White Asparagus and Broccoli Custard Tart

This is a wonderful and light version of a quiche without the cheese. It's very airy and tender.. both the custard and the pastry shell. I considered adding some Fontina cheese but resisted the urge. :) I was still well pleased with the outcome of this custard, but will try the addition of Fontina next time for a more dense custard. I substituted the herb with fresh rosemary which tasted wonderful with the broccoli and asparagus. This is well suited for an afternoon brunch or tea with a nice salad!
Buon Appetito.. Laurie

Adapted from the Asparagus Custard Tart Recipe found in;
“Best of Gourmet 2006” Cookbook

For Pastry
This is my go to "Italian Pasta Frolla Dough" recipe which can be found in almost any Italian cookbook or Nonna's kitchen collection. 

Ingredients1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 freshly grated lemons, zest of or 1 oranges
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
2.Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
3.Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. 
5. Gather dough into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 30 minutes.

For Filling
1 head broccoli separated into florets, cleaned 
1 lb medium white asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Rosemary
2 teaspoons water
*Special equipment: parchment paper; a 9 1/4-inch flan ring* (see cooks' note, below)

Make filling while pastry chills
Wash broccoli florets in cold water. Pat dry. Cook asparagus in a wide 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus with tongs to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then drain and pat dry. Cut off and reserve tips (leave more stalk if asparagus is thin), then thinly slice stalks crosswise.

Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat until foam subsides, then saute broccoli with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2-3 minutes. Stir in sliced asparagus and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and remove from heat.

Finish filling and assemble and bake tart
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put flan ring in center of baking sheet. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round, then fit dough inside flan ring, pressing dough against bottom edge and side of ring. Run rolling pin over top edge of ring to cut off excess dough.
Whisk together cream, 2 eggs, rosemary, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Lightly beat remaining egg with water in a small bowl and brush tart shell all over with some egg wash. Spoon asparagus and broccoli mixture into shell, spreading evenly, then pour cream mixture over vegetables.

Bake tart until filling is just beginning to set but still loose on top, 20 to 25 minutes. If you have any extra broccoli tips, scatter over top, pressing lightly if necessary to help them settle into filling, then continue to bake until custard is golden and just set but still slightly wobbly in center, about 30 minutes more (custard will continue to set as it cools).

Cool tart on baking sheet on a rack until warm, about 30 minutes. Loosen edge with a small sharp knife, then lift off flan ring. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Cooks' notes:
Pastry dough can be chilled up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature until slightly softened before rolling out.
• If you don't have a flan ring, you can use a 9- to 9 1/4-inch tart pan with a removable bottom instead. Put a baking sheet in oven while preheating, then bake tart on sheet.
• Tart can be baked 2 hours ahead and cooled completely, then kept, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature. If desired, reheat in a preheated 350°F oven until warm, 15 to 20 minutes.

Masala Chai Tea

Today was the first morning I woke up feeling the nip in the air and the urge to make soups, chili and Chai Tea! I know..  your all probably thinking chai tea is one of those amazing teas that should be made all year long! Well, "you're right".. but for some reason it's the smell of spice in the air, stores perfumed with brooms of cinnamon, candles infused with pumpkin and      ginger bread cookies lined up on the bakers shelves that call my senses to those fragrant aromas . They smell oh_so_spicy.. and so does chai tea! :)

We have this wonderful little spice shop in Temecula called 
"The Old Town Spice Merchant". It's a gorgeous shop and so festive this time of year. 
I have never been disappointed nor have I left empty handed when I go there to make a         purchase or to just browse. You really can't leave this adorable spice boutique without a 
bag  of goodies!

This particular visit I did just intend to browse around with another foodie friend of mine, Celine from Celine's Cuisine. We had just stopped in after a wonderful little breakfast at Cafe Daniel in Old Town Temecula. A splendid little cafe specializing in fresh French baked goods and crepes. The most tender and sweetly filled crepes in the Southern California region! 

My attention caught on some beautiful cardamom pods. I immediately knew that chai tea was on the Fall menu at the Vengo Homestead. I didn't have a recipe with me, but chai spices must be on everyones list who enter this little shop, for a recipe sat neatly at the check out register. I gathered up my spices and when I arrived home opened up my baggies and inhaled the glorious perfume of exotic fragrances. I was in heaven and SO excited at the notion of Masala Chai!

You will LOVE making your own chai! I suggest even if you don't intend to make it soon, just having the spices on hand is a good idea! I use most of them often.. well, except for the cardamom, that I save for my Masala Chai!
Buon Appetito!

Masala Chai Ingredients

9 whole cloves

4 cardamom pods

4 star anise 
1 cup water

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

5 pepper berries
2 rounded tablespoons raw sugar

2 heaping tablespoons Cinnamon Orange Black Tea (or black tea of your choice)

Masala Chai Directions
In a mortar (or a mini prep grinder), crush the cloves, cardamom pods, star anise and  blackpepper berries. 

