20 July 2009

tomato feta pasta

all quantities are rough estimates. this dish is an art, not a science.

1 yellow onion, or 4 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed, or finely minced
decent olive oil
red pepper flakes (optional)
4 medium tomatoes, chopped into small chunks
8 oz good feta, preferably packed in brine, crumbled**
freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil chiffonade

If serving with pasta, start the water before you do any prep work. By the time you're done chopping, the water should be hot enough to add the pasta. The sauce doesn't take long to make but it does require frequent attention. We like thin spaghetti or angel hair with this sauce, but smaller pasta like penne works too.

Heat olive oil in a good sized skillet over medium high heat until shimmering, then add onion, stir for a minute, turn down heat to medium, and add garlic. Stir frequently so garlic does not turn brown. Throw in red pepper flakes to taste.

When onion and garlic are soft, add tomatoes including any juices they produced when chopped. cook for another few minutes until tomatoes begin to soften. Turn heat to low, add feta, stir gently. Cook at least long enough to warm the feta through, but keep an eye on it as the feta chunks will break down quickly.

Remove from heat, add black pepper to taste. Serve over pasta, sprinkling basil on top.

**Good feta makes or breaks this sauce. I have been fond of a certain goat-sheep's milk imported blend from the DeKalb Farmers Market, but they don't seem to have it anymore. The Pastures of Eden feta from Trader Joe's is a very good alternative. It's not cheap, but has the right blend of creamy, tangy, and salty; and we consistently prefer it to other more expensive feta from Whole Foods.

12 July 2009

mascarpone tart with fresh strawberries and port glaze

from Epicurious.com

For tart shell:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold water

For filling:
1 1/2 pounds strawberries (about 1 1/2 quarts), trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup ruby Port
1 pound mascarpone (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make tart shell:
Blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water with a fork, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir with fork (or pulse) until mixture comes together.

Gently knead with floured hands on a lightly floured surface until a dough forms, then gently knead 4 or 5 times. Press into a 5-inch disk. Place in center of tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers and bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup, spread and push dough to evenly cover bottom and side of pan. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until shell is deep golden all over, about 20 minutes more. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes.

Make filling while tart shell cools:
Stir together strawberries and granulated sugar in a bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Strain in a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add Port to liquid in saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together mascarpone, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff.

Assemble tart:
Spread mascarpone mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle Port glaze all over tart.