Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning

Sometimes when I begin a new cooking project, I need to forage ahead with blind faith and fingers crossed. Lingering in the back of my conscious is a belief that everything will work. The last thing I want to worry about is my latest “masterpiece” ending up in the trash can. This tomato tart recipe is a perfect example of my latest cooking adventure starting with confidence from blind faith.

I have always wanted to make a tomato tart. Every time I see a photograph of one, I drool over the pictures and imagine tomatoes roasting in the oven, cradled in a buttery pastry crust. Unfortunately, I don’t always believe photographs of tomato tarts show any real likeness to a real-life fully cooked one. Tomatoes consist mostly water and a tart baked with a lot of tomatoes could easily become a soggy mess. So, I often wondered what I was seeing in the tempting photographs was accurate. None the less, I never made a savory tomato pastry, so I can’t say for certain how they look in real-life.

A tomato tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean seasoning.

Tomato tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean seasoning.

Tomato tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean seasonings

Taking inspiration from a cookbook I am reading, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden, I finally managed to motivate myself and make a tomato tart. I also needed to use up some leftover ingredients as well. Often some of my best meals are the result of needing to use up the leftover ingredients from a former meal. If you haven’t noticed already, a regular statement of mine is, “I created … because, I had leftover …. Now … is a family favorite”.

Tomato Tart recipe with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning

There are two recipes in “Six Seasons” cookbook that create the foundation for my tomato tart recipe: Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce and Chickpeas, and a recipe for Pecan Pie Dough.  The Israeli-spiced tomatoes have a bright flavor that compliments the natural sweetness in fresh summer tomatoes. It is a delicious salad with the yogurt sauce and chickpeas. This recipe gave me the idea of making a tomato tart using the same seasoning and preparation technique for marinating the tomatoes. I also had two ripe heirloom tomatoes on my window sill giving me the use or lose stare-down.

I also wanted to make the nut pie pastry crust, and Joshua McFadden has an alluring recipe using pecans. A tomato tart seemed like the perfect recipe to use a nut pie crust. Plus, and I am always open for any excuse to bake. For my recipe, I substituted the pecans with walnuts, and reduced the amount of sugar to one tablespoon.

More recipes inspired by Joshua McFadden, Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad. 

Tomato tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean seasoning.
Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes with Yogurt and Chickpeas from Six Seasons Cookbook

The biggest challenge when baking tomatoes and pastry dough, is keeping the crust from getting a soggy bottom. If you know the challenges ahead, taking the necessary steps to prevent them, will guarantee a beautiful flaky pie crust.  With the two foundation recipes set, I went about making the tart and using a few necessary steps to create a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust that was anything but soggy.

Tomato Tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean spices.

Tomato tart with ricotta and Mediterranean spices.

For my first step, I par-baked the pie crust. Par-baking a pie crust is a technique used for many types of pies and tarts, like lemon meringue pie. Partially baking a pie crust before adding the filling helps produce a dry and flaky pie crust. It might take longer to finish the pie, but this technique really works.

Even a par-baked crust needs a layer of protection between the crust and the filling. For this recipe, I decided to baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the pre-baked crust. The mustard adds some tang and will mix well with the ricotta cheese. If you do not like Dijon mustard, baste a layer of egg wash over the bottom of the par-baked crust. It does the same job as the mustard without adding any additional flavor.

Tomato Tart recipe with ricotta cheese and Mediterranean spices.

Try this recipe for potato salad with tomatoes and summer vegetables.

Firing up the grill this weekend? Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Cream Sauce 

Spread over the mustard, I added a layer of ricotta cheese. Good quality fresh ricotta is so creamy it is worth the higher price. If you can find some at your grocery store, I recommend it. In this tart, the ricotta cheese layer absorbs any of the juices from the tomatoes which helps keep the ricotta from drying out and the crust dry. A lot of tomato tart recipes do not call for ricotta cheese. I added it because it was another leftover ingredient I needed to use up before it expired.  The ricotta’s creamy flavor is a nice contrast to the roasted tomatoes. Also, adding the ricotta makes the tart more substantial as a main course for lunch or a light super.

Tomato tart recipe with ricotta cheese and Mediterranean spices.

For the final step, I seasoned the tomatoes and let them marinate for an hour. The salt with the spices cause the tomatoes to release some of their liquid. Later, before I arranged the tomatoes around the tart, I used a paper towel to blot the tomato slices and dry them up a bit. The tomatoes marinate while the crust par-bakes, so no additional time is added to the whole process.

Tomato Tart recipe with ricotta and Mediterranean spices.

Tomato Tart with ricotta and Mediterranean spices.

It might seem like a lot of steps, but they all add up and work. The result is a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust, with a creamy ricotta and roasted tomato filling. I started making this tomato tart with blind faith and fingers crossed. Fortunately, after thinking ahead I came up with solutions to solve any challenges along the way. With inspiration from creative chefs as guidance, I made a tomato tart that I am proud of. There is no false advertising with these photos. What you see is what you get.

