Monday, September 15, 2014

End of Summer Musings - Heirloom Cherry Tomato Galette

September is always a bit of a transitional month. Summer slowly, then all at once, shifts into autumn. The harvest comes in, and the bright summer flavors are replaced with the deep, earthy winter ones.  Cold soups to hot ones, tree fruits to root vegetables. With some corn and squash in between.


This is my first autumn away from New England. I know it's September, and it's still summer weather outside in my new home of Austin, Texas, but there's still a shift in the air somehow. My New England skin will still find summer temps here in November, when the rest of Texas is beginning to bundle up--last year I was outside in a bikini top sunning myself only to see jackets on the streets. But there's still a coolness beginning, a stirring in the seasons. New England is already getting cold, and I'm being advised to bring warm clothes for my quick jaunt back this week.


I've yet again embarked on a weight loss journey, and as I've said before, cutting carbs seems to work better for me than cutting calories but I'm trying a hybrid of both. I'm diligently tracking my food and imputing it into an app, working out regularly in the early hours... if you know me, you know this is a struggle.


So, to say goodbye to summer, and my last big dose of carbs before buckling down, I made this galette. My first galette ever, with dough made from scratch WITHOUT a food processor. The fresh burst of heirloom cherry tomatoes with the creamy ricotta and flaky, buttery crust... it's a complete marriage of summer and fall, bright flavors with a warm presentation. The recipe is long, but trust me... it's worth it, and honestly not as involved as it looks.


Heirloom Grape Tomato Galette with Ricotta Filling
(Crust based on instructions Food52)
Dough:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 sticks of COLD butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup of ICE water
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (for glaze)

Filling
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used Heirloom)
  • 1 tbs corn starch
  • 1 heaping tbs herbs de provance
  • salt
  • ~1/4 cup ricotta cheese


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Mix together flour, garlic powder, and salt. With your hands, a pastry cutter, or a food processor, mix together the flour mixture and the cold butter. If using your hands: pinch together the butter into the flour until the biggest bits left are the size of peas. If using a food processor: Pulse until the biggest bits are pea-size.

-Sprinkle the ice water over the dough, folding gently and making sure the ice cubes don't fall in. With your hands, gently press the dough together until smooth. If too crumbly, use a tablespoon more water at a time.

-Spread some plastic wrap on the counter, and press dough into a disc. Wrap up, and put in fridge for at least 1 hour.

-Prepare filling: Mix together tomatoes, corn starch, herbs, salt. (A splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic might be nice here too!) Let sit for 5 minutes.

-Back to the dough... Pull it out of the fridge and gently roll into a circular, flat disc (Ideal thickness is about 1/3", but I think mine was closer to 1/2", oops). Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

-Spread ricotta cheese in the middle of the disc, leaving about 3 inches or so around the edge. Pile tomatoes on top of the ricotta.

-Carefully fold the edges of the pastry up and around the tomatoes. Pinch lightly to make sure it stays closed.

-Whisk egg and use a pastry brush or your fingers to "paint" the edges of the crust. Sprinkle with more garlic powder, salt, or herbs if you'd like.

-Bake for 1 hour OR until the crust is golden brown. (mine took 35 mins)

-Transfer, GENTLY, to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving. Serve with slices of fresh basil.

Fork + Taco Austin - New Restaurant on Burnet Rd

Note: I was invited to the soft open of Fork + Taco and received complimentary tacos to try. Opinions are all my own. Also I apologize for low-ish photo quality, I forgot my camera at home!

Tacos, in Austin, have a high standard to live up to. This is because 1. They're EVERYWHERE and 2. Because they're everywhere, you really need to have an unforgettable taco if you want to stand out among the rest. However, when you have experts like Jeff McCoy and Uchi alum Casey Fannin, at the helm, there's no doubt these tacos will be giving others a run for their money!


Fork + Taco accomplishes this, times ten. Guys, I seriously have a new favorite taco place in Austin!
I was lucky enough to be invited to the soft opening on Thursday by my foodie coworker, so the four of us had a lovely little break from office life to get some incredible tacos on our lunch hour. We were able to try 3 items each (and were handed dessert on top of that!), and I made a mental note to come back and tip double since I didn't have any cash on me to put in the jars for the friendly counterstaff. 


The decor is gorgeous, and "so Austin," hah. Modern, with a combination of wood panels and brightly colored walls, with funky art (I LOVED the painting in the women's room, I wish I'd taken a picture). There is seating inside and outside, and it's counter service with a number system.


The menu has an excellent combination of traditional and unique offerings. All three main meats are present and accounted for, as well as some veggie-only options. The tortillas taste homemade, and the fillings are fresh and flavorful. And in a bonus for me, it's on Burnet, which isn't too far from my super-North-Austin living space while still being only a slightly far drive for lunch hour at work.


