Sewing and Wontons

In a constant attempt to procrastinate on my comprehensive exam readings, I have picked up my sewing hobby again. In all seriousness though, my friend Sashila asked me to make her a bag which was the real reason I got back to it.

I asked her what colors she would like and went shopping at my favorite fabric store, Crafty Planet. The fabric there isn’t cheap, but it is all beautiful and unique. She requested browns and greens, so this is the fabrics I found:

bag2

 

Here is the bag coming together–the outside and the lining here:

bag 1

 

And finally here is my friend enjoying her new bag!

bag3

 

I have also been making some hipster bibs, here is one I made for our new niece Wrenley. I plan on sending it out once this snowstorm ends…

bib2

And here is Emory wearing one I made out of an old t-shirt. It ended up being a little big, so I made the next ones a bit smaller.

Bib3

On another topic, I made some pork wontons yesterday. While I was frying like my fifth batch of them I said I would never make them again, but boy they ended up being good.

wontons

 

So this is how I made them:

1.5 pounds of ground pork

about 4-5 mushrooms chopped

1/4 onion chopped

Cook that until the meat is no longer pink. Add in:

about 1 teaspoon of grated ginger

2 cloves garlic chopped fine

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon oil

a handful of chopped cilantro

Add this to the pan until fragrant. Pull off the heat and wait until cool enough to handle. Fill the store bought wonton wrappers, fold them into the normal wonton shape, and fry them in oil. I used vegetable oil. Peanut oil would probably really good, but I didn’t have any. The oil temp should be about 350 degrees. I couldn’t find my thermometer so I just let the oil heat for a while at a little above medium heat and then tested to make sure the wonton started to fry (makes the sizzling sound) once I put it in. I know, real specific instructions.

Obviously this recipe is flexible. You could use shrimp, bamboo shoots, anything really, but this combo did taste REALLY good.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Pizza with Heirloom Tomatoes

My husband loves pizza.  I could probably make it everyday, and he would not complain.  I have posted a pizza recipe before on here that I make fairly often.  Last week though I was looking for a pizza that would be lighter and more summer-y.  I decided to modify my normal pizza crust and cut down on the amount of cheese substantially.  I made it for dinner last Friday for some friends of mine, and it went over well.  I paired it with some ratatouille, but it would be good with a salad or on its own too.

Rosemary Olive Oil Pizza with Heirloom Tomatoes

The crust:

2 cups bread flower

1 packet quick rising yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup very warm water

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Mix the dry ingredients together in a food processor.  While it is running add in the olive oil then the water.  Take out of the processor, shape into a ball, and let rise for 1-2 hours depending on how warm it is in the room.  Once it is risen, divide into two and roll out into two rounds.

The sauce:

Put 5-6 cloves of garlic in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds.  This will make the garlic much more mild.  Put it threw a garlic press and mix with olive oil.  Coat the crusts with a think layer of this mixture.

Note: the first time I made this, I just crushed the garlic with a spoon (as seen above).  The next time I put it through a garlic press.  I would recommend the press for a more even garlic flavor on the pizza.

The toppings: 

I bought two nice big heirloom tomatoes at the co-op the first time I made this.  The second time I used about 4 smaller tomatoes from my farm share.  Just make sure that they are good and flavorful tomatoes.  Cut into slices and top the pizza with them, fresh basil, and fresh oregano.  Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese over the tomatoes.  I probably used about 1/2 cup of cheese per pizza round.  You could use more or less depending on taste.  The key is to have the tomatoes be the dominant flavor, not the cheese though.

Put it in a 500 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

Soupe de Chou-Fleur

This soup is not actually French, but Soupe de Chou-Fleur sounds a lot nicer than Cauliflower Soup.  I thought if I called it Soupe de Chou-Fleur people would be more apt to make it, which you should because it is really good.

