Gluten-free Brie en Croûte

They say that secret to a happy marriage is a deaf husband and a blind wife. Mr. Photographer has suffered from selective deafness for years, just like any other man on this planet… and come to think of it, suffer is probably a bit strong of a word to use in this context – he’s perfectly content living with this condition; it’s me and millions of other wives around the world that suffer! So the male deafness part has been taken care of, now we just needed to deal with the sight in his wife to achieve that promised marital bliss. You see, I see everything. Everywhere. And what’s more, feel the need to comment on everything I see, which results in a near constant stream of words coming out of my mouth. Did you…? Have you had a chance to…? Can you do it now? I mean, I’d gladly see less; when I’m home, I actually quite often take off my glasses for just this purpose – as long as I don’t see the dust bunnies, cluttered desk, or unkempt yard, I’m fine. If I see, I talk. And delegate. I mean, I’d gladly talk less if it didn’t feel like our household and life in general would fall apart without all my monitoring questions and reminders! Men call it N-agging. We call it N-ecessity.

I’m not sure if God intended to make me blind to match my selectively deaf husband to let us experience a spousal happiness together, and simply made a mistake and confused the body parts he planned to work on. (Hey, even experts make mistakes sometimes!) It’s also possible he knew exactly what he was doing and wanted to help me not to feel like a broken record for once, or help Mr. Photographer and his sons to catch a break from the (necessary) nagging. Whatever the reason… instead of poking my eye out, he just took my voice away. He was thoroughly thorough however – it wasn’t like I just suddenly couldn’t sing in the shower or raise my voice to get the attention of a headphones wearing teen. No. I woke up, opened my mouth, and instead of good morning out came nothing. Not even a peep.

And it stayed that way for three whole days.

It was funny. My men were hollering their questions at me from upstairs, repeating them two or three times before they remembered “Oh, she lost her voice!” and realized they would have to find me if the answer was really so important. It brought us closer – quite literally, because to hear me at all they needed to be glued to me, reading from my lips. (How’s that for the undivided attention and visual contact we ladies crave so much? Score!) I think we all enjoyed our little break, each for a different reason, but felt relieved when the voice ever so slowly started coming back. I’m still nowhere close to my usual yelling ability level, but I’m getting there! 🙂

Luckily, the non-talking stint didn’t interfere with my baking, unlike the loss of vision would, and for that I’m super grateful! And since I couldn’t tell Mr. Photographer I loved him, I decided to step into the kitchen to let him know that 🙂 He’s been talking nostalgically about the baked brie appetizer he used to love in his long gone gluten-full days. One of these days I plan to attempt gluten-free puff pastry… but for now I went with something simpler – a buttery pastry dough enriched with sour cream. Adding sour cream to any pastry (gluten – free or gluten – full) is always a great idea, as it makes the pastry wonderfully tender. The process is relatively easy and quick; the only thing to remember when making the dough is to keep the butter very cold. When the dough is ready, the whole thing comes together in a snap, and after 20 minutes out of the oven emerges a gooey goodness enclosed in golden pastry crust. As we’re scooping up the melty cheese with crackers and sipping wine, I’m here to tell you that achieving marital bliss is obviously easier than one would think – no tinkering with sight or hearing of the involved parties necessary!

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Gluten-free Brie en Croûte

(adapted from http://www.glutenfreeonashoestring.com)

Sour Cream Pastry Dough:
  • 1 ½ cups (210 g) good quality gluten-free flour mix
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your mix contains it already)
  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) very cold, unsalted butter; diced
  • ½ cup (120 g) full-fat sour cream
  • icy cold water, only if needed

+ 8 oz. (225 g) Brie wheel, about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter
optional: preserves, chopped nuts, honey, dried apricots, etc.
1 egg yolk mixed with little water – for egg wash

