Tiny Gourmet

Oven Roasted Plantain Chips

Food, RecipesKristenComment

This coming weekend is Mother's Day, so Frank and I are heading back to our hometown area to spend some time with family. Since we don't often get to spend time with family, we thought that it would be nice to get both of our families together for some drinks and appetizers. We'll definitely be serving these roasted plantain chips, which are not only the perfect compliment to a cocktail but also SO easy to make.

I know what you're thinking -- why would I make plantain chips when they are so readily available in the grocery store these days? The quick answer is that these are so much better than what you buy in a store, PLUS they are equally inexpensive. Our Whole Foods carries plantains for $.60 each, so you could make a lot of plantain chips for not a whole lot of money.

Plantain chips are versatile. For starters, you can make them with unripe plantains, which is always a good option, or you can wait a few days until brown spots appear on the skin of the plantain for a sweeter version. The version presented here is simply salted, but you could also play around with a sprinkling of flavorful seasonings like cumin, curry powder, or cayenne for a bit of heat.

No matter which way you choose to prepare these, I will give you fair warning that these are ADDICTIVE! Two plantains-worth of chips mysteriously disappear very quickly between the two of us in our household, so if you're planning to have these for a larger gathering I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe!

Oven Roasted Plantain Chips

Ingredients
---------------
2 green plantains (we like to let ours ripen a bit, but you can use them sooner as well)
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted if solid (you can also use another neutral oil, like canola)
Salt to taste (at least 1 Tbsp)

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a paring knife, cut off the ends of the plantains and peel the fibrous skin off of the fruit.

Using a mandoline on a very thin setting, or using a knife, slice the plantains into thin rounds into a bowl. Add the coconut oil and toss the chips to coat evenly.

Divide the plantains and oil between two large baking sheets, spreading the chips out so that there is not too much overlap. Sprinkle generously with some of the salt.

Bake the chips for about 10 minutes until they take on a nice golden brown color and have crisped up. Some of the chips might still seem slightly soft, but allow them to cool on the baking sheet and they should get crunchy.

Transfer the cooled chips into a bowl and sprinkle with more salt to taste -- serve warm and enjoy!

Maple Pecan Biscotti

Food, RecipesKristen1 Comment

Have you ever had one of those individually wrapped, chocolate-striped biscotti that you can usually find in a coffee shop? They seem so tempting until you take your first bite and scratch up the roof of your mouth. Why are they so hard and sharp? I always end up needing to dip them in my coffee, not because it's an enjoyable way to eat biscotti (because it totally can be) but because it's necessary to soften those suckers up before consumption. That's why homemade biscotti is such a good idea. All of the delicious, dip-able fun without destroying the roof of your mouth!

These biscotti were created out of ingredients that I happened to have in the house: maple syrup and pecans. I have to admit that I have never made biscotti before, so I was a little nervous about riffing on a recipe without a baseline. I made the decision to cut back slightly on the sugar found in most biscotti recipes and to replace it with the sweetness from the maple syrup. The result was pleasantly sweet without being overkill, and I'm happy to report that they were crisp without being too dry.

Maple Pecan Biscotti

Ingredients
---------------
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. pecans, chopped

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and granulated sugar to the bowl of a mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the ingredients together over medium-high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add one egg at a time, waiting until the first is fully incorporated before adding the second. Beat in the maple syrup. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the pecans with a spatula until evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough into a mound in the center of the baking sheet. Using a spatula, shape the dough into a log about 12-inches long and 3-inches wide. Bake for 40 minutes until the log has a light golden color. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal. Return the slices cut side down to the baking sheet and bake for an additional 20 minutes at 350 until crisp and golden. Cool and serve with your favorite cup of coffee or tea!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Ginger

Food, RecipesKristenComment

I hope that everyone had a fantastic July 4th weekend! I left my tiny kitchen in the city for a day to visit with a friend in the burbs. We spent the entire day eating and hanging out by the pool (once the sun finally decided to make an appearance), which is pretty much my ideal way to spend the holiday!

Even though I swore I wouldn't eat for days after Saturday's feast, here I am, baking a pie. But really, who can resist pie? This pie is particularly awesome because it combines fresh summer flavors like strawberry and rhubarb with a little bit of zing provided by fresh ginger and lemon zest. I think it's a combination that's just different enough to make your standard strawberry-rhubarb pie something a little bit special!

Baking pie honestly sounds a lot more fun than it can sometimes be. For starters, it is not an instant-gratification dessert. If you make your dough from scratch (which you really, really should try to!), you're looking at an hour and a half to make the dough, let it rest, and make the filling. Then it will be another hour and a half to bake, and finally about 3-4 hours to wait til it's cool and ready to eat. I personally hate having to wait til the next day to eat my creations, so I'd recommend that you start the pie process in the morning if you want to enjoy it the same day.

