Relish grilled meats with smoked tomato chutney

A liberal dash of seasoning keeps grilled foods interesting, or so runs the premise of this week’s story in A la Carte.

Despite being a lover of spices, tongue-tingling ones in particular, I’m guilty of devising flavors that are too simple, too predictable. I figure that if the meat is of high enough quality, a little salt and pepper suffices for grilling. I want to taste the meat.

My husband, Will, isn’t so appreciative of my plain-Jane attitude, although he recognizes its utility for feeding small children. So while I keep the meat’s spice to a minimum, I’m always looking to enhance its flavors with some kind of sauce served for him on the side.

Last summer saw me attempting to replicate our favorite smoked tomato chutney, a novelty when I first encountered it two decades ago at Ashland’s Morning Glory. I’ve relished it so many times with the restaurant’s signature rock-shrimp cakes that I was fairly confident my rendition would come close to the original.

Amid its straightforward combination of tomatoes, onions, vinegar, sugar and salt, this chutney contains a sprinkle of dried currants, plumped in its liquid. Will’s verdict: He would be hard-pressed to distinguish mine from Morning Glory’s.

Maybe the restaurant’s chef-owner, who smokes a number of meats on site, was inspired by a collection of recipes from Weber grills. Or maybe it’s just coincidence. But the following recipe, created by Weber and courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, is a dead ringer for my version of smoked tomato chutney. With tomato season on the horizon, consider grilling or smoking garden tomatoes instead of using canned.

A chili pepper-paprika rub kicks up the spice in this chicken dish, but it certainly could be omitted.

Tribune News Service photo

Ancho Chili Chicken Thighs With Tomato Chutney

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup minced red onion

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup dried currants or raisins

2 teaspoons ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs (with bone and skin), 5 to 6 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat and skin

In a small saucepan combine the tomatoes, onion, sugar, vinegars, crushed red pepper and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated and mixture is thick and syrupy, for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the currants, and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, paprika, black pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Season the chicken thighs evenly with rub. Brush cooking grates clean. Grill chicken, skin-side down first, over direct medium heat, until golden-brown, for 6 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Move chicken over indirect heat and cook until juices run clear and meat is no longer pink at bone, for about 30 minutes. Keep grill lid closed as much as possible during cooking.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Serve chicken warm with chutney.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe from “Weber’s Greatest Hits” by Jamie Purviance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.99).

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Avocado, tomatillos fundamental for this sauce

Produce showing up on my doorstep is nothing new in a decade of living next door to my mother-in-law and her expansive vegetable garden.

But every now and then, an item confounds me a bit. A half-dozen tomatillos, purchased from the store, not home-grown, were her latest bequest. She bought too many for a recipe. Did I want the rest?

Last summer did see me experimenting with smoking tomatillos to yield a salsa that was almost jam-like in its consistency. Tomatillos have loads of natural pectin. Granted, I could just throw them in a stock pot with some vinegar, salt and sugar for easy chutney, but neither of those ideas really piqued my interest.

Then I spied this recipe for avocado sauce that also relies on tomatillos. It’s worth noting that I’ve tried to make salad dressing from overripe avocado, based on a local restaurateur’s suggestion, with marginal success. The dressing actually was more like mayonnaise in its consistency and not nearly as flavorful as I had hoped. I’ve since been looking to fine-tune that concept.

With more than 80 years of history to recommend it, this sauce was devised by a storied Los Angeles restaurant as a condiment for taquitos. It would a cinch to produce with ingredients I have on hand and outside in the garden.

Tribune News Service photo

Cielito Lindo’s Avocado Sauce

3 to 4 fresh yellow chilies (chili güero)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

6 tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped

Leaves from 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 avocado, coarsely chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1 quart water with the chilies, garlic, tomatillos and cilantro. Bring mixture to a simmer, loosely cover and cook until chilies and tomatillos are softened, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain, reserving water, and transfer ingredients to a blender jar. Add the avocado and salt. Carefully blend at low speed, adding water as needed, until mixture is pureed to form a thin sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week.

Makes about 1 quart sauce.

Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from a recipe by Cielito Lindo in downtown Los Angeles.

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Alternatives with eggplant, pesto may be just right

Mention “pesto,” and most people have a classic flavor profile in mind. Likewise, eggplant Parmesan is a dish that suggests a specific preparation.

