Lemon-Rosemary blossom Tart Pastry

blossoming rosemary

baked pastry

This delicately-scented pastry is ideal for making fruit tarts.  Make it when rosemary is in bloom and it will compliment the taste of fresh strawberries. It tastes like lemon butter shortbread cookies. Have ingredients as cold as possible. This recipe makes pastry to fit a 10” removable bottom tart pan.

lemon zest and rosemary flowers

Ingredients:

Ingredients:
8 rosemary blossoms
Zest of one large lemon (yellow part of peel only)
¼ cup sugar
1½ tsp cold lemon juice (Meyer lemon is best)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, frozen for at least 30 minutes
¼ tsp salt
1 cube = 8 Tb cold butter

1 egg yolk
ice water

Directions:

Prepare ice water: Add ice to approximately ¼ cup cold water and let sit until water is ice cold.

Make dough in food processor:
Pulse sugar, lemon zest and rosemary blossoms in food processor. Add flour and salt and pulse briefly to mix.
Cut butter into 8 tablespoon-size slices and add to ingredients. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

dough in processor before forming

Juice 1/2 a  lemon and measure 1½ tsp lemon juice. Mix lemon juice, egg yolk and 2 ½ Tb ice water in a small bowl or cup,  pour into processor and pulse a few times. Don’t over-mix the dough or it will toughen. Dough should be soft and malleable.

dough disk on tart pan

Pour the dough into a large bowl and form a ball and flatten into a disk. Place it in the center of the tart pan.

push dough into edges of tart pan

Press the dough into the sides of the pan so it gets that pretty fluted look. Be careful not to stretch the dough, or it will shrink when it bakes. Pat the dough with the flat part of your palm in the center so it’s even. Press on the rim of the edges to trim the excess dough. Reserve a little extra dough in case you need to repair the shell.

Cover entire crust with the parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

About 15 min before taking the pastry out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 375◦

Remove the pastry from the fridge and fill with ceramic pie weights. (You can substitute beans). and trim the excess parchment with scissors so it won’t burn.  Cover the edges with a pie protector or foil strips. Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes.

unnamed

pricked pastry

Take the pan out and remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Prick the entire bottom of the pastry with a fork.  Cover edges with the pie protector again. Return the pastry to the oven for about 15 minutes until it is golden brown. Let it cool completely on a rack before filling.

baked pastry

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Fatayer bi Sabanekh: Lebanese Spinach Pies فطاير السبانخ

baked pies

When I lived in Boston, I used to buy Fatayer bi Sabanekh, (fa-TYE-year bee sa-BEN-ikh) Lebanese* spinach pies, at Bob’s Pita Droubi Bakery in Roslindale, MA. One bite of this pastry transported me to an ancient exotic place. I could taste lemon and something else: a tart, lemony spice I later discovered was sumac. I have only found this spice, made from ground berries, in Middle Eastern markets.

You can make these with the traditional Fatayer olive oil yeast dough or use pizza dough. If you want a vegan pastry, substitute water for the milk and omit the egg glaze.

You can make the spinach filling a day ahead.

*Also claimed by Syrian, Palestinian, Turkish, Somali, and Jordanian cuisine

Traditional Fatayer Dough: (works great with cheese or meat fillings as well)

1 envelope dry yeast (1 tsp yeast)

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup warm water

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup warm milk

proofing yeast

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Proof the yeast by gently stirring it in, then cover with a damp dish towel in a warm place for 15 minutes until it foams. Mix the flour and salt in a medium-large bowl. Make a hole in the middle and add the proofed yeast, olive oil, and warm milk. Mix with your hands until the dough is formed. Transfer to a floured pastry mat or board. If it is sticky, sprinkle more flour on top until you can easily knead it. Knead for several minutes until it is springy.

dough before rising dough after rising

Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp dish towel in a warm place until it doubles. Knead again to flatten out the air bubbles, pull off egg-sized chunks of dough, rolling into a ball. Roll out each ball into a circle on a floured surface, then fill with the sabanekh (spinach mixture). You can make the sabanekh while the dough is rising.

I also invented this cross-cultural recipe using the sour cream dough my mom used to make for Vatrushka, a Russian dumpling filled with farmer’s cheese. I filled it with the Sabanekh. I like how the rich dough compliments the spinach filling.

Sour Cream Dough
1/2  cube butter (1/4 cup) , softened to room temperature
1 1/2 Tb sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

I’ve used both an electric mixer and a food processor to make the dough. Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sour cream and egg and beat well. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Knead about 12 times on a floured board until it is not sticky. Roll dough into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for ½ an hour. You can begin to prepare the filling while the dough is chilling.

