Thursday, November 28, 2013

Last Minute Little Salted Caramel Pear Tarts

      The other day I stumbled upon the recipe for pastry crust that my mom used for her tuna/salmon pie and quiches.  In handwriting across the top it said, "Also good for fruit tarts."  I didn't have my usual stash of frozen already made pie crusts, so I decided to give it a go.  I followed the directions to chill it first and found that it was really easy to work with. I loved the taste of the crust when it was baked.  Yesterday I needed a small little dessert since all the girls would be home for a family dinner. I used some almost over ripe pears and my mom's pastry recipe to make individual tarts and everyone loved them!   Canned pears work just as well as long as the juice is drained from them.  These are especially good warm and served with ice cream.


 Pastry Crust for One Large Tart or 12 Individual Tarts:

1 (8oz.) package cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pear Tart Filling:

3 ripe pears

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon of kosher salt for sprinkling


 Cream butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream together.  Cut in the flour and salt.

 Keep mixing until the dough forms into a ball.

Chill for about 30 minutes and then roll out on a floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. 

 Use the bottom of the glass to cut out circles of dough.

 Place a dough circle into each well of a nonstick muffin pan and set aside.

 Peel the pears, core them, and dice into large pieces.

 Place the pear pieces in a bowl and gently combine with the brown sugar, cornstarch, melted butter, and cinnamon.  Don't worry if the pears "crumble" a bit when you combine them.

Spoon the pear mixture into the pastry dough lined muffin tin wells.  Fill to the top of the crust.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges of the crust look golden brown.

Sprinkle each tart with a little bit of kosher or sea salt before serving.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

West Coast & Midwest: Autumn "Salads"

     While I was in California with Jenn, we ate at a few trendy little restaurants that were packed with people.  The outside seating seemed to be as large as the inside and in a couple of them, was bordered on the outside by a surrounding hedge.  It reminded me of a scene from the 1995 version of the movie Freaky Friday where Shelly Long roller blades into a swanky place just as the hostess answers the phone by saying, "The Restaurant - How did you get this number?!"  One very fun place was True Food Kitchen, part of a chain on the West Coast.  Started by a doctor, it uses ingredients that promote an "anti-inflammatory diet".  The Autumn Salad I had didn't have any lettuce in it, but it sure had a kick due to the horseradish vinaigrette that dressed it. 

      On the way home after Roy picked me up at the airport, we stopped at a popular restaurant named Napolese.  Needless to say it didn't have any November outdoor seating, but it had a great Roasted Beet Salad.  This Midwest fall "salad" didn't have any lettuce either, and instead of a West Coast spicy punch, it had a satisfying richness.

     In this post, I attempted to copy these two dishes. Regardless of which area they came from, both fit into the fall season and are great sides or even a vegetarian main dishes.  

True Food Kitchen's Autumn Salad

Ingredients for 6 servings


1 medium butternut squash

1 head cauliflower

1 pound brussels sprouts

5 carrots

1/2 pomegranate


1 (15 oz.) can white kidney beans


olive oil to drizzle, salt & pepper to season


1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup prepared horseradish


     Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with foil.  Cut the cap off of the squash, cut it lengthwise down the middle, and scoop out the seeds. Lay both pieces of the squash on one side of a baking sheet.  Peel the carrots, cut off the tops, cut them in half and place them on the other side of the squash on the baking sheet.  Wash the cauliflower, cut into flowerets, and put them on one side on the second baking sheet.  Wash the brussels sprouts, cut off the tough woody part of the base, and if they are large, cut them in half down the middle.  Place them next to the cauliflower on the second baking sheet.  Drizzle the vegetables on both baking sheets with a bit of olive oil.  Toss them around to make sure they are evenly coated and season with salt & pepper.  Cover the cauliflower and brussels sprouts with a sheet of foil, and then put both baking sheets in the oven for at least 50 minutes or until the vegetables pierce easily with a fork and are slightly browned.

     Meanwhile, scoop the pomegranate seeds out and set aside.  Whisk together the oil, vinegar, and horseradish and set aside.  Rinse, drain, and put the beans in a microwave safe bowl.

     When the vegetables are done, take them out of the oven.  Warm up the beans for about a minute in the microware while you are cutting up the carrots into bite sized pieces.  Cut the squash into "squares", removing the peel as you do so. Then, place the beans, carrots, squash, pomegranate seeds, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over the top and gently toss.  A word to the wise:  it is the horseradish vinaigrette that makes this dish sing, so if the amount of dressing doesn't seem like enough - make a bit more!


Napolese's Beet Salad

Ingredient for 6 servings

1 medium butternut squash

5 carrots

3 large fresh beets

1/3 cup golden raisins

olive oil to drizzle, salt & pepper to season


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey


4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts


      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Peel the carrots, cut off the tops, slice them in half, and place them on one side of the baking sheet.  Cut the cap off of the squash, cut it down the middle, scoop out the seeds, and put the halves next to the carrots.  Cut the leaves off of the beets, wash them well, and trim the bottoms.  Place the beets on a separate sheet of foil.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the carrots, squash, and beets.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wrap the beets up in the foil sheet.  Place the baking sheet and the beet foil packet into the oven and bake carrots and squash for at least 50 minutes or until the vegetables pierce easily with a fork.  The beets will need to bake about an additional 15 minutes.

      While the vegetables are baking, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and honey to make the dressing.

     When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven.  Cut the carrots up into bite sized pieces.  Slice the squash into "squares", removing the skin as you do so.  Cut the skin away from the beets and cube.  Place the carrots, squash,  beets, and raisins in a bowl.  Pour the dressing in, and gently toss.

     Place the vegetable mixture onto a serving platter and sprinkle the goat cheese & hazelnuts over the top.  This is delicious either served warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Savory Pumpkin Stuffed Pasta Shells

     Yesterday, I returned to the Midwest after helping Jenn get settled in Southern California.  It's like a different world out there: palm trees line the streets, the temperature hovers around the 70s, and the sunshine is like liquid gold.  Once in a great while, a rare deciduous tree is seen with changing leaves, but for the most part, the area is void of the sensory sights associated with fall. However, people still decorate their homes and shops with life-like looking colored leaves, burlap, and gourds.  The restaurants were all offering autumn salads that featured roasted squash and pumpkin seeds. It occurred to me that whatever part of the country one is in, people still love to celebrate the change of seasons.  Although "Falling for Fall" is spoofed, I confess I tumble in too!  Right now I'm into dishes that highlight squash and autumn colors like the one in this post.  Although the sauce is rich, it has so much flavor that you can drizzle it sparingly on the stuffed shells and not feel guilty! 

Savory Pumpkin Stuffed Pasta Shells

Ingredients for 12 stuffed shells:

12 jumbo pasta shells

2 cups canned pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 cloves garlic, put through a press

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Cook the pasta shells in boiling water according to the package directions.  While they are cooking, combine the pumpkin, shallots, sage, garlic, salt and pepper.  When the pasta shells are ready, drain and rinse with cool water.  Stuff each shell with about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and a bit of cooking spray.  Place the stuffed shells on the sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  While they are baking, prepare the parmesan sauce.

Ingredients for sauce

2/3 cup whipping cream

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons white wine

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

2 cups of arugula for "bed" to rest shells on


Place cream, butter, and wine into pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium low heat for about 2 minutes until well blended and mixture bubbles.  Take off the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.

Place the arugula on a serving platter. Arrange the baked stuffed shell on top.  Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle the nuts and chopped sage on top.  Pass the remaining sauce at the table.