chocolate caramel tart with sea salt
I developed a recipe for a tart very similar to this one when I was a food editor at Martha Stewart Living. It appeared in the February 2002 issue as part of a story on chocolate desserts. I remembered it one day when my friend Jodi admitted what a chocolate lover she is...I wanted to make if for her for her birthday but we ended up going out to a restaurant to celebrate so I made it for our New Year's Eve party instead. It would be a fantatic Valentine's Day dessert too. I could not find the recipe online so I made it up as I went along...this new version is a little different than the original but it was a huge hit.
I used hazelnuts in the tart because I love their flavor. That said, removing the papery skins adds a step that can be a little tedious. You can sometimes find them with the papery part mostly removed so that is what I try to buy. You can also just replace the hazelnuts with whatever your personal favorite nut is...I have made it with pecans and I think peanuts would also be delicious.
CHOCOLATE CARAMEL TART
8 ounces hazelnuts (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 boxes famous chocolate wafers
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus additional 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
Spread hazelnuts on a cutting board and press with the side of a chef's knife to break into pieces. Transfer to a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
Place chocolate wafers in the bowl of a food processor and grind into a coarse powder. Melt 10 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and use a fork to combine until the mixture is moist and crumbly. Pour half of the crumb mixture into into an 8 1/2 inch springform pan and press into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Add remaining crumb mixture and press into the corners and up sides of the pan. Place crust in refrigerator while preparing the caramel.
Place sugar, fine salt, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, brushing sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water, without stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved and begins to brown swirl pan gently until caramel is a deep amber color. Add 1/2 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour caramel into prepared crust and top with 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts. Sprinkle with sea salt and return to refrigerator while preparing the ganache.
Place dark chocolate in a metal bowl. Bring remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream to a boil and pour over chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until chocolate is melted. Whisk mixture together and pour over caramel and hazelnuts in the tart shell. Return to refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Before serving unmold the tart and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts around the perimeter. Running a sharp knife under hot water for a few minutes to warm it up will make slicing easier (dry it off before using it).
At school there is always this rule: If you bring in something for one kid you must bring in something for everyone. This is especially important on Valentine's Day. In past years I have felt badly when the kids came home with a bag full of Valentine's from their classmates and I realized we had skipped the whole thing -- as a result, this year we decided to start early and make some simple cards of our own. A stack of colorful index cards, some tape, and some hole punches and rubber stamps made mass production quite easy. I have a few Martha Stewart punches that I bought at Michael's that are especially fun and "fancy" as well as a glue stamp pad that makes glitter extra special too. We are not finished yet, but at least we are off to a good start!
brown rice and lentils with dried figs and cherries
Brown rice and lentils make a lovely pairing especially if you want a vegetarian protein. I made this dish as a side with meat when I had vegetarian friends in the mix. I also like the leftovers straight from the fridge for lunch. Dried cherries and figs, plumped with vinegar and sauteed onions add a tanginess which compliments the earthy flavors of lentils and rice, while orange segments brighten it.
This dish can be served warm or cold.
BROWN RICE AND LENTILS WITH DRIED FIGS AND CHERRIES
1 cup brown rice
1 cup lentils
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 up balsamic vinegar
3 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and diced
1/2 cup freshly shopped parsley
salt and pepper
!. Cook brown rice according to package directions, adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the water if not specified in the directions.
2. Place lentils in a small pot with enough water to cover by 2-3 inches. Add bayleaf and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the lentils after they have been cooking for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet and add onions. Cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add dried cherries and dried figs, vinegar, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 1o minutes, or until most but not all of the liquid has been absorbed.
4. Combine cooked lentils, cooked rice, onion mixture, oranges and parsly and stir to combine. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
This recipe for Edamame Guacamole is so delicious, I wish I had thought of it myself! Lauren found it while she was planning Noah's first birthday, and everyone at the party loved it. It also makes a perfect after school snack...I have made it at least 3 times since. Unlike a traditional guacamole, it keeps well in the refrigerator so you can enjoy it two days in a row, or send it to school in the kids lunch.
penne alla vodka
Penne alla vodka does not sound like food for children but they sure do love it...and the alcohol in the vodka cooks off before it is served. I like to make it with bacon...preferably good quality thickly sliced bacon or pancetta. I have also started making my pasta recipes with a pound and a half of pasta since the kids love to take any leftovers in their school lunch.
3/4 pound of bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 26 ounce containers of pureed or chopped tomatoes (I like to use the Pomi boxed tomatoes, 1 chopped and 1 pureed)
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds penne (I like to use whole wheat)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In the meantime saute the bacon in a large skillet. When the bacon is cooked (but not crisp) pour off most of the bacon fat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes, vodka, and cream and simmer. Add salt and pasta to boiling water and cook while the sauce simmers. When the pasta is al dente drain in a colander. Add parsely to sauce and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine pasta and sauce and serve topped with parmesan cheese.
We went out for dinner at Mesa Cayoacan in Williamsburg recently and had delicious churros for dessert. You can order them with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces, or with mexican hot chocolate. For the adults the hot chocolate was the best part.
The whole experience reminded me that our friend Bernat had brought his churro maker to Quogue last summer and we made our own. Bernat is way too health conscious to make fried dough for himself but he knew the kids would love it, and their enthusiasm was contagious. The churro maker is kind of like a cookie press...you fill it up with dough (recipes are included with the gadget) and pipe it into hot oil. While the churros are still warm coat them with sugar. Delicious!
split pea soup
Although I have already posted 2 versions of lentil soup with ham, I cannot resist adding this to the list as well. It really is just another variation of the same soup...I had leftover ham and another ham bone since we served it again on New Year's Eve which adds tons of flavor and seasoning, and split peas just replace the lentils. For this batch of soup the vegetables added were the leftover crudite from the party.
Split Pea Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, papery skins removed and roughly chopped
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 1/2 pounds split peas
Leftover ham (diced) +/or a hambone
12 cups water
1 bay leaf
Place a large pot over medium high heat and add olive oil. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and stir to combine. cook another 10 minutes, reducing heat to medium to prevent browning. Add lentils, ham (+/or bone), water and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove bay leaf.
Over the summer when we did our indigo dyeing project I had some leftover bags and tees so we decided to give stenciling a try.
I had Lotta Jansdotter's stenciling book so I just needed to buy some paints and brushes at the art supply store.
It turns out stenciling is a little tricky for some kids. They all enjoyed it, but when an adult assistant was able to hold the fabric and stincil still so the kids could just focus on applying the paint the outcome was more successful.
Although our first try did not gvie us the most beautiful results we will certainly try it again! Maybe now that it is winter and we spend more time indoors we will have time to practice and improve our techniques!
In addition to the stencils we did have fun cutting up sponges and doing prints with them too. I found that the sponges that are sold flat are easy to cut, and once they are wet and plump make great stamps.
I love meringues and thought the kids would think it would be fun to help me make meringue mushrooms. They are very easy to make but take a long time to cook so I did that part on my own and enlisted the kids when it was time to attach the stems to the caps with chocolate. They enjoyed the process, and did a good job assembling them, messy finger prints and all.
One note about the meringues: The cooking time varies enormously so they are not a good thing to make if you are on a deadline. In fact, I was planning on serving these at our New Year's Eve party but they were not done in time. We ended up assembling them as an activity on New Year's Day instead. We used