Alec and I split an organic farm share with our friends Anna and Chris.  We love it! However, sometimes we end up with a lot of vegetable we aren’t sure what to do with.  I like cauliflower, but I don’t love it, and I had a lot of it.  Thus this soup.  To be honest, I did not have high hopes, but I liked it a lot.

Ingredients:

2 smaller heads of cauliflower or 1 very big head

2 shallots

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 onion

olive oil

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

herbs (I used thyme, sage, and chives)

Cut the cauliflower, shallots, onions, and garlic.  Toss in olive oil and bake at 350 for about a half and hour or until the vegetables start to brown.  They will smell great.

The above pics are the veggies before and after they have been baked.

Put the roasted veggies in a big pot–I used my cast iron dutch oven.  Add the three cups of chicken broth, the water, and the herbs.  Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then drop the temp to a simmer.  Let it simmer for about a half an hour, or until the cauliflower is nice and tender.

If you have an immersion blender, use that to blend the soup to a nice think consistency.  If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use an actual blender.

Add the cup of cream and pull off the heat.

Smoky Potato Salad

Well it is about a million degrees here in Minneapolis today.  The air conditioning is on and all of our blinds are closed to keep out the sun.  I officially decided I wasn’t going to do much of value today because it is just too hot.  For dinner tonight we are making BLTs, which should be nice and  cool besides the part where I have to cook the bacon.  The other day I made up a potato salad I am doing again today.  It is nothing all that new and exciting, but it uses some awesome mustard the cheese lady at Haskell’s talked us into buying. See picture below…

It was a little pricey for mustard in my opinion (about $7), but it really is good.  It has a nice smoky flavor, thus the name.  If you are so inclined to make this recipe exactly how I have it, here is a link where you can purchase this lovely mustard–that is if you aren’t lucky enough to live near a Haskells!

http://www.robertrothschild.com/product/product-details.aspx?prodid=7&name=Anna+Mae’s+Smoky+Mustard

Smoky Potato Salad

1/2 pound of red potatoes boiled and cubed

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1/2 medium onion or a few green onions (I used white onions the first time and green the second, both good)

1-2 stalks celery

Mayonnaise (I use the Hellman’s Olive Oil kind)

The Smokey Mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Mix it all together.  I didn’t put amounts down for the mustard and mayo for a couple of reasons.  1) I don’t measure 2) It is kinda a personal preference thing I feel.  If I were to estimate I would say about 3/4 cup mayo to about 1/4 mustard? But that is obviously pretty flexible.

Asian Dinner Party: Spring Rolls, Steamed Dumplings, and Key Lime Pie

Yesterday we had our friends Caleb and Kara over for dinner.  As you can see from the photo to your left, Lucy did not want me to spend my time making the meal.  So I strapped her to me, which is not the easiest way to make a meal, and started cooking.  Here I am making spring rolls, and she had finally fallen asleep. Despite having a baby strapped to me, it was a very fun evening.  I had only met Kara a few times before so it was great to get to know her better.

For the dinner we made the yellow Thai curry that Alec and I like so much.  Here is the link to that: https://meteaandlucy.com/2011/04/05/yellow-coconut-curry/

To accompany the main dish we made vegetarian spring rolls and pork steamed dumplings.  To finish off the meal I meal I did a key lime pie.  I have been making key lime pies for a number of years and slowly improving on it.  I think I might have perfected it last night (not to sound too arrogant about my pie or anything).

To be honest, I made too much food like usual.  You would not need to make all these things for a dinner.  You could probably have a nice appetizer dinner with spring rolls and dumplings for example.

Spring Rolls:

This is a recipe you can easily modify according to taste.