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Method:
  1. Place the flour, salt, xanthan gum, and baking powder in a bowl of your food processor. Add in the cold diced butter and pulse to coat the butter with flour. Add the sour cream and pulse again, just until the dough comes together somewhat (it will look shaggy). If it’s too crumbly, add in some icy water by the teaspoon – only if necessary. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.
  2. On a work surface covered with parchment, roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Fold the dough over itself into thirds as if folding a letter. Chill for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough and roll it out again (sprinkle the parchment paper with some flour, if the dough begins to stick, but it’s chilled, so it shouldn’t stick much). Fold it into thirds again, and return it to the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Roll/fold the dough one last time, and divide it into two equal parts.
  5. Roll out one half into a circle about 3/8 inch thick and 8-inch  (20 cm) in diameter. Place the circle onto the lined baking sheet and chill while rolling out the second half of the dough into circle. (The circles don’t have to be perfect; you’ll be trimming them later.) Chill the second circle as well.
  6. With a sharp knife, cut off the top rind of the cheese wheel. Place the cheese onto the circle on the baking sheet. Brush the edges of the dough around the cheese with the egg wash.
  7. Cover the cheese with the second rolled out circle of dough, pressing around the cheese to enclose it. Trim the dough if necessary. Brush the entire pastry with egg wash again. Re-roll the scraps of dough and cut out decorations to place on top of the pastry or make a couple of crackers to bake later.
  8. Chill the pastry for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  9. Give the pastry another coat of egg wash if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes until nice golden brown. Let cool for about 30 minutes before serving with crackers, sliced apples, and wine.
  10. (You can make the pastry in advance up to point 7; omit the egg wash and freeze, tightly wrapped. Let the pastry come to room temp before baking, give it a coat of egg wash, and bake.)
Note:

Variation: Spread the cheese with preserves and sprinkle some nuts on top before enclosing it in the pastry. Alternatively, you can drizzle the cheese with honey and sprinkle it with dried fruit.

If making crackers from the dough scraps, brush them with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse salt and/or seeds, and bake at 375 °F (190 °C) for about 10 – 12 minutes.

 

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Easter Carrots with Curried Egg Salad Filling

Easter is coming really early this year. The spring is playing with us in our neck of the woods – it teases us with blooming trees and sun here and there, and just when I’m ready to let out a sigh of a relief that the winter is finally over, we get slammed with two major windstorms within three days. And let’s not even get into the subject of spring cleaning. I know it should be done, I heard it can be very cathartic… I may even find some things I’ve been looking for all around the house for months. But just when I muster up the courage to tackle those windows, I remember my poor back, and the courage dissipates within seconds. I wish at least one of my personalities would like to clean, but alas, I haven’t had that luck. I take some comfort in the fact that the Easter Bunny is a male, and judging by the three male specimens I’ve had the opportunity to observe, they don’t see dust until it’s a layer one inch thick. We haven’t reached that stage yet, so I don’t think the Easter Bunny will mind enough to refuse to visit. Quite the contrary, I’m convinced he’ll come hopping whether we’re ready or not, and will try his best to kill us by cholesterol overdose as he does every year.

Unlike many other Easter traditions from back home that I’m not too fond of (how would you like to get whipped, albeit lovingly, just *a little*, and with the promise of great health and outstanding beauty next year, just because it’s Easter and you were born with a wrong chromosome?!), I actually like egg decorating. The thing is I always end up with way too many eggs to know what to do with, and after five days of eating hard boiled eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner my men are ready to start throwing them at me, or maybe even to become vegans if it means to never see eggs again.

But now we’re just starting out, and I see lots of deviled eggs, eggs on toast, and eggs in casseroles in our near future. Blue eggs, green eggs, red eggs; organic eggs, free-range eggs, omega-3 enriched eggs; whole eggs, sliced eggs, chopped eggs. So to start out the season right, and to make the Easter Bunny feel welcome, I made him these nice little carrots, filled with – wait for it – curried egg salad! I got the idea when I was making the sweet cream rolls some time ago. Those were made with puff pastry, and if you don’t feel like making yeast dough or simply don’t have the time, you could use puff pastry here too. I just wanted something a little more substantial and “bready” to accompany the salad, and I’m glad I went with yeast dough. The carrots emerged a little crunchy from the oven, but then softened some under the egg salad, and I liked the combo very much. It’s a wonderful finger food for lazy people who don’t want to bother with slicing bread for sandwiches 🙂 I think they turned out pretty cute, and would be a nice addition to your Easter table menu!

