Tart Craving Mad

Have you ever totally botched lyrics? Like, “Blinded by the Light” will always be followed by, “Wrapped up like a blah nah nyeah na nuuuneenooonana.” Or like my brother, who used to think that the words “Transformers: Robots in disguise” were “Transformers: For the miss bee fied!”

Or how I still think that “stark raving mad” is “star craving mad” because there’ll always be an eight-year-old in me wishing she could hop on a unicorn and make rainbows before blasting off to a land where mermaids are real (I mean, they are) and tree houses were the only houses.

I hope I never lose that girl. She’s pretty rad.

Don’t even think about tomorrow, how you haven’t organized your closet or how dirty the soles of your feet are (they’re like, really dirty). Just remember that little kid who comes out every so often to smack you in the face with a dose of Take It Easy. Save yourself the blisters and take off your shoes.

Indulge in tart craziness.

Sometimes, food is just so beautiful.

Like, really, really beautiful. Heirloom cherry tomatoes are outrageous.

I made sweet and savory tarts because, let’s face it, I would’ve eaten all of the sweet ones for dinner.

Space the puff pastry squares (rectangles) a good inches apart. They poof (puff?) in the oven.

Also, don’t bake the mint or basil leaves. They’ll fizzle and die. Wait until the tarts have cooled a bit and just pop off the blackberry before slipping in a mint leaf or two.

Or just throw the leaves on however you please.

Opposites attract.

Blackberry, mint and lemon goat cheese tart / Heirloom tomato, basil and brie tart

For the blackberry tart:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/2 pint blackberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, toss the blackberries with the balsamic vinegary and let sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl, mix together the goat cheese, lemon zest, honey and milk with a fork until smooth.

Cut the puff pastry sheet into 12 2-3 inch rectangles and score with a sharp knife, being sure not to cut all the way through.

Scoop about 2 teaspoons-worth of goat cheese mixture onto each square and top off with the balsamic blackberries.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the goat cheese and puff pastry are brown. Once the tarts have cooled slightly, slip a mint leaf underneath each blackberry.

Makes 12 four-bite-sized tarts.

For the heirloom tomato tart:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
brie cheese, thinly sliced (12 small pieces)
12 basil leaves
6 cherry heirloom tomatoes, cut in half

Same procedure as the blackberry tart, but without the frills. Cheese, tomato, basil. Boom.

Makes 12 tarts.


Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus

I make things up.

I add yeast when I probably shouldn’t. I put chocolate chips where they certainly don’t belong – like my mouth. In big handfuls.

I create smorgasbords when creative juices aren’t flowing after eight hours of nonstop thinking and my brain is a scrambled egg.

This is your brain on the 9-5 crunch.

Sometimes, and only on these lucky occasions, I manage to produce a healthy concoction with every major food group without once being tempted to sneak a bite of chocolate.

Butter not required.

Quinoa is a super grain. Riddled with protein and fiber, it’s a vegetarian’s dream. And a carnivore’s best friend.

Cooked like rice, two parts water to one part grains, quinoa is perfect for a quick and healthy snack in lieu of salty crackers or chips. Also, you can make crazy granola out of the stuff. On my to-make list. Frizzle.

Garlic is roasted with some asparagus at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or until everything’s crispy, juicy, and full of incredible flavor.

I grew cilantro from seeds. They’ve taken months to finally produce tasty leaves. Worth the wait.

Hello quinoa, zucchini and black-eyed peas.

Everything gets tossed together and consumed hot or cold.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus.

Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen.

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
7 asparagus stalks
5-6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
handful of mint
handful of cilantro
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
15oz can blackeyed peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bread pan, line the asparagus along the bottom and top with unpeeled garlic. Toss with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Let cool before peeling the garlic and chopping the asparagus.

While the quinoa is cooking, place a heat-safe steamer above the pot and lightly steam the chopped zucchini.

Once both the quinoa and zucchini are done, add to the blackeyed peas in a large mixing bowl.

Mince the cilantro, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and roasted garlic before adding to the quinoa mixture. Add the chopped asparagus and top with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Makes about 5 cups of munchies (good for about three eaters).

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

My kitchen is a cornucopia of fibrous muffins.  I don’t know how it happened, but the counter went from zero muffins to two dozen in the blink of an eye.

The moment December hit, my neighborhood was bombarded with colorful LED lights that flicker “realistically” (because icicles naturally flicker?) in the night.  I even caved and put lights in the window.  I may even get a tree.

And every year, something in those lights trigger my eyeballs which trigger something in my belly that makes me want chocolate and peppermint and eggnog.  All day.  In my sleep.

There is a solid chocolate frog on the kitchen table.  Okay, half of one.

Whatever.  I just did 100 squats.  And these muffins are so hearty and fibrous they may as well be balls of flax and grain.

Except they taste sweet and fluffy.  And not flaxy.  And they aren’t shaped like balls at all.  And they have chocolate chips in them because I couldn’t resist.  It’s December.

I made this pumpkin pureé.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just another leftover Halloween pumpkin, but it’s so much tastier than canned pureé.  And I’m more likely to cut my finger on a can.

If you want to make your own, just chop up the pumpkin (after scooping out the innards), cut off the skins, and boil until soft.  Whip it up in a food processor and you’re golden.

Muffins dipped in Turkish espresso?  Don’t mind if I do.

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips.

1 cup pureéd pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup 10-grain hot cereal or millet
1/4 cup milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Optional.  But not really.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.  Add the oats and hot cereal and toss until evenly mixed.

