Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blueberry and Summer Peach Galette with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Oh baby, look at that oozing berry juice spilling out of the galette!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Light, summery, refreshing, beautiful. This fruit galette is just heaven-- beautiful blues and purples from the blueberries and reds and orange colors from the peaches. The thin flaky crust serves as the perfect bed for the sweet juicy fruit. Paired with some dang good homemade vanilla bean ice cream, all I have to say is "mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm!"

A galette is a thin, free-form open-face tart. The dough is not sweet and can be used for savory tarts as well as dessert. Once you make the dough, the filling is your choice, pretty much anything goes.




...I am at a loss for words. Just make it, eat it, share it, enjoy it.

Blueberry and Summer Peach Galette

adapted from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen

6 to 8 servings

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 tarts. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or in the freezer for several months

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice-cold water

3-4 medium peaches
1 cup of blueberries
1 egg

If making the crust by hand: Measure the flour and salt (if including) into a bowl. The butter should be cold and firm, but not hard. Cut into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes and put about half of it into the bowl. Work it into the flour with your fingertips, lightly rubbing and breaking the flour-coated pieces of butter into small bits, until the mixture is roughly the texture of oatmeal or cornmeal. Add the rest of the butter and work it quickly into the dough until the pieces of butter are about half of their original size. Dribble the water into the dough while tossing the mixture with a fork. Keep adding water only until the dough begins to clumo and hold together when you squeeze a handful. You may not need the full 1/2 cup. Divide the dough into two and gather each part into a ball. Wrap each ball in plastic and flatten it into a disk. Let the dough rest, refrigerated, for an hour or so (I like to do it the night before...). You may want to freeze the second disk of dough for future use.

If you are using an electric mixer: Just follow the above directions but instead of using your fingers to incorporate the butter, use your fingers to turn on your mixer (use the paddle attachment).

When ready to make the tart: Let the dough warm up at room temperature for 15 minutes or so and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate while preparing the fruit.

Peel and slice the peaches (or whatever fruit you use) and toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar. I added blueberries to this, too. Freely pile the fruit in the center of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border of dough around the whole circumference. Fold the dough over up over the fruit, and brush the rim of the dough lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle sugar over the dough and fruit; use more or less, depending on the tartness of the fruit.

Bake in the lower part of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the pastry is golden brown and slightly caramelized at the edges. Slide the tart off the pan to cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature--with softly whipped cream or homemade ice cream, if you like.

Some notes:

If you are using juicy stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums: to help absorb the juices sprinkle a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 tablespoon ground almonds (optional) on the pastry before topping with the fruit.

Apple galette is delicious when you spread the rolled-out dough with apricot jam before arranging the apples on top. After baking, brush the apples with warm apricot jam for a beautiful glaze.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dinner at Home: Simple, Summery, and Seasonal Steak and Salads

After two months of stop and go (but mostly go) traveling, from Europe back to the USA and down to Argentina and back, I admit, it's nice to be home. It is nice to be home and see my family and eat dinner outside in the backyard on a warm summer evening.

The menu? Simple, summery, and seasonal:

-Mom's steak on the grill
-Grilled fresh tomatoes from the garden with Parmesan cheese
-Leftover crispy oven-baked chopped potatoes
-My tomato, cucumber, and hericot vert salad with feta cheese
-My shaved zucchini salad with Parmesan and pine nuts

For dessert? Blueberry and Summer Peach Galette with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: Say it, just say it. I know, I am incredible.

The tomato, cucumber, and hericot vert salad with feta cheese can be made in 10 minutes or less. The salad was inspired by my stay in Paris with my good friend Alex. The salad requires no dressing; I like to emphasize the sweet flavor of the produce and the salty cheese. The salad is perfect for summer.

And yes, I used canned green beans, but hey, they're French-style! I quite like how soft and thin the green beans are. So sue me. They taste great, even if they are from a can.

Tomato, Cucumber, and Hericot Vert Salad with Feta Cheese

serves 4, more or less

3 tomatoes, preferably from the garden
2 Persian cucumbers
1 can of French-style green beans or hericot vert
1/2 block of Feta cheese, cut into cubes or crumbled

1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges and put them into a salad bowl.
2. Slice the cucumbers in half the long way and again in half along the equator. Very thinly slice the cucumbers into a julienne. Put into the salad bowl.
3. Open the can of hericot vert and drain. Add to the salad bowl.
4. Toss the cubed or crumbled cheese into the salad.
5. Eat and enjoy.

