My Individual Potato and Mushroom Tortes were inspired by a recent lunch I had at The Lynn on Bryant in Minneapolis. I have visited this new, little restaurant twice in the past week (Oh-so-good!) If you live in the Twin Cities, or if you are visiting, you must go. First time there, I had a breakfast of soft boiled eggs and toast batons. And most recently for lunch, I ordered The Lynn's Potato and Mushroom Torte.
I'm a stickler when it comes to pastry crust -- there are so many bad crusts out there! But everything about this "torte", from the crust to the filling, was perfect. Perfect enough for me to come back home to my own kitchen and start recreating the lunch I had just eaten.
I baked four individual tortes in 3 3/4-inch tart pans, but a single 9- to 10-inch tart pan can be substituted. NOTE: The only change, if using a larger tart pan, would be to increase the mushroom filling by 1 1/2 times the amount -- 12-ounces of cremini mushrooms instead of the 8-ounces I used to fill the four individual tortes. Adjust amount of other ingredients in the filling accordingly.
Each torte has a rich, buttery double crust with a layer of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes -- made with a healthy combination of olive oil and buttermilk -- and a disk of goat cheese pressed into the center. The final layer of finely-minced, sherry mushrooms is topped off by another round of flaky pastry.
And there is nothing I would change in my version of this delicious vegetarian torte. The little, individual servings would be spectacular on a spring luncheon or brunch menu. I made all of the components the day before baking, making assembly the day of much less time-consuming.
• 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 large egg, beaten to break-up yolk
• Ice water, if needed
For the Mushroom Filling:
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large shallot, finely chopped
• 8-ounces cremini mushrooms, finely diced ( see NOTE above)
• 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
• Dry sherry
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Potato Filling:
• 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Kosher Salt
• 4 disks of goat cheese, sliced 1/2-inch-thick (6 disks if making one large torte)
• Extra virgin olive oil (I used Nicholas Alziari Nicoise Olive Oil. Any olive oil with a mild, buttery flavor would work well here)
• Kosher salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
TO MAKE the CRUST:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt briefly. Add the cubed butter and pulse, in short bursts, until the size of small peas. Add the egg and pulse. If the dough does not start to come together, add ice water while pulsing, one teaspoon at a time. (I added 3 teaspoons of ice water to my dough before the dough started to come together.) Do not over-process.
2. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a large disc, wrap completely in plastic and place in refrigerator to chill at least 2 hours.
TO MAKE the MUSHROOM FILLING:
1. Drizzle olive oil onto a skillet and warm over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms; cook, while stirring occasionally, until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms begin to soften.
2. Stir the dried thyme into the mixture, then add a generous splash (to your liking) of the dry sherry. Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and remove from the heat. Transfer to a container, and when it has cooled, place container in refrigerator until assembly.
TO MAKE the POTATO FILLING:
1. Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and return to the pot.
2. Over low heat, gently mash the potatoes and add a good drizzle of olive oil, then buttermilk to achieve a somewhat creamy consistency. Add salt to taste.
3. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a container and cool to room temperature; store in refrigerator until assembly.
PREHEAT OVEN to 425˚F
1. Divide the dough into eight wedges (If making one large torte, divide dough into two pieces). Roll one wedge in-between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, lightly dusting the dough on both sides with flour. Roll dough into a disk 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough to a tart pan and gently press into the pan. Do not stretch the dough. Using the rolling pin, trim the dough along the top edge of the tart tin. Place tin in refrigerator to keep cold and continue to line the remaining tart tins with dough.
2. In a small bowl, gently whisk an egg. Set aside.
3. Take the chilled mashed potatoes and fill each tart shell half full (see photo). You will not need all of the mashed potatoes. Press a disk of goat cheese into the center of each mashed potato filling. Divide the reserved mushroom mixture evenly between the tart tins and gently spread to cover the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle each torte with a little kosher salt, then drizzle each with about 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
4. Roll the remaining wedges of pastry dough to top the tortes. Using a drinking straw, stamp a little hole in the center of the rolled dough (or use a sharp knife to make a couple of small slits once the top dough has been placed over the filling). This will allow steam to escape while baking. Brush the top edge of the dough in the tart pans using the reserved beaten egg. Place the rolled dough on top, centering the small stamped hole. Gently press the dough against the egg-brushed edge of pastry in the tart pan and using the rolling pin, trim the torte of the excess pastry dough.
