It’s cherry season in the northern hemisphere judging from the abundance of fresh cherries from the US and Canada that are available in the supermarkets here in Thailand at the moment. Cherries do not grow in the tropics so they are a real indulgence that is well worth savoring, if ever so briefly.
As a cook, what immediately came to mind was making a classic Italian/ French fresh cherry frangipane tart. Making tarts can get complicated, but this tart is relatively easy to make and beautifully showcases the plump whole fresh cherries nestled into a frangipane (almond flvored) cream and baked until golden brown. The scent of almonds wafting through the kitchen seductively compliments the juicy sweet tartness of the gently softened cherries.
Bing cherries are your best choice for a fragipane tart. They are plump, firm, deeply colored, and have a crisp sweet sourness. To pit or not to pit the cherries? Some cooks do not, but pitting the cherries requires so little effort. Cherry/olive pitters are available online, worth the small investment, and will last a lifetime.
Other fresh stone fruits you may want to try for this recipe include apricots, nectarines, plums, or peaches.
Fresh Cherry Frangipani Tart makes a 9 inch tart
- Your favorite pasty dough, well chilled, rolled out, and fitted into a 9 inch tart pan.
- 18 oz/ 500 g fresh dark red (Bing) cherries, stems and pits removed
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup sugar, divided
- 3 ½ oz/ 100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons rum
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 2 tablespoons light colored jam for glazing
Place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor and blitz until the almonds have been reduced to a stone ground flour like consistency.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the butter is creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Once again scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Then add the salt, rum, and almond extract. Mix until combined. Then add the egg and milk and mix until light and fluffy.
If you are not using the frangipane cream right away, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to bring the cream to room temperature before assembling the tart.
Preheat the oven to 350 f/180 c
Assembling the tart:
Remove the pastry lined tart pan from the refrigerator and spoon the frangipane cream into the trat shell and even out the surface with a silicone spatula.
Arrange the pitted cherries over the entire surface of the tart, pressing ever so gently so the cream just anchors the cherries in place.
Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the pastry crust is lightly browned and frangipane cream has puffed up and golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the tart after the first 30 minutes to insure even baking.
While the tart is baking heat the jam in a small pan until melted, strain out the solids, and set aside.
When the tart is done transfer to a cooling rack. Brush the glaze over the top of the tart and cool to room temperature.
Serve cut into wedges. This tart needs no flourishes. Beautiful just s it is.
The dilemma for gardeners and cooks this time of year is “ what am I ever going to do with all these vegetables?” Don’t panic trying to come up with three or four recipes that accommodate various vegetables. Why not take the simplest route and braise them all together? I find what emerges from the oven is a deeply flavorful melange of vegetables that are substantial enough to serve as a main course along with rice, couscous, bulgar wheat, or try tossing them with a pasta.
The other obvious beauty of this approach is a quick easy meal that almost makes itself. A short saute on the stove top and then into the oven to braise for an hour, and that’s all there is to it!
You hardly even need a recipe for this other than a few words about the cooking sequence and timing. Use any combination of seasonal vegetables available.
Braised Summer Vegetables: serves 4
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
- 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 5 oz/142 g shiitake (or other mushrooms) brushed clean and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry white wine, dry sherry, or water
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 small pumpkin (or squash) peeled and diced
- 1 cauliflower, separated into florets
- a bunch of kale leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves
- ½ teaspoon lemon thyme
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable stock or water
- harissa (optional)
preheat the oven to 350f/ 180c
Best to use a Dutch oven if you have one or a pot with a tight fitting lid. Place the pot on the stove top over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute 4 or 5 minutes until soft without browning.
Add the bell peppers and turn up the heat a bit. Toss along with the onions for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute and then throw in the mushrooms. Saute, while tossing, 4 or 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.
Make a well in the center and add the tomato paste. Compress the paste against the bottom of the pot to caramelize before stirring into the sauteed vegetables. Continue to saute another couple of minutes. Then stir in the white wine, sherry, or water. Saute until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Add the carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, kale leaves, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper and toss everything together until well combined. Level out the contents of the pot and add stock or water to nearly reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven and roast about 1 hour.
Check after 45 minutes and add a little stock or water only if needed, tasting and adding more salt to taste.
Serving suggestions: As a main dish serve with rice, couscous, or bulgar wheat, or toss with pasta.
I like serving these vegetables with a spicy Moroccan harissa. (see recipe here)
This is an unexpected salad pairing that I recently discovered at Pulcinella da Stefano, or Stefano’s as we locals call it here in Chiang Mai. Contrary to what you may think, the earthy flavor of roasted beets paired with the sunny topical flavor of mango is a match made in…well, paradise. Beet root is locally grown here in Thailand and available year round as are many varieties of mango. Adding some locally grown figs, grapes, and dressing this salad with a smooth nutty cashew vinaigrette is the perfect flourish to bring this salad with a tropical twist to life.
The recipe that follows is my interpretation of Stefano’s salad but open to variations centered around local and seasonal produce available where you live. Mangoes can usually be found in specialty food stores as well as Asian markets.
