08/28/13

An Achingly Delicious Tart

My lovelies, I’ve got something revelatory for you!

Chili honey.

You may be shrugging your shoulders, or, if you’re feeling a little bit cantankerous, rolling your eyes. Chili honey? What’s so great about that?

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Everything. It’s magical.

You take some liquid gold, pour it into your witches pot (ahem, saucepan…) and chop in a chili. “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble” for a few minutes and there you have it. A viscous, viscous, complex, fiery nectar that is just plain special.

Eat it off of a spoon, lick it off your fingers, lick it off of someone else’s fingers… or eat it on this tart.

Magnificent.

Squash, Sage and Chili Honey Tart

(recipe originally from Bon Appetit, adapted for me and my kitchen)

butternut squash

salt and pepper

1 sheet of puff pastry

1/4 Cup honey

1 bird chili

2 Tbsp olive oil

a handful of fresh sage leaves (12-15)

parmesan, for shaving

Directions

  • Remove the stem from the squash. From the stem end, take off 8-10 slices of squash, 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch thick. I found it easier to cut off a chunk of the squash, half it lengthwise, and then slice half moons from there. The flat surface makes the slicing a lot easier. Peel the squash only if you mind the skin, it is perfectly edible left on.
  • Arrange the slices of squash in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkling with salt and pepper before popping them into a 375° F oven for 15 minutes to roast.

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  • While the squash is cooking, roll out your puff pastry.  It should be around a square foot in area, but by no means does it need to be square.
  • Once the squash is done it’s initial bake, arrange the slices on the pastry in a single layer, overlapping if needed. Give the pieces a gentle press onto the pastry as you place them so that any moisture on the surface of the squash sticks it to the pastry.

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  • Return the assembly to the oven, baking until the pastry goes golden and the squash starts to crisp (25-30 minutes).
  • While the tart bakes, thinly slice the chili (use a Thai chili or any other small chili if you cannot get ahold of a bird chili). Stir together the chili and the honey in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Boil, watching so it doesn’t overflow, for 5 minutes before removing it from heat and letting it cool off.

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  • Heat the olive oil in a small skillet set over high heat. Once it starts to get good and shimmery, add the fresh sage leaves and let them sizzle for about thirty seconds. They will go from soft green and velvety like a lambs ear, to emerald and brittle quite quickly, so don’t walk away from them. When they are done, transfer to a paper towel that will wick away the excess oil.
  • Once the tart has finished baking, remove it from the oven. Immediately shave the Parmesan over top so that it will wilt from the heat of the tart. Strew the sizzled sage leaves over the surface, and then drizzle with the chili honey.

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  • Slice into rectangles, or triangles, and serve.

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The first time I made this tart, as a contribution to the tea party edition of Wednesday lunch, I went light on the honey, thinking it would make the tart too sweet.  Not true. When I made another one, I must admit it was the following day, I used more of the honey. And to quote Mr. “The honey is the best part.” What little get left behind was added greedily as we ate our slices. Seriously, chili infused honey is magic.

Isn't sage so pretty? I love how velvety soft it feels when rubbed between your fingers.

Isn’t sage so pretty? I love how velvety soft it feels when rubbed between your fingers.

Squash and sage are already good friends, so it is immediately apparent upon meeting this tart that it is going to be good. Their textures foil each other really well here too, the squash squidgy to the tooth and the sage cracklingly crisp. In the original recipe, the squash is called to be sliced much thinner, and although it still is flavorfully present sliced more thinly, the texture is more favorable with a thicker slice. Plus, an all butter puff pastry is fabulous to have come across your plate in almost any iteration. (Remember your promise? I don’t expect you to go through the ordeal of making your own puff pastry, but please read the ingredients before you purchase. No mystery fats!) The parmesan cheese adds the balancing salt component. But the real star of this show is the honey, in case you hadn’t picked up that message after all of my repeating myself.

But seriously, it is magical.

This tart is sure to be brought along to many a gathering.

This time last year: Drunken Cherries

And the year before: Plums Under Meringue

And the year before that: Tuna Onigiri

01/30/13

Going to the Movies

Our house is an old house. We’re talking about built in 1907 old, older than any of my grandparents old. It is full of character, full of pretty moldings, and when we bought it it wasn’t so full of insulation.

Brr. It was cold in there. Some of you who live in much more sensible climes may not be so concerned about the insulative properties of your homes. Living in Winnipeg with a poorly insulated house makes for a chilly winter as well as pretty high heating bills.

Anyway, there was one January morning that first winter (before we got the insulation done), where Mister had already left for work, and I was having some trouble inspiring myself to get out of bed. My morning classes beckoned, but it was so cold out of the blankets. One of those mornings where there wasn’t yet a time impetus, so staying in that half asleep haze is an option.

And then I heard footsteps.

As I said, Mister had left for work for the day. Trooper the Wonder Puppy hadn’t joined the family yet. I thought I was alone in the house. And there were footsteps. Someone was there.

Was there a stranger in our house? How did they get in? We don’t live in a neighborhood that is terrible, but it certainly isn’t known to be the best one around. An intruder!

Making decisions informed by all of the scary movies I’ve ever watched, I grabbed my cellphone from the bedside table and hid under the blankets. Being relatively small, laid out flat and very still, the terrible intruders couldn’t find me… right?