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Easter Carrots with Curried Egg Salad Filling

 Yeast Dough Carrots:
  • 500 g (1 lb.) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150 ml (5 oz.) olive oil
  • 300 ml (10 oz.) lukewarm milk
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 150 ml (5 oz.) olive oil
  • 2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast

+ carrot juice mixed with tomato paste – for brushing the carrots; egg white for egg wash

Curried Egg Salad:
  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

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Method:
  1. To make the dough, combine the milk with the sugar and yeast; set aside for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Place flour, salt, egg yolks, and oil in a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a hook. When the yeast mixture is nice and bubbly, pour it to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. With a mixer on low speed, knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. (If the dough is too dry, add in couple of tablespoons milk/water; if it’s too wet, add in some additional flour to achieve the right consistency. The dough should be soft, but firm.) Let the dough rise in a warm spot, covered, until it doubles in volume, about 50 minutes.
  3. Mix ¼ cup freshly squeezed carrot juice with 2 tablespoons tomato paste (use more or less till you like the color). Set aside – this will be your glaze for the carrots. Lightly butter and flour the cream horn molds. Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Roll the dough out quite thinly and then cut it into long thin strips, or roll them into thin ropes – mine were about 4 mm wide. Wrap the dough firmly around the molds. Place the mold upright and glaze the dough from all sides with the tomato – carrot mixture. You can add a coat off egg white to make the carrots shiny if you wish. Place the molds onto the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the carrots for about 15 minutes until golden brown; let them cool for a while, take them off the molds, and let them cool completely.
  6. For the egg salad, mash up the eggs with a fork or chop them finely. Place them in a bowl with chopped pepper, celery, scallions, and garlic. Mix the rest of the ingredients into a dressing and pour it over the ingredients in the bowl. Chill.
  7. Fill the carrots with the salad; decorate with dill or fresh parsley leaves and serve.

Gluten-free Potato Lefse (Bezlepkové zemiakové lokše)

Despite the uber-positive and uplifting post I was going for last week I have to confess the holiday craziness caught up with me after all. I was so determined not to succumb to the shopping/cleaning/wrapping insanity this year and most of all to preserve peace among our little tribe… but unfortunately I only partially succeeded. No, I didn’t join the ranks of last-minute shoppers ramming into each other in the crowded lit up shopping malls, and the Lord knows my bathrooms could still use a good scrub down. But I have to say the peace preservation part proved to be a little tricky. Even without squirreling needless stuff to wrap and with a strong resolve not to run circles with the vacuum there is always lots that still needs to be done this time of year. Add to it loads of mixed Christmas emotions and yearning to hug all the people close to my heart that are far away, and you’ve got a pot that’s ready to boil over any minute.

I think holidays are just hard – for the kids who live for weeks in anticipation of the magical Christmas moment, as well as for mothers who want so desperately to make the magic happen for those around them. (Fathers are somehow exempt from this pre-holiday pressure it seems.) The days leading to Christmas morning feel just like an amusement park train ride. The train, i.e. Mother is slowly and painfully climbing uphill: cooking the elaborate four-course menu (because it’s traditional, and keeping traditions alive is important!); wrapping cookies to share with the neighbors (what, you want to tell me being on good terms with neighbors isn’t?!); mailing out last-minute holiday cards (wishing everybody love and peace she would give her right arm for); plus doing all the ordinary stuff like laundry and bills (because neither can be put on hold and both just keep piling up, as if they didn’t know it’s Christmas time, darn it!). While stirring and whipping, Mother – the huffing and puffing amusement park Locomotive is already thinking about what needs to be scrubbed or washed or folded or mixed in where. And in the back of her mind looms this huge exclamation mark: Whatever spills/burns/doesn’t go according to the plan, please just keep keeping on. And whatever it takes, don’t yell, do you hear me? For Pete’s sake, just don’t start yapping at anybody. You know Christmas is supposed to be magical! Do you want to be the one that kills the Christmas magic? Huh? See, I didn’t think so!

And so the motherly locomotive groans and creaks while inching upward to the top, the high pinnacle all her efforts were oriented to: the festive dinner by the candlelight, happy smiles under the tree, and fleeting moments of sibling harmony. From there it only takes seconds till the train plummets back down to the starting station and Christmas is over. Scraps of wrapping paper are strewn all around the room, the kids can start fighting over the gifts, and Mother can finally pull the emergency brake and put her feet up. I confess I love the post-Christmas time. Since I can never properly judge how much food I’ll need, I always make about five times more we’re able to put away; our refrigerator shelves are subsequently bending under all the stuff, and I don’t have to lift a finger for three days straight. For me Christmas starts on the 25th 😉

