Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart

Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese TartNew Year’s Nosh
It happened. I actually uttered the words I am tired of food the other day and my family was right there with me. After indulging in nothing but the good stuff for 36 hours we were ready to not eat. We were all very excited about the salad I made for dinner last night. But now we’re staring New Year’s in the face. What to do?

I think the best course of action is to go small and snacky. A few finger foods that are easy and perfect for grazing without being a whole big meal. Maybe a charcuterie platter which seems to be all the rage right now. Or potentially a few hot bites like these Cashel Blue, Spinach, and Smoked Salmon Tartlets or the Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart below. The dough makes for a great bite but I have done it with pre-made puff pastry and had great results. It also works well with apples if you are so inclined.

No matter what your New Year’s celebration will look like, here’s hoping you have a safe, healthy and happy New Year!!!

Roasted Pear, Shallot, and Blue Cheese Tart
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking Section
Yields 12 servings

This sweet and savory pear tart is sophisticated enough for holiday celebrations. The topping is a comforting, mellow jumble of sweet roasted pears and shallots perfumed with thyme and pungent blue cheese.

If you want to simplify this recipe, purchase some good-quality puff pastry (like Dufour’s in our freezer) and substitute it for making your own dough.

Ingredients
For the crust
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
2-1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, more as needed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

For the topping
2-1/4 pounds pears or apples, cored, quartered, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 pound shallots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
5 thyme branches
3/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese
Flaky sea salt

Directions
Proof the yeast
Place 3/4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water. Let stand until frothy (about 5 minutes).

Make the crust
In another large bowl, whisk together both flours, cornmeal, and 1-3/4 teaspoons of salt. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients; stir in yeast mixture and 1/3 cup of the olive oil until mixture is combined. If the dough seems dry, add a little more water.

Knead the dough
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough is smooth and elastic, (about 7 to 10 minutes). Or, knead in a mixer or food processor fit with the dough blade for 3 to 5 minutes.

Allow the dough to rise
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it loosely with a damp dishtowel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it has doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

Roast the toppings
While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 425º F. In a large bowl, toss together the pears (or apples), shallots, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the black pepper, and thyme. Spread the mixture onto two large baking sheets. Roast, tossing occasionally until the mixture is tender and golden (about 30 minutes).

Increase the oven temperature to 450º F. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

Assemble the tart
Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking sheet. Using a rolling pin or your fingers, roll or stretch the dough to make an even layer that is about 3/16-inch thick.

Scatter the pear-shallot mixture over the crust and scatter the cheese on top. Drizzle the tart with oil and season with flaky sea salt and black pepper.

Bake the tart
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is just melted (about 17 to 25 minutes).

To serve
Cool the tart slightly then cut into squares and serve.

Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball

Amy’s Classic Cheese BallPortion Control
The biggest struggle for me on Thanksgiving (and I am sure I have mentioned this before) is managing my appetite leading up to the big event. Because we eat our Thanksgiving around two or three o’clock, my usual meal schedule is knocked completely out of whack.

I’ve tried over the years to have a substantial breakfast and coast into the big meal. But, I find it makes me hangry around one o’clock. Not a good situation for spending time with family. Also, eating that much food before the early morning trek to my mother-in-law’s- house is rough. I have tried to just eat a bunch of little things throughout the morning but I end up not hungry enough to get the whole turkey/gravy/cranberry experience.

I think the sweet spot is to have a normal breakfast at a normal time and then have a reasonable snack somewhere around the noontime hour. This is all well and good considering I am not the one making all the food for the feast. It’s hard enough to make sure everyone’s favorite is on the table—let alone to make certain there are also snacks. So, having something that is easy to prepare and doesn’t require extra ingredients is key. The best thing I’ve found is a cheese ball.

Cheese balls are great! You can make them with ingredients you already have in your fridge. And, you can customize them five weeks from Sunday. So, here is our recipe for Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball. I emphasize that this is my basic recipe because I like to add cayenne to it. Not everyone is into spice. So, you can leave it out if you prefer.

Most of the ingredients should be in your fridge already or they would be easy to grab on the way to pick up your turkey—along with some precut veggies and a box of your favorite crackers. You can make this the night before and pull it out when the I’m starving whining begins.

Amy’s Classic Cheese Ball Recipe
Serves 12 (sometimes more depending on appetite) Read more…

Endive, Orange & Bleu Cheese Salad

Endive, Orange & Bleu Cheese SaladSalad Queen
My sister is the Salad Queen. No matter what the occasion, she can be counted on to bring a bowl of greens in any of a thousand iterations. It’s a good thing, as everyone could use more greens in their life. But, her leafy predictability has also become kind of a family joke. She can also be counted on for a rockin’ good cake. But, I digress….

One thing I have noticed over the years is that while she loves to experiment, she does have her favorites. And, they change with the seasons—as you would expect. A couple of weeks ago, when the weather actually started to feel like Fall, we were at her house for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely pork tenderloin along with some spicy sweet potatoes and this Endive, Orange & Bleu Cheese Salad. It is one of my favorites as well. And, it is a more accurate signal that the seasons have changed than anything else I know…as one or both of us will make it as soon as we have a reason too.

This salad is a great side for any fall-themed dinner. But it is also good the next day for lunch—especially with some sliced cooked chicken or whatever is left over from the night before. This also works for Thanksgiving if you’re someone who is thinking ahead.

Endive, Orange & Bleu Cheese Salad
Yields 2 Servings
Adapted from Ina Garten and The Food Network
Read more…

George’s Garden Salsa

George’s Garden SalsaMy husband could live on chips and salsa. It is by far his most favorite thing in the world behind ice cream and tacos which is why whenever we discuss planting a veggie garden, I always have to include the components for salsa. I have been making fresh salsa from our garden for forever. But, it wasn’t until the kids went back to school this year that my husband figured out how to do it himself.

My other half is one of the many who have been working from home for the past eighteen months—this wasn’t too awful. Since the kids were doing distance learning, he occasionally had people to talk to when they chose to come out of their caves. And, he had the option to send them to the store in the case of a salsa emergency.

Now that school is back in person and the kids are gone, the only one he has left is the dog. And, she can’t reach the gas pedal. So, out of desperation and in an attempt to use the tomatoes and chilies that we have coming out of our ears, he made his own salsa. And, it’s actually really good. (I say actually because his experiments can be well, concerning.) His salsa is even better if it sits for a day in the fridge and the flavors are allowed to meld. Beware though, this salsa is hot. By his standards, if you ain’t sweatin’ it ain’t worth it!

There is no actual recipe for George’s Garden Salsa which means it’s a little different each time. Everything is done by eye and taste testing. But, I have tried to lay it out the best I can below. Feel free to mess with it as you see fit. Roast the chilies on the grill, dial back on the heat, or add some avocado…it’s your canvas to do with as you please.

For those who like their salsa a little less chunky, throw half of the salsa (or all of it) in the food processor.

George’s Garden Salsa Recipe
Yields 6 servings Read more…