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Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples


Red apples like gala work well with onions.

The combination of onions and apples can’t be beat. So, when I saw this appetizer recipe in the new “Real Simple — Dinner Tonight: Done!” (Real Simple, $24.95), I knew I was going to give it a try. This dish also works as a main course vegetarian meal for one or two.

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 sheets frozen puff pastry [1 (17.3-ounce) package, thawed
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the apples, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is browned and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut each tart into 12 pieces.

Makes 4-6 appetizer services.

From “Real Simple — Dinner Tonight: Done!”

 

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Griffin to Go: Time to Get Back into the Kitchen


Zucchini makes a great soup that can be served hot or cold.

It’s been a busy few weeks. First, Restaurant Week came and offered too many good meals to pass up. Then a combination of work and meetings made cooking impossible. Besides, who really wanted to cook when the temperature was in the triple digits?

The closest I got to cooking something in earnest was throwing a few hot dogs on the grill — and then running for the air conditioner while they cooked.

But the more time I spend away from the kitchen, the more it seems to call me.

Everywhere I look, there are recipes galore that just begged to be tried. The New York Times offered the idea of grilled peaches with dukkah, an Egyptian nut and spice blend. Yahoo wrote about avocados. The Los Angeles Times offered a refreshing take on icy granitas, a perfect antidote to the heat.

Even a collection of essays from Leo Tolstoy that I picked up at the Borders going-out-of-business sale included a lengthy piece on vegetarianism that made me want to eat every vegetable in sight.

So, this holiday weekend has been a good time to get back to where I feel best.

I started out by making a Zucchini and Fresh Ginger Velouté from Patricia Wells’ great new cookbook, “Salad as a Meal” (William Morrow, $34.99). This soup went together in minutes and is just as good cold as it is warm, so I can have it both ways.

Something easy is exactly what I need when stepping back into the kitchen after an absence, even if it’s only several weeks. There’s no need to have to think about anything tricky. There’s also no need to have to think about whether certain flavors go together. That’s why I always try a new cookbook or pull an old favorite from the shelf and select something I’ve never tried before.

My other two get-back-to-work dishes are also from new cookbooks. Next up is a plate of Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples on puff pastry from “Real Simple — Dinner Tonight: Done!” (Real Simple, $24.95).  There’s nothing too extravagant here. Nothing requires a special trip to the store, except maybe the puff pastry, if you don’t have that handy in the freezer. That’s the point of the book, and it’s what helps make it a welcome find.

That will be followed on Monday by cake, which I will write about in a day or two. This recipe is slightly trickier, so I won’t write about it until after I’ve given it a try and can hopefully offer you a tip or two. This one will exercise a few culinary muscles that have atrophied. I haven’t baked anything in more than four months and I can’t remember how to cream sugar and butter properly.

What’s the longest time you’ve taken off from cooking or baking? What are you cooking in this heat? Post your answers below.

 

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Rosemary Pecans


Pecans made with this recipe will likely go fast in your house. But if you have any leftover Rosemary Pecans, chop them finely and use them on goat cheese. Serve with roasted red peppers and your choice of crackers.

Rosemary Pecans.

Rosemary Pecans

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cayenne pepper and salt. Add the pecans and toss to coat.

Transfer the pecans to a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake, stirring occasionally, until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the rosemary and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals” edited by Lygeia Grace and Kate Merker

Chopped Rosemary Pecans on goat cheese with roasted red peppers

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Griffin to Go: Flying Too High with Some Pie in the Sky …


The filling of Blueberry-Dewberry Pie.

Testing a recipe can often be a mental exercise that you just didn’t bargain for.

I was reminded of that the other day as I went about trying out a recipe from “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals” (Real Simple Books, $27.95).

I was intrigued by the sounds of a Summer Fruit Pie filled with strawberries, peaches and lemon juice. But I was even more interested in the pie crust recipe, which included a touch of white vinegar mixed with egg in addition to a half-and-half mixture of shortening and butter. My filling would make it a Blueberry-Dewberry Pie, only because I would be using fruit I had on hand.

But would the crust be real simple? The directions said that all you had to do was mix the flour, salt, butter and shortening in the food processor before slowly adding the egg-vinegar mixture. Then divide the dough in half and refrigerate. Simple, yes.

Pie crust before rolling.

Except …

You could see that coming, right?  The humidity has been so great lately that the dough came out far, far stickier than I had hoped for. I wasn’t going to throw it away, so I let the crust rest in the refrigerator for several hours, more than the 1 hour that the recipe recommended.

It was still awfully moist when I removed it from the fridge – and so was the air in the house from the AC running on high and the rain pouring down steadily outside.

The dough rolled out flat.

Yet, I rolled it out into a circle that would fill the pie plate. Though the board was heavily floured to keep it from sticking and I used a cake froster to loosen it, the crust fell apart the moment I tried to lift it. (I’ll insert here that I don’t make many pie crusts. The time involved isn’t worth it to me, as I far prefer the fruit filling to the carb-heavy crust, no matter how good it is. Give me a good, buttery cobbler any day.)

The fruit was ready, so I had to make something with it. That’s when I decided to treat the dough as if I were making a tart, something I do quite frequently. I merely took the pieces and pressed them into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure they were all pressed together into a whole. Then I filled the shell with the fruit. I rolled out the second pie crust, except I made the circle a little smaller. I got half of it to go on top of the pie in one piece. Again, I pieced together the rest of the dough into what looked like a single sheet and crimped the top and bottom together.

The crust before baking.

Wherever there was a truly ugly spot, I made sure to use it for a vent, knowing that the juices inside might bubble up and cover any major imperfections. After all, pie doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to taste good.

Good enough to eat.

(Freshly whipped cream is another cosmetic in desserts that covers a multitude of homemade sins while adding richness and incomparable flavor.)

The end result was rustic yet beautiful, and perfect for dinner with friends.

So, would I try the crust again? Sure. It was simple, as it was supposed to be. I liked the tiniest bit of acidity that the vinegar brought to the crust. (You’d never know it was there unless you made it yourself.) But I would cut back on the liquid, especially if the day or the setting is as humid as what we’ve been experiencing lately.

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Real Simple Pie Crust


From Real Simple magazine comes this easy crust.

Real Simple Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 large egg
1 tablespoon white vinegar

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, shortening and butter until the mixture forms pea-size crumbs. Break the egg into a measuring cup and beat lightly; add the vinegar and enough cold water to measure 1/2 cup (you may want to use a little less if your kitchen is extremely humid). Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, pulsing until a soft dough forms.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until ready for use.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk into a 14-inch circle. Place in a 2-inch deep 9-inch pie plate.

Fill pie with your choice of filling.

Roll out second disk of dough into a 14-inch circle. Drape it over the pie and trim the edge to a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold under, pressing to seal. Crimp the edge, if desired.

Bake according to pie recipe.

Makes 1 double pie crust.

Source: “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals,” edited by Lygeia Grace and Kate Merker

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