Monday, February 18, 2013

Romanesco cauliflower and caramelized leek tart

Tarts are such a great thing to eat in winter - cheesy and warm with a salad is my perfect winter lunch. And if you want to spoil yourself some warm pie with a drizzle of fresh cream is a bonus.
This tart uses a healthy olive oil dough and roasted Romanesco cauliflower for the filling - this year there has been plenty available all through  fall and even into winter. They are slightly sweeter than regular cauliflowers and are more subtle. I combine sauteed leeks and roasted Romanesco cauliflower with some grated cheese and fill the tart shell. There is no egg, milk or cream in the filling like most savory tarts. Once baked the cheese melts and envelops the vegetables and forms a lovely brown crust. Absolutely delicious!

Romanesco cauliflower and caramelized leeks tart

Tart Shell
Makes two 9 - 10 inch crusts and the trimmings make two 3 inch crusts

1 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for spraying
  1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
  2. Transfer the flour mixture to the food processor with the metal blade inserted. With the motor running,  add the olive oil, then ¾ cup water. When the dough comes together in a ball, turn off the motor. Scrape the dough out of the food processor and knead very gently on a lightly floured board just until the dough is smooth. Do not over work or the dough will be tough.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Press each ball into a disk, about 4 inches in diameter. Dust lightly with flour if the dough is sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for and hour or longer at room temperature.
  4. Sprinkle a small amount of unbleached flour over your work surface. Put the piece of dough on it, and lightly dust the top with more flour. Roll the dough from the center to the far edge, in one direction only, turning the dough, until it is quite thin, with a diameter of at least 12 inches. Keep dusting lightly with flour if the dough sticks.
  5. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom with olive oil. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and lift onto the pan, with the fold in the middle of the pan. Unfold the dough so that it covers the pan. Press gently into the pan. Using the rolling pin, roll over the tart pan to trim the edges. Save the trimmings to roll once again to make another 3 inch tart.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before adding the filling.

Romanesco cauliflower

One medium sized Romanesco cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1 large leek - white parts and light green parts only (yield 1 cup cooked), thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of grated cheese - best to use a mild melting cheese so it does not overpower the cauliflower

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F. 
  2. In the meantime, separate the florets and cut them into 1 inch pieces. Toss them with 1½ tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. The cauliflower should be cooked and should have little brown tips when they are done.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil and add the sliced leeks and minced garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes till the leeks are soft. Remove from the heat and mix with the cauliflower. Mix in the grated cheese when you are ready to fill the tart shell.

Assembling the tart
1. Add the filling into the tart shell and spread evenly. Bake in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
2. Cut into wedges and serve with a fresh green salad.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baked fish cakes with cilantro and sumac

Fish cakes are great as a first course to serve with salad or a light lunch as well. These fish cakes are made with tilapia, potatoes, onions, green chilies, cilantro and the magic ingredient sumac. Sumac is used extensively in middle eastern dishes and is one of the ingredients found in Za'tar. It is a  tangy red powder made by grinding the sumac berries and is great sprinkled over fish, chicken, or salads. I have used it here to give the fish cake a bright taste.

I poached the fish in a lightly aromatic broth and then mixed it with boiled potatoes, chopped red onions,  green chilies, cilantro and some sumac. Then I formed them into small cakes  and baked them for half an hour in a hot oven. In order to get the cakes to brown, it is best to use a light baking sheet instead of a heavy one, since it conducts heat quicker and allows for better browning. Serve with ketchup or tartar sauce.

Baked fish cakes with cilantro and sumac

½ lb tilapia (any firm white fleshed fish will work)
A quarter sized piece of ginger
10 black peppercorns
1 medium sized Russet potato; boiled and peeled (I find its mealy texture perfect for mashing)
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon finely minced green chili (use as much or as little depending on your spice tolerance)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground sumac
3 - 4 tablespoons canola oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Heat about 1 ½  inches of water with ginger, black pepper and ¼  teaspoon salt  in a medium sized saucepan that can accommodate the filet of fish. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat too simmer and slowly lower the fish into the water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Once cool flake the fillet with a fork.
3. Mash the boiled potato and mix it with the onions, cilantro, green chili and salt to taste. Now gently mix the fish and the sumac to the potato mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Take little balls of the fish and potato mixture and make little cakes by flattening the balls. You should get 10 from this quantity.
4. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to a baking sheet and place in the pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 5 minutes to heat the oil. Now place the cakes on the pre-heated baking sheet. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of canola oil over the cakes and place the baking sheet back in the oven in the middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the fish cakes and place it back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The fish cakes will be golden brown on both sides.
5. Serve warm.

Makes ten 1 ½ inch fish cakes

Butternut Squash with Nigella seeds

Butternut squash is not commonly paired with nigella seeds except in Bengali cuisine where butternut squash is one of the vegetables of a melange and nigella seeds is one of the spices which make up the traditional Bengali panch phoron or five spice mixture. And Nigella seeds is also not commonly used in cooking except in Bengali cuisine as well. The Turkish use it in flavoring the çörek buns. Such braided-dough buns are widespread in the cuisines of Turkey and its neighbors. In Bosnia it is used to flavor pastries often baked on Muslim religious holidays.The flavor of the Nigella seed is described as smoky and peppery. They impart a flavor combination reminiscent of oregano, black pepper and onion.

But this combination of butternut squash, nigella seeds, and caramelized onions, to enhance the onion flavor of the seeds are a perfect match. The dry red chili gives a little kick to offset the sweetness of the squash and the onions. This dish is great as a spread for an appetizer plate or as a side dish as part of a multi-course meal. Works well spread on to bruschetta or pita toasts.

Butternut Squash with Nigella Seeds

1 cup, finely chopped yellow onion
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small dry red chili
  1. Heat a 3 qt saucepan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon canola oil and add the nigella seeds and the  dry red chili. Saute for 30 seconds and then add the chopped onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for 2 minutes till the onion is slightly translucent.
  2. Add the cubed butternut squash and cook uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Toss the mixture around and then cook covered over medium low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and toss again, check the salt - add if necessary. Then replace the cover and cook for a further 5 minutes till the squash is done.
Serves 3 to 4