Appetizers/Small Plates · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart

September 2017 Fam Din
An heirloom tomato dish when we’re just days away from November?

I know, but work with me people…..this crazy heatwave has got all of us in California out of sorts. Monday it was 97 degrees, Tuesday it was 99 degrees and today is 92 degrees —and I live on the coast!

Mother Nature is not happy. So in the meantime, you’ll get some summer inspired recipes from me.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made this beauty for last month’s family dinner as an appetizer but it could easily serve as a main course with a nice side salad. Perhaps a peppery arugula salad? And of course, a cold and crisp glass of white wine to go along is a must.

This stunning tart is quite easy to whip together. All you need is a few ripe heirloom tomatoes, store bought puff pastry, ricotta cheese, some basil pesto and just a couple of other kitchen staples. I used some pesto I had made a few days prior, but if you prefer, store bought is fine too. Just be sure to adjust for salt as needed.

September 2017 Fam Din
One thing to note is that since you’ll be baking the tomatoes (versus some other tomato tarts that bake the puff pastry first and then top fresh tomatoes on top), you’ll want to try and get as much moisture out as possible or else you’ll get a soggy mess. Just lay them out over a bunch of paper towels after they’ve been sliced and let them chill out for a bit while you take care of everything else.

After some quick assembly and about 30 minutes in the oven, you’re done! Creamy textures from ricotta mixture, brightness from tomatoes and fresh basil–and flaky, buttery goodness from the pastry dough.

Now excuse me as I stick my head in the freezer to try and cool down…..

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Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart
Serves approximately 8

Ingredients:

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 large eggs, divided
2 heaping tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
8 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
flour
1 package puff pastry dough (2 sheets about 10 x 15 inches each)
½ tablespoon water
kosher salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Cut the tomatoes into approximately ¼ – ⅓ inch slices. In a single layer, place the tomatoes on top of 2-3 layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place another paper towel on top of the tomatoes and gently press. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1 egg with the pesto. Fold in the ricotta, parmesan, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes until all items have been incorporated. Depending on your pesto, you may need to add some additional kosher salt. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, overlap one of the pastry sheets with the other by about ⅓ inch. Gently press the seams together and roll out the combined sheet to about ⅛ inch thick. You’ll want to keep the dough in the rectangle shape and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cut a 1 inch strip off each of the four sides of the dough. Beat the remaining egg with ½ tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the sides of the large piece of dough and lay each of the four strips on the corresponding side. Gently press the dough down. Once the tart bakes, the sides will puff up.

In the interior of the dough, evenly spread the pesto-ricotta mixture. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the mixture, slightly overlapping each slice. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash mixture and sprinkle salt over the tomato tart.

Bake the tart in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry dough has risen and becomes golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow the tart to set for a few minutes before sprinkling the basil on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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Pastas/Noodles · Pork

Ultimate Stuffed Shells to Ring in the Holidays

Ultimate Stuffed Shells

Here we go….let the Holiday celebrations begin!

Thanksgiving….Friendsgiving….Hannukah….Christmas…Kwanzaa…Winter Solstice…Festivus!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore them all. I’m a holiday-lovin’ gal. Heck, I’ve had my Christmas tree up for over two weeks now but with all of these festivities, there’s a lot of cooking that’s required.

And as much as I’m down for long hours of cooking and baking, I also strongly believe in dishes that I can make ahead that can still carry the spirit and yumminess (is that a word?) of the special occasion.

Ultimate Stuffed Shells

These Ultimate Stuffed Shells really fit that bill. Not only are they bright and colorful but they are just down right comfort food—something like grandma would make. Well, not my grandmas…they were old school Vietnamese and would have stuffed tofu than pasta. But someone’s grandma would have made them and it’s like getting a big ol’ hug when you take a bite.

Why do I call these “ultimate” stuffed shells? Because they’ve got all of my favs in them–spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, spinach, and tons of different cheeses. They’re pretty easy to make and are always a fan favorite when they show up on a spread.

And with that….Bring on the stretchy pants–I’m ready for some Holiday Eats!

ps. And since this is the time for giving, check out these adorable personalized cutting boards from our friends at Red Envelope. Perfect for any loved ones who enjoy a delicious Foodventure.

Cutting Board

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Ultimate Stuffed Shells
Serves approximately 6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
½ cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup minced baby portabello mushrooms
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese + 2 tablespoons, divided
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade (more for garnish)
kosher salt
black pepper
20 ounces marina sauce
20-24 jumbo pasta shells, boiled to just shy of al dente
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat while it’s browning. Once browned, remove the sausage to a plate that has been lined with paper towels to drain.

In the same skillet, cook the shallots over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until tender but not browned. Add in the garlic, pepper flakes, thyme, oregano and mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the mushrooms become tender. Add the spinach, parsley, nutmeg and continue to cook for an additional minute until combined. Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Once the mixture has cooled, fold in the ¼ parmesan cheese, ricotta, beaten egg and basil until just combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pour approximately 2/3 of the marina sauce into a baking dish. Spread the sauce evenly to coat the bottom. Fill each of the shells with heaping spoonfuls of the cooled mixture and place them in the dish on top of the layer of marina. Continue until all of the shells have been filled and are placed snugly amongst each other in the baking dish.

Spoon the remaining marina sauce over the shells and then the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet (in case anything bubbles over during baking time). Bake the shells for 25 minutes and then remove the foil and continue baking for 10 minutes until the cheese bubbles and slightly browns.

Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Prior to serving, garnish with additional basil chiffonade and enjoy!