Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet: Lemon Tart

Every year I try something new for the Thanksgiving holiday. You know, to keep myself sharp and on edge. Maybe even show off a little. But this year all the knives in Chez Noonie's mental toolbox were a little dull, and my plans went awry.

I had planned for a fabulous, complicated 'Lemon Chocolate Ganache Tart', from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham. I know, a lot of alliteration, but worth the tongue twisting. I have been using this book for years, as it is predicated on two of my favorite things in the world: dessert and lemons. The former speaks for itself. The latter, well just take a look at the Chez Noonie citrus decor and you kind of get the picture.

Lemons are a great choice for Thanksgiving, when it is hard to find fresh fruit and people are finishing a heavy, generally somewhat bland meal. The occasion calls for something bright and fresh to cleanse the palate and lift the spirit. Unfortunately for me, the recipe I wanted to use was a bit complicated, involved rolling out dough (which I had over processed - oops), needed to be executed over several one hour increments, and by the time I realized it was not happening, I was in great need of a hug sprinkled with valium.

Anyway, spilt milk aside I still needed a desert for the holiday. And then I remembered that Ms. Longbothom includes a recipe entitled 'The Perfect Lemon Tart'. Now this is a stand by; I bring to occasions, serve it for guests at home, and bake it when my husband needs a quick pick me up. It is easy to make, looks gorgeous, and the taste is over the top lemony and delicious. And fortunately, I had all the ingredients on hand. So this year, an old stand by is about to become a new tradition, as I have decided to literally make the best of things and celebrate in comfortable style.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy every bite.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 pinches of salt
6 large eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
Confectioners sugar for dusting

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Ad 1 tbsp of the zest and let stand for five minutes.
  3. Whisk together flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Finely stream in the butter mixture and mix with a fork until it comes together. Transfer mixture to the tart pan and press it in with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is light golden brown.
  4. Process the remaining sugar and zest in a food processor until zest is finely ground.
  5. Whisk together the eggs, sugar mixture, lemon juice, and another pinch of salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Beat cream with a mixer on medium-high until soft peaks form. Fold into egg mixture gently, until just blended.
  7. Place a baking sheet in the oven Place tart pan on top and pour the filling in the still warm crust. Bake 20 - 30 minutes, until the filling is just set in the center. Remove and cool on a rack.
  8. When cooled and just before serving, sift confectioners sugar on top and slice into wedges to serve.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Savory: Braised Onions

Pearl onions are one of those things you either love or hate - not a lot of middle ground here. I personally do not prefer them, but my husband does and I do prefer him. So come Autumn, when they are at their most fresh and delicious peak, I always pick out a few bags and bring them home with me.

Now, the tricky part about pearl onions is prepping them. Teeny tiny onions with thin papery skins can make one bitchy chef. I advise buying them fresh and already peeled or purchasing the frozen brands which are also pre-peeled. If not, swallow a valium and have at it - plan on adding an extra 20 - 30 minutes to cooking time. Basically you cut an 'x' in each onion, blanch them for 1 minute, let them cool, and peel away.

This recipe comes from the back of the Trader Joe's fresh peeled onions I picked up this week. It is a quick recipe, and despite my prejudice, kind of tasty. Enjoy every bite.

2 tbsp olive oil
6 oz pearl onions, peeled
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 - 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I used vegetable)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pat of butter
Sprig of fresh thyme

  1. Place oil in medium skillet and heat on medium. Add onions and saute until just brown, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add vinegar and continue to saute until sauce becomes a rich brown.
  3. Add broth to cover the onions halfway. Stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Partly cover pan and lower heat. Continue to simmer and braise for 15 - 20 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add butter and thyme; stir until incorporated. Remove from heat and serve.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Savory: Triple pepper stuffed peppers

I have a problem with ordering online. That is to say, I have some sort of deficiency that inevitably causes me to order more than what I need by accidentally entering the wrong quantity. Usually I just make the best of it, like the time I ordered two 5 lb briskets for the holidays and ended up reorganizing my entire freezer to manage them. That year, we had brisket two ways; one stove top, one oven braised, both delicious.

