Ratatouille Tart

Ratatioulle Tart

This lovely tart is a simplified version of my Ratatouille Pie recipe, featured in British Columbia From Scratch.  It’s a great company dish because it can be made well in advance and heated just before serving.

To keep the pastry crisp, I pre-bake the pie shell before adding the filling. I dust the pastry shell with Parmesan cheese just before baking the empty pie shell. This forms a light seal and prevents the filling from seeping through.

If you’re not in the mood for making pastry, the ratatouille filling is delicious tossed with pasta, gnocchi, rice, or baked potatoes.

This recipe can be easily halved.

makes two (10 1/2-inch) tarts

Pastry
One recipe flaky pastry pie dough, baked in a fluted pan, and cooled (recipe below)

Tart Filling
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as necessary
1 large onion, diced
1 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch slices
1 large red pepper, diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
one 14-oz can good quality plum tomatoes
one 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
18 Kalamata olives, pits removed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp hot sauce, such as Sriracha
3 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 Tbsp freshly chopped basil

Cheese Filling
1 cup ricotta cheese, strained in a sieve for about 30 minutes, to remove any excess water
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten

Optional Topping
14 thin slices zucchini, about 1 large zucchini
14 thin slices tomato, about 2 large firm tomatoes

Special Equipment
two 10 1/2-inch tart pans with removable bottoms

Pastry
One recipe flaky pastry pie dough, baked in two fluted pans, and cooled (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Ratatouille Filling
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the zucchini, red peppers, and salt; cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about half a minute until aromatic, then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add the artichokes, pitted olives, hot sauce, and herbs. Simmer uncovered over medium heat, until the liquid has completely evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 15–20 minutes. (A watery mixture will seep through the pastry.) Taste and season with additional salt if desired. Set aside to cool completely.

Cheese Filling
Combine the strained ricotta, feta, Parmesan, and egg in a medium bowl and mix well.

Assembly
Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the base of the pastry-lined tart pan. Spread the cooled ratatouille filling over the cheese mixture.

Optional Topping
If desired, place alternate slices of zucchini and tomato around the perimeter of each tart. Brush the sliced tomatoes and zucchini with a little oil and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt.

Place the tarts on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Flaky Pastry Dough
makes 1 double-crust pie or two tarts

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ pound lard or vegetable shortening
1 egg, room temperature
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 cup of ice cold water
parchment or waxed paper
plastic wrap
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Cut the lard or shortening into 1  – 2 inch pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Cut the fat into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly with some larger pieces among the (mostly) finer particles.

In a measuring jug with a spout, combine the egg, vinegar, and enough ice water to equal 1 cup; mix with a fork. Gradually pour about half the liquid into the flour and mix with a fork, adding only enough additional water to make the dough cling together in an untidy mass. You won’t use all the water; you’ll have anywhere from ¼  – ½ cup leftover.

When the dough becomes too difficult to mix with a fork, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk about 1” thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Transfer the chilled dough to a sheet of flour-dusted parchment. Roll the dough to about ⅛” thick, rolling from the centre toward the pastry’s edge in all directions. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin, place a sheet of plastic wrap on the dough and roll over the plastic.

Using your fluted tart pan as a guide, cut the dough about an inch wider than the pan. Line the mold with the pastry and trim the edges.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Remove the plastic wrap and,  using a fork, poke a series of holes in the pastry. (This will prevent the pastry from buckling during cooking.) Cover the pastry with tinfoil and fill with about 1 1/2 cups of pie weights (or dried beans).

Bake the pie in a 375 F preheated oven for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese. Continue to bake until completely cooked, about 20 minutes in total.

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Lemon Meringue Tart

Classic Lemon Meringue Pie

Each summer I make a lemon meringue tart, or two. This year I’m on a bit of a tart bender, but my family’s not complaining.

Lemon Meringue is easy, but it can be temperamental. I’ve had my share of pie fails, so I have a few handy tips to pass along.

Working with a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom is far easier than using a standard pie plate. If you dust the pastry with sugar before baking the empty pie shell, the sugar will form a light seal and prevent the custard from seeping through.

Lemon custards sometimes fail to firm because the cornstarch has been cooked too long, negating its firming properties. Too much lemon can also play havoc with the custard. Stick to the recipe, and you won’t have a soupy pie.

Italian Meringue yields the most stable meringue. Making it is a straightforward process: heating the sugar until it reaches a soft-ball stage, then adding it to the egg whites. It’s not difficult, but you’ll need to invest in a candy thermometer, if you don’t already have one.

Finally, don’t attempt meringue on a humid day. The pie gods will make you and your pie weep.

makes one 10” tart

Pastry
One recipe flaky pastry pie dough, baked in a fluted pan, and cooled (recipe below). You’ll have leftover pastry dough with this recipe, but you can freeze the remaining dough for later use.

