Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

 

Tarte Tatin, also known as Tarte des demoiselles Tatin, is one of France’s most legendary desserts. The idea for this novel upside down tart is attributed to the Tatin sisters, Stephanie and Caroline, who made the tarts in the family’s Tatin Hotel in Lamonte-Beuvron in the Solonge region of central France in the 1830’s. Apples are baked in a shallow pan along with butter and sugar topped with a pastry crust. Once the apples are caramelized the tart is inverted onto a serving plate revealing the deeply caramelized apples sitting atop a crisp sweet pastry crust. It’s all quite magical in its simplicity. The tarte Tatin is remarkably easy to prepare while it is its buttery caramelized apple filling that gives it an unassuming elegance and a notoriety that is all its own.

The American take on this idea is of course pineapple upside down cake. Absolutely delicious as well. For recipe (Click here).

 

Tarte Tatin   serves 6 to 8

  • sweet pastry, rolled out into a 12 inch round and chilled
  • 1 ½ kilo/ 3 pounds firm tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 tablespoons/4oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

 

Select a heavy bottomed oven proof pan or skillet and place it on the stove top over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the pan and stir in about 1/3 cup sugar into the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes until the sugar is melted and bubbling up nicely in the butter. Begin placing apple quarters into the pan, rounded side down, around the perimeter of the pan. Then continue to fill in the center of the pan with apple quarters in a single layer.

Sprinkle another 1/3 cup sugar over the apples and drizzle with with half of the remaining melted butter.

As the apples cook you will notice some shrinkage. Push the apples together in the pan and slip more apple quarters in between them. The idea is to completely fill the bottom of the pan as tightly as possible with apples. Wedge in any remaining apple quarters wherever there is any space. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the apples and drizzle with the remaining melted butter.

You will notice the apples releasing their juices. Compress the apples every 10 minutes while they continue to cook. The idea is to slowly reduce the juices and incorporate them into the sugar and butter as it caramelizes. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the apples and check underneath them by lifting them up with a fork. The caramelized sugar under the apples will be a deeper color than the juices you will see bubbling up around the perimeter of the pan. You want a nice golden amber color in the bottom of the pan, so be mindful that the caramelized syrup does not darken too much which can have a bitter flavor.

Once the caramel has thickened and is bubbling up around the apples remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375f/190c

Roll out your pastry about 2 inches larger than the pan of cooked apples and chill until the apples have cooled down a bit more. Then place the pastry dough centered over the apples in the pan. Using a silicone spatula gently tuck the excess dough down the inside edge of the pan to encase the apples.

Using a skewer prick holes into the dough that will allow steam to escape while the tart is baking in the oven.

Place the pan into the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the dough to see if it is nicely browned and there is caramel bubbling up around the edges of the pan. If not cook another 5 minutes or so as needed.

Remove the tart pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the pan to be sure there are no sticking points.

After about 5 minutes place a large platter over the pan.

Using oven mitts grip the platter and the pan together and flip the pan over in one decisive movement.
The tart should drop onto the platter quite easily. If there are any apples left behind, gently remove them with a knife and place them back into their place on the top of the tart.

Serving:

Traditionally Tarte Tatin is served warm. Simply slice using a wet knife at the table and serve with a pitcher of chilled cream, ice cream, or thick yogurt.

Voila!

Summer Baby Beet and Orange Salad with Romesco Dressing

Summer Baby Beet and Orange Salad with Romesco Dressing

 

Summer’s baby beets are an ideal starting point for conjuring up some inventive salad bowl mash ups that are sure to brighten up your summer table.

Garden to table without to much fuss is what summer eating is all about. With that in mind I put together this salad with what I found on a recent trip to my local organic farmers market and produce shop. Here in the tropics there is an abundance of vegetables, beautiful salad greens, and fruits to choose from year round. Oranges happen to be in season here at the moment and ideal for this salad, but apples, pears, or even melon would be a tantalizing choice. The romesco dressing is my own adaptation of the classic Catalonian romesco sauce that nicely ties all the salad ingredients together with a burst of nutty spiciness. For further reading on Romesco (click here)

 

Summer Baby Beet and Orange Salad with Romesco  Dressing     serves 4

Roasting mature beets in the fall does make perfect sense and delivers a deep beetroot flavor. However my preferred cooking method for these delicately flavored summer baby beets is a gentle boil with the added perk of not overheating your kitchen in the process.

Prepare the romesco dressing while the beets are cooking and refrigerate it so it is will be nicely chilled for dressing the salad later.

Baby Beets

Baby Beets

For the Salad

  • 8 baby beets
  • 1 small red onion or large red shallot
  • 1 or 2 oranges
  • 4 bunches romaine lettuce
  • 1 large bunch of arugula (rocket)
  • 1 small head crisp iceberg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • orange zest

Wash the beets and place in a sauce pan on the stove top. Bring to a boil, add salt, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the beets until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Test by easily inserting a toothpick into the center of the beet. Remove the beets and set aside to cool. Reserve the cooking water to use later.

