pie beta kappa

this blog is for the servantless but professional overachiever who is concerned with assignments, deadlines, and changing the world, and still wants to find the time to enjoy producing something wonderful to eat.

Month: May, 2012

savory spring vegetable and goat cheese tart

WITH AN ENTIRE EXTRA DAY in the weekend, Memorial Day seemed like a good morning to spend some quality time fixing brunch.  I had been eyeing the recipe for a savory spring vegetable and goat cheese tart in the May 2012 Bon Appetit since I first leafed through the issue, and thought, what better way to spend an hour or two in the kitchen?

Three hours and fifteen minutes later, I had a beautiful tart cooling on a wire rack.  I use the past tense, because it’s gone.  Deliciously, wholeheartedly, gone.

To be fair, the extra time was my fault.  Bon Appetit was trying to be helpful when it suggested store-bought pie pastry for the crust.  But, if you’re going to go all in, you go all in.  And I’m of the firm opinion that, while there are many times in life that it should be the first step, a food blog article should never begin, “Take the store-bought pastry and follow the instructions on the box.”

On that note, it turns out, pie pastry is incredibly simple to make.  With four simple ingredients (plus ice water), homemade pie pastry is… an hour and forty five minutes away.  It’s not particularly work-intensive.  But plan ahead.

BUTTERY PIE CRUST, from Bon Appetit, May 2012


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes


Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the butter, and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.

Add 1/4 cup ice water and work into the mixture until the dough comes together.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for approximately one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out the dough to a 12 inch circle and transfer to a 10 inch diameter tart pan.  Press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan and trim excess dough.  Prick all over the bottom of the crust with a fork and chill again for 20 minutes.

Line the inside of the crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake crust until sides are set, then remove the foil/parchment paper and beans/weights and bake until bottom is set and a light golden color, approximately 18-20 minutes depending on your oven.  Cool on a wire rack.


I initially found the concept of pie weights a bit boggling.  It’s pastry crust, and it will eventually be laden with lots of delicious contents to keep it down.  But it turns out, blind-baking (when one cooks crust without the contents) serves several important purposes.  It can cook the crust when the crust will take longer to cook than its eventual contents.  It can cook the crust when the filling is an unbaked filling.  And it can prevent crust from becoming soggy, which is an experience that I think is worse in retrospect than it is in the eating.  The weights, or the beans, prevent the pastry from puffing before it gets its filling.

Also, regarding the use of the fingers in this recipe… I felt like a gleeful six-year-old playing with playdough.  And it works!  I was skeptical that rubbing the butter into the flour would result in a coarse meal-like mixture, but it really, truly does.

SAVORY SPRING VEGETABLE AND GOAT CHEESE TART, adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit May 2012


1 store-bought pie crust (or homemade, see above)
all-purpose flour (for surface)
2 bunches asparagus (approximately 1 1/4 lb.), trimmed
5 spring onions or 12 scallions
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
3 large eggs


If store-bought pie crust: Roll out pie crust to 12 inch circle, transfer to tart pan and follow instructions.  If homemade, see above.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut off top 1 1/2 inch of asparagus tips and reserve, then slice stalks into 1/4 inch rounds, discarding any hardened areas of the stalks.

If using spring onions, cut white bulbs from onions, then trim and quarter; if using scallions, do the same but halve, not quarter.  Slice pale green parts into 1/4 inch pieces.

Toss asparagus tips and sliced white onion bulbs in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  Place in a single layer on the foil-covered baking sheet and roast, turning once, until the onions begin to brown and the asparagus is turning bright green and tender, approximately 12-15 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl, and turn down the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced asparagus stalks and sliced pale green onion parts, and season with salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring often, until the onions are soft and the asparagus turns bright green and tender, approximately 6-8 minutes.  Let cool slightly in pan, then spread evenly over bottom of crust.

Whisk goat cheese, crème fraîche, heavy cream, chives, parsley, and tarragon in a medium bowl, then season with salt and pepper.  Whisk in eggs, then pour egg mixture over vegetables.  Distribute asparagus tips and sliced white onion bulbs evenly on top of egg mixture.