 

Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning

Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 52 minutes

Category: Lunch or Light Supper

Cuisine: Mediterranean - American

4-6 servings

Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning

This is a great recipe to use up sweet farm fresh tomatoes and creamy ricotta cheese. For a Mediterranean influence, the tomatoes are seasoned with sumac, coriander, cumin and red pepper flakes. This marinate also draws out some tomatoes juices to keep the tart crust from getting soggy.

The walnut crust is more fragile than a traditional one, so lift it and place it carefully in the tart pan. You will need a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom for this tart. If you do not have a tart pan make this tart a galette. See instruction in my notes.

Please do not substitute Dijon mustard with a different type of mustard, like Gulden's or French's. They have a very different flavor profile. Use an egg wash instead of the mustard if you do not have it.

This recipe is influenced and adapted from two recipes in Six Seasons Cookbook by Joshua McFadden, Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes with Yogurt and Chickpeas, and Pecan Pie Dough.

Ingredients

    Tomato Tart
  • Walnut Pastry Dough (recipe follows)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sumac*
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 2 tomatoes, medium to large size
  • 1 cup (8 oz / 241 g) fresh ricotta
  • Zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 2 tsp lemon thyme, roughly minced
  • 4 medium size leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
  • Kosher salt if needed
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 TB (3/4 oz / 11 g) Dijon mustard
  • Finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (optional)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garnish with fresh lemon thyme and torn basil leaves
    Walnut Pie Dough
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz / 58 g) walnuts
  • 1 2/3 cups ( 7.25 oz / 208 g) All-purpose Flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 TB granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 oz (113 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (1 stick)
  • 2 TB ice cold water (more if needed)

Instructions

    Walnut Pie Dough - Makes enough for one 9-inch (cm ) single crust pie or galette
  1. Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers into the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
  2. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and place the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear a portion of the dough away from you. Use only one motion per part. Continue to smear a portion of the dough away from you until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
  3. When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. This is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400°F (204°C). If you have a baking stone place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times, moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. Turn the dough over again and repeat. This process helps the dough to form a circle shape.
  4. Roll out the dough with your rolling pin. Always starting at the center of the dough, place your rolling pin in the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center and roll out. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll our the dough until you have a 12-inch (30 cm) circle and the dough is about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
  5. Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift and drape the dough in half over the rolling pin and towards you. Lift your pastry draped rolling pin across the center of a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom, and unfold the dough over the pan. Lift the dough edges and ease the dough into place, carefully pressing the dough into the corners without stretching it. Trim the edge of the dough and fold over, into the tart pan to form a thicker tart side. Press the sides of the dough up against the side of the tart pan and even out the edge. Fix any cracks. You want the sides of the tart pastry to be even all around and not too thick. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Par-bake the walnut pie dough. Once the dough in the tart pan has chilled for 30 minutes cover the dough with aluminium foil and make a well. The foil should be wider than the tart pan to lift the sides and remove it filled with the pie weights. Fill the interior of the foil well with pie weights or dried beans. Spread them out so they evenly cover the surface of the tart bottom. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan the place the whole thing on the middle rack or baking stone. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the aluminium foil with the pie weights off the tart shell and remove. Turn the heat down to 325°F (162°C) and continue baking for 20 minutes. You want to dry out the crust, but not let it get too brown. Reduce the heat to 300°F (149°C) if the crust edges starts to get too dark. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 375°F (190°C)
    Tomato Tart
  1. Meanwhile, while the dough is chilling for the first time (before you roll it out), mix together the minced garlic, sumac, ground colander, ground cumin, Kosher salt, and red pepper flakes into a small bowl.
  2. Slice the tomatoes into thick slices across the middle about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Set the tomato slices on a sheet pan in one layer. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the tomatoes and let it marinate for one hour.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir until smooth and creamy the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, minced lemon thyme and basil. Taste the ricotta. If your fresh ricotta is salty leave it alone. If you think it needs salt, add about 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
  4. While the par-baked tart shell is cooling, line a couple of plates with paper towels. Place the seasoned tomato slices on the paper towel lined plates, seasoned side facing up. Pour any tomato juices and seasoning into the bowl with the ricotta cheese and stir.
  5. Once cooled baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the tart pastry. If you are not a fan of mustard, baste a lightly beaten egg across the bottom of the tart.
  6. Spread the ricotta cheese evenly over the mustard in the tart.
  7. If using , sprinkle a light layer, about 1-2 TB, of Pecorino Romano cheese over the ricotta cheese.
  8. Layer the tomato slices, seasoned side up, evenly around the tart in a decorative fashion. You will need to overlap each slice because they will shrink while baking. If you have large heirloom tomatoes, you might need to cut them in half to fit as many tomatoes as you can in the tart pan. Any leftover tomato slices you can eat for lunch or a delicious snack.
  9. If using, lightly sprinkle Pecornio Romano cheese over the tomatoes, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.
  10. Place the assembled tart on a sheet pan, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see if the crust is browning to dark. If the crust edge is browning too quickly, cover the rim with a aluminum foil, but careful not to cover the tart filling. Continue baking, checking the tart every 10 minutes or less, when you get closer to the end. It could take around 50 minutes total time. The tart is done when the juices all around the tart are bubbly, the tomatoes are shriveled and the Romano cheese is browning on top. Also, the crust is a nice golden-brown color.
  11. Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove the tart pan rim. Carefully place the tart on top of a large can of tomatoes or other can or bowl with stable flat top. Carefully hold the pan rim and slide it down off the tart. Place the tart on a cooling rack and continue to cool. When cool use a wide spatula to help slide the tart off the bottom portion of the tart pan. (Or you can leave it alone if you don't want to take any chances). Garnish right before serving with fresh lemon thyme and born fresh basil leaves.
  13. Serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made.

