Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Fig, honey and pine nut tart August 31, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Eating local,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 6:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Figs, local honey and pine nuts. Delicious!

Figs, local honey and pine nuts. Delicious!

We had a dinner party last night. The company was fabulous and the food even more so. It was pot luck so I can’t take credit for it entirely, however I can take credit for the desert. I was a little nervous because I hadn’t tried this recipe before and I had to make some modifications due to a shortage of pine nuts and my desire to include the figs. It turned out fabulously however so I thought I’d share the recipe with everyone!

I found a recipe in one of my cook books that I had been wanting to try for some time. It was a honey and pine nut tart and I thought it would be a great way to utilize local ingredients. We buy raw honey from a vendor at our local farmer’s market that has a great flavor. It is from the tamarisk or salt cedar tree and has a very full bodied flavor that I have been dying to try in this desert. Additionally, pinones (pine nuts) are gathered here in New Mexico off the local pinon trees and can be found on road-side stands everywhere.

Lastly, the addition of the figs to the recipe was inspired by the weekly Blogger’s Secret Ingredient. Sadly I was unable to get this posted by the deadline, but I figured I’d go ahead and make the tart anyway given that I was hosting a dinner party and didn’t want to waste all those delicious figs.

So here is the recipe!

Fig, honey and pine nut tart

The first step in this tart is making the crust. You can use any tart crust you’d like, although I would recommend a sweetened dough. I used an old standby from The Joy, slightly modified. The recipe is below:

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 unsalted butter
1 lrg egg yolk
1 1/2 TBSP heavy cream

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl and using a pastry blender, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a large crumb. Add the egg yolk and the heavy cream and mix until it barely comes together. Pour the dough into your tart pan or pie dish and, using your fingers, spread it evenly around the pan creating a crust. Poke some holes in the crust with a fork, then line with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to fill.

For the filling:

1 lb figs, quartered
1/2 c roasted pinon nuts*
1/2 c raw honey
4 TBSP butter
3 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon zest
1 TBSP lemon juice

*I use raw pine nuts that I have toasted in my oven. To do this place the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 3 minutes.

Calimyrna figs.

Calimyrna figs.

Prepared tart prior to adding custard.

Prepared tart prior to adding custard.

Prepare the figs and set them aside. You do not have to remove fig skin! Simply remove the stem and then cut into quarters. Line the blind baked crust with the roasted pine nuts then arrange the fig quarters on top of them. Set this aside while you work on the honey custard.

In a sauce pan, combine the honey and butter and heat over low until the butter starts to melt and the honey softens and begins to get runny. While you are waiting, whisk the three eggs together a few times in a non-reactive bowl. Once the honey and butter are warm, stir a few times to combine then add the vanilla and almond extracts as well as the lemon juice and the lemon zest.

Here is the only tricky part of the process. You want to add the warm honey mixture to the eggs, but you don’t want to cook the eggs in the process. You can let the honey cool a bit, but let it sit too long and it will start to firm up again, which you also don’t want! The best way to solve this problem is to add the honey very slowly while you continuously mix the eggs. Similar to making a hollandaise sauce or a mayonnaise emulsion. It also helps if you drizzle it in from a height of about six – 12 inches. This allows the mixture to cool a bit before it hits the eggs.

Once you have combined the honey with the eggs, pour the mixture over the figs and pine nuts. Bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes until the custard sets.

Serve with mascarpone cheese or creme fresh. The rich fat of these two dairy products will compliment the sweetness of the tart and it will be melt in your mouth good.

Happy Eating!


Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies August 26, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 2:03 pm
Tags: , ,

Almond butter decadence.

Almond butter decadence.