Ingredients:

Spring Roll Wrappers (You can find these at Asian grocery stores or the ethnic food aisle at your grocery store.  They are large, hard, translucent discs)

Warm water in a large dish

Thin rice noodles

Cilantro

Green onions (cut lengthwise)

Radishes (cut very thing)

Carrots (I use a peeler to cut carrot ribbons)

Avocado

Firm tofu (cut into long strips)

Method:

Take the hard wrappers and soak them in warm water until they are soft and flexible.  It will take about 30 seconds to a minute depending on the water temp.  Move the wrapper to a large cutting board and lay it flat.  Put the fillings in the center of the wrapper:

To fold them up I do it like they roll burritos at Chipotle ( I am guessing most of you know what I am talking about here).  So you take the bottom of the shell and bring it up over the filling, then fold the sides in, then roll it up.  Make sure all the folds are nice and tight.

I served them with soy sauce and Sirachi sauce.  You could serve them with any number of Asian sauces though.

Steamed Dumplings:

I had made these years ago when Alec and I were first dating.  It is a recipe I modified from a Thai cookbook called Easy Thai (the recipes are not as easy as the name would imply).

Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground pork (cooked and slightly cooled)

1 egg

1 small can of water chestnuts

1 carrot

A sprig or so of cilantro

1 dried red hot chili (you could leave this out if you don’t want them to be spicy)

Salt and pepper to taste

Wonton wrappers

Method:

Take all the ingredients and put them in the food processor, and blend until nice and smooth.

Once it is blended you are ready to fill the wrappers.  I put about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper.  I line the outside edges with water and then seal them up.

I don’t really have any advice on rolling them up because mine did not look all that great.

To cook them, fill a large pan with water and put a colinder in it.  If you have a steamer, use that.  I do not have a steamer and this worked fine.  Put about 5 dumplings in at a time and cover.  It will take a few minutes to cook them.  You will be able to tell when they are done.  The wrappers get kinda translucent looking.  You can always eat one or two just to make sure though!

Key Lime Pie:

I really hyped this up, but it is good.  I originally found a recipe online.  Since then I have drastically changed it.  I think the real trick is using a flour/butter crust instead of a graham cracker crust.  I know this sounds weird because they are always made with graham cracker crusts, but I swear this is better.

The pie crust:

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks of butter (cut into 16 pieces and put in the freezer for about 15 minutes)

1/3 cup very cold water with 3 tablespoons of sour cream or full fat yogurt mixed in–it really doesn’t matter which one

Method:

Put everything except the water mixture into the food processor and pulse until blended.  Add the water mixture bit by bit until it is the right crust consistency.

Once it is mixed, divide into two.  Shape into a 5 inch disc which will be about 1 inch thick.  You only need one crust for this dessert, so put one in the fridge to cool and put the other in the freezer to keep for later (when you want to use it just take it out and thaw it in the fridge over night).

Roll it out and put it in a a glass pyrex pie plate.  Here is an easy pie crust tip I got from Jaime Oliver.  If you aren’t into rolling out pie crust, cut the dough into thin strips and press it into the pie plate.  It works just fine.  Cover the shell with greased tin foil and fill with pie weights.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

While the pie crust is baking make the filling.

Filling Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup lime juice (I used to use key lime, but I can’t tell the difference between key and regular limes.  Regular limes are much cheaper and it is much easier juicing big limes instead of all those little limes.  Make sure you use fresh limes juice not any of that bottles stuff).

Zest of one or two limes depending on size

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.

Once the pie shell comes out of the oven, drop the oven temp to 325, fill the crust with the filling, and put it back into the oven.  Bake for about 15 minutes.

Let the pie cool until room temp and then put in the fridge.  When you are ready to eat top with whipped cream.  I whip my own cream because it is really good.  For a pie this size put about 1 cup of whipping cream and one tablespoon of white sugar.  Whip until thick.

Easter Brunch: Egg Strata, French Toast Casserole, and a bunch of other stuff

I am going to start by saying that I did not get very good pictures of this brunch.  I have never hosted a holiday before, and I was a little preoccupied by preparing it, so I kept forgetting to take pictures.  I apologize for that. However, things did go well.  I was not entirely sure what I wanted to make for brunch.  Plus, we were headed to Easter Service so I needed stuff that I could make ahead of time.  I decided on doing a breakfast casserole, an egg strata, deviled eggs, and a bundt cake.  I also had coffee, tea, orange juice, and stuff to make Arnold Palmers (pretty much the best drink ever).