Sabanekh: Spinach filling

1 Tb olive oil
1 onion
1 bunch fresh spinach, or 10 oz pkg leaves, washed well and dried in a salad spinner
½ tsp salt
1 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp sumac
3 Tb pine nuts

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Chop onion finely with the blade in a food processor, and then add to oil. Cook on medium low about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.

While onion is cooking, pulse spinach in batches in food processor until finely chopped.

Transfer the cooked onion to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the spinach with salt, and cook in the same pan for 2-3 minutes. The salt will help to draw the water from the spinach. can tower Let spinach cool, then place in a sieve over a bowl for 20 minutes to drain the excess liquid from the spinach. Press the bottom of a small bowl into the spinach in the sieve, then pile as many cans in the bowl as you can safely make into a tower. You will get about 2/3 cup of spinach water. You can use this in soups. While spinach is draining, roll out the fatayer dough into a circle shape. It won’t matter if the circle’s not perfect as long as you can fold it into a tricorner shape. If you use the sour cream dough, cut it with a round biscuit cutter. You can make larger pies by cutting with a top of a soup bowl.

Stir drained spinach into the onions. Stir in pine nuts, lemon juice, and sumac.

spinach on pastryFill pies with a tablespoonful of Sabanekh for small pies, more for larger pies. Flatten the filling  a bit with the back of the spoon, then fold in a tricorner shape: Gather two sides together and pinch the sides towards the middle. Fold in the opposite side towards the middle, pinching the other two edges towards the center. Pinch all sides towards the center. I leave a little space in the center so you can see the spinach filling. Brush with beaten egg if you like. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil spray.

For Fatayer Dough: Bake for 15 minutes at 400◦

For Sour Cream Dough: Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦ until the dough is golden.

Brush with a bit of olive oil when you remove it from the oven. Let cool on a rack until you are able to eat them.

Capering about the Kitchen with Chicken Piccata

serving chicken picattaMy son Francisco and I first made this on Mother’s Day when he was a teenager. It’s one of his favorite dishes.

ingredients for chicken piccataIngredients: Makes 6 cutlets

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds black pepper

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup (4 Tb) olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

2 medium or 1 1/2 large lemons to make ½  cup fresh lemon juice plus  lemon slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 large shallot, diced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 Tb butter (1/2 cube), divided

cutting chickenPrepare chicken cutlets. They will fry better if cut in half width-wise and pounded flat. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each breast as if to butterfly it (although in this case, there’s only only butterfly wing).

Place a cut breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap, then place in a clean plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold it over.

smashing chickenPound the cutlet several times with a heavy iron skillet so that it is about ½ inch flat. It’s a good way to get out your frustrations after a hard day. Repeat for all the cutlets. Rinse the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge one cutlet at a time in the flour until it’s coated. Pat it gently until it’s just lightly coated with  flour.

frying cutletsHeat 2 Tb oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 1 Tb of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add 2 chicken cutlets, making sure they do not touch each other. Saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Turn chicken around while cooking so that they brown evenly on both right and left sides. When chicken is golden brown, place it on a plate and cover it with a large lid or an inverted plate to keep warm. Add another Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter to the pan before adding the next batch.

saute garlic n leeksWhen all the chicken is fried, add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir a few minutes until they are  fragrant.

whisk saucePour in chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Using a metal spatula, scrape the pan to loosen browned bits. Whisk while cooking for  5 minutes. Cut middle slices from lemon for garnish, then squeeze the juice and stir in sauce with capers and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, turning several times to absorb the sauce. The sauce will be thick.

Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with lemon slices.

Rainbow Chard with Arabic spices and Israeli couscous

Somewhere over the rainbow,
In my backyard,
Growing green, red, and yellow,
Organic rainbow chard.

My daughter and I invented this recipe together on Mother’s Day. We started in the backyard where we are growing rainbow chard. This grows in red, white and yellow colors.

We chop it, stems and all, and sauté with onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms and lemon, and add  the Arabic spices sumac and coriander. When the vegetables are tender, we stir into Israeli couscous. We garnish it with cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

Israeli couscous or Maftoul,  is shaped like small pearls and is chewier than its Moroccan cousin. I cook it in broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version). You can make this dish vegan by using the vegetable broth.

If only achieving peace in the Holy Land was as easy as blending Palestinian and Israeli cuisines!

Serves 6 side dishes:

Israeli couscous:
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
1 ¾ broth (chicken or vegetable)
½ teaspoon salt to taste
2 Tb  lemon juice (Meyer lemon is nice)
Vegetables:
1 bunch chard: 10 -12 leaves and stems, washed
10 mushrooms
2 large cloves shallots, minced
1 onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp zataar or dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup broth
Zest of 1  lemon (Meyer is best)
 
Garnish:
¼  cup pine nuts
2 Tb cilantro leaves
 

Boil 2 cups broth in a medium saucepan with salt and lemon juice. Remove ¼ cup and reserve.

