Tiny Gourmet

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

Food, RecipesKristenComment

Hold on tight, everyone -- this recipe might just change your life forever, at least when it comes to party planning/entertaining. Call them by their fancy French name (Gougères), or just call them cheese puffs -- either way, these little appetizers are a seriously impressive AND really easy to make ahead. You can make a big batch of these guys today, pop them in your freezer, and pull them out as you need them over the next few weeks of holiday festivities.

The ingredients in gougères are really simple: butter, milk, salt, flour, eggs, and cheese. The dough takes about 15 minutes to whip up, and then you can either bake the puffs immediately or portion them out and freeze them to use later. They will keep for at least 6 months in your freezer -- I store mine in a zip-top bag so that they are easy to pull out as needed to bake.

The base of gougères is a savory choux pastry (the sweet kind is used to make cream puffs and eclairs!). I think that some people are a little intimidated by pastry, but this is a fairly straightforward method! The keys to successful choux are properly cooking the moisture out of the dough and then putting a little muscle behind incorporating the eggs (more on both of those things in the recipe below!). The result is a deliciously airy and cheesy pastry puff, which will pretty much make you the most popular person at any party.

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook
Yield: 35 pieces

Ingredients
---------------
1 c. + 1 Tbsp. milk
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter
1 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
5 eggs (at room temperature)
3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
3/4 c. Gruyère cheese

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit if baking gougères immediately. In a large saucepan, heat the 1 c. of milk, butter, and salt on the stove top until the butter melts and the mixture begins to boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat when it bubbles up and add all of the flour, mixing together with a wire whisk.

Return the pan to the stove top over medium-low heat -- switch to a wooden spoon (it will make your life easier) and stir the dough continuously for 3-5 minutes. Your goal here is to cook some of the excess moisture out of the dough so that your pastry puffs don't get soggy after they bake. You'll know when it's good when the dough pulls away from the edges of the pan and forms a single mound (see photo, above left).

Remove the pan from the heat and allow everything to cool for 2 or 3 minutes -- you just don't want the pan to be too hot when you start adding the eggs. [NOTE: I recommend that you start with room temperature eggs to minimize the chance that the eggs will cook when they hit the warm pan/dough. If you forgot to leave the eggs out, don't worry! Just put them in a bowl and cover with very warm water for a few minutes before using.]

Add 4 eggs (save the last one for your egg wash!), one at a time, to the dough. Mix each egg into the dough completely before adding the next. At first, it might seem like the dough is separating (see photo, above right), but don't panic! Just use a little muscle and everything will come together -- promise! Finally, stir in the cheeses.

I like to let the dough rest for 5 minutes or so before I start portioning it on to my baking sheet. I find that the dough is a little less sticky after it rests. Portion the dough out by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray. If you are baking them immediately, leave about 1 inch of room in between the puffs. If you are freezing them, don't worry about leaving room.

To bake immediately: Beat together the remaining egg and the 1 Tbsp. of milk in a small bowl. Brush the top of each puff with the egg mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top. Serve warm.

To freeze/bake: Do not apply the egg wash before freezing! Put the baking sheet of portioned puffs in the freezer for at least two hours until they are frozen solid. Remove from the sheet and store in a large zip-top bag in the freezer. When ready to bake, place the puffs one inch apart on a baking sheet that is prepared with parchment paper or non-stick spray. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, and then brush the tops of the puffs with the egg and milk wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.
 

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Food, RecipesKristenComment

It's that time of year again. Everyone is busy testing out new recipes, wiping the grocery store clean of anything remotely "fall" flavored, and planning their holiday meals. Somewhere in this shuffle, millions (by my unscientific estimate) of half-used cans of pumpkin puree languish in refrigerators across the country until they grow unsightly dots of green mold on top and are thrown away. Everyone has the best of intentions for the rest of that puree -- they promise themselves that they'll use it in something! But alas, time gets away from us and takes the pumpkin with it.

Here's my solution: pumpkin overnight oats. I've been playing around with different varieties of overnight oats for a few months. I love that I can easily throw everything together on Sunday night and have a few days' worth of breakfast ready to go in the morning. In this version, I whisk leftover pumpkin puree together with almond milk to create the liquid base of the overnight oats. A quick dash of some warm spices and a little bit of maple syrup or honey brings everything together nicely!

