Tag Archives: easy

Recipe: Roasted Beet and Red Onion Tart with Feta and Walnuts

14 Mar

I realized a bit late that today is Pi Day, 3/14 (March 14). Our daughter is a huge fan of Pi Day baking, so I wanted to see if I could come up with a savory pie without having to go to the grocery store. Luckily, beets can keep in the fridge for a long, long time, and I recalled that two of them had been living in our crisper drawer for at least a month. Were they still good? Yes, they were. That meant the main ingredient for my pie was set. What goes beautifully with beets? Feta and walnuts. Both were miraculously on hand. As was a red onion that needed to be used, too, lending itself nicely to the red theme. So far, so good. Then I checked the freezer. Excellent: the puff pastry I thought I had in there was there, so I took it out to thaw. Pie ingredients all available!

Like most things involving pre-made puff pastry, this is a pretty easy recipe. The most complicated step (which is not hard, just messy) is peeling and dicing the raw beets. Prepare them on a plastic cutting board or a surface that will not stain. And beware of your hands. I washed my hands with soap and water after peeling each beet, then after dicing each beet, and then a final time for good measure–and my hands escaped unblemished. You could also use gloves. Or you could not worry about it, and then have time (on your hands) to admire a potent natural dye….

Roasted Beet and Red Onion Tart with Feta and Walnuts
6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. (17.3 oz./490 gr., usually comes with two sheets) puff pastry (pasta sfoglia, pâte feuilletée)–thawed
  • Two large raw beets (about 1.1 lb./ 500 gr. total), peeled and diced into medium-sized pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut in half, then each half cut into about 5-6 wedges
  • olive oil, dried thyme
  • 1 cup (135 gr.) feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup (about 118 ml.) heavy cream
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp. dried chives, or 2 tbsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • small handful walnut pieces
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • fresh parsley if available, as garnish

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F / 200 degrees C.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the diced beets with 1 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/4 tsp. thyme.
3. Lightly oil a large baking sheet (I used a half sheet) and spread the beets onto 2/3 of the sheet.
4. Place the red onion wedges on the other 1/3 of the baking sheet. Brush the onion wedges with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and more thyme.

5. Bake the vegetables for about 25-30 minutes or until the onions are soft and look slightly grilled. Carefully remove the onions and place them on a plate to cool. Roast the beets for 10 more minutes until they are soft and golden looking (ie, about 40 minutes total), then place them on a plate to cool slightly, too.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F / 190 C.
7. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper (I used another half sheet pan, but if you do not have one, you can use two smaller baking pans) . Unfold the thawed puff pastry sheets and arrange them on the parchment paper to fill up the pan as best as possible. Note: Depending on the size of your baking pan, this will require some cutting and pressing to fill the pan properly. With a sharp knife, score the edge of the pastry all the way around, creating a 1/2-inch border, but don’t cut the pastry all the way through. Here’s what my pastry looked like when I was done (if you aren’t in the mood for jigsaw puzzles, you could also place a puff pastry sheet on each of two smaller pans):

8. Make the feta base. Combine the feta, cream, egg, garlic, chives, and black pepper, and mash together. Prick the pastry, then spread the feta mixture over it, being carefully not to go past the border.

9. Arrange the beets and onion wedges on top of the feta mixture, sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan), then scatter the walnuts around. Sprinkle dried parsley and more ground pepper over the top. If you really love cheese, you could spoon some extra crumbled feta over the top, too.

10. Bake the tart for 30 minutes or until the edges and bottom are golden. Let cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve with peppery greens (like arugula, though a spring mix would do, too) drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Recipe: Coffee Ricotta Mousse with Gianduia (Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)

19 Feb

PHOTO2
Since moving to Italy, I have become obsessed with fresh, soft ricotta. Ricotta is made from the whey left over from making other cheese (so, the second cooking–and hence the name ricotta, which means twice cooked). It can be made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or buffalo’s milk. Cow’s milk ricotta is more common, but I love the taste and texture of sheep’s milk ricotta (ricotta di pecora), which has a very high fat content and is a bit softer than the cow milk version.

Cow's milk ricotta  Sheep milk ricotta
Despite this slight preference, I have yet to meet a ricotta I do not like. I love it in pastas and in any savory incarnation–but I really, really love it sweet: in the ricotta cakes here in Rome, in Sicilian cannoli, in the Neopolitan sfogliatelle…the list goes on. Basically, I love sweet ricotta here, there, and everywhere. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with making a ricotta dessert at home: mousse. It has been tough work.

This version is currently my husband’s favorite: coffee-flavored with ripples of gianduia, a dark chocolate-hazelnut spread that is a sleek, grown-up version of Nutella. The recipe is for two servings (based on 1/2 c. ricotta per person)–and can easily be multiplied. It yields a subtly flavored mousse that is not overly sweet, but the ingredients can easily be adjusted to your taste. Note: delicious as this is, it has one other thing going for it–it is a very quick dessert that can be made ahead and put in the refrigerator until later.

Coffee Ricotta Mousse with Gianduia
Two servings

Mousse
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. fresh, soft ricotta (preferably sheep’s milk ricotta–but use whatever is the best ricotta you can find)
2 rounded tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. whole milk

Filling
2 heaping tbsp. gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut spread)

Garnish
2 or more whole hazelnuts
chocolate-coated cookie sticks

Pernigotti  Mikado
Preparation
1. Dissolve the instant espresso powder (or instant coffee granules) in the vanilla.
2. Place the remaining mousse ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork until soft and mousse-like; add the coffee/vanilla mixture and whisk to combine, eliminating as many lumps as possible.
3. Leave with a few lumps for a more rustic mousse, or, for a finer texture, use an electric whisk (such as a whisk attachment on an immersion blender) or a hand mixer and whisk until velvety smooth.
4. Place 2 heaping tbsp. mousse in the bottom of each mousse cup, dot with about 1 heaping tsp. gianduia, and swirl slightly. Repeat, for three layers total, using up all remaining ingredients in the final layer.
5. If preparing in advance, cover each mousse cup with aluminum foil and refrigerate.
6. Just before serving, garnish each mousse with a whole hazelnut and chocolate-coated cookie stick.

Mousse1
mousse2