I love cookies, and peanut butter cookies were an all time favorite for me. Due to both the recent safety issues with peanut butter and the fact that my eighteen month old son has yet to be given peanuts I have had to modify the old stand by recipe to create a much more decadent and fabulous almond butter cookie! As promised in this post, here is the recipe for these delicious morsels.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Modified from the Joy of Cooking PB cookie recipe

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 c (approx 5 1/3 TBSP) unsalted butter*, softened
1/2 c sugar
1/2 packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 c salted almond butter*
3 TBSP sunflower oil*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 c chocolate chips

*There are a couple of keys to this recipe. First, use salted almond butter. If you don’t, you’ll have to add salt either via using salted butter or by adding 1/2 tsp to the dry ingredients. This isn’t a big deal, but if you use unsalted almond butter and forget to add salt the taste will change dramatically. Secondly, almond butter seems to be a lot more dense than peanut butter and can dry your batter out, so adding a few tablespoons of sunflower oil is necessary in order to avoid a really dry crumbly cookie – which is fine if you like cookies that crumble, I happen not to!

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until well blended. Add the egg, almond butter, extracts and sunflower oil and whisk several times until everything is incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until blended. Add the chocolate chips.

Using a round tablespoon measure, measure out the cookie dough. Place each round on an un-greased cookie sheet, flattening slightly. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. This makes about 1.5 dozen cookies.

Happy Eating!


Home Made granola – Coconut flavor! August 25, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

Coconut Granola

Coconut Granola

The weather has been chilly and wet for the last few days, and there is nothing I like better! It means I can bake and cook at will without having to worry about making the house so stifling no one can be in it. Aside from a delicious East Indian feast and the worlds most decadent almond butter chocolate chip cookies (recipe forthcoming!) I also made some granola.

Granola is a winter favorite of mine. There is just something about it that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, especially if you pour warm milk over it in the mornings and drink a nice cup of tea while you watch the snow fall…

Pardon me while I fantasize about winter!

Suffice it to say, the first batch of granola for the year is always a big deal for me. And this time I am trying something new, which is also always fun. I finally replaced my toxic chemical cheap coconut oil with some of the good stuff and am making a big batch of coconut granola. Here’s how I’m doing it:

Coconut Granola

4 cups rolled oats (you can soak these before hand if you want, just be sure to rinse them and let them air dry a bit otherwise you’ll have mushy granola)
1/2 c wheat germ
1/4 c demerara sugar (regular brown sugar works as well)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c coconut oil
1/4 c raw local honey (I buy tamarisk honey when it is in season…it has a fabulous flavor!)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 c unsweetened coconut flakes

Mix the oats, wheat germ, salt and sugar together in a bowl until well mixed. Combine the oil, honey and vanilla extract in another bowl, preferably one with a nice pouring spout. Alternatively you can use a measuring cup. While stirring the dry ingredients, slowly pour the liquid over the bowl, mixing the wet and dry together thoroughly. The key is that you want the oil/honey mixture to coat each part of the granola. If you don’t you will end up with big sticky chunks, and other places that aren’t coated at all.

Mixing the wet and dry thoroughly.

Mixing the wet and dry thoroughly.

Jelly Roll pan

Jelly Roll pan

Once the mixture is combined, pour the granola out onto a large jelly-roll pan. You want a pan with nice high edges to contain the granola! Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.

Be sure to check on the granola after about ten minutes and give it a good stir, especially if you have a well seasoned cookie sheet. This will keep the granola from burning on the bottom and make sure it cooks evenly.

When it is finished, take it out and transfer to a large bowl. Add the coconut flakes. Let the granola cool completely before putting it in covered storage, especially if you are storing it in plastic. This will keep it from clumping.

Happy Eating!

This post has been submitted to Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays.


Home made Hot dog buns August 24, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 1:52 pm
Tags: , , ,

I have been experimenting with my sourdough starter a lot recently and decided to try my hand at making some hot dog buns for our bratwurst last night. The resulting bread was amazing in both taste and texture. Incredibly soft and deliciously rich with just a mild sour flavor. If you have an active sourdough starter then you can go ahead and make this recipe without too much work. For those interested in creating a sourdough starter for themselves, go to this post for instructions on how to do so.

Home made hot dog buns:

Make a sponge with your starter by adding 1 c each of water and flour then letting it sit for 4-8 hours or until it has a nice bubbly, spongy consistency.

