10 April 2011

roasted butternut squash & goat cheese tart

The sun is shining, and there are daffodils -- daffodils! -- blooming outside the window. With as much snow as we've weathered here in New England this winter, I'm amazed, grateful, and so blissfully glad to see those daffodils.

And so, Winter, I bid you adieu. Or rather, à la prochaine.

Next week, I won't want to hear about squashes or stews. And I'll stop dreaming of rich, cheesy casseroles (actually, that's unlikely). So here's one last hurrah.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Cheese Tart

Pâte Brisée shell, par-baked
½ medium butternut squash
2 Tb. olive oil
4 shallots, chopped
¼ c. coconut milk
1 egg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. grated parmesan
½ c. roasted, finely chopped cashews
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese

Remove seeds, etc. from butternut squash half and coat with thin layer of olive oil. Place cut side down in aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes (until very tender). Meanwhile, sautee shallots. Let squash cool, and spoon roasted squash flesh into large bowl. Add sautéed shallots, coconut milk, egg, salt, and cheese. Whisk until combined. Pour into tart shell and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or until set.

06 April 2011

toasted sunflower seeds

A cast iron skillet plus a cup of sunflower seeds plus medium heat for three minutes or so.

Crunchy, golden morsels with an aroma strangely -- tantalizingly -- like fast food French fries. 

I'm tossing them on everything...roasted carrots and quinoa, soba noodles with wilted spinach and goat cheese, Greek yogurt with a glug of maple syrup. 

04 April 2011

the power of pie crust

I used to have this image of the kind of person who made her own pie crusts. And I wanted to be her.

Ms. Homemade Crust used her free time wisely, not only dreaming about baking her own bread or canning her own jam but actually doing it, too. Where did she find the time? The energy?

I hardly know what possessed me that day last November, but I had an entire afternoon looming ahead of me with nothing but a dissertation chapter to write. Naturally, I needed to find something else to do, so I chopped up some butter, slid a bowl of water into the freezer and ransacked my cabinets for something that might substitute for a rolling pin. I emerged with a Thermos. You work with what you have, people.

I pressed the dough into the stone-white pie dish, a wedding gift from our friends Andrea and Colin. I did my best to remove the evidence of my Thermos rolling pin, although the crust still looked like a racetrack for mice.

How I cook is how I conduct my life. I'm always trying to do it better, mostly dissatisfied with whatever I achieve. But then there's this other side of me, a kinder side, who has been there all along but has had to speak more loudly out of necessity these past few months. It's the side that says: "Eh, who cares if it's a little lopsided. Just call it rustic." The side that forgives others easily, instantaneously and urges me to forgive myself with the same unconditional abandon. The side that knows I have what it takes, always.

Four hundred degrees. Nine minutes. My cockeyed crust turned golden just the same, and when I slid it onto the cooling rack, still steaming and sweet-smelling, I had to say it out loud:

"Dude, you just made a pie crust."

Pâte Brisée

Makes dough for two tarts

2 1/2  c. white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

2 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1/2 c. ice water

Martha Stewart's recipe has been fail-proof for me. Delicious, buttery, flakey -- just right, every time. Also, it is really, really easy. Who knew?