While I’ve blogged before about pesto’s wide-open interpretation, depending on the herb and nut employed, I’ve been inflexible on the point of eggplant Parmesan. This is the year, however, that I may change my mind about the latter.

For the first time in my memory, our garden lacks a globe eggplant variety, the corpulent fruits that yield slices several inches in diameter, perfect for breading and frying for eggplant Parmesan. My mother-in-law didn’t have seed to start globe eggplants over the winter, then couldn’t find starts when it was time to plant. Can we make do with the long, thin Japanese variety, she asked?

I’ve always used Japanese eggplants for stir-frying, maybe tossing into minestrone, Thai curry or lentil stew. They’re just not large enough to warrant the effort to bread and fry. But without any of their larger cousins, I may resort to breading them after all. Baking them could be the ticket, given that they’re more tender and exude less water than larger eggplant.

This recipe, substituting Japanese eggplant sliced into long strips is a good starting point. And while I’m making one significant substitution, I may as well embrace an alternate pesto formula. Kale, I have. But I also have an enormous bunch of carrot tops attached to some locally grown golden carrots that would be perfect in pesto with walnuts or almonds.

Crispy Eggplant With Kale Pesto Fettuccine

Tribune News Service photo

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg

1 cup panko breadcrumbs, crushed

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more to serve

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dried shallots, crushed

1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick coins

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 1/2 ounces fettucine or tagliatelle

Herby Kale Pesto (recipe follows) or 5 ounces store-bought pesto

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl whisk the egg with 1/4 cup water. In third bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan and other spices.

Dip both sides of eggplant slices first in flour then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs. Lay on baking tray and drizzle or spray with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, flip over and then bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until golden-brown and crisp.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot filled with salted, boiling water according to package instructions. Drain pasta and stir in the pesto. Serve with baked eggplant and more Parmesan.

Makes 2 servings.

HERBY KALE PESTO: Zest 1 lemon and cut it in half. Juice 1 half into bowl of a food processor; add zest. Add 1 peeled and minced garlic clove, 1 ounce walnut halves, 3 ½ ounces chopped kale, a large handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 4 tablespoons olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Blend until a paste forms, adding additional oil to achieve desired consistency. Use immediately or store in a lidded container in fridge or freezer. Makes 6 ounces.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Everyday Delicious: Super Tasty Breakfasts, Brunches, Mains, Desserts & Snacks” by Izy Hossack (Hardie Grant, $29.99).

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Sandwich simply showcases first summer squash

Over Fourth of July weekend spent at the coast, I apologetically told my mom that my garden hadn’t produced much yet in the way of fresh veggies to share with her. True, there were scallions, garlic and some kale. But the first flush of snow peas had subsided in recent heat, which still wasn’t enough to prod squashes and nightshades to ripeness.

But what should greet me upon returning home than the summer’s first zucchini and Japanese eggplant. Eeeek! Although lamenting the lack of veggies, I wasn’t sure that I was ready for three solid months of summer squash in and on top of EVERYTHING!

Before I turn to trickier tactics of disguising it for squash-weary palates, the first zucchini does seem something of a treat. And the first dish should be a pure celebration of zucchini, cooked until just tender and enhanced with citrus and fresh herbs. Hence, my recent pitch to grill veggies for sandwiches on ciabatta smeared with lemony-garlicky aioli. The kids could have hot dogs.

Here’s a similar approach from the Chicago Tribune that piles ribbons of grilled zucchini on top of grilled bread slathered with ricotta. In the absence of good-quality ricotta, I’d opt for that aioli.

Tribune News Service photo

Summer Sandwich

About 1/2 cup olive oil

1 fat garlic clove, peeled and mashed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 small (1/2-pound) zucchini

2 slices country or sourdough bread

Pour the oil into a small bowl. Drop in the garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta, thyme and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Trim the zucchini. Use a mandoline or vegetable peeler to slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

Brush the bread on both sides with seasoned oil. Paint zucchini strips on both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Prepare a medium-hot grill. Grill bread and zucchini strips over direct heat until bread is crunchy and zucchini is bright green at edges and striped with grill marks, for about 2 minutes per side.

Set bread on each of 2 plates. Schmear bread with ricotta. Top with grilled zucchini. Grind on more pepper and drizzle with a bit of oil. Munch.

