I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.
The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt
For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.
For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.
Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.
Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.
Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.
Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.
Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.
Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.
*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.
Chicken Mushroom Croquettes
Croquettes are delicious small fried food rolls – crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. They are usually filled with mashed potatoes or minced meat such as beef or veal, poultry, fish, vegetables or shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp and salmon are common). The ingredients are mixed together with fresh herbs and spices and oftentimes a creamy white sauce, then shaped into cylindrical patties, coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried (or you can bake these in the oven if you prefer).
Originating in France, the word croquette means “to crunch”. Perfect for a cocktail party appetizer or just a luscious small dish, served with a salad and a glass of crisp white wine. Serve with a remoulade dipping sauce and a splash of lemon.
1 1/3 c chicken, finely shredded (white meat)
2/3 cup mushrooms, finely chopped (cremini and/or white button)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery salt
dash of cayenne
dash of nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c canola oil, for frying
Herb Cream Sauce
1/4 c butter
1/2 c flour
1 c. chicken stock
1/3 c cream
1/2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
2 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp chopped capers
1 ½ tbsp chopped chives
1 ½ tbsp. chopped tarragon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped chipotle pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
To prepare remoulade: In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, capers, chives, tarragon, parsley, chipotle pepper, and Dijon mustard. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice to taste. Cover and chill until ready to use.
To make the croquettes, first shred and chop the warm, cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken is a fast and easy way to do this or you can use shredded parboiled chicken). Finely chop the mushrooms and mix in salt, celery salt, cayenne and nutmeg, mixing all ingredients together.
Make the herb cream sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and slowly adding flour, chicken stock, herbs and cream together, whisking thoroughly and often until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Add the sauce to the chicken and mushroom mixture, then add one beaten egg until it has a moist but firm texture; set aside to cool. Shape into cylindrical patties and coat with breadcrumbs. Place croquettes in a frying pan in heated oil over medium high and fry until the croquettes have a crispy, golden brown crust, about 5-6 minutes, and drain on paper towels.
Serve with a side salad of mixed greens with lemon juice and olive oil dressing, a crisp white wine and remoulade sauce for dipping.
Makes 4 servings.
Other Croquette recipes you may enjoy:
Paula Deen’s Potato Croquettes
Alton Brown’s Tuna Croquettes
Anthony Bourdain’s Dutch Croquettes
Japanese Beef and Potato Croquettes (Korokke)
Saveur’s Salmon Croquettes
Indochine Kitchen’s Croquettes
Summertime always remind me of home – when the sun is shining, a warm breeze is in the air, locusts are humming and all the flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are in full bloom. There’s a small local farmer’s market up in Webster, NY not far from where I grew up that I used to visit with my Mom as a kid. We would buy fresh apple cider and donuts, pumpkins for Halloween and fresh corn and melons for our summer picnics. This year I went home to visit for Fourth of July weekend, and my Mom and I visited once again to buy some fresh fruit and veggies for our holiday BBQ feast.
Herman’s Farm Market & Cider Mill
I was craving some juicy watermelon and strawberries and went on a mission. There’s nothing like that first bite of sweet, cool, bright pink flesh of melon and ruby red berries in the summertime.
This Watermelon and Strawberry Salad is a simple combination of fresh watermelon, strawberries and a few blueberries mixed in with a little bit of lemon juice, sugar and water to make a simple refreshing syrup to macerate the fruit. This is how we traditionally make the fruit salad but you can also toss the fruit in a citrus infused balsamic vinegar for a tangy contrast with the sweet fruit – a good friend of mine made this salad and used Tavern on the Green Citrus which has a blend of orange, tangerine and lime essence and is just as delicious!
Ripe Juicy Strawberries
I found a recipe for a French Potato Salad made with salt potatoes and fresh herbs, a lightened up version from the heavier mayonnaise-laden salads from our family picnics of the past.
It calls for salt (or new) potatoes (red or yellow), shallots, parsley and thyme tossed in an oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard base making it light and tangy.