The shaved zucchini salad is another lovely and light treat that epitomizes summer elegance and simplicity. No cooking necessary. I absolutely love all of the textures and flavors going on--long, thin zucchini ribbons contrasted with tiny crunchy nuts, delicate slivers of cheese, and a salty tangy dressing.

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Bon Appetit Magazine August 2010


1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon course kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 pounds of medium zucchini, trimmed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Small wedge of Parmesan cheese

**RECIPE NOTE: I did not have fresh basil on hand (I know, shame on me) so I just omitted it. I also added some fresh sliced avocado because, well, I love avocados and why not?!


Whisk oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in a small bowl to blend. Set dressing aside.

Using vegetable peeler or V-slicer and working from top to bottom of each zucchini, slice zucchini into ribbons (about 1/16 inch thick). Place ribbons in a large bowl. Add basil and nuts (and avocado if you are like me). Drizzle the dressing on and in the salad. Using the vegetable peeler, shave strips from the Parmesan wedge over the salad.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some Odds n' Ends From Amsterdam

Amsterdam in June feels like February in California--COLD. Thus, after an afternoon of meandering throughout town, a tall glass of hot chocolate was in order.

My buddy Sam and poked our heads into the closest cafe to grab a glass of the good stuff and a warm safe-haven from the chilly weather.

Sam modeling with the hot chocolate

Since I was only in Amsterdam for one day, I did not have a chance to taste all of the typical Amsterdam dishes such as: raw herring, Dutch pancakes (similar to a French crepe), poffertjes (much smaller than Dutch pancakes, and they are puffed and served with butter and powdered sugar) and licorice. I did, however, taste stroopwafels. Oh stroopwafels, how I love thee.

Two buttery thin waffle cookies sandwiched together with a layer of thick syrupy honey molasses. Oh man, so freaking yummy. Very dense though, upon eating more than one stroopwafel, you can definitely feel your belly get heavy.

I also went to the Heineken Brewery, where I got at least 3 beers to sample. I participated in a beer tasting where the "expert" taught me a bit about foam and presentation of the beer. Also, I learned that the beer is actually 95% water and the rest is a combination of hops, barely, and yeast. I got to go into a room that simulated the experience of a beer being bottled--the room shook and we got splashed a bit. Silly, kitschy, fun.

Speaking of silly, kitschy, and fun...I went on a "booze cruise" with my traveling group and yes, it is what you think it is. A lovely little cruise along the canals of Amsterdam complete with endless wine and beer. To kick off the cruise, we were given little bottles of Flugel.

According to this website, "Flugel combines vodka with the taste of black currant and the energy boost of guarana, B vitamins, and caffeine. This “healthy” vodka is currently available in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. It is targeted to youth partygoers. The tiny 20ml bottle is actually the size of your palm, and could be easily concealed inside a pocket. The Flugel contains 10 percent alcohol by volume."

Oh, and we also got to munch on these yummy little pastry snacks while sipping on our wine, beer, and Flugel...

A captured moment: the blonde bombshells with their drinks and pastry snacks

For dinner, we ate at a floating Chinese restaurant, the Sea Palace. Honestly, I was quite disappointed. Ok, the decor was nice but I was not impressed with the food at all. It just did not get me excited and it tasted sub-par. The rice was super buttery, too, which I do not usually expect from a Chinese style rice, even for fried rice. I guess I am just spoiled with good Chinese food back in the U.S.? Oh well, it was an experience nonetheless.

Stepping outside of Amsterdam for a morning, we visited the quaint village of Edam. We visited a cheese and clog shop, two very significant symbols for this town and for the Netherlands in general.

First, this adorable woman gave us an overview of how they make their cheese...(we got to taste like 10 different cheeses, too!).

And boy oh boy did it smell strongly of cheese in there!

Then, this studly man demonstrated the skillful art of clog-making. He makes it look so easy.

Stylish, eh?

There were clogs everywhere used for everything including cigarette ashtrays!

The town of Edam was small but lovely. Cheese n' clogs aside, I had a spectacular day riding "granny bikes" around the village.

The famous town of Pisa

There you have it, folks. The leaning tower of Pisa:

The main drag of the town of Pisa is small and jam-packed with tourists and open shops on the street selling souvenirs and...well, pasta shaped like this:

If you can't see what I am talking about, take a closer look...