Filling
6 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for meringue)
1 1/2 cups cold water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 3 large lemons
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Italian Meringue
6 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water

Filling
Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl, whisk lightly, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cold water, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Whisk together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and carefully pour about half the sugar mixture into the bowl of egg yolks. Mix well, then pour the tempered yolks into the saucepan containing the rest of the sugar mixture. Add the lemon juice and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then pour the still-warm custard into the baked pie shell.

Italian Meringue
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a meticulously clean bowl of a standup mixer, and whisk at medium speed for about one minute or just until a small network of tiny bubbles has formed. The egg whites will not increase greatly in volume, at this stage. (They will be further whipped when the hot sugar mixture is added.)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat until a candy thermometer reaches 240 F. To prevent the sugar from crystallizing, dip a silicone pastry brush into water and brush down any sugar that sputters to the sides of the pan.

Once the sugar mixture reaches the correct temperature, immediately add it to the egg whites, in a small steady stream, all the while running the mixer at high speed.  Continue to whip until the whites have expanded and formed billowy, glossy peaks.

Spoon the mixture over the still-warm custard, in great globs, creating loose freestyle peaks with the back of your spoon. Be sure the meringue is spread out to the crust; otherwise the meringue can slide off the custard.

Flaky Pastry Dough
Makes 1 double-crust pie

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ pound lard or vegetable shortening
1 egg, room temperature
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 cup of ice cold water
parchment or waxed paper
plastic wrap
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Cut the lard or shortening into 1  – 2 inch pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Cut the fat into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly with some larger pieces among the (mostly) finer particles.

In a measuring jug with a spout, combine the egg, vinegar, and enough ice water to equal 1 cup; mix with a fork. Gradually pour about half the liquid into the flour and mix with a fork, adding only enough additional water to make the dough cling together in an untidy mass. You won’t use all the water; you’ll have anywhere from ¼  – ½ cup left over.

When the dough becomes too difficult to mix with a fork, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk about 1” thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Transfer the chilled dough to a sheet of flour-dusted parchment. Roll the dough to about ⅛” thick, rolling from the centre toward the pastry’s edge in all directions. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin, place a sheet of plastic wrap on the dough and roll over the plastic.

Using your fluted tart pan as a guide, cut the dough about an inch wider than the pan. Line the pan with the pastry, and press the dough against the fluted edge. Trim the edges.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Remove the plastic wrap and, using a fork, poke a series of holes in the pastry. (This will prevent the pastry from buckling during cooking.) Cover the pastry with tinfoil and fill with about 1 1/2 cups of pie weights (or dried beans).

Bake the pie shell in a 375 F preheated oven for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil. Sprinkle the pastry with the sugar and continue to bake until completely cooked, about 20 minutes in total.

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Shiitake Dumpling Soup

Consommé with Shiitake dumpling

My friend, chef Akemi Akutsu, taught Japanese cooking classes at French Mint. While rolling sushi and pleating gyoza dumplings, she shared stories of her life in Japan. Her family grew Shiitake mushrooms so school breaks were spent planting hundreds of Shiitake stems. She recalled neighbourhood parties where freshly picked Shiitakes were pan-fried over an open fire and served with soy sauce and butter. Akemi’s childhood was entirely food-centered; she was taught to brandish a cleaver and chop chickens before learning to write and has the scars from a reattached finger to prove it.

This dumpling recipe comes from Akemi’s family who own a restaurant in Tochigi, the dumpling capital of Japan.  They serve these dumplings in traditional gyoza fashion, pan-fried and steamed with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar.

I love these dumplings in soup, specifically a sparking consommé.

6 cups chicken consommé or very clear stock
2 pieces of ginger, about 1″ each
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 4 inches only, bruised with the back of a knife
2 cloves garlic, peeled, bruised with the side of a knife and left whole
12 pork and shrimp dumplings (recipe below)
1 green onion, sliced

In a saucepan simmer the consommé with the ginger, lemongrass and garlic for about 30 minutes.  Check the seasoning; if you prefer a more pronounced ginger or garlic flavour, leave the aromatics in the consommé for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the ginger, lemongrass and garlic.

Just before serving, plunge the dumplings into simmering water* until cooked through, about two minutes. Transfer the cooked dumplings to the warm consommé and garnish with spring onions.

*If you’re wondering why I cook the dumplings in water, rather than the consommé, it’s because I don’t want to risk a rogue dumpling bursting and sabotaging my efforts. Once you’ve made homemade consommé, you’ll understand how crazy you can get about keeping your soup clear.

Shiitake Dumplings

There’s no way to make just a few dumplings; this recipe makes about 3 dozen (!) and yes, they freeze beautifully.

