Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

 

It’s starting to cool down a bit here, not enormously, but in the evenings there is a slight chill in the air;  for me, that means that I can start using the oven more often, and I love it!

I have an obsession with all the ingredients of this tart, but the most recent one is tarragon.  I had never tried it before a couple of years ago, it really isn’t an ingredient readily available in Miami or the Bahamas.  After moving to Spain I started noticing it in the market, and wondered if it tasted as good as it smelled.  I think it is a definite acquired taste, but I liked it more and more every time.

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This is a very simple tart to make, but just because its simple doesn’t mean it isn’t elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.  I love these types of meals, unfussy, rustic and über delicious.  Perfect to serve as a starter, or as a main with a simple lamb’s lettuce salad.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

For the shell:

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

1 1/2 tbsp lard

2 – 3 tbsp ice water

 

For the filling:

2 leeks, thinly sliced

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced (cremini or white)

2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

3/4 cup tarragon, chopped

3 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Gruyère or comte cheese, grated

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 425F (220C).  In a medium bowl place the flour and salt, mix well.  Add the butter and lard, and with your hands or a pastry cutter, mix until all the fats are incorporated.  Add the water, one tbsp at a time, and mix with your hands to form a ball, and just until the dough sticks together.  Add more water if needed (but I only used 2 tbsp).  Wrap in plastic film, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out dough on a clean and floured surface.  Roll out to about 1/8 thick, and place in tart mold, trimming the edges.  Cover with aluminum foil and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Remove from freezer, and add pie weights or beans, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt.  Raise the heat to high and cook until the mushrooms have let out their liquids and it has evaporated.  Add the tarragon cook for another minute, then take off heat.  Let cool.

In a medium bowl, add the eggs, cream, cheese, black pepper and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Add the cooled mushroom mixture.

When your tart has finished pre-baking, lower the oven to 375F (190C).  Place the mushroom mix in the tart shell, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

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Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole

 

When I told my daughter I was going to make her a dish that would make her like tuna, she said to me, “There are two things I hate about what you’re going to make.  Tuna and Casserole.”   Poor casserole.  Already got a bum rap and she didn’t even know what I was talking about.

To my utter delight, she actually loved the dish (as I knew she would) and ended up repeating several times.  I generally don’t make tuna noodle anything, but since I am now on survival mode/use up everything in my pantry mode, I figured this would be perfect.  And, apart from the tuna, it was chock full of other veggies sneaked into one recipe so it was a double whammy for mom!

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As I’ve mentioned before, we never ate such classics when I was a kid.  People actually thought our food choices were really weird.  Nothing screams outsider like Colombian, Italian and Arabic food in the Bahamas, let me tell you.  My mom had this really great volume of Time-Life cookbooks, and I might have spied this for the first time in one of those, and once in college I recreated it.

I actually really like it.  I remember not being sure how the whole tuna/noodle/cheese/béchamel thing was going to work out, but you know what, it does.  And now that I know my picky teen will gobble this up, I think it will be a repeat offender at my house from now on!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 celery rib, sliced

1 cup fresh shelled peas (if you can’t find fresh, frozen will do)

1 cup quartered cremini or button mushrooms

3 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

2 cups milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

1.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 can tuna, drained and flaked

200 g egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, strained

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or torn up pieces of white bread, like mine above, if you don’t have breadcrumbs)

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onions, celery and peas.  Saute until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms and the salt.  Saute until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the 2 tbsp of butter, and mix until melted.  Lower the heat to medium, and add the flour and mix well.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.  Season with the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.  Take off heat and mix in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and mix well.  Add in the tuna and the noodles and mix well.

Transfer to a baking dish.

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Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar, and then top with breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 350 F (180C) oven for about 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are golden and it is bubbling.  Remove from oven, and let cool 10 minutes, serve.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

More Brit Week: Chicken, Mushroom and Tarragon Pie

As a child, I remember leafing through my mother’s cook books, and there was always a recipe for a chicken pot pie.  It looked so good, warm and luscious.  But, as I said before, my family was a lot of things, but not British or American.  So, never in my life did I have a Chicken Pie until I made one myself.  The first few tries were laughable.  I was just out of my teens, was living on my own and attempting to cook.  Let’s just say the results were less than stellar.  And that is putting it lightly.  But, I never give up when I fail at something, so I tried and tried again and EUREKA!  By George, I got it!