5. Place the tortes on a jelly-roll pan and slide onto the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the dough is golden. Remove from oven and transfer tortes to a rack. Allow to cool briefly, then unmold and serve with a green salad.
* I ate a left-over, refrigerated Potato and Mushroom Torte, out-of-hand this morning for breakfast... and it was still delicious!
TAKE a LOOK:
Paris, and all that I experienced in that amazing city, is still heavy on my mind. It is able to inspire me like nothing else... and, with Paris as my focus, I just hosted a dinner for six which included our friends next door. I was joined on this last trip to Paris by my neighbor Debbie, and this dinner resulted in a French collaboration between the two of us.
Never one to return from Paris empty-handed, I did some shopping while in France; how could I not? I brought back the Francoise Paviot paper napkins in the photo below, knowing they would be perfect for a dinner such as this. I also had an apron on my shopping list, but when I saw a "Blouse Laborant" (a stylish lab coat hanging next to the doctors' scrubs, of course) at MONOPRIX, a French store that I refer to as France's TARGET, I thought -- This is it! (Sorry, no photos of me in the lab coat...). But the best things I always bring back from a trip to Paris and France are the experiences I had, and the photos (this time numbering 1000). The best memories from this trip -- the food!
I hope you enjoy the party...
• Piscine Bocca
• French Cheese Platter
• Roquefort Soufflé
• Risotto with Sea Bass and Orange Oil
• Hazelnut and Mandarin Salad
• Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Parsley Oil, Almonds, and Carrot-Ginger Sorbet
• Almond Cream Apple Tart
Of the six courses that were served at my dinner, only two of them were not directly influenced by meals I had eaten in Paris -- the Hazelnut and Mandarin Salad and the Almond Cream Apple Tart. With music by Jazz de Paris playing in the background (CD purchased while they were performing at the Sunday morning Rue Moufftard street market), we began the evening with a French Cheese Platter, consisting of a Comté and a triple crème that Debbie purchased at Fromagerie Barthélémy, 51 rue de Grenelle on the Left Bank. We served the cheese with Piscine Bocca, a Prosecco and strawberry drink we had (several times) at La Bocca Della Verita on rue du Sabot. (I made ours with Monin Strawberry Sirop added to the Prosecco, altho' the drinks in Paris were likely made with sweetened, puréed strawberries). Debbie took a cooking class with Olivier Berte in his home kitchen (which Debbie would highly recommend to anyone wanting to take a cooking class while in Paris), and for our dinner's second course, made the Roquefort Soufflé that they made together there. It was perfect -- a light, moist and creamy interior with a nicely browned top. < Debbie with her beautiful Roquefort Soufflé. (photo taken on my husband's phone) Following the soufflé, I prepared a risotto similar to the one I had eaten at l'Epi Dupin. I did not photograph the risotto with orange oil and red snapper my last night in Paris (didn't have my camera), nor did I photograph the risotto with orange oil and sea bass that I made for my French dinner (imperfect conditions: too dark and too busy). The sea bass was fresher and considered the best buy of the day at Coastal Seafood, so it became a substitute for the snapper. The risotto at l'Epi Dupin was the creamiest I have ever eaten, and I actually used heavy cream in the preparation of mine. The risotto was followed by a green salad with hazelnuts and mandarins from the Zuni Café Cookbook; refreshing after the rich risotto dish.
The Pièce de Résistance for me was the Chilled Cauliflower Soup with Parsley Oil, Almonds, and Carrot-Ginger Sorbet. I had this as my first course at l'Epi Dupin. Perfect, first of all, for the warm September, 80+ degree day -- it was a chilled soup! But it was the combination of tastes and textures that made this so appealing and so GOOD! You can't even imagine... There are several steps involved in creating all the parts to this soup, but you can start several days ahead, as I did, so when you finally are ready to serve it, it goes together in a flash. I made the soup (without the addition of the cream and the egg yolks) a week prior to the dinner and froze it. Three days before my dinner, I transferred it from freezer to refrigerator. The morning of the dinner I heated the soup, added the cream and egg yolks as the recipe called for, then chilled the soup until it was served that night. The parsley oil was made 3 weeks in advance and kept in a jar and refrigerated (Just be sure to pull it from the refrigerator at least an hour ahead of when you'll need it so the oil can come to room temperature). The Carrot-Ginger Sorbet was made 4 days before the dinner and stored in a container in my freezer. Toast some slivered almonds in a pan on top of your stove the day before you plan to serve the soup. Keep them in a small, air-tight container.
