Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celebrity goat cheese: tomato tart (and smashed potatoes too)

Let's talk goat cheese.  I love a good artisan goat cheese like Capriole Farms from southern Indiana, but I'm on my second buy of the Celebrity goat cheese trio from Costco and you should grab some too while it's available.  You know how good things mysteriously and maddeningly come and go from Costco.  There are three flavors:  garlic and fine herb, Mediterranean and chipotle.  It's not that they are so unusual, but when I go beyond serving them for a little gracious living with wine and crackers then I have a blog post waiting to be written.

Use flavored goat cheese in grilled cheese with good summer tomatoes, fresh basil and some great multi grain or ciabatta loaf or go all out and get a good foccacia.  I'm telling you, go to Amelia's bakery stand at the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market.  Or grill or bake some cheese toasties with a little olive oil brushed on both sides and a good spread of goat cheese melted on top served with a salad.  Crumble some into your salad with a light vinaigrette or just good olive oil and a nice wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add some to your mac and cheese along with some cheddar, I'm thinking the chipotle in some mac would be fabulous.

I had some nice little purple and yukon gold potatoes from the farm stand, boiled them in salted water until they were fork tender and then drained them.  Leaving them in your saucepan add some goat cheese and a little chicken or vegetable broth and smash it all together.  In the hot pan the cheese will melt and it's going to take every bit of willpower for you not to finish the whole pot.  Sure my potatoes were a little funky and purple but the chipotle goat cheese made them crazy good.

I found this tomato tart recipe in a cookbook review in USA Today or the WSJ or the New York Times when I had gleefully grabbed all three papers from the Delta Sky Club traveling with Greg to Charleston for the Fourth.  I love newspapers.  I love the indulgence of all the papers in one sitting.  Plus I got to read these in first class because my husband is smart enough to give me a turn at an upgrade if he's on the same flight.  The recipe would be perfectly good with plain goat cheese, but the garlic and herb was pretty darn tasty.  I totally splurged on this recipe and bought a really nice all butter frozen puff pastry sheet from Whole Foods for more than double the cost of the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets.  While I was at it, I bought really nice fresh house made ricotta from WF too.  Soooo much better than the grocery version.  Might have to learn to make my own which I read all the time about being super easy.  I grow lots of basil and I had gorgeous tomatoes from the farm stand too.  I served this for a little Monday night dinner party with Dave and Maureen.  Whenever Greg is actually in town we have to keep the party going since it's a rare occasion and will be getting much rarer pretty soon.  I also made a terrific grilled skirt steak salad with marinated and grilled onions, roasted poblanos, red wine oregano vinaigrette and feta.  That post is next.  Not bad dining for a Monday.

Tomato Tart

flour for rolling pastry
one 7-8 ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold per package directions (thaw in refrigerator 2-3 hours)
2 T olive oil, divided
1 C ricotta cheese, drained if fresh
4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (I used Celebrity Herbs and Garlic from Costco trio pack, but plain would be just fine)
2 large eggs
1/4 C fresh chopped basil leaves (a good bunch)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3 medium to large ripe local tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds and drained on towels

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly flour parchment and roll dough into a 10 x 15 inch rectangle.  With the tines of a fork flat or blade of a small knife, press indentations or  cut slits part of the way through the dough about 1 inch from edges all the way around the rectangle.  Prick the center of the rectangle all over with tines of a fork on end to keep the center from rising as high as the sides of the dough rectangle.  Brush the inside of the rectangle with 1 T of the olive oil.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta and goat cheeses with the eggs, fresh basil, 1/2 tsp of the kosher salt and 1/4 tsp or more of freshly ground pepper.   Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the center of the rectangle all the way to the edge of the 1" border.  Top with tomato slices (when I lifted mine from the paper towels, the seeds stayed on the towels which is way easier than coring and seeding the tomatoes), overlapping them a bit.  Drizzle with remaining 1 T of olive oil and lightly sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of kosher or flaky (Maldon) salt across the top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the filling is set.
Cut into squares and serve warm.  Serves 6-8.

