These Ham and Leek Empanadas were a Godsend this past summer when Peter and I were doing the outdoor art festival circuit. You cannot imagine how tired and dirty you are after setting up in a field or park on a hot summer day. By the time you're home, it's all you can do to strip off the dirty clothes, throw them in the hamper, put on a bathing suit, and submerge yourself in the hot tub with a cool drink chaser. Once clean and revived from all that warm water, you are bone-weary tired and the last thing you want to do is cook.
Enter, previously made and frozen Ham & Leek Empanadas. One of these with a salad was a frequent dinner for us throughout the summer, and I'm so glad I had the foresight to think of freezing them. They defrost quickly and taste just as good as when they first came out of the oven. I recommend these to anyone managing a tight work schedule who doesn't want to eat processed foods. You won't regret the decision to make these ahead.
Ham & Leek Empanadas (Makes 12)
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter 1½ cups small-diced leeks, white and light green parts ⅓ cup crème fraîche 4 ounces (¼-inch-diced) smoked ham, such as Black Forest 4 ounces crated Gruyère cheese 2 ounces fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped (2 cups) 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper All-purpose flour 3 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted (2 packages) 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for egg wash Flour de sell or sea salt ==================================
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
Melt butter over medium-low heat in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan. Add the leeks and sauté for 4 minutes, until tender but not browned. Stir in the crème fraîche and simmer for a minute.
Combine the ham and Gruyère in a medium bowl. Add the leek mixture, then the spinach, basil, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Mix and set aside.
Sprinkle a cutting board with flour, roll out one sheet of pastry to an 11 x 11-inch square, and cut it into 4 equal squares. Brush the edge of each square with the egg wash and place ⅓ cup of the filling in the middle. Fold the square diagonally to make a triangle, lining up the edges of the pastry. Place the triangles on the prepared sheet pans and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. (Do not place them too close together; they expand during cooking and will connect with one another.) Brush the triangles with the egg wash and sprinkle with flour de sel and pepper. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve hot.
In Make It Ahead Ina Garten says "Make and fill the empanadas, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Brush with egg wash and bake directly from the refrigerator or freezer before serving."
This summer, I cooked all of the empanadas and then, after they completely cooled, wrapped them in packages of two and put them in well marked freezer bags. When we wanted some for dinner, I placed them on a foil-lined sheet pan and heated then for about 20 minutes in a 250 degree oven.
At the height of the summer season (a wonderful memory now), fresh fruit is at its best and what better way to celebrate and enjoy those fruits than in a tart made with a shortbread crust and sublimely, velvety pastry cream. This is truly easy, as long as you don't make the mistake I did the first time I made it ... I used whole eggs making the pastry cream rather than the called-for egg yolks. What happens when you use the whole egg making pastry cream? You get very peculiar, creamy scrambled eggs. Learn from my mistakes but please don't let them deter you from making this wildly delicious tart. We had it for breakfast several mornings with a hot cup of coffee. Now that starts a day out on the right foot!
Fruit Tart (1 10-inch tart)
Tart Shell: ¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature ½ cup sugar ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
Pastry Cream: 3 extra-large egg YOLKS, at room temperature 6 tablespoons sugar 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch 1 cup whole milk 1 tablespoon unsalted butter ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 tabledpoon heavy cream ½ teaspoon Cognac or brandy
Topping An assortment of berries and fruit, e.g. blueberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, sliced strawberries, etc. ==================================
Preheat oven to 350℉.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar together until they are just combined.
Add the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar-mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch round or 9-inch square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.
Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 15-20 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Spread tart with pastry cream and decorate completely with fresh fruit.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is light yellow and falls back into the bowl in a ribbon. On low speed, beat in the cornstarch. Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat 2 to 3 minutes more. Taste to be sure cornstarch is cooked. Remove from the heat, mix in the butter vanilla, cream, and Cognac and strain into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Assemble the tart, spreading the shell with pastry cream and then decorating it with fresh fruit. Serve at room temperature.
Thanks to the Barefoot Contessa once again for inspiring me to create something new.
Favorite all-time lunch? A tart of almost any sort, a salad, and a crisp, cool glass of white wine, and I now include galettes in the category of tarts. This one is simple, and light, made with local, in-season, tomatoes - heirlooms when I can get them. And the corn meal in the crust gives it a wonderful little crunch. What a perfect way to end the season.
Tomato & Gruyere Cheese Galette (Serves 6)
Cornmeal Galette Pastry 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour ⅓ cup finely ground cornmeal 1 teaspoon light brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into ½-inch pieces ¼ cup ice water
Galette Filling 1 large or 2 medium (about ¾ pounds) ripe heirloom tomatoes Sea salt 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil for brushing Freshly ground black pepper 1 large egg white, whisked, for egg wash ==================================
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter using a stand mixer, a food processor, or a pastry blender until it's evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces. Add the olive oil and ice water and mix until the pastry begins to come together. Gather the pastry with your hands and shape it into flattened round. Shape into 2 flattened rounds for 2 small galettes or 1 flattened round for 1 large galette. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling. Can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days.