PARSLEY OIL | adapted from a recipe by Patrick Ponsaty
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the parsley and lightly fry for about a minute, infusing the oil with the parsley. Let rest until cooled somewhat and purée in a blender. Strain the parsley oil into a glass jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Bring back to room temperature before using.
CREAM of CAULIFLOWER SOUP | adapted from The Fundamental of Classic Cuisine by
The French Culinary Institute with Judith Choate
• 2 heads cauliflower
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 leeks, white part only, finely sliced and well-washed (about 5 ounces)
• 3 ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 2 quarts plus 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon heavy cream
• 2 large egg yolks
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Wash, core, and chop the cauliflower. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for several minutes, or until the leek has sweated its liquid but has not taken on color.
3. While stirring, sift the flour into the leek-butter mixture, and fully incorporate. Remove from the heat and set aside about 10 minutes, or until cooled slightly.
4. Place the stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any foam or particles with a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and, whisking constantly, add the hot liquid to the leek mixture.
5. When well blended, return the stockpot to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Immediately add the reserved cauliflower and return to a bare simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spatula to ensure that the bottom does not stick or burn, for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. If at any point the cauliflower sticks or scalds, remove the cauliflower from the heat, transfer the soup to a clean pot without scraping the burned portion into the new pot, and return it to the stove. Do not allow the soup to continue cooking once it sticks or burns.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and either pass the soup through a food mill or purée it in a blender. Once processed, pass through a chinois into a clean saucepan. (I do not own a chinois, but used a very fine strainer instead and slowly pressed through all of the puréed soup into a bowl. It is a slow process, but the results are a silky-smooth liquid). This is the point I poured the soup into a container and froze it for several days. Once defrosted, I proceeded with the last steps.
7. Place a saucepan with the cauliflower soup over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons cream and the 2 egg yolks. Whisk in some of the hot soup to temper the mixture before whisking it into the simmering soup. Taste, and if necessary, season with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.
CARROT-GINGER SORBET | recipe from Peggy Lampman • AnnArbor.com
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest, plus fresh squeezed orange juice to equal 1/2 cup
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 3 cups carrot juice (available at Whole Foods)
• 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1. Mash orange zest with 1 teaspoon of the sugar to release the orange oils.
2. Combine orange and carrot juices. Stir in ginger, orange zest and remaining sugar and let stand until sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Stir well and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 2 to 4 hours.
3. Pour into an ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer's directions.
4. Store in a container in the freezer.
• Ladle the chilled Cauliflower Soup into bowls. Drizzle with Parsley Oil, sprinkle with some Toasted Almonds, then add a scoop of the Carrot-Ginger Sorbet. Now, watch everyone's eyes light up when they taste this incredible soup!
DESSERT -- Almond Cream Apple Tart
• la fin •
TAKE a LOOK:
I have been asked many times if I enjoyed any good meals on my recent trip to Paris; my answer has been yes. Our first night and our last night in Paris we ate at a small, extremely popular restaurant called l'Epi Dupin on rue Dupin. I was first told of this restaurant on a trip in 2004, when I asked a Parisian woman I was speaking with if she could recommend a good place to eat. She told me we must to go to l'Epi Dupin -- it was where the "locals" ate. I had two marvelous meals there on this last trip, and I'm going to attempt recreating one of them for a dinner I'll be hosting next month. Preparing the meal shouldn't be that hard, but the Parisian ambiance... well, there are no cobbled streets outside of my dining room windows in St. Paul, Minnesota. I believe that part of the reason a meal tastes so good in Paris is... well... you're in Paris!
Another little restaurant my sister and I fell in love with and visited three times was La Bocca Della Verita at 2 rue du Sabot, in the St. Germain des Près neighborhood of Paris.
We walked by the restaurant one morning and vowed we'd return for lunch. My sister ordered Dolce Vita on our first visit -- ravioli with goat cheese, honey, and thyme. It was luscious. I had the Bufala salad -- Mozzarella di Bufala with Cherry Tomatoes and Mixed Greens. Every dish so simple, and yet incredibly good, the result of the chef using the best ingredients.
Dessert for me was Affogato -- vanilla ice cream drizzled with hot espresso.
