Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Nectarine Galette

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Summer Nectarine Galette
Serves: 8
Difficulty level: Easy
Summer Nectarine Galette
As long as there are still peaches, plums, apricots, berries and nectarines to be had, I’m buying them up and making pies and galettes. Today it is galette. A galette is a free-form pie, more rustic than a tart.  It’s probably one of the few desserts that actually embraces imperfections! Any and all stone fruit will work with this recipe – feel free to toss in berries to fill in the holes. How pretty would that be! 
Stone fruits are a natural match for this type of open, single crust tart — they bake up gorgeously, don’t lose so much liquid that you end up flooding the crust (or your oven floor) and oh, they’re all so flawless right now that even nectarines, which unfairly play second fiddle to peaches, deserve their own day in the spotlight. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make. A single pie crust, a brush of melted butter, a sprinkling of sugar and big wedges of peak-season fruit, in this case, arranged on a bed of ground almonds, baked until the edges are browned and the fruit is starting to caramelize. You do not need a tart pan or pie plate; you do not need streusel toppings or intimidating slabs of dough rolled out to uber-specific measurements.  You don’t even need a proper excuse to make this: “its 4 p.m. and I really ought to do something with those nectarines” was enough for me.

Crust – sufficient for two open galettes or tarts or 1 covered tart (makes 20 ounces)
  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 12 Tb unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch sized pieces (1½ sticks) (divided)
  • 7 Tb ice water

Filling – for one open galette
  • 1 Tb ground almonds
  • 1 Tb flour
  • ¼  C plus 3 Tb sugar (divided)
  • 1 Tb amaretti cookies pulverized – or – 1 extra Tb ground almonds + 1 extra tsp sugar
  • 10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
  • 1½ lbs ripe nectarines (about 4 large)
  • 1 Tb-unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ C sliced almonds (optional)
  • Peach or nectarine jam (optional)

Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut 4 Tb butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Cut in the remaining 8 Tb of butter with the pastry blender, just until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of large peas. Drizzle 7 Tb of ice water over the mixture in several stages, tossing and mixing between additions, until the dough just holds together. Toss the mixture with your hands, letting it fall through your fingers. Do not pinch or squeeze the dough together as you will overwork it, making it tough. Keep tossing until is pulls together. If it’s not coming together, add additional Tbs of ice water until it does. Divide the dough in half, firmly press each half into a ball, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, pressing down to flatten each ball into a 4-inch disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight, before rolling out. The second dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Rolling the dough
When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk from the refrigerator. Let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. Unwrap the dough and press the edges of the disk so that there are no cracks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Brush off excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least an additional 30 minutes before using.

Make the galette: Preheat the oven to 400-degree F. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, 1 Tb sugar and pulverized amaretti (or mix of ground almonds and sugar) together.
Almonds, flour and sugar
Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine). Remove the pre-rolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1½ to 2-inch border uncoated. Arrange the fruit, skin-side-down, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle ¼ C of sugar evenly over the fruit.
Sliced nectarines & almond mixture on the dough...sprinkled with sugar.
While rotating the galette, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the outer circle of fruit, creating a containing rim. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak. Brush the border with the melted butter, and sprinkle it with 2 Tb sugar.
Ready for the oven
Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45-50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. Sprinkle with optional sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and crispy. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it off the baking sheet or parchment paper and onto a cooling rack, to keep it from steaming and getting soggy. Let cool 20 minutes.  
Cooling down....time to eat!!
If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach or nectarine jam. Serve galette warm with ice cream or plain yogurt.  Delish….really. There is no better time of the year for stone fruit galettes.

Enjoy!  I know we did.


Loosely adapted from Alice Water’s Apricot Tart

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette (and Bonus Tomato Salad Recipe)

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Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette
Bonus: Garden Tomatoes drizzled with Soy Sauce
Serves: 4-6
Difficulty level: Easy
Peach & Corn Salad in Tamarind Vinaigrette
Bonus Recipe! Tomatoes drizzled with soy sauce (see below)

Are you tired of the same salad every night but looking for something you can throw together quickly for a mid-week meal or to impress guests? Try this one!  Corn and peaches are among my favorite summer flavors. I like combining them in both desserts and savory dishes. Roasting fruits and vegetables bring out their natural sugars, and that sweetness is perfectly complemented by the sweet and tart taste of tamarind. To achieve a smoky taste, grill the corn and peaches instead of roasting them. Nectarines, apricots and plums are all good stand-ins for the peaches. Currently my garden is full of ripened tomatoes. But, I was tired of the usual caprese salad variation. Simple is often better – especially with mid-summer vine-ripened tomatoes. Bonus blog today includes a super-simple and tasty way to serve fresh tomatoes – drizzled with soy!
Tamarind: The secret ingredient
An important ingredient in the featured salad is tamarind. The concentrate can be found in many grocers, Asian markets and Mexican markets. Tamarind comes from a tree native to tropical Africa. The tree produces edible pod-like fruit, which are used extensively in cuisines worldwide. It is best to buy the seed-free paste to avoid the hassles of soaking and seed removal. The good news, once found: tamarind can be stored at room temperature nearly indefinitely.
  • 3 sweet, ripe peaches
  • 3 large ears of corn (2-3 C kernels)
  • 3Tb grape seed or olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3Tb Thai tamarind paste, without seeds (if pulp or concentrate – see below*)
  • 1Tb white wine vinegar
  • Red leaf lettuce or butter lettuce, 2 small heads, torn

