Chocolate Pear Tart

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This recipe was shared with me by a well-known foodie who lives in my area. She’d received it after attending a cooking school in Tuscany about 25 years ago. The recipe never got published, so I’m sharing.

This is the only dessert my husband has requested on more than one occasion. Oh, there might be an occasional bananas Foster request, depending on the season, but this tart is hands down his favorite dessert. And for good reason.

The pie has a dense chocolate crust, a layer of raspberry jam, pears, and a chocolate, meringue-like filling. What is not to love?

Use canned or jarred pear halves for this tart. Home-made poached pears would be lovely, but the other flavors are strong and I don’t think it would be worth the poaching. Raw pears would not be soft enough.

Chocolate Pear Tart

1 stick, or 4 ounces butter
2 cups white flour
2 eggs, whisked
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened cocoa
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
2 egg whites
3 ounces seedless raspberry jam
2 – 29 ounce cans pear halves, drained well, dried
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons baking sugar

Make the dough by processing the butter, flour, egg, sugar, and cocoa, adding a few drops of water if necessary. I have had to place the mixture in a large bowl to moisten the dough before; it’s a large amount of dry to uniformly turn into a crust.

Butter and lightly flour a 11” pie tin with a removable bottom. Form a crust in the bottom by pressing and forming as neatly as possible, and chill in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler over barely simmering water until smooth. I remember reading that you are not “cooking” the chocolate when tempering, you are simply melting it. Set aside to cool.

Remove the pie tin from the refrigerator and spread the jam on the crust. Forming a concentric circle, place the best, most uniform-sized pears, inside down, on the jam layer. You can form one last pear into a round and place it in the middle of the tart.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is thick, about 5-6 minutes. Whip the egg whites until stiff and set aside.

Gently fold in the chocolate and egg whites into the yolk and sugar mixture.

Pour the chocolate filling over the pears and smooth. Bake for about 40 minutes.

If desired, serve with whipped cream.

When I mentioned that the recipe calls for an 11″ tart pan, it’s important. I could only find a 10″, and the resulting tart is not as pretty.

The tops of the pears should not be covered in chocolate meringue, the tops of the pears should be bare.

You can still see all of the wonderful elements of this tart, and know how good it is, but it’s just not as pretty as it should be. Plus, I slightly undercooked the tart, which accounts for some of the oozing chocolate and raspberry jam. But don’t be discouraged, because I’ve made this before with no issues at all, and I’m no baker!

Slow-Baked Citrus Salmon

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This dish is adapted from Alison Roman’s recipe in the New York Times, called Slow Roasted Citrus Salmon with Herb Salad. My sister made it when we were both visiting our mother, and I loved it so much I had to make it myself.

The major adaptation is the change from 2 cups of herbs in the “salad,” as listed in the original printable recipe below, to sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary added to the salmon before slow roasting; parsley is sprinkled for serving.

From the author, “This is truly the best way to cook salmon. Slowly roasting an already fatty fish in an even more luxurious fat (here, olive oil) makes it nearly impossible to overcook. Plus, you can flavor that oil with whatever you fancy — spices, herbs, citrus, chiles — which, in turn, will flavor the fish.”

There is actually so much olive oil in the original recipe that the resulting salmon reminds me of a confit. I cut the 1 1/2 cups of oil to 1 cup, and used a regular lemon and orange for the citrus.

When my sister first told me about this recipe, I thought it would be perfect in the spring or summer. But I rethought it, and everybody needs some citrus in the winter to brighten their days! And, prevent scurvy.

Since I’m the only salmon lover in my immediate family, I only used two salmon filets.

Slow-Baked Citrus Salmon
Printable recipe below

4 salmon fillets, skin on or off, about 1 1/2 pounds
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
Sprigs thyme and rosemary
1 cups olive oil
Chopped parsley, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place in a large baking dish with sliced lemons and oranges, plus sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Drizzle everything with olive oil and bake until salmon is just turning opaque at the edges and is nearly cooked through, 25 to 35 minutes. These filets were thin, so 20 minutes was perfect.

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and flaky salt.

Add some cayenne pepper flakes and/or coarsely ground multicolor peppercorns over the warm citrusy oil and serve with crusty bread.

I actually think dipping the bread in the citrussy oil with cayenne and salt was my favorite part of this meal!

The whole idea of salmon served with a salad is a good one, I just don’t want it to be only herbs. A favorite recipe I’ve made is Bobby Flay’s hot-smoked salmon with an apple, cherry, and hazelnut salad.


 

 

Sourdough Stuffing with Ham and Pears

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I have saved this recipe for years, from back when I’d photocopy recipes from library cookbooks. So unfortunately I can’t offer up the recipe creator or cookbook source.

For me, this was a perfect recipe to learn early on in my cooking “career” that stuffings or dressings can be quite varied. They don’t have to be big blobs of wet bread, or dry dressings made from purchased stale cubes of bread.

