April 27, 2009

Rosemary and Ricotta Tart

109/365 ricotta tart by embem30

This tart was inspired by a dessert we had at Contigo in San Francisco. I based the filling on a ricotta/pine nut tart found in Mario Batali's book, Molto Italiano, and the crust is from Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio.

If you can't find a meyer lemon, use half of a normal lemon. I used Bellwether Farms sheep's milk ricotta, but a cow-milk ricotta would work too.

This is best made in a 9" tart pan, but a pie tin will do. If you use a pie tin, the filling will come up halfway. After it is done baking, carefully trim the crust to be level with the filling. If you're feeling particularly lazy, you could use a store-bought pie or tart crust.

9 oz All purpose flour (a scant 2 cups)
6 oz butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 tbsp sugar
2-3 oz cold water (1/4 cup plus 1-2 tbsp)
pinch of salt
pie weights (1/2 lb dry beans)
1-2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of honey
1 small meyer lemon, or half a lemon
2 eggs
pinch of salt

Make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cut up the cold butter into chunks and work into flour and sugar, until you have pea-sized chunks. Try to use a squeezing rather than a rubbing action, so you don't heat up the butter too much. Add 2-3 oz cold water and mix to combine. I used almost 3 oz, but the dough was a little to sticky.

Form into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll and blind bake the crust: Flour your counter and rolling pin, and roll out the dough until it's about as thick as pie crust. To get it onto the tart pan, roll it onto your rolling pin and then unroll it over the pan. Trim the dough, leaving a little bit of overlap around the edges to account for shrinkage.

Cover with the dough with tin foil and add the pie weights. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375°F. Remove the tin foil and weights.

Assemble the tart: Meanwhile, mix all of the filling ingredients together - I used a tsp or two of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Add both the juice and the zest of the lemon. Taste it and adjust with salt, honey, and lemon juice if necessary. There should be a subtle sweetness.

Pour the mix into the tart shell and bake for 30-35 minutes. The crust should be golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack, then trim the crust to be level with the filling. (Emily saved the extra bits of crust for her morning tea the next day.) Cut into slices and serve with a drizzle of honey.

This can be served at any temperature, but I think it'd be best served warm with a quenelle of ice cream or crème fraîche.

Update: This didn't set up the second time I made this, not sure why. I'll update this post if I figure out the issue.

February 16, 2009

Valentines Day Dinner

We celebrated Valentines day at home this year, and I had a lot of fun putting together a special dinner for it. It helped that the 14th fell on a Saturday, giving me a nice, leisurely day at home to put dinner together.

oysters & pearls by embem30
Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Malpeque Oysters and Osetra Caviar

For a starter, I made Oysters and Pearls again - it's a great dish and the oysters and caviar seemed appropriate for Valentines day. We made this dish last year for Valentines day and once last October. It's a great dish and most of the work can be done ahead. (At serving time, you bake it in the oven briefly and make a beurre blanc.) We also enjoy having the leftover caviar, crème frâiche and chives on crackers as a snack.

black sea bass by embem30
Black Sea Bass with Sweet Parsnips, Arrowleaf Spinach, and Saffron-Vanilla Sauce

The main course took us a little longer to narrow down. We wanted something light, since the Oysters and Pearls is rather rich. We eventually settled on this dish from the French Laundry cookbook.
It turned out really well, and we'll definitely be making it again. There are a lot of different flavors in this dish that play off each other really well.

The sauce is a saffron/vanilla infused mussel broth, finished with a little cream and butter. On top of that is a parsnip purée. The purée is topped with a ball of spinach, and finally there is a a fillet of black sea bass. There is a more detailed description of the construction of this dish on Carol Blymire's blog.

38/365 valentine's dessert by embem30
Coconut, Meyer Lemon, and White Chocolate

For dessert, Emily suggested a dish that she found on Cannelle et Vanille, a food blog. It consists of alternating layers of a coconut cake and meyer lemon custard, surrounded with white chocolate and topped with some fruit. I was a little hesitant about the dessert at first because it called for tempering white chocolate and wrapping it around the dessert, and pastry work is a little outside my comfort zone. The chocolate ended up nice and crisp, so I think I pulled off the tempering correctly.

January 25, 2009

Venison Loin with Potato and Celery Root Gratin

venison loin by embem30
So, there is this venison dish that I'd been meaning to make ever since we saw the "Furred Game" episode of "Jamie at Home," but I never got around to it.

This Saturday we went to Ferry Building to see if we could find some venison loin (aka backstrap). Golden Gate Meats did have it, but it was not cheap (very not cheap). We bought it anyway. While we were there, we also picked up some Rancho Gordo beans and some Boccalone guanciale and prosciutto cotto.

I ended buying 1.5lb of venison loin. I cut it in half and saved one piece for another meal. I oiled the remaining piece and crusted it with a mixture of rosemary (obtained from a nearby bush), juniper berries (from the store), salt, and pepper. Then I seared it and roasted it for about 10 minutes, turning once. For the sauce, I deglazed with a little red wine, reduced it, and mounted with butter.

The side was a gratin of potatoes and celery root, cut into thick disks, par-boiled, and baked with sage, cream, and parmesan. I then topped it with more parmesan and browned the top.

The dish turned out really well, it was worth the expense. The meat was perfectly done all the way through, and the flavor of the crust nicely complimented the flavor of the meat. I thought the sauce had some bitter notes (I got some singed garlic in there), but Emily said it was fine.

The gratin was also tasty, but I think the sauce could be refined a little - it tasted too much like cream for my tastes. At the very least it could use a little nutmeg, possibly a second cheese, and maybe a dash of wasabi or curry powder. (Compare Keller's cauliflower gratin.)

We frequently make venison burgers, but this was the first time I've eaten a venison steak since I was very young. It was also the first time I've worked with juniper berries - they have an interesting flavor that seems to go well with the rosemary. I look forward to using them in the future.