Mile High Pad Thai and the Year of Change

If what I’m hearing is correct, 2012 is a year for change. It’s a hold-onto-your-hats-it’s-going-to-be-a-bumpy-ride kind of year. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that 2012 is going to be bad or good. But what it does mean is that we all need to focus on what matters most to us and let go of all of the superfluous “stuff” – there’s no time for it.

In keeping with that theme, I have done a lot (A LOT) of soul searching during the past couple of months. After leaving my job as a communications specialist and becoming a literary consultant and publicist, my days have become much more “my own” and my mind has gradually found much-needed clarity. I’ve found my cadence again, my rhythm. I’ve reignited my sense of humor, my patience and my curiosity about life. I’ve found what it means to be me. (And, for those of you who are wondering, that means I’ve rekindled my passion for music and teaching – two things that have always been a part of me, but that were hidden beneath layers of that aforementioned superfluous stuff.)

I think many of us are doing that this year – figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives. All of this talk about the end of the world as we know it (whether you believe that theory or not) has at least given us pause and has made us examine what we’re doing with our time here. We’re learning to not waste a moment. This is the year; the time is NOW.

My brother Dan and his girlfriend, Elissa, left this morning on an adventure of a lifetime. They will be traveling through Central and South America for the next 8-9 months – no agenda, no reservations, carrying nothing but a backpack and a camera. Some may call that crazy, but I call it inspiring.

When Dan and Elissa came to visit us back in December, they left something incredible behind – the most delicious Pad Thai recipe. Well, not the actual recipe, but the idea of it. Just like their free spirits, their idea of the dish was “a little of this” and “a little of that.”  And it was perfect.

I’m sharing this dish with you as an ode to 2012 and to wish these two very special people bon voyage. Here’s to seizing the moment, to new adventures and to embracing this year of change!

 

Mile High Pad Thai

1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and chopped

1 Tablespoon canola oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh ginger, minced (I like a lot of ginger, but adjust to suit your taste)

2 medium carrots, coarsely grated

1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated

1 cup peanut butter

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

½ cup water (plus more to adjust, if needed)

1 box rice noodles

Bean sprouts, garnish

Cilantro, garnish

Peanuts, garnish

Lime wedge, garnish

Sauté the garlic and ginger in the canola oil until fragrant. Add the grated carrots and zucchini and sauté for about 1 minute; set aside.

Next, make the sauce. Combine the peanut butter, cider vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, water and red pepper flakes until creamy. Adjust the consistency to your liking by adding more water.

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions; drain and return to the pan. Add the carrot and ginger mixture, chicken and sauce to the rice noodles; stir to combine.

To serve, top with fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, peanuts and a lime wedge, if desired.

Dan, Rick, Linus, Emily, Elissa - love

Artisan Bread: Russian Braid

Russian BraidWhat’s the legacy you want to leave behind? How do you want your children to see you? (I know… this is really deep for a Monday.) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with Christmas approaching and the dreaded New Year’s resolutions following closely behind.

My favorite part of Christmas is the time I get to spend with my mom, making batch after batch of my grandmother’s famous sugar cookies. Mom does the rolling and cutting and I am in charge of decorating and taste-testing each batch of dough (you know that’s the most crucial part of making cookies). Each cookie is adorned with beautiful sparkling sugar and cinnamon candies. Some are Christmas trees, some are stars, some are reindeer.  Each tray is baked for precisely 11 minutes to ensure a soft, golden cookie every time. They’re perfect. That moment is perfect.

My mom and I have made these cookies ever since I could stand on my own two feet. It is a sacred tradition that I will pass down to my children someday. This is something I will always remember my mother by.

So, what will be my legacy (or legacies)? What will be yours?

