Pies, Tarts, and Crostatas – usually, when I think of pies and tarts they’re filled with something sweet and fruity, chocolate, or other lusciously sweet concoction. That’s part of why I was so excited to be a judge at the American Pie Council National Championships this year. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sit and eat pie for two days? I learned very quickly that you should NOT pick your favorite kind of pie to judge. Why? Because after more than 30 cherry pies (including gluten-free and no sugar added) I think it’s going to be a very long time before I’ll want another cherry pie again. It was really inspirational to see all of those beautiful pies – some were works of art. I don’t usually make pies so I was searching pies and tarts when I came across this pin for Creamy Herbed Ricotta and Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart by Michelle of The Brooklyn Cook. Ooh, a SAVORY option!
I have a confession to make – I love Disney movies. I remember going to the Disney summer film festivals each summer as a child. Every week there was a couple of shorts and then a feature-length movie. It was one of my favorite summer memories.My kids loved Disney when they were old enough to watch their first movie, Beauty and the Beast. It’s our all-time favorite, but there have been others that are near the top of the list; like Ratatouille. I think I fell in love with this one because of my love of cooking and my dream to visit France. So when I saw this pin for the BuzzFeed Goodful recipe of Baked Ratatouille, inspired by Marie at Feeling Foodish, it made me think of the way that the rat-chef, Remy, took the traditional vegetable stew and transformed it into haute cuisine.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this little clip will let you see the dish that I’m referring to – and go watch the movie!
So in an attempt to recreate the dish that piqued my curiosity since it became a movie icon, here is the Pintesting of Baked Ratatouille.
There are three main steps to making this dish; the sauce, the veggies, and the herb seasoning.
1. The Sauce:
The sauce starts with fresh aromatics. I found it cheaper to get a potted basil plant at the grocery store than to buy a small packet of basil leaves in the herb section. Not only does the basil stay fresh longer, but it lasts longer and looks so pretty on my kitchen counter.
Sautee the onions and peppers in extra virgin olive oil.
When they start to soften add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Minced garlic burns rather quickly, so I wait a bit before adding it.
Add the crushed tomatoes. By the way, this would be great over pasta.
Add the basil and take it off the heat.
2. The Vegetables:
Now for the veggies. Try to find similarly sized vegetables. This is one of the first times I’ve ever cooked eggplant, and I should have chosen more wisely. You’ll find out why in a moment.
Slice the vegetables thinly. I used a mandoline (seen above) for the yellow squash and zucchini, but the eggplant was too wide and the tomatoes didn’t slice well so I used a knife on them.
As you can see, the eggplant was MUCH larger than the rest of the veggies. Not one to give up, I knew there had to be a way to make this work.
I used double everything other than the eggplant, and it seemed to fit well. Voilà!
Layer the veggies in a pattern.
Continue this all the way around the pan making concentric rings. I ended up cutting the eggplant in order to make it fit in the center ring.
3. The Herb Seasoning:
This calls for fresh herbs; thyme, basil, and parsley. The store didn’t have fresh parsley so I used dried.
NOTE: When substituting dried herbs for fresh, remember that they are more potent when they’re dried. You usually need about 3 times the amount of fresh herbs as you would dried herbs. In this case, 2 Tablespoons of fresh parsley would be about 2 teaspoons of dried parsley.
Mix the herb seasoning. It smells incredible!
Brush it on the arranged vegetables.
See how pretty that looks!
Bake it covered for 40 minutes in a 375-degree pre-heated oven. Remove the cover and bake another 20 minutes.
Give it just a minute to cool and then dig in. We had eaten lunch not too long beforehand, so this was a separate vegetable course. It smelled and tasted so good that I had two small “just-to-taste” servings while my HH had three.
We ate the leftovers the next day with some oven-baked fish – so delicious! The flavors have longer to get to know each other and play more nicely together; similarly to how lasagna or chili tastes better the next day.
Fin (The End):
The number of vegetables called for in the recipe was nearly double of what would fit into the pan. We didn’t complain since most of the prep work was done and I just made another batch. If eating veggies the same way too many days in a row sounds boring, I found some ways to do a ratatouille makeover. Check here and here for inspiration.
A French foodie friend told me that the ratatouille on the movie is not really ratatouille, which is a simple vegetable stew. So I searched for the Ratatouille version of ratatouille and found that it’s actually called Confit Byaldi. In the image below, the Disney Pixar version of the dish is shown at the top with a real version shown beneath (one being mine).
I want to leave you with some inspiration; a quote from the illustrious Chef Gusteau, “Anyone can cook but only the fearless can be great.” Be fearless. Be Great. Try this recipe.
