Monthly Archives: October 2013

Zucchini Carrot Ricotta-Pesto Rose Tart

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Tuesdays chez nous are TV night: our friend comes over, we chat and catch up over a glass of wine, and watch a couple TV show episodes together while having a sofa-based dinner.  The meal needs to be fork-only edible, quick to make, somewhat healthy and of course: delicious. I had seen a lovely tart at Conversation Pieces: Zucchini Carrot Rose Tart and was so impressed. That one was so beautiful! Here I added a pesto-ricotta layer, which may detract slightly from the appearance but was really tasty with the zucchini. It so nice to get inspiration from the many talented people sharing recipes and ideas – many thanks to you all!

Zucchini Carrot Ricotta-Pesto Rose Tart
(Inspired by Conversation Pieces: Zucchini Carrot Rose Tart)

One package ready-made puff pastry
3 zucchini
3 carrots
4 tbs fresh pesto
4 tbs ricotta
Salt, pepper

Roll out your dough into a pie dish. (Here it came with carta al forno, baking paper.)  Slice the zucchini and carrots lengthwise into long thin strips, with a potato peeler or a mandolin. (This task is much easier when you have a patient husband who is handy in the kitchen..)

imageMix pesto and ricotta, half of each, with a little salt and pepper. Spread some ricotta-pesto mix on the strips of carrot and zucchini. Roll the strips somewhat tightly together, so they looks like a rosebud. (Yes, albeit a pesto-smeared, green one.)

imageThis is finicky, but the rolls held together well. Alternate carrot and zucchini, rolling until you have a good sized roll. Lift it carefully over onto pastry, and add last strips to fill the dish. Tuck the pastry edges over.
Zucchini carrot rose tart wiBake at 180C until it looks done. Twenty minutes or so? Slice into wedges and enjoy. We did!

zucchini tart

Saturday sourdough loaf

Sourdough loaf

Baking is a precise art. Being a bit of a control freak, that may be why I like it so much. When life seems chaotic, a spot of cake baking always helps. Bread baking is therapeutic as well, and it feels safer with a recipe. However, recipes are no guarantee, especially when flours vary, so I’ve been pushing my bread comfort zones and playing with ratios in my sourdough baking: more water, more starter, different flours, just learning to trust my instinct of when the dough feels right. They never turn out quite the same, but when the house smells of fresh bread, and another loaf turns out well, it is a reassuring small achievement and an encouragement to keep baking.

Saturday sourdough loaf, with variations

100 grammes mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
350 grammes water
450 grammes flour (100 grammes wholewheat, 350 grammes plain white 00)
10 grammes salt

You could also try this variation:

110 grammes mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
360 grammes water
500 grammes flour (50 grammes wholewheat, 400 grammes plain white 00, 50 grammes 0 flour)
10 grammes salt
Handful of flax seeds

Or this:
100 grammes mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
400 grammes water
100 grammes polenta
530 grammes flour (430 grammes plain white 00, 100 grammes 0 flour)
10 grammes salt

For any of these: Stir the sourdough starter with the water. Add the flours and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt and seeds, if using. Mix well. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it. This is where trusting your instinct comes in.

Making bread image Making bread imageFolding, folding…….. and resting. It works well with my Saturday schedule. The bowl is covered with a shower cap when dough is not being folded.
folding dough imageYou can see the gluten strands developing, the dough feels elastic and responsive.

Cover the bowl and let rise for about a few hours at room temperature. Fold the dough a few times (just in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic and responsive, and it will increase nicely in volume.  If baking same day: fold dough into a banneton or bread tin, let rise a couple hours until it’s rising nicely. This depends on how warm your kitchen is. (If baking next day: In the evening, move the dough to a floured banneton and cover it with plastic (a hotel shower cap works well), and put it in the fridge overnight.)

The next morning, or when ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot (or after at least 20 minutes), take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 250C for 25-30 minutes with the lid on, then 15-20 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.

sourdough loafSometimes the bread looks great, sometimes a bit homely…… but few things taste better than a slice of fresh bread with a bit of butter.

Sourdough loaf

Plum compote with prosecco

Plums Rome is hot and humid these days, it is such odd weather. Laundry takes ages to dry, it is muggy and grey and still 22C. Normally it would be getting cool by now, and we would be fretting about the centralized condominio heating that only comes on November 15. Still time for that, I suppose. For now we are dressing for autumn and constantly peeling off layers as the days remain weirdly warm. But I am happy about autumn, and ready for crisp cool mornings. At least we do have the lovely orange pumpkin wedges and boxes of mushrooms now available. Soups and stews and risotto await, and more baking.

I was buying some zucchini and bell peppers today for a veggie curry tomorrow, and on the bargain shelf were these lovely Italian plums. Aha! I thought. Time for plommekompott, a Norwegian plum compote. So retro, so simple, and easy to make for tomorrow’s dessert. Might as well enjoy the plums before they vanish for the year, and this will counterbalance a curry nicely. Plum compote Plum compote with prosecco and cardamom
15-16 plums, washed and stoned and halved
90 grammes white sugar
100 ml prosecco, or water
3 cardamom pods
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice (or other spices you like)

To thicken, optional:
2 tbs potato flour
4 tbs cold water

Cook the plums with prosecco or water. I had leftover prosecco, so I used that. Add sugar and spices, whatever combination you like, and cook gently until the plums are soft but still retain their shape. Ten minutes or so should be enough. You can stop here, if you wish, and serve the compote warm with a little cold cream or milk on the side.

I like my plommekompott served chilled the next day, and a little thicker, so I thickened this with potato flour. Stir together two tbs of potato flour with four tbs cold water. Take the compote off the heat (important), stir the potato flour/water mixture in and hey presto! It will thicken. Take out the cardamom pods now, or leave them in overnight for more flavour. Keep compote in fridge until ready to serve.

Notes: cornflour could be used for thickening as well; you would need to cook the cornflour a few minutes though, unlike potato flour which is stirred in to hot compote but foes not need cooking. The prosecco was just because we had some open, but water would be just fine as well. With friends visiting and others dropping by for drinks, there is often some alcohol lingering in the fridge. I cannot drink much, but I do enjoy cooking with a splash of wine.

I like my compote with a small splash of milk, just like my grandmother used to serve it. Yoghurt would be good too. You can omit spices, or use others, it is really up to what you like.