A few weeks ago I was at a friends house, she was born here in Barcelona, but her family is from Argentina.  Her husband, however, was born in Yorkshire from American parents.  They had just come back from a trip to the UK, and they brought back this amazing book, I don’t remember what the name was, but it was all about pie’s.  Savoury pies, sweet pies, hand pies…..oh sweet Jesus!  I think I actually drooled on the book. ( I hope they didn’t notice.)  It got my wheels a working to make more pies at home.

I love tarragon, but it is sparsely used in recipes here, although it is always in the supermarket?  Huh.  So, for Brit Week I knew I was going to make a pie.  I originally thought cheese and onion, but since I did the Sunday roast with chicken, I had quite a bit left over.  And as I mentioned before, British cuisine really knows how to make do with all your left overs.

I made this pie yesterday.  And no, I did not make the puff pastry.  I usually do, but it is such a long and hard process, that honestly, it defeats the purpose of this easy, delicious and hearty meal.  I mean…..ok, you’re using up your chicken to make a great meal for your family, but you’re going to spend three hours making the dough?  No way.  Just get store-bought.  No one will know the difference, and unless you have made puff pastry a few times, it will more than likely not turn out.  It is one of the more difficult doughs to make.  If you want to make your own crust, be my guest.  But I was too tired.  And I had a glass of wine instead while it was baking.

Today my friend Julie from Liverpool came over, and she gave me the seal of approval.  We had crustless pie with the rest of the bubble and squeak.  And we had seconds.  It was that good.  I wish I had more.  But hey, next week I can make another pie!!!!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

55 g butter

1 onion, sliced

300 g mushrooms, quartered

salt and pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, chopped

40 g plain flour

150 ml white wine

300 ml chicken stock

Left over chicken from 4 breasts

150 ml heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

250 g puff pastry, store-bought

1 egg beaten

2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped  plus more for crust

In a sauté pan, melt your butter.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and raise the heat to high, add the salt and cook until nicely browned, about another 5 minutes.  If you feel that the veggies are too dry, add some oil or more butter.  Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.

Now add your flour and lower the heat to low.  Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and stock, and raise the heat and bring to a boil.  When thickened, add your chicken, cream, tarragon and nutmeg.  Take off heat.

Pre-heat your oven according to package directions, but should generally be around 200-220 C.  Unroll the puff pastry, and press some of your reserved tarragon leaves into it.  Place the chicken mixture into a baking dish, and roll out the puff pastry, pressing into the edges to seal.  Cut off the excess, and if you’re feeling up to it, use the extra pieces to decorate the top a bit.  Baste it with the beaten egg.

Bake in your oven for about 15 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown, and it’s bubbling and you can’t take it anymore cause you’re going to stuff your face into it.  Sorry.  That’s what happens to me sometimes.  Food makes me crrrrrrazy.

Let it cool a bit before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tagliatelle all Boscaiola : Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms and Garlic Cream Sauce

My uncle in Italy has a house in the Dolomites.  When I go and visit him in autumn, the first thing we do is go Porcini hunting.  It is one of the most relaxing things ever.  Hiking through idyllic forests, splashed with a variety of greens, browns, yellows and orange.  In our foraging, we would talk about everything and nothing, and when we found one of our specimens, the Porcini, we would start thinking of how we were going to prepare it that night.

My family is originally from Emilia-Romagna, which is the region in Italy that has brought you such sublime classics such as Tagliatelle, Tortellini, Parmesan, Balsamic, Mortadella and the ubiquitous Ragu alla Bolognese.  In his home in Molinella, my great-aunt had a small but complete garden, with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.  The first time I visited them, I was absolutely fascinated when they opened the garage door.  There in the middle of the garage was a gorgeous, pristine 1975 canary yellow Alfa Romeo Spider.  And surrounding it was 3 entire walls, covered floor to ceiling with canned tomatoes, plums, cherries, eggplant, artichokes, and Porcini mushrooms.  The art of canning for winter is something that is lost on us, now that we live in this global and easily accessible fruit and vegetable world.  Long gone are the days when you HAD to can to be able enjoy the bounties of summer throughout the winter months.

