Friday, August 17, 2012

Cherry Tomato Sweet Pepper Mozzarella Tart

This summer, I had the pleasure of cooking for my mother- and father-in-law at least a couple of times every week.  The challenge was to make beautiful, appetizing meals that would entice my father-in-law, who is in hospice care, to eat.  This particular dish was beautiful to look at and delicious as well.  We were so excited because, for the first time in ages, he cleaned his plate!  If you don’t believe me, check this out.  

Yes, we were so excited, we actually took a picture!

Give this lovely tart a try and see if your family doesn’t clear their plates as well.

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached but normal flour will do.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco is my preferred but I have had to use butter in some countries where Crisco is not available. It works but the crust is not as flakey.)
2-3 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:
3 medium onions
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 1/2 oz or 40g pine nuts
8 oz or 225g mozzarella balls or bocconcini
10.5 oz or 300g red cherry tomatoes
10.5 oz or 300g yellow cherry tomatoes
4 orange mini sweet peppers
Small bunch fresh thyme

Put the flour, shortening and salt together in one bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the flour into the shortening until you have small crumbs.

Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time, blending with the tines of a fork, until the mixture forms a soft dough which can be rolled into a ball.  

Wrap the ball in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

When you are ready to bake, either roll out the dough and fit your pan or, if you are at your mother-in-law’s and you don’t have a rolling pin, slice the dough into thin pieces.  

Lay them in the pan and quickly press them into a crust.  

Trim the edges with a sharp knife and turn the trimmed pieces over.  Press them in to make a nice even edge.  Cover with cling film and put it in the fridge until you are ready to bake.  (If baking immediately, you can skip this step.)  If you are using a ceramic pie plate or casserole, take it out when you start preheating your oven so the ceramic dish can warm up a little.  Some dishes cannot safely go directly from the refrigerator to the oven. 

Okay, ready to bake?  Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Slice your onions thinly and put them into a small pot with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the onions down slowly over a medium heat until they caramelize and are nicely browned.  Stir frequently and make sure not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

Cut your sweet peppers into pieces about the same size as the cherry tomatoes.  

Toast your pine nuts in a small skillet over a medium flame.  

Shake the skillet often to keep them toasting evenly.  This should take just a few minutes.  Be careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool. 

Pull the leaves off of all but a few of the thyme stems, reserving some of the thinner stems for adding in whole, with leaves, before baking.

In a big bowl, start to assemble your tart filling.  Add in the cherry tomatoes, cut peppers and mozzarella balls.

Sprinkle liberally with the thyme leaves and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the cooled caramelized onions and stir thoroughly.   

Pour the filling into the pie shell.  

Top with the reserved thyme and the pine nuts.

Bake the tart for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is crispy and browned and the mozzarella balls are melted completely.

This is a great vegetarian main course but would also be delicious served in smaller slices with grilled chicken or salmon.  I served it with poached salmon with creamy caper onion sauce on a bed of mixed greens. 


This post is part of the improv cooking challenge,  brainchild of Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.   Perhaps you’d like to join us?  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brazilian Fishcakes with Molho

I like to make fishcakes whenever I have leftover cooked fish, sometimes from a whole fish we’ve put on the barbecue or baked in the oven. Turn leftover fish into Brazilian fishcakes, for a whole new meal your family will love. 

This is my first time to take part in Cooked in Translation and our host for this month is the lovely Soni Sinha (which means she gets to choose the international dish we will interpret) from Soni’s Food for Thought.  She has chosen fishcakes!  But you probably guessed that from my title.  My mind went immediately to the bolinhos de bacalau or cod balls  (Doesn’t it sound better in Portguese?  Most things do.) we loved when we lived in Brazil.  Salted cod is soaked until it is tender again, then flaked and mixed with mashed potatoes and seasonings.  Little balls of this mixture are deep-fried to a golden crust.  I am not a fan of deep-frying, at least at home, so I decided to make the mixture, form it into patties and pan-fry, adding the typical Brazilian molho or sauce to finish.  Fishcakes are a wonderful use of leftover fish so, instead of salted cod, I used grilled Grouper, but you could use any flakey fish.  Gotta say, these got good reviews at home and I would make this again! 

For the fishcakes:
About 2 cups or 225g cooked fish, deboned
7 oz or 200g potatoes
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 fresh chilies
Small bunch cilantro or coriander leaves
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 egg

For the molho:
1 medium tomato
1 small green bell pepper
1 small onion
1 medium lime (or two tablespoons juice)
1/8 – 1/4 cup or 30-60ml Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Using a couple of forks, pull your fish into small pieces.  This particular Grouper was a big guy and needed a knife to cut him up.  It was the weirdest thing because he was definitely not overcooked but even his skin was tough.  His flavor, though, was outstanding.

Peel and cube your potatoes and put them to boil in lightly salted water.

Finely minced your onions, fresh chilies and garlic cloves.

Rinse the cilantro and remove any thick and woody stems. Gather it up in a small ball.  Finely mince it as well, soft stems and all.

Meanwhile, your potatoes are probably cooked.  Make sure a fork goes into the cubes very easily.  Yes?  Okay, then drain out the water and mash the potatoes until very smooth.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.  I removed mine from the hot pot after mashing so that they would cool faster.

Mix together the fish and vegetables, including the cooled potatoes, and add a light sprinkle of salt and a couple of good grinds of black pepper.   Stir well.

Add in your one egg and mix thoroughly.

Divide the mixture evenly into four patties.

Dampen your hands and use them to form patties with the mixture.  Rest them on a plate covered with cling film.  The cling film helps them not stick to the plate and also gives you a way to get under them without mashing the beautiful patty when removing to fry.

Cover the patties with cling film and chill for 30 minutes (or until you are ready to eat.)

To make the molho, cut your tomato in half and remove the seeds.  Do the same with your bell pepper.  Cut them both into small pieces.

 Peel and dice the onion.

Mix all three together and add a good sprinkle of sea salt and a generous few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Squeeze your lime into the bowl – or if your lime has a lot of seeds, into another bowl so you can remove the seeds before adding.

Drizzle in olive oil and stir, tasting occasionally to see if more is needed.   Set aside.

When you are ready to eat, drizzle a little olive oil into a non-stick pan and gently place the fish cakes in the oil.  Cook over a medium heat and put on a lid so that the insides of the patties will warm as well.

Allow to brown on the first side before trying to turn them over.

Turn a couple of times until both sides are nicely browned and the patties are heated through.

Serve topped with a couple of spoonsful of the molho.

If you want to go completely Brazilian, the full meal could include black beans, rice and farofa, which is manioc flour, toasted with butter and seasoned with garlic.   It can sometimes be found online or in Latin American shops.  Or if you are in Cairo, in my freezer.


And to take the Cooked in Translation one step farther, the next day,  I made a sandwich, spreading homemade hummus and fresh habanero pepper sauce inside half of a pita bread and filling it with crumbled fishcake topped with molho, adding a little Middle Eastern flair to the spicy Brazilian fish.  Good food has no borders!  (And isn't that the point?)