I haven't had a chance to post on the cooking I've been doing lately...Angelica and Marc had a baby so I am here in Rhode Island, enjoying my new baby nephew. Let me tell you--he is one ridiculously cute baby. But there were a few interesting things that have been made recently, so I'll try to write them out.
I first made these tomato tarts back at home last week but I made them again yesterday for a big family meal. They are based on a recipe I read in the New York Times. Marc's parents and younger sister were here, as were my parents and Francesca. Oh, and of course little baby William, but he didn't eat any of these on account of the fact that he's only a few days old. You need to get puff pastry to make these--it should be in the freezer section at the grocery store. Usually it is next to the frozen pie crusts in a box. Defrost it to a point where you can unfold the sheets of puff pastry (usually a package will contain 2 sheets of pastry). Unfold them and cut out circles of about 4 inches diameter. Place the circles on a baking sheet that is covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Take one or two very good tomatoes--hopefully you can find some good heirloom varieties at your farmer's market--and slice them into thin rounds (less than 1/2") that will fit inside the circles of puff pastry with room all around to pull the edges up. Don't worry about making them perfectly tidy--you can cut them to fit inside if you need to. Spread about 1 or 2 tablespoons of marscapone cheese onto each circle of pastry, then sprinkle about 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil over the cheese. Put a slice of tomato over the basil, salt and pepper on top, then pull up the pastry round and pinch the edges to make a sealed tart with the tomato slice showing out of the top, but the edges all around sealed up. Do this for all the tarts, then sticke them in an oven at 425 for 15 minutes. A good variation would be to add pine nuts sprinkled inside. Also maybe instead of tomato you could make this with slices of roasted eggplant and some mint instead of the basil. Or a sweet variation would involve thin slices of plum with slivered almonds and a drizzle of honey on top. Lots of fun.
For the big family dinner we grilled out flank steaks and I made a compound butter for on top. Minced up 1 small clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon capers and 1 tablespoon parsley. Mixed these all up with half a stick or so of very soft butter until it was well incorporated, shaped it into a little mound, then stuck it into the fridge to solidify. When the flank steak was done grilling, sliced it thinly against the grain then put the flavored butter out for people to put on top. We also had grilled red peppers and small portobello mushroom caps. These are really easy and I know I've written about simple grilled vegetables before but Marc would like to know how to do it so I'll write it out again for him, in simple language that even a professor of of international conflict and territorial disputes can understand: Slice well-washed red peppers in half the long way and remove the very top with the seeds and stem. Take your pepper halves and rinse them well to remove any more seeds that might be hanging around. If the halves seem large to you, slice them in half again, but you probably shouldn't cut them any smaller or they will fall through the grill. Put your pepper slices in a large bowl; and cover them with a liberal amount of olive oil, at least a couple tablespoons. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat. Toss the peppers around they are well coated, then stick them on a hot grill and turn them continually, keeping a good eye on them. They will get very soft and the skins will blacken a little bit. They shouldn't take more than 10 minutes or so to cook. You can use red, yellow or orange peppers with success; however, green peppers are a fool's errand and should be avoided at all costs. They are not really mature vegtables, did you know that? They are unripe peppers that have not yet reached the delicious status of a full grown red pepper. They are gross. For grilled portobello mushroom caps you just take the stems out of the cleaned mushrooms then cover them with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, 1 small minced clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Mix them up well in this marinade, let them sit for about 20-30 minutes, then toss them on the grill. Turn them frequently and let them stay over the heat until they are very soft and getting a little browned. They take about 10-15 minutes, but don't let them burn.