Alas, but I digress.  Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola is loosely translated to Tagliatelle in the “woodsy” way.  Bosco means woods, or forest, and this sauce is generally made with Porcini mushrooms, or any type of wild mushroom that you have on hand according to the season.  It can just be the mushrooms with garlic and parsley, or you can add a little cream, as we do to almost anything in Emilia-Romagna.  Yesterday I made it with Cremini mushrooms, 1) because I had some left over from my Tunisian Brik.  And 2) because Porcini are out of season.  You can make this with whatever mushrooms you find, but it is nicer if they are wild and not our cultivated button mushrooms.  It is a simple, filling and exquisite meal with very little prep time.  Just make sure you have the best pasta, or home-made if you’re up to it!

So here is what you’re going to need:

For 4

1 lb Tagliatelle pasta

2 tbsp of butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lb porcini, or any other wild mushroom, sliced or chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

300 ml of cream (optional)

1.5 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh grated nutmeg

Parmesan cheese, grated

A few glasses of wine, to drink while you are cooking 🙂  and maybe some Paolo Conte to listen to.

In a large stock pot, bring your water to a boil.  In the mean time, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter to melt.  When it is bubbling, add the garlic and cook about 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.  Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms, and sauté until nicely browned.  Reduce the heat to low, add half of your chopped parsley, and the cream.  Cook until the cream just starts to bubble and thicken a little bit, and remove from heat.  Add your salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.  Keep warm.

When the water is boiling, add your tagliatelle, and cook until just al dente.  Strain, reserving just a smidge of the cooking water and then add to your skillet and toss with the cream sauce over high heat for about a minute.  Place in your plates and top with the rest of your chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.  Finito!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tunisian Egg Brik with Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

I was in Tunisia many, many moons ago.  I don’t remember much of Tunisian food, since I was staying with a Korean American family.  Actually, on that trip I learned how to make some amazing scrambled eggs from my friend Alexi Weden’s dad, and her gorgeous mother made me a Kimchee addict.  I remember seeing lots of goat carcasses hanging from hooks in the butcher stands on the side of the road, and one memorable dinner at Chez Nous, in Tunis.  I know for sure I did not have a brik, of any kind.

If you are not familiar with Brik, it kind of looks like a crepe, but it is crispier and lends itself to frying and baking quite easily.  The proper term for it is Malsouqa, but Brik is the tunisian derivative of the Turkish word Borek, which is basically a savory stuffed pastry.  Whichever way you decide to call it, it’s delicious.

A few nights ago at work, we did a dish using Brik pastry.  So, I thought, I have never, ever had Brik with egg.  And you know how I feel about eggs now.  So, I marched myself to the store and got a package of Brik, and today for lunch, made Brik a L’oeuf.  It is really really simple to make, and you can use whatever fillings you want.  I wanted a filling reminiscent of my Turkish/Egyptian/Syrian background, so I chose spinach and then a couple of spices that I brought back from Turkey on my last visit.  I looooooved my brik.  I think it will absolutely be a hit at the next dinner party, and with the spinach, mushrooms and fresh tomato, it gives you a vitamin packed punch, too.

So here is what you’re going to need for one person:

1 sheet of Brik pastry

1 egg, plus one egg yolk (if you don’t want a lot of yolk, just use one egg)

Egg white from one egg, lightly beaten

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

2 cremini mushrooms, halved and sliced

1/4 tomato, chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1/4 cup for frying

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp aleppo pepper

1 tsp sumac

salt and pepper to taste

squeeze of lemon juice

In a medium saute pan over medium, add your 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Saute for 5 minutes, raise heat to high, and add your mushrooms.  Don’t worry if your shallot starts to brown.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until your mushrooms are golden brown, then add your spinach and saute until wilted.  If you need to add a little bit more olive oil, by all means do.  Take off heat and add your spices, salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon.  Place into a bowl and let cool slightly.  In the meantime, in a large skillet, pour in your 1/4 cup oil and start heating it up over medium high heat.

Take your sheet of Brik and place on a clean work surface.

Place your spinach mixture in the center, spreading it out a little and make a well in the center for your egg.

Now add your whole egg plus the egg yolk.

Now start folding up the sides, and brush each side with your beaten egg yolk and press to seal.

Once it is all folded up and sealed, your oil should be hot enough.  Carefully lift with a wide spatula and place in the hot oil, and fry for about 3 minutes.

With another spatula, carefully flip it over, and fry on the other side, for another 3 minutes.  If you want your eggs less runny, then fry for 5 minutes, and so on and so forth.  When it is done, place on a plate with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.  Serve immediately.  Oh!  Don’t forget your bread to sop up all that delicious yolk.

Bon Appetit!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla