Mushroom and Taleggio Puff Pastry Tart

tray of mushroom and taleggio puff pastry on an orange back drop

Mushrooms and Taleggio go together like, well, just about any culinary copacetic pairing you can think of. The woodsiness of the cremini mushrooms in this recipe are a natural foil for the fruity notes of the cheese and the rind adds a subtle earthy dimension that just makes the entire final product an entirely worthwhile ordeal. I think that the fresh parsley and basil are important to the recipe, they add a bright lift to some of the heavier tasting ingredients and a delightful contrast in texture. I made this on Sunday with the intention of having leftovers, but my friend Lela and I ate the entire thing and washed it down with a beautiful berry ripe Barbera and limoncello cocktails for dessert. This recipe is perfect cut up into small squares as an addition to brunch and also as an easy supper with a lemon and olive oil dressed salad.

mushroom and taleggio puff pastry tart:

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

3 cloves of garlic, minced

5 scallions, green and white parts roughly chopped

Generous glug of olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

150-200 g Taleggio, torn into small pieces (rind included)

Lots of fresh basil and parsley, snipped with scissors into a tangle of green

I sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Sauté the cremini mushrooms, garlic, and scallions in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are soft and starting to brown. Wait until the last minute of cooking before adding the salt and pepper to prevent the mushrooms from releasing too much liquid. Place the cooked mushroom mixture in a sieve and allow to drain for at least a half hour.

3. Prepare the puff pastry by laying it on a parchment lined baking sheet and pricking holes in the dough with a fork, coming up to about an inch away from the perimeter of the pastry (this ensures that the border of the puff pastry will rise higher than the centre, where the mushrooms will go). Par-bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven. Using a pastry brush, wash the puff pastry with egg.

4. Evenly spread the mushroom mixture over the puff pastry and top with the pieces of Taleggio. Bake for another 15-20 minutes before removing. Cover the mushroom tart with a lavish amount of fresh green herbs and more cracked pepper.

Sometimes you just need to listen to depressing music by The Bee Gees when you’re feeling sad.

The Bee Gees – Nights on Broadway

Yam Hash Browns and Eggs Breakfast on Salad Greens

DSC_7902

The possibilities and inspirations behind the salads I make are near endless. I get so much pleasure from composing a rainbow plate of salad from seemingly random combinations of ingredients. I have a salad almost everyday for lunch and am always bringing out containers of grated carrots and beets, deeply green leaves, pomegranate seeds, pickled shallots, pitted Castelvetrano and Niçoises olives, leftover roasted vegetables from the night before, toasted nuts and seeds, etc. to assemble an impromptu salad at the kitchen table where I eat my lunch at work. Perhaps it’s a placebo effect, but when I eat salads regularly I feel like I’m genuinely doing something nice for my body. It’s such a good feeling to experience a revitalized sensation of lightness after eating a gigantic meal of plants and other nutritious ingredients in their most honest state. Lately I have been combining my two favourite meals, breakfast and a big salad, into a sort of hybrid series of recipes. These yam hash browns couldn’t be simpler to make and can easily be adjusted in terms of quantity depending on the number of people you’re cooking for.

yam hash browns and eggs breakfast on salad greens:

1 yam, washed and cut into small pieces (leave the peel on)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. dried dill

Kosher salt to taste

2 cups of mixed salad greens, my favourite combination right now is spinach, iceberg lettuce, and Italian flat-leaf parsley

5 or so cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 lemon, juiced

Drizzle of olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper

1-2 eggs, either poached, soft-boiled, or fried

*Lately when I make this I have been using some smoked Maldon sea salt as a finishing touch, this adds a wonderful subtle flavour reminiscent of the bacon that so often accompanies eggs.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the yam on a small baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, stirring to coat. Add the chili powder, dill, and salt and stir once again until evenly distributed. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned and crispy on the outside.

2. In a large bowl toss together the salad greens, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and a small pinch of salt. Arrange on a large plate, adding the halved tomatoes to the salad in a small mound.

3. Pile the baked yam hash browns beside the tomatoes and cover with an egg (or two) before finishing with smoked sea salt if you have it, although kosher salt would do just fine.

I’m going to see Slowdive in November and I am !!so!! excited about it (especially because I just found out that Low are going to be the openers! As a result I’m in full shoegaze British invasion mode. Lush reminds me of some of My Bloody Valentine’s  more obvious pop songs and are correspondingly lovely and ethereal.