The sourdough bread base is one difference with this stuffing, but the highlights are the bacon, ham and pears. The pears add subtle flavor but mostly moistness to the stuffing.

This could be served as a lovely side to a pork tenderloin, but certainly at Thanksgiving time. If you want it more festive, you can add dried cranberries and walnuts.

Sourdough  Stuffing  with  Ham  and  Pears

1 – 1 pound loaf sourdough bread, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces, approximately 12 ounces after trimming
2 ounces butter
3 ounces double smoked bacon, cut into 1/4” pieces
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 large celery bunch, with leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 pound smoked ham, cut into 1/2” pieces
2 large pears, cored, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 and gently toast the bread cubes on a large baking sheet, turning them over as necessary. It should take about 20-25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Set aside to cool.

Melt the butter, then cook the double-smoked bacon for a minute. Add the shallot, celery, garlic, and thyme and sauté for about 15 minutes, or until everything is fairly soft.

At this point, you could add some Cognac or Armagnac or Calvados and flambé the mixture, but I didn’t this time.

Add the ham and cook with the bacon and vegetables for a few minutes, then add the pears and parsley.

Combine this mixture with the bread cubes in a large bowl, and pour the broth and wine over the stuffing.

Toss gently, occasionally, for about 30 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid; taste for seasoning.

Bake the stuffing in a greased 9 x 13” baking dish, covered with foil, for one hour. I only baked half of the stuffing, and used a 9″ square baking dish.

The other half I stuffed in a chicken and roasted.

If you wish for more browning, remove the foil for the last 5-10 minutes.

The whole amount of stuffing is a perfect volume for a 15 pound turkey.

I sliced the roast chicken and served with the stuffing and some tomato jam.

Sugarplums

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The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

I would love to have visions of dancing sugar-plums in my head, but I don’t know what they look like! And of course, there’s really no such thing, from a fruit standpoint. Ages ago I came across a recipe for Sugarplums on the Food Network website, and I was intrigued.

Turns out there have been candies/confections called Sugarplums around for a long time, and they’re all similar to this recipe, with nuts and dried fruits, rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to make!

Best of all, I had 7-year old help with these!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Swedish pearl sugar

Weigh out the Brazilnuts and all of the dried fruit, then place it all in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until on the coarse side, but not too coarse. You need all of it to stick together.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the powdered sugar with the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, anise seeds, and fennel seeds. Give it all a stir and set aside.

When you are ready to finish the Sugarplums, have the nut-fruit mixture and two latex gloves handy. Place the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack.

Continue with the remaining fruit and nut mixture. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums, until everyone starts sampling them.

These are really sweet. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, because you need the dried fruits, the powdered sugar, and the stickiness of the honey. Definitely make these for your favorite sweets lover!

Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Salmon and Mediterranean Potato Mash

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Food photography has always been my thing. Not in a professional way, obviously, but over the years I often documented meals when we traveled. Then I would get home post-vacation and wonder why in the world I was keeping photos of meals I’d enjoyed, and get rid of them, especially in the pre-digital era.

What I’ve missed out on are not beautiful photos of pretty or unique meals, but the inspiration that these meals can offer. And memories as well.

Case in point, in 2012 my husband and I landed in Edinborough before beginning a magical 3-week trip around Scotland. That first night, in Edinborough, we chose a restaurant after I’d perused many menus, and this was my dinner.

It was grilled salmon over an lovely mash of potatoes served over pesto. It was exquisite. Somehow, even though this photo is terrible, I kept it.

If you haven’t been to Scotland, it’s everything and more than you expect. The scenery, the people, the history, the food. The seafood!

So there’s nothing especially unique about this meal, but it’s fabulous!

Salmon with Mediterranean-Inspired Potato Mash and Pesto Sauce
Serves 2

2 medium peeled starchy potatoes
4 ounces butter, cut into four pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more if necessary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
1 1/2 ounces chopped Kalamata olives, or to taste
1 ounce chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 uniform filets of salmon
Salt
Garlic pepper or pepper
2 ounces pesto
2 ounces milk

Cut each potato into somewhat uniform pieces and place in boiling salted water to cook. When tender, drain in a colander, then immediately place in a large bowl. Add the butter and let melt. Then stir in the cream, garlic, salt and pepper, and mash the potato mixture. Add more cream if the mixture is stiff. Cover and set aside. (I used a very good garlic and herb butter.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 filets and cook until some good browning occurs. Turn the filets over and reduce the heat to allow cooking on the other side. Cover the skillet with a lid to ensure that the salmon cooks though. Remove the skin from the filets while they’re in the skillet so you can season both sides with salt and pepper and brown under the skin. Keep warm.

To prepare the sauce simply mix the pesto with milk until the sauce is smooth.