Pulcinella da Stefano Italian restaurant is a long standing favorite for locals here in Chiang Mai as well as visitors from abroad. Conveniently located near Thaphae Gate and well worth a visit!
Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Vinaigrette
Prepare in advance:
Suggested selection of salad greens: romaine (cos), red oak leaf, butter head bib lettuce, radicchio , wild arugula (rocket), watercress, and Italian basil leaves as a garnish.
Beets: Roast and prepare the beets in advance.
Fruits: a fresh ripe mango, fresh figs, and seedless red grapes.
Ricotta cheese: (see homemade recipe here)
Cashews: lightly roasted.
Roasted Beets: Preheat oven to 400F/210C
Wash 4 medium size beets and pat dry, leaving the skin on. Place the beets along with a small sliced red onion in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Cover the baking pan with foil and seal tightly around the edges. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender; testing by inserting a sharp knife easily into the center of the largest beet.
When tender remove the beets from the oven and set aside to cool, leaving the foil on until the beets are cool enough to handle. Then slip the skins off the beets and trim the stem and roots off the top and bottom. Cut the beets in half lengthwise and slice each half into thin slices. Place in a bowl along with the onions. Drizzle with olive oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Assemble your salad greens selection in a bowl and toss. Cover and refrigerate.
Peel the mango, slice into bite size strips, cover and refrigerate.
Cashew Vinaigrette: makes 1 cup
- ½ cup lightly roasted cashews, divided
- 2 plump garlic cloves, dry roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- several twists of ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red chile powder (optional)
- ½ teaspoon honey
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 3 tablespoons cold water
place 1/3 cup roasted cashews, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, chile powder (if using), and honey in a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture relatively smooth. Then, with the machine running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream and continue to process until the dressing is smooth, emulsified, and thick. To thin the dressing, add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time and pulse until incorporated into the dressing. Repeat this process until the dressing is the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to dress the salad greens.
Assembling the salad:
Lightly dress the salad greens and transfer them to individual shallow salad plates.
Place beet slices along with some onions on top or the greens.
Place sliced mango between the beets,
Tuck fresh basil leaves into the salad here and there.
Then add small clusters of ricotta next to the basil leaves.
Place the halved figs and grapes towards the edge of the salad.
Lightly drizzle just a bit more dressing over the salad.
Slice the remaining cashews in half lengthwise and skater over the salads.
Add a light twist of black pepper and serve.
In Italian capelli d’angelo con asparagi e limone has such a lovely melodic lilt to it that conjures up sun drenched plates of pasta bursting with all the essential fresh flavors of a summery pasta served up in the Italian countryside. Italians have such a lovely way with food that deliciously captures elegance in simplicity.
This is a very simple dish to prepare and an ideal way to take full advantage of summer’s farm to table garden fresh herbs and produce. I have included chicken in this recipe, but is entirely optional. This is a pasta that shines either way.
Angel Hair with Asparagus, Lemon, and Fresh Herbs Serves 4
- 2 plump chicken breasts, poached (optional)
- 12 oz organic young asparagus stalks, trimmed, steamed, and cut into 2 inch pieces
- 6 oz dry angel hair pasta
- 1/3 cup good quality Italian olive oil
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise, and again crosswise
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced Italian parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons whole baby mint leaves
- wild rocket (arugula) leaves
If you plan to include poached chicken in the recipe prepare it in advance. Fill a medium sauce pan three quarters full of water. Bring water to a full boil, add a teaspoon of salt, and put the breasts in the pot. Bring back to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and set aside for 30 minutes. Then transfer breasts to a bowl to cool. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat apart into bite size strips. Place in a bowl, cover with cooking broth, and set aside, or cover and refrigerate for later use.
Likewise steam the asparagus in advance. Place the trimmed asparagus in a steamer tray, cover and steam until the asparagus is tender, but not limp. Allow to cool, then cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.
Place a stock pot three quarters full of water on the stove over high heat and bring to a full boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer and hold until you are ready to cook the pasta.
While the water is heating combine the olive oil, about three quarters of the lemon juice, and the Parmigiano in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined and the cheese is incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and more lemon juice if needed to taste. Set aside.
When ready to cook the pasta turn the heat back up to high. When the water reaches a rolling boil add a tablespoon of salt. Stir and add the angel hair. Stir until the pasta separates and floats freely in the boiling water. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring now and again, until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander just before you are ready to combine it with the sauce .
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Then add the poached chicken and saute 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and toss. Reduce the heat to low and pour the olive oil lemon juice cheese sauce over all and toss 1 minute. Add the drained pasta and toss until evenly coated with sauce. Add the parsley, mint leaves, about a tablespoon of lemon zest, and toss until well to combined. Taste and season as needed.
Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl or individual pasta plates. Try to arrange most of the asparagus on top of the pasta. Place wild rocket on top in the center, add some lemon zest and serve! The pasta needn’t be piping hot. Warm rather than hot brings out the freshness of the combined flavors.