Vegetable Puff Pastry Pizza

Vegetable Pizza on Puff Pastry
This was lunch for me and Olive, today.  I LOVED it.  We had a random selection of leftover veg in the fridge and my mind always goes the leftover route of omelet or fritatta, but not today.  We had puff pastry in the fridge and a tiny bit of leftover Romesco sauce and so I knew I had a pizza in there, somewhere.  The flavors were amazing and the whole thing took 20 minutes to make (minus the time it took to let the puff pastry thaw out.)  Super winner in my book.

Olive took two bites of one tiny square and declared herself done, not hungry, anymore.  Okay!  I have to roll with things like that.  Inside my head, I think, “What could I offer her that I know she’d eat? Crackers?  Pasta?  Something without kale and asparagus on it?”  But no.  I can not get into that habit or I’ll have the toughest time getting out of it.  In the last few months, I’ve seen Olive eat potatoes of all colors (those purple things on the pizza are potatoes), tomatoes, asparagus, kale, carrots and cheese.  So in my head, I knew that this wasn’t a challenging meal for her.  She’s had a tough week with food, though, and I knew before I even made it that it would probably tank.  I asked her later how she liked lunch and she said, “It was good! I tried two bites!”  So there you go.  To her it wasn’t a failure.  To me it was because she didn’t inhale it like she would’ve a pizza with just pepperoni and cheese.  Quantity doesn’t always mean quality.  I have to remember that exposure and consistency are the major keys to training up good eaters.  Mere exposure is helpful because then you don’t have the kid that cries at the sight of vegetables on their plate and familiarity breeds comfort, eventually.  Eventually.  Eventually is the result of patience and to be honest, it’s not my strongest attribute.  But I’m learning and I’m trying and I will tell myself on days when my little half-pint only eats four bites all day that she will be okay.  She’ll learn.  Eventually.

unbaked Veggie Pizza
Here’s the pizza raw so you can see better what I found in my fridge to add:  kale rubbed with a bit of olive oil, leftover roasted root vegetables, leftover grilled asparagus and half a tomato.  The sauce was our leftover Romesco sauce and I put all this on top of one sheet of frozen puff pastry.  Puff pastry is flawless.  Super fancy-seeming lunch in 20 minutes.  I’ll take it!

Veggie Pizza

 

Vegetable Puff Pastry Pizza
serves two as a main or 4 as an appetizer

One sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 TBS tomato sauce or Romesco sauce
Any toppings you like.  I used:
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped (already cooked) asparagus
Half a tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 cup (already roasted) potatoes and carrots
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

On a rimmed baking sheet, spray with oil and lay out your puff pastry to thaw.  When thawed enough to unfold, spread it out and roll it out bigger on each side to be about 1″ longer all the way around.  Spread your sauce and then sprinkle the cheese to cover it well.  Arrange your vegetables and coat the kale in a little bit of olive oil and rub it into the leaves to soften them up.  Bake in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Leftover Veggie Pizza

Palmiers for Palm Sunday

almond palmiers
Matt suggested I make Palmier cookies for Palm Sunday to take into our church class this morning.  I love word play and an excuse to make a cookie and I hadn’t tried making them before, so I figured I’d give it a shot!  Turns out – it’s the easiest cookie to make, looks refined and tastes amazing with a cup of coffee!  I’m a big fan of keeping a box or two of puff pastry in my freezer for various recipes, and now I have a new go-to cookie to make on the fly if someone is stopping by for coffee or just because!

Palmier

Palmiers
makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box frozen puff pastry – sheets separated and thawed
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract

Spread a half cup of the sugar out on a clean surface evenly and lay both sheets of puff pastry out on top of the sugar.  With a rolling pin, roll the sheets a bit flatter in each direction until about an 1/8th of an inch thick. In a bowl with the remaining sugar, add the almond extract and stir with a fork until blended and the sugar resembles wet sand.  Spread the almond sugar over the surface of the puff pastry sheets.  From each end, start rolling up the pastry as you would a cinnamon roll.  It’s like rolling up a scroll!  When both sides almost meet in the middle, lay one side on top of the other, like shutting a book.  Press down slightly and lay on it’s side, cutting 1/4″ slices and placing the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets.
photo 1
(bad pic, but you get the visual)

It’s important to line your baking sheets with something because the sugar needs to caramelize to make these cookies what they are and you may have a hard time getting them off the sheets unless they are lined.

