yellow plum tart

IMG_7282.JPGThe epitome of summer living is stretching out in the sun with a cup of coffee and a piece of this crisp, colorful tart.

Easy breezy cooking and baking lets you make the most of these long hot days.

Make the buttery dough in advance, freeze it, and after picking up some sweet yellow plums at the market over the weekend (I used the fleeting reine claude variety), pop this tart in the oven and invite over some of your favorite people.

This is a tart tart, as in, it does not use a lot of sugar, letting the stone fruit really shine through in all its glory.

{sidenote: my web host has been dealing with some bugs, sorry for the silence while we sorted it out!}

Tips: Cut the tart into wedges or squares, like a pizza.

Yellow plum tart

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t (2 grams) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 T (3/4 stick or 85 grams) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 T (50 ml) cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow plums
  • 3 T raw sugar
  • 1 egg for egg wash

1. Prepare the dough first so that you can have enough time to chill it (it is particularly important to bake with very cold pastry in summer months!).

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and add 2 T of the butter. Pulse in a food processor until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter and mix until the largest pieces are the size of peas.

2. Slowly add in the cold water, mix, then add a little more until the dough just comes together (the amount of water required will vary depending on your climate and altitude). Toss the dough lightly using your hands until you can form a ball, adding more water if necessary. Flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. More time is better.

3. Prepare the plums so that you’re ready to go when the dough is ready. Pit them and cut some of the larger  fruit in half, while leaving some whole. I think that makes for a pretty presentation.

4. Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a square or a free form and smooth out the cracks on the edges.

Transfer dough to a pizza stone or a regular baking sheet (buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray).

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5. Leaving a half inch border, place plums face down – or whole – on the pastry. Sprinkle with sugar. Crimp the edges to form a low border and brush exposed pastry with egg wash using a pastry brush.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool for a bit before slicing into this – like a pizza – to form little individual tart pieces.

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My three essential cooking herbs

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It’s time to regather my brain – which is still halfway to the beach – and share this herb primer featuring my three favorite green herbs to grow and use in cooking: rosemary, mint, and sage.

Rosemary

Rosemary is so fragrant and makes me think of hot, dry summers in the South of France where it grows abundantly in our little roof garden. It’s easy enough to grow in a pot on your sunny window sill too.

I love a quick chop of fresh rosemary in an herb rub for meat or whole branches tucked into a parchment envelope when roasting whole or filleted fish.

And, yes, baked apples with rosemary is one of my signature dishes.

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Here are some ideas to get you started:

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Mint

Mint can be a little harder to incorporate – it is such a strong, standalone flavor, but used sparingly, it can provide a cooling freshness to desserts, summer salads, and even heavier meat dishes.

Keep a bunch of mint standing in a glass of water (like a little herb bouquet) in a cool spot in your kitchen and you will be surprised at how often you reach for it.

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Here are some fun mint recipes to try:

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There are so many varieties of mint – spearmint is probably the strongest in flavor, and I would avoid using it in anything besides drinks, unless you want that particular strong, minty green cool.

Sage

The flavor of sage is heady and complex. Often, it may be that “secret ingredient” that you can’t immediately recognize in a dish, but that adds a little magic touch.

Frying or roasting sage really brings out its earthy flavor. Sage pairs particularly well with mushrooms, squashes and pumpkins, and (oh yes) anything having to do with butter.

If you fry sage leaves – or mint leaves too, actually – they get crispy and brighter green in color.

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Some of the many ways to cook with sage:

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ps. Coming up soon! A primer on edible flowers. You know that I am a big fan of using edible flowers in dishes – such an easy way to introduce simple color and joy to plating.

{postcard from..} Cote d’Azur, France

cap ferratDrawing out of our summer reverie here to say hello..!

The heatwave is a little less brutal now that we’re on the coast, traveling to the Cote d’Azur, but it has still shifted schedules somewhat – everyone is up by 7am to enjoy some of the slight morning coolness with breakfast, followed by a walk, a run, and a swim before retreating back indoors by high noon.

By day, the sun shines bright and often mercilessly. By night, a milky haze rolls in.

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Cooking in this weather has inspired some cooling creativity. There have been raspberry smoothies and peach ices, chilled melons, and shrimp salads and plenty of iced tea (using some wonderful herb tea from Cyprus!).

The days, as ever, roll by quickly, so it’s good to look back on these photos and remember the beautiful fleeting summer moments.

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Be it brunch at the Negresco..

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Or a shady corner in La Colle sur Loup.

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ps. Lots more on Instagram, of course. And coming up next week, a little primer on herbs and flowers from our garden.

Simple suppers: pasta with braised garlic and tomatoes

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There is plenty of young, green garlic at the greenmarket at the moment, but what to do with it? Make a simple pasta supper!

