March 26, 2015

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Dear friends,

At least I don’t have to worry about losing things because I’m old. I have ALWAYS lost things. I misplaced my shoes so often as a preschooler that one day my mother surreptitiously placed them in walking mode by the front door and told me they were trying to escape because I didn’t take care of them. I didn’t really care if my saddle shoes got away, but the idea of sentient footwear scared the crap out of me.

The lost items usually turn up eventually. Remember last fall when my newsletter was without photos for a while because I lost my camera? Probably not, but it bugged me to no end and I stopped looking only after Tony bought me a new camera for Christmas. Well, I found my old camera last week in the pocket of an old coat. Woohoo.

If finding a camera that had been lost for 5 months felt good, imagine my glee at finding a recipe that’s been missing for more than two years.

I forget many of my original recipes until I stumble across them in a folder or on line, but I didn’t forget the individual quick tarte tatins I created in October 2012 I looked for that recipe everywhere. I thought it was gone for good until I unearthed it in a search for a soup recipe for a reader (see today’s Mailbag).

Shortcut tarte tatins! I’m so excited!

The French upside-down caramel apple pie usually takes at least two hours to make. The apples alone require an hour of poaching in the caramel mixture, and baking them with the pastry eats up another 30 minutes.  I used a microwave to partially pre-cook the apples and pastry, reducing the time to about 30 minutes. As I wrote two years ago, there are some trade-offs. My apple tart isn’t upside down, and by preference, I made individual tarts instead of one large tart. But they taste really, really good.

I made a couple this week just to be sure. The caramel took longer to make than I remember, but the kitchen time was still minimal. After assembling, the tart is baked just 15 minutes, thanks to all the pre-nuking.

I have put this recipe somewhere safe. You may want to print and save it, too.

QUICK CARAMEL-APPLE TARTS

DSCN1354-thumbnail

• 1 1/2 gala or Yellow Delicious apples
• 1 disk refrigerated pie dough
• 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
• 3 tbsp. butter
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Peel apples, cut in halves vertically and remove cores, leaving apple halves intact. One at a time, place cut side down on a small microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power for about 30 seconds, until apple starts to soften but is still slightly firm. Set aside.

Spray the interior of three 4-inch ceramic tart pans with baking spray, or lightly grease and flour. Using a tart pan as a template, cut three six-inch circles from the dough, re-rolling scraps if necessary. Fit the circles into the tart pans and trim even with the rims. Prick in several places with a fork. Microwave one at a time at high power for about 30 seconds, or just until pastry puffs and no raw-looking spots remain, but dough is not yet crisp. Set aside.

Spread sugar evenly in the bottom of a small, heavy saucepan. Cut butter into six pieces and arrange evenly over sugar. Drizzle with vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring only if necessary, until sugar has melted and cooked to a light golden color. Stir.

Remove from heat and working quickly with tongs, bathe each apple half in the syrup, then place cut-side down in a tart shell. Spoon most of the remaining caramel syrup over and around the apples. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until crust begins to brown. Remove from oven. If desired, reheat remaining caramel in pan and drizzle over apples. Makes 3 tarts.

Note: The caramel slips off the apple even when drizzled on just before serving. The next time I make this dessert, I plan to cut each apple half in about 6 slices and press to fan the apple before nestling in the crust. The caramel should cling to the fruit more easily.

HELP U COOK

Earlier this month in his excellent blog, Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman wrote about cooking with your senses. You can read the whole post here http://ruhlman.com/2015/03/medium-wellcooking-with-your-senses /, but two points grabbed me. One was a simple tip to avoid burning nuts, and the other was a section about how important the sense of hearing is in cooking.

The two are linked in my mind because I burn a lot of foods, not just nuts, due to poor hearing. I have worn hearing aids since I was about 30, the result of an ex-husband shooting a gun next to my ear in a fit of jealous rage. (I’ve led an interesting life). I can’t hear bacon sizzling, soup bubbling or even water running. Timers are no help because I can’t hear the ding or buzzer from the next room. I bought an extra-loud timer and carry it with me from room to room when food is cooking. Still, if the TV is on I often don’t hear it anyway. (This is also why I miss telephone calls).

I’ve known for years how important hearing is to cooking. So does Ruhlman. He writes:
“… often overlooked as a fundamental cooking sense is hearing. When I cook bacon, for instance, I start it in water. The gentle heat of water begins to render the fat and the bacon will never go above browning temperature; it’s cooking, but it can’t burn. But once I hear that pan crackling, I know that the water is almost gone; rendered fat can get very hot, and so I must attend to the pan.”

If only I could hear that well. Anyway, I’ve burned not only bacon but many pounds of nuts because I can’t hear the timer’s ding.  Ruhlman has a simple solution. Place a nut on the counter next to the stove while the tray of nuts is toasting. If you’re a neatnik when you cook, you’ll want to clean up that nut every time you glance its way, reminding you of the nuts in the oven.

THE MAILBAG

From Judy:
I have been boiling bones from roasted chickens and turkeys for years. Didn’t think to call it the trendy little name of “bone broth.” Ha! However, I have never added apple cider vinegar to help leach the bones. And I don’t simmer for 24 hours either and I still manage to get a congealed broth once it’s been in the fridge overnight. I will try the vinegar next time though. I just started to freeze the au jus from the pot roast from the Crock-Pot. I am going to use the accumulated beef broth in my next beef stew.  Keep the newsletters coming. I always manage to pick up a good tip or two. Happy spring.

Dear Judy: Happy spring to you, too! I like your tip on saving the juice from pot roast. The accumulated juices also would deepen the flavor of pan sauces.

From Mary, Rocky River:
Would you mind sharing the kale, lentil, & sausage soup recipe you mentioned in your March 14, 2012 newsletter?

Dear Mary: Yikes. I have no idea how to find that recipe. I save all of my newsletters but they are identified by date, which is not very useful. In my paper files (so retro), I found a recipe for sausage-lentil soup, so here’s what I’m gonna do. I will print that recipe and hope someone out there finds and sends the lentil-sausage-kale soup recipe. To add kale to the sausage-lentil soup, wash and de-stem the kale and parboil the leaves in water for two to three minutes.  Drain the kale and simmer it in the soup for at least 15 minutes before serving.

LENTIL SOUP WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE

• 2 cups lentils (not quite 1 lb.)
• 6 cups beef broth
• 2 large carrots, cut in 1/4-inch slices
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp. oregano
• 1/4 tsp. pepper
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/2 lb. hot Italian link sausage, browned and cut in 1-inch pieces
• Parmesan, parsley for garnish

In a soup pot, combine lentils, broth, carrots, onion, garlic, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables and lentils are tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Add wine and sausages. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, until flavors are well blended. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Makes 4 servings.

From Susan Rainey:
Last fall you had a column about how much work sauerkraut was, with crocks and canning and on and on you went.

Please consider this:
http://leitesculinaria.com/98209/recipes-single-quart-sauerkraut.html . Thanks for your newsletter.

Dear Susan: I think we discussed the one-quart sauerkraut recipe in a subsequent newsletter, but maybe not. My brain has reached the tipping point, and for every new thought that goes in, one leaks out. At any rate, thanks for mentioning Leite’s Culinaria, one of my favorite food blogs. Check out the one-ingredient ice cream on the page that opens from the link.

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