tart before baking
after baking, with my filling spilling all over but in a good way

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

salad assignment? Graham's Party Salad

Greg's new VP of Asia gig brings "the band back together" as he is working for Charlie for the third time (for the third company) in the past 16 years.  This happy alliance took us to Detroit (well, Rochester), Cleveland (Hudson) and Kansas City (never actually moved there, but one very good husband commuted there for 7 years, who knew it would go that long?).  And now we're off to Australia as soon as all the stars are aligned and all the logistics fall into place.  Some of our best friends come from what I think of as "the team", the guys that have worked and moved with Greg some since the TDK days 20 some years ago.  Most of them have also been regulars on Greg's annual fishing trip to the boundary waters of Canada.  So many stories, weddings, race weekends, parties and good times with the team.  One of the team members, Graham, happens to also be a great cook and made this salad one night for a big steak dinner party at his house which appears to be 13 years ago because the recipe is printed from an e-mail sent to me at an e-mail address I don't even remember as mine.  Geez.

This is a salad for a party.  It's big and universally liked.  Graham's original recipe uses mayonnaise and it's a well-established fact that I do not knowingly eat mayonnaise (and my mayo radar is always on) unless I love you a lot and you feed it to me and then I'll try a bite of your salad because I love you and you were unaware of my rules.  Thankfully, Greek yogurt works just as well.  The herbs used to flavor the dressing can be from your pantry shelves or your herb garden in season.  You can use whatever vegetables you like.  Graham sliced his bell peppers in big, pretty rings and I always try to do that too because they look amazing.  Mushrooms are great in this salad but honestly, I forgot that and did not buy any for the salad I made this weekend (because why would you actually review a recipe before you go to the market?).  The original recipe calls for layering your salad vegetables in your serving bowl, topping it with a layer of feta and then spreading the dressing evenly across the top.  The bowl is covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated 4-24 hours and then tossed with the croutons just before serving.  I usually just layer it all up and keep the dressing in a jar or covered bowl but both methods work just fine.  

Graham's Party Salad


1 C plain Greek yogurt (fat free or 2%)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese 
1/4 C red wine vinegar 
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4-1/2 C olive oil (start with 1/4 and add more to get your desired creaminess)
3-5 shakes of hot sauce (I used about 1/2 tsp Cholula)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T tamari (reduced sodium soy sauce)
1/2-1 tsp dried herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary) OR small handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped fine
(I know that's a lot of approximations, but you can't really do it wrong with fresh and with dried just start with 1/2 to 1 tsp of each and all a little more to taste).

three heads romaine lettuce, core removed, tough outer leaves removed, torn in pieces, washed and spun dry (love little gem if you can find it because those heads have no dark and tough leaves, I get mine at Costco or Meijer)
two bell peppers cored and cut in big rings
two to three tomatoes cut in pieces or sliced OR a box or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
sweet red onion, thinly sliced
one 10-oz. box sliced mushrooms
1 C or more of crumbled feta cheese
one package nice whole grain garlic and herb croutons

Whisk all dressing ingredients to blend and if making ahead, pour dressing into a mason jar or other pourable container and refrigerate to dress the salad before serving.

Layer salad ingredients in a very large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving right away.  Toss with dressing, feta and croutons and serve immediately.  

Serves 15-18 easily.  Can be topped with grilled chicken, grilled skirt steak or cooked shrimp for an entree and omnivore version.  If you cut the recipe in half, don't reduce all of the seasonings by half maybe just a bit less of everything you whisk into the yogurt, Parmesan, red wine and olive oil.  

dressing ingredients

before whisking

creamy and ready to chill or dress

pepper rings, onion slices, tomato pieces and romaine (it's hiding under there)

ready to cover and chill without dressing