Bake tart until edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling is set, approximately 20-22 minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Remove sides of tart pan and serve warm or at room temperature.


Be very careful which parts of the asparagus and onion go in the oven and which go in the skillet.  I’ve broken the instructions up visually a bit more than Bon Appetit did.  I may or may not have gotten fairly far into the recipe before I realized I’d mixed up the two.  On a happy note, it didn’t have a negative effect on the taste!

So, if you have a couple hours to spare, I would highly recommend this recipe.  It actually lived up to its glossy food magazine promise, which is a feat unto itself.

buttermilk roast chicken; or, how i learned to stop worrying and love roast chicken

AMONG THE VARIOUS MEATS, chicken is generally glorified by the health-conscious and the not-vegetarian vegetarians whose food proclivities are accompanied by subtitles (e.g., “I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish and chicken”).  Because of this, I am convinced that chicken, particularly white meat chicken breasts, have become the meat equivalent of brussels sprouts: foods perceived as bland but good for you.  In short, boring food.

(Two side notes:  (1) I know now that brussels sprouts can be amazing if you cook them right (more on that late-in-life discovery, another time, another place).  (2) My blasé perception of chicken breasts was further encouraged by a dieting college friend whose weekday dinners consisted of a grilled chicken breast, a steamed vegetable, and brown rice.  Every.  Night.  This may work for people who eat to live.  But for those who live to eat, it is a stifling approach to dinner.)

Of course chicken breasts can be similarly delicious if you do enough stuff to them so that they are no longer really chicken breasts: you can marinate them and cut them up with peppers for fajitas, you can bake them and slice them and insert them into pasta, and of course if you throw healthy thinking out the window you can fry them.  But I was on a mission to make a good weekday meal centered on chicken breasts that doesn’t involve frying or heavy cream-based sauces or surrounding pieces of the chicken breasts with things to make it taste better.  And that’s where Deb at smitten kitchen changed my chicken breast outlook with buttermilk roast chicken.

She used chicken parts generally and chicken legs, specifically.  The first time I tried the recipe, I used thighs.  The second time, I thought I’d see if the magic could be worked on chicken breasts.  Wonder of all wonders, it does.  It’s a simple marinade that encourages the tenderness and the moistness of the chicken.  And, yes, it says buttermilk, but that’s the marinade.  There’s no sauce that is being poured on the chicken, it’s just a happy bath of spices and buttermilk before the chicken is roasted.  Think of it as a trip to the spa for your chicken.

BUTTERMILK ROAST CHICKEN, adapted slightly from smitten kitchen

2 cups buttermilk
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra to sprinkle on top of roasted chicken
6-8 chicken breasts (or other pieces of chicken)
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
sea salt

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk buttermilk, minced garlic, salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper.

Place chicken breasts in ziplock-style bag and pour buttermilk mixture into bag.  Massage bag to ensure buttermilk is surrounding all of the chicken, then remove air and seal.  Refrigerate at least two hours, and preferably 24 to 48 hours.  For chicken breasts in particular, longer is better.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees when ready to roast.

Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil.  Place chicken breasts in foil-lined dish, letting the buttermilk mixture drip off before arranging the chicken in the dish.  Drizzle olive oil over the chicken then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt.

Roast the chicken breasts for 20 to 30 minutes.  This, as always, depends on the size of the chicken, the size of the baking dish and nearness of the pieces of chicken, and, of course, the temperament of your oven.  If you are making chicken legs or thighs, this is a delicious browned look.  For chicken breasts, you want them cooked through; if you wait until they brown they will lose their tenderness.

Serve immediately.

If you are looking for a good side dish that isn’t monochromatic, I would recommend (at least in springtime) artichokes.  Rinse them, cut off most of the stem and trim the leaves.

Fill a saucepan with one inch or less of water and bring it to a boil.  Place the artichokes upside down in the boiling water, cover and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer/steam for approximately 20 minutes, until the outer leaves pull off easily.  (Don’t test this too much — each leaf you remove is a leaf you don’t get to eat!)