2 c sponge
3 TBSP sunflower oil
1 TBS salt
2 TBS evaporated cane juice
3 c sifted unbleached all purpose flour

When the sponge is ready, measure out two cups then reserve the rest so as to keep your starter culture. Add the sunflower oil, salt and sugar to the sponge mixture and stir a couple of times with a wooden spoon. Then add the flour in 1/2 c increments, stirring to mix once or twice before adding the next.

Once you have added about 2 cups of flour the dough should come together enough so that you can kneed it, but it will remain sticky. At this point I like to turn it out on a floured board and add the remaining cup a few tablespoons at a time, working it in until adding another. This serves no other purpose than to make it easier on me as I don’t have a mixer with a dough hook. If you have such a tool, you could probably add all three cups before turning the dough out on a board.

Kneed the bread until it becomes velvety soft, then let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size. Due to the nature of sourdough, this takes longer than with active yeast. Usually two hours, depending on temp, location and strength of the starter.

Once the dough has doubled in size you can punch it down and then cut it into shape to make the buns. I sadly did not take pictures of this process so I don’t have a good illustration, however it is fairly straightforward. Basically you want to make the buns slightly smaller than you’d like the finished product, and while the dough won’t stretch very well at this stage, it will roll up into shape quite nicely. Place the buns on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and place in the oven.

Do not preheat! You want the dough to rise again a tad in order to provide a bun-like texture.

Once the buns are in the oven, set it to 350 and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until they begin to brown on top.

The entire batch of dough can yield between 10 and 12 buns depending on how large you make them.

Happy Eating!


Veggie Pie August 23, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Garden Fresh,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 8:19 am
Tags: , ,

I was perusing some food blogs and came across this post about an eggplant casserole. It inspired me to do something with all those miscellaneous vegetables I had in my fridge. I decided that since I had already been contemplating pizza, that I should modify the idea a bit and make a veggie pie. I basically made pizza dough then molded it into a 9 inch spring-form pan, filled it with the veggies and baked. Voila! Veggie pie.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s versatility. It is a fabulous way for you to use up those CSA veggies, or the harvest from your garden. You could also, potentially, use the same techniques and fill the pie with things like beef stew, chicken pot pie, or any other casserole you love. The next time I do it I think I will fill it with ratatouille!

There are a couple of tricks that you need to keep in mind when making this recipe. First, be sure to saute the veggies beforehand, especially those with a high water content such as zucchini or mushrooms. This will decrease the likelihood of the bread getting soggy, and will also shorten your cooking time, guaranteeing that the crust doesn’t dry out or overcook.

The other neat thing about this recipe is that you can use as much or as little of the dough as you like and store the remainder in the fridge.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

1 package yeast dissolved in 1 1/3 c warm water
3 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

Combine the oil and salt to the yeast/water milk and stir. Add the flour one cup at a time until the dough comes together enough to put it out on a board. The dough should NOT be sticky so continue to add flour until you can work it without it sticking to you or the board. Kneed for about 5 – 10 minutes or until it develops a smooth, slightly stretchy, consistency.

Let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Filled pie, prior to baking.

Filled pie, prior to baking.

In the meantime you can work on the filling!

Cube your veggies so they are all about the same size and saute in olive oil or butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. As for seasonings, I used basil and rosemary this time, but a variety of seasonings would work depending on the flavor panel you are going for. The recipe I used last night is as follows:

2 medium zucchini
1 small onion
1/4 c fresh corn kernels (about one large cob)
3 small potatoes
4 oz mushrooms
1/2 c green beans
1 tomato, peeled and quartered
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 fresh basil leaves

Taste the mixture to ensure it has enough flavor before adding it to the bread crust. Layer the bottom of the crust with your favorite cheese, then sprinkle some on top after you have filled it with the veggies.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes and let cool about 5 minutes before removing the spring-form and serving.

Happy Eating!

Finished pie out of it's mold.

Finished pie out of it's mold.


Tomato Bread Soup August 21, 2009

Filed under: Eating local,Garden Fresh,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 9:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

Tomato Abundance!

Tomato Abundance!

