Monday, March 31, 2008

Poem of the Week

a sleeve is a place for a heart
a shoulder is a place for a chip
a lily is a thing that you gild
a neck is a home for a nape
each part has a place
and places have parts
but where to go?
and what to do?
when you've lost your place or a part

By Cristina Paul

Savory Tart

-unlike the sound of its name, this is no mixed-message food

serves 6-8

Ingredients for tart shell:
2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 Tbsp pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp salt
1//2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
dash of freshly ground pepper
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Directions for tart shell:
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, cheese, salt, pepper, and thyme until just combined in a food processor fitted with a pastry blade. Add butter, shortening, and garlic clove and process until dough starts to form uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (the dough will have the consistency of cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the remaining flour. Pulse until the flour is evenly distributed, 4-6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle the cold vodka and water over the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture together, pressing down on the dough, until the dough is slightly sticky and holds together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten them into 4 inch disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before using or up to two days. You can freeze the dough as well. (You will only need one disk for the following recipe).

*** Vodka is used instead of water to bind the dough. This makes for a flakier and more tender crust because, unlike water, vodka does not cause gluten (the tough stuff of most hastily-prepared, second-rate crusts) to form as readily as water does. Gluten is the bête noir of pie doughs. W.C. Fields once said: "I love cooking with alcohol. Sometimes I even put it in the food." Do not fear: the vodka burns off in the oven and leaves no trace of its taste or smell on the dough.

Ingredients for savory filling:
5 slices of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 shallots cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
3 small onions cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 egg yolk
1 minced garlic clove

Directions for savory filling:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until fat is rendered and bacon begins to crisp slightly around the edges. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside. Leave 1 1/2 Tbsp of fat in the pan. Crumble the bacon after it cools.
2. Add onions and shallots to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until they start to brown, about 12 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp thyme and 1/4 tsp salt and continue to cook until onion are soft and a deep amber gold, about 28 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, roll out your tart dough onto a traditional pie dish and par-bake covered with aluminum foil that's been weighted down by pie weights.
4. Combine ricotta, 1/4 cup pecorino romano, 1/4 cup feta, egg yolk, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, remaining 1 Tbsp thyme, pepper, and garlic in a bowl or food processor. Stir well or process.
5. Spread ricotta mixture evenly on your tart shell (see above for recipe). Arrange onions and shallots on top of ricotta. Bake for 20 minutes and then sprinkle 1 1/2 Tbsp of the pecorino romano and bacon on top of tart. Continue baking for another 10-20 minutes or until golden brown.

*This tart can be served as an appetizer and cut into small slices or served with a simple salad and eaten as an entrée.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

This week we celebrate April Fool's Day - a nifty holiday meant for the masses to enjoy high jinks, tomfoolery, and good old monkeyshines (translation for those uninterested in antiquated cliches and idioms: shenanigans). Many people believe the holiday began in France in 1852 as a result of the Julian Calendar being replaced by the Gregorian calendar. Imagine the confusion if you woke up one year and some dope of a pope (Gregory XIII) rearranged your whole schedule - no your whole friggin' calendar. Okay, so this new calendar did remediate the inaccuracies of the Julian calendar. But I get sort of comfortable in my routines, and apparently 16th century fools do as well. Without the aid of modern tools of communication, news of the calendar change spread slowly - think Pangaea. So people who were slow on the uptake continued to celebrate New Year's on April first and were dubbed April Fools.