Comte Apple Pie Bites

Cheese, generally speaking, is not a tough sell. Even so, it is hard sometimes to convince someone to stray from the usual cheesy standbys and try something new. Comte is a creamy, nutty tasting French cheese that absolutely deserves to be checked out.

A fairly firm cheese that can be sliced, cubed or grated. Besides being versatile for uses in both sweet and savory cooking, Comte has a good shelf life. If you buy a wedge and it doesn’t get entirely used up, it can sit in the fridge for a week or three and it will be fine.

Cheese and dessert pairings are almost better than cheese and wine pairings. If you have the right cheese and dessert, the contrasting flavors complement each other so well you’ll never eat one without the other again. Your probably quite familiar with apple pie and cheddar cheese. The nutty, earthy flavor of the Comte cheese in these little pie bites definitely kicks that ‘sweet-savory’ appeal up a notch.

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Comte Apple Pie Bites
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Apple/Cheese Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Apple/Cheese Filling
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt. Cube butter & cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until butter is about pea size & mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Add cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing with a fork ONLY until dough starts to pull together. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface & shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic & chill for an hour.
Filling
  1. Place the chopped apples, cinnamon, sugar & lemon juice into a skillet over medium high heat. Cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has completely evaporated & the apples have softened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; add flour. Stir to combine. Cool completely before using. If apples are too wet, drain away any excess liquid.
Assembly
  1. Prepare egg wash. Remove pastry from fridge & roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut into 18 rounds.
  2. On each round place a heaping teaspoon of apple filling & sprinkle with a bit of Comte cheese. Fold in half & seal with a fork or alternately use a perogy cutter to cut , fold & seal.
  3. Place the mini turnovers on a parchment lined baking sheet & keep in the fridge or freezer while you continue to make the rest of the pastries.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Brush egg was all over the pastry crusts. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of coarse sugar. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  3. Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese & place pastries on a wire rack to cool.

Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme

If you’re familiar with the French dessert called ‘Tarte Tatin’, you know that it is an upside-down caramelized apple tart. Basically, the apples are underneath the pastry. As with many things of brilliance, the creation was actually an accident. Named after the woman who invented it, Caroline Tatin, who had become a little distracted while baking an apple dessert at her hotel restaurant. She mixed butter, sugar and peeled apples, poured the mixture into a baking dish, completely forgetting the pastry. The mixture cooked & caramelized before she realized there was no pastry under it. In attempt to save the dessert, she placed some pastry on top and returned it to the oven. The result was Tarte Tatin with deliciously inversed flavors.

Onions are really a perfect bridge to take a normally sweet dish into the savory world.  They already caramelize beautifully and when you add honey, spices, cheese and puff pastry, there’s really not a lot that could go wrong. The same traditional Tarte Tatin concept in a savory version. 

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Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut each onion lengthwise into 12 wedges, leaving roots intact.
  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions; cook, turning occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar & honey (or apple cider vinegar & brown sugar); cook for 5 minutes. Add thyme, salt & pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan. Remove from heat.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll pastry sheet to remove any crease lines. Using a knife, cut pastry into a 13-inch circle. Place pastry onto onions, carefully tucking edges down into skillet. Cut 2 small slits in top of pastry to release steam.
  5. Bake until pastry is puffed & golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Carefully invert tarte onto a serving platter. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme if desired.

Plum Blossom Pastries

Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.

This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.

Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.

Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.

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Plum Blossom Pastries
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Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
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Spicy Plum Butter
Course dessert
Cuisine French, German
Servings
Ingredients
Spicy Plum Butter
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Instructions
Spiced Plum Butter
  1. In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
  2. Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
  3. Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
  4. Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
Recipe Notes
  • Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
  • Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!

Sour Cherry & Saskatoon Galette

Fresh fruit in the summer is one of life’s simple pleasures …. juicy, sweet and/or tart …. they’re like summer jewels.

The saskatoon berry is one of North America’s great unappreciated fruits. Although its easy to confuse them with blueberries, the two fruits are quite dissimilar. The most distinctive feature of saskatoon berries is their almond-like flavor. Saskatoons are in the same branch of the rose family that includes apples, pears, hawthorn and quince.