Bake cookies in a 450 degree oven for 6 minutes.  After 6 minutes, flip one and if it’s golden on the under side, flip them all and bake for another 5-6 minutes.  If they aren’t browned, yet, leave them in the oven for another 2-3 minutes.  You’re aiming for a good, golden caramelization on each side and each oven bakes different, so you may need to rotate your pans during the baking process.

Let the cookies cool completely before serving.  Have fun with the filling.  You could add lemon zest, orange zest, jam, vanilla – whatever you want to the sugar on the inside of the cookies.  Have fun with it!

Palmiers
riding in the car on the way to church this morning 🙂

Curried Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream

curry potato puffs with dill cream

This was an incredibly flavorful dinner for us last Tuesday night.  It was one of those meals that came from a lack of motivation to go to the store.  I had two large potatoes, an onion and some puff pastry and I knew – there’s a meal there, somewhere.  With just a little prep, I had a meal on the table in about an hour.  I made these with left-over pie crust, as well, but everyone, including Olive, preferred the ones with puff pastry.  Buttery and flaky with that smoky curry spice went exceptionally well with the tang of the yogurt and dill.

This meal included one of those moments where I wasn’t giving Olive any sort of chance and declared that she wouldn’t like the yogurt sauce and so I didn’t offer her any.  After we had eaten a few bites, she said, “I want the sauce?!” and so I put some on her plate and she ate it all!  Yet another lesson in giving your kids a chance to prove you wrong. You never know when they’ll surprise you!

curried potato puffs

Curry Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream
makes 9 puff pockets with plenty of filling to spare

2 medium russet potatoes, cleaned, skinned and diced small
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 tbs butter
1 tbs curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 9 squares
2 tbs cream for brushing the pastry
1/2 cup plain, full fat yogurt
squeeze of one lemon
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
salt to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and once it starts to froth, add in the onion and potato.  Stir around until the potato begins to soften and then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and add in the curry, cumin and salt and pepper.  Continue cooking over low heat until the potatoes are completely soft.  Remove mixture from stove and set aside.

Set your oven at 400F.  Mash the potato/onion mixture in a bowl until mostly smooth and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Cut the puff pastry into 9 squares and put a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square.  Dip your finger in the cream and dab along the edges and pinch/fold them together into little letters – really, however you pinch and fold is up to you, as long as they have a fighting chance of staying closed while baking! Place on a greased cookie sheet and repeat until all the squares are filled.  Brush the tops with the remaining cream and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the yogurt dipping sauce: simply chop the dill and squeeze the lemon into the yogurt and stir till combined.  Adjust with a little salt and serve along side the pastries.  Personally, I don’t like this sauce on its own, but with the curry pockets, it’s just an amazing balance of flavors.

Enjoy!

Bananas Foster Tart Tatin

bananatatin001 bananatatin003

 

My mom and dad got me an awesome tart tatin pan for my birthday this year and I couldn’t wait to use it.  I had a recipe from Martha Stewart saved on my phone for the longest time and hadn’t gotten around to making it, but when I received this pan in the mail and looked at my five mysteriously mushy bananas on my counter, I knew what had to be done.  Okay, so the mysteriously mushy bananas – I bought a perfectly yellow, no bruise bunch that were on the top of the pile, and a day later, I went to cut up one for Olive and they felt like bags full of jelly.  ALL OF THEM.  Still perfectly yellow, still no bruises, but all mush.  What in the world?!  I thought maybe since I’d put them beside tomatoes, that maybe the gasses from the tomatoes instantly ripened the bananas?  So a day later, I bought another bunch and put one banana with the tomatoes and the rest far away from them and the banana that was with the tomatoes was fine.  So, the mystery remains.  Maybe they were on the bottom of the truck since they were on the top of the pile!