One final note about pie crust: it's OK to get a little frustrated with it. Or a lot frustrated. I 100% yell at my pie crust sometimes. The trick is to work quickly and smoothly with it, and if things aren't going your way (i.e. the crust is cracking, tearing, melting, etc.), calmly ball that dough back up, cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it back into the fridge until it's cooled down again and you're ready to deal with it. Whatever you do, don't overwork it.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Ginger

Ingredients
---------------
Pie crust (adapted from Bon Appetit):
2 sticks (1 c.) plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, COLD
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. ice water

Filling:
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch

Assembly:
1 egg

Instructions
---------------
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Set in the freezer while you prep the rest of the crust ingredients.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar and water. To make sure it's super cold, you can drop one ice cube into the bowl as well.

Put the very cold butter cubes into the flour mixture. Toss to coat the cubes, and then using your pointer finger and thumb start to very quickly squeeze the butter to cut it into the flour. Don't hold on to the butter for too long -- you do NOT want it to melt. Once you have a shaggy dough (the butter pieces don't have to be super tiny), drizzle a little bit of the cold water/vinegar into the dough (NOT all of it!). mix with your hands until it absorbs and add more liquid ONLY if the dough is dry and cracking. As soon as you have a smooth dough, stop adding liquid (I only used about 1/2 of mine). Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead just a few times until everything is mixed well. Cut the dough in half, press it into two 1-inch discs, and wrap each individual disc tightly with plastic wrap. Place the discs in the fridge for at least an hour.

While you wait for your dough to rest, assemble the filling. Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, ginger, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a bowl. In a measuring glass, combine the sugar and cornstarch and mix with a fork to combine. Pour the mixture over the strawberry mixture and gently toss to coat everything with your hands.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Flour a clean surface VERY lightly (you don't want to add too much flour to the dough). Take one dough disc out of the fridge and place it on your surface. Sprinkle a tiny bit more flour on top of the disc and then using a rolling pin, roll the disc out about 1-inch larger than your pie pan (an 8-inch pan works well for this recipe). Carefully lift the dough round into your pie pan. You should have a 1-inch overhang around the entire perimeter of the pie. Remember what we talked about before -- if the dough isn't cooperating with you, calmly re-wrap it in plastic wrap and come back to it. You don't want to overwork the dough.

Roll out the second disc in the same way. Spoon your filling into the prepared crust, distributing it evenly. I like to let mine mound up a little bit in the center. Carefully lift the top crust over the filled pie pan. Don't worry if the top crust rips -- pies are rustic!

Pinch together the top and bottom crusts all around the pan. Trim any large excess crust (remember, we're looking for about 1-inch of overhang), and then roll the overhang up toward the center of the pie to mound the crust around the edge of the pan. Then, using the middle and pointer fingers on your left hand and the pointer finger on your right hand, work your way around the crust to create the decorative wavy crust. If that's too much for you, feel free to just leave the crust the way it is! It will still be delicious.

Cut a few vents into the top of the pie with a sharp paring knife. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with 1 tsp. of water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the entire top of the pie, including the crust, with the egg wash. Bake for 1.5 hours until the crust is super golden (pro tip: you should have something underneath your pie to catch the inevitable sugary drips that will come out of it. Placing your pie dish on a baking sheet lined with foil is a good way to do this!). Let pie cool for a few hours until COMPLETELY cool (this allows the filling to set so that it's not runny). Enjoy as-is or with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Food, RecipesKristenComment

This recipe comes with a teeny lecture -- don't worry, it will be over quick! But let's talk about ingredients and how important they are any time you cook or bake something. It stands to reason that if you use higher quality ingredients to start with, you'll end up with something that tastes better in the end, right? Right. This is my plea to all people who want their homemade food to taste better: invest in better ingredients! It will make a difference. Now, I'm not saying that you have to buy everything from a gourmet shop that charges $35/pound for artisanal cheese, but there are definitely small swaps you can make that will make an impact.

That brings me to today's recipe, Lavender Shortbread Cookies. If you're familiar with shortbread, there is probably one thing that immediately comes to mind: butter! And rightfully so -- there is a LOT of butter in shortbread. So for this cookie, I'm going to recommend that you spend a few dollars more and pick up a good quality butter since it will really have the chance to shine. I love Kerrygold butter because it's richer and more flavorful than your generic store brand butter, but there are a ton of options out there!

I personally love the flavor of lavender, but I know that not everyone does -- feel free to omit the lavender here if it doesn't do anything for you. You could also play around with other flavors like orange zest or a warm spice, or you can just keep it simple and classic.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Makes 14 2-inch cookies

Ingredients
---------------
2 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra
1 Tbsp. dried lavender
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks, or one package of Kerrygold)
1/2 c. granulated sugar

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the flour, lavender, and salt in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients together for about one minute to break up the lavender buds. Sift the mixture and discard any large pieces.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for at least 4 minutes until the mixture becomes fluffy and lightens in color. Turn down the speed to low and gradually incorporate the sifted flour mixture. Mix until the dough just comes together. If you are using a butter with higher fat content (as many high-quality butters have), you may need to add an additional Tablespoon or two so that the dough isn't too sticky. I added an additional 2 Tablespoons to the dough I made with Kerrygold.