I opted for the 24 Hour Flank Steak, Asian Pear & Chicken, and Ahi Tuna tacos. Every one of them was a perfect mini-meal in a tortilla. My favorite, by far, was the Ahi Tuna. The tuna was the freshest I've had in Austin, and the sauce, orange bits, and avocado all blended together perfectly for a delicious fusion taco.


My coworkers had similar choices and everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing about how delicious it all was. The only item we all were on the fence about was the dessert: Maple Soy soft serv. I loved it, it was totally unami and a good palate cleanser at the end of the meal. But it definitely tasted like soy sauce, so it wasn't everyone's jam.


While the tacos are on the pricier side (~$5 per taco, depending on what's in it), it's more than worth it. We all agreed that this was our new lunch spot, putting it in the rotation with our other favorites: TNT, the Garbo's truck, Hula Hut, and the Whole Foods Hot Bar. It's definitely in good company.

Today is their official opening! Go give them some love and check out all the amazingly delicious tacos they have to offer. Bonus points: they also have beer!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#TBT Zucchini Leek Soup, Redux.

I've been on a #TBT kick, can you tell? If you're unaware of Twitter/Instagram hashtags, #TBT means Throwback Thursday. Internet People across the US (and probably beyond) post pictures of themselves from years past. Sometimes many, many years past. 



I've begun doing my own culinary #TBT by re-doing old recipes with new photos. Check out last week's posts: A roundup of a bunch of fellow bloggers' before and after, and my own recipe for Shakshuka that I re-did! This week we have Zucchini Leek Soup:


Look at the difference! Before: Using flash inside (FOR SHAME!), on my parents' kitchen table, and a simple sprinkling of parsley is my only attempt at "styling." And the new pictures: at least an attempt at styling, with a bit better lighting--though not PERFECT since I was taking these as the sun was setting and I was running out of light--and a bit more garnish.



 This is the perfect recipe to transition from summer to fall, in my opinion. The "summer squash" of zucchini is still in abundance, but the warm comforting soup is great as the nights get a little chillier... though in Texas they're still pretty warm! Plus, bacon.


If there's any life lesson you can learn from me it's this: You can never go wrong with bacon.

Zucchini Leek Soup with Bacon

  • 1 package thick-sliced bacon 
  • 2 lbs zucchini, thinly sliced (about 2 large)
  • 
1 lb red potatoes (about 3 large)
  • 
2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 cup celery, diced small

  • 2 tbs garlic, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 cups half & half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil or truffle oil, for drizzling on top

-Cook bacon in a soup pot until done to your liking (I prefer a little chewy). Remove from pot and set aside on paper towels to dry a bit. Do not clean out pot.

-Add the zucchini, potatoes, leeks, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are translucent.

-Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender

-Add the cream and parsley to soup. In batches, puree soup with immersion blender or in batches on a tabletop blender. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of bacon and oil of choice or chill and serve cold.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to Turn Sub-Par Wine into Delicious Sangria (Video!)

Hey guys, I made another video! (do you all remember my last one?) Check it out and let me know what you think!







Do you want to see more videos? Let me know!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#TBT Shakshuka Revisited

Shakshuka was always my go-to college recipe--back when I wouldn't have been judged too harshly for the "Ramen & Mac" diet... No matter what, I always had the basic ingredients on hand: eggs, tomatoes of some sort (sometimes fresh, sometimes canned), spices. If you're going bare bones, that's really all you need. It's cheap, filling, and oh-so-tasty. It tasted complex and slightly complicated, impressive to friends, but oh-so-simple.

Today's post is actually an update of a recipe I posted three years ago. THIS is what it used to look like:


Eek. That looks anything but appetizing.


There, that's better.

Now it looks like something you'd eat, right? And you should. Cheap, tasty, dare I say HEALTHY?

Go for it.


Shakshuka

  • 1 onion, cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced or grated
  • 4 small tomatoes, diced (or one large jar of diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

-Over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and spices and cook until just soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook a few more minutes.

-Add the rest of the veggies and cook until soft. Stir until well combined with the spices.

-Crack eggs over the top of the pan and remove from heat. Cover and let sit until eggs are at desired consistency. Serve with fresh parsley.

#TBT Before and After Recipes from Some of My Fave Bloggers!


#TBT is one of my favorite hashtags. It's a great excuse to take a walk down memory lane. Plus, it's always fun to see what friends and fellow bloggers post. So, I decided this would be a fun little contribution to Throwback Thursday!