On our second visit we had an early dinner in French terms -- 7 o'clock. My sister's meal was a dish of mixed grilled vegetables with a vegetable purée, artichokes, mozzarella di Bufala and cherry tomatoes, mixed salad and Proscuitto. I seriously considered eating the Bufala salad again, but fortunately, at the last minute I decided to try the Piccata, a veal cutlet with a light cream of Sorrento lemon -- an excellent choice. Dessert that night was two different Tiramisu that we shared, of course. One, the traditional, and the second, Red Fruit Tiramisu. All I can say is... man, were they good! We started this meal with a glass of the restaurant's Strawberry Prosecco on ice. It's difficult to get my sister to join me in a glass of wine with our meals; she just doesn't care for it. But when she saw someone else drinking the red Prosecco, she was totally on board. We each had one that night...
and then returned the following night for another glass of the Strawberry Prosecco which we enjoyed in front of the restaurant on two little stools by the window.
That's where we met these four chefs and a wizard on the narrow cobbled street.
only in Paris, right?
:: Mozzarella di Bufala with Cherry Tomatoes and Mixed Greens
• Mixed salad greens
• Cherry tomatoes, organic and heirloom if possible
• 8-ounce ball of fresh Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella)
• Balsamic vinegar
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
This salad is all about using the absolute best ingredients you can. Place the salad greens on a large plate; surround the greens with a ring of halved cherry tomatoes. Position the Mozzarella di Bufala in the center of the greens. There is no substitution for this. A regular "fresh mozzarella" won't have the flavor the Bufala does. It is worth every cent! Drizzle the salad with the balsamic and the olive oil. Serve with a tasty baguette, a glass of wine, and enjoy!
TAKE a LOOK:
A rainy night wasn't enough to dampen our enthusiasm for Pizza on the Farm.
Tuesday nights, the Pizza Farm
in Stockholm, Wisconsin, bakes up "killer" pizzas from ingredients grown on the farm. (Yes, even the grain to make the flour for the crusts.)
I suggest arriving as early as possible; it's a popular destination on Tuesday nights. The lines will become long.
One size of pizza -- BIG
The wood-burning pizza ovens are fired up already on Monday mornings for the Tuesday night baking.
The pizzas are prepared in a small, enclosed prep kitchen opposite the two pizza ovens. When completed, a mad dash is made with the pizza peel to the oven.
Under better circumstances, the pizzas are eaten outdoors on the lawn, or picked up and taken home.
Fortunately, we were early enough to score a table inside one of the out-buildings; away from the rain.
A beautiful, old wood-burning heater keeps diners warm on chilly fall nights.
You bring your own drinks, silverware and napkins.
I can't even imagine how big the pizza crowds must be on a warm, sunny evening. What you can't see in this photo are the many cars that were lining the road as we drove away.
ow could a Tuscan "re-boiled" soup have anything to do with a life I used to have making one-of-a-kind, tapestry-crocheted bags out of hand-dyed linen? Are you sitting down? This could take a while.
Way, way back in the '70s I attended the Kansas City Art Institute, majoring in Fiber. After several years of tapestry weaving I picked up a crochet hook and some Irish rug linen. I needed a bag for myself and was inspired by Ecuadorian Shigras, a vessel-shaped, twined bag made out of agave fibers. When women tried to purchase bags I had made off of my shoulder, I left my loom and weaving behind and started crocheting full-time. My pieces ranged from "every day bags" approximately 6-inches in diameter by 9-inches tall to large vessels used in interiors. My favorite pieces were small, finely-crocheted "evening bags". The majority of these were made out of linen and silk and had drawstring closures out of the most beautiful, one-of-a-kind Japanese kimono silks. I was extremely lucky to know Fifi White and Elizabeth Wilson
of Asiatica Ltd.
in Kansas City, Missouri. Through them I had access to exquisite fabrics aquired on their regular buying trips to Japan that I never would have been able to purchase anywhere else. I heard Fifi sold her collection of kimonos to the Japanese government years ago, having a better private collection than Japan itself.
Above, a large vessel I made that was the ad for the Baltimore American Craft Show.
I crocheted tapestry linen bags for 20 years, working with galleries throughout the country. My bags are in some pretty-impressive private collections. At times I am sorry I didn't pursue a degree in painting, the area of study I initially intended. But I remind myself that had I done that, I would not know many of the interesting people I consider friends today; which brings me back to the Ribollita.