Notes

Sumac is the ground berries from a Sumac bush. It has a slightly bitter taste and a popular seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine. There is no great substitute to resemble it. If you do not have it, or cannot get it. Sprinkle finely grated lemon zest over the tomatoes when it is done baking.

If you do not own a tart pan, you can make this tart a galette. However, there are some changes in the preparation and baking. There is no need to par-bake the dough. After rolling out the dough, Move the dough to a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Arrange the tart ingredients over the pastry dough in the same order as in the instructions, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the rim of the dough over the ingredients and pleat to seal. Refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes. Brush the dough with melted butter, olive oil, or egg wash and bake, following the instructions above.

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Some Mediterranean spices are easily available at your grocery store. Kalustayan’s in New York City is a very reliable store for all kinds of spices and food items. You and buy online or in person. Click here for Aleppo Pepper, and Sumac.

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera

It is funny how one little pasta dinner is the cause of serious debate and unfavorable opinions. After all, pasta primavera simply is pasta prepared with delicately cooked vegetables. What is so serious about that? Well, Pasta Primavera’s origin for one, and its popularity for another.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe
A Brief History of Pasta Primavera

This pasta specialty is not of Italian origin, but is a 1975 American creation either at Le Cirque in NY City, or in Nova Scotia with a Le Cirque chef/owner connection, (Wikipedia). The recipe’s fame started at Le Cirque where customers could special order the meal because it was not on the menu. Amanda Hesser’s 2009 article in the NY Times, states Jean Vergens, then chef at Le Cirque, hated the dish so much he refused to allow Pasta Primavera cooked in Le Cirque’s kitchen. In order to satisfy their costumers, the staff had to cook the dish in the hallway.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

What is not of debate is, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s article about Le Cirque’s recipe in the New York Times, made Pasta Primavera famous. Unfortunately, the fame of pasta primavera help create its’ loss of appeal. Across America, Italian American restaurants served Pasta Primavera. This crossover from a secret meal specially prepared, to mainstream America changed its identity. How can pasta with vegetables taste bad? It can when mediocre restaurants take over the pasta primavera market, (Hesser, A. New York Times 2009). Unfortunately, a meal created using French and Italian cooking techniques, became ordinary in the mass production.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Pasta Primavera Done Right

I like my pasta dishes with an abundance of extra ingredients mixed with some pasta, not the other way around. Depending on the recipe, pasta is a foundation for vegetables and sauces to stand out. Preparing pasta with good technique and consideration for the ingredients, creates food that is fresh tasting and has good structure and texture. A pasta dinner becomes a light and comforting meal. Pasta primavera is no exception. Primavera means spring and the vegetables and sauce should reflect a meal with fresh green vegetables with a light sauce. A rich and heavy sauce will overwhelm the vegetables and drain one’s energy.

More pasta recipes: Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables, Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Sausage and Pasta

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and, like a lot of their recipes, has a lot of steps. However, these steps help build flavor and develop a creamy sauce without a trace of cream. Even still, this recipe has 6 steps and the original Le Cirque recipe has 10, so fortunately, it is not as involved as the original.

What makes Cook’s Illustrated recipe so different? The pasta is prepared like risotto. This technique develops lightly toasted pasta with a nutty flavor. Additionally, this technique produces a silky and creamy texture and a double layer of flavor from the vegetables.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

I slightly adapted the recipe by adding mushrooms and lightly toasting the pasta. It is my experience the pasta does not toast evenly in a Dutch oven. It is too deep and therefore, you get an uneven toasting. However, it is convenient to cook this recipe in a Dutch oven, otherwise I need an extra-large sauté pan or more pans. My focus is on the flavors of the vegetables and creating a silky-smooth textured sauce. Because I like the flavor of this recipe so much, I decided not to eliminate the step altogether and just pared it down. I was concerned the luscious texture would not be the same without this step.