One thing that I will share with my future family is making a Russian Braid on Christmas morning. (You didn’t really think I was going to give away my grandmother’s top-secret sugar cookie recipe, did you?)  It is so much fun, incredibly simple and something the kids can take part in. It is utterly perfect…

 

Artisan Bread: Russian Braid

Sweet dough:

1 cup milk, heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit

½ cup sugar

1 ½ Tablespoons yeast

½ cup room temperature butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

½ teaspoon salt

4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

Cinnamon or cocoa powder

Sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm (NOT HOT) milk, and then add the sugar. Add butter, eggs, lemon zest and salt; mix with paddle attachment until combined. Add the flour and mix at medium speed until a soft dough forms.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough in mixing bowl until the dough is soft and supple. Briefly knead by hand to create a ball and transfer to a sprayed bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down by pulling it sideways and folding into thirds, and then turning and repeating once more. Refrigerate the dough at least one hour or overnight.

Prepare two loaf pans by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper, leaving overhang on each end.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling. Divide the dough in half and lightly dust your work surface. Roll one half of the dough into roughly a 12” by 17” rectangle. Brush with cream and heavily dust with cinnamon (or cocoa) mixture. Roll the rectangle long-ways into a log and pinch the seam closed. Loosely wrap the log in plastic wrap and place on cookie sheet in the freezer for 15-20minutes (easier for cutting). Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.

Cut each log in half lengthwise, exposing the interior layers. Take the two ends and form a loose twist, making sure not to twist too tightly. Your twist will be longer than your loaf pan, so don’t worry! Fit each twist into a loaf pan, cut side up, and let rise until doubled in size. (The more scrunched the twist is, the more interesting the loaf looks like.)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from pan immediately.

Artisan Bread: Pepper Polenta Cracker Bread

Pepper Polenta Cracker BreadFirst and foremost, I hope everyone (who celebrated) had a lovely Thanksgiving. I’m happy to report that my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner was a success! But with every success comes a lesson, in my opinion. And my lesson this time was to trust in the process.

I began my preparations on Monday, following the advice and experienced wisdom of food experts like Kathleen Flinn and David Lebovitz. By Wednesday, I was feeling pretty self-righteous, having selected and prepared many make-ahead dishes, washed and set out my platters and serving utensils, and set the Thanksgiving table (centerpiece and all). I was a little nervous about my seeming lack of last-minute panic attacks, but kept plugging along, nonetheless.

But on Thursday, I found myself getting agitated in the kitchen, twiddling my thumbs because I felt like I was forgetting to prepare something, do something, make something. I wasn’t my usual, calm, meditative self in the kitchen that day. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then it dawned on me – this is an issue of “pleasure versus purpose” (as so eloquently put by fellow food blogger, Food Loves Writing). When I’m in the kitchen for pleasure, everything seems to unfold effortlessly. But when I am hosting or cooking for friends and family, I am faced with the daunting task of being perfect (gasp!) – pressure put on me, by me.

Slowly, and I mean seriously slowly, I am learning to trust in the process of life, of learning, and of the journey. When I look back on my 2011 Thanksgiving experience (sounds so important, huh?), I think about all of the laughs shared with family, all of the “mmms” and “oooooooh, that’s good!” comments from around the table. In the end, everything is as it should be, no matter what happened along the way. So, we might as well enjoy the ride, right?

Here’s a simple Pepper Polenta Cracker Bread, the third installment from my artisan bread series. It’s peppery (obviously) and crisp, pairs really well with a variety of cheeses and would be perfect for your next dinner party or holiday celebration. Enjoy!

 

Artisan Bread: Pepper Polenta Cracker Bread

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

¼ cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon honey

1 ¼ cup warm (NOT HOT) water

4 ½ cups bread flour

1/3 cup uncooked polenta

2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon fennel or anise seeds*

¾ teaspoon ground black pepper*

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix honey, olive oil, warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit until yeast has dissolved, about 5-10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and polenta. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low until well mixed. Switch to the dough hook and add the salt.

*If you are using coarse ground black pepper and large fennel seeds, do NOT add them yet, as they will likely tear the dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead a few times. Spray the mixing bowl with non-stick spray, return the dough to the bowl and cover, allowing to rise until it has doubled in size.