Lush – For Love

Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats

pumpkin oatmeal

If there’s anything I can do to make breakfast more appealing, I’ll do it. It was difficult to learn to love breakfast, I like sleeping late and eating breakfast always seemed like a waste of precious sleeping time. I had to bribe myself out of bed each morning by promising my future morning self a new and interesting breakfast for each day of the week. These oats are like the softest, warmest blanket you can imagine, only you can eat this metaphorical blanket. The addition of milk at the end ensures a truly creamy oatmeal; I’ve experimented with dairy milk or cream, coconut milk, and vanilla almond milk and all of them have produced equally luxurious results. I’m so glad this recipe found its way into my repertoire because I can eat this 5 days a week, which is ideal because depending on my appetite this makes enough for 3-5 breakfasts. I keep the leftover cooked oatmeal in a container in the fridge and scoop out as needed (don’t pay attention to the odd gelatinous texture it has developed) and heat over medium heat with 1/2 cup of milk, stirring to combine. The oats will eventually absorb the milk and they’ll taste just as good as they did on the first day they were made.

pumpkin steel cut oats:

1 cup of steel cut oats

4 cups of water

Pinch of salt

2 Tbsp. chia seeds (only if you have some in your cupboard, this will still taste wonderful without the seeds)

3/4 cup of pureed pumpkin, canned or fresh

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 cup of milk

1/4 cup of roasted pepitas

Dark brown sugar, to taste

Additional milk for topping the oatmeal

1. Dry toast the steel cut oats in a wide rimmed pan over medium-high heat until they begin to turn a dark golden colour. Add the water and pinch of salt.

2. Let the oats come to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium low and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Once the oats taste like they’re done cooking (they should have a dense and chewy mouthfeel) add the chia seeds, pumpkin, spices, and milk. Stir until the milk has been completely absorbed.

4. Transfer the hot oatmeal to waiting shallow bowls and finish with extra milk, roasted pepitas, and brown sugar. Eat and experience comfort before your day begins.

I like to begin my autumn days with hazy dreamy music, it seems to make the transition from an extra warm bed to getting ready in a dark apartment more manageable. Beach Fossils sound like a happy marriage of shoegaze and emo pop recorded deep underwater, adding to the still sleepy protection from the impending day.

Beach Fossils – Shallow

Pineapple and Carrot Muffins

Pineapple and carrot muffins (2)

These pineapple and carrot muffins are simple little muffins that aren’t meant to display any degree of baking showmanship. Rather, their purpose is to invoke feelings of comfort and nostalgia without any fuss or complication. This is the recipe at its most basic; feel free to add shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds, walnut pieces, currants, whole dried cherries or blueberries, finely diced dried apricots or pineapple, grated apple, etc., etc.. However I end up making them I always end up individually wrapping and then freezing at least half of the recipe, this way I can take them out the night before and toast them for breakfast with honey and Earl Grey tea.

pineapple and carrot muffins:

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

2/3 cup of crushed pineapple

1 cup of all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup of whole wheat flour

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup of vegetable oil

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

2. Stir the flours, sugar, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in  large bowl until thoroughly combined.

3. In a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Mix the the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients very gently, try not to overmix the batter.

4. Spoon the muffin batter into a greased or paper lined muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes until they appear golden brown and the tops have risen. Let sit for at least half an hour before serving plain or with honey.

I’ve been in a little musical bubble lately, speaking of nostalgia, made up of music I listened to in high school when I was 16 and 17. I remember listening to this song on the bus a lot, trying not to crash my Sony discman around too much as I shuffled to let more people on. I didn’t listen to very much Modest Mouse past The Moon and Antarctica and not at all until recently, but I did listen to this song on repeat for several months during long periods of teenage introverted awkwardness.