If the dough is very soft, place the bowl in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and place your chilled dough on top. Roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch thickness and cut out cookies with a shaped cookie cutter. Continue to re-roll and cut cookies until all dough is used, chilling the dough again in between if needed. Alternatively, you could roll out the dough and cut it into squares or rectangles.

Transfer the cookies to ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2-inch of space between them. Prick the cookies a few times with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Grapefruit Tartlets with Meringue

Food, RecipesKristenComment

Sunday is my baking day. I try to keep my day open so that I can have time to play in the kitchen, and soon 5 or 6 hours of experimenting goes by in a flash. I know we're all tired of talking about the brutal winter weather we've had on the East Coast this year, but last Sunday I was so sick of it that I felt the need to create my own sunshine... in the form of this grapefruit tartlet! Ironically, as soon as I started squeezing grapefruits it started to snow and didn't let up the entire afternoon.

I love my little tartlet pans for making individual desserts. You could easily modify the filling in these to suit your taste, but bright punchy grapefruit was calling to me! I like to cut my grapefruit and lemon curds with a little bit of orange juice -- it tempers the tartness, allowing for less sugar in the mix. You won't be able to tell the orange is there, but if you prefer a seriously puckery curd, you can leave it out.

Perhaps the best part of these tartlets is the cloud of toasted meringue, which should be piled generously on top of your curd. I finished my tartlets with a quick zest of lime for an additional zing and a little bit of color. Here's to making your own sunshine!

Grapefruit Tartlets with Meringue
Makes six 4-inch tartlets or one 9-inch tart

Ingredients
---------------
Shells:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp. frozen butter
1 egg yolk
1-2 Tbsp. ice water

Grapefruit curd:
3/4 c. fresh grapefruit juice (from about 2 medium grapefruits)
2 tsp. grapefruit zest
1/4 c. fresh orange juice (from about 1 medium orange)
1/2 c. water
2/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1/3 c. cornstarch
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Meringue:
4 egg whites
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional:
lime zest, for garnish

Instructions
---------------

Shells:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, quickly cut the butter into the dry mixture. After you get the big pieces incorporated, you can use your fingers to  crumble it into a sand-like consistency. Be careful not to handle the mixture too much, as you want the butter to stay cold. Mix in the egg yolk with a large spoon until uniform, and then add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a well-floured surface. Lightly butter your tartlet pans/tart pan. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out rounds that are about 1 inch wider than the pan(s), using either a biscuit cutter or a paring knife. Carefully transfer each round into the pan and gently push the dough into the contours of the pan. Trim any excess dough around the top, prick the dough at the bottom of the pan several times with a fork, and transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes before baking. Re-roll the scraps to finish filling your tart pans, allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator for a few minutes if it becomes too soft to work with.

Line each tartlet pan on top of the dough with a small square of parchment paper, or with a square of foil greased with butter on the side that touches the dough. Using pie weights or dried beans, fill each shell to prevent the dough from rising too much during baking. Bake the shells for 10-12 minutes until set. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the liner and weights from each pan and return them to the oven for an additional 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow them to cool completely on a rack.

Grapefruit curd:
Combine grapefruit juice, zest, orange juice, water, and 2/3 c. of sugar in a large saucepan and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. of sugar. Whisk until the egg yolks are broken up and are beginning to get slightly fluffy. Whisk in the cornstarch until the mixture is perfectly smooth and pale yellow in color.

Bring the juice and sugar mixture to a boil over medium-high heat on the stove top, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Temper the eggs into the mixture by pouring about 1/4 c. of the boiling juice into the yolks while whisking VIGOROUSLY. If you do not keep the mixture moving, you will risk cooking the egg yolks! Add about another 1/2 c.  of the juice into the yolks, and then return everything into the saucepan and continue whisking everything together over medium heat. After 2 minutes or so, the mixture will start to bubble and thicken. When large, thick bubbles break the surface of the curd, remove it from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth.

Divide the warm curd between the cooled tart shells, smoothing out the tops. Allow the curd to cool and set.

Meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, start whipping up the egg whites with an electric mixer. Beat the eggs until they are frothy and begin to hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar slowly, starting with a few tablespoons at a time and beating thoroughly in between additions. The whites will gain more volume and eventually will hold a stiff peak. At this point, beat in the vanilla extract and turn off the mixer.

Top each cooled tart with a generous dollop of the meringue -- you can either smooth out the mound or leave it spiky! Place the tarts back into the 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes to brown the meringue, or use a kitchen torch to toast it. Garnish with lime zest if desired. Serve immediately.

Notes:
If you want to make these ahead, I recommend baking and filling the tartlets with the curd and then storing them in the fridge in air-tight containers. The meringue whips up quickly and is best served just after it's toasted!