I turned my phone to silent (in film the soon to be hostage is too often found because their phone rings). And I sent Mr a text message: There is someone in the house. This way, whoever was in my house wouldn’t hear me talking.

Mister immediately phones me. Luckily I had turned my ringer off, right? Mister obviously hadn’t studied up on his scary films. His calling to help would be what made the boogeyman find me.

He must have figured my line of thinking, because he then sent me a text back.

Him: What?

Me: I heard their footsteps.

Him: Do they know that you are there?

That’s when the real wave of fear kicked in, the potential gravity of the situation. Someone was in our house, and though I was hiding, it wouldn’t be very hard for them to find me. What was I going to do?

My limited knowledge of scary films didn’t help. I’m a scaredy cat, I don’t watch too many of them. I was hiding. The potential kidnapper wasn’t going to hear me talking on the phone. But what comes next?

And that’s when I heard the giggle.

A far away sounding giggle.

It was followed by a child’s voice, and more footsteps.

I got out of bed and looked out of the window. It was the neighbor’s kids playing in the yard.

The thing about winter is that it is cold. Another this is that sound travels further in cold air. Cold air is denser air, and denser air provides better transmission. Houses with almost no insulation in the walls do not create much of a sound barrier either. It sounded like the footsteps were in the house, when really they were in the neighbor’s yard, being made my the neighbor’s kids.

Luckily, I got to phone Mister and tell him that everything was fine. No home intrusion, no burgling of Dana. Needless to say, we were happy that it was only a scare. It inspired Mister to tell me what to do if someone broke into the house and he wasn’t home.

Looking back I find it pretty hilarious how quickly my panicked mind went to the movies. And how silly the solutions gleaned from film had been.  Luckily there was no real danger, and if a time occurs when there is I will be better prepared.

Curried Squash Soup

(recipe adapted from Jyl Chegwin)

1 butternut squash (or other squash of choice)

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 Tbsp curry powder

3 Cups chicken broth

1 Cup coconut milk

1 Cup water

Directions

  • Cut the squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  • Cut the onion in half.
  • Place the squash halves, onion halves and garlic cloves in a roasting dish.  Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Roast the vegetables in a 375° F oven until the squash is fork tender (~1 hour).
  • Let the contents of the pan cool enough to handle. Scoop the squash from it’s skin with a spoon, peel the onion, and squish the garlic out of it’s skin.
  • Add the chicken broth, ginger, and curry powder and then either use a blender or an immersion blender to make the soup nice and smooth.
  • Put everything in a pot over medium heat, and stir in the coconut milk and water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes for the flavors to marry.
  • Soups on!

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Who wouldn’t want a bowl of this tasty goodness? It’s sweet from the squash, creamy from the coconut milk, and a little spicy from the curry. If you have vegetarian friends coming over, all you need to do is swap out the chicken broth for vegetable.

Mister, who still claims he doesn’t like things with curry in, liked this soup too! He says: This is the best thing I’ve ever had with curry in it.

This time last year: Cream Puffs

And the year before: Mister’s Woodgrain Birthday Cake

02/21/11

Cozy and Warm Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

The return of the -30° C weather has me roasting up the storm. Our drafty 102 year old house warms considerably when the oven is on for long periods, so I have been all too happy to roast often. Food that warms the home as well as the tummy is the theme of this winter. I did my first solo roast (feeling quite grown up about that) and roasted a chicken as well, but what I’m here to talk about is balsamic roasted vegetables. Because really, what could be better?

The roasted vegetables release all kinds of sugars that brown and are so luscious, the balsamic vinegar reduces away into syrup and absorbs into the aforementioned vegetables. Thyme lends woodsiness to the earthy vegetables, and black pepper some notes of pungency to round it all out.

It’s a side dish that takes center stage (and keeps the kitchen warm while I do dishes). If I were a vegetable, I’d like to spend some time getting cozy with balsamic vinegar in a nice warm oven.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and roughly chopped

1-2 red bell peppers, seeds removed and roughly chopped

1 small onion, also roughly chopped

12-15 baby carrots (2-3 regular sized) cut into ~2 inch long sticks

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

2 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1/2 tsp salt

Directions
  • Put all of the vegetables together in a bowl.
  • Pour over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tossing to coat.
  • Sprinkle on the pepper, thyme and salt, tossing to distribute evenly.
  • Pour the contents of the bowl into a glass or nonreactive metal roasting dish, and pop it into a 375° F oven until all of the vegetables are cooked through (~45 minutes, depending on how roughly you chop), the squash will take the longest to cook, so use it to check for doneness.
  • Serve hot from the oven.

Next time I’m thinking I’ll include a clove of garlic or two to roast with it, or maybe some mushrooms. We’ve addressed balsamic vinegar before on The Funky Kitchen, so if you are a balsamophile like myself, be sure to check out: balsamic vinaigrette, summer tomatoes, caramelized onion marmalade, or this super cool pavlova!

Mister says that he liked the way the acid counterpointed the caramelized sweetness of the vegetables and that there should have been more red pepper because they were the best part.

…And! Happy day! Photo quality will be returning to The Funky Kitchen as soon as I get through my backlog of pictures and recipes. Somehow my camera battery charger became a casualty of the move, but the new one off of ebay got here today! Hurray for no more phone pictures!