The tomatoes keep coming and I have to find something to do with them, so tonight we are having an old favorite; a very rustic and fresh soup that is both filling and light. Sound like a conundrum? Well it is kind of. The soup itself has a very fresh flavor and a lightness due to the simple combination of basil and tomato. The filling part comes in because it is served over a thick slice of sourdough bread. Unfortunately, due to the heat, I did not make the bread this evening, however the soup contains tomatoes, onions and basil from the garden!

Here is the recipe, modified from the original found the The Joy of Cooking:

Tomato Bread Soup

10-15 medium tomatoes, peeled and cored, with their juices
1/4 c chopped white onion
1/3 c loosely packed basil, chopped coarsely
1 tsp minced garlic (approx 2 cloves)
3 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 c fresh chicken stock (recipe below)
1/4 c diced chicken
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
fresh Parmesan for garnish
your favorite sourdough bread, cut into thick slices

Heat the oil in a stock pot and add the onions when hot. Stir and saute until they turn translucent, then add the garlic and the basil leaves. Reduce the heat and let cook for about another two minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching the garlic. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes and stir. Be sure to crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon in order to avoid large chunks. While this soup is rustic, the flavors mix better when the tomatoes are allowed to really release all of those juices. Therefor they should be squished!

Allow the tomatoes, onions, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes to simmer for a few minutes before adding the chicken stock and diced chicken. Let simmer for a few minutes more, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare a bowl by slicing the bread approximately 1/4 inch thick. Some people like to remove the crust, but I think it adds to the flavor to keep it on. Ladle the soup over the bread, top with grated parmesan and serve!

Chicken Stock

6 cups water
1.5 lb raw chicken – I like to use the back and wings, but any part will do. If you want to use the breast meat for shredded chicken, for example, you can make this stock with breasts as long as they have the bone in and the skin on!
1 half onion, skin on OR 1 medium green onion cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp celery seed
2 tsp salt (I like a salty stock, you can use less if you prefer)
5-10 pepper corns
2 4 inch sprigs of fresh thyme
1 4 inch sprig of fresh rosemary

Cook for 1 – 2 hours on very low heat.

The key to this stock is the slow cooking time and the use of the fatty parts of the chicken, including the skin. It creates a very gelatinous, rich broth that is easily clarified and provides a wonderful flavor to the simplest of things, such as the soup above, without overpowering them. Not to mention it’s cold curing properties!

Happy eating!


Frontera Farmer Foundation and Top Chef.

Filed under: Events,Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism — realfoodmama @ 11:39 am

I am a big fan of the reality/competition on Bravo called Top Chef. This summer, in between regular seasons, they aired a new kind of competition: Top Chef Masters.

Instead of selecting a number of up and coming new chefs to win the prize and get jump started into fame, Bravo selected established and very famous chefs to compete against each other for a top prize of $100,000 to go to the charity of their choice. This week the final episode aired and the winner of this windfall was revealed to be Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Grill in Chicago, founder of the Frontera Farmer Foundation and renowned diplomat for Mexican cuisine.

I started watching Rick’s television program last year on PBS and was impressed by his recipes as well as his intimate familiarity with Mexico and the variety of cuisine in the large country. My curiosity about him was piqued again when I received a catalog from Seeds of Change and saw that a page was dedicated to his work with the local farmers in the Chicago area. So it was with much enthusiasm that I watched his rise to the top four on the Bravo program.

In addition to being brain candy entertainment, the participation of Rick Bayless on the cable network show highlighted the efforts being made around the country to support and encourage sustainable farming. By spotlighting his charity Bravo brought awareness of the sustainable farming movement to a much more broad audience. I was thrilled when he won the $100,000 prize and when he accepted the large donation he spoke about how the money will assist farmers supplying the Chicago area with purchasing the necessary equipment in order to create a sustainable agricultural farm.

So congratulations Rick and congratulations to all the farmers who will be benefited by the win!

For information on donating you can contact the foundation:

Frontera Farmer Foundation
445 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
(312) 661-1434

This blog post is my weekly contribution to Fight Back Fridays, hosted by Food Renegade.