These little gems are a truly wonderful Canadian fruit with the bulk of their natural range being in British Columbia and the prairie provinces. Come July, many of the U-Pick farms in our area have fresh saskatoons ripening on their trees.

Pairing sour cherries with saskatoons in this dessert is a perfect match. One is tart and juicy, the other is sweet and plump making a good balance.

The (sour) ‘prairie’ cherry was developed in Canada for colder climates. It was cross pollinated with a Mongolian cherry resulting in very hardy, trees producing a sweet-tart cherry.

Our little cherry tree is about 12 years old now. Since I have both of these fruits on hand right now, there is no reason to not make this galette!

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Sour Cherry & Saskatoon Galette
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Cornmeal Pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal Pastry
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt & sugar. Add butter & with fingertips, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water & combine only until blended, do NOT overmix.
  2. Divide pastry into 8 equal portions & press into mini galette pan cups. Place in refrigerator until filling is ready to use.
Berry Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine berries, cherries & sugars. In a small dish, mix lemon juice with cornstarch & add to berry mixture.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Remove pastry from fridge. Mound the berry mixture in each galette cup. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown & bubbly.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to make this into one round galette instead of individuals or to use frozen puff pastry. It will all taste just as good, believe me!

Glazed Tropical Fruit Tart

When it comes to pie/tart making, you have two basic types of crust to choose from: pastry or crumb. The decision will ultimately come down to what you’re planning to fill your crust with.

Classic pastry crust consists of a combination of flour, shortening and liquid whereas a crumb crust is comprised of pre-existing food items such as cookies, crackers or nuts, made into crumbs, tossed/coated with melted butter and pressed into a baking dish to form a shell. Both crusts offer unique strengths, which make them especially suited for certain types of pie fillings and utterly incompatible with others.

Pastry pie crust is your best choice for pies or tarts, sweet or savory, that require a relatively long baking time. Pastry of this nature is a labor of love but none the less it gives you the opportunity to create a ‘work of art’.

The major appeal of a crumb crust is, ‘its easy’. There’s no real pastry technique required to make a crumb crust. Its simply a matter of selecting what you want to make your crust from, pulverizing it and combining the crumbs with enough melted butter to make it stick together when you press it into your baking pan.

For this glazed tropical fruit tart, I chose to use some gingersnap cookies for my crust. The colorful fruit makes such a nice presentation as well as a refreshing taste.

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Glazed Tropical Fruit Tart
Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & stir in sugar. Add crushed gingersnap crumbs; mix well. Spread evenly into a tart pan. Press onto bottom & up the sides to form an even crust. Bake 4-5 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling.
Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine juice & cornstarch; cook & stir until thick & bubbly. Cook & stir for 2 minutes more. Transfer to three bowls. Cover each with plastic wrap & cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Fold each type of fruit (mango, papaya & kiwi) into one of the bowls of fruit juice mixture. Spoon the fruit into the tart shell, arranging it as desired; press the fruit down lightly with a rubber spatula.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap & chill for 3-4 hours. Serve with whipped topping if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • I found it necessary to drain off any excess fruit juice that came from the cut fruit before putting it in the juice/cornstarch mixture.

Mango Brulee

This simple but elegant dessert lets us enjoy a taste of the tropics right here at home this summer. It’s probably not hard to guess that Brion & I enjoy the flavor of mango by the number of recipes I’ve featured on the site.

The word brulee simply means burnt in French and we’ve come to know it through the dessert called ‘crème brulee’. If its not familiar, it is simply a soft custard that’s sprinkled with sugar and then caramelized with a butane torch. The surface bubbles and then hardens to a paper thin, crisp crackly sweet crust that shatters when you dig in.

I think mangoes are so good, they don’t need anything done or added to them but a few extra touches can make it into a simple but elegant dessert.

For this mango brulee, I have sprinkled brown sugar and spices over the cut sides and placed them under the broiler (or use a brulee torch) until the sugar has browned and bubbled. The sugar forms a thin crust, just like the classic French crème brulee.