Makes 2 open-face sandwiches.

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Frozen melon cubes won’t water down cold drinks

When “watermelon water” is the next big craze, food marketers officially are overstating the obvious.

“Duh,” was my reaction to news that nutrient-infused water (in the vein of coconut) now comes from watermelon. But nutrition and gardening experts interviewed for this month’s story in Oregon Healthy Living played along and provided so many more reasons to reach for watermelon than its eons-old reputation as refreshing.

Ways with watermelon aren’t unknown to me, although I’ve never counted myself a fan of the gargantuan gourd. I’ve used watermelon in salsa, quick-pickled it for salads and even grilled it. But when faced with a pithy fruit that I’m tempted to toss onto the compost heap, I need to remember to just hack it up and toss it into the freezer for punch, cocktails and other summer coolers.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the Chicago Tribune for homemade limeade that touts frozen watermelon cubes instead of ice cubes. Because when you’ve got a chilled beverage that’s perfectly tangy and zesty, diluting it with melted ice is such a shame.

Cheers!

Tribune News Service photo

Limeade

4 big slabs watermelon, rind removed

2 cups sugar

Finely grated zest of 4 limes

2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice

10 fresh mint leaves

Sparkling water (optional)

Cut the watermelon into neat 1-inch cubes. (No need to remove seeds — they’re cute.) Set cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until firm, for at least 2 hours. Pile into a resealable plastic bag, and store in freezer.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and syrup turns from cloudy to clear, for 3 to 4 minutes. Pull pan off heat. Stir in the zest. Pour into a heat-proof jar and allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered. Transfer to refrigerator to chill, covered. When cold, stir in the juice. Keep tightly covered in refrigerator.

For each drink, pile frozen watermelon cubes into a tall glass. Add 1 mint leaf. Pour in equal parts water (or sparkling water) and lime syrup. Stir. Sip. Smile.

Makes 5 cups syrup, about 10 servings.

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Grill or reseason steaks for light Thai-style salad

Holiday weekends, regardless of the season, are guaranteed nonstop occasions for eating while visiting my parents.

The abundance is ingrained in my mom’s sense of hospitality. She can’t help but cater to every guest’s preference, no matter the extra time or expense involved. Joking that she even made a portion of potato salad without onions for my cousin, she’s only gotten more accommodating over the years. (She never used to omit onions for me.)

So when my cousin’s husband, who doesn’t eat seafood, is on the guest list — and fish is on the menu — my mom lays in a supply of meat. For Fourth of July, 5 pounds of rib-eye and boneless New York steaks accompanied our roasted steaks of fresh-caught Oregon halibut.

It only follows that such a spread would yield leftovers for at least one more meal. Steak tacos are obvious, beef stroganoff among this family’s longtime comfort-food classics. But for summer, I want red meat to be as light as possible.

This salad, garnished with a plethora of fresh herbs and enhanced with traditional Thai flavors, would be my pick. With a supply of already cooked steak, whipping up the sauce would be a cinch. And the funk of fish sauce would completely recast the steak from our original preparation.

Tribune News Service photo

Thai Grilled Beef Salad

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), peeled, minced

1 piece lemongrass (the pale stalk only), peeled and minced

1 tablespoons cilantro roots, washed and minced (optional)

5 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning steak

1/2 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup fresh lime juices

1 small skirt or flat iron steak, about 1 pound

Coarse sea or kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, broken into leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into half

1 small sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn

1/2 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves

Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

1 to 2 jalapeño peppers or red serrano chilies, stemmed and thinly sliced (remove seeds, if desired)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and, if using, the cilantro roots. Sprinkle the sugar and pepper on top and mash well with back of a spoon. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and whisk to mix. Set aside.

Generously season the steak with the salt and pepper on both sides. Drizzle the oil onto meat and rub to coat evenly.

Set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush grate clean and oil grate.

Grill steak to desired degree of doneness, for about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, turning once. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Top with the cucumber, tomatoes and onion.

In a small bowl, toss the mint, basil, cilantro leaves and jalapeño. Set aside.

Thinly slice steak on diagonal and add hot slices to bowl with garlic-ginger sauce. Toss to mix. Using tongs, arrange steak slices with two-thirds of sauce over salad. Sprinkle mixed fresh herbs and jalapenos over steak. Sprinkle on some of the peanuts. Serve with a bowl of remaining sauce mixed with remaining peanuts.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from “Barbecue Sauces Rubs and Marinades — Bastes, Butters, and Glazes, Too!” by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $17.95).