As the name suggests, Pasta Primavera is a spring meal overflowing with vegetables. Also contributing to the lively spring flavor are wine, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. This is one of the freshest tasting pasta primavera recipes I’ve had. It is a lovely spring melody of asparagus, peas, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs. It is clear the vegetables are the star of the show.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Gluten-Free Pasta Primavera

A note for a gluten-free version of this recipe. It is my experience that gluten-free pasta breaks down when prepared following the risotto style directions. The result is an unappealing pile of mushy pasta with your delicious vegetables. I recommend substituting the recipe’s method of cooking pasta, and follow the directions given with your favorite gluten-free pasta. I am not certain why my quinoa pasta turned to mush, but it seems a gluten protein structure keeps the pasta shape intact.

You will need less stock and only add it to braise the vegetables. Lightly, cook the vegetables for less time, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan. Then, add some vegetable stock and wine and gently braise the vegetables until they are crisp tender. If you wish, just before serving, swirl in a couple of tablespoons of butter to the vegetables for a silkier sauce.

I would love to hear from you. Please tag me @lemonthymeandginger on Instagram or visit my Facebook page if you make this recipe or any recipe from Lemon Thyme and Ginger.  Also, leave me a comment or question in the comment section below the recipe. I love to see and hear about your creations.

Spring Pasta Primavera

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Italian American

Serving Size: 4-6 servings

Spring Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is a bright spring vegetable pasta dinner garnished with lemon zest, chives and mint. The texture is creamy, yet there is no cream added. This is because the pasta is cooked like risotto and absorbs all the vegetable stock in the pot. I love the melody of the fresh spring vegetables.

Gluten free note: If you prefer using gluten free pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions on the back of the pasta box. I made this recipe with quinoa pasta and the risotto style cooking method turned the pasta into mush. Briefly cook the vegetables in a separate skillet then add some vegetable stock and braise them until they are crisp tender. You are not going to have as creamy a texture, but the flavors will still be fresh, bright and delicious.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Spring Vegetable Pasta.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 lb asparagus (453 g)
  • 2 cups (330 g) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 8 (about 100 g) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 2 TB fresh mint, minced
  • 2 TB fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fine lemon zest, plus 2 TB lemon juice
  • 5 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound (453 g) pasta, like farfalle, penne, campanelle
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    Prep the vegetables:
  1. Trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Rough chop the tough fibrous ends and put into a large sauce pan. Cut the spears on the bias into one inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Set the trimmed spears aside.
  2. Wash and trim off the dark green parts of the leeks and add to the pot with the tough asparagus ends. Slice lengthwise down the middle of each leek. Wash each half making sure all the dirt is washed off between the layers of the leeks. Dry them with a clean cloth and slice each half into thin half-moons. Set aside.
  3. Defrost the peas and divide into 2-one cup (250 ml) portions.
    Enhance the broth
  1. Add the dark green leek trimmings and 1 cup of the peas to the pot with the asparagus trimmings. Add the vegetable broth and one cup of the water. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and bring the stock to a simmer. Turn down the heat and simmer the vegetables in the broth for about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables from the stock through a fine mesh strainer over an 8-cup measuring cup or large bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the juices as possible. Discard the vegetables and add more water to make 5 cups of stock. Return the stock to the sauce pan and keep warm on low heat.
    Herb mixture:
  1. While you are waiting for the stock to finish, mix the lemon zest, minced mint and chives into a small bowl. Set aside.
    Cook the Vegetable Medley
  1. Add 2 TB extra virgin olive oil to a Dutch oven and set the stove to medium high. When the oil shimmers, add the leeks and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables in olive oil. Cook the leeks until soft and just starting to brown about 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until just tender, but still has a crispy bite. Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic, stir and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the peas, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Taste the vegetables and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat and spoon the cooked vegetable medley onto a plate. Reverse.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Wipe out the Dutch oven and add 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly.
  2. Add the wine and cook until the wine has dissolved. Stir frequently while the wine is reducing.
  3. Add the vegetable stock. Turn the heat up to bring the stock to a light boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Frequently stir the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the stock. 10-12 minutes.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano cheese, and half the reserved minced herbs. Stir the pasta until the cheese is evenly combined. Add the vegetables and stir. Season with Kosher salt, ground pepper.
  2. Serve immediately and garnish with remaining herbs and Romano cheese.

