Food Reviews, Recipes Suggestions

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary to make for dessert and you really don’t want a lot of fuss, I suggest you sit up and take notice of this one. It’s easy to put together at the last minute, doesn’t require lots of difficult to find ingredients and is more elegant than your average after dinner sweet stuff. It’s also not too sugary.

What I was after in developing this recipe was a replica of the kind of slice of apple tart that you can buy in French pastry shops, full of tart apple flavor, not overly saccharine and just a little bit browned, even a tad burnt on the tips of some of the apple slices. It took me a few tries, but I think I nailed it. Do not be tempted to sprinkle on extra sugar or add in some cinnamon, if you want that kind of apple pie, go here.

While I’ve made my own puff pastry, I understand that not everyone has the time or the inclination for that endeavor. If you do, start here. For the rest of you, just buy some pre-made puff pastry, a couple of yellow delicious apples, some unsweetened applesauce, an optional egg yolk and either apple or apricot jelly. That’s right, just five ingredients and no additional sugar will get you a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I promise.

tarte aux pommes (French apple tart)

  • 1 rectangle or square of purchased puff pastry (I used Trader Joe’s, but Pepperage Farm is good too and a bit bigger, so I recommend it if you want a bigger tart)
  • 2 small yellow delicious apples, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/3 cup apple or apricot jelly, warmed
  • Optional: one egg yolk mixed with 1 t water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place puff pastry on a baking sheet either lined with parchment paper or lightly buttered. Spread apple sauce on top of pastry, leaving at least one half inch of pastry all around. Line the top of the apple sauce with rows of apples. Brush tops of apples with apple jelly, being careful not to get much of it on the edges of the pastry (this would inhibit the puffing that will happen in the oven). Optional: for a golden look on the edges, brush a small amount of egg yolk mixture on the exposed pastry, being very careful not to let it drip down the very edge of the dough (again, this is to ensure that it will puff up during baking). Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until top of tart is golden brown and the tips of the apples are even a little darker. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Category: sweets | Leave a Comment
caught in the act
Author: Mary
• Sunday, November 18th, 2007

If you are still looking for a side dish for Thanksgiving, here’s something that has just received the very highest possible compliment. Last week I made this roasted cauliflower for dinner; my parents were there. We were putting the finishing touches on the meal; the cauliflower was on its baking sheet waiting to be put into a serving dish. I was washing something up and turned around to find my dad popping a piece of cauliflower into his mouth.

The thing is, my dad doesn’t eat vegetables of his own volition. He can barely be convinced to eat a small spoonful of anything green and when faced with the question “soup or salad?” he always chooses soup. He’s the quintessential meat and potatoes man. Not only that, my dad is just about the least sneaky person I know. He just doesn’t steal, especially not food. I’ve never even seen him grab a cookie from the cooling rack or swipe a finger through the frosting.

So, I said to my dad, “I saw you.” He just looked at me with his full mouth closed and gave me his innocent look. “I’m going to tell,” I said, “I saw you stealing vegetables.” “Oh no, he said, you’re going to destroy my M.O.” I added, “I’m also going to write about it on my website, because if this looked good enough for you to swipe some, I need to tell people about it.” I reached out and took a piece myself, a nicely browned specimen, all soft and caramelized and warm from the oven. “Mmmm…” I started, but then I had to say to my dad, “Hey, if you were going to taste this, at least you could have told me it needs salt.” He looked up and said, “It needs a little salt.” “Thanks dad.” I added some salt, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of parsley.

This is low in fat, high in pleasure and really easy to make. I served it with some pan fried sausages, sautéed spinach and potatoes. It would go just as well on a holiday table next to the turkey, ham or roast.

roasted cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (leave as much of the stem intact as you can)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t salt (plus more as needed)
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T parsley, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place first seven ingredients (cauliflower through pepper) onto baking sheet and toss to coat. Roast in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice until cauliflower is soft and browned in several spots. Remove from oven, place in serving dish and add lemon juice, more salt if desired and sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Category: sides | Leave a Comment
a little lentil love (how’s that for alliteration?)
Author: Mary
• Monday, November 12th, 2007

The weather’s turning colder and I can now start to revisit my repertoire of winter soups and stews. When I decided to make lentils this week, my first impulse was to tell you about how healthy lentils are and how everything added in this recipe is also really good for you – I mean garlic, onion, spinach, carrots, a bit of potato and an eensy amount of sausage. In the end, though, I don’t think I need to tell you how good this is for you. I make this in the winter months not because it’s healthy, but because it’s just so tasty and warming and satisfying.