Today I present you a snippet of our post-Christmas feast assortment. In Slovakia Christmas celebrations last three days, and on the third day – Feast of St. Stephen – folks traditionally roast a goose and serve it with braised cabbage and either yeast dumplings or these potato flatbreads that are very similar to Scandinavian lefse. I roasted a duck instead of goose, and quite successfully attempted to de-glutenize potato lefse. I already mentioned a couple of times that the dough made with gluten-free flour is usually very hard to roll out, but in this case the potatoes together with a little powdered gelatin helped it to stick together much better. Another big help in the process proved to be cast iron tortilla press. With that little gadget I simply pressed small balls of potato dough between two floured sides of a cut ziploc bag, and voila – in an instant I had these thin and uniform little flatbreads. They are smaller than both the original Scandinavian lefse and their Slovak version, but since I didn’t have to slave over them with a rolling pin and they taste just the same, I don’t care one bit. Lefse are very versatile and can be eaten savory or sweet, and you can also very easily freeze them.

Happy Post-Christmas do nothing, everybody 🙂

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Gluten-free Potato Lefse (Bezlepkové zemiakové lokše)

  • 700-750 g (about 25 oz.) cooked potatoes, cooled down & riced (See Note)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 200 g (7 oz., 1 ½ cup) all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum (if your flour mix contains gums already, reduce the xanthan gum to 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon Knox powdered gelatin
  • 1 egg (about ¼ cup), beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt (if making lefse as a savory side dish, add ¼ teaspoon salt more)

+ 1 gallon size Ziploc bag
– more gluten-free flour for flouring the Ziploc bag
– butter or duck/goose fat to coat the hot lefse

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Method:
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl of our stand mixer fitted with a hook. With a mixer on medium speed, combine everything together into a soft dough.
  2. Divide the potato dough into small balls, about 60 g (2 oz.) each. Cut off the top of a large Ziploc bag, and then cut it down the sides to open it up completely.
  3. Making the lefse: Heat up an ungreased non-stick pan over a medium heat. Place the open Ziploc bag into the tortilla press, so that one side covers the top and the other one covers the bottom plate. Flour the plastic lightly with all-purpose flour. Place one ball of potato dough between two layers of plastic and press it down with the handle to make a thin (2 mm) pancake that’s about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.
  4. Carefully remove the top layer of plastic, taking care not to tear the lefse. Invert the lefse onto your left hand and peel off the bottom Ziploc layer. Place the lefse on a preheated non-stick pan and cook until browned in specks on the bottom, about 1 – 1½ minutes. Turn over and cook the other side. Remove the lefse on a plate and grease it with a bit of butter/duck fat. Dust off the flour that remained in the pan and continue making the lefse in the same way, laying them on top of each other on a plate.
  5. Serve the lefse rolled up with your favorite jam, sprinkled with powdered sugar, filled with duck liver pate as an appetizer, or as a savory side dish to accompany roasted duck and braised cabbage.
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Note:

Use either russets or yellow potatoes for the dough. The potatoes need to be very cold before ricing – it is best to cook them the night before and chill them in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a potato ricer (I don’t either), you can grate the potatoes on a small-opening side of a box grater. When you mix up the potato dough and roll the balls, it is best to try to work quickly, because the potato dough gets more and more sticky with time and it’s therefore harder to work with.

 

Gluten-free Pigs in a Blanket

We all know men and women are somewhat different.

Men are simple. They roll out of bed in the morning, shower with one head to toe shampoo, brush their teeth and put on their favorite pair of jeans and a first clean shirt they’re able to find. They never worry if what they wear makes them look fat: after one glance in the mirror they conclude they look dashing and are ready to face the world. To them yes is yes and no is no. When they need something, they ask for it, and when they are quiet, they’re probably just thinking and want to be left alone. They don’t need much to be happy: warm food, warm bed and someone to share it with. Smiley woman, some beer, and a remote. Life’s great.

We ladies on the other hand are a tad more complex, and I’m not just talking about those hundred different products on the bathroom counter. To us, yes means no and no means yes, and do whatever you want means you better not even think about doing what you asked us about, or you’ll be terribly sorry. We look for a man who’s smart, caring, passionate, understanding, committed, great conversationalist, and good with kids. Romantic and easy on the eyes wouldn’t hurt either. When *we* get quiet, beware: there is an overwhelming chance we’re steaming mad inside, and even though we, too, are thinking, it’s probably pondering how to get back at the one who offended or hurt us. There are countless necessary components to our happiness, and we expect our man to know them all. Without telling him, of course; he should absolutely be able to figure it out – if he loves us enough, that is.

