finished-pear-tarteI hate ants and this is the time of year that they are on their Sunbird migratory path, straight for my honeys.  So I, the Dark Lord, have been trying various deterrents to help them decide that my kitchen is a truly hostile environment.  So far they’ve ignored the toxic chalk that I can no longer get in Chinatown, and Windex.  But Gold Seal Foot Powder is holding the swarming mass back.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll try orange, lavender and peppermint essential oils.  Unfortunately, since half of the contents of my cabinet are on our kitchen island, the place looks once again, trashed.  It’s bad enough that I’m lousy at housekeeping, but when this happens, the disaster grows exponentially.

But on to a more pleasant subject, the Pear & Almond Custard Tarte.  I’ve made this little beauty for years when the pears are in season.  It’s always a big hit for the Thanksgiving party at my cousin Aislinn in San Francisco where we know that everyone there has a more refined palate than the hicks from Santa Cruz.  This year I promised Aislinn the recipe so (weep) here it is.  And of course you’ll have to deal with my philosophy of dough.

The Immensely Popular Pear & Almond Custard Tarte

pie-doughDOUGH – Prep – 10 minutes, chilling – 1 hour, rolling – 10 minutes, cooking – 10 – 15 minutes The standard ratio is 1 cup of flour for each stick of butter.  This makes enough dough for a pie crust.  However, if you want the dough to be more buttery, add a ½ stick of butter.  If you want the dough to be flakey, add lard.  Butter and water must be cold.  Add just enough ice cold water to get the dough and butter to stick, usually about ¼ cup, and a dash of salt.  You can add sugar (about a tablespoon) to sweeten the dough.  Remember to let the dough rest for 2 hours before using.  What I usually do is make enough dough for 4 pies in the food processor, and divide in 4 balls.  The other 3 doughs are put in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap or a plastic bag.

1 cup of sifted unbleached flour

1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter (I use to love Plugra, but now can’t find it at Trader Joe’s) or more

¼ cup of ice water

1 dash (up to 1/8 teaspoon) of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)

In the food processor with the metal blade, add butter, flour, salt and sugar.  Pulse for 10 times.  Add water while continuing to pulse until dough starts to firm up as if to make a ball.  Flour lightly the dough ball and place in plastic wrap or wax paper.  Place in refrigerator to rest.

Set the oven at 350 degrees. Using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work area and the rolling pin, roll out the dough for ¼ inch thickness and place in a 9 inch pie plate or a ceramic quiche and tarte dish.  Trim the edges, and prick the surface of the dough heavily.  Line the shell with aluminum foil, or waxed or parchment paper and fill with dried beans to prevent puffing and bake for 10-15 minutes, until it is golden brown.  Cool slightly.

PEAR AND ALMOND CUSTARD FILLING – Set oven at 375 degrees.  Prep time -20 minutes, Baking time 40 – 50 minutes

1 pound peeled & sliced pears – I like Anjou and Comice

pears-for-tarte2Custard

1 ½ cups of milk or cream depending how rich you want the custard – I usually do a mixture

1 tsp almond extract

3 egg yolks

1 egg

1/3 cup of sugar

Freshly grated nutmeg

pear-tarte-with-custardIn a small sauce pan, bring milk/cream to a boil and remove immediately from heat.    In a bowl beat egg yolks, whole egg, almond extract and slowly add the sugar.  Once mixture is light and fluffy gradually beat in the scalded milk/cream combination.
Arrange pears in the cooked pie shell and cover with custard