First the bundt cake.  I made the lemon one I invented not too long ago.  Here is the link to that recipe:

https://meteaandlucy.com/2011/04/12/lemon-bundt-cake/

This time I added one cup of milk to the recipe.  It did change the consistency.  This cake was much denser and more moist.  However, it was lacking the nice crumble of the other.  Both were good; I think I may leave the  milk out in the future.

Next up is the French Toast Casserole.  This recipe is from the newspaper a number of years ago.

Ingredients:

1 loaf cinnamon bread (with or without raisins depending on preference)

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 teaspoons butter

1 cup nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Method:

Cut the loaf of bread into cubes.  Take about 1 cup worth of the cubes and set aside.  Put the rest of the cubes in a greased 9″ by 13″ Pyrex baking dish.  Meanwhile mix the eggs, milks, and vanilla together.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread making sure all the cubes are moist.  Put the in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, melt the butter and add the set aside bread cubes and the nuts.  Mix until all moist and sprinkle over the egg/bread mixture in the pan.  Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.  Serve with syrup and strawberries (optional).

Ideas: I would have liked it to be a little sweater so I would not have had to add syrup in the end.  I wonder if adding brown sugar to the egg mixture would have that desired effect.  I also think it would be good if you added some apples to the dish. I might try that next fall when apples are in season again.

Egg Strata:


This one I made up, and it worked great.  The above picture is the strata before it was baked.  I don’t have a picture of it baked.  Sigh. This is a dish that you can personalize easily.

Ingredients:

10 eggs

1 cup cheese

1 cup milk

about 1/3 of a baguette, cubed

vegetables (I used potatoes, onions, asparagus, red bell peppers)

sausage (optional though good)

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the eggs and milk together until well blended.  Mix in the cheese and bread cubes.  Make sure the bread all gets moist.  Fold in the vegetables and sausage.  I pre-cook the  potatoes and the sausage, but I put everything else in raw.  The vegetables end up cooked but still crisp that way.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9″ by 13″ Pyrex casserole dish.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.  You can put a knife in the center and it will come out clean when the strata is done.

Note: I have made this pre-made this strata and let it sit overnight.  I have also made it and baked it immediately.  I honestly can’t tell much of a difference (sitting overnight might have a slight advantage, but it is slight).  I would just do what is more convenient for you.

Finally here is a couple of funny picture of Lucy in her Easter dress:

An Italian Dinner Party: Bruschetta, Pizza, and Flourless Chocolate Cake

This past weekend we had our friends Katie and Richard over for dinner.  At Alec’s suggestion we decided to do our homemade pizza–a big favorite of his in particular.  For appetizers I made some bruschetta and olive tapenade.  I thought the dinner turned out quite well.  It is a nice way to do pizza because no one needs to agree.  Every can just make their own half of a pizza.  We all had a nice time, and I can’t wait to have them over again.

I am going to save the tapenade recipe for another post (I am keeping this short because the baby is sick, and I am a little short on time here because of it).  Apparently it is actually French, though I usually eat it with either Italian or Middle Eastern food.  We served the appetizers with a French bread that Alec made (he is good at making bread).  However, feel free to serve this with any crusty white bread.

Bruschetta Recipe

This is not a very exact recipe.  Please adjust the quantities according to your own tastes.

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes chopped

2 shallots chopped small

2 cloves garlic finely chopped or put through a garlic press

Basil, preferable fresh but dried is fine

a pinch or so of sugar

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together and let it marinade for a bit.  I left mine for about an hour which worked just fine.

I served this with slices of fresh mozzarella.