I don’t call this a soup, because it’s a little thicker than that, especially if you make it a day ahead of time. I’ve tried all sorts of different vegetables in this, but I’ve settled on this as my favorite combination, but you can feel free to substitute or add different vegetables (I’ve used peppers, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, kale among other things). If you decide to skip the sausage, I recommend adding in some (reconstituted) dried porcini mushrooms and their liquid, not that this is the equivalent of that little bit of pork goodness, but because you need something to give this some depth of flavor.

lentils with sausage, spinach, carrots and potatoes

  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 links mild Italian sausage, casings removed (optional)
  • 1 large or 2 small onions (about 1 cup), chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups lentils (1 16 oz. package)
  • 1 package baby spinach

Heat oil in a stockpot on medium-high and add sausage, if using. Stir the sausage breaking it up into small bits as it cooks. Add next 6 ingredients in the order listed (onions through pepper). Cook 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally. Add water, potatoes, carrots and lentils. Turn heat to high, let mixture come to a boil and turn it down to a simmer. Cover and let cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Add spinach and replace lid. Cook 10 minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove lid and let cook another 5-10 minutes, until lentils are tender and sauce is thickened. Turn off heat and let cool 10 minutes before serving (can be made a day or two ahead). Serve with bread.

Yield: 8 servings (1 1/2 cups per serving)
Approximate calories per serving: 280

Category: main | Leave a Comment
writing on the wall
Author: Mary
• Friday, November 02nd, 2007

My sister Kate has found facebook and she added me as her first friend. I’ve been a facebook user for a while now, not as an aging wannabe hipster, mind you, but as a way to be in touch with my students (we’ve got groups for Paris summer study abroad and also for the French club on campus). I get requests for letters of recommendation that way, I get to see what my students who are in Paris are doing this year and I had a recent request for an apple recipe (Jason, did you make the apple tart?). It’s also a way to connect with colleagues all over the world – ok, so we’re not talking discussion of post-modern theory here, we send each other booze mail on Friday afternoons. Recently, facebook has opened its network to include people other than those affiliated with a university or high school and I’ve become facebook friends with several fellow food bloggers – I love to see their status messages – “Leland is making mushroom quiche” made my mouth water. Rebecca recently wrote a post about facebook here. Now it looks like the sis and I are going to be able to keep in touch this way too. Here’s the first message I wrote on her wall:

Wow, I’m your first facebook friend, that’s really cool sista! Now you gotta get yourself a picture. Love you.

Then she wrote:

I’m still dreaming of your empanada.

And this is what followed:

Me: Does that mean you want the recipe?

Kate: I’d love the recipe. I wish I would have watched you make it.

Me: The empanada recipe is not hard. I can write it down with specific instructions or else you can just wait until Christmas and we can make it together.

Kate: Well…if you send it to me by Friday then I’ll probably make it for my party this weekend. Otherwise, we can make it at Christmas.

Me: Working!

I don’t know why I didn’t give you all this recipe when I wrote about empanaditas last fall, because this really is one of those things that you dream about eating long after the last crumb is gone. So, here’s the recipe for empanada that I’ve worked out to imitate the exact thing I ate when I was starving to death during a forced march to Santiago de Compostella.

The dough is an easy puff pastry (really easy, I promise) adapted from Penelope Casas’ Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, which recently came out in a newly revised edition. I like her dough recipe much better than the one from The New Spanish Table.

I worked out the filling on my own, it has tuna, but you could also use little bay scallops, tiny shrimp, or any firm-fleshed white fish, cooked ahead of time and flaked, or just skip the seafood component and put in more ham or add some chorizo. You could make it vegetarian by skipping the ham and tuna altogether and increasing the vegetables.

Here’s a picture of my sister eating empanada when she was in town a couple of weeks ago. I think it would make a good facebook image. Have a good party sista, do you want the recipe for Erik’s killer sangria, too?

empanada de atún (tuna empanada)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 4 t red wine vinegar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature (these come in one cup sticks now)

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Whisk water, vinegar and egg yolks together in a small bowl and pour mixture into the well in the flour. Use one hand to combine wet and dry ingredients until dough forms a rough ball. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Flour a dry surface and a rolling pin and roll dough out to roughly a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Use a rubber spatula to smear 1/3 of the vegetable shortening over the surface of the dough and fold the dough over onto itself business letter style. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Repeat two times to incorporate the rest of the vegetable shortening. Dough can be made a day or two ahead of time.


  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 2 t pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 1 can tuna (you can use the fancy Spanish stuff packed in olive oil, or save calories and use plain old white albacore), drained and flaked
  • 4 oz. of cooked ham, diced
  • 1/4 cup green Spanish olives, rinsed and chopped (use the cheap kind, keep the pimientos if they have them)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • water as needed

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook until completely soft, about 20 minutes, make sure they don’t brown. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until garlic turns translucent. Add tomatoes, parsley and pimentón and cook until tomatoes break down somewhat. Add tomato paste and a tablespoon or two of water to thin out the mixture and cook for about 6-8 minutes more. Add tuna, ham, olives and salt and pepper to taste (you probably won’t need much salt because of the saltiness of the tuna, ham and olives). Let cool or make ahead and refrigerate until ready to use.

assembly and baking

  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 t water, whisked together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into two equal halves. Roll out one half of dough and fit it into an un-greased baking sheet. Spread dough with filling and roll out remaining half of dough a little bigger to cover. Crimp edges of dough together first with fingers then with a fork. Make decorative slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush top of dough with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes. Cut into squares or triangles. Can be served as a light meal with a green salad or as part of a tapas menu.

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