Well, recently I started ordering spices online, which has been going pretty well. I order whole spices whenever I can, as they keep longer and taste better when freshly ground. These you have to buy in bulk, so my poor and addled husband has adjusted to the site of 1 lb bags of peppercorns and cinnamon sticks.

But there are somethings that cannot be purchased like that, things that are only available pre-ground. Like smoked paprika, a household staple. I love it - it adds this mysterious, deep, rich flavor to everything, not to mention a gorgeous crimson hue. I put it in everything; paella, mayonnaise, deviled eggs, you name it. So when I ordered it I thought I would be fine. I chose 1 as the quantity, pressed the button, and waited patiently for it to arrive.

The box seemed a little bigger than I would have expected. Can you guess why? Because I ordered an 8 oz bottle, which is more than 4 times the amount of a normal spice jar. Yes, 4 times the amount - I mean I like smoked paprika and all, but this definitely presents a challenge.

Anyway, I panicked a little and started to fret about what I was going to do with all of it, and so I got to thinking about recipes with smoked paprika. Then I remembered that paprika comes from peppers, and bell peppers are so very in season at the moment, and that I like cracked pepper, and to make a long story short, the triple pepper stuffed pepper was born.

This is a festive looking recipe, and one the feeds a crowd. Use different colored peppers for contrast, and serve hot. Enjoy every bite.

Triple Pepper Stuffed Peppers

2 tbsp olive oil
one large yellow onion, chopped small
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper (cracked)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp of smoked paprika
2 yukon gold potatoes, chopped small
1 lb of chopped meat (beef or turkey will work)
6 bell peppers, cut in half and seeded

  1. Preheat the oven o 400 degrees.
  2. Warm oil on medium/high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper, and heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, paprika, and beef and cook for 5 minutes. Once finished, set the pot aside, away from heat.
  5. Place peppers up on a greased pan. Fill each with 3 - 4 tbsp of the meat mixture.
  6. Place in oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Images of Martha's Vineyard Farms

I ask you, is this not the most resplendent, ugliest tomato you have ever seen? Very tasty too :) I love the farmer's stands here on Martha's Vineyard, and I especially love finding beauty in the beasts.

Most of these were taken at Morning Glory Farm, one of my favorite haunts here on the island. To get there using my GPS, you need to go off road. See?

That was as good as it got all morning - my mud flaps were crud flaps by the time I plowed through. Did I mention it poured the night before? But that is dedication my friends, and all part of the adventure.

Once I arrived, I had to remind myself to take pictures as I was so distracted by the fabulous finds and mouth watering sites. Here are a few lovelies for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy every bite.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Savory: Grilled Chicken with Cilantro & Lime Marinade

We are on vacation in lovely Martha's Vineyard, home of endless island pleasures. Everywhere you look is picturesque as a postcard. Shallow lagoons house wading young children while the older kids and grown ups sun on the stunning shores of the open ocean. Flowers are everywhere, along with friendlier than usual bees, who remind me of the squirrels back in Hoboken who are simply unafraid, unthreatened by the human company they keep. Backroads lead to quiet ponds all within walking distance to heaven on earth ice cream shops. There is a quiet rhythm to the island, one driven by chirping birds and slamming screen doors and bikes switching gears. I love the way this cadence takes over as soon as we drive off the ferry that brings us from the mainland. I love this island, period.

And of course, it being my vacation after all, I love to cook. We rent a beat up old house with an tiny galley kitchen and ancient supporting utensils. I beat my eggs with one of those hand beaters from the 60's, you know the kind with two beaters and a handle you crank as fast as you can. Best eggs ever. There is a milk glass citrus reamer that squeezes oranges like a lusty sailor. The knives are antiquated, serrated, and dull. I used to pack my own wares, but over the years have come to enjoy being resourceful and managing on my own (although I usually buy one or two things from the home goods store to leave behind - a thank you gift to our hosts).

MV is full of terrific farms and farm stores scattered throughout the island. Everything is fresh picked or slaughtered, and this culture has persisted on the island long before local became fashionable. Corn is piled up everywhere. Fresh peaches and blueberries are swollen with just the right ripeness. Herbs and lettuces make heavenly salads and then some. Each year I bring one or two cookbooks with me, just so I can have something to read and cook from. The following grilled chicken recipe is a long standing family favorite from The Black Dog Cookbook. I gathered all the ingredients today at Morning Glory farm, also a perennial favorite. The marinade is simple - limes, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve with corn and/or a big salad for a summer treat. Enjoy every bite.