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Summer berries add flourish to July 4th desserts

Strawberries are still going strong just in time for local blueberries to come on the scene.

When the two berries are at their peak, there’s no excuse for skipping a red-white-and-blue-themed dessert to fete Fourth of July. It can be as simple, of course, as a big bowl of berries served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or even plain yogurt. Or as elaborate as the star-spangled pie that this blog featured two summers ago.

After a spell of searing heat, however, I’m much more inclined toward this cool, creamy cheesecake bar. Cutting then decorating the individual portions makes every plate patriotic.

Tribune News Service photo

American Flag Cheesecake Bars

For crust:

1 1/2 cups finely crushed regular or cinnamon graham crackers (24 squares)

1/3 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

For cheesecake:

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

For garnish:

80 blueberries

1 cup seedless strawberry or raspberry jelly

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Mist foil with cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until set. Let cool on a wire rack.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla and salt.

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust. Tap pan on countertop 3 or 4 times to burst air bubbles in filling. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until filling is just set. Remove cheesecake from oven and cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use foil overhang to lift cheesecake out of pan and onto cutting board. Carefully cut into 16 bars and transfer to a serving platter. Decorate each bar with 5 blueberries in upper left corner to resemble stars on the American flag. Place jelly in a zip-top bag, seal bag and snip off about 1/4 inch from a bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines on each bar to resemble stripes on flag.

Makes 16 bars.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from BettyCrocker.com

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Simple summer sauce sweetens sour strawberries

There are strawberries. And then there are strawberries.

First to arrive on the scene are the pale, still slightly sour supermarket variety, packed into their clamshell containers, which still aren’t pliable enough to keep the berries from bruising and molding, sometimes before even leaving the store. With two young children whose appetites for fruit are practically insatiable, however, these seem like a treat after months of apples, pears and citrus.

But they can’t compete with locally grown strawberries, not to mention the patch in our backyard. Small, sweet, juicy berries warmed by the sun are treasures that my sons hunt for among the ruffled leaves.

If I had my way, we’d fill in every border and flower bed with strawberry plants, but they probably still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy our summer cravings. So I buy a basket or two of California berries, whenever the price makes them hard to pass up.

Hitting their stride, those commercially farmed strawberries are available now in the 2-pound clamshells for $3.50 apiece this week at Food 4 Less. Grabbing the sweeter, organic ones for snacking, I also bought the conventionally farmed berries, figuring that I could improve their flavor profile in a pie or other dessert.

Simple strawberry compote is something I’ve been simmering up for the past month every time we have store-bought strawberries past their prime. I spoon it onto plain yogurt or even vanilla ice cream if the boys are due for a real treat. This more sophisticated take also would improve sour, soft or otherwise undesirable strawberries. It also can transition well to the freezer, stashed right by the ice cream.

Tribune News Service photo

Strawberry Sauce

2 pounds strawberries, hulled

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Couple of drops of red food coloring (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice Bring to a gentle boil, stirring continuously, and let strawberries cook for a good 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Turn off heat and use a potato masher to completely mash berries. If you’d like to bump up sauce’s red color, add a couple of drops of food coloring.

Pour mixture into a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl. (You also could use a food mill.) Use a spoon to stir fruit so liquid is forced through. Set pulp aside if you want to add some back to finished sauce.

Skim as much foam off sauce as you can. Then pour sauce back into same saucepan. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn off heat and let sauce cool for 5 minutes. Pour into a glass jar or container. If you like, add a spoonful or two of pulp back into sauce. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serve either straight out of fridge or warmed up in microwave over ice cream.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime,” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, 2015).

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Lemon, almond boost sweet cherries’ pie potential

The thermometer’s spike should ripen the cherries remaining on our tree overnight.

Cooler temperatures last week babied a small crop of more delicate Royal Ann cherries, those tender, creamy-toned fruit with the fetching blush. From a front-yard tree, we managed to pick more than we had in years. But of course, I can’t remember when the run-up to Father’s Day was so cold and rainy.

Perfect fruit it’s not. About half of the haul was bruised, split or starting to mold. I spent about 30 minutes picking it over, trimming away blemishes and pitting the irregularly shaped “seconds.” That effort yielded a quart of fruit. Frozen and, combined with another gleaning, it’ll be just right for pie.

