Leek Bacon and Gruyere Tart

This frenchy-french-french tart has the lusciousness of fall written all over it.  Spectacular for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, it is also glorious with a crisp green salad.  And it freezes really well.  So with it almost taking as much work to make one as to make two, do just that and stock yourself with a fast food gift in your freezer for some bleak mid-winter eve.

This can of course be made vegetarian, and equally good, by omitting the bacon, and substituting two tablespoons of butter, for the bacon fat, for sauteing the leeks.

Leek Bacon and Gruyere Tart
by Catie Schwalb

makes one 9" tart.


Raspberry Clafouti

There are few things that could get me to turn on the oven in the middle of this oppressive heat wave.  However, much to the dismay of my panting dog, clafouti is one of them.

Unlike almost everyone else in the country right now, the red and golden raspberries in our garden are adoring the heat.  They have just started to really take off, offering up several pints a week.  (That is, those that aren't stolen when I'm not looking, right off the thorny branches, by aforementioned panting dog).

Clafouti ("klau-foo-tee") is a both rustic and elegant dessert, with a ridiculously fun to say name, that originated in the Limousin region in the southwest of France.  It was traditionally made with cherries, as they had an abundance they had to figure out what to do with each summer, poor things.  I learned of it from my well-loved, dog-eared copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and was in love from the start.  Further investigation revealed that when made with any other fruit other than the traditional cherries, it is actually not called Clafouti, but "Flaugnarde".  Are you kidding me?  I feel like those rogue Limousinians just came up with the most clumsy sounding word they could to shame the rest of the world into strict adherence to their recipe.  My fancy, summer, whatever-berry-filled french dessert will be called clafouti, so there.


Asparagus Ricotta Galette

As hinted at earlier this week, asparagus is bustin' out all over on our micro-farm.  One of the very first signs of a long season of fresh food from the gardens, this perennial faithfully returns each May, basically without us having to do a thing.  (That's my kind of garden vegetable!)

Since it is never better than right now, we'll eat just-picked asparagus almost every night for dinner for the next several weeks.  Then finally, when we can't stand it anymore, which fortunately is right about when the asparagus season peters out, we'll put our asparagus habit to bed for another 11 months.  Once you've had it this fresh and this good, you are spoiled for anything trying to masquerade as asparagus in the rest of the year.

But it is a challenge to keep it interesting in the dinners ahead.  Even as good as it is, when having asparagus almost nightly, sauteing, grilling, and soup-ing gets old quickly.  This savory galette was a very welcomed change, and was gobbled up quickly last evening.  It would also be wonderful for brunch, or cut in small squares for late spring hors d'oeuvres. I have been on a galette with corners kick this year, but feel free to form it in the more traditional round shape, or any free-form shape that works for you and your stalks.

Asparagus Ricotta Galette, with Caramelized Shallots and Lemon Zest.
By Catie Schwalb

Makes one 9" square or round galette.

1 single pastry crust (half of the recipe posted here, in my "Pie Crust 101" piece)
1 large bunch fresh asparagus, about 8 ounces, washed and woody ends trimmed.
1 1/2 cups shallots, sliced thin (4-5 large shallots)
1 cup ricotta (here's my recipe for homemade fresh ricotta)
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from about one lemon
2 eggs
olive oil, for roasting and sauteing

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Make the pastry crust, as described here, and allow to rest for thirty minutes in the refrigerator.

Lightly toss asparagus with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt.  Roast on a baking sheet in the oven until about half way roasted.  For pencil-thin asparagus this took six minutes.  Roast longer for thicker stalks.  Do not roast all the way, as they will continue to cook when the galette is baked.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 425 F.

In a wide saute pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat.  Add shallots and stir to coat with oil.  Turn heat down to medium-low and slowly cook, stirring every few minutes, until fragrant, light amber, and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Lower the heat if they start to brown too quickly.  Set aside.

Combine ricotta, lemon zest and a good pinch of salt.  Taste, and adjust salt if necessary.  Add one egg and mix thoroughly.

Roll out pastry dough to 1/4 " thin and transfer to a baking sheet, either by gently folding in quarters, or rolling around your rolling pin.  Spread a thin, about 1/4" layer of the ricotta mixture on the dough, leaving at least an inch boarder of dough around all sides.  Top with caramelized shallots, and then asparagus.  Fold dough up and over on all edges and crimp where necessary to hold in place.

For a more golden crust, mix one egg with a tablespoon of water, and using a pastry brush, gently brush perimeter of the crust with the egg wash.

Bake at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.


Ramp Tortilla Recipe

When my brother returned from his junior year in Spain, he craved the egg tortilla espanola found on the counter at most tapas bars and eateries.  It also happened to be one of my favorite recipes I learned in my "egg" lesson in my first weeks in culinary school (thank you Chef Justin).  The farmer who I get my ramps from, Rick Bishop, has mentioned to me a few times how much he likes to cook ramps and eggs together.  With a good amount of my own foraged ramps still left, this turned out to be a great combination.

by Catie

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium to large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
6 ramps, cleaned, sliced thin, keeping leaves and stalks separate
4 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste

Peel potatoes and slice thin, about 1/8 of an inch, and pat dry. Keep the slices as uniform in size as possible.

Beat the 4 eggs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat oil in an 8" pan, non-stick if possible. When oil is hot, fry potato slices until tender and just starting to crisp around the edge. Just before they are finished, add the slices of the ramp stalk, and at the very last few seconds, add the ramp greens.

Remove potato and ramp from the oil, and combine in a bowl with the eggs.

Leave about teaspoon of oil in the pan, bring to medium-high heat, and add the potato, ramp and egg mixture to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the tortilla to cook for about 10 minutes, until mostly set. Gently flip the tortilla to cook for about 5 minutes more on the other side. You may do this by inverting the tortilla onto a plate and then sliding back into the pan if helpful.

When cooked through, remove to a plate, allow to cool slightly, slice and serve. The tortilla is also great served at room temperature, and even cold. Would be lovely for lunch or brunch with some grilled asparagus, crusty bread, and a green salad.

Sweet Potato Pecan Teacakes

Yesterday I received in the mail some adorable vintage aluminum baking molds that I purchased a little while back from the great upcycle shop AntiNu on Etsy.com.  I had sweet potatoes from the market, and got to work.

A handful of years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest did a study comparing the nutrients of vegetables.  Sweet potatoes were ranked the most beneficial of all.  They are super high in fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, and, unlike their regular white potato cousins, are a complex carbohydrate, so won't send your glucose soaring (as much).

The cakes came out beautifully.  Not terribly sweet, they were moist yet airy, and filled the kitchen with warmth and an earthy spice.  They would also be great with brunch, or as a dessert with cream cheese frosting.


adapted from Deborah Madison.

Makes 12 teacakes or muffins

4 TBS melted butter or vegetable oil

1/3 cup molasses

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato

2 whole eggs

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

1 3/4 cups flour (can use a combination of AP flour and whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Oil baking tins.

Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients (melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, mashed sweet potato, eggs, creme fraiche) together in a bowl.  Mix all the dry ingredients, except for pecans, (four, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in separate bowl.  Add the dry mixture to the wet, a little at a time, until evenly combined.  Fold in chopped pecans.  Fill baking tins 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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