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Peel the peaches and cut the flesh into coarse chunks. Slice the kernels from the corncobs, and combine them with the peaches in a large bowl. Add 2 Tb of the oil, ½ tsp salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and toss well. Spread the peaches and corn on a baking sheet, and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 20-30 minutes, until the corn begins to brown and peaches are very soft. Cool slightly.
Corn and peaches mixed together
While the peaches and corn roast, make the dressing. In a serving bowl, combine the shallot, tamarind, vinegar and the remaining 1Tb of oil. Season with 1 tsp salt, and marinate until corn and peaches are done, allowing the flavors to meld.
Making the dressing
When ready to serve, place lettuce in bowl, add dressing, followed by the warmed peaches and corn. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Give this unique and summer-y salad a try.  You will not be disappointed!

Tomato Wedges drizzled with Soy
Serves: 4-6

If your garden or farmers market are brimming with summer vine-ripened tomatoes, here is a quick slight modification guaranteed to please. I used brandywine tomatoes but any great slicing ripe tomato will work.
The ingredients of this sensational salad
  • 4-6 medium-sized tomatoes
  • Grape seed or extra-virgin olive oil
  • Quality soy sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Several chives or thinly sliced scallions, garnish
  • 10 shiso leaves, cut into threads, garnish 

Right before serving your meal, core the tomatoes and slice into 6 thick wedges. Arrange 4-6 wedges on individual plates. Drizzle with a little oil, followed by soy sauce, and finish with a few drops of vinegar. This is a light dressing that just kisses the tomatoes and is not meant to drench them or overpower their innate tomato-ness. Sprinkle with garnish if desired: chopped chives, scallions and/or shiso threads. Shiso, which is also known as Japanese basil, is often found at farmer's market.  It is a member of the mint family with a citrus-y flavor. Serve tomatoes immediately.

Light, fresh and oh-so-good!


*Tamarind in the form of semidried pulp must be soaked in hot water, worked with your hands to separate flesh from seeds and fiber, and pushed through a sieve. Thai concentrate, a puree with a texture similar to applesauce, is made of tamarind and water; you can easily pass it through a sieve to remove bits of seed.

Now that you have your tamarind paste – check out Thai Chicken with Amazing Hot-Sour-Salty-Sweet Sauce, posted March 2013, which features use of tamarind.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Key Lime Mousse

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Key Lime Mousse
Serves: 8
Difficulty level: Moderate
Key Lime Mousse
Imagine a Key Lime Pie light as a cloud, tart one moment, sweet the next.  Imagine it has done away with distraction of a crust. What you have is this Key Lime Mousse! The key lime is in a class all of its own. Much smaller than regular “Persian” limes, the key lime ranges in size from a Ping-Pong ball to a golf ball. The peel is thin, smooth and greenish-yellow when ripe. The flesh is also greenish-yellow, full of seeds, and divided into 10-12 segments, quite juicy and has a higher acidity than the regular Persian limes. It is valued for its strong aroma and their tart, sharp and incredibly sour taste. The green stage is the early stage of ripening and when the Key Lime’s flavor is strongest.  The yellow stage is a final stage of ripening and the flavor is somewhat mellowed. One quick note here: You cannot bottle fresh flavor. Packaged Key lime juice may look easy but it tastes like the shortcut that it is.  Generally made from concentrate and treated for preservation, it lacks punch and often has metallic undertones. Despite their name, key limes are not exclusive to Florida. In Mexico, the same species of limes are called Mexican limes. Key limes have often been referred to as the “bartender’s lime” and they readily complement a whole host of libations.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicken Arugula Meatballs

Chicken Arugula Meatballs
Serves 6-8
Difficulty level: Gourmet
Chicken Arugula Meatballs...on bed of tomato sauce
Chicken Arugula Meatballs with Capellini, arugula pesto & fresh Arugula

You may remember my last meatball post from November 2012. That was a MEAT meatball.  A knife and fork meatball…. This is not. This is equally amazing, just different.  And I believe it is even better the next day and the day after… as well as freezing and eating weeks after. A lighter version of classic meatball, these are flavored with pine nuts, raisins, cheese and arugula. Try this over angel-hair pasta with tomato sauce or arugula pesto sprinkled with chopped fresh arugula, or pass the meatballs as hot hors d’oeuvre on a bed of a zesty tomato sauce. Leftover meatballs are delicious as a filling for a hoagie-style sandwich: spread crusty Italian bread with tomato sauce, tomato chutney or Arugula Pesto, add the meatballs and top with fresh arugula. Once you have made these wonderful meatballs you will be making them regularly for all occasions or a weekend meal.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel

Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel
Serves: 6
Difficulty level: Easy
Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel
This colorful tuna salad makes a satisfying lunch or dinner served alongside a mound of greens. I love the contrast in textures of the fennel, celery, onion, and tuna. The salad is light because the tuna is dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice instead of the usual mayonnaise. The fresh herbs give it brightness, and the red bell peppers and purple olives make for a colorful and appetizing preparation. The important thing here is to use the tasty tuna packed in olive oil enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean region, rather than the drier, rather mealy white tuna packed in water. Good quality tuna packed in olive oil from Italy are much easier to find in your local grocer or online. Popular accessible brands include Ortiz or Cento.