I like to treat as if it were leeks, braising the whites and a bit of the greens gently in melted butter to mellow out the sharpness of that strong garlic flavor.

Add some fresh pasta, blistery tomatoes, and peppery arugula microgreens and you’ve got yourself the perfect summer supper that comes together rather seamlessly.

Next time I post, it will be from Provence! I am looking forward to taking a break, cooking simple dishes such as this one for my family, and lingering in the sunshine.

Pasta with braised garlic and tomatoes

You’ll need:

  • fresh pasta (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup red cherry or campari tomatoes
  • 1 bunch young green garlic
  • 1/4 cup arugula microgreens
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil + 2 more for dressing
  • salt, white pepper

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1. Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Chop the whites and the thin green tops of the young garlic roughly. In a large saute pan, melt together butter and olive oil (tip: I had some herb butter left over so that is also good to use!).

2. Braise the garlic gently on low simmering heat, coating it with butter. Add tomatoes and continue to cook until both are soft and bursting with flavor.

3. In the meantime, cook the fresh pasta (recipe linked here) – it will only take 4-5 minutes, at most.

4. Add salt, a pinch of white pepper to the tomatoes and leeks. Taste for seasoning. Mix with cooked pasta, a few tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of pasta water.

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Garnish each plate with a handful of peppery micro arugula and serve immediately.

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Easy summer entertaining: seasonal & green appetizers

IMG_2385My wares from the Irvington farmer’s market the other weekend served as inspiration for this green, easy  summer entertaining feature.

To paraphrase the song, it’s summer and the living – as well as the appetizing –  should be easy.

These three snacks, starters or appetizers are some of my new favorites:

  • Savory yogurt with Sohha everything bagel topping
  • Grilled garlic scapes and sweet peas, topped with colorful kumquats
  • Strawberry and ciliegine (little mozzarella balls) salad with matcha and grenadine

Treat your guests, and yourself, to these delicious seasonal appetizers that take just a quick moment to prepare, yet manage to create colorful memories of these lingering warm summer days.

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Sohha savory yogurt is one of my local favorites. They make an “everything bagel” topping that you can spoon over yogurt or all kinds of things, made with toasted pine nuts,poppy seed, sesame seed, onion, garlic and extra virgin oil. I also added some fresh mint.

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Dip the ends of the grilled garlic scapes – so full of flavor – into the yogurt. Or enjoy them on their own, in a salad with fleeting lightly sautéed sweet peas. They are the greenest tasting peas around and are so cheerful when paired with the tartness of kumquats.

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Strawberry season is going strong and the sweetness of the berries makes for a natural pairing with creamy ciliegine cheese balls. Don’t be too precious about arranging these on a plate – quarter the berries and scatter them artfully, topping with a few teaspoons of grenadine syrup (I love the one from Morris Kitchen) and a restrained sprinkle of good matcha powder.

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Eat, drink, and be merry!

A weekend upstate {Irvington, NY}

weekend upstate

The other weekend was spent touring the river town of Irvington with the lovely folk of And North.

{I like reminiscing about a weekend upstate in the middle of a busy work week!}

It encompassed all of my favorite ways to spend a leisurely Sunday –  reading the paper on the train, exploring a farmer’s market and striking up conversations with makers and doers, exploring hidden trails, tasting everything at the cutest Red Barn bakery, and sipping on organic cider and chatting with old friends and making new ones while hiding from sudden torrential rain on the terrace of the scenic old Cosmopolitan headquarters building.

Irvington

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Now doesn’t that all sound good? Check out some of the places we visited here and let’s do it again soon.

{p.s.} My to-do list:

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Rainbow chard, sea bean and quark vegetable tart

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This week, I got to work with one of the most fascinating, unusual ingredients – sea beans.

Salty, crunchy, they are reminiscent of a young snappy asparagus, but look somewhat like a fern. Sea beans – actually, a misnomer, as they are not really beans – are sometimes known as sea asparagus and grow wild or farmed all over the US.

I am fascinated by their salty breeze flavor but, often, not quite sure what to do with them.

Use sparingly. Sea beans pack a punch of flavor in seasonal salads or when paired with milder counterparts – in this case, creamy quark*. I think I will also use them in a burrata salad.

In the meantime… this tart is summery comfort food at its peak, while the weather here in the Northeast still tries to make up its mind whether it is really June… and I don’t need to tell you that sunny yolks make everything better.

Tips: Quark is a fresh, spreadable cheese, similar to ricotta or cottage cheese. For more summer quark recipes, try the stuffed squash blossoms here!

