Archive for September, 2009

Rustic Peach Tart

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

The fruit this time of year is spectacular. A great way to showcase it is in a rustic tart, dramatic yet not fancy. I know many of you shy away from desserts and pastries because they can be difficult, and I don’t blame you. But I learned a recipe in cooking class with Chef Michele Moloney that is almost foolproof. I have modified the recipe slightly to make it even easier. Although this recipe uses peaches, you can substitute plums, apples or your favorite fruit. This recipe will make two tarts.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour                        2 large peaches

1/2 tablespoon salt                                         1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter                           1 lemon

1/4 cup cold water                                          1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. corn starch

First cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Now slice the peaches into 1/4 inch wedges and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar (perhaps 1/8 cup) and the juice from half a lemon then mix. Set aside.Sliced peaches

For the pastry, whisk together the flour, salt, and butter (which should be cut into small chunks). With your finger tips pinch the butter cubes and flour together until the mixture resembles course chunks. Place the bowl in the refrigerator (the key is to keep the pastry cold). After 10 minutes add the cold water and mix the dough until it starts to come together.  Don’t over mix. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Note that the dough will look crumbly and seem like it will fall apart. Fold and re-roll the dough several times being sure to add more flour to your rolling surface so the dough does not stick. Note that you do not want the dough to get warm, so work quickly. Wrap the dough in plastic and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Check your peaches (or other fruit), is there a lot of liquid in the bottom of the bowl? If so, pour the liquid into a small bowl and mix with some of the corn starch to form a slurry. Add this liquid back to the bowl and mix with the peaches.

Cut the dough in half and roll into a 12 inch circle, the tart is rustic so we do not need a perfect circle. Scoop out half the peaches being sure to leave any residual juices behind, and place in the center of your dough. Note that the dough below is far from perfect, but it is easy to fix. Just take some of the dough that you trim off around the edge and patch. Be sure to leave 2 inches of dough uncovered all around the periphery. Now fold up the uncovered dough around the fruit pinching as you go. peaches-on-tart

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the tart on sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the fridge while you assemble the second tart. Once the tarts are assembled, brush them with heavy cream which will ensure a golden crust, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake the tarts for about 15 minutes and then sprinkle on a bit more sugar. Return the tarts to the oven and bake until the crust is a golden brown which should be about 15 more minutes.finished-tart2

Serve the tarts warm with vanilla ice cream.

Santa Barbara’s Farmers Market

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

One of the first things I fell in love with in Santa Barbara is the Farmers Market. Don’t get me wrong, we had great markets in NY, and I must say the corn and heirloom tomatoes are awesome on Long Island in September.  But Santa Barbara’s market is huge, and thrives 12 months a year.

The market is open 6 days a week in different sections of town, but the most popular is the Saturday market downtown. There are about 100 vendors offering fruit, vegetables, flowers, nuts, meat, fish and wine. But it is not just about buying organic foods, it is a scene. People are catching up with friends, politicians are handing out buttons, and musicians are playing everywhere – my favorite being the hippie playing some killer Tom Petty.

So every Saturday morning I head off to restock the pantry.  You can smell the strawberries just walking down the aisle. So strawberries, raspberries and blueberries hop in the bag for smoothies and cereal.  Next are some carrots, asparagus and green beans. Unfortunately there were no plums this week only pluots, which is a cross between a plum and an apricot. The lettuce is amazing, tiny butter lettuces,  oak leaf, romaine, and a half dozen others just picked that morning. Heirloom tomatoes are in season this time of year, so I buy four of them.

Heirlooms from Tutti Frutti Farm

Heirlooms from Tutti Frutti Farm

I am a big fan of sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. But, another way to showcase tomatoes that are super fresh is just slice them and dress with a vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, good red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard, salt, pepper and some small chunks of blue cheese.

I love to make a stir fry for either lunch or dinner, and I typically make it with shrimp. For the vegetables in the stir fry I buy onions, bok choy, and peppers. Actually you can add almost any vegetable, but bok choy is my favorite for the crunch.

A Rainbow of Peppers

A Rainbow of Peppers

Corn is another great crop this time of year. It is so sweet you can almost eat it raw. Although I like simple corn on the cob, I have came up with a simple recipe that works real well when you are serving guests. Cook the ears of corn in boiling water for about one and a half minutes ( for 4 guests I use 6 ears). Now stand each ear vertically and cut the corn off the cob and add to a glass dish that can be placed in the microwave. Add butter, perhaps one pat per ear. Add fresh lime juice, usually half a lime is plenty. Chop (a scissor works great)a generous amount of chives into the bowl. Add salt and pepper. You can make this dish several hours ahead of serving time. Two minutes before dinner microwave the corn on high for one minute, taste and cook longer if needed.corn

It is interesting how farmers markets are not just fruit and vegetables anymore. At our market we can buy shrimp, oysters, lobsters when in season, and several types of fish. There are several vendors selling meat with a wide variety of beef, pork, poultry, lamb and even goat. My favorite is to buy the fresh turkey at Thanksgiving.

So I am truly blessed to have so many farmers living in my backyard, it makes it a pleasure to cook. If you can’t get to a farmers market, maybe you can grow your favorite vegetable in your backyard or just have a few fresh herbs growing in your kitchen window.

We’re Back

Monday, September 14th, 2009

A Tasters Journey has been inactive for the last few years while we moved from from NYC to Bridgehampton and then to Santa Barbara. I am happy to say that the site has recently been updated to a blog format. New posts will be coming shortly on the latest in Food, Wine , and Travel.