The Pintesting Results:
Overall Results: 4.0 Pins
Accuracy: The dish turned out looking like the recipe picture and tasted delicious, but the number of vegetables was nearly double of what the pan could hold and that’s a lot of extra veggies. Also, the recipe didn’t specify the kind of eggplant to use in order to get similar-sized slices for uniformity. For these reasons, I’m giving this 4 Pins.
Difficulty: This recipe requires a lot of prep work for all three parts. If you don’t have a mandoline and need to slice all of the vegetables with a knife, it will take a bit of time, too. You will use the chop, slice, and chiffonade knife techniques; not hard, but not easy enough for kids. 4 Pins
Time: There are about 15 minutes of prep work to get all the veggies done, plus about 15 minutes to cook the sauce and an hour of baking time. That’s an hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong – it’s absolutely worth the time and you can make extra to freeze or you can get it layered early in the day and cook it for supper, but it’s not going to be a 30-minute meal. 3 Pins
Cost: If you have a garden and need to use up a bumper crop of vegetables, then this is a cheap dish to make. However, if you need to hit the grocery store for everything it could get costly depending on what’s in season and on sale. Since produce prices fluctuate substantially by regions and seasons, I’m not going to give a specific price, but I will give this 4 Pins.
Practicality: If you have or know kids (little or big ones) who don’t care for vegetables, this might be one way to get them to eat them. First, it’s delicious. Second, it’s from a movie. Let the Disney magic work in your favor here. That the flavor is even better if you have leftovers is a big plus. I also love that leftovers can be transformed into everything from quiche, omelets, sauces, quesadillas, soups, and so much more. 5 Pins
I was never a fan of guacamole until I met my husband. He makes the BEST guac (as we usually call it in our house). Even people who don’t like guacamole like my handsome hubby’s guac. His recipe is simple. It’s made with simple real ingredients. (I asked if he would let me share his recipe – maybe someday.) And it’s the very rare occasion when we have leftovers. That’s kind of like leftover wine or chocolate. Yes, you understand.
The thing about leftover guacamole is that it turns a really gross color brown and looks like something your dog might have hacked up on a really really bad day. Would you like some leftover guacamole? Oh yes – NOT!
And the sad thing is that it really doesn’t change the taste, just the way it looks. But since we eat with our eyes first… this problem needs to be solved.
My handsome husband made some of his almost famous guacamole. This is the leftovers.
Which I put into a small container.
Then covered it with a layer of water roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
I put on the lid, then put it in the fridge overnight.
After work the next day, I took it out of the fridge and this is what it looked like.
I drained off the water and lightly blotted it with paper towel.
You can see from the before and after pictures that the “after” looks a little washed out compared to the “before” shot. It tasted a little washed out, too. I added a little salt, but it still wasn’t quite the same. Although I think it looks a LOT better than the disgusting brown that I normally see in leftover guac.
So here are the Pintesting results:
Overall Results: 4.05 Pins
Accuracy: The guacamole didn’t turn brown, but it did appear (and taste) a bit washed out. Avocados have the good kind of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. I don’t know if that’s what was floating on the top of the water when I took the container out of the fridge the next day, but it had that kind of look. IF that’s what it was, then that would explain the washed out taste. (If anyone can clarify this point, I would be extremely glad for the information.) I’m giving this 3 Pins.
Difficulty: Pouring a bit of water on top of the guacamole… So simple that I’m not going to waste words and time on it. 5 Pins
Time: It took mere seconds to pour water over the guacamole. 5 Pins
Cost: Since we used bottled drinking water (because we don’t have good tasting tap water), there actually was a cost. However, if you use tap water it’s free. 5 Pins
Practicality: The method was successful in keeping the guacamole from turning brown, is cheap and easy. You lose a bit of flavor, but adding a little salt and hot sauce helped a lot. When some of my friends and family heard I was doing this test, they recommended that I leave the pit in the guacamole to keep it from turning brown. Another test for another day. For this test – 4 Pins
It’s time to Celebrate! Summer is a time of celebrations. There’s Independence Day (and Canada Day for my Canadian friends), Labor Day, and many birthdays of friends and family – including MINE (yes, I still get excited about my birthday, don’t you?). Summer is a great time to party it up! As much as I LOVE to make and eat cake, after a while I just need something different. Too many cakes + bathing suit season = disaster.So when I found this Pin for a simple but delicious looking Peach and Cherry Tarts by Jo from Jo Cooks, I was all over it.
Fresh peaches and cherries have been calling to me in my grocery store for a while now. I’ll walk past them, and the smell of those peaches calls me over, enticing me. “You know you want to buy us… We are your husband’s favorite…” It’s like the siren’s song. Then there are all of the wonderful health benefits to eating fresh fruit. Add the simplicity of the recipe… okay, let’s get started!