Notes

If you use store-bought vegetable stock, use one that is not predominately made with carrots or winter squash. The stock will look orange and so will everything you cook it with. There are many vegetable stocks on the market and all taste different depending on the vegetables used to make it. (This is one reason why I make vegetable stock). I cannot deny the convenience of store-bought stock, but I encourage you to read the ingredients so you know what you are getting.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

When I first ate quinoa, my gratitude propelled my love for it more than its flavor. I was desperate for another gluten-free option to replace rice, and I was also on a low-glycemic diet. I can eat wheat and other gluten-protein grains, but several of my friends can’t. So, serving food that everyone can eat, not feel different or left out is my entertaining and personal philosophy. Quinoa is a perfect grain (seed), to eat and a great source of protein for plant-based diets. Ever since my discovery of this recipe, quinoa salad with avocado and dried fruit makes a regular appearance on my dinning table, especially for entertaining.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit reicpe

I discovered this salad recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine 2009, in an article featuring avocado recipes. Next to dark chocolate, avocados are one of my favorite foods. Naturally, the recipe grabbed my attention.  During the time, I needed vegan and gluten-free recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. The quinoa salad with avocado turned out to be the perfect option, a two for one deal. Additionally, this quinoa salad turned my attitude around from not just being grateful, but liking quinoa as well. This salad appeals to everyone, not just people who are vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

There are many reasons why I love this salad and the taste is just one of them. This quinoa salad is just as much about avocados as it is quinoa. With a ratio of about 2 cups of cooked quinoa to 2 whole avocados, you get a creamy avocado morsel in every bite. Being a major avocado fan, I find this significant amount of avocados wonderful. What’s not to love about an avocado in every bite? There is never such a thing as too much avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Reicpe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The dried apricots and raisins adds punch and concentrated flavor. The nuttiness of the quinoa and creaminess of the avocado provide a foundation for the dried fruit to pop. You do not need a lot of dried fruit, a little goes a long way. The deep orange color of the apricots adds a nice attractive element to the salad as well. If you live in an area where apricots are grown, try substituting fresh ones for the dried apricots. The only consideration is, once sliced, apricots get mushy and aged looking after they linger. However, adding a fresh ripe apricot might be worth a try.

Quinoa Salad and Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The lemon cumin vinaigrette is much brighter than it sounds. Thanks to the absorbing power of the quinoa, the cumin flavor is in the background and does not overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. The cumin adds a bit of earthiness against the airy and lemony sunshine. The taste of the flavors are unexpected, yet truly complimentary. I love it. The blend of the quinoa, avocado and dried fruits with the dressing is a nice balance of sweet, acid, nuts and earthy flavors. It is not a heavy dressing, just enough to season the ingredients. Therefore, the quinoa salad does not taste or look oily.

More Gluten-free recipes:

Nifty Cake recipe 

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The only thing I change is, I like to add fresh herbs when they are available. Basil adds a nice bit of fresh green sweetness, and even parsley or mint works. If you want to add cilantro, substitute the lemon zest and juice with lime and see how you like it. Quinoa and avocados pair well with a variety of herbs and spices, just be careful not to overpower the salad with too much of anything. If you need a more substantial meal or substitute for almonds, chickpeas are also delicious in this salad.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit recipe

Making this salad reminds me of my hometown in California. I can picture so many parts of my childhood with each ingredient. Eating avocado sandwiches with my friends at a restaurant in Strawberry. Climbing our apricot tree and picking them before the birds got them.  But, what really touches my heart is when I rinse the quinoa. Running my hands through the cold, wet and gritty quinoa seeds, reminds me of making sand castles and building forts at Cronkite Beach.  It’s usually cold, foggy and the sand is rough. Despite the cold, I love the Marin Coastline and will forever hold it dear in my heart.

Food has a way about savoring old memories and making new ones. Deborah Madison created this recipe, but after making it for so long and cherishing new and old memories, it feels like my own.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

 

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main Salad

Cuisine: American/ Vegan

4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

If you love avocados, like I do, you will love this quinoa salad. The lemon and cumin vinaigrette is bright with just enough seasoning to blend well with all the ingredients. I make this salad often for entertaining and weeknight dinners.

If you ever need a salad that covers many dietary considerations, this is the one to make. It is perfect for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets, as well as a crowd pleaser for everyone.

Use any color quinoa you like. I like the mix the white and red quinoa, but the red quinoa with the green avocado and orange apricot is very appealing.

You can make the salad ahead, but do not add the salad dressing, almonds and avocados until you are ready to serve. Best eaten the day it is made, but will be ok for leftovers the next day.

Recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine, by Deborah Madison 2009

Ingredients

  • 3 TB raisins, dark, golden or a mix of raisins
  • 2 TB dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red or white quinoa, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2-3 TB coarsely almonds

Instructions

  1. Add the raisins and apricots to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the dried fruit for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water passing through the strainer runs clear, not chalky. Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the water is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. You will see the germ ring that will look like a white curlicue around each seed.
  3. When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet on the stove at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the almonds and stir, shake or flip the almonds in the pan and toast the almonds until they get slightly darker and release their oil. About 1 minute depending on how hot your skillet is. You will start to smell the almonds as they toast. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn. Immediately remove the almonds from the skillet and cool. Once cooled, rough chop the almonds and set aside.
  5. Make the salad dressing. Finely grate the lemon zest into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and whisk until well combined.
  6. In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, apricots, raisins, avocados, scallions and chopped almonds. Carefully mix the ingredients together. Try mixing them with a fork so you do not squish the ingredients together. Then add the salad dressing. Mix until combined. Spoon into a severing bowl, garnish with chopped almonds, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.
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Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

As the days get warmer and the garden blooms more steadily, my attention wanders outside. I so want to play hooky. Work and chores be damned, the sunshine is calling and I want to answer. My food and meal focus shifts to a less is more attitude, and prefer meals that are easy to prepare. One perfect dinner solution to help my wandering attention span is a dinner salad. And, it is even better when someone makes it for you.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens Recipe

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens recipe

My husband gets the credit for creating this dinner salad. Several years ago, Joe announced he is making dinner then left for the grocery store. Upon his return, he presented a bag full of vegetables and sea scallops. Joe informed me he was making a dinner salad with seared scallops and asked me to make the dressing. I am always a willing helper for any task.  Since that time, Joe often makes this dinner salad of seared sea scallops and salad greens. It is one of the dishes he really likes to cook. Seared scallops with leafy greens is also a perfect meal for two.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and greens recipe

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens

A leafy green foundation is the canvas for seared sea scallops, boiled potatoes, asparagus, goat cheese and fruit. Along with the finishing touches of a simple vinaigrette and fresh herbs, this dinner salad comes together like a work of art. It is a polite salad, as no ingredient demands attention, but each one plays an important role presenting a delicious gift of prized sea scallops.

Here is another dinner salad recipe: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

We use delicate greens like Boston Bibb lettuce, arugula or young greens as the salad base. They are not the typical composed salad greens, like romaine. Yet, these lighter lettuces work because each serving is plated, not tossed together in a bowl. This way the greens don’t get crushed under the weight of the ingredients. Also, included in the leafy foundation is another green vegetable, like blanched asparagus or green beans. They add crunch and structure to the delicate green lettuces.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens reicpe

There are so many elements in this salad, I am not sure which ones I like best. First, the sea scallops are lightly seasoned then seared for a crispy contrast to the rich briny center. Then there are the potatoes. They absorb a lot of flavor from the salad, especially the vinaigrette. I like to have a piece of goat cheese with each bite of potato. The blend of potato, creamy goat cheese and vinaigrette is one of my favorite flavor combinations. It is like having two salads in one, tangy and creamy potato salad and a green salad.

The fruit is the biggest surprise. There is nothing like a bit of sweetness and acid to cut any rich and fatty foods like the goat cheese and salad dressing. You only need a few scattered pieces, but it makes a big difference. Add in some fresh herbs and salad becomes exceptional and comforting, like the warmth of sunshine on your back.

Learn how to clean and prepare sea scallops here.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens recipe

There is one downside, putting the whole thing together takes some planning. The vinaigrette needs to sit for 30 minutes so all the flavors can blend and infuse. Fortunately, the vinaigrette rests while the potatoes and other ingredients cook. Like a lot of vegetable meals, each ingredient is prepared or cooked separately. The potatoes and salad dressing will take the longest, everything else is just a matter of a few minutes. The good news is, nothing needs to be served hot off the skillet. Although, time the scallops to finish cooking just before you are ready to plate the salad.

Enjoy this composed dinner salad on the days when the sunshine is calling you outside. It is a great dinner for your next date night in.

Dinner Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Greens

Dinner Salad is easily adaptable any season

Use the greens available in each season, like Boston Bib, arugula, baby greens, and leafy red and green lettuces.

Add fresh herbs like tarragon, basil, chervil, dill, chives, or fennel.

Strawberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines are great fruit during spring and summer. Pears, grapes, or oranges are perfect in the fall and winter months.

Additional vegetables like fennel, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, or spicy radishes are great in this salad.

Use a delicately smoked fish or tuna instead of the sea scallops. You may want to eliminate the goat cheese depending on the fish you use. Or add grilled steak or chicken.

Make with a light vinaigrette, not a heavy or creamy salad dressing

Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Category: Dinner salad

Cuisine: American

2 servings

Dinner Salad of Sea Scallops and Greens

This is a delicious dinner salad with seared sea scallops, summer lettuce, potatoes, goat cheese and fruit. There is just enough of salt, acid, fat, and sweet for a truly composed and healthy meal. A perfect dinner for date night in.