Divide your dough into about 16 pieces and roll each piece into a rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Place the rolled dough onto baking sheets. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle on a little more salt and freshly ground black pepper.

*At this point, you could add larger seeds and pepper by sprinkling them on top.

Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly golden in color, about 20 minutes.

Cranberry Merlot Sauce

Cranberry Merlot SauceI never really liked cranberries when I was younger. Not cranberry juice, not cranberry desserts, not fresh cranberries, not no way, not no how. But for some reason, a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving, I tried my grandmother’s cranberry sauce… and never looked back. It was utterly delicious. Here, I’ve taken her basic recipe and jazzed it up with a hint of Merlot (yum!).

There are so many reasons I love cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, but the top is probably that it’s so easy to make. Definitely try this recipe if you:

A)   Need a last-minute side for your Thanksgiving meal.

B)   Want to make this well in advance of the holidays (it freezes really well).

C)   Just love cranberries.

Enjoy! And happy Thanksgiving!

 

Cranberry Merlot Sauce

2 bags fresh cranberries

¾ cup Merlot

½ cup granulated sugar (more, if needed, to suit your taste)

Zest of two oranges

Juice of three oranges

2 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until a thick sauce forms, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing or freezing.

Artisan Bread: Challah

ChallahThere’s something about throwing around dough, about the sticky, squishy feeling between my fingers, about the fine layer of bread flour on my hands that really makes my day. No kidding.

I’ve come to realize that making artisan bread is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s special. It’s a time when I can be quiet with my thoughts, rhythmically kneading the dough until it just feels right. It is a game of patience, but the rewards are plenty. (I mean, who doesn’t love warm, fresh-baked bread?!)

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m hosting our family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year, and I’m totally excited. I’m trying out new recipes, busting out the big platters and baking bread from scratch. Yup, that’s right – bringing out the big guns.

I’ve decided that challah would be the perfect addition to our Thanksgiving feast – it’s beautifully braided and perfectly sweet (and this recipe makes enough for each family to take home a loaf!).

This Thursday, break (or bake) bread with those you love. Challah! It’s Thanksgiving week!

 

ChallahChallah

½ cup canola oil

½ cup honey (I used Orange Blossom)

2 teaspoons salt

3 whole eggs

2 cups water

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or sifted whole wheat flour)

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Egg wash (1 egg, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon water)

Pepitas or various seeds for garnish

Hydrate the yeast in warm (NOT HOT) water and wait for it to dissolve (the water will feel silky). While the yeast is dissolving, whisk together the oil, honey, salt and eggs. Then add the yeast mixture; stir to combine.

Pour the yeast-egg mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment and mixing on low, add the whole-wheat pastry flour and the all-purpose flour alternately, a little bit at a time, until all has been incorporated and a thick batter has formed.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and switch to the dough hook attachment. Mix on medium-low until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, is no longer sticky but is still soft and moist.

Transfer the dough to a well-greased bowl, cover the bowl and place it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the dough into quarters, and then cut each quarter into thirds (three pieces will make one braid, so you’ll end up with four loaves).

Take one piece of dough and, using your hands, form a rectangle (about ¼-inch thick). Starting on a long edge, roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam closed. Roll the log until it is about 12-18 inches long. Repeat the process with the other pieces of dough.

Using three logs at a time, braid the dough, pinching both ends and folding them under the braid. Transfer braids to the baking sheets and let them rise again, about 45 minutes.

Brush the braids with the egg wash and sprinkle each with desired seeds. (I used pepitas in honor of Thanksgiving… and pumpkins.)

Bake the braids at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

*I do NOT recommend using Air Bake cookie sheets for bread. The bottom will not crisp or brown.

Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

arugula pestoThanksgiving has always been an event in my family. The food is delicious and abundant, the décor is never less than glorious and the company is filled with joy and love. It’s the perfect combination for a successful Thanksgiving!