When the beets are cool enough to handle slip off the skins and trim off the root ends. Thinly slice the beets crosswise and place in a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside.

Remove the skin from the onion (or shallot) and thinly slice crosswise and separate into rings. Place in a bowl, cover with cold water, and refrigerate.

Zest the orange with a vegetable peeler. Very thinly slice the zest lengthwise and then slice very finely crosswise and set aside to use later for the dressing.

Peel the oranges, removing any pith, and slice crosswise into thin rounds. Halve the rounds, removing any seeds and place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate.

Wash all of the salad greens in salted ice water and spin dry. Cut the romaine leaves into bite size pieces and place in the salad bowl. Tear the iceberg and add to the bowl. Snap off any tough arugula stems and discard. Add the whole arugula leaves to the salad bowl unless they are very large, in which case tear them in half. Cover and refrigerate the salad greens until just before you are ready to serve.

Assembling the salad

Remove the bowl of salad greens from the refrigerator. Drain the onions and add to the chilled salad greens. Add the sliced beets and toss using your hands. Add some dressing and toss, adding more dressing as needed with out overdressing. Transfer the tossed salad to a large deep serving platter or individual serving plates. Tuck the sliced oranges into the salad and drizzle a little more dressing over the oranges. Lightly pepper the salad and scatter orange zest over all and serve.

 

Romesco Dressing

Romesco Dressing

Romesco Dressing

  • 8 partially sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (or reconstituted sun dried tomatoes
  • 6 plump cloves garlic, skin on
  • 1 dried red chile (New Mexico or 2 Thai)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez sherry vinegar
  • sea salt, about 3/4 teaspoon or to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon honey
  • beet cooking water (for thinning)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

Roast the garlic in a dry pan until lightly colored on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. Then peel off and discard the skin.

Using the same dry pan toast the chile on both sides, pressing the chile against the bottom of the pan. Remove promptly, cool slightly, and then slice open lengthwise and remove all the seeds and discard them. Crumble the chile and set aside.

Using the same pan briefly toast the anise seeds until aromatic. Set aside to cool.

And finally, using the same pan, lightly toast the slivered almonds, tossing them continuously, until lightly colored and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

Using a food processor (or blender) combine the sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, crumbled dried chile, toasted almonds, and anise seeds and pulse until broken down and well combined. Add the wine and sherry vinegar and salt and pulse until incorporated.

Then with the motor running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream. The mixture will thicken into a stiff paste like inconstancy. Scrape down the sides of the processor and add the honey and a tablespoon of the beet cooking water. Pulse until combined. Then add another tablespoon beet cooking water and pulse. Continue adding the cooking water a tablespoon at a time until the dressing has the consistency of cream. You want the dressing to coat rather than clump to the salad ingredients.

Once the consistency is to your liking, taste and add more salt if needed. Then transfer the dressing to a non-reactive bowl and stir in the reserved orange zest. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving.

Chilled Lemony White Bean Soup

Chilled Lemony White Bean Soup

 

Once again summer has officially arrived and what always comes to mind this time of year are lemons for recipe after recipe after recipe. Be it for chicken, seafood, salads or soups, it is lemons and their juice that really bring so many dishes to life in the summertime.

This is my third recipe for a lemon soup, all inspired by Greece’s Avgolemono in one way or another.
For Greek Lemon Soup with Minted Lamb Keftedes (click here) and Lemon Soup with White Beans and Celeric (click here)

The recipe that follows is for a very simple and quick chilled lemon white bean soup that is perfect as an opener for summer meals. To save time I’ve used canned white beans and eliminated the somewhat tricky Greek custom of whisking eggs into the soup to thicken it which can be a little challenging. This soup can be pulled together with very little fuss in about 30 minutes.

Choose your lemon carefully. A thin skinned unwaxed organic lemon, such as Meyer, is ideal if available. I have used a local Chiangdao lemon here in Chiang Mai.

 

Chilled Lemony White Bean Soup

Chilled Lemony White Bean Soup

 

Chilled Lemony White Bean Soup    makes 2 quarts

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 5 cups chicken or fish stock
  • 2 cans (400g each) white beans
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram or lemon thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

For garnish

  • sliced ciabatta or focaccio
  • feta cheese (goat feta if available)
  • lemon zest

Before you begin cooking zest your lemon into long strips using a vegetable peeler. Slice the zest strips very thinly lengthwise. Set aside about a quarter of the thin strips to use as garnish later. Slice the remaining strips into half inch batons and set aside. Then squeeze the lemon and set the juice aside.

Select a heavy bottomed soup pot and place it over medium heat on the stove top. Add the olive oil and when hot add the onions and saute for a minute. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook the onions for about 8 minutes or until soft, stirring from time to time. Then add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the stock, the beans including their brine, and the marjoram or lemon thyme. Add a little salt and pepper and cook at a simmer for 25 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove the pan from the heat and puree the contents in the pot with a hand held immersion blender  ( or transfer to a blender) and blend until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the lemon zest batons and bring to a simmer. Adjust seasonings adding salt and pepper as needed. Then turn off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes and then stir in lemon juice to suit your taste; about 6 to 8 tablespoons.