Fresh parsley adds some green…and the sweet shallots mixed with thyme, dill and onions gives it nice fresh flavor. I added some dried dill (you could also use fresh) and a few chopped green onions for an extra dash of flavor - délicieux!
Fresh market grown. Simple, fast and delicious. And most of all homemade with love, and my Mom - just like the good old days.
French Herbed Potato Salad
French Herbed Potato Salad
2 lbs red or yellow salt potatoes, halved
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (light yellow, not extra virgin)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp dried or fresh dill
1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1-2 green onions, sliced
Place potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water covering potatoes by about an inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
While potatoes are cooking, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, thyme and dill in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cooked potatoes and chopped onion and 1/2 of the green onions to the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with additional green onions and parsley and serve at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
Strawberry Watermelon Salad
Strawberry Watermelon Salad
1/2 c sugar
1 c water
1/4 watermelon, cut into cubes
3 c strawberries, halved
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 lemon, squeezed for juice
garnish: fresh mint leaves (torn into small pieces) or microgreens
To make the simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, let simmer for about 5 minutes and cool.
Place watermelon, strawberries and blueberries in a large bowl and add the syrup, mixing well. Add a dash of lemon juice and garnish with mint or microgreens.
Pan-seared Scallops and Asparagus
Spring has arrived! It’s my favorite time of year when everything comes alive…flowers are blooming, streets are buzzing, the sun is shining, and the freshest fruits and vegetables are available at the local markets. Asparagus, Strawberries, Avocados – three lovely, seasonal ingredients perfect for a light and refreshing Spring menu. The salad has marinated strawberries in a Strawberry Balsamic Viniagrette, which gives them a sweet, tangy flavor – a perfect complement to the crunchy toasted almonds, bacon and avocado in this delicious spring salad. The Scallops are pan-seared in a roasted garlic chardonnay marinade with a splash of lemon, served with a side of sautéed fresh asparagus. Enjoy!
Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon and Sauteed Asparagus
16 Large Sea Scallops
¼ c. Roasted Garlic Chardonnay Marinade (Tavern on the Green)
2 tbsp EVOO
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Lemon Pepper (Trader Joe’s)
1-2 Green Onions, sliced
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher Salt to taste
In a plastic freezer bag, place scallops and ¼ c. marinade and lemon pepper, coat scallops well. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Chop the green onions and parsley and reserve for topping the scallops.
Cut off the ends of the asparagus (tough parts of the stem), rinse and pat dry. In a pre-heated sauté pan over medium-high, sauté the Asparagus in a tablespoon of olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and lemon pepper for about 5-6 minutes until cooked through.
After scallops are done marinating, take them out of the bag and dry off with paper towels. Place them in the same sauté pan, adding remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt and lemon pepper.
Sear the scallops for approx. 2-3 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle scallops with some fresh lemon juice and remove from pan.
Place asparagus and scallops on a plate and garnish with chopped green onions, parsley and a lemon wedge.
Strawberry Avocado Salad
Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad with Toasted Marcona Almonds
1 lb of mixed lettuce
1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 ripe avocado, sliced
½ cup of Rosemary Marcona almonds, toasted (Trader Joe’s)
3 green onions, sliced thin
3 tbsp of EVOO
3 tbsp of Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar (Tavern on the Green)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Slice the strawberries into thin slices and place in a sealable plastic bag with the 2 tbsp Strawberry Balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator, let marinade for about an hour.
Prepare salad dressing, mix olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mustard together, slowly whisking in oil until it is mixed well and set aside.
Fry bacon in a pan until cooked well and drain on paper towels. Let bacon cool and crumble for salad topping. Set aside.
Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Green Onions
Place almonds in a separate pre-heated medium-sized pan with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt over the nuts. Cook and stir for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown and toasty.
Slice the avocados and green onions.
In a large salad bowl, toss the lettuce and vinaigrette together, mixing well, and top salad greens with the marinated strawberries and sliced avocados.
Garnish the salad with crumbled bacon, green onions, toasted almonds, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.