When I was little, I remember Thanksgiving dinners at my grandmother’s house. I would sit on the landing of the staircase (with a black olive on each finger – a girl needs a snack with all of that good cooking!) and listen to my family in the kitchen, laughing hysterically at something my aunt said or something my mom did. I didn’t really know the reason for the laughter, but I would start to snicker all by myself just listening to them.

When dinner was about ready and the food was smelling too good to resist any longer, I would make my way into the kitchen and watch the hustle and bustle of the women in my family. They moved together like clockwork. Before I knew it, we were at the table, forks in hand, feasting on a tremendous spread that seemed effortless to create.

Generous? Yes. Tasty? Yes. Effortless? Not a chance. I never realized how much work went into planning for and hosting a holiday celebration. Even when family pitches in, it is still a huge task – even if it’s one you’d perform lovingly and willingly.

Well, this year is my year. I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner! I am definitely excited and up for the challenge, but I want to make sure I have plenty of snacks and goodies on hand throughout the day to tide over my guests’ impatient bellies while I prepare the main event.

One of the simplest things I like to make is pesto – it’s fresh, it’s colorful and it pairs nicely with vegetables, meats and breads. This pesto combines spicy arugula with sweet hazelnuts and is fairly mild in garlic flavor, which is perfect for any holiday celebration (avoiding the Hhhhhi, I’m Hhhhhheather… garlic overload!). This will definitely be one of many options in my snack spread.

Good luck to all of you who are hosting Thanksgiving this year! We just have to remember to keep it simple and delicious (and make sure to drink plenty of fluids – party planning is no easy feat!).

 

Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

2 cups packed arugula

½ cup chopped hazelnuts

¼ cup parmesan cheese

1 small clove garlic

About 1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

In a food processor, pulse together the arugula, hazelnuts, parmesan cheese and garlic clove. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Artisan Bread: Ciabatta

CiabattaWhat happens when you step outside of your comfort zone? For some, there’s a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride. For others, there’s the fetal position. I’m somewhere in the middle… I took an artisan bread class.

You see, I decided to leave my comfort zone about a month ago, making the final jump shortly afterward. I left my job, my steady paycheck, my lovely office away from home and my marketing expertise to pursue my passion for writing, editing and cooking. Yup, I did it. Mmm hmm. Yup. (It’s still sinking in.)

My first day of working from home was fabulous. A little work here, a little laundry there – I felt so productive! But as the week progressed, I had many what-have-I-done moments.

I found myself talking to my pets as if they actually understood what I was saying.  I was making lists like they were going out of style, giving myself an unfathomable amount of to-dos. I felt myself pivoting in this new lifestyle and I was a little worried about my decision – I thought I had taken this leap of faith to choose a direction!

So, that’s what I did. I picked myself up and I chose a direction. Instead of just curling my knees to my chest and rocking back and forth like psycho from Psycho, I decided to invest in my passion and enroll in an artisan bread class. (Go me!) In this first installment, I’m sharing a very easy recipe for Ciabatta. (It looks lengthy, but I promise, it’s easy and so worth it!) Though I should warn you: It does require patience!

A couple of notes before we get started:

Yeast: I will be using active dry yeast in this post and many others. Don’t mistake this for rapid rise yeast or instant – active dry yeast is what we’re looking for and you can find it in any grocery store. I recommend reaching to the back of the shelf for the yeast that is furthest from expiration. Trust me, you’ll be happier with you bread in the end!

Preferment: A pre-ferment is a fermentation starter that is used in many artisan breads to develop more complex flavor and improve the overall quality of the final bread product. The preferment provides more time for yeast, enzyme and/or bacterial actions to work their magic on the starch and proteins in the dough. (Translation: Yummy!) For Ciabatta, we’ll be making “Biga.”

All right, here we go… (Quite honestly, I can’t believe I’m trying to tackle artisan bread on a blog. But again, it’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone, right?!)

 

Homemade Ciabatta

Start by making your preferment, Biga:

½ teaspoon active dry yeast

½ cup warm (NOT HOT) water

3 ½ cups bread flour

1 ¼ cup cool water

In a small bowl, dissolve the active dry yeast in warm water. Set it aside for a few minutes until it is creamy. Measure the flour into a large bowl. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, form a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture and the cool water to the well. Stir all the ingredients together until sticky and thoroughly combined. Cover tightly and ferment slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours or at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours.