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro & Lime Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lime
4 tbsp of fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
4 chicken breasts (boneless)

  1. Mix the first 6 ingredients todays in a large bowl.
  2. Place chicken breasts in marinade and cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Grill for 7- 10 minutes on each side. Serve.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Savory: Gazpacho

Days like today, when it is 100 degrees in the shade, make me long for comforts of summer. Watermelon, lemonade, and my favorite...gazpacho. Now bear in mind this recipe is a favorite not only because it is so very tasty. Nor is it because it is healthy and chocked full of vitamins and minerals. Not even because the vegans will eat in my home if I serve it. While all of those things are important, the reason I am able to love gazpacho is simple - I am privileged to own a food processor. Without it, this recipe is torture. Unless you are really angry and feel like wielding a knife for an hour or so, in which case I have no judgement.

Basically, you chop up vegetables and add some seasoning. Chill and serve with some Greek yogurt and french bread, and you have party. Enjoy every bite.

Tavern Gazpacho
Adapted from the Black Dog Cookbook

  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 peeled and seeded cucumber (even better, a hot house one if you can find it)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 pieces of celery
  • 1 quart tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup rd wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Chop the vegetables in the food processor - do not liquefy, as you want a little texture. Add to a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Chill for 1 hour or more. Serve.

One last word. Last time I posted it was approaching Passover and now we have just passed the Fourth of July. Time flies as a working mom, and I have woefully neglected this blog and my faithful readers. I am sorry for the absence, and promise to be more diligent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On The List: Saddle Of Lamb

Here at Chez Noonie we are starting to plan for Passover, a favorite holiday in these parts. We have a few standards, including matzoh ball soup and home made gefilte fish. At our table, we also usually serve lamb, once an uneasy point of contention in our family. Nowadays I am more confident, and ready to take on new challenges. This year, we will be trying a new dish, stuffed saddle of lamb.

The saddle is one of those quiet butcher cuts that you don't generally see lurking on the supermarket shelves. It is comprised of the backbone and both loins and by all accounts delicious. Saddle of lamb is also pricey and hard to come by.

Another challenge with saddle of lamb is the actual butchering. You want to be very specific with your meat man here, as different recipes call for different techniques. Most recipes call for a boneless cut, which by most accounts must be rendered by a professional, or risk butchering the job. If you are kosher, you will need a schochet (kosher butcher) to remove the sciatic nerve.

Below is the recipe I am currently eying for the main event -- Stuffed Saddle of Lamb. It comes from one of my favorite authors, Joanne Harris, of Chocolat fame. Her cookbooks are lusciously photographed (Fran Warde) and beautifully narrated, such that anytime I read one I finish feeling like I have just returned from France, visiting warm and wonderful friends. I always have luck with their recipes and this one looks like a fun challenge. I will continue posting here as I prepare for this endeavor - in the meantime, please feel free to comment below on your experiences with this kind of lamb, Passover cooking, or anything else on your mind.

Recipe follows below; enjoy every bite.

Agneau Farci
Stuffed Lamb
Original recipe from The French Market by Joann Harris and Fran Warde
Serves 6 - 8

1 3 1/2 lb boned saddle of lamb
2 red peppers
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the pan
2 red onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 oz can of artichoke bottoms
4 oz ground lamb
3 oz pitted black olives, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves chopped
1 large egg yolk
Sea salt to taste
Pepper, to taste

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lay the lamb out flat, skin side down, and have some kitchen twine ready for tying.
  2. Roast red peppers over a gas flame until charred. Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. In a bowl, mix onions and garlic with the artichokes, ground lamb, olives, rosemary, egg yolk, salt, and pepper.
  4. Peel the red peppers, and cut away flesh from the ribs, discarding the seeds.
  5. Spread the artichoke mixture evenly over the lamb. Place all the red peppers in one strip down the middle. Roll the two sides of the lamb together and tie securely with a string at 1 inch intervals.
  6. Lightly oil a roasting pan and add the lamb. Roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes for rare (130 degrees). Remove from oven and let stand in a warm place for 20 minutes. Serve.