Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cozy Italian Dinner

Although my last post was quite a while ago, I refuse to be relegated to the realm of blogs that have a single introductory post from three years ago and are left hanging with just the promise of things to come... I remember being quite perplexed while settling on a Blog address as I came across site after site of abandoned posts.

Seeing as it's been quite a while since my last post, I thought that I would present a complete menu here rather than a single item. Since I just moved to a new city, I have been quite busy making new friends and entertaining them with my culinary experiments. On one such recent occasion, I decided to cook an Italian meal for some new friends. After much indecision and many phone calls to my husband, I finally settled on a relatively simple menu of Leek and Mushroom Tarts with an herb salad, Rigatoni Alla Norma, and of course, Tiramisu. To avoid making this post a recipe for boredom, I am only posting the Leek Tart recipe below.

The inspiration for the Leek and Mushroom Tarts was an absolutely delectable offering at a local bakery in Portland, OR called Baker & Spice. If you're in the area, I highly recommend you check out this local gem; see http://bakerandspicebakery.com for a mouth-watering preview.

The leek, or Allium ampeloprasum, belongs to the same family as chives, onions and garlic, but has a much milder flavor than its cousins in the Allium family. I think leeks taste best either fresh or lightly sauteed, not boiled, although this is a personal preference. Apparently, leeks have been in cultivation at least since ancient Egyptian times -- thanks Wiki! I can say from personal experience that they are incredibly easy and rewarding to grow. I had ample success growing these in Wisconsin through spring, summer and fall. If you would like to grow your own, see http://www.ehow.com/how_9869_grow-leeks.html

Anyway, that's enough about leeks -- now onto the recipe!

Mushroom Leek Tarts

For the pastry:

I defrosted Pepperidge Farm's frozen Puff Pastry
--hey, I warned you I don't make everything from scratch. But if you want to make your own, Google offers plenty of recipes, including some YouTube videos as well. I rolled out each sheet ever-so-slightly and pricked it with a fork all over.

I then scored a 1-inch border all around the pastry
-- gently draw a border with a sharp knife; do not go through pastry obviously

I then brushed the whole sheet lightly with olive oil and and blind-baked (a fancy way of saying pre-baked) it at 375º F for about 10 minutes. This step will help you avoid a soggy center in your finished tart and is well-worth the effort!

For the filling, I used:

• 1 large egg
• 4 T ricotta
• 1C Sautéed Portabella mushrooms, cooled
• 2C Lightly sautéed chopped leeks, cooled
• 4T finely minced basil
• 3T finely minced sautéed garlic (ah...the leek's much-loved, albeit
smellier, cousin)
• 1/2C grated Gruyere
• Salt and pepper to taste

Now, I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of meticulously following recipes while cooking, so ALL ingredient measures are guidelines and can be adjusted to taste.

I mixed all the filling ingredients the night before and refrigerated the mixture overnight.

After pre-baking the pastry, top with about an inch of filling within the scored border. Return to oven until filling is heated through (this happens quickly) and the pastry is golden brown all over (check the bottoms, these cook slower) -- about 20 minutes.

Remove, cool slightly, cut and serve with a light salad. You could also make individual tartlets by pre-cutting your pastry into squares before baking and scoring each of the squares before filling them.


I know I promised to stop with the Tarts, but I wanted to share my pictures of Tiramisu as well.

I will, however, spare you any details about the origins of Tiramisu. Recently, there has been a glut of articles surrounding the resurgence of this dessert, so a quick Google search should yield more information than you asked for.

As for the recipe, after much searching, I pretty much followed the recipe at the Cooking for Engineers website that offers an eggless version that, in my opinion, is better than the original. If you're unfamiliar with this site, I highly recommend you give it a glance:


Now, on to the pictures. I plated fairly generous portions of this decadent dessert on dessert plates dressed with a thin layer of crème anglaise (more on that later).


  1. Nope, made this a couple of weekends ago. Come back for more.

  2. love this blog! Great job!
    When will you post the recipe of the P.F. Chang's inspired eggplant dish?

  3. Thanks Rohu...will put that one up soon! Come back for more.