Monday, March 30, 2009

Spinach in Small Bites

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I was amazed by the reception these spinach mini-tarts got. I knew they were good, but I didn't know they were that good! So I'm posting them here, and it's not my recipe and I haven't changed much except to show how to make them minis. Personally, I like the higher crust-to-filling ratio you get from the minis, and they're more fun for parties!

Oh, and I used Martha Stewart's pate brisee instead of the crust in the original recipe, which called for shortening. Shortening weirds me out, and the pate brisee was easy because I've got it committed to memory. I made them in a square tart mini pan with 2-inch wells that's cool because you push up the bottoms for easy extraction.

Mini Spinach & Pine Nut Tarts
Adapted from Emeril's
Pine Nut and Spinach Tart
Half-recipe of Martha Stewart's pate brisee
½ cup pine nuts (about 3 oz)
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, well rinsed and chopped, or 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream (I prefer half-and-half in this)
½ cup (about 3 oz) crumbled goat cheese, or feta

Preheat oven to 375°.
Roll out the chilled pate brisee and cut it into 2½-inch squares. Tuck each square into the wells of a mini-tart pan. A little excess riding above the sides of the wells is fine. Lightly wrap a sheet of foil over the top of the pan and bake for 5 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 5 more. Allow the crusts to cool.

In a dry pan, toast the pine nuts for a few minutes until fragrant. Set the nuts aside. Heat the oil over medium-high heat, then add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper and cook the liquid is evaporated, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and cream (or half-and-half). Stir in the spinach, cheese, and half of the pine nuts. Spoon the filling into the crusts, almost to the top of each, and sprinkle the reserved nuts on top.

Set the pan on a baking sheet to avoid any leakage from dripping in the oven. Bake them for 20 minutes, until golden. When the pan is cool enough to handle, remove the tarts, then repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Makes about 30.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

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My buddy Nicole is moving back out West! So when we covertly planned her farewell at work, I decided to do a Red Velvet Cake with a Milk Chocolate Mousse and Dark Chocolate Mousse for my fellow chocolate lover. Unconventional, but she said it was "lethally good!" And check out this T-shirt we got her to remember us by.

I halved the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes and baked the batter as a single layer in an 8-inch springform pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (test for doneness by inserting a skewer or knife). Then I sawed it in half and put it aside for layering.

I used the mousses from a Francois Payard recipe on Epicurious:
3 1/2 cups (812 grams) heavy cream
5 ounces (142 grams) milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat 2 1/2 cups (580 grams) of the heavy cream to soft peaks. Scrape half of the whipped cream into a medium bowl. Cover both bowls and refrigerate.

Put the milk and dark chocolate in two separate medium bowls. Bring the remaining 1 cup (232 grams) cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour 1/2 cup (116 grams) of the hot cream over the milk chocolate and the remaining 1/2 cup (116 grams) over the bittersweet chocolate. Gently whisk the milk chocolate until it is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk the dark chocolate until smooth.

Let the chocolate mixtures cool for 10 minutes. Fold the milk chocolate mixture into one bowl of whipped cream. Fold the dark chocolate into the remaining whipped cream.

For assembly, I put a cardboard round in the bottom of the springform pan, followed by the bottom half of the cake, cut side up. Spread the dark chocolate mousse in as even a layer as possible, then top it with the other half of the cake, cut side down. Spread the milk chocolate mousse on top of that. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent refrigerator odors from sinking in, and chill for two to four hours.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the springform ring and take out the cake. Sift cocoa powder all over the top. Cut desired designs into a piece of parchment paper, then place paper on top of cake. Sift confectioners sugar over the paper so it falls only over the cutouts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Neat Idea

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It was hard to locate things in my kitchen drawers. I'd often toss and shove around gadgets and utensils, which were all thrown together with no order. I'd seen online features for installing wooden dividers in drawers, but it seemed like too much work.

No-skid shelf-liner is great stuff -- it keeps everything stationary and prevents things from sliding around. Now everything has its place, and I even threw out a few things I don't need. Just buy the non-adhesive, no-skid kind, cut it to fit each drawer, and lay it down. Easy spring cleaning!