind bake the pastry by placing a piece of parchment paper on the bottom crust, filling it with dried beans or pie weight and baking for about 10 -15 minutes. Let cool and remove weights and paper. Brush down the pastry with the egg wash, and return to the oven to finish baking until golden brown, another 10 minutes. Remove the pre-baked shell from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350F. Allow the shell to cool slightly at room temperature.
Meanwhile, infuse the buttermilk with the lavender. Combine the buttermilk, cream and lavender flowers in a saucepan, whisking to combine. Turn the heat on high and bring up to a low boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep five minutes. Using a fine sieve, strain the infused buttermilk into a medium bowl and refrigerate to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt), whisking to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Whisk the eggs for one minute until light and lemon-colored and fluffy. Whisk in the butter and vanilla. When the buttermilk has cooled to body-temperature or cooler, it’s time to add it to the wet mixture, slowly streaming into the egg mixture and whisking to combine. To finish the custard, stream the milk/egg mixture into the dry ingredients mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the custard into the prepared tart shell. Bake 35 minutes or until the custard has browned to a light tan and the custard still quivers to the touch. Remove from oven and cool for at least one hour before slicing.