Daily Archives: May 18, 2013

what we are eating

I often post pictures on Instagram of things we are working on in the kitchen, and then I usually get a request for the recipe.  I thought I’d feature a few of our favorite spring / early summer recipes starting with the supper tart from The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper cookbook.  I thought I had posted the recipe before, but when I searched the archives I realized that I just talked about in generalities and posted a link to the cookbook (one that I highly recommend).
I thought I’d make it a little easier for you to whip this up tonight for dinner by posting the direct link to the recipe here, and by telling you how we make it at our house.  (Far less precise.)

When I’m trying a new recipe I always make it “by the book” the first time, sometimes even the first few times.  When I first started cooking on my own (outside of brownie mixes in college), that was my strategy.  Follow the recipe.  I know it’s not rocket science, but really reading the recipe – reading an entire cookbook from end to end – is what has worked for me.  I feel like now I have enough basic knowledge to be able to discern a good recipe from a dud before I ever measure out the first ingredient.  There are countless sources of online recipes for any ingredient you can imagine, but that hunt and peck system rarely produces the consistent winners that we return to, time and again.  I find that I need the back story (or the front story) – I like to know why a particular chef champions certain techniques over others, what ingredients they swoon over, what disasters along the way they’ve encountered and discussed so that I don’t have to.

My favorite “front story” might just be Jeni’s ice cream cookbook… but more on that later.  Dinner before dessert.  (Usually.)
This supper tart couldn’t be easier, and there’s no reason not to make it on a weeknight.  It uses a frozen puff pastry, so the only planning ahead you need to do here is to throw the frozen box into the fridge on the way out the door in the morning so you don’t have to thaw it when you get home.  If you forget, then put it on the countertop (unwrapped) so that it thaws more quickly while you get everything else together.  Sometimes I’ll even set it on a cookie sheet on top of the preheating oven.
The recipe calls for an ungreased cookie sheet, but I started using parchment paper to ease the clean up.  I never bake without my favorite paper.  Never.
You’ll see two versions of the recipe at the link, but to my knowledge and aging memory, we’ve only made the grape one.  I do believe that a piping hot purple grape is about the closest thing to heaven I’ve ever tasted.  On our first anniversary trip we spent a long weekend in Chicago.  I can’t even remember the name of the restaurant where we ate dinner, but it was a lovely evening, and the outdoor garden was so beautiful*.  My dinner was some type of pasta with various ingredients, but I distinctly remember the roasted grapes.  I was never so sad to leave an unfinished dish behind, but I had nowhere to keep the leftovers.  Perhaps it’s strange that I still remember those grapes a dozen years later, but I do – every time I make this dish.

That will explain why I use way more grapes than the recipe calls for – same for the greens.  This recipe is perfect for those slightly-past-prime salad mixes in your fridge, or for when your grapes have lost their uncooked crispness.  This supper tart will breathe one last breath of life into them, and trick you into thinking that it’s perfectly acceptable to take what is essentially a day old salad, put it on layered, buttery pastry dough, drown the nooks and crannies with cream and cheese, and still feel good about your dinner.  And why not?

Preheat the oven (the only weird part of this summery dish is that you have to crank the oven up to an ungodly temperature), get out a very large bowl, and then combine all the ingredients, being generous with the grapes and the greens.  Toss it all with your hands to get the olive oil coating everything else.  The lemon zest is really a key component.  The thyme is negotiable, and a little dried is a fine substitute.

Watch this carefully, and make sure you are cooking it on the lowest rack.  It’s going to get really brown on the bottom, but that’s the beauty of puff pastry – the bottommost layer will likely just stick to the paper and the other thousand layers will be perfection.  Mind your tongue – cheese pockets and cooked grapes can be hot, but they are oh so worth it.  If you try out any other combinations of ingredients and like the results, do share in the comments.

*Edited to add:  Rose Angelis in Lincoln Park was the restaurant.