Yes Pisa, you are great.

A Quick Glimpse of Roma

Roma. Rome. Italy. I saw pretty much all of the touristy sites of Rome in just about 12 hours. 12 hours of non-stop walking, photo-snapping, historical site-seeing Italian craziness.

Ok so I was in Roma for more than 12 hours. I was there for about a day and a half, which really is not much. The first night I did a quick walking tour where I saw the Spanish steps, the Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon, and some swanky chic shops amongst other famous Roman hallmarks. Oh yes, and there were people roasting chestnuts on the streets!

The next day began with a tour of the fascinating and huuuugeee Vatican City complete with St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and quite possibly my favorite part...a statue of this lady, a woman of great fertility as symbolized by her many supple breasts:

With a full day still ahead of us, we stopped for a quick bite of lunch before moving on to more sites. A quick bite of cheap, good pizza to-go. I can't even remember the name of the place. You choose your flavor, and you pay by the weight. The Vatican took a lot out of me and I was super hungry so I ate 5 fairly large squares. I was full for hours and hours afterward.

Cheese with Prosciutto and Wilted Greens

Roasted Eggplant with Herbs

After lunch, it was off to the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Catacombs...Then, we browsed around one favorite places: the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, otherwise known as the "wedding cake." I think the reason I like it so much is because it is called the "wedding cake," and fittingly so, it really does look like a cake:

After a full day in the sweltering sun, it suddenly started to pour rain. Luckily my traveling companions and I ducked in to a quaint little restaurant at just the right time. We were seated outside under a covered awning, which was quite nice because we were sitting and we were dry and we could watch the rain trickle down all around us.

Bring on the drinks! Bright red Campari and Italian Prosecco took the edge off our sore bodies and set the mood for a lovely dinner.

I ordered a simple pasta dish--tonarelli shaped pasta with (mostly butter) black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Yeahhh baby!

One of my dining companions ordered another simple pasta dish...spaghetti pomodoro with fresh basil and a fried noodle on top. In case you haven't got the message yet, simple is the name of the game here.

So there you have it, a quick glimpse of Roma. Ciao tutti!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Romantic Meal In Venice, Italy

Italy Day 1. After sitting on a bus all day with 50 other young tourists like myself, I was ready to hop off and paint the town of Venice. We only had a few hours to spend in the famously romantic and water-way filled town. Thus, our time spent was jam-packed.

First, a walking tour...Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), the Campanille, churches, palaces, waterways, old buildings, the Rialto bridge, boats...oh yes, and lots of pigeons, tourists, and HOOOOTTT weather.

I very much enjoyed stumbling upon some vibrant produce stands in Venice...

We also took a little gondola ride complete with bubbling Italian champagne (Prosecco) and peach bellinis! Too bad that our boat guide did not sing for us; actually he did seem to enjoy his job very much at much for romantic, eh? Apparently though, these men are the only men who can paddle and steer with one oar standing up. Neat.

I was feeling much more relaxed after the gondola ride and a few glasses of bubbly. The sun was setting and the air was still and slightly cooler. While the rest of the group when off to an extravagant dinner, I ducked out with these two lovely ladies to have our own quiet meal.

We were hungry! Having not really eaten much all day, I was ready to chow down Italian-style. And yes, our table had red and white checkered table cloths.

The ladies ordered two kinds of pasta: simple spaghetti al pomodoro and a penne al pesto.

I ordered a pizza margherita which is pretty much a cheese pizza with tomato and basil. They were not too generous with the basil, but it was still very good. Simple.

They brought the pizza out as an entire pie, uncut. I had to cut it myself, which was actually quite fun. Except for a few pieces that I made my dining companions taste, I easily finished the whole thing and felt extremely satisfied. And I still had room for tiramisu and a coffee.

What a treat to finish off a meal with a milky frothy espresso. Mmm so decadent and so perfect.

You know that I like what I am eating when I am moaning out loud...and this tiramisu hit the spot. It was not your typical tiramisu made with marscarpone cheese. Instead, it had ice cream between the layers of espresso soaked lady fingers. Nevertheless, this was bellisimo. Grazie!

NOTE: In Italy, one must pay for water and bread when dining out at a restaurant. Also, one must ask for the bill, the waiter will never come back unless you ask. And tipping? One euro is sufficient, apparently it is seen as strange if a larger tip is left.