Transfer the soup to containers and cool to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate.

Preheat the broiler

Before serving, Lightly toast the bread slices and top with thin slices of feta. Place under the broiler until the feta has melted a bit and lightly browned in spots. Remove from the oven and cut bread into bite size cubes.

Serving

Give the chilled soup a good stir and ladle into individual soup plates. Place 3 or 4 bread squares
in the center of the soup and garnish with lemon zest strips.

Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream

Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream

 

Here is a twist on Thailand’s very favorite sweet treat!

Borrowing from the traditional Thai pairing of sliced fresh mango eaten with sticky rice drizzled with coconut cream, I have instead made a tart with a coconut jasmine rice pastry cream scented with kaffir lime leaves that is topped with freshly picked sliced mango. This tart makes a tantalizingly colorful presentation that is sure to make a stellar tropical finale for a summer meal and well worth the little extra effort. For more information about Thailand’s mango and sticky rice (click here)

Of course choosing your mangoes is paramount. Ideally they should be freshly picked, plump, blemish free, and firm with an ever so slight give when very gently pressed. Their aroma should be flowery without a hint acidity. There are of course many varieties to choose from ranging from deep green, yellow, pastel yellow, orange, and various shades of red. Best to buy them not more than a day before you intend to use them and refrigerate them to slow down the ripening process. Peel, slice, and arrange the mango over the pastry cream just before serving for maximum flavor and freshness.

The rest of the preparations can be made in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to serve.

 

Mango Tart

Mango Tart

 

Fresh Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream

Sweet Pastry (pate sablee) Tart Shell 10 or 11 inches, fully baked

As making the tart shell requires several steps including chilling the dough at several stages, as well as baking it, it is best to get this out of the way in advance. A fully baked tart shell cooled to room temperature and sealed n a large freezer bag will keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

Everyone who bakes has there own favorite tart pastry dough recipe so the choice is yours. Like many cooks I am always trying different recipes in a search of that perfect pastry dough that is easy to handle, sturdy when baked, and has at sweet crumbly sand like texture that classic tart shells should embody.

Likewise you can cook the rice and make the pastry cream in advance as well. Both will be combined and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the tart.

 

For the Coconut Jasmine Rice

  • ½ cup Thai jasmine rice
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 kaffr lime leaves

Preheat the oven to 325f/170c

After briefly boiling the rice finishing off the rice in the oven avoids the inevitable scorching of the rice in the bottom of the pan when cooked on the stove top.

Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed oven proof sauce pan set over medium heat on the stove top. Stir occasionally as the liquid heats up to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes while stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Cover the pan with a lid and place it in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once about half way through the baking time. Remove from the oven, remove the kaffir lime leaves and discard, and set the rice aside to cool.

 

For the Coconut Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Have ready a mixing bowl with a fine mesh strainer set over the bowl.

Place the coconut milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and drop in the kaffir lime leaves. Stir now and again while the coconut milk is heating.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together the corn starch and sugar. Then add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

Once the coconut milk is just under a boil ladle about a third of the hot coconut milk slowly into the egg cornstarch mixture while whisking continuously until incorporated.

Then pour the egg mixture back into the hot coconut milk and whisk continuously. The mixture will thicken after about 2 minutes with a custard like consistency. Continue to heat while continuously whisking until the custard is just about to break into a simmer with just a few little bubbles appearing on the surface. You do not want the custard to boil as the eggs in the mixture will begin to curdle! Promptly remove the pan from the stove and pour the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl. This will stop the cooking and remove any curdling that may have occurred. Discard the kaffir lime leaaves.

Let cool a few minutes and then stir in the butter, a tablespoon full at a time, while whisking until the pastry cream is very smooth.

Place the bowl of pastry cream on a cooling rack and press cling film directly onto the surface to avoid a skin forming on the surface as it cools.. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.

When both the coconut rice and the pastry cream have cooled to room temperature add the rice to the pasty cream and fold it in until evenly distributed. Then cover with cling film and refrigerate for about an hour or more before assembling the tart.

 

Mangoes

  •  2-4 mangoes depending on size

Peel the mangoes with a vegetable peeler and slice the mango into thin pieces lengthwise with the knife slicing parallel to the center stone/seed. Cover and refrigerate.

Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream

Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream

 

Assembling the Tart

Remove the fully baked tart shell from the refrigerator. Spoon the coconut rice pastry cream into the tart shell to about three quarters full and smooth the surface evenly. Cover the tart with cling film and refrigerate until well chilled.

Arranging the freshly sliced mango over of the pastry cream should be done as close to serving time as possible for maximum freshness!

Arrange the sliced mango over the surface of the pastry cream to your liking, trimming the mango slices as needed. Serve promptly, or cover the tart and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

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