To serve, divide the sauce on each of 2 plates. Using a ring mold, form 2 cylinders of potato mash and place each on the sauce.

Place the salmon filets to the side.

If desired, top with fresh chopped parsley and/or basil.

The combination is just wonderful!

You can place an amount of pesto on the plate and warm it, instead of the creamy pesto sauce. It’s whatever you prefer.

Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil

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I’m actually not a soup person, no matter what time of year it is. But I was highly intrigued by this recipe in Eric Ripert’s cookbook, A Return to Cooking. Interestingly enough, the other recipe I’ve blogged about from the same cookbook was an outstanding seafood chowder.


Chef Ripert’s name for this soup is Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil. I like the idea of mixing the squashes, and then nutmeg and walnut oil as finishing touches?! Yes please.

Here is the cookbook, published in 2009.

From the author, Michael Ruhlman, regarding this recipe: “Eric almost didn’t make this soup because he’s so put off by overspiced squash soups. While he does add some gratings of fresh nutmeg at the end, the fresh thyme and the walnut oil are the primary seasonings, and the soup retains the flavors of the squash.”

Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil
Printable recipe below

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups peeled and diced sugar pumpkin
2 cups peeled and diced acorn squash
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 whole nutmeg, for grating

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash dice and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender until satiny-smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining lumps, and return the soup to the pot. Add the cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer.

Wrap the thyme sprigs in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add to the simmering soup and let infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the soup among six warmed soup bowls. Shave the cheese over each bowl and drizzle the walnut oil over the cheese.

Grate nutmeg over each bowl to taste and serve immediately.

The walnut oil I purchased in August of 2021 and opened in October to make this recipe was rancid. The bottle was sealed, so I was surprised and disappointed. I don’t recommend this brand.

 

 

Lentils with Burrata and Basil Oil

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During the four years our daughter lived in London, we visited often, using London as a springboard to explore nearby countries, like Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. We also visited areas in England as well, such as the Cotswolds, the Lake District, the Isle of Wight, and Cornwall.

On a couple of these trips, we brought along not only our travel-loving daughter, but also a good friend of hers – another American living in London. This young lady was such a delight – always happy and appreciative. Plus she had really good taste in food, so she fit in with us all!

As a thank you for these vacations, she gifted me the book Polpo – a Venetian Cookbook, by Russell Norman, published in 2012.

The book is fabulous – great stories, and great recipes from a lover of Venice, who owns and runs the restaurant Polpo, in London.

I learned something about burrata from the book. By the author: “Burrata is often confused with mozzarella but they are not the same. Burrata is made in Puglia with milk from Razza Podolica cows (not buffalo), and with added cream, so it is softer and more moist than mozzarella. Burrata’s creamy sweet consistency is the perfect foil to an array of ingredients. This recipe combines it with lentils – a heavenly marriage. Make sure your burrata is of the finest quality and at room temperature.”

And speaking of that, for the first time ever, my cheese shipment from IGourmet was a melted disaster. No, it didn’t help that the temperatures were in the 90’s in early September, but what was supposed to be overnight shipping, became 3 days. The burrata was packaged two to a plastic tub, and two out of three tubs I’d ordered leaked completely. They all had basically “cooked” in the hot box and were hard as rocks.

Of course IGourmet’s customer service was apologetic and I was credited, but it was all around a sad day. I proceeded with this recipe, because it’s not the author’s fault that I received cooked, separated, and curdled burrata in the mail. The recipe will be fabulous with good burrata.

Lentils  with  Burrata  and  Basil  Oil

Leaves from a bunch of basil
Flaky sea salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
400 g Puy lentils
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
4 tablespoons mustard dressing
6 burrata balls

First make the basil oil by placing most of the basil leaves in a food processor, reserving a few of the smaller prettier ones for decorating at the end. Add a little salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to make a thin sauce. Whizz for a few seconds and then set aside.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by about 7 cm. (I used chicken broth.) Don’t add salt at this state as this will toughen the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes. Keep checking them – they need to still hold a small bite. when they are done, drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Now, in a large heavy-based pan sweat the vegetables in a few good glugs of olive oil with the thyme leaves, a large pinch of salt, and a twist of ground black pepper. When the vegetables are softened and translucent, add the cooked lentils and a splash of water or broth to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Mustard Dressing
Any basic French vinaigrette will substitute

To finish the dish, add 4 tablespoons of the mustard dressing to the lentils, check the seasoning, and spoon onto a large warm plate. (Because my husband hates vinegar, I used a good garlic-infused oil in the lentils.)

Then tear open your burrata and place on top of the warm lentils.

The heat from the lentils will melt the burrata making it even more creamy and soft.

Drizzle some basil oil over the top and scatter with the reserved basil leaves.

Beet and Feta Galette

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My girlfriend gifts me wonderful cookbooks, and one of the last ones I received from her was Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published in 2020.