I've found that steel cut oats work really well for this preparation -- rolled oats will work as well, but the steel cut oats definitely absorb more liquid and take on a creamier consistency. I like to add chia seeds into my overnight oats because they add a little more fiber and protein, which is always a good way to start your day. If you can't find them or you're just not into them, feel free to leave them out.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats
1 Serving

Ingredients
---------------
1/3 c. steel cut oats
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
1/3 c. almond milk, plus 2-4 tbsp. additional
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
(optional) walnuts, pecans, or almonds to top

Instructions
---------------
In a bowl, combine oats, chia seeds, spices, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl or measuring glass, combine the pumpkin puree, 1/3 c. almond milk, and sweetener of choice (honey or maple syrup). Whisk until everything is smooth and combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.

The oats should absorb the liquid and have a thick, cakey consistency. To serve, add a few additional tablespoons of almond milk to loosen up the oats. Top with nuts and drizzle with more honey or maple syrup if desired.

 

Chewy (Raisin-less) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Food, RecipesKristenComment

It all started with an innocent question: "Have you ever made oatmeal raisin cookies, just without the raisins?"

The answer? I'd never made oatmeal cookies in my life because I never liked them. I remember the feeling of disappointment from childhood when you knew there were cookies at a birthday party or a family function, but they were oatmeal raisin. UGH! What a waste of a cookie. When oatmeal raisin cookies are "crunchy," it usually means that they are dry and crumbly. When the cookie is "chewy," and then you add in chewy raisins, they can taste really gummy. In case you haven't caught on yet -- not a fan.

But I'd never considered just making oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and leaving out the raisins altogether. It's a simple enough substitution, but it was enough to change my opinion on oatmeal cookies forever! I think the real secret to these cookies is the molasses. It keeps them soft and chewy even after they've cooled, which I think is the better consistency for oatmeal cookies.

Chewy (Raisin-less) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: 2.5 dozen

Ingredients
---------------
1/2 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. rolled/quick-cooking oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. chocolate chips

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment for the stand mixer, or an electric hand mixer, cream together the ingredients until they are fully combined, light, and fluffy. Don't skimp on this step -- it's the key to good texture in the finished product!

Add in the egg, molasses, and vanilla -- beat until everything is combined well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time, mixing well between each addition until a dough is formed. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the chocolate chips into the dough by hand.

If the dough is very soft, I recommend sticking the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before forming the cookies. This will keep the cookies from melting and spreading too quickly in the oven. Drop mounds of dough in rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake each sheet of cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet before removing with a spatula to a wire rack to cool.
 

Tomato Tart

Food, RecipesKristenComment

I'm pretty thrilled that Fall is setting in. I know that a lot of people mourn the end of summer, but I always prefer the milder seasons of Fall and Spring to the extremes of Summer and Winter (yes, I know that Fall's arrival means that Winter is not far behind, but I'm going to choose to ignore that for now). One thing that I will miss about this summer is the surplus of tomatoes that everyone seemed to have in their gardens! I think they were growing like weeds this year or something, because everyone I know with the smallest patch of dirt in their yard was offering me POUNDS at a time! Yes, please. 

These particular tomatoes came out of Frank's mom's garden -- a lovely mix of Sweet 100s and Sun Golds. I knew I couldn't use them all up in salads before they went bad (I had a pound and a half!), so instead I baked them into my favorite tart crust with just a touch of garlic. After the tart was out of the oven, I topped it with some fresh chopped basil. 

The next time I make this dish, I think I'll grate a generous dusting of Parmesan over the top at the end -- a creamy/salty element would have perked it up just a bit more!

Tomato Tart

Ingredients
---------------
Tart shell:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus more when you roll the dough
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. butter, very cold or frozen
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. ice water

Filling:
1.5 pounds cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

Topping:
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (optional)
8 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Instructions
---------------
Tart shell:
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until ingredients come together in a dough. Add the egg yolk and process again until combined, being careful not to over-process.