Rainbow chard, sea bean and quark tart

You’ll need:

  • pate brisee (recipe linked)
  • 2 cups rainbow chard (stems and leaves), chopped
  • 1/4 cup sea beans
  • 8 oz fresh quark (you can substitute farmer’s cheese or fresh ricotta)
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

1. Make the pastry first. Roll out and arrange in your tart dish, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.

2. Preheat oven to 400F.

The quark will be the bottom layer of your tart – spread it evenly in the pre-frozen crust and refrigerate again while you’re getting the greens ready.

3. Saute the rainbow chard with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Be careful not to over-season, as the sea beans themselves are quite salty!

Add sea beans to the saute pan and cook for 3-4 more minutes.

4. Layer the greens on top of the quark and bake for about 40 minutes or until pastry is golden.


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5. Break the eggs on top of the tart and return to oven. Bake until eggs are just set, about 15 more minutes.

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Wild salmon with mirin and cucumber

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We’re in Alaskan wild salmon season and, as it is one of my favorite things to cook, grill, roast, poach or even cure, it’s an exciting time in the kitchen.

Burger season may exemplify summer for many, but I love the fresh fish that June and July bring (the new catch herring is just about a week away!).

This salmon is flavored with mirin – a Japanese rice wine – and roasted on a bed of radicchio, making for a super-quick summer dinner. The cucumber adds crunch and freshness.

ps. More wild salmon meals here and here.

Wild salmon with mirin and cucumber

You’ll need:

  • 1 wild salmon fillet (skin on)
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 2 small persian cucumbers, peeled and diced and/or julienned
  • 3 T mirin
  • 3 T olive oil
  • salt
  • lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Make sure the salmon is dry (pat it with a paper towel etc.).

2. Rub the salmon with mirin, 1 T olive oil, and salt. Toss the cucumber with a little bit of salt and lemon juice and set aside.

3. Place leaves of radicchio in the bottom of the roasting pan, top with olive oil. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the radicchio.

4. Roast the salmon for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet.

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Serve with cucumber and radicchio.

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ramps & raclette

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Unapologetically inspired by the terrific kitchen at French Louie – one of my favorite spots to enjoy a glass of rosé this summer in NYC – this is a classic dish that is as good as its three ingredients.

Initially, I would not have thought that delicate ramps would shine so brightly against the richness of raclette cheese, but they make for the perfect pairing, and I have made this dish three times already this spring. It was a popular start to our ramps & rosé soiree!

Ramp season is ending so, run to the greenmarket and make this delicious spring starter while you still can. Make sure to grab some crusty bread for scooping it all up too.

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Ramps & raclette

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb raclette cheese, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bunches fresh ramps, trimmed

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Raclette is known for its great melting ability, but don’t broil this so that you don’t burn the ramps (the butter will help with that too).

2. Add butter to a deep baking dish. Layer cheese and ramps, keeping them whole, in the dish and place in oven.

3. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and just starting to bubble. Serve family style with crusty bread for dipping/scooping.

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Jordan and Cindy at My Daughter and I.

How to throw the perfect dinner party {part 2}

IMG_2273Continuing on from part one...how to throw a perfect dinner party!

You’ve sent out the invites and your perfectly interesting guests are drinking cocktails and getting hungry…

Setting the table

I believe in simple, but memorable table settings that are also practical. Don’t overwhelm the table with decoration – you want there to be enough room for food, drinks, and revelry.

Seasonal flower arrangements, colorful napkins, and printed menus add a sophisticated touch.

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Preparing ahead

Think like a restaurant chef – prepare everything in advance, as much as you can. Inquire about guests’ dietary requirements in advance and adjust dishes accordingly.

Keep the oven preheated, water boiling, and all of the toppings prepped and ready to go.

Similarly, chill wine and soft drinks and prepare ice, if necessary.

Make a schedule – when to get the hors d’oeuvres ready, when to put the main courses into the oven etc. Being organized will let you enjoy your own party and spend the most time with your guests!

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Use foolproof recipes

Don’t make something you haven’t made before – it will be equally stressful for you and for your guests to watch you scrambling about in the kitchen.

Pick recipes you are comfortable with and ones that make the most of the season, while still being crowd-pleasers. And, even then, if something goes wrong – project confidence! Plus, you can never go wrong with good bread and butter as a side dish.

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Here is the menu from our recent ramps & rosé soiree:

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Some ideas: Spring pasta, baked avocado, watermelon & feta salad, and banana pudding.

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Don’t overdo it, though my rule of thumb is more food (i.e. tasty leftovers) is better than not enough food. You want everyone to share, engage, and enjoy every bite.

Socialize

Take a little break before dessert – things would have eased up by then and everyone would have gotten to know each other better (if they did not already). Conversation will flow…so don’t rush it.

Finish those drinks, then offer your guests coffee/tea and dessert.

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