Modest Mouse – Dramamine

Spinach and Dill Phyllo Tart

Spinach Dill Phyllo 2

On Sunday morning I hosted a celebratory birthday brunch for Ian with 4 Ontario expat friends, continuing what I hope is fast becoming a brunch hosting tradition. Over somewhat dangerously alcoholic peach sangria we ate an intensely piquant roasted root vegetable salad (the leftovers of which I am eating as I type), pancetta and red potato hash, a spinach and dill phyllo tart, fruit salad and a richly dense chocolate cake adorned with whipped cream and berries. It’s so much fun having a potluck, not only culinary diversity but practically as well, you can take more time to do important things like changing out of your pyjamas before your guests arrive and ironing the table cloth. This Spinach and Dill Phyllo Tart is ideal for multitasking, you can sweep the floor and sample the sangria at the same time. The flavour balance in this tart is delicate, the dill is bright and green without being grassy and the earthy cumin works quietly in the eggy background. Make sure that your phyllo pastry is given ample time to defrost in the fridge, mine needed 24 hours in the fridge before I could use it. When working with phyllo be as patient as you can, don’t worry about small tears in the sheets or pressing each piece smoothly together – this should have a rustic and haphazard look to it.

spinach and dill phyllo tart:

10 oz. bag of spinach, washed and roughly torn

1 white onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup fresh dill, snipped into small strands with scissors

1/4 cup flat-leafed parsley, again with the scissors

4 whole large eggs

1 cup of creamy ricotta cheese

1 cup of Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, grated into fine shreds

1/4 tsp. dried cumin

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

8 sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed from frozen

Unsalted butter, about a 1/4 cup melted to brush over the phyllo pastry

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic together for about 8 minutes or until soft. Add the spinach and allow to cook down until wilted and soft. Take the mixture off of the heat and press into a fine mesh colander and allow to drain until cool over the sink.

3. In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the ricotta until fluffy. Stir in the cooled down spinach mixture, fresh dill, parsley, cumin, parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper.

4. Prepare a clean surface to assemble the phyllo tart crust. Dampen 2 clean tea towels and place the unwrapped stack of phyllo pastry flat between the 2 clothes. Working quickly as to prevent drying out the pastry, press one sheet of phyllo into a 9-inch baking dish and brush with melted butter, placing a new sheet of phyllo on top and repeating to form 8 layers of pastry. Using scissors cut the overhang to fit the dish, brush the outside with a final coat of butter (this will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy as it cooks).

5. Spread the egg and spinach mixture into the pastry-lined baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Check periodically that the crust isn’t browning too much around the edges, if it looks like it’s getting too dark fold some aluminum foil around the sides of the baking dish to cover. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes to set before serving or allow to cool to room temperature.

Spinach Dill Phyllo

We listened to new Cat Power; I love super depressed Cat Power the most but she’s also pretty great when she does less-melancholic pop music.

Cat Power – Manhattan

Tofu and Egg Scramble

I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to make a really impressive tofu scramble despite several efforts and recipes that (I feel) should have produced something delicious and flavourful. I’ve been to restaurants and had lovely tofu scrambles for brunch, the best ones almost always own the tofu scramble as its own separate identity without even attempting to taste like traditional scrambled eggs. This tofu and scrambled eggs dish is my favourite breakfast for dinner meal and was born by virtue of necessity; one night I didn’t have enough eggs for both Ian and I but I did have some medium-firm tofu lurking in the back of my fridge. Never being an avid scrambled eggs fan I now prefer this happy marriage of proteins to either form on its own (at least for this particular recipe.) I almost always make this with salsa and cilantro in mind, but try it with dill, capers, cream cheese and smoked salmon or garam masala, red chillies, grated lime zest and chutney. In other words, think of the tofu and eggs as a soft and custardy canvas on which to place your favourite vegetables, condiments, cheeses, etc. I like to serve this tofu and egg scramble with wholegrain toast slathered in salted butter from Prince Edward Island and a tart Granny Smith apple cut into segments, packed in its own little bowl, alongside a hot cup of tea (rosehip is my favourite to sip alongside this meal) or an ice cold glass of orange juice.

tofu and egg scramble:

(for two servings)

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/3  cup thinly sliced zucchini

1/3 cup finely diced sweet pepper

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

6 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of crumbled medium-firm tofu that has been first been drained of any excess water*

1/2 tsp. turmeric (this is mainly to mimic the colour of vibrant sunny egg yolks, the recipe will in no way fail if you haven’t any turmeric lying around your spice cupboard)

1 tsp. chili powder

Kosher salt to taste

Diced cucumber to garnish

Cilantro, haphazardly torn, for garnish

As much salsa as you like to top the scramble, I used a bean and corn salsa for this particular entry

*from the extremely useful WikiHow page on tofu preparation: “The best way to make the texture of tofu more appetizing is to press it for 1-2 hours before cooking or marinating it. Cut the block of tofu into 4 slices longways, and spread these out onto a plate covered with two layers of paper towels. Cover the tofu with two more layers of paper towels and another plate. Apply pressure with something heavy, like a few books or a toaster. When you’re done, the paper towels will have absorbed a lot of the tofu’s moisture, and it will have a better texture and absorb marinades better.”