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Mango Brulee
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword mango brulee
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword mango brulee
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. Turn on the broiler; position the rack 6-inches below the heat source. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Cut through the mango on either side of the pit as evenly as possible.
  3. In a small bowl, combine sugar & spices & sprinkle on top of each mango slice. Place mango slices on the prepared baking sheet. Make sure the mango slices are level so the sugar does not spill out. If you need to, use crumpled foil paper to steady the mango.
  4. Broil for 3 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized.

French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.

Strawberry Madeleines

A summer twist on classic French madeleines. Not quite cookies and not quite cakes, madeleines are a buttery seashell shaped treat that’s usually flavored with nothing more than a wisp of vanilla. With the addition of some fresh strawberry puree and lemon zest these strawberry madeleines are transformed into something quite special.

Fruit puree is the go-to companion for desserts. Who doesn’t enjoy the taste of fruit, accompanied by the backdrop of something sweet? Its hard to replace the taste of real fruit with fruit flavored extracts.

Fruit purees can be used for a range of different things although baking seems to be one of the most popular. The natural sugar in fruit, alongside the retained flavors, colors and smells help create some really good baked items. Purees can also be frozen to last longer.

Strawberry madeleines are simple and quick to make but special enough to stand out!

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Strawberry Madeleines
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Strawberry Puree
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Ingredients
Strawberry Puree
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Instructions
Strawberry Puree
  1. In a food processor, place strawberries & sugar. Process until smooth.
Madeleines
  1. Butter madeleine baking pans. Sprinkle with some flour then shake off excess.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs & sugar until mixture becomes almost white & foamy. Add strawberry puree, flour, baking powder & lemon zest; whisk until flour is incorporated. Stir the butter gently into the batter using a spatula.
  3. Using a pastry bag, fill each madeleine cup of the tray 3/4 full. Refrigerate the pan with batter for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove the pan with the batter from the fridge & bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool a little bit on a wire rack before serving. Dust with powdered sugar if you wish.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Leek, Turkey & Mushroom Quiche w/ Rye Crust

At one time, the typical North American pantry included a single cannister of flour. Today, supermarkets stock a host of milled options, reflecting increased consumer demand for diversity in the baking aisle. Whether you are exploring health trends, culinary interests or ethnic cuisines, when it comes to flour, there are more choices than ever.

I chose a mixture of rye and all purpose for my crust today because I think rye pairs well with these quiche ingredients. Rye flour is almost malty and sweet in flavor with hints of molasses. Rye also has the benefit of being lower in gluten than wheat flour, which means the dough can be handled longer before becoming tough as compared to traditional pastry. Rye pastry, besides being flavorsome and flaky, is great paired with both sweet and savory fillings.

One of the things I find most fascinating about working with food, is that even if you’ve been doing it for a long time, there’s always something new to try, or a new way to try something you’ve already perfected. Food is amazing!

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Leek & Mushroom quiche w/ Rye Crust
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Rye Pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Rye Pastry
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Instructions
Rye Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flours & salt. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms & small lumps remain. Slowly sprinkle dough with cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, quickly stirring with a fork or your fingers until the dough becomes sticky & begins to clump together.
  2. Form dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least one hour. Once chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Carefully transfer the dough to a quiche pan & neaten edges.
  3. To avoid a soggy quiche crust, prebake the crust on 400 F. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom of the crust. Take a sheet of aluminum foil & layer it on top of the pie crust, gently nudging it down so its snug on the bottom & the sides. Fill the foil covered crust with pie weights to hold it in place. Bake 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven & remove pie weights & foil.
Filling
  1. Cook rice; set aside. In a skillet, brown ground turkey. Transfer to a plate & set aside.
  2. Wash & trim leeks well. Dry with paper towel & slice thinly. In the skillet, heat oil & butter combo. Add the leeks & a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic & mushrooms & saute until browned.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings. Grate cheese.
  4. Place cooked ground turkey on bottom of crust. Top with cooked rice & a small bit of the cheese. Next add the leek/mushroom mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over the entire quiche.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until set & just beginning to brown on top. Remove from oven & allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • I divided my pastry & made 2 individual quiches instead of one 9-inch size. Just a matter of personal preference.