The Pizza

Ingredients:

4 1/4 cups of bread flour (it must be bread flour otherwise it will not turn out)

1 yeast packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

Put all this in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Add 1 1/2 cups of warm-hot water

Run the food processor until it blends into a ball.  Take it out of the processor, make sure it is in a ball shape.  Put it in a greased bowl and it let it raise for about 2 hours.

This makes enough for two pizza dough crusts.  Cut the dough in half and roll into rounds.  The dough is ready for toppings at this point.  You do not need to pre-bake anything.

Top the crust with your toppings of choice.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 500 degrees.  It is best if you can do this on a pizza stone.  This recipe is originally from the America’s Test Kitchen.  I have made it so many times I just do it from memory so it is not exactly the same.  You can also use this crust for a pretty good stromboli.

Yellow Coconut Curry

Alec loves curry, loves it.  I haven’t been making it too much because when I was pregnant it made me sicker than anything.  And I have been a little slow to go back to eating it.  This past weekend, I did make a curry that we both enjoyed a lot.  We found a recipe from one of our cookbooks and adapted it.  We were not sure what it was going to end up tasting like, but it had a Thai curry flavor to it.  The curry paste is very spicy, but the coconut cream in it mellows it out nicely.  Even Lucy thought it was good.  Granted this was not a great parenting move here, but she kept batting at my food and trying to eat it, so finally I gave her a taste of the sauce figuring she would dislike it and let me eat in peace.  She loved it to our utter amazement.  Don’t worry, I did not give her any more, but I think she is going to be an adventurous eater.

Yellow Coconut Curry

The Paste:

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2-3 died red chilis

2 lemongrass stems, white part only, finely chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground tumeric

A dash of oil for mixing

Method:

Dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Grind the seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle.

You can use pre-ground cumin and coriander to be honest, it just won’t be quite as fragrant.  But if that is what you have, go ahead and use it.

Next, remove the stems and seeds from the chilis and soak in water for 10 minutes to re-hydrate them.  We found a big bag of dried hot chilis at United Noodle for only $2.  Drain and chop.

I put everything into the food processor in order to get it nice and smooth.

This is the paste after processing:

This recipe makes enough for two batches of the Yellow Coconut Curry.  The curry paste will stay fresh for one week in the fridge.  Just a warning, this stuff is pretty hot on its own.

The Yellow Coconut Chicken Curry Recipe:

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons of the yellow curry paste

1 pound chicken breast, sliced

1 can coconut cream (it is important to get coconut cream and not coconut milk–though the milk is much easier to find.  They are two very different things, and the dish will not turn out with the milk.  I found the coconut cream at Cub in the ethnic food section, but was not able to find it at all at Rainbow)

6 green onions sliced

1 (1o ounce) can of sliced bamboo shoots

2 teaspoons sugar

1 large handful of basil

juice of half a lime

Method:

Cook the chicken in a wok (or large fry pan) in the oil.  Once the chicken is getting cooked, add in the curry paste and completely coat the chicken.  Add in the coconut cream, green onions, bamboo shoots, and sugar.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce was thickened.

Right before you are going to serve the curry, add in the basil and the lime juice.  The basil is soooo good in this dish, do not skip it!

Finally is a picture of me trying to enjoy the meal, but little Miss Lucy had other plans.

After realizing we would not give her any more curry, she decided to entertain herself with my napkin.  It might be because it had some curry flavor to it.  She is a funny little girl.

Madras Beef Curry and Chapatis

Tonight Alec made Madras Beef Curry for dinner.  It was wonderful.  I generally make the food in our house, so it was very nice to have the night off too! Although he did the cooking I took some pictures and saw enough to post the recipe here.  To accompany the meal, I quick made some Chipatis, which is are unleavened flat bread from India.  We also made some Ceylon tea because I mistakenly thought it was from India, but it is actually from Sri Lanka.  For some tea that is actually from India, you could try Darjeeling, Assam, or Nilgiri (Darjeeling is my favorite of the three).

First you need to start by making the Madras curry paste.  This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of curry paste.