Back when The Union Square Cafe Cookbook came out in 1994, I purchased it immediately. Everything in that book sounded good, and I have used it many times over the years. I don't know how long I had the book when I realized that all of the watercolors in there were painted by Richard Polsky. Dick had called me right after my second daughter was born, when he had seen an article on my crocheted pieces in American Craft Magazine. In addition to being a painter himself, he is also a collector, and we corresponded on a regular basis after that. When I happened to notice one day Richard Polsky's name on my favorite cookbook, I was stunned. I had no idea. Turns out, he's Danny Meyer's uncle. It's been several years now since I've heard from him. I should drop him a note. I hope all is well. One piece of correspondence that I treasure is a post-card he sent with small frames of original black ink drawings on the front. The card has been displayed on an etagére in my living room since the day I received it.
I picked up The Union Square Cafe Cookbook the other day, deciding on the Ribollita Soup, and then spent some time turning the pages, looking again at the beautiful watercolors of fruits and vegetables that first attracted me to this book.
By the way, I love this soup. It's hearty, healthy and delicious.
from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer & Michael Romano
Watercolors by Richard Polsky
• 1 cup dried cannellini or Great Northern beans
• 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups diced zucchini
• 1 1/2 cups diced onions
• 2/3 cup diced celery
• 1/2 cup scrubbed and diced carrots
• 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1/2 head savoy cabbage, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
• 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 1/2 cup chopped basil
• 2 cups cleaned spinach leaves
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 4 cups day-old sourdough bread
• 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
1. Rinse and cover the beans with cold water and soak overnight.
2. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with 8 cups cold water. Cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside with their liquid.
3. Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Over medium heat, sauté the zucchini, onions, celery, carrots, pancetta, and garlic until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, tomatoes, basil, and spinach. Season with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes.
4. Strain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. Purée half the beans in a food processor. Add the puréed beans, the whole beans, and their cooking liquid (8 cups) to the soup pot and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. If there is not enough cooking liquid, add water to make up the difference.
5. Add the diced sourdough bread to the soup and cook for 10 more minutes. Adjust the seasoning. Serve with the Pecorino Romano and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
As many of you have ascertained by now, I Love, Love, Love to make tarts. I am truly happy when I'm rolling little, individual crusts. When I saw this recipe in the Balthazar cookbook I put it on my list of "must-makes". (If you're ever in NYC, stop by Balthazar in Soho for lunch, cocktails, dinner, or if for nothing else, just to see the restaurant.... Trés French.) This will be dinner tonight with a salad of greens, dried cherries and goat cheese (yes, more goat cheese). The vinaigrette will have bacon. Goat cheese tarts, a salad, glass of wine, and crank-up-the-heat ! It's cold tonight in St. Paul.
Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions
adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
• 2 large egg yolks
• 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 3 large yellow onions, halved through the stem end and thinly sliced into 1/8-inch half-moons
• 1 sprig of thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 8 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2 large eggs
• 1 large egg, separated and yolk beaten
1. To make the crusts, combine the flour, salt and chilled butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. With the machine running, add the egg yolks and ice water through the feed tube. Continue to process until the dough forms a ball. Shape the dough into 1 disk if making a 10-inch tart, or into 6 equally sized disks if making 4-inch tarts. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
3. Over a low flame, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, cooking the onions until soft and golden, reducing their volume by nearly half; this can take up to 1 hour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, draining off any excess oil. Discard the thyme (if using fresh) and bay leaf.
4. Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit the dough into the pan (or pans), pressing it firmly into the bottom edge and fluted sides. Trim the excess and prick the dough several times with a fork. Place the tart pan(s) on a sheet tray for easy handling. Line the dough with aluminum foil, and weigh down with raw rice or beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue to bake a few minutes more, until the crust takes on a light brown color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while the filling is completed.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the goat cheese, cream cheese, 2 whole eggs, the egg white from the separated egg, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.
6. Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the bottom of the prebaked tart shell and pour the cheese mixture over the onions, filling to just below the rim. Using a wide pastry brush, gently brush the beaten egg yolk over the top of the tart. Try to cover completely.
7. Bake for 12 minutes, until set. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
My most memorable meal took place many years ago when we lived just outside of New York City. Several of us were being treated to dinner out by my husband's boss. The restaurant was called THE BOX TREE and was located inside of an old townhouse near the United Nations Building. Every detail of that evening for me is unforgettable.
When we arrived at the address for the restaurant we were unsure whether or not we had the right location. There were no signs showing the establishment's name. The door was locked. When we knocked, a little curtain over the window was pulled aside and we were asked our name. Once they confirmed our reservation, the door swung open and we were shown to our table in one of the two very small dining rooms.