Ingredients

    Vinaigrette - Makes about 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml good quality white wine vinegar*, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 1 tsp minced fresh herb like tarragon, lemon thyme, or basil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup / 185 ml olive oil
    Salad
  • 1 head Boston bib lettuce, cleaned and dried
  • 4-6 baby new potatoes or fingerings
  • 8 spears asparagus, or small handful of green beans cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/2 apricot or peach*, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 oz / 46 g soft goat cheese like Montrachet
  • 1 TB fresh herb, the same one you used in the vinaigrette
  • 8-10 large sea scallops
  • Kosher Salt for seasoning
  • 1 TB Olive Oil

Instructions

    Cook the potatoes
  1. Fill a medium sauce pan with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the washed, whole potatoes to the boiling water and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Start checking at 10 minutes and every 5 minutes or so thereafter. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the water and let cool. Once they are cool, cut into wedges and lightly drizzle, about a teaspoon or so, the potatoes with the vinaigrette.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil start the vinaigrette.
    Make the vinaigrette
  1. Peel the garlic clove and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the green germ, then smash the clove with the side of your knife. Add the vinegar, minced shallots, smashed garlic, mustard, salt, and minced herbs to a small bowl and whisk together until the salt is dissolved. Continue to whisk the dressing and slowly pour the olive oil in a steady stream. Whisk the vinaigrette until it is well combined. Let rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
  2. You will have more vinaigrette then you need. See notes on how to store the vinaigrette for later use.
    Make the Salad
  1. Blanch the prepared asparagus or green beans in salted boiling water. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes, or if using the green beans for one minute. Drain the water from the vegetable and rinse with cold water. Set on a clean kitchen towel or back in the sauce pan, (off heat) to dry.
  2. Just before the potatoes are finished cooking tear the lettuce into large bite size pieces and add to a bowl. Toss the lettuce with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette until evenly coated. This is just a light coating to season the lettuce. Set aside.
  3. Place the sea scallops on a plate and carefully remove the muscle from its side. This is very tough when cooked. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel on both sides. Season the scallops with a pinch of Kosher salt on both sides.
  4. Heat a heavy duty 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil and swirl it to evenly coat the pan. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, add the sea scallops to the pan flat side down. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes without touching or moving them. Adjust the heat if the pan is getting too hot. Turn the scallops over and sear for 1-2 minutes until the scallops are done. Scallops about an inch in size will be done very quickly about 3 to 4 minutes. They are done when the center is opaque in the middle, and feel firm when pressed with your finger. When in doubt, cut a scallop down the center and check. The scallop won't go to waste, just add it to the salad. The scallops will continue to cook from the residual heat, but you want to remove them when they are just done.
    Plate the salad
  1. On each plate, place half of the seasoned lettuce. Arrange the seasoned potatoes, asparagus, scallops, and fruit on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle small clumps of goat cheese over the salad and fresh herbs.
  2. Remove the garlic from the vinaigrette and give it a good whisk. Pour into a spouted serving dish. Add additional dressing as needed to each salad. You will have plenty of salad dressing leftover to use for another salad.

Notes

* This is a light vinaigrette and not one to use balsamic vinegar. If you have a good quality red wine vinegar it is OK to use. I just have not found one I like, so I usually don't cook with red wine vinegar.

The vinaigrette makes about 1 cup / 250 ml so you will have plenty leftover. Store the vinaigrette in an air tight container in the refrigerator. The vinaigrette will taste better, and last longer, if you remove the shallots from the vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette over a fine mesh strainer into a container to catch all the shallots. Discard the shallots and refrigerate the vinaigrette.

If you want to thoroughly emulsify the vinaigrette, it is easy to do with an immersion blender. The vinaigrette made with a blender will be thicker and heavier. I like this salad with a lighter dressing so I mix it by hand and not worry about the dressing being emulsified. It is your choice. Make the salad dressing as you prefer.

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Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Eggs are one of the best foods because you can eat them for any meal of the day. Scrambled eggs for breakfast, or an egg salad or spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs make a wonderful lunch. Dinner meals like quiche, soufflé, or omelets are perfect for a quick and easy supper. Eggs also make great appetizers. Who can resist mustardy or spicy deviled eggs? In fact, you could put an egg on almost anything and call it a meal. I believe eggs are perfect comfort food.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata recipe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata recipe

One outstanding egg dish, and perfect for all four meal categories, is the frittata. A frittata is an Italian omelet, like the Spanish tortilla. It is not folded over or rolled like a French or American omelet, but the principles are similar. Simply, whisked eggs cooked in a pan with cheese and fillings. Unlike the French omelet, Frittatas require a two-part cooking process. The first stage of cooking is on the stove, then it goes in the oven or under a broiler to finish cooking.