Transfer the crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water and ginger and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 8 minutes.

This gorgeous loose tea is a black tea with crushed cinnamon stick and dried orange peel.

      After spices have simmered for around 8 minutes, add the milk, loose tea and sugar.

At a low temperature, let the Masala chai simmer for 5-7 more minutes.

      When it starts to get frothy turn off the heat and and let it sit for 5 minutes. Strain 2 times
      through a sieve into a teapot.

As you can see from my messy stove top, I double refined this chai tea through two strainers. It wouldn't even be a bad idea to run it through a cheese cloth if you have that on hand. Enjoy your chai tea.. definitely with someone who's company you enjoy! It's so fun to make this from scratch, and so worth the taste !

The Inspired Plate Challenge | October | Food Photography on a Black Background

Welcome to this months edition of The Inspired Plate, our "Food Photography & Styling Challenge". This month we focused on shooting food images on a black background. I had a vision folks.. and I set out to replicate the picture in my mind. It wasn't easy.. I had to search high and low for my props and backdrop. But come Saturday.. as in 2 days before I was to publish, I finally found the piece of the puzzle that made it ALL fit! It was a piece of black slate. 

My husband my hero came to the rescue! He puts up with my prop hunting and I have to say even supports it with enthusiasm. Saturday, our first full fledged Fall day with cooler temps and drizzle in the air, he, our youngest daughter "E" and I headed out for a rock hunt at Southwest Boulder and Stone in Rainbow, Ca. Fun? It was a blast!! I was like a girl in a candy store with colors, shapes and sizes all at my finger tips. I found exactly what I was looking for! :) Insert glee and all smiles here! 

I set out this month (of October) to shoot everything food related on black! I was hoping the adage of "practice makes perfect" would apply here. I had some successes.. and definitely some failures.  While I don't generally like posting photographs that in my opinion fail, I did publish the images of my Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake because that was all I had before that deliciously amazing moist cake was gobbled up by my family! I know this blog post is about TIP's photo challenge, but really.. you HAVE to try that cake! :) 

Speaking of other recipes and food delights that you must try.. "OH_MY".. figs and honey my friends!! I can tell you that this combination with a soft ripened cheese like Brie is an amazing epicurean delight! 

Just like you see above, I placed the honey and figs on top of a round of brie on a baking tray and roasted in a 400 degree oven for around 8 minutes. You want to keep an eye on it, and make sure your oven is hot before you put it in. The cheese is a soft ripened cheese and melts beautifully, but it will make a bit of a mess if you let it heat up too long. I also sliced up some italian bread and toasted in the oven. The hot cheese, figs and honey on toast.. oh yummmm!

Thank you for visiting today! I'd love to hear what you think so leave me a note, and please make your way around The Inspired Plate blog circle to see how the other gals interpreted Food Photography on a Black Background!

Up next is my dear friend Jen Olson | San Luis Obispo, Ca Food Photographer. She is an amazing photographer and I know she'll have something Bon App├ętit worthy for you! I can't wait to head over there myself! :) Buon Appetito!! Laurie

Sage Roasted Red Potatoes

You'll love these sage infused potatoes. One of our families favorites for Thanksgiving.. or any time of year! 

Sage Roasted Red Potatoes 

2 pounds small red potatoes cut in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic,  *unpeeled, root end removed

Preheat oven to 400°
In a bowl, toss potatoes with oil, sage, salt and pepper. Place cut-side down in roasting pan and cover pan with foil.

Roast covered for 30 minutes, toss and add garlic cloves. Return to oven and roast uncovered for 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and browned and garlic has softened. *Squeeze garlic from skin before serving.

Meatloaf Dalla Mia Cucina

For me, meatloaf is one of those homey dishes that falls under the category of comfort food. Like that of a a rotisserie style or baked chicken, the preparations are simple and there's nothing easier than having the oven do it's magic! Growing up as a young girl I remember sharing many a meal at friends houses. It always amazed me even back then at the variety of ingredients and the recipe alterations that each different family added to make their meatloaf unique with their own personal style or handed down family recipes. Lori Lynn from Taste With The Eyes did a post called Let's Share Our Meatloaf Secrets last year. I loved her variety and her readers also had diverse combinations that made their loaf their very own. I know it's a bit late, but I am now getting around to posting my most treasured secret recipe for meatloaf. :)

The ingredients are quite simple and prepared a bit like a large loaf shaped meatball. You can use two meats here, but it's not necessary, for some reason the grocers in my area don't carry ground veal except for around the holidays. Although you can have veal cutlets ground by the meat department attendants.