Sami Tamimi is well known for his co-authoring of many Ottolenghi cookbooks. At least that’s how I became familiar with him. In fact, Falastin’s foreword was written by Yotam Ottolenghi, sighting that the authors “have picked up the baton where it was left after Jerusalem.”

On the back cover, it’s written: “This is a cookbook about Palestine. About its food, its people, and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves stories and cooking into the fabric of its identity.”

Falastin reminds me of the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbooks, in the size and heft, the beautiful photos, and fascinating stories. The recipe I chose to make is called Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey.

It’s so easy to pull out puff pastry for a savory or sweet galette, but I was attracted to this recipe because a delicious, oregano- and thyme-laden dough is used for the crust. A nice change from puff pastry, or a plain pie crust.

Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey
Serves 4

2 small purple beets
1 small golden beet
Salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/4 ice-cold water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4” slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup ricotta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Black pepper
3 1/4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until completely soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then use an old dish towel to gently rub away the skins.

Slice each beet into 1/8” slices and place in separate bowls, to keep the purple away from the golden beets. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt a good grind of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the golden beets. (I only had purple beets.) Combine the purple beets with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oil. Set both aside until needed.

To make the crust, put both flours into a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, and herbs. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. Don’t overwork the butter – you want chunks of it throughout the dough. Add the water and use your hands to gather the dough together. Transfer to a well-floured surface and roll out into a rough rectangle, about 11 x 7”. The dough here is fairly wet and sticky, so you’ll need to flour your hands, rolling pin, and work surface often.

Fold the shorter ends in toward each other so that they meet at the center, then fold the dough in half, like a book. Roll out the dough once with a rolling pin and then just fold once in half again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned. Add the sugar, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoon of za’atar, the parsley, and the oregano.

Put the ricotta, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into a bowl and set aside. (I happened to have leftover creme fraiche, so I used that.)

Generously flour a 12” square of parchment paper. Transfer the crust dough to the prepared parchment paper and roll out to form a rough circle. It will have uneven edges but should be about 11” wide. Lifting up both the baking parchment and the dough, transfer to a baking sheet; you don’t want to be lifting it onto the sheet once filled.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim clear around the edges. Top with half the feta, then the onions. Next, and this time leaving a 1 1/2” rim clear around the outside, top with the beets, alternating between purple and golden, with a little overlap between each piece. Wash your hands well, then scatter the remaining feta on top.

Using a knife, make 3/4” incisions spaced about 3 1/4” apart around the edge of the galette. Creating these “strips” will allow for the beets and cheese to be encased. Take a resulting dough strip and fold it over the beet, in toward the center of the galette. Repeat with the next strip, pulling gently to slightly overlap and seal the last fold. Continue this way with the rest of the strips, then refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply golden and cooked through.

Drizzle with the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil, then scatter with the remaining 2 teaspoons za’atar.

Transfer to a wire rack so that the bottom remains crisp and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with thyme leaves.

Slice once set, and serve.

And that crust?! Flaky, tender, and herby!

Baked Ratatouille

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From the guy who introduced me to speidie sauce, comes a baked ratatouille, from the cookbook, Charlie Palmer’s American Fare.

Being that it’s late summer and my garden is producing nicely, a ratatouille is a perfect dish to make. A baked ratatouille was really enticing to me.

From Chef Palmer: “This is a dish that I make all summer long when the farmers market is filled with eggplant and summer squashes. It is based on the traditional French Provençal vegetable dish that usually includes bell peppers and a mixture of dried herbs. You really can do anything you want with it: Some cooks prepare each vegetable separately and then mix together, while some layer the vegetables and bake them.”

I used a regular eggplant, a large zucchini, a large golden zucchini, and a purple onion.

This dish could be called a ratatouille gratin, because there are layers of ratatouille, plus layers of cheeses, all topped off with crunchy breadcrumbs.

It’s not terribly pretty, but at least the ratatouille didn’t turn to mush; the individual pieces of vegetables are still in tact and I like that.

Below is the actual recipe from the book. I served the baked ratatouille with spicy sausages.

Baked Ratatouille

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pounds Japanese eggplant, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 – 28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes with their juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the interior of a large ceramic baking dish with olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until soft.

Add the eggplant and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until just beginning to soften.

Stir in the zucchini and yellow squash and cook, stirring frequently, for another 10 minutes or until just barely tender.

Stir in the tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper.

Scrape about half of the eggplant mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover with half of the mozzarella. Spoon the remaining eggplant mixture over the cheese. Top with another layer of mozzarella. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mozzarella and then top with bread crumbs.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

The baked ratatouille is wonderful. And the crust on top is really good!

I served it with sausages, but just about any protein would go with it, or just eat as an enjoyable summer meal and be proud of all of your garden-fresh vegetables!