Allegedly men are from Mars and we are from Venus; our needs and desires are often thousand miles apart, and it takes time and effort to learn how to coexist peacefully and happily. But there is at least one need we both share, and that is the need to be appreciated for what we are and do in a relationship. Thankfully, the ways to a man’s heart are direct with no needless curves and longish detours… and one of the surefire ways to reach him is to simply serve him some good old uncomplicated man’s food!

So these little sausage rolls are my appreciation effort for the weekend, expression of love materialized! I know what you’re thinking: What’s so hard about rolling some dough around a sausage? Actually, given that these rolls don’t come from a Pillsbury can, are in fact gluten-free, and gluten-free dough is usually inherently un-rollable, these beauties truly made my day! For the first time in forever I was able to roll out the gluten-free dough without any real trouble and wrap it neatly around the filing. To Mr. Photographer’s delight, I see many more kitchen endeavors playing with this wonderful dough in my future! And I’m sure the picture-taking part will go smoother, too: It’s much easier to ask him to take a picture when he knows he can gobble up the food afterwards, than when I tell him: “No, that’s for the blog. Your food is over there.” 🙂

The party season is almost here. Please give these little piggies in a blanket a try; I’m sure they will be a wonderful addition to your entertaining repertoire!

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Gluten-free Pigs in a Blanket

(adapted from http://www.glutenfreeonashoestring.com; makes 16 small rolls)

  • 2 cups (280 g) good quality gluten-free flour mix (I used Manini’s)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your mix contains xanthan/guar gum already)
  • 3 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water, lukewarm, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (+ more for drizzling)
  • 16 mini weenies (make sure they’re gluten-free)
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • caraway seeds for sprinkling, optional

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Method:
  1. Combine yeast, ¼ cup water, and sugar; let stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Place the remaining dry ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. When the yeast is bubbly, add it to the dry ingredients together with oil. With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining water. Continue mixing on a medium speed for a couple of minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time. Form a ball from the dough, oil it all over to prevent cracking, and let it rise, covered, in a warm spot for about 45 minutes, until it doubles in volume.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
  4. Divide the risen dough into four equal parts; keep the remaining dough covered while working with one piece of dough. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 8 x 6 inches; dust dough with more flour if necessary to prevent it from sticking. Cut the rectangle into 4 strips, each 2 x 6 inches.
  5. Pat dry four mini-sausages and slash each one lengthwise about halfway through. (This will prevent the sausages from bursting out of the dough while baking.)
  6.  Assembling the rolls: Place one sausage on a strip of dough and roll it tightly. Moisten the edges of he dough with a little bit of water to keep the rolls neatly closed around the sausage.
  7. Place the pigs in a blanket on the baking sheet and continue working with the remaining balls of dough/sausages.
  8. Brush the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.

Fig Tart with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary, and Blue Cheese

Once again I have a feeling summer just flew by. (Somebody please finally give it a speeding ticket… the rainy season never seems to be so eager to leave us!) I’m going to miss the sun of course, but even more I’ll miss the blue skies. Pretty soon the pretty blue will be replaced by dark grey that’ll stay hanging over our heads for months.

One of the things that help to carry me through the end of the summer blues are fresh figs. We have two fig seasons around here; the second is just starting and runs till the end of September. There is positively nothing better than the taste of a fresh fig. Sure, we have the dried ones available all year long, and they’re wonderful added to cereal or sweet breads, but fresh figs are something else. They’re soft, plump, and bursting with sweetness. I eat them as they are, often unwashed straight from the bag coming from the market. Mr. Photographer loves them stuffed with brie, drizzled with a little honey, and grilled. I rarely get to bake with them, because we always gobble them up, but this time I hid a couple away so I could play with them later.

And as usual, I couldn’t decide what to make – so many wonderful recipes and only about 2 pounds of figs 🙂 But in the end, I chose this savory tart, because I already knew figs go together phenomenally with cheese, and I suspected the caramelized onions and pine nuts would make the already great combination even better. And boy, was I right! Thanks to the store-bought puff pastry the tart comes together in a snap (one of these days I’ll try it with homemade puff pastry!) and looks beautiful. Methinks the same toppings would be great on a not-your-typical-tomato-based pizza, too.

A great little appetizer that lets the figs to take the place in a spotlight, just as they deserve!

