Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Asparagus Tart For Spring

One of my favorite early spring foods is asparagus. Those bright green spears not only taste delicious, but their green color welcomes the season. Right now where we live they are also fairly inexpensive. If that is true for you, too, then you might want to make this tart for a meal, even for Easter. The only part that takes any real time is caramelizing the onion. The rest is quick and easy if you use store-bought puff pastry.

We had our tart for dinner along with some lamb chops that our neighbor gifted us with. Both of those foods are spring time treats for me. Now we only need our strawberry stand on Hwy 12 to open and I'll be a happy camper.

Asparagus Tart with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

Serves 4-6    An original Elle recipe

1 large yellow onion, peeled, ends removed, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese (I used Kite Hill almond milk ricotta)
1 medium to large egg
grated zest from half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (I used Pepperidge Farm)
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp (can be done in the microwave using scrunched paper towels above and below)
6-8 fresh asparagus stalks, washed, dried and trimmed
egg wash (1 egg combined with 1 tablespoon water)

In a large skillet caramelize the onions in the olive oil by cooking them slowly, stirring often, over medium-low heat, until the onions are golden brown or a been deeper brown. There will be leftovers for another use. Once cooked, remove from pan, spread out on a plate, and cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Set aside.

On a baking sheet place a piece of parchment paper or foil or a Silpat silicone mat. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Sprinkle a clean work surface lightly with flour and spread it to a thin layer. Open the thawed puff pastry to one layer on that prepared surface. Use a sharp knife to cut a one-inch strip off the puff pastry on two facing sides. Dampen that edge in for an inch with water, then place the cut strip on top. You will have a rectangle with facing ends that have an extra layer one-inch wide and the opposite facing ends without.

Spread the ricotta cheese mixture in an even layer between the two built up ends. Using a small offset spatula works well. Leave about an inch without cheese at the un-built up ends, too. Place about 1/3 cup cooled caramelized onion on top of the cheese mixture, spreading it as evenly as possible. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle evenly over the onion. Place the asparagus in a row, starting at one of the raised ends and finishing at the other raised edge. Brush some egg wash, using a pastry brush, on top of the raised edges and at the exposed ends of the other sides, being careful to not let the egg run down the sides.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree F. oven until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

2017 Blogging

Although many things happened in 2017, for a lot of us here in the North Bay area of northern California, the event that is most significant is the major wildfire that swept from Calistoga to Santa Rosa in the wee hours of the morning in mid-October of 2017. Many people died. Hundreds of building, most of them homes, were wiped out in the space of hours, or an even shorter time. The devastation was unlike anything that most of us had ever seen. Even now, years later, people who lost their homes are still rebuilding and not yet moved into their new places, although some have, especially in Coffey Park. Some will never return and have sold the land or are trying to.  It was also a year when death claimed a number of close friends and also my youngest sister. We also lost Merlin (above), one of my favorite cats. A tough year, but also one with good food, the joy of family, the solace of the garden, the distraction of projects and travel, and renewal through volunteering. This will be a long post, but there are photos and lots of recipe links.

Leading up to October there were some great recipes. In January we had flooding in the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa, some power outages and a post about life as a tapestry. There were also hearty and/or classic dishes like my favorite bean soup, the Country Bean and Cabbage Soup

my Mom's recipe for Corn Bread made from scratch and baked in a cast iron skillet, 

a recipe for a great Devils Food Cake.

Also in the bread category are Fouace Nantaise (way above), which are French dinner rolls - they are great with jam, too, and, for tea time, there is a tea bread called Tea Brack.

February is my birthday month, but I wasn't feeling well, so no typical birthday cake. The month did include a delightful Italian Lemon Loaf Cake

some Paleo Pork Meatballs

and a Roasted Cranberry Coq au Vin.

March is often a busy month as things get started in the garden, Sweetie has a birthday, and the weather changes from cold and blustery to warm and spring-like and back a few times. I made one of my all-time favorite chicken recipes, Lemon Quick Chick

There was also a fragrant great Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread

a No-Knead Bread baked in a pot that had sourdough starter and some Irish whole-meal flour, a great Apricot Tart using canned apricots and frangipane, 

Asparagus Flatbread

and a lovely Date-Pecan Soda Bread.

April started off with an old favorite, Spanish Chicken and Rice, a recipe I grew up with. Sweetie loves it and I like to make it when I want to make a casserole ahead and chill it since it's the kind of recipe that improves in flavor with a bit of time and is best the next night after you made it. Once served it went so fast that I didn't get a good photo! 

Hot Cross Buns are great at Easter or anytime really. 

I enjoyed my first taste of Lamingtons in Australia years ago. In April of 2017 I actually made them myself. Mine were better. 

The month ended with Sweetie launching off of his tipping tractor. On a slight hillside the tractor hit the above ground root of an apple tree and started tipping over. He was quick witted and sprung out before it pinned him, but he was injured with a sprained rib or two. Now we have our neighbor's sheep keeping that area mowed. Much better!