I sent out a request to fellow bloggers to send me "before and after" recipes. Recipes they posted when their blog was young, but have since re-done. I feel like we all start with a budding hobby and a point and shoot, using flash with reckless abandon, not even thinking about styling. Eventually, we end up setting up mini-magazine-esque photoshoots for our little recipes and driving our spouses and housemates crazy (albeit well-fed). 

A before/after recipe of mine

The results are pretty intense! So many bloggers contributed, and there is such a range of skill level and style in each one. I don't know WHY I decided on a square image, but halfway through I decided it was too late to turn back, so here's what we have.

I hope you enjoy seeing the progress as much as I do!

Apple Sausage Pancakes from Chocolate Moosey:


Eat the Love's Green Bean Casserole:


Beef Biryani from an Edible Mosaic:


Mediterranean Couscous from Food Faith Fitness:


Nutter Butters from Fork and Beans:


Frugal Foodie Mama re-did her Apple Butter recipe:


Chicken Fried Chicken with Green Chile Buttermilk Gravy from Full and Content:


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Overnight Oats from Happy Food Healthy Life:


From Healthy Delicious, Cauliflower Potato Pierogi:


Scotcheroos from Jen's Favorite Cookies:


Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast from Cupcakes to Kale Chips




Pumpkin Banana Breakfast Bake from Keep It Sweet Desserts:


The Kitchen is My Playground's Chocolate Chip Cookie Truffles:


Jalapeno Machego Corn Bread from Liv Life Too:


Chocolate Chip Muffins from Persnickety Plates:


Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries from Petite Allergy Treats:


The Roasted Root's Ahi Tuna Tacos:


Israeli Couscous from Shockingly Delicious:


Pumpkin Scones with White Chocolate Chips from Stetted:


Nosh and Nourish had her own, so I lifted it because I was SO. TIRED. at this point, heh. Reese's Spinach Smoothie:


Fellow bloggers: Do you have any before/after shots? I'd love to see them!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

AFBA Happy Hour at Austin Winery with Chef Crusco #AFBAHH

 I am constantly blown away by how lucky I am to be living in a city where the food community is so close and so amazing. This past Wednesday the AFBA Happy Hour was at the Austin Winery. Not only were we set to sample some amazing wines, but Chef Crusco had created a special menu just for us! I was beyond thrilled to discover that there is a winery, with tastings, 30 minutes closer to my apartment than the ones I typically frequent. Score.


I ended up arriving embarrassingly early since my ride to and from the event had to be in town by 5:30 himself, and that's when my event began, so I sat outside and expected to wait in the sun for a half hour. Not the case. Soon I was ushered in by one of the "wine guys" who handed me a glass and got me started sipping on amazing wines. I got to meet each member of the Austin Winery team and was floored to discover the owners of the winery were my age! Successful young people, always an awesome thing.


I also got to meet Chef Crusco, who was extremely friendly and interested in chatting about blogging. As the other bloggers arrived we all sipped more fantastic wines and nibbled on the awesome menu.


My favorite was the Wild Hare Sauvignon Blanc, which I ended up buying a full glass of at the end and seriously considered buying a bottle of as well (I will need to go back and do so soon!). I'm not the biggest fan of reds, but the Old Vine Zinfendel was smooth and delicious, pairing well with the last few bites of the evening.



Now, for the food.


Gorgonzola Dates: Dates, Gorgonzola Dolce, Smoked almonds, orange blossom honey, citrus zest, parsley. I could have eaten handful after handful of these lovely little appetizers. They were absolutely delicious and perfectly balanced with sweet and savory.


Gazpacho de Tomates: Cold tomato soup, Sherry vinegar, Accoutrements of pepper/onion/olive/crouton. I LOVED this. I am not a huge gazpacho fan, but this was creamy and silky without the dairy! The flavor was rich and tasted like it was fresh from the farmer's market. It made me rethink my stance on cold soup for sure.


Coulotte Crostini: Smoke roasted Sirloin Cap Steak, Ground mustard-horseradish crema, fried shallots, oregano. I may have grabbed more than one of these as the servers made their rounds. Holy wow. The cut of meat was deliciously tender and the mustard sauce was perfect. If this was a main course it'd be my new favorite dinner.


Sauvignon Blanc + Citrus Granita: Austin Winery Sauvignon Blanc, lemon + grapefruit shaved ice, mint. This is hands-down the best summer dessert. Like an adult slushy, but classy. Perfect.
Alfajores de Maizena: Butter cookies, Homemade Dulce de Leche, Toasted Coconut. This was our take-home treat, and I failed to get a picture of it. Even my Designated Driver was handed a bundle, which was nice. They were delicious, buttery, crumbly little cookies. Spot-on.


The winery is open weekends for tastings, or weekdays by private event only. They're currently in their harvest season, so check their website to see when they will be open again.

Chef Crusco is available for private parties, check his website for details!