Despite their mushy texture, the bananas worked out perfectly for this recipe and I was glad to be able to use them.  The French love their tart tatins.  They basically do it with every fruit in season.  And my theory is that the French use fancy terms to make ordinary dishes sound fancy.  Like tartines.  Tartines are various toppings on toast.  That’s it.  Some might call it bruschetta, some call it toast.  It’s all the same.  Or how about this tart tatin?  Yeah, it’s an upside down cake/tart.  They typically use puff pastry instead of cake batter, so the result is a crispy, almost turnover texture with caramelized fruit on the top.  It’s a wonderful way to use up old fruit and to do something really simple in a hurry for guests.  And you should always keep frozen puff pastry on hand.  It’s a freezer staple for me.  You can use it in so many ways from topping little strips with shredded cheese or sausage or peppers for an instant appetizer to using it as a base for a cobbler, strawberry shortcake or whatever you can dream up!

bananatatin005 bananatatin004

Bananas Foster Tart Tatin*
serves 8

  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large ripe bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 cup creme fraiche, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 13 1/2-inch square. Using a large skillet as a guide, cut out a 12-inch round. Transfer pastry round to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Make three 1/2-inch slits in center of round; set pastry aside at room temperature.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, swirling skillet occasionally, until mixture turns medium amber, about 3 minutes.

Arrange bananas in skillet, overlapping slightly. Cook, without stirring, 3 minutes. Drizzle vanilla and rum over bananas, and cook until most of the rum has evaporated and liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place pastry round on top of bananas, and transfer to oven. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate. Whisk creme fraiche until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Serve dessert warm or at room temperature with the creme fraiche.

*I didn’t adapt this Martha Stewart recipe at all, except that my tatin pan was 9″ instead of the 12 the recipe calls for.  I didn’t have too many bananas – it worked out perfectly.

Cooking from a Food Memory

Chicken Brian

The first time I went down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to meet Matt in person, we ate this dish together with his family at a restaurant called Carrabba’s.  (We met via instant messenger, after a dear friend of mine, who was talking to both of us at the same time said, “Here, you guys talk to each other, you’re telling me about the same band” (Jurassic 5) and after talking that day, we talked every day, increasing in hours logged (we had only land lines way back in 2003 and ran through multiple calling cards each week.)  6 months later we were engaged, and a year after that, we got married.  We’ve been eating good meals together ever since. Aww)

Matt ordered the Chicken Bryan and we both marveled at the melty goat cheese and sun dried tomato mix that was tangy and sweet.  A revelation!  Since that day, I’ve tried to recreate it multiple times, but I never can quite replicate it.  (Not enough butter?)

This week, I tried again and I’m slowly getting closer.  It’s such a good dish, and as I look at their online menu, it says they drizzle a basil lemon butter sauce on top.  Ah.  That might help. Will try again next time!  I happily used up the rest of my goat cheese and even made a mini portion on a bread and butter China plate for Olive, just so she’d feel fancy, too.  (I think it worked, as she made some of the chicken into a hat near the end of the meal.)

As a side, I made the creamed spinach and basil recipe from a few weeks ago, and put a scoop inside squares of puff pastry, baked it, and although they didn’t stay together in the neat little pouches I folded, they were still amazingly good and a perfect side for this dish.

spinach puffs 2

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil
serves 4 to 6

1 lb chicken tenderloins
Salt and pepper
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced in half
8-12 basil leaves
1 shallot, diced small (1/4 cup – you can use an onion if that’s what you have on hand)
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
4 oz goat cheese

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season each side with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil (go two tablespoons at a time) over medium heat until shimmering and cook the chicken strips in batches, not over crowding the pan, or they won’t get a good sear.  Chicken strips don’t take long to cook, maybe 1-2 minutes per side. Let the strips sit on a plate, covered in foil to keep warm until ready to plate.  In your empty skillet, add the diced shallot and saute until golden.  Then, add in a splash of wine or chicken stock, scraping up the browned chicken bits and then add a tablespoon of butter to make a pan sauce.  Set your sauce off the burner so it won’t continue to reduce.