While pastry firms in refrigerator, slice tomatoes about ¼-inch thick, lightly salt and spread on paper towels to drain. Let set and blot off excess moisture.
Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375℉.
On a large piece of parchment paper that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal, roll out dough into a 15-inch round. Please the parchment paper with dough onto a baking sheet. If your baking sheet has sides, flip it over and use the back so that all sides of the galette will brown. Trim off excess parchment paper that hangs past the sides of the sides of the baking sheet. Lift the sides of the dough with a metal spatula to make sure it's not sticking.
Sprinkle gruyère cheese over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border without filling. Sprinkle basil over cheese. Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer over the cheese and basil.
Brush the tomato with a little olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Fold the flaps of extra dough inward over the tomatoes, pleating as you go to form a folded-over border. Pinch together any tears in the dough. Brush the exposed crust with egg white.
Bake until the crust is golden brown about 35 to 45 minutes. Slide the galette off the parchment paper and onto a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes. Cut the tomato gruyère galette into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
Galettes are the easiest pastries to make and I'm officially hooked. Food52 is a great recipe site and I found a recipe for this galette there and then added mushrooms to make it a heartier meal. The crust is light with the clear flavor of my favorite cheese - Gruyère and you can never go wrong with caramelized onions and fennel - in my humble opinion.
Caramelizing does take time, so plan accordingly - it took me the full hour to get that perfect color and sweetness. I had a box of crimini mushrooms that I peeled and cut up into bite-size pieces before sautéing them in a little butter and olive oil. I simply added them to the fennel/onion mixture and then filled the pastry.
I won't sugar-coat things, this does take some time and a little effort, but we both think it's well worth the results. Yum! (Did I really say that?)
Fennel, Onion & Mushroom Galette with Gruyere Crust (Serves 6)
For the tart crust: 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon Kosher salt 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed 3 ounces Gruyere, grated ¼ cup sour cream 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice ¼ cup ice water 1 egg yolk, whisked, for egg wash
For the filling: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 1 large fennel bulb, core and tops removed, thinly sliced 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves removed from the stem 1 teaspoon brandy 2 teaspoons dry sherry 2 teaspoons dry white wine 1 teaspoon Pernod or Anisette Salt & pepper to taste 1 tablespoon olive oil 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, peeled, stems removed, and sliced thin ===================================
To make the crust dough:
Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 3 times to combine. Add the cubed butter and grated cheese to the bowl and pulse until the size of the butter resembles small peas.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse several times until the dough starts to hold together when pinched between your fingers. The dough may seem dry.
Lightly sprinkle flour on the counter and dump out the dough. Using a bench scraper, push the dough into a 12- by 4-inch rectangle. Using the palm of your hand, push the dough away from yourself. Once you have pushed out all of the dough, repeat the process. After the second round of pushing out, use the bench scraper to form a 4-inch thick round. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
To make the filling:
In a large sauté pan (12-inches) melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the fennel, stir to coat with the melted butter and sauté for 10 minutes.
Add the onions and thyme and sauté for 25 minutes to an hour, until onions and fennel are very tender and caramelized.
Pour in the brandy, sherry and wine and deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits off the bottom.
When the fennel and onions are fully cooked, add the Pernod/Anisette and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter in olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté until well done but not crisp. Add to the fennel/onion mixture.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a piece of floured parchment paper until it is about 12-inches in diameter. Put the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator.
Mound the fennel-onion-mushroom mixture in the middle of the dough, leaving a 2 ½-inch border.
Break off some of the fennel fronds and sprinkle over the top of the filling.
Fold up the outer 2-inches of the dough over the filling, leaving ½-inch inside the fold free of filling.
Brush the dough with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 50-55 minutes until the crust is deep golden brown and the middle of the filling is hot to the touch and lightly browned.
Cool the tart on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and let the tart continue to cool on the rack for at least another 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
October 10, 11 & 12, 2015, I'll be exhibiting at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, MA (54 Old Ferry Road). This will be our first indoor show so we'll be rigging the booth with electricity and lights for the first time.
A friend of mine mentioned the Paradise City Arts Festivals to me several years ago and encouraged me, annually, to apply. These are very large, established, and well-thought of art shows, and I honestly felt like they were way beyond my talent. Well apparently the judges disagreed. After three years of being dogged by my friend, I applied to the Fall Northampton and Marlborough, MA shows and got into both. Peter also applied, was waitlisted for Northampton and then got in too, but declined to participate this year given that we have but one booth and the expenses for participating in these shows is significantly higher than the outdoor shows we've been doing.
Guess what, the festival also selected me as one of their "Show Stoppers" which means they feature me in the widely distributed Fall Guide with a picture of one of my waves and a brief write up. They dedicated a third of a page to my work and I've already heard from two people interested in acquiring some of my waves. As a member of Paradise City, I was able to create my own website on the Paradise website linked, of course, to my own (claudiawardphotography.com). How cool is all of this support.
I'm excited to participate and show my work, and can't wait to see all of that beautiful art under one roof.