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Pear and Cranberry Crostada Is an Easy Holiday Pleaser


Pear and Cranberry Crostada

Pear and Cranberry Crostada

Cranberries are good at more than just Thanksgiving dinner, as this crostada recipe shows. It was freely adapted from an Ina Garten to include nuts and fresh berries as optional alternatives. The photos below offer you a step-by-step guide on how to make this easy yet refreshing dessert.

Pear and Cranberry Crostada

For the pastry:
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, diced
Scant 1/4 cup ice cold water flavored with 1 tablespoon nocino (walnut liqueur) or 1 teaspoon almond extract (flavor optional)

For the filling:
3 pounds Bosc pears
1/2 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh cranberries or 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch ground allspice
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter (1 stick), diced
Chopped walnuts or slivered almonds (optional)

For the pastry, place the nuts, if using, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to grind as finely as possible. (If you let the blade run, the nuts could release oil and dampen the bowl.) In a dry food processor bowl, add nuts, if using, flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks. Wrap the disks with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

crostada8

Roll each pastry disk into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer them to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

crostada7

For the filling, peel, core and quarter the pears. Cut each quarter into big chunks. Toss the chunks with the zest. Divide the pear chunks between the pastries, covering the dough and leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle half of the cranberries over the top of each tart.

crostada6

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together.

crostada5Sprinkle evenly over the top of the two tarts. Sprinkle ground nuts over top.

crostada4 Gently fold the border of each tart over the pears, pleating it to make a circle.

crostada3Bake the crostatas for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the pears are tender. Let the tarts cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer them to wire racks.

Makes 2 crostadas.

Adapted from Ina Gartin/Food Network

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Treat Yourself to Homemade Tagliatelle with Truffle Butter


At a recent dinner, my friend Patti Morehouse combined a recipe from Ina Garten with another from Lidia Bastianich to create a delicious reminder of a trip that a group of us had made to Italy last year: Homemade Tagliatelle with Truffle Butter.

Homemade Tagliatelle with Truffle Butter

Homemade Tagliatelle with Truffle Butter

The pasta recipe comes from Bastianich, the PBS chef who is coming to San Antonio in a few weeks for a KLRN fundraiser, while the Food Network’s Garten offered the simple yet flavorful sauce.

While Garten’s recipe calls for white truffle butter, which you can find at specialty stores such as Central Market, you could also make your own with fresh black truffles in season or mixing white truffle oil, to taste, with room temperature butter.

You will also have to do a little math to make everything works out to as many servings as you need, because Garten’s recipe makes 2 servings of sauce while Bastianich’s produces 6 servings of pasta.

You could use store-bought pasta in the recipe, but part of its appeal is the flavor of hand-crafted pasta. It does take a little extra effort, but it’s worth it.

Truffle Butter

Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces white truffle butter
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tagliatelle (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish
3 ounces Parmesan, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler, for garnish

Add 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) sauté pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the truffle butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, lower the heat to very low, and swirl the butter until it melts. Keep warm over very low heat.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes or until done to your likeness. When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan and toss it with the truffle-cream mixture. As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water, as necessary, to keep the pasta very creamy.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of chives and shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Makes 2 servings.

From Ina Garten/Food Network

Homemade Tagliatelle

Homemade Tagliatelle

Homemade Tagliatelle

3 cups flour, plus more as needed
3 large eggs, cold
3 large egg yolks, cold
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

Put the flour in the bowl of the food processor, and process for a few seconds to aerate. Mix the whole eggs and egg yolks, olive oil, and ice water in a measuring cup with a spout.

Start the machine running with the feed tube open. Pour in the liquids all at once (scrape in all the drippings), and process for 30 to 40 seconds, until a dough forms and gathers on the blade. If the dough does not gather on the blade or process easily, it is too wet or too dry. Feel the dough and add either more flour or more ice water, in small amounts. Process briefly, until the dough gathers on the blade, and clears the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand briefly until it’s smooth, soft, and stretchy. Press it into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour. (You can refrigerate this dough for up to a day, or freeze it for a month or more. Defrost frozen dough in the refrigerator; return it to room temperature before rolling.)

To make tagliatelle: Cut the dough in six equal pieces. Keeping it lightly floured, roll each piece through a pasta machine at progressively narrower settings into sheets that are 5 inches wide (or as wide as your machine allows) and at least 20 inches inches long. Cut the long sheets in half crosswise, giving you 12 strips, each almost a foot long.