There are two standard ingredients in a frittata, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Add to this foundation, inspired combinations of cooked vegetables, herbs, more cheese, cured meats, or all of the above, and a frittata turns into a substantial meal. Frittatas are a light egg pancake of goodness. It’s also a great pantry meal to use up all the leftover vegetables or pasta hiding in your refrigerator.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Reicpe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Reicpe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

I first discovered frittatas in the mid 1980’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place and Evan Kleinman. At the time, this cookbook was a novelty and showed how fresh ingredients, simply prepared, produces great tasting food. It is also a good cookbook for entertaining, because it is filled with recipes that taste great at room temperature.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Zucchini and basil frittata is one of their recipes. It is a light omelet, filled with garlic infused zucchini and the warm sunshine of basil. I enjoy eating it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. If I remember correctly, the first time I made it was for a bridal shower. It was so long ago. The specifics of that time have faded, but the general feeling remains: a bright sun lit room, a table full of friends, laughter, and everyone happily enjoying this new meal. This memory returns to me every time I make zucchini and basil frittata, and so I always associate celebrations, bright sunshine, and good friends whenever I make it.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

It is an easy meal to make with your kids and won’t require too much thought before you drink your first cup of coffee. I know I need a cup of coffee before I start working with sharp knives, fire or follow new instructions. Getting the frittata out of the skillet requires the steady and large hand of an adult. But, your children will think you are a magician as you reveal the surprise frittata out from under your pan, voilà.

Making a Mother’s Day Meal try these recipes:

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Dried Fruit

Rosti with Mushrooms and Onions

Apple and Apricot Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Pink Champagne Cake

Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe
Tips for success making Zucchini and Basil Frittata

You will need a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet.  The frittata will need to slide or flip out the pan and the non-stick surface and sloped sides of the skillet will make it easier to work with.

Mix the eggs thoroughly with a wire whisk. You do not want streaks of egg whites throughout your cooked frittata.

Plan ahead, salt the zucchini and let it drain for 30 minutes. This is important first step that gets rid of excess moisture in the vegetables.

Cook the frittata on medium heat to prevent excess browning on the bottom and cook the eggs too quickly.

To serve as an appetizer, cut the frittata into small diamonds, or 1 ½ inch squares and offer toothpicks for easy picking.

Frittatas are perfect cooked with tomatoes, leftover pasta made with red sauce, spinach, onions, herbs, or extra cheese.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Whether you want a to make a special breakfast, luncheon, or need an appetizer, Zucchini and Basil Frittata is an unexpected dish for all appetites. Serve this frittata at your next friendly gathering and create your own associations paired with fun, family and friendship. I like to serve frittata warm, but can be served at room temperature paired with fruit, like strawberries mixed with mint or basil, or a green salad, and a baked treat such as crusty bread, muffins or pastry.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner or Appetizer

Cuisine: Italian

4-6 servings

Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Zucchini and sweet basil are a wonderful combination in this frittata. The zucchini is grated, salted and squeezed of excess juice to create a quick and easy meal with warm summer flavor. This is a light meal perfect for any time of the day or occasion.

Recipe from Cucina Fresca, by Viana La Place and Evan Kleinman.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb / 453 g zucchini
  • About 1 tsp/ 4g Kosher salt
  • 4 TB / 36 g Olive oil- divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup / 29 g Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/ 2 cup / 14 g coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash dry and grate the zucchini with the large holes of a box grater or food processor. Place the grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with Kosher salt. You do not need a lot of salt, about 1 teaspoon (4g), just enough to season the zucchini and cause it to release the juices. Let stand for 30 minutes. Then press the zucchini with the back of a large spoon or clean hands to remove all the excess liquid.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F
  3. Heat 2 TB (18 g) olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, Add the minced garlic and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until the garlic is translucent and not browned. Add the zucchini and turn the heat up to medium-high heat. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally so the zucchini cooks evenly and the excess water has evaporated. .
  4. Turn off heat and remove the zucchini from the skillet. Place it on a plate to briefly cool.
  5. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, making sure the whites and yolks are well combined. Add the Parmesan, zucchini and basil to the eggs and stir to combine.
  6. Wipe out the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high, then add 2 TB (18 g) olive oil. Swirl the oil around so it coats the sides and bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour the egg mixture directly into the center of the pan, so the oil and eggs are dispersed evenly from the center out. Allow the egg and zucchini mixture to settle then run your rubber spatula around the rim to loosen it up. With the spatula at 12 o’clock, move the outer edge of the eggs towards the center, like you are making an omelet. Let the loose liquid fill in the empty space. Repeat at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. This will help the middle of the eggs cook.
  8. When the eggs are mostly congealed except for the center, place the frittata into the preheated oven. Cook until the eggs are set in the middle and lightly browned 2-4 minutes. (You could also cook it under broiler if you prefer. Watch so it does not burn).
  9. Remove the skillet from the oven and let it rest on the counter for a minute. Run a rubber spatula around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the sides from the pan.
  10. Place a plate upside down, over the top of the skillet. Place your hand centered on the bottom of the plate and hold the skillet handle in the other hand. Turn the skillet over, place the plate on the counter, then gently lift the pan up and away from the frittata.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.