2 lbs Ground Meat of your choice (I prefer 1 1/2 lbs. sirloin and 1/2 lb. veal combined)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. finely chopped shallots
2 Peperoncini rinsed and finely chopped
*1 medium celery rib, finely minced
*1 medium carrot, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh basil julienned
3 tbs. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 eggs
1 cup + 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3/4 cups dry Italian style bread crumbs (or Panko if you use that)
1 cup + 1/8 cup red wine
8 slices Provolone cheese
Tomato Paste with no seasonings (reserve 3 tablespoons for top of loaf
*I didn't add it in this particular meatloaf, but a soffrito of carrots and celery are always a must!

Start by setting aside 1/4 cup Parmigiano, 1/8 cup red wine, 3 tablespoons tomato paste and 2 slices provolone cheese.
Make thin slices of the provolone for the top of the meat loaf, the remaining six slices will go in the middle as a cheesy layer for the meatloaf.

Mix meats, garlic, shallots, peperoncicni, minced celery and carrot, basil, parsley, salt and pepper together. Add eggs, red wine and tomato paste, blend well. Continue by adding parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. If the mixture is too dry add more wine. If it is too wet add equal amounts of parmesan and bread crumbs.

In a loaf pan put half of the meat mixture. Lay the slices of Provolone layering them to overlap each other. Put the remainder of meat on top of the cheese and smooth out. Spread the set aside tomato paste on top of the loaf. Criss-cross the slices of Provolone on the paste. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and drizzle red wine on top.

Bake on middle rack in a 350˚ oven for 55 - 60 minutes. Meat read thermometer should read 160˚ for. Let rest for ten minutes. Buon Appetito!

One half of meatloaf in pan ready to be topped with provolone.

Meatloaf with criss-cross of provolone slices, tomato paste, parmesan and a drizzle of red wine.

Look at all that yummy cheese oozing from the middle of the meatloaf. And the criss-cross design looks so pretty.. as far as meatloaf goes! :) Don't you think meat is hard to photograph?
Ciao and Buon Appetito!

Pumpkin Pancakes with Buttered Port Syrup

What do you do when you have a whole carton of coconut milk in the fridge that you don't want to go to waste.. bake with it! I don't particularly love the flavor alone.. I tried it on granola but I just can't get used to it as a drinking beverage. But seeing how my husband bought this for his "heart health" and he is still craving foods that aren't "heart healthy" per se.. I have been substituting with it when possible and cutting back on yolks, salt, butters and milk products as much as I can. This "ISN'T" a low cholesterol pancake.. but I think I aided in his attempt to eat "better" by skipping the dairy milk and using the coconut milk instead. We are using the Silk Pure Coconut brand that has 0 grams of cholesterol in a 1 cup serving, plus only 80 calories compared to the 120 calories in reduced fat dairy milk and... 6 grams of sugar compared to 12 grams. Coconut milk.. definitely a good health choice as WELL as a baking alternative. The pancakes were light and fluffy.. great texture and taste too! LOVE!

Definitely try my Pumpkin Pancake recipe.. and if you "need" to, you can skip the Buttered Port Syrup.. but I hope you don't have to.. because it lends itself to a wonderful Fall flavor that's goes perfectly with pumpkin!

Enjoy these pancakes for your Holidays!

Buon Appetito,

Pumpkin Pancakes & Buttered Port Syrup

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup canned pumpkin 
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. molasses

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, egg, pumpkin, vegetable oil, and molasses. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and blend until just combined. Batter will be a bit lumpy. Let rest for 2-3 minutes. 

Heat pan to medium low. Add a tsp. of vegetable oil and a tsp. of butter. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto heated skillet.  Cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip pancake over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Continue to make the rest of the pancakes. 

Serve pancakes warm with Buttered Port Syrup. (Recipe Follows) 

Buttered Port Syrup

½ cup Sugar
1 cup Port Wine
1/4 cup Corn Syrup
2 tsp. Unsalted butter

In a sauce pan add all the ingredients except butter. With heat on medium let come to a simmer. 
Turn heat to low and let cook till syrup reduces to ½. Around 15 minutes  When done add the butter and stir to blend. 

The Inspired Plate's Weekly Challenge | Props

Hey Friends!! I'm excited to announce that The Inspired Plate on Facebook is having a weekly
food photography challenge. It's all about Fun and Participation, no matter what your photography level is! I want to invite you all to come "Like" our page and join in the fun. :)  This weeks challenge reads like this; :)

Welcome to “Inspire Me Weekly”!

This will be a once a week challenge that will run Monday through Friday. 
Each week there will be a new food photography related theme. Please upload your submission to our page with the title “Inspire Me Weekly”. You can take a new image or share with us images from “your” own photo files. 

The Inspired Plate team is looking forward to having everyone participate and have fun with "Inspire Me Weekly"!

Monday October 1st  20012 ~ “Props” 

Hope to see you there! 
Laurie xo