May is often a lovely month and this year was no different. We took a trip to visit family in San Francisco on Derby Day and I brought along some delicious fresh Raspberry Blondies bar cookies. 

I fancied up my favorite Onion Tart by adding fig jam and prosciutto. 

I finally posted my often-requested Guacamole recipe. One neighbor likes it so much that when we have our porch time together, I make a bowl of it just for him, then the rest of us share another bowl. 

Another great recipe is for a Lime and Poppy Seed Syrup Cake...not my own recipe but a good one. 

Sweetie loves pies and tarts and he really liked the Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Tart that I made in late May.

In June our darling daughter started the month by being guest blogger with her take on Shrimp Spring Rolls...the Vietnamese kind. 

The Ollalieberries were such heavy producers that I made an Ollalieberry Pie to die for. 

Later in May I also made a berry-rich shake called a Berry Blast

Since much of June was spent in the garden, there weren't very many posts.

July started off with a recipe for Fruit Hand Pies, little turnovers with two fillings, one peach-blackberry and the other raspberry. Great for picnics! 

The garden produced some lovely poppies which I posted photos of, and I posted about traditional Toll House Cookies, including a tip for making them taste even better. 

Our summer project was replacing Grandma's old claw foot tub with a nice shower in the farmhouse. Sweetie was rewarded with a nice Peach Pie mini. 

A peach and some Santa Rosa plums from our tree were the sweet fruits in a lovely Madeira Cake that was good as a dinner dessert, but would work well as a coffee cake, too.

In August I went south to visit our daughter in the LA area. One of the recipes we made was for Party Cookies, a super-sized chocolate chip-oatmeal cookie. Due to the pandemic we haven't had any parties for over a year, but Straight Shooter is finally coming to visit in a couple of weeks (yay for the vaccine!) so maybe I'll mix up a batch to welcome him back. 

One of the favorite brunch dishes in Manhattan Beach is avocado toast. Once I got home I baked a nice Sourdough Seedy Braid that had pecans in it too. It made the perfect base for avocado toast. 

July brings all sorts of delicious veggies in the garden. A great way to enjoy them (plus some steamed potatoes and maybe a bit of grilled fish) is to have an Aioli Feast. Aioli is a home-made garlic mayonnaise which goes well with so many things. If you have a blender or food processor it's easy to make. 

Another great dish using garden produce is a Hot Zucchini with Corn and Peppers. If you add some beans, it a wonderful Vegan dish that celebrates summer.

As usual, August was hot at the end and September keep the theme going. Lots of salads were consumed and I posted a recipe for a nice Balsamic Mustard Dressing to toss with those salad greens. 

When the zucchini plants over-produced, I made my favorite Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Toward the end of the month we started seeing winter squash in the market, so I made roasted Butternut Squash and Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup.

The Cake Slice Bakers choices included Linzer Torte in September and I love that, so I made pretty as well as delicious. 

We finished out the month with a mini Irish Soda Bread with Golden Raisins that I made for my older brother when I visited him in Denver for his birthday.

October brought cooler evenings even if the days were still quite hot. I baked Chicken Stew with a Pastry Crust in my cast iron skillet for dinner and explain that it's really a quick dish if you have pre-made pastry and a pre-cooked chicken. 

A few days later the winds rose, the air was dry, and we had the awful, terrifying wildfire described at the top of the post. About a week later I baked some Amazing Overnight Gingerbread Waffles.  A hearty way to cheer ourselves up.

 The Bread Baking Babes baked great seasonal Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread which I turned into dinner rolls, and a braid too.

 The Cake Slice Bakers choice was Apricot Kugelhopf but it didn't work out well for me, so no link. I do want you to try my easy way of cooking Fish Fillets in the Microwave. You have to like garlic and fish, but it's quick and makes it difficult to overcook your fish. That post was also the blog's 11th anniversary.

In November we visited family on the East Coast. One of the dishes I made there was Baked Apples, a classic for a reason.

 Another classic made once we were home was Multi-Grain Cowboy Cookies

The Bread Baking Babes baked English Muffins and they did, indeed, have plenty of nooks and crannies.  

The rest of the month included Beth leaving us, and a sad but beautiful Thanksgiving in LA.

December started with a tea party where we ate, among other things, Avocado Toasts with Smoked Salmon

Remember those Baked Apples from November? Well now you can top them with Proper English Pouring Custard. You could even serve it with the Bread Baking Babes Champagne Baba

For the annual Cioppino Feed in Berkeley I baked the Big Daddy Chocolate Cake but there is no recipe posted, so no link. Last of all there is a recipe for Turkey a la King, a favorite of my Mom's for using up leftover turkey after the holidays. We made it through the year.

 Hope you found a recipe or two to try.