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Fig Tart with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary, and Blue Cheese

(adapted from http://www.cooking.newyorktimes.com)

  • 2 tablespoons each unsalted butter and olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup half and half or whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 340 g (¾ lb.) puff pastry
  • 340 g (¾ lb.) fresh figs, halved
  • 2 oz. (55 g) blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 sprig rosemary, + more for garnish
  • honey for drizzling (optional)

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Method:
  1. Make the caramelized onions: Melt the butter/olive oil in a pan. Add sliced onions, chopped rosemary, and sugar, and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and nice golden brown. Stir in balsamic vinegar and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190°C). Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk milk and egg together. Add caramelized onions to the egg mixture and toss.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into 11 x 9 inch (27 x 22 cm) rectangle. Transfer the puff pastry onto the lined pan.
  5. Assembling the tart: Remove the onions from the egg mixture (let the excess egg drip back into the bowl), and spread them evenly on the tart, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) border. Place the figs, cut side up, on the onions, and scatter cheese and pine nuts over. Make a lip on the edges of the tart and brush it with the egg – milk mixture.
  6. Bake until the tart is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Scatter rosemary all over the tart, drizzle it with honey if desired, and serve. (The tart can be served hot straight from the oven or at a room temperature.)

Brazilian Cheese Puffs

This weekend we celebrate motherhood – the hardest and most rewarding job there is. I skip through snippets of memories tucked in the back of my mind over the years. First tooth. First words. First steps. Cute little presents made by the tiny hands, such as this pink birthday card with a picture of a pig in the front, signed in big shaky letters: Love, Daniel. I still have it, and I still don’t have the slightest idea what the darn pig was doing there, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. Pigs are very smart animals, after all.

I remember laughs and tears, and lots and lots of learning. Learning to hold, learning to let go. Learning to hold back when you ask them for a little more respect and they tell you with an arrogant teenage eye roll: “So you gave birth to me. So what? Big deal.” (For the record, said son is still alive. I still love him and he now claims he doesn’t remember any verbal squabble in which he’d utter a similar statement, and swears he’d never dream of saying something like that to his Mother).

Yes, we give birth to them. And then find out we can go three days and three nights in a row without any real sleep to speak of. We can answer hundred whys in an hour. We can live through a half an hour long bus ride all smelly and covered in vomit, because the rickety ride made the munchkin sick, so he barfed all over you, himself, and his stroller. We can read the same story about a little mole over and over again, until hordes of fat black rodents haunt us in our dreams.

Yes, we can.

It’s funny. When you’re in the midst of it, the days can seem endless. You count minutes till bedtime, convinced you really won’t make it this time. And then suddenly they’re taller than you, and you’re wondering where the hell has the time go. You see the awesome people they’re becoming – in part thanks to you and in part despite everything you’ve managed to mess up as a parent, and you know without a shadow of a doubt It’s been all worth it, and you’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Barf and all.

So here’s to motherhood. A wonderful experience, powered by love, coffee, and wine. But mostly love.

Cheese puffs

Brazilian Cheese Puffs

(recipe makes about 25 puffs)

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup mild tasting oil (or butter)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz. ( 280 g) tapioca flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ cups (6 oz.) parmesan cheese (or any other cheese, grated)
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 °F (230 °C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with oil (butter) until very hot but not boiling; take off the heat.
  3. Transfer the hot milk/oil in a bowl of your food processor or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add all the tapioca to the milk/butter mixture; stir until well combined. The mixture should be thick, smooth, and gelatinous. Let the mixture cool until lukewarm.
  4. Gradually add eggs to the lukewarm mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Lastly, beat in the cheese. The mixture will be very soft, almost like a cake batter.
  6. With a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, portion out rounded mounds on a parchment lined sheets, spacing them at least an inch apart.
  7. Put the baking sheets into the oven, and immediately turn down the temp to 350 °F ( 175 °C). Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the puffs are dry on the outside and are nice golden brown.
  8. Let cool slightly and serve with wine.

Cheese puffs 2

These little cheese puffs are a must for those “it’s wine o’clock” moments. They’re similar to French Gougères, but better, because unlike their French counterparts, these little munchies are made with gluten-free tapioca flour, which means even folks with allergies, such as Mr. Photographer can have them. We all know the wining moments don’t apply only to Mothers. Sometimes it’s just better for any parent to pour himself/herself a glass, and shove a cheese puff in his/her mouth, before yelling out saying something that he/she wouldn’t be proud of five minutes later. These little balls are best steaming hot from the oven, when they’re crispy on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside. But they also freeze really well, which means you can (and should!) always have a first aid in the form of bottle of wine and some cheese balls at home!

Cheese Puffs 3