5 oz of ground pork
5 oz peeled and chopped shrimp
1 cup finely chopped Napa cabbage
8 chopped Shittake  mushrooms, stems removed
1 spring onion, finely chopped, including green part
1 tsp each finely grated ginger and garlic
1 tsp each salt and white pepper
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
36 gyoza wrappers

Combine all but the gyoza wrappers in a bowl and mix together.

Place a small spoonful of the mixture in the middle of a gyoza wrapper.  Dab a little water around the wrapper’s edge then fold the wrapper in two to encase the filling and create a semi-circle. Pinch or pleat the sides together and repeat with the balance of the dumplings.

Place the dumplings on a floured-dusted baking sheet.  Set aside enough for the consommé and freeze what you’re not using. (Freeze on a tray until firm, then transfer to freezer bags.)

 

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Rhubarb Berry Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble with Handcrafted Ice Cream

Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a classic pair, made all the better by a crisp, nutty topping. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy a fresh-from-the-oven crumble, topped with a scoop of creamy ice cream.  Think of it as homemade pie, without all the fuss.

You can assemble this recipe in advance and bake it when you’re ready. Serve it straight from the oven. That way, you can enjoy the incomparable sensation of frosty cream melting over the warm fruit and buttery crumble.

Feel free to halve the recipe.

Serves 10 – 12

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 Tbsp corn starch

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1 cup wholewheat or white flour

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup butter, cut into small pieces, or grated with a cheese grater, if chilled

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup chopped walnuts

6 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, about 2 lbs

3 1/2 cups hulled and washed strawberries, quartered, about 1 1/4 lbs

1 pint vanilla ice cream

 You’ll need a large baking dish, 3 litre capacity (about 11” x 13 1/2” x 2 1/2”).

Preheat oven to 375.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and cornstarch. Stir and bring to a simmer. Maintain the simmer until the sugar has dissolved and there are no cornstarch lumps. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, salt, flour, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the butter, oats, and nuts, and combine using a fork, pastry blender or your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly.

Line a large baking dish with the rhubarb and strawberries. Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit. Top with the crumble mixture.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (This dish will bubble over. ) Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until the fruit is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

Serve immediately, topped with ice cream.


Veggie & Tofu Bowl

Vegetables, pasta and marinated tofu.

This simple but addictive tofu and pasta dish is happily adaptable to any vegetable. The secret is in the sauce: a quick mixture of soy sauce, white wine vinegar, garlic, and ginger.

I keep a jar of extra sauce in the fridge, because you never know when your veggies might need a little cheering. (Omit the garlic and ginger and your sauce won’t go funky – vinegar and soy sauce last for ages.)

If you’re not a fan of tofu, you might change your mind after you taste marinated and roasted tofu.

Serves 4 – 6

Tofu

2 packages (454 grams each) medium-firm tofu, drained

 Sauce

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup grapeseed oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp hot sauce, such as Sambal oelek

¼ tsp finely minced garlic, preferably minced with a microplane zester, about ½ clove

¼ tsp finely minced fresh ginger, preferably minced with a microplane zester

½ tsp liquid honey

Vegetables and Pasta

3 cups sliced cauliflower, 1/4” thick, about ½ of a trimmed cauliflower

3 Tbsp, plus 2 tsp grapeseed oil

1 onion, sliced

1 bunch kale, washed and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 sweet bell peppers, diced

3 cups chopped broccoli, about 1 medium crown

4 cups cooked fusilli pasta (½ pound, about 3 cups, dry fusilli)

1 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place each block of tofu on a paper towel, place another paper towel on top, and cover with dinner plates for at least 30 minutes to gently remove excess liquid.

To prepare the sauce, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a glass container and set aside.

Cut the pressed tofu into 1-inch chunks and place in a shallow dish, such as a glass pie plate. Pour enough sauce over the tofu to cover it. Marinate about 30 minutes. (Be careful not to leave it too long; otherwise the tofu becomes salty.)

Remove the tofu from the sauce and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (retain the sauce; it’s used later). Roast until the tofu is brown around the edges, about 20 minutes, turning the tofu midway through cooking.

On another parchment-lined baking sheet, spread the cauliflower in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 tsp grapeseed oil. Roast until brown around the edges, about 20 minutes, turning the cauliflower midway through cooking.

Heat 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil in a large skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until well browned. Add the kale, using tongs to toss and coat the kale in oil. Cook until the mixture has reduced significantly and no liquid remains. Add 2 cloves sliced garlic, cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then add the peppers. Cook until the peppers are slightly cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet in which the kale mixture was cooked, heat 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil and add the broccoli, tossing occasionally, until lightly cooked but still firm. Reduce the heat and return kale and pepper mixture; add the cooked pasta, roasted cauliflower and tofu and about 1/2 cup sauce. Toss to combine, being mindful not to break the tofu. Heat through, adding more sauce as needed.

Serve into heated bowls, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired.

 

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