1. In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat; add the bell peppers, zucchini, red onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes while stirring periodically to prevent excess browning or sticking.

2. Combine the egg and tofu together in a bowl and lightly whisk them up with a fork, all you want to do here is make sure that both of these ingredients are mixed together. Add the turmeric and chili powder to the vegetables and stir until everything is coated in the spice mixture before adding the egg and tofu mixture into the hot pan.

3. Using a rubber spatula push the tofu and egg concoction around the skillet until the eggs have set; like plain scrambled eggs you want your tofu and eggs to be velvety and  custard-like. Serve with the diced cucumbers, cilantro and a generous spoonful of your favourite salsa.

The merrier the meal, the merrier the music. Here is Cassius 1999, one of the catchiest and danciest songs that I have in my iTunes library. This song, along with others by Cassius and Daft Punk, keep me awake and full of energetic bounce either in the morning or evening. Anecdotally, this song is living proof of music’s ability to transform a mood or state of awakeness, as is the tofu and egg scramble; by combining both elements you’re creating an environment of elevation and a sure start to a happy mood.

Cassius – Cassius 1999

Baked Eggs in Ramekins with Serrano Ham and Scallions

Last December I made a resolution to eat breakfast every single morning beginning on January 1st, before I went to work and on weekends. I can now resolutely say that I have been underestimating the power of a good breakfast since the end of my elementary school days. Before then my mum would always have oatmeal, fruit, cereal or toast (always with a cup of tea) waiting for both my sister and I when we came downstairs in the morning. As it always seems to be I never appreciated the absolute gift that a breakfast prepared especially for you actually is; in fact the first luxury I would be interested in if I someday stumbled into piles of money would be a breakfast chef of my very own. Since a personal breakfast chef isn’t appearing any time soon on my horizon I have become a fan of breakfasts that can be set to cook or bake when I first get up and that are ready 20 minutes later, at which point I’m usually at least close to being finished all other pre-work preparations (steel-cut oats are another item in this increasingly important recipe category.) Baked eggs are a perfect example of this type of cooking: wake up, preheat oven, wash face, crack eggs into ramekin, add a small splash of cream and bake for 15 minutes or so until set but slightly wobbly. Usually during the week I’ll prepare baked eggs and an ingredient that can be added with little prep (fresh/dried herbs, grated carrot, diced sweet bell peppers or even leftover stir-fried vegetables are all good for this dish), other times I’ll have the eggs plain with buttered toast. However, if I wake up early and full of culinary motivation I might make these during the week but otherwise I tend to reserve these for the weekend. You could use prosciutto or pancetta in place of the Serrano ham if you prefer, I like Serrano ham because of its full flavour and sweet taste and I find that it doesn’t carry such a fatty flavour compared to other types of ham. I really adore baked eggs with buttered toast soldiers, there’s something to be said for the soothing action of dipping warm bread into the creamy yolks and repeating until gastronomically and emotionally satisfied that cannot be replicated with a bowl of Cheerios.

baked eggs in ramekins with serrano ham and scallions for 2:

4 large eggs

1 tsp. grapeseed oil

4 thin slices of Serrano ham

3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

A large handful of spinach

Small amount of butter or oil to coat the ramekins

4 tsp. half-and-half cream

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmigian0-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a skillet sauté the Serrano ham and scallions in the grapeseed oil over medium heat until the ham begins to crisp. Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the spinach so that it begins to wilt.

3. Oil or butter the inside of 2 ramekins. Divide the ham and scallion mixture evenly between the two dishes; into each ramekin crack 2 eggs and drizzle 2 tsp. of half-and-half cream.

4. Bake the eggs for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes depending entirely on how well set you like your yolks, I usually bake my eggs for 15 minutes and then give them half a minute under the broiler if the tops are still looking runny. Dust the finished eggs with the coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and cheese before eating with buttery toast.

I keep coming back to this album and almost always very loudly while I get ready to go to work for the day.

PJ Harvey – The Glorious Land