 

The next day, you’re ready to make your Ciabatta:

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 ¼ cup warm (NOT HOT) water

3 cups bread flour

2 ½ teaspoons salt

2 cups Biga

Dissolve the yeast in warm water; set aside for a couple of minutes until the mixture feels silky. Combine proofed yeast with flour and biga in a stand mixer and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until well blended. Allow the mixture to rest in the mixer bowl for about 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, switch to the dough hook attachment, add the salt to the dough and mix on medium speed until a smooth, soft, wet dough has formed, about five minutes. Transfer the dough to a large bowl generously sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for one hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Spray a spatula with non-stick spray and fold each edge (one at a time) of the risen dough toward the center, creating a total of eight folds.  Recover the bowl and let the dough rise a second time, about 30 minutes. Repeat the folding process one last time, recover and let rise again until the dough has doubled in volume, about 30 minutes longer.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Liberally flour your counter and gently transfer the dough to it, being very careful not to deflate the dough. Flour the top of the dough and divide it in half. Take one of the halves and, with well-floured hands, gently spread the dough into a rectangle. Then fold the short sides in like a letter fold. Repeat with the second half.

Gently and carefully transfer each loaf, seam side down, to the parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly dimple the tops of the loaves with your fingertips. Cover the loaves with a dish towel and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Spray the loaves lightly with water and bake at 475 degrees Fahrenheit until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. (It is a good idea to spray the loaves with water a second time within the first 10 minutes of baking. However, this step is not imperative.)

 

*That’s it! Leave your questions here – I’ll either have the answer or I’ll take the questions to class and find out.*

Chai Spice Butter Cookies

Chai Spice Butter CookiesI am obsessed with fall this year. I miss the beautiful trees of the Northeast. I think I’m having major withdrawals. But luckily for me, my brother (in-law, but really, I don’t think of him as anything less than my brother), Ryan, just moved from the New York to Colorado and brought the beautiful trees with him! It seems like fall has now officially arrived.

I get the warm fuzzies when I think about fall (and winter, too, actually). It’s the same feeling I get when I’m around Ryan. I can’t even explain it – he’s just the type of person you want to be around. He has the most gentle smile and biggest bear hugs; his energy is something you just want to swim in. He’s my fall.

Here are a few of my favorite fuzzies for fall (in no particular order):

  • Scarves and hats.
  • Pumpkins.
  • Boots and jackets.
  • Picking apples!
  • My wedding anniversary, my engagement anniversary – they’re on the same day, just a year apart.
  • Soups and stews.
  • Fall color palette – oranges, reds, corals, browns, yellows. My fave.
  • Baking… anything.
  • Blankets and house shoes.
  • And these chai spice butter cookies – they just taste like fall.

Chai Spice Butter Cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of ground cloves

Dash of freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup powdered sugar

10 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon ice water

Combine the flour with the next five ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Beat the sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until just combined (mixture will appear crumbly). Sprinkle dough with the ice water and mix with a fork.

Divide the dough in half and shape it into 2 6-inch logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Unwrap the dough logs and carefully cut each one into 12 slices using a serrated knife. Place the dough circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a sil pat), and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until firm to the touch and golden brown.

Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing. Allow to cool the rest of the way on wire racks. Makes two dozen cookies.

Horchata

HorchataWhen Rick and I lived in Boston a couple of years ago, we were in a completely different stage of our lives. Quite frankly, we didn’t know each other all that well when we decided that I should move to Boston from Colorado to be with him while he finished his PhD. (I know it was crazy…)

One of my fondest memories of Boston has nothing to do with the city, really. It’s more about Rick and his endearing, wide-eyed, childlike spirit – and his mean White Russians. He and I spent many days of the fall and winter cuddled up in piles of blankets and jackets (we couldn’t really afford heat). We just couldn’t seem to get warm enough on some of those bitter cold nights, even through our full-on karate routines in our empty dining room. So, we decided to make the chill a little more comfy with the help of our dear friend, Kahlua.