Remove the artichokes from the saucepan with tongs and place on a cutting board.  Let cool for a few minutes, then slice off the remainder of the stem and place right side up on plates.  Serve with your preferred dipping sauce; my two suggestions are melted butter or worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise.  (It sounds disgusting but melds well with the vegetable).

Like the garlic in last week’s gazpacho, the garlic in this week’s buttermilk marinade can be sliced and mashed or can be sufficiently demolished in a food processor.  My kitchen acquired a new garlic press, but I’m fearful its lifespan will be significantly less than the last one.

The chicken is fairly welcoming to most side dishes.  My favorites so far have been the artichokes mentioned above, warm crusty bread, and fresh fruit (kiwi today) for dessert.

Best of all, this can be turned into multiple meals by only removing the amount of chicken from the buttermilk mixture that you will be cooking in a night and letting the rest soak it up for another day.

hello, gazpacho

FIRST THINGS FIRST.  I have come to realize over the last few months as this idea and website sat, well, marinating (pardon the pun) that starting a blog is like starting a novel.  There is so much pressure on the beginning because it is the beginning that defines so much of anything.

This blog began, truly, in a small town in California.  It began with what seemed like an acre-sized garden with corn stalks and summer squash and carrots so delicious the gophers would take them in rows at a time.  It began with fresh eggs from chickens who roamed the pastures and even ventured onto the front porch on occasion, chickens with names and personalities and even one who danced in his own funny way.  Most of all, though, it began in a kitchen where my mother made absolutely delicious meals.  Growing up on a ranch instilled in me a love for fresh, wholesome, natural ingredients.  Growing up in my mother’s kitchen instilled in me a love for food: for perfectly-prepared dishes, for keen recipe selection, and for food, glorious food.

And so, on Mother’s Day, and on a beautiful, warm day in May, a simple warm-weather dish that showcases its ingredients seemed like the perfect way to begin.

I came to gazpacho relatively late in life.  I had it at a beautiful dinner at a hotel in Santa Barbara about two years ago.  “Chilled” is not a word I usually associate with soup, and its chunky texture, its temperature, and its fresh taste all endeared themselves to my taste buds.  In case you’re wondering, the history of gazpacho is apparently subject to debate, though most agree that its home is Andalusia, a southern province of Spain (not the fairy tale world in the movie “Enchanted“).  For a more extensive consideration of origins and varieties, take a gander at the 1989 New York Times article by Steven Raichlen, “Gazpacho: Theme and Variations.”

It is delicious.  So delicious that it was served in tiny glasses as an appetizer at M.’s and my wedding.  It is the type of dish that highlights the fresh vegetables in it, and when looking for a recipe that will do just that, my first stop is usually the Barefoot Contessa extraordinaire, Ina Garten.  There are many variations on gazpacho (or “gaspacho,” in Portugal’s version of it), but this is my current favorite for two reasons: first, it is a minimalist dish that highlights good ingredients and combines effortlessly to be far more than the sum of its parts, and second, it is refreshingly simple to make.  A delicious home-cooked (or home-chilled, at least) meal that highlights fresh ingredients and can be fit into a busy professional woman’s day?  That’s pretty much the trifecta, right there.

GAZPACHO, adapted slightly from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook


1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes (also known as roma tomatoes)
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion into one-inch cubes.

Place each vegetable separately in a food processor with a steel blade and pulse until chopped.  Ina uses an exclamation point when she says, Do not overprocess!, but I like it a little more finely “chopped” for texture reasons.  Some people like their gazpacho chunkier.  This is a personal preference; do whatever you like.

After each vegetable is processed, place it in a large bowl with the others.  Add the garlic, the tomato juice, the white wine vinegar, the olive oil, the salt, and the pepper. Mix well, and chill.  Chill, chill, chill.  The longer it chills, the more the flavors intermingle.


Drag a spoon down the center of a halved cucumber to seed it efficiently.

The garlic can be pretty-much-minced in the food processor if you recently managed to break your garlic press in an unsalvageable way.

I double the recipe to have leftovers for at least one more night, and serve it with a fresh sliced baguette and cheese, with fruit for dessert for a lovely warm May dinner.