Onion Tarts

Onion Tarts with Cherry Tomatoes, French Olives and Feta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

On FB a fellow food blogger commented that by 5pm she’s so exhausted by her day in the kitchen that she can barely come up with a single thing for dinner. Oh, the irony. Truth be told, at my house there are typically 3 (or more) desserts on the counter, along with several loaves of homemade bread, but when it comes time to eat dinner I am scrambling around to cook something, anything. On any given night I would not call my meals inspired. I love to cook, but after a day of “working” (baking all the desserts and breads that are sitting on the counter cooling), I don’t always leave myself enough time to make something creative, tasty, and healthy. I have vowed in the past to widen my savory repertoire and as a result have made Julia‘s Beef Bourguignon, The Smitten Kitchen‘s meatloaf and short ribs, American Masala‘s lamb burgers and The Splendid Table‘s lasagna to wild raves from my family, but I mostly find myself trying to answer my kids’ hungry requests for dinner, with a blank stare. I tell them we have a “European” eating schedule, since I usually manage to get a meal on the table by 8pm, ok usually later. I know this isn’t ideal and I am saying it in front of all of you, “I will try at least one NEW savory recipe a week (this is so doable) AND I’ll get it on the table by 7pm (8pm at the latest).

Here I go, a tasty beginning to a more savory life. I admit, onion tarts aren’t exactly a meal, but we have to start somewhere and appetizers are a great way to keep my kids happy until I can get the rest of the meal figured out. A sheet of puff pastry, an onion, some herbs, cherry tomatoes, French olives, and a very soft feta all happened to be in my refrigerator and came together in a beautiful little treat. Try this combination, but really these tarts are a quick and easy way to clean out the little jars of yummy morsels in your cupboards. (more…)

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Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Golden Tomato Gazpacho

Squash blossoms | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

While we were in Italy this summer it was squash season. Every menu we looked at had squash and their blossoms on it, fried, stuffed with many different fillings and even on pizza (which will find its way into our new pizza book). I ate them in all their various forms with delight. When I returned to Minneapolis and saw this dazzling display at the farmer’s market I bought them, more out of a sense of nostalgia than having any real plan for them. Honestly, they intimidated me. I didn’t want to make a mockery of anything this beautiful. I considered just keeping them in the little vase I’d set them in, but that would have been a touch lame and so I soldiered on and learned a valuable lesson…stuffing and frying squash blossoms is easy! (more…)

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Pesto and Mozzarella Aebleskivers

Pesto and Mozzarella Aebleskivers Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Nearly a year ago I made my first aebleskiver, thanks to the good folks at Aunt Else’s who introduced me to this fabulous culinary orb at the Mill City Farmer’s Market. They gave me a pan and a package of their mix and off I went. Now I make them with my sons on a regular basis. The boys love the process of cooking them almost as much as eating them. We’ve tried stuffing just about everything but the kitchen sink in the centers. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory. Seriously, if you cook anything in the shape of a sphere my kids will eat anything at all. Although I don’t always stick to the Aunt Else’s mix, I have to say it is better than any of the batters I’ve come up with so far. It is made with local, organic, whole grain ingredients so I can’t feel too guilty about using it on occasion. I’m still looking for the perfect recipe.

Last night was the threat of our first frost, which means winter is on its way and my garden is seeing its final days. Stefan came over to do a big harvest, which was bittersweet. I got such a gorgeous bounty, but it was one of the last. I will miss picking fresh veggies from my backyard farm. I dread going to the grocery store to buy things that I have picked for myself all summer. One of the plants in grave danger of being destroyed by the cold was the basil. I have LOTS of basil and in one cold snap it could all die. That was the inspiration for my pesto and mozzarella stuffed aebleskivers. Not exactly traditional, but a match made in heaven!

To win an Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver package see the directions at the bottom of the post. (more…)

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Garlic Kale Tamale Tart – yes, the crust is bright red!

Garlic Kale Tamale Tart Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The July issue of Saveur magazine was filled cover to cover with the foods of Texas. Everything from pecan pie to mesquite grilled steaks. But one recipe caught my eye, not only because it sounds delicious, but because the technique is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It is a tamale tart by the chef Stephan Pyles. His version has a soft masa tart shell, a roasted garlic custard and piled high with crab and hot peppers, it looks worthy of a trip to Dallas just to get a slice from his restaurant. Instead of baking the tart he cooks it in a bamboo steaming basket, just as you would for making tamales. It would seem that the crust might get soggy, but it was perfect. The custard was soft, silky and decadently rich.

Now that I am a backyard urban farmer I have an abundance of fresh kale. I thought it would go beautifully with the garlic custard and ancho spiced crust. So I gave up the crab and created a lovely quiche like dish that was perfect all on its own, but would be lovely served as a side.

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OMG this Lasagna is Good! (Homemade Spinach Pasta for the March Daring Baker Challenge)

Spinach Pasta Lasagna Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I’m a few days late in posting this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge. Better late than never, especially if it tastes this freakin’ good. The very first meal I made for my husband, on our first date 23 years ago, was four cheese manicotti. It took me a day for each cheese to create it! He told me years later that he knew he’d marry me when he took a bite. We’ve made each other many meals since, but nothing as memorable. When I presented this spinach pasta lasagna to my family they all said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked for them, including my husband (and my 8 year old who claims to hate spinach)!

This week’s Le Creuset winner is announced below.

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Chicken Pot Pie with Homemade Puff Pastry

Chicken Pot Pie with Homemade Puff Pastry Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There are very few things that say comfort food like a chicken pot pie. I go for the classic combination with chicken, peas, carrots and a parsnip for flare, in a rich creamy white sauce that is made with fresh thyme and parsley. The whole thing is draped in a crust of homemade puff pastry. It is this last detail that transforms this bastion of Americana into something utterly sublime. The mille feuilles (thousand leaves) of pastry are baked as a golden brown crown that adds the flaky contrast to the creamy stew below. Seriously folks, it got me mother of the year status in my house! 😉

Puff pastry is the ultimate dough in any home or professional kitchen. One that is not at all difficult to make, but it requires some of your time and a bit of your patience. The store bought version may be convenient but it will leave you feeling lackluster, while the homemade dough will make you weep. In order to get the flaky puff that gives this dough its name, you must diligently “laminate” layers of dough with layers of butter, about one thousand in all. It is the butter that create steam as the dough bakes, which causes all the layers to separate into a flaky crust. Once you work with and taste the pastry you will understand why it is worth every moment that goes into its preparation. I make a batch that will easily prepare pot pie for dinner, a napoleon for dessert and flaky caramelized palmier to dip into my morning coffee. Or, the dough can be frozen for a month. (more…)

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