2 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground tumeric

2 cloves crushed garlic

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Dry-fry the coriander and cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, then move from the pan.  Grind the seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Put the coriander and cumin, the mustard seeds,  black pepper, chili powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and salt in a small bowl and mix together well.  Add the vinegar and mix to a smooth paste.  The paste will keep for about a month in the fridge.

Madras Beef Curry

1 tablespoon ghee (we used butter)

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons of the madras curry paste

2 pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup beef stock

Sauté the onion in the ghee or butter until browned.  Add the curry paste and stir for about 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add the meat and cook, stirring, until coated with the curry paste.  Stir in the tomato paste and stock.  Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and then uncovered for another 15.

When done the meat should be tender and the sauce will be nice and thick. See picture below:

Serve with rice.

Chapatis

Chapatis are much quicker to make than naan, which is why I chose it to be honest.  They remind me a little bit of a whole wheat tortilla with butter brushed on.  They are grilled instead of baked.  If you have a griddle, it works really well, but a pan would be fine too.

1 1/2 cup atta or whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

scant 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon olive oil

melter ghee or butter

To make mine a little more flavorful, I added some cumin seeds and a dash of curry powder to the dough.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl (if using extra spices, add them here).  Add the water and mix to a soft dough. I did this with the dough hook attachment on my Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Add the oil.  After mixing, turn out the dough on a lightly oiled surface.

Knead for 5-6 minutes or until smooth.

Place in a covered bowl for 1/2 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  Divide into 6 equal pieces.  Shape each into a ball.  Press the dough into a larger round with the palm of your hand, then roll into a 5 inch round.

Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium-high heat.  If using a pan, cook the chipatis one at a time.  You can cook more with a griddle.  Cook for a couple of minutes or until they start to bubble and brown slightly.

When cooked, brush them with some melted butter or ghee.

Dinner Party: Recipes for French Onion Soup, Homemade Crackers, and Tarte Noire

Last night we had our friends Anna and Chris over for dinner.  They are a fun couple to entertain for because a) they are great people b) they are totally foodies, so it is fun coming up with a meal that I think they will enjoy.

Before we get to recipes, Anna made Lucy this beautiful giraffe.  This is Lucy looking him over this morning.  The giraffe is really going to be fun for her.  It is so cute, I think I am going to keep it in our living room instead of her room.  Plus, to be honest, once you have a baby, your living room kinda becomes a giant play room.

Now to the food, we started our meal with a cheese and sausage plate.  I got a nice assortment of cheeses that I like: brie, manchego, jarlsberg, and a blue.  We also picked up two artisan salamis made with wine at Trader Joe’s.  We had that with some French bread and these crackers I made.  This recipes is adapted from one in the America’s Test Kitchen Baking book.

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 T. olive oil

1/2 T. honey

1/4 t.  instant yeast

1/4 t. kosher salt

1/4 c. warm water

Put all the ingredients, except the water in a standing mixer fixed with the dough hook attachment.  With the mixer on low, pour the water slowly into the mixture.  Keep mixing until the dough becomes a ball.

Left: Dough before the water

Right: Dough after water was added and mixed

Let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.  Because I live in a perpetually freezing house, I usually let my dough rise longer than a recipe says.

Once the dough has risen, roll out and place on a baking sheet.  Put a clean towel over it and let rise for another 10-20 minutes.  Once the dough has sat, brush on some olive oil and toppings of your choice.  I sprinkled mine with pepper, kosher salt, and a little parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Watch it closely at the end.  At 20 minutes my cracker was still a little pale, and the next time I checked it, it was a little darker than I wanted, though it still tasted fine.  Sorry I didn’t snap a picture when it came out of the oven, I forgot and now the crackers are gone.  Once the giant cracker has cooled, break into pieces and serve.

French Onion Soup:

My next recipe comes from the master of all French cooking, the great Julia Child.  This recipe comes from her classic 1961 cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The recipe is actually quite simple, though it takes a bit of time to make, about an hour and a half to two hours.