In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and pumpkin pureé until smooth.  Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until the oil no longer separates (about a minute).

Slowly beat in the flour mixture.  Fold in the milk until the batter is fluffy.  Lightly fold in the chocolate chips.

Line or grease 18 muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

As a child reared in the 21st century, I have taken extreme pride in my tech-savvy nature.  Web design?  Pshaw.  System troubleshooting?  Easier than key lime pie.  Camera glitches?  I’m your lady.

I’ve got the MacBook, the Canon 40D with a few great lenses, a handful of iPods thanks to a partner in crime that finds all of our possessions for free, and mostly on the ground, and other audio gizmos that tend to make me quiver with their amazing treble.  I read photo catalogues on the toilet.  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, beware.

Nerd to the max.  I know it and love it.

But let me be real with you.  I sport a tiny, egg-shaped Samsung cell phone that I once flaunted in high school.  It doesn’t have a camera.  The front screen is busted.  It has BubbleSmile for a game.  I kind of love it because it forces me to look up while I’m walking down the street or driving.  I make eye contact with people on the train (er, well, with the ones that aren’t giggling on their smart phones).  And you know, there’s a sort of adventure in finding a restaurant in the city by walking around.

But friends! I’m getting an iPhone.  I might get sucked into it, Tron style.  If I disappear for twenty years, you know where to look.

I’ll welcome myself into the 21st century by shaping gnocchi pasta with the back of a fork and giggling furiously because each piece looks like a chubby, squashed face.

I’m nervous about the A.I. feature on the new iPhone.  Just yesterday I got a phantom call from my dad.  He said he didn’t even have his phone on him.  Siri wants me.

Also, I’m admittedly archaic in the kitchen.  I don’t have a mixer.  Just hands.  Once, I whipped egg whites into stiff peaks with a potato masher.  It took me an hour.  I may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’m going to start giggling soon.

Gary Larson has a perfect comic to describe these.


Listen, I was pretty skeptical about this gnocchi business.  It seemed really hard.  I’d been meaning to make them for weeks, and when my sweet potato started screaming at me to do something with it, I caved.  But these were surprisingly easy.  And, more importantly, they worked.  So don’t listen to the little voice in your head telling you they’ll fall apart in boiling water.  They won’t.  They’ll float up to the surface with their little pudgy faces.

And you will eat the little faces with parmesan cheese.

If you don’t want to eat these munchkins to your face all at once, they’re freezable.  So you can have them for a midnight snack.  Or breakfast.  All food can be breakfast.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

1 large sweet potato (about 1lb or more)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt

Stab the sweet potato all over with a fork and microwave for about 15 minutes, flipping it over every 5.  If you want to use the oven, still stab the potato, but bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.  Once the potato has cooled, scoop out the meat and mash until smooth.  Add the flour, egg, parmesan cheese and salt, and mix until a dough starts to form.  Knead with plenty of extra flour (it will be sticky) until you can shape the dough into a ball.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll out into thin ropes.  Cut little pieces off the rope and shape each by indenting with the backside of a fork.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and carefully add the dumplings.  Let them cook until they float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes.

Sauté the gnocchi in a pan with olive oil, butter, and a pinch of ground sage until slightly browned.

Top with parmesan cheese and Italian parsley.

A feast for 4-5 people.

Vegan Pear Ginger Cobbler

In lieu of whining about this weekend’s Winter Wonderland, and the fact that I still don’t know what it means to “layer,” the difference between snow shoes and snow boots (I think mine are boots?), or what distinguishes a cottage from a cabin, I will instead admire the crocheted booties and warm cider that kept me warm all the while.

Oh man.  I need to re-learn how to crochet.

I also need butter, because the season is screaming for copious amounts of baked goods and I can’t make everything vegan just because I’ve run out of dairy.

In my defense, I made this cobbler even though I still had butter and eggs in the fridge.  It doesn’t even have refined sugar.

From Halloween to New Year’s I tend to gain at least five pounds.  That’s normal, right?

Even after thinking about it more, I still don’t know the difference between a cottage and a cabin.  Winter cabin?  Why can’t there be a summer cabin?  Or a winter cottage?

And why do so many of my friends prefer Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup over pure maple syrup?

Don’t resist the urge to take bites of this while whisking.  Or right after you top the fruit.  Or…after you bake it.  Listen, I made a little extra because I knew I’d be nibbling.

So I bought these ramekins for $1 at a second-hand shop.  They’re worth $25.  It’s not a big deal.  (And yeah, I always look up the actual price of things I buy from garage sales and second-hand stores to make me feel like I won something.  Or that I’m smarter than the average consumer.)

Cobbler for breakfast?  It could happen.

Vegan Pear Ginger Cobbler.

For the fruit:

2 medium sized pears, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1/8 cup pure maple syrup

For the topping:

3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
pinch of cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the pears with all of the spices and maple syrup.  Set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl, toss the oats, flour, and spices until nicely mixed.  Whisk the oil, syrup and vanilla in a separate bowl, then add to the dry ingredients, being sure to coat all of the oats with some liquid.

Take 1/4 cup of the topping and mix with the fruit.  Pour the fruit mixture into three small ramekins or one small casserole dish.  Make sure the fruit reaches the top of the dish.

Cover with the topping and bake for about 35 minutes, until the cobbler has just begun to brown.

Serves three lucky, probably not totally, vegans.