Rick’s White Russians are out of this world – the perfect balance of milk, coffee liquor and vodka. I honestly don’t know how he does (or how I can’t seem to master the same balance of this incredibly simple yet delicious beverage). Couple that with our old school Nintendo marathons and we had the most amazing moments, without fail.

It’s amazing to me, at the current time in my life, that we didn’t mind the “inconvenience” of being cold. Even though we didn’t have much money, we didn’t have heat and we didn’t really have much furniture, we found a way to enjoy life with each other. We embraced the simpler life and our perfect love.

That’s why this recipe for Horchata (which I’ve changed ever so slightly) caught my attention. So simple, so delicious, so perfect for the cooler weather – it reminds me of those fun, cold nights with Rick, Mario, Luigi and Kahlua.

 

Horchata

*Martha Stewart Living

4 cups whole milk

2 small cinnamon sticks

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

½ cup almond flour

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup dark rum (optional, but recommended)

Ice cubes

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring milk and cinnamon sticks to a simmer. Remove from heat and whisk in condensed milk, almond flour and vanilla. Refrigerate for about an hour, or until mostly cooled.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and stir in the rum. Divide among four glasses full of ice and garnish with ground cinnamon and/or a cinnamon stick.

Mushroom, Leek and Goat Cheese Tart (and a Mushroom Kit Discount!)

Mushroom, Leek and Goat Cheese TartAn idea is all it takes, as long as you plant the seed so it can take root. And that’s exactly what the founders of Back to the Roots, a company providing sustainable mushroom kits, did in 2009. While sitting in class during their last semester of college, Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora came across the idea of growing mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds.

I’d heard about the kits at Camp Blogaway earlier this year, but it wasn’t until the NASFT Summer Fancy Food Show that I actually got to meet Nikhil and hear more about this amazing eco-friendly venture. Not only is their story inspiring, but also their passion for giving back to the community.

Visit and like Back to the Roots on Facebook, post a picture with your growing mushroom kit and check out their school donations page to send a mushroom kit to a school of your choice. (This is a great little project for kids to teach them about sustainability!)

I encourage all of you to grow your own mushrooms at home – it’s SO much fun to watch them grow! Take advantage of this exclusive discount code (mushrooms4me10) to save 10% on Back to the Roots Mushroom Kits.

And to give you something tasty to go with all of this mushroom talk, here’s my recipe for Mushroom, Leek and Goat Cheese Tart.

 

Mushroom, Leek and Goat Cheese Tart

2-3 large leeks, white parts and 1-inch of the pale green parts, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

½ cup vegetable stock

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup crème fraiche*

¼ cup soft goat cheese, crumbled

½ lb. oyster, shitake or cremini mushrooms, chopped

1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and then add the leeks. Saute the leeks for a few minutes until they begin to soften, then add the thyme, bay leaf, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, remove the bay leaf and transfer the leek mixture to a large bowl. Add the crème fraiche and goat cheese to the hot leek mixture and stir to combine.

In the same large sauté pan you used to cook the leeks, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté until they have released most of their liquid. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry dough to about 1/8-inch thick and transfer to the baking sheet. Pour the leek mixture into the center of the puff pastry and spread toward the edges, leaving about 1 inch bare around the perimeter. Top the leek mixture with the mushrooms. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling to create a simple tart, and bake until the dough is puffy and a light golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Remove tart from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

*You can usually find store bought crème fraiche, but if not, you can easily make your own at home. (For this recipe, you could also use a mixture of mascarpone cheese and plain yogurt to achieve a similar taste and consistency.)

Homemade Crème Fraiche:

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup heavy cream

Stir together the buttermilk and heavy cream. Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature or slightly warmer, shaking once or twice, for 24-48 hours. Use immediately, or store it in the fridge for up to one week.

**I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.