Archive for May, 2009

goats-cheese-tartHave you ever done something and been really, truely impressed with yourself?  That is how these tarts will make you feel!  They are so unbelievably easy to make, yet look like they were so involved that Julia Child would have struggled!
Anyway, this was a March selection for Barefoot Bloggers, chosen by Anne of Anne Strawberry

This is part of the line up I made for our last weekend in the U.K.  We had our friends down for the weekend from London and this was our starter.  Good thing they arrived early as we had  a rich, heavy menu and it was important to spread the food out so as not to pop by dinnertime!  Although the finished product looks so impressive and difficult to make, it couldn’t have been easier.  Give a woop woop for frozen puff pastry! WOOP WOOP!  Yup… that is the secret.  Frozen puff pastry… roll it out… put a bowl on it to make the circle…. run a butter knife lightly to make the border… prick it with a fork.. fill it with stuff… bake it… voila! Done!  Pat yourself on the back!

Here is the recipe:

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Serves: 4 individual tarts


  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet) ( I used fresh goat cheese from the Broadstone Farmer’s Market and seasoned myself)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices ( I used a few grape tomatoes on each as the big tomatoes were nasty looking in the store)
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

How to pull it all together:

  • Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
  • Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
  • Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.raw-pastryuncooked-tartonion-filling




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So, I’m posting some belated Barefoot Bloggers recipes.  Why you ask? Well I have been very busy… you know… moving my family and all our possessions back home to the U.S. of A ! Hooray! So, now I am playing catch up.. in between unpacking, painting, entertaining a small child, cleaning, getting a new car, getting lawn and gutter quotes etc….

The March Bonus Recipe Challenge was Brownie Pudding, chosen by Tia of Southern, Eh?  I made this as a dessert for our last weekend in the UK with our good friends.  The rest of that menus items will be coming… but I thought I would start with dessert.  This was very easy to make, and it tasted amazing!  It was so good that I had to post these pictures as it is a bit embarrassing what happened to the Brownie Pudding.

Innocent Brownie Pudding, sitting on the counter: innocent-brownie-pudding                                                                                                                                                                                                              











Defiled Brownie Pudding, sitting on the counter:  brownie-pudding-destruction2







 Notice the dragged finger marks in the Defiled Brownie pic?  Do you think they liked it?!?


Here is the recipe:


Brownie Pudding

Source: Ina Garten, Back to Basics

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur, optional
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

How to pull it all together:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  • When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.
  • Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.
  • Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Chicken Piccata


Awhile back, the Barefoot Bloggers made Ina’s Chicken Piccata.  Overall the reviews were positive, but for me it just didn’t taste like Chicken Piccata because it didn’t taste like the recipe I had been using forever.  So, I decided to make my Chicken Piccata to do the comparison…..and the winner is (in my house at least) my Chicken Piccata.  The reasons that I like this recipe better are that 1. It has capers… and I love me some capers! 2. It’s not dipped in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then fried in oil.  While that is yummy, I can usually feel my arteries clogging as I eat it. This version is sauteed and not breaded… therefore, not as heavy.  The recipe is from (drum roll please….)  The Joy of Cooking: All About Chicken.  Again, this book was a present from my mother in law when I first got married.  Maybe she wanted to make sure I didn’t starve her baby boy? :o) Any way, it’s a great book and I use it all the time. 

Here is the recipe:

Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Piccata

Source: The Joy of Cooking: All About Chicken by Irma S. Rombauer/Marion Rombauer Becker/Ethan Becker                (I guess it was a family affair?)

Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are!


For the chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (@ 1 1/2 lbs) (You can also use thin cut breasts, tastes better)
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2-3 tablespoons minced shallots or scallions
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3-4 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice (use a real lemon, not from a jar/bottle/can etc)
  • 2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

How to pull it all together:

  • Rinse and pat the chicken breasts dry. Trim any fat etc.
  • Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to taste (obviously don’t lick the raw chicken ha ha!)
  • Spread the flour on a plate and coat the chicken on both sides.  Shake off the excess flour.
  • Heat the butter  in a heavy 10-12″ skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and nut-brown, then add the olive oil.
  • Swirl the butter and oil together, then add the chicken and cook @ 4 minutes each side.  Keep the pan as hot as possible without burning.
  • Keep the chicken warm in a 200° oven while you make the sauce.

The sauce:

  • Remove all but @ 1 tablespoon of fat from the chicken skillet. 
  • Heat the scallions or shallots over medium heat and cook, stirring, until wilted @ 1 minute. 
  • Increase the heat to high and add the chicken stock.
  • Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to dissolve the brown bits. 
  • Add the lemon juice, and capers and boil until the mixture is reduced to @ 1/3 cup, @ 3-4 minutes. 
  • Add the accumulated chicken juices and reduce again.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.
  • Pour over the chicken and serve immediately.

Note: This cookbook has some great recipes, but it’s sometimes confusing how they write out the recipe.  Or, maybe it’s me.



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spaghetti-al-bianco-2The little trivia portion for this recipe says that “When Italians feel the need to look after themselves, they cook “al bianco”, or “white” food without the acidity of tomatoes.”  So, since 1. I’m part Italian and 2. I’m not feeling well as I’ve got a cold, I decided to try it out.  And it did make me feel better! Ah, the magic of Italian food!  Now, I’ve never had spaghetti al bianco before so I have nothing to compare it to but this was really, really good and a nice change from tomato sauce!  It was super easy to make too!  Saute the veggies and add the meat, mushrooms, and stock and let it simmer. How hard is that? It’s not!  The end result is a light pasta dish, with just a hint of lemony freshness at the end.  Seriously, it does make you feel better…. as did the glass of wine I had with it!

So, since hubby is away and I have enough for like 8 servings I’ll be eating this for a while.  Too bad he missed out!

Here is the recipe:

Spaghetti al Bianco

Source: Good Cooking, The New Basics by Jill Dupleix

Serves 4 (but those are big servings)


  • 1/3 oz dried wild mushrooms ( I used a full 1 oz of dried porcini)
  • 1 leek, trimmed
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 thyme sprigs ( I may have added extra? I wasn’t sure what to do.. do you pull the little bits off the stem? throw it in whole? I ended up doing a bit of both… it was good anyway)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 lb lean ground beef ( I only used 1 lb as that is what I had.. it was fine)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 2 cups hot stock or water (I used 2 cups of beef stock made with one of those Knorr cubes)
  • 14 oz spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

How to pull it all together:

  • Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes. 
  • Finely slice the leek and celery, finely dice the carrots.
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan and cook the leek for 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, celery, thyme, and parsley, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the beef and cook, stirring, until nicely browned.  Sprinkle with the flour, sea salt, and pepper, and stir for a minute or two to cook the flour.
  • Add the mushrooms with their soaking water, discarding any sediment. Gradually stir in the hot stock or water, then simmer, partly covered, for 45 minutes or longer. ( I simmered for @ 1 hour)
  • Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente-tender but firm to the bite.  Drain well, then toss with the meat sauce and add the grated lemon zest. (Don’t leave out the lemon zest, it makes the dish in my opinion)
  • Serve with grated Parmesan

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