Monday, August 22, 2011

Rustic Cherry Tarts in Cardamom Pastry

Remember these?  This is the bowl of halved, and then slightly sugared cherries that resulted from my kitchen exploits last week, as I figured out how to prepare cherries for tarts using the materials I happened to have on hand in my kitchen.

I did, indeed, actually make those tarts later that day, using a concoction of flavors that's been in my head for months now.  Basically the combination of cherry and cardamom.

Cardamom, you are a complicated spice and I must admit that I don't fully understand you right now.  You have an exotic name, and I rather like your speckled-y soft appearance, and your scent, like a flower's, then like a medicine's, then sweet, then spicy ... well - it's all very intriguing.  And I can't quite figure it out, but I want to spend some time with you and find out more.   

These tarts look simple enough, right?  Make a pate brise, toss some cherries in the center and fold into tarts, right?

What what made these really special, though, was the little hint of that je ne sais quoi, aka cardamom that was in them.  Okay, and a little nutmeg, too.  Not to mention all that butter.  Sigh.

Anyway, I just want to share.

I started off with an adapted recipe for the pastry that I found on the blog Secret Ingredient.  As usual, I posted the whole recipe below in case any of ya'll want to try it out.      

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Halve and Pit Cherries, in inventive urban kitchen fashion

Cherries are in season, and I've had a hankering for cherry tarts for a while now.

I think it's something to do with my oft-resurfacing desire for the currant pies and tarts of my adolescence in Eastern Europe, and I can never find those in this country.  Cherries are kind of similar in flavor ... not to knock fresh American cherries, which are, of course, delicious in their own right.

Anyway, I found myself with all this going on inside, plus a big sieve full of cherries in my refrigerator today, and I decided it was time.

Yet a problem arose, a problem I have fairly often, and that is that I had this food in mind to make, but realized that I didn't really have all the kitchen tools to use that would make creating the food the most straightforward process.  I credit this to the rather haphazard way that my kitchen has been stocked.  Basically, when I'm going to make something new, I a) buy the materials I need and add them to my stockpile, as long as said materials aren't too hefty for my graduate student budget, b) improvise with what I have if I can research or invent an alternative solution (which has produced knowledge about a host of foods in the pantry that could be used as pastry weights, for example), or c) make something else if options a) and b) aren't feasible.

I know you can get an actual cherry-pitting device which seems to make doing the task super easy.  But do you think I have that very specific device for a fruit that's only in season for barely a few weeks every year?  Of course not.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Willie's Guacamole, and a little pico de gallo

Everyone!  I want to share something with the big wide world today.  It's this guacamole.

It is so good.  And I'm not patting myself on the back saying that, either, because I didn't make it - my friend Willie did.

Imagine that last time you felt just so, so famished, like you needed to eat a bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce and fries to stick to that empty stomach ... (Oh, am I the only one who gets that??).  That's how a bunch of Willie's and my friends felt after a day of gallivanting around town in Maine while we were up there on a long weekend together last year.

We came back to the house to find a huge bowl of fresh guacamole that Willie and Anna had just made, along with a creamy potato-beet salad (another recipe for another time), which were supposed to be for dinner a few hours later.  But we ate all of it in practically no time at all.  Anna and Willie were nice and just let us all have at it.     

Willie tells me that his mom in El Salvador used to make guacamole this way, and that's how it started.  They used to use an herb that grew in their garden in El Salvador, which he's never seen here in the U.S.  But the cilantro seems to work well, here, as a substitute.  

This year in Maine Willie was nice enough to give me a guacamole-making lesson (let's face it - I'd been waiting on it for a year), now formally documented in this post.  Here goes.  Tell me if you love this guacamole as much as my crowd does. 

You're going to need 5 avocados, 2 medium-large tomatoes, a bunch of cilantro, 1 large red onion, 6 hard-boiled eggs, 2 radishes, 1 small jalapeno pepper, 1 lime (or lemon if you forget to buy a lime like we did), and some salt and pepper.