Remove the dough to a bowl and add in the ice water, mixing it in by hand. If the dough seems dry, add slightly more water. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle your counter top with flour and roll the dough out, sprinkling with more flour if it's sticking. Roll the dough out into a circle that is just a few inches wider than your tart pan (I prefer to use one with a removable bottom and crimped edges). Transfer the dough into your tart pan and press evenly into it, removing excess dough from the edges. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the tart and then place in the freezer for another 15 minutes.

Par-bake the tart -- coat one side of a piece of foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray, and place the buttered side down into the tart pan. Fill the lined tart with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from rising during baking. Bake for 15 minutes until the edges of the tart are just golden.

Filling:
Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic in a bowl and stir to combine.

Fill the par-baked crust with the tomato filling. It's OK if all of the tomatoes don't fit perfectly -- they will shrink and fit in during baking. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and return the filled tart to the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until tomatoes are soft.

If using the cheese, sprinkle over the top of the tart and return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted. Finish the tart with the basil chiffonade and serve warm.

Carrot, Kale, and Avocado Sandwiches

Food, New York City, RecipesKristen1 Comment

I'm fortunate to work in SoHo, a neighborhood that has a good variety of food options. I try to bring my own lunch to work as often as I can, but sometimes I treat myself. Lately, I find myself heading toward Smile To Go, the little sister to The Smile restaurant, for their carrot, kale, and avocado sandwich, which is also smeared with just a touch of tomato aioli.

Both Smile restaurants are on my go-to list of lunch spots in SoHo. The Smile is perfect for a nice sit-down lunch, and the To Go location offers an excellent selection of sandwiches and salads that are super tasty and pretty healthy compared to some of its neighbors (ahem, Chipotle). I first had this sandwich at Cherry Bombe magazine's Jubilee conference, which Smile To Go catered. It was love at first bite. I literally thought about that sandwich for weeks afterward, until I realized how close the restaurant is to my office!

I wanted to recreate the sandwich at home since the components are really simple. At the restaurant it's served on a whole wheat baguette, but you'll see that I used a whole wheat loaf bread instead. As much as I love a crusty baguette, I find that with so many slippery fillings I tend to end up with avocado in my lap when I bite into it. This is probably because sometimes (often times) I am not a fully-functioning human being who can eat baguette sandwiches. Use whatever bread you prefer -- I do suggest keeping it in the nutty, whole wheat variety for nice flavor, though. I used Trader Joe's Quinoa Bread here, but I also LOVE this with Whole Foods' Flax Quinoa Bread (one of the best grocery store breads one can buy, in my opinion!).

Carrot, Kale, and Avocado Sandwiches

Inspired by Smile To Go

Ingredients (Makes 2 sandwiches)
---------------
3 c. kale, stems removed and torn into strips
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tomato
3 large carrots or 4 medium ones
1/2 c. mayonnaise, jarred or homemade if you're feeling fancy
1 ripe avocado
4 slices of nutty whole grain bread
salt and pepper

Instructions
---------------- 

Combine the kale and 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a small bowl. With your hands, massage the kale and distribute the oil evenly to soften the leaves. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside in the refrigerator for at least one hour (you can do this the night before and let it sit overnight as well)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel the carrots if desired and cut them in half lengthwise. If your carrots are very large, you can quarter them. Cut the tomato in half and remove the seeds. Place carrots on one side of a baking sheet; place the tomato halves cut-side down on the baking sheet. Drizzle everything with your remaining 2 tbsp. of oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast carrots and tomatoes for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and their skins are wrinkled. Remove the tomatoes and set them aside to cool. Return the carrots to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and slightly caramelized. Let them cool.

When the tomatoes are cool, combine them in a blender or food processor with 1/2 c. mayonnaise. Blend until smooth and season lightly with salt and pepper. If the consistency is very runny, add more mayo.

Halve and thinly slice the avocado

Assembly:
Toast your bread slices. Spread two pieces of bread with a thin layer of the tomato aioli, and cover each with a thick layer of the softened kale. Cut the roasted carrots to fit your bread slices, and add them on top of the kale. Cover the carrots with avocado slices. Spread the two remaining pieces of bread with another thin layer of aioli, and top your sandwiches. Cut in half (or don't!) and enjoy!

Store leftover tomato aioli in the fridge for up to a week and enjoy with roasted potatoes or fries!