Put your chopped sun dried tomatoes in a saucepan with a quarter cup of water and let it simmer to re-hydrate a bit.  Assemble the chicken, two strips per plate, with a sprinkling of sun dried tomatoes, a basil leaf or two, and a slice of goat cheese.  Place the plates under the broiler until the cheese melts.  Drizzle your reserved sauce over the cheese and serve!

Asparagus Tart – Roasting is still the best way to eat vegetables

asparagus tart 3

I know I said I’d write about what got the most requests on my question last week, but I haven’t had time to do a good job with the requests I got, so that will come at a later post.  The top requests were for kale.  Honestly, I’m a bit stumped.  What, exactly, is the mystery?  Put it in stuff?  Ha!  That would be my suggestion.  Stir it into soups, toss it in salads and wilt it a bit with warm roasted chicken or hot bacon.  However, I don’t want to be flippant, so I will look up some good uses for kale, the sad-replacement-for-chips, and get back to you.  The other suggestion that intrigued me was for proper hash browns.  My friend, Maria, said that she had tried them several times and hadn’t gotten that good, diner-esque texture to them.  Honestly, I haven’t, either.  So I am interested to look up ways to cook hash browns well and that will most definitely be a post, as it will be a learning process for me, as well.

Today I wanted to simply give you an awesome recipe that we had last night for dinner, as our “starter” dish.  A beautiful use of asparagus (hey, Tracey, you asked for asparagus recipes, too!) and a lovely and exciting way to serve them that feels indulgent (bet you’ve never used that word in association with asparagus) and fun for children, and even doable for one-year-olds learning to eat bigger chunks of food.  Olive ate about 6 bits of this tart and then she was done. I consider that a success.

Having a box of frozen puff pastry in your freezer at all times is a good move.  This stuff can make you look like a fabulous cook in about 20 minutes.  You can top it with anything and bake and have great appetizers, desserts, or a crust for a savory tart, like this one.

Also, I wanted to mention my deep love and perhaps borderline obsession with using up leftovers.  My goal at the end of most weeks is for my fridge to be empty, save condiments and milk.  It’s good to think of ways to use up your leftovers and I know no better way than to use eggs to achieve almost-better-than-the original-meal leftovers.  This morning, I took leftover pieces of the asparagus tart and fried an egg and put it on top.  Lots of fresh ground pepper and a few drops of hot sauce.  So good.

breakfast2

Asparagus Tart

serves 4

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 bundle of fresh asparagus, ends snipped and cut in half, length-wise (I found that this helped them cook faster than the original recipe)
Olive oil to coat the asparagus – 2 tbs
Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
2 oz shredded Manchego cheese – Parmesan or Swiss would also work

Preheat the oven to 400F.  On a greased, rimmed baking sheet, roll out your puff pastry to about 9×13″ rectangle.  Poke all over the bottom with a fork and bake for 15 minutes, until golden.  Toss your asparagus in olive oil. When the pastry comes out, it will have shrunk.  It’s okay, I swear.  Cover the tart in the shredded cheese and lay your asparagus spears side by side, touching, and alternating head to toe (this just makes more asparagus fit and it looks prettier.)

asparagus tart 1

 

Sprinkle the top of the tart with salt and pepper.  If you have leftover asparagus spears, just place them, cut side down, on the baking sheet around the tart.  They turned out to be gloriously crispy when they came out.  Bake for 25 minutes until the asparagus is nicely wilted and slightly browned.  Let cool slightly, cut with a sharp knife into squares and serve!

In the morning, heat leftovers in a 350F oven and fry an egg to place on top.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee and try not to think about the fact that it’s only Wednesday.

asparagus tart 2

breakfast

*original recipe from Martha Stewart Living