Of course, my mother-in-law prizes pie cherries, prompting her to plant a new tree two years ago that’s just bearing its first, dime-sized fruit. I see no reason why sweet cherries, particularly piqued with a bit of lemon juice and zest, wouldn’t be just as delicious nestled into pastry. With almond extract, my preferred accent for baking and stone fruits, in general, this recipe from the Chicago Tribune could be a new favorite.

Tribune News Service photo

Sweet Cherry Pie

Pie pastry (recipe follows)

2 pounds (about 5 cups) fresh sweet cherries, pitted

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

Roll out the larger round of pastry 1/8 inch thin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim and crimp edges. Prick bottom a few times with a fork. Freeze until firm, for 1 hour.

In a large saucepan, stir together the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Line prepared pastry with foil or parchment. Fill with raw rice or dried beans. Bake at 400 F for 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Pull out parchment and rice or beans.

Set saucepan of cherries over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is glossy and thick, for 1 minute. Stir in the almond extract.

Roll out smaller round of pastry 1/8 inch thin. Slice into strips. Scrape cherries into pie shell. Grate frozen butter over cherries. Weave pastry strips into a lattice on top.

Set pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover rim with a pie halo or foil. Bake at 400 F until juices bubble at center and lattice turns crisp and brown, for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely. Slice and serve.

Makes 1 (9-inch pie), about 8 servings.

PIE PASTRY: In bowl of a food processor, buzz together 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Drop in 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up. Pulse until largest lumps are size of peas. Turn out into a big mixing bowl. Drizzle on ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, folding pastry with a flexible spatula. When pastry begins to clump, knead once or twice and pat into 2 disks, 1 slightly larger than the other. Dust with flour. Wrap in waxed paper. Chill, for at least 1 hour.

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Trio of mushrooms go far in richly flavored tart

Mushrooms beyond the garden varieties have pride of place in this week’s food section.

It recently became easier for me to cook with a wider assortment of mushrooms, one of our family’s favorite foods, since the locally owned grocery store where I habitually shop stepped up its inventory. Cremini debuted in the past couple of years at Food 4 Less as the sole companion to plain, old button mushrooms.

Earlier this year, the grocer added shiitakes — loose rather than prepackaged — to the mix. Then miracle of miracles: Oyster mushrooms in all their feathery, leathery splendor popped up in the produce section.

I won’t hold my breath for morels, chanterelles or other wild species, not when the aforementioned trio can content me for quite some time. I have yet to combine them in a single dish, but this mushroom tart, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, would be an ideal place to start. Sure to please my youngest son, a fan of quiche and sautéed mushrooms, it also would inspire me to use more of my backyard hens’ eggs, which are so numerous this time of year.

Tribune News Service photo

Mushroom Tart

Crisp tart pastry (recipe follows)

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1/2 pound plain mushrooms, such as white button and cremini, cleaned and chopped

1/2 pound fancy mushrooms, such as oyster, shiitake and maitake, cleaned and chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup sherry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

Truffle salt (if you have it!)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled tart pastry to about 1/8 inch thin; fit into an 8-by-10-inch rectangular (or 10-inch round) tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges. Prick with a fork. Line with foil. Freeze, for 1 hour. (If you don’t have time to freeze thoroughly, line foil with pie weights.)

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and chop.

In a wide skillet over medium heat, melt the butter into the oil. Add the shallots and cook, for 2 minutes. Add both types of the fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms turn soft and fragrant and many have browned, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme and rehydrated mushrooms; cook, for 30 seconds. Turn up heat, pour in the sherry and scrape up browned bits from pan’s bottom. Season with the salt and pepper. Let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks and cream. Stir in the cheese and cooled mushrooms.

Set frozen tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a preheated, 400-degree oven and bake until shell begins to brown, for about 20 minutes. Let cool. Peel off foil. Scrape in mushroom filling. Bake until filling has set, for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with truffle salt. Enjoy warm.

Makes 8 servings.

CRISP TART PASTRY: In bowl of a food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup corn flour and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Drop in 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks. Pulse until largest lumps are size of peas. Pour in ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until dough clumps. Pat pastry into a rectangle, wrap in waxed paper and chill, for 1 hour.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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