"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

puff pastry apple tart! . . .

A couple of months ago, I started cooking with frozen puff pastry. First, I made a peach crostada with it which was beautiful! Next, I layered it on some leftover cornish hen that I combined with vegetables in a cream sauce as a chicken “pot pie.” It rose and browned up so beautifully that I was sorry I had come upon this alternative to boring pie crust topping at such a late stage in my life!

The Celtics were drubbed the other night – with a 50 point deficit and Isaiah Thomas aggravating a sore hip and now out for the remainder of the season. What this means of course is that I’ll be tuned into the finale of “Madam Secretary” tonight while flipping back and forth to the Celtics game. The pessimistic attitude towards the NBA playoffs, however, hasn’t restrained me from thinking up something to make for dessert tonight.

This recipe is from “The Nordic Kitchen,” a fabulous cookbook that I borrowed from the library the other day. Unbeknownst to me, the author, Claus Meyer, was the co-owner of Noma in Norway who also hired Rene Redzipi, the now renowned chef who has revived locally sourced dishes in Norway that includes reindeer moss and the like.

This book contains not only gorgeous photographs to inspire one to try out the recipes, but there is an intellectually purist streak through it all, simplifying cooking steps while improving classics at the same time. In this recipe, one defrosts a sheet of puff pastry and cuts into two rectangles that are rolled out slightly. Then apples (I had two Braeburn) are sliced very thinly through the cores with their skins on. Layered onto the pastry in a beautiful design, sprinkled some freshly grated lemon zest (my idea,) confectioners sugar and drizzled with melted butter (see what I mean?) it is baked in a 425 degree oven for about 15-18 minutes until the tart is puffed up and the apples caramelized. Serve it with creme fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream while it is still warm.

After this gorgeous tart came out of the oven, I began to think about other fresh fruit that this would work well with: mixed berries, pears, nectarines and PEACHES when they come into season – which will be soon! And I wonder what a slice of warm peach tart would taste like with a dollop of creme fraiche? How about glazing the peaches with some warm Bonne Maman orange marmalade on top? Endless possibilities!

Honestly, I’m convinced this very simple and elegant way to make a puff pastry fruit tart is so much simpler than peeling and coring fruit to make an apple pie – plus it looks absolutely wonderful and the frozen puff pastry does all the hard work for you!



“Potager” asparagus bread pudding . . .

This was the first meal I made for my husband-to-be when we first met. The recipe can be found in Georgeanne Brennan’s classic cookbook, “Potager.” It consists of asparagus, old bread soaked in milk, swiss cheese, eggs and parmesan cheese.

Tonight, we’re having an early supper before driving into Lexington for a concert performed by the Concord Chorus of Bach B-Minor Mass at St. Brigid’s church. The weather has cooled off considerably, the sun is out and the sound of birds is loud and clear through our open windows.

I’ve been saving about a third of a loaf of my home baked oatmeal bread in the freezer. Warmed up in the microwave this morning, I took a portion and zinged up bread crumbs in my little Cuisinart food processor, noting that I use that kitchen appliance probably more than any other with the portable electric mixer coming in second. The ingredients are laid out in the kitchen and ready to go later this afternoon to put together.

Mid-afternoon, I quarter cut some fresh asparagus – about 10 spears and cooked them gently in some unsalted butter. I soaked the bread in a cup of whole milk and prepared a buttered casserole dish. After about 20 minutes, I hand squeezed the milk from the crumbs and arranged the milky bread in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Then, I added half the sauteed asparagus, seasoned with salt and pepper. On top of the asparagus, I sprinkled some grated swiss and parmesan cheese. Then, came another later of bread (squeezed dry,) asparagus and cheeses.

To this layered casserole, I added three extra large eggs beaten with about 3/4 cup of light cream (or you could use milk too) and poured it carefully all over the casserole so it was well combined. Into a preheated oven of 375, this asparagus bread pudding dish puffed up and looked golden brown in about 45 minutes.

Note: Sometimes the middle of the dish is not cooked as well as the ends, so another 5 minutes or so in the oven will ensure that you won’t get any soggy egg when you cut into the casserole. If it IS soggy, just serve the ends to yourselves and put the pan back into the still warm oven. When you take it out again – it will be cooked through.

Very delicious!