The recipe called for puff pastry, fresh peaches, fresh cherries, mascarpone cheese, cream cheese and a little sugar. I couldn’t find the mascarpone cheese, so I went with all cream cheese and a little milk and vanilla to help sweeten and loosen up the mixture.
Puff pastry comes frozen, usually in two sheets folded in thirds, and requires thawing before using. The instructions say to thaw overnight in the refrigerator or 30 minutes on the counter. Since I was making this early in the morning, I chose to thaw it overnight so I’d have one less thing to worry about before coffee. Seriously, who does ANYTHING before coffee? Exactly.
The pastry should unfold once thawed. However, mine was stuck together in two solid rectangles of dough. What to do? I just dusted the counter with a little flour and rolled it out to its intended size.
Once the dough was the right size, I cut it into thirds and put the pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Now for the sweetened cream cheese. As I said before, I couldn’t get mascarpone cheese so I went with all cream cheese. Mascarpone cheese is a bit softer than cream cheese, so I added a little milk (maybe a teaspoon) and a little vanilla (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) to loosen and lightly sweeten the mix.
Mix together until smooth.
Divide onto the pastry sheets…
…and spread it evenly.
Slice the peaches thinly and pit and half the cherries. I like that you don’t need to peel the peaches. A note about fresh peaches; look for fruit that is just ripe but isn’t too soft. Peaches bruise easily and turn into mush if they’re too ripe. They should be firm enough to handle without indenting with gentle pressure.
I love fresh cherries but don’t care for the lovely purple hue they turn my fingers while slicing or pitting them, so I sliced the cherries under running water. That fixed the problem before it became one.
Arrange the peach slices on the pastries and the cherries down the center.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. (My convection oven compensates automatically, thus the temperature difference.)
Done! That’s it. I brought these into work to be a morning tasty treat to celebrate my birthday. Make my own birthday treat? Yes! That’s just how I roll. Making people happy with food makes me happy.
So this is how the Peach and Cherry Tarts looked when I set them out mid-morning. They didn’t last long, though. Everyone loved the fresh taste from these that wasn’t super sugary.
Oh, and those oddly shaped rolls on the left side are my way of using the other puff pastry sheet.
- Cut the puff pastry sheet into quarters and put a row of four miniature candies down the center of each section; I used Hershey Kisses and Rolos because that’s what I had on hand but you can use any kind of miniature candies. (Note: this is a PERFECT way to use up Halloween candy that didn’t get passed on to trick-or-treaters. You know – that extra bag that you got “just in case”.)
- Brush all the edges with egg wash and fold the pastry over in thirds like a letter. The egg wash will help seal the pastry so the chocolaty goodness doesn’t leak out.
- Place it seam side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan tucking under the edges.
- Brush the whole pastry with egg wash to make it brown and shiny and beautiful.
- I baked these with the tarts and they came out perfectly. Yes, there are only three. Yes, I made four. Don’t judge – I was testing for doneness.
The Pintesting Results:
Overall Rating: 4.55 Pins
Accuracy: The recipe was thorough, well-written and simple to follow. I had to substitute for the mascarpone cheese, but that didn’t take away from the recipe at all. The tarts turned out fantastic. I love how the fruit took the spotlight and made a wonderfully fresh and naturally sweet dessert (or in our case, mid-morning snack) without a lot of added sugar. It was really spot-on with the recipe and presentation. 5 Pins
Difficulty: There are only 6 ingredients in the recipe, and normally they’re easy to find at my grocery store. (Sorry mascarpone.) When I make this again – and I definitely will – I’ll thaw the puff pastry on the counter rather than use the overnight method. A puff pastry novice might have been put off by the dough that wouldn’t unfold. And while I didn’t think that thinly slicing the peaches, and pitting and halving the cherries was any trouble, others at my office didn’t seem to agree. “Sure, it’s simple for YOU”. Of course, these are the people that think that I float through my kitchen and sing as I cook and bake, while woodland creatures come and do the dishes and clean my house. All I can say to that is… I wish!
Yeah… In the real world, this gets 4 Pins.
Time: I whipped this up before work – including getting ready and without the help of any woodland creatures. The whole thing took about an hour. If I hadn’t had to roll out the puff pastry, it might have taken a little less time, so I’m giving this 4 Pins.
Cost: With only 6 ingredients, or 7 since I subbed the mascarpone by adding milk and vanilla, the total cost was still around $10, and we had extra cherries for lunches and snacks. 4 Pins.
Practicality: This recipe is simple, cost effective, delicious, healthy, and (in my humble opinion) quick and easy tart. It works equally well for dessert, brunch, lunch, or any other food option. 5 Pins