One at a time, lightly flour each strip, and fold it over into thirds or quarters, creating a small rectangle with three or four layers of pasta. With a sharp knife, cut cleanly through the folded dough crosswise, at 1/2-inch intervals. Shake the cut pieces, opening them into long ribbons of tagliatelle. Dust them liberally with flour, gather into a loose nest, and set it on a floured towel or tray. Fold, cut, and unfurl all the strips this way, piling the tagliatelle in small floured nests. Leave uncovered to air-dry at room temperature, until ready to cook (or freeze the nests on the tray until solid, and pack in airtight zip-lock bags).

Makes 6 servings.

From Lidia Bastianich/LidiasItaly.com

 

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Griffin to Go: Make a Recipe Your Own


White Chocolate Bark

A recipe is only a guideline. I know that can be hard to remember. But you don’t have to follow a recipe to the exact letter, if you don’t want to.

How often do you need to hear that? If the answer is often, then find a recipe and get started. give yourself permission to make it over in your image and to your tastes.

I did that recently with this White Chocolate Bark recipe from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?”  (Clarkson Potter, $35), which a friend gave me last Christmas. I’ve been playing around with a few recipes from the book over the past year, substituting an ingredient here and taking up a kernel of an idea there that takes the recipe in a whole new direction.

The results have always been good, which is what keeps me coming back to the book whenever I need an easy idea.

For the following recipe, I was looking for something easy and sweet to take to friends who had invited me over for lunch. I loved the white chocolate idea and the pistachios, which is half of recipe, but I stopped there. Instead of dried cranberries and apricots, I used toasted coconut, which I knew both friends enjoyed, and dried cherries and blueberries, which were what I had on hand. Besides, the sounds of coconut, cherries and nuts just sounded great.

White Chocolate Bark

The end result? An easy winner. I have modified the original recipe, though, in a few ways. I reduced the cooking time on roasting the pistachios. I had mine in for 8 minutes and they burned beyond use. Plus, I melted my white chocolate in a double boiler since I don’t have a microwave.

What would you do to make this recipe your own? Toasted almond slivers? Golden raisins? Crushed candy canes? Not all together, maybe. But fel free to experiment. Any good recipe will give you the base to spring from, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here’s what the Barefoot Contessa has to say about this recipe: “Good vanilla is my favorite flavoring, which is why I love white chocolate. It’s also a great base here for salty pistachios, tart cranberries and sweet dried apricots. After dinner when we move to the living room, I like to serve a little brandy, some white chocolate bark and a bowl of clementines to continue the party.”

White Chocolate Bark

1/2 cup whole shelled salted pistachios
16 ounces good white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried medium-diced dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pencil, draw an 8-by-10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the pencil mark doesn’t get onto the chocolate and place it on a sheet pan.

Place the pistachios in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 6 minutes or until aromatic and toasted. Set to cool.

White Chocolate Bark as it dries.

Place three quarters of the white chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl and put it in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. (Time it with your watch for accuracy.) Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula, return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir again. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately stir in the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. (If you need to heat it a little more, place it in the microwave for another 15 seconds.)

Or, set up a pan with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Heat until water is about 150 degrees. Set up a double boiler by placing a second pan over the top of the bottom pan. Pour the white chocolate into the top pan. Start stirring immediately and don’t stop until all of the chocolate is melted. White chocolate has a low melting point and can scorch easily, so don’t let the water underneath get too hot. You can remove the top pan with one hand stir with the other, if you think it is getting too hot.

Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly to fill the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly with the cooled pistachios, the cranberries and apricots. Press the nuts and fruit lightly so they will set in the chocolate. Set aside for at least 2 hours until firm or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Cut or break the bark in 16 pieces and serve at room temperature.

Makes 16 pieces.

Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” by Ina Garten

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Ina Garten Jazzes Up Onion Soup


Cut your onions in half, then sliced them 1/4-inch thick.

“I love to take a recipe and ‘turn up the volume,'” Ina Garten writes in “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35). “Who doesn’t love French onion soup gratinée with its topping of onion-soaked bread and gooey melted cheese? I add some fresh fennel to give it more depth of flavor and the results are delicious.”

On these recent cold days, this soup is pure comfort.

Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 good olive oil
3 pounds Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 pounds fennel, top and cores removed, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup good dry sherry
1/2 cup Cognac or brandy
1 1/2 cups good dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
8 cups canned beef broth
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 small sourdough or white French boule, crusts removed, sliced 1/2-inch thick, and toasted
4 to 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fennel, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a golden brown. If the onions aren’t browning, turn the heat up. Add the sherry and Cognac, scraping up the brown bits in the pan, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes. Add the beef broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning.

[amazon-product]0307238768[/amazon-product]Preheat the boiler and position a rack 5 inches below the heat source. Ladle the soup into heat-proof serving bowls, top with the toasted bread, sprinkle generously with grated Gruyère, and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” by Ina Garten

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