The beautiful, old silver flatware was French. The menus had no prices on them. Only our host knew what this meal was going to cost. The fois gras I ordered as an appetizer was delivered to the table by two waiters - one to hold the giant French porcelain tureen, the second to remove the lid and scoop a portion onto my plate. I was informed afterwards that the veal with truffles, my entrée, had been the most expensive on the menu. (Sorry.... I didn't have a menu with prices listed. I tend to low-ball if I know what things are costing.) I have never had an experience equal to that in a restaurant again. I don't even know if the Box Tree still exists.
And, when I thought that fairy tale night had ended, I walked toward the exit and on a little table near the door was a dish of Meringue Mushrooms. I had never seen a Meringue Mushroom, let alone eaten one. I now make my own. Since this is the first year we will ever be in our own home for Christmas, I plan to make a Buche de Noel (another first) for Christmas Eve dinner; and of course, it will need to be surrounded by mushrooms!
• MeringueMushrooms •
• 3 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/2 cup superfine sugar
• 2/3 cup (4 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
• 2 teaspoons cocoa
1. Beat the first 5 ingredients at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes).
2. Spoon mixture into a decorating bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe 1 1/4-inch-wide mounds for mushroom caps and 1-inch-tall columns for stems (approximately 32 of each) onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
3. Bake at 200˚F for 1 hour and 30 minutes; turn oven off. Let meringues stand in closed oven 2 hours.
4. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on the flat side of the caps. Trim rounded end of stems to make flat (I found a micro-planer works great.); press against chocolate to attach to caps. Sprinkle with cocoa.
Susan and I have just returned from our visits to France and Germany. It was an incredible trip, first staying with our friends Maria and Dieter in Germany, and then flying to Marseilles for a week in the south of France. It is hard for me to say what my favorite part of the trip was....waking up each morning in Maria and Dieter's beautiful home, full of light, amazing collections, Provencal furniture and good food was definitely a highlight. Jumping into our car each morning in Provence and heading out to markets in breathtakingly beautiful hilltop villages was a dream (plus, Susan did a superb job of driving our rental car each day, many times under stressful conditions and on the edge of perilous drops to nowhere!). The weather was perfect with extremely cool nights and warm, sunny days. I took hundreds of photos, as I had planned, and am torn between which ones to use for my first post on my return.
Right before we left on our trip, my friend Maureen sent me an article from the May 18th issue of the New York Times Magazine, titled PROVENCE PROFOUND, and it mentioned CHEZ SERGE, located in Carpentras, the town we made our home-base. It did not disappoint!
We were the first ones waiting that noon at the iron-gated entrance, and were able to be seated on the picturesque outdoor patio.
In a matter of minutes, every table was taken, forcing later arrivals to be seated indoors.
My entree consisted of guinea fowl in a morel mushroom sauce, potatoes and a molded carrot puree.
My daughter dined on French pizza.
I chose the lemon tart for my dessert (I always choose lemon if it's on the menu), but the winner was my daughter's choice; panna cotta with fresh strawberries that Serge had purchased that morning at the Carpentras market. We all agree that our meal at Chez Serge was our favorite meal that week in France.
I just returned from southern California where I spent the past week. The one thing on my to-do list while in L.A. was to dine at Nancy Silverton's newest restaurant Osteria Mozza. The year-old restaurant, where she partnered with Mario Batali and Joesph Bastianich, is the hottest reservation in town and is located next door to Pizzeria Mozza which Nancy opened the previous year. Osteria is located on trendy Melrose Avenue within sight of the Hollywood Hills and just a few blocks from the La Brea Bakery where she built a world-wide reputation with her incredible sourdough breads and then sold for a tidy sum.
It's a beautifully designed space. The center of the restaurant has chairs placed at a marble counter that wraps around the Mozzarella Bar where Nancy is at work nightly preparing various Italian cheese appetizers.
Of course, an incredible wine list.
I started off with a salad of butter lettuce and hazelnuts, bacon, gorgonzola dolce and egg.
This is an appetizer of Buttata with grilled asparagus, brown butter, guanciale and Sicilian almonds that Nancy made at the Mozzarella Bar.
My main course was Fresh Ricotta and Egg Raviolo with Browned Butter. When I sliced open the raviolo the most brilliant orange egg yolk poured out onto the browned butter sauce. I was told by our waitress that the hens are fed a diet of chrysanthemums to achieve these dazzling-colored eggs.
My daughter finished off her meal with Cioccolato Amaro, warm chocolate cake and bourbon gelato, in celebration of her 15th birthday. And yes, everything tasted as good as it looks!