While broth is coming to a boil, toast the Israeli couscous in a  skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently about 7 minutes until golden-brown. Add it to the 1 3/4 cups broth and cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes  until couscous is tender.

While  couscous is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Heat 2 Tb olive oil in heavy frying pan. Add onions, sumac, coriander, zataar or thyme, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent.

 

Cut mushrooms into quarters and add to onions.

Mince garlic and shallots and add to the onions. Sauté them a few minutes until they turn golden.

Slice the chard stems thinly, and chop the leaves. Add to the onion mixture with the reserved broth, lemon juice and zest. Mix well and cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chard softens.

Toss with the Israeli couscous. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

Chicken soupy rice

Happy once, happy twice,
happy chicken soup with rice

I used to sing this Maurice Sendak poem* to my kids while making them chicken soup with rice, one of the all time great comfort foods. Lately we’ve been suffering from stomach flu, which precludes most of that fresh produce I’m usually serving. Instead I made a soupy rice with a squeeze of lemon. It’s a simple dish that can be made in the rice cooker while napping.

Ingredients:

1 cup white rice (I used long grain)

5 cups homemade chicken broth: Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

1 tsp lemon juice

Cook rice with 3 cups broth in rice cooker, then stir in two more cup broth when cooker is done. Let sit 1/2 hour, then turn on cooker again until rice is heated through. You can also cook rice with 5 cups broth over the stove until rice softens (about 20 minutes.) Let sit so that rice soaks up more broth, about ½ an hour. It should be soupier than regular rice.  Serve with a tsp of lemon stirred in.

If you are not up for making homemade stock and have a box of  broth on hand, you can make this recipe using 2/3 cup rice to 3 cups broth in the rice cooker, then add the last cup after the cooker goes off. It won’t be as amazing as the homemade broth version, but it is easier.

Vegetarians and Vegans can make this recipe with vegetable stock.

* To see the entire poem, from “Chicken Soup with Rice, A Book of Months” by Maurice Sendak, as sung by Carole King, click here.

Basil-Meyer Lemon Salad Dressing and Marinade

I used the flowering parts of my basil plant.  They added a floral quality.

You can also make this just with leaves if your plant is not flowering.

Serves 3 salads:

2 Tb basil flowers and/or leaves

juice  of one large Meyer lemon: 2 Tb

1 Tb water

1 Tb garlic-infused olive oil and 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

sprinkle of salt to taste, about 1/8 tsp.

Blend together and pour over green garden salad. I made my salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, and artichoke hearts canned in water.

I added sliced baked chicken breast, and the basil dressing worked well with that too.

Great on the grill! To use as a chicken marinade: Double the basil, lemon and oil to ¼ cup each. Increase the salt to 1 tsp. I added a ripe tomato to the blender and it made the chicken juicy and tender after a couple of hours marinade time. Remember to make several cuts on each side of the boneless breast to allow the marinade to penetrate. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade (that you don’t put the chicken in), and pour over cooked chicken for even more flavor.

I made this in a clay pot, cooking the chicken in the marinade. It came out very juicy and tender. Immerse clay pot in a sink-full of water for 15 minutes. Pour chicken with the marinade in the pot. Place in cold oven and set temperature for 400′ and bake for about 30 minutes until done.

Barbecued Salmon with Fresh Herbs

My friend Karen and I invented this easy recipe on the Fourth of the July. We grilled it in the park on a charcoal grill. The second time I made it on a gas grill at home. Barbecue the salmon about 3 inches above the coals after they  have turned white, or on medium high for gas.

Serves 3  (1/3 pound per person)

1  pound  salmon fillet or steak

2 lemons: 1 sliced and 1 quartered

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt to taste

1 sprig rosemary

3 sprigs dill weed

Place salmon on a sheet of aluminum foil, skin side down.

Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic and salt.

Tear up rosemary and dill sprigs and place on top.

Place lemon slices on top.

Squeeze two quarters of the second lemon on the fish. Wrap salmon tightly in foil, place another piece of foil on top, then wrap again.

Heat up grill on high, then put on medium high before placing salmon on. Cook salmon fillet 3-5 minutes on each side. After 6-10 minutes of cooking, check that it is firm and flaky. For salmon steak, cook 6 minutes on each side, 12 minutes total.

Unwrap salmon on plate, remove lemon slices.  Squeeze last two quarters of  lemon on salmon.