1/2 pound (or about 5 cups) onions sliced very thin

3 T. Butter

1 T. Oil

Cook the onion with the butter and oil over low heat with the cover on for 15 minutes.  It is important to have a nice heavy pan for this.  I used my Le Creuset, which works perfect.  Note, if you do not want to invest in such an expensive pan, there are other cheaper brands that I have heard work quite well.  Although I have not used it, the Lodge brand, which price about $50 gets good reviews.  Sometimes you can find Le Creuset and other less expensive brands at Marshall’s or TJ Max at a good deal too.  I do think that a large cast iron pot is essential for cooking.  I have two and I use them all the time–I do not think I could possibly be without them to be honest.

1 t. salt

1/4 sugar

Once the onions have cooked for 15 minutes, remove the cover and add the salt and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes.  I did mine for 40.  Once they are done they will look nice and brown, and they will smell just fabulous.

3 T. flour

Add in the flour and stir constantly over heat for three minutes.

2 quarts brown stock (It is important to use stock and not broth.  Broth is much to salty and strong for this recipe)

1/2 cup white wine (a dry wine–nothing too sweet)

salt and pepper to taste

Add the liquid and bring to a boil.  Drop the heat down and let the soup simmer for another 30-40 minutes.

The soup is done at this point.  To garnish, put soup into oven-proof bowls.  The only ones I have are fiesta wear bowls, which worked well.  Put a piece of french bread into each bowl and cover with shredded Swiss cheese.  Pop into the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.  Serve immediately.


Anna and Chris brought a wine that paired amazingly well with the French Onion soup.  Here is a picture of the label; I highly recommend it.

Tarte Noire:

I was awfully excited to make this dessert.  My mom recently bought me a tart pan in exchange for a promise of future desserts.  I looked through my Dorie Greenspan baking book looking for the perfect tart to try for my first tart.  So many looked wonderful, but I finally decided on a simple French classic–the Tarte Noire.  You make this recipe in two steps, first the shell then the filling.  You need a number of hours to complete the recipe, so make it ahead of time.  This recipe is for a 9 inch tart pan.

Sweet Tart Dough (the shell which is essentially a shortbread)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 t. salt

1 stick plus 1T. unsalted butter very cold or frozen cut into peices

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.  Stir up the egg yolk and drop in little by little, pulsing for about 10 seconds after each drop.  Once the dough is starting to come together, pour out on a smooth surface and knead a little bit.  Press into the buttered tart pan (I use Baker’s Joy which always works fantastic though it is actually for bundt pans I believe).  When pressing into the pan make sure you don’t loose the crumbly texture of the dough.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cover the tart with tin foil. The book says you do not need to use pie weights because the dough has been frozen.  I decided to use them anyway.  If you do not have actual pie weights, dry beans work just fine, though sometimes it makes the house smell a little like cooked dry beans.   Bake the crust for 25 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and pie weights and cook for another 8 minutes.  Transfer the shell to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Note: This crust can be used for just about any sweet tart.

The filling:

8 ounces bittersweet chocoate, finely chopped (make sure this is good quality chocolate and not something like Roundy’s brand chocolate chips [although just fine for cookies].  You will really taste the quality of the chocolate in this recipe).

1 c. plus 1 T heavy cream

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof glass bowl

Bring the cream to a boil and pour half over the chopped chocolate.  Stir in small circles in the middle of the bowl working outward until all the chocolate is melted and mixed with the cream.  Add the rest of the cream and mix in the same manner until all is combined.  Stir in the butter pieces one by one until incorporated.  The less you stir, the darker and creamier your mixture (a ganache) will be.

Pour the mixed filling into the tart shell, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.  Remove after the 30 minutes and let sit a room temperature until you are ready to serve the tart.

Here are a couple of picture of the finished product:

It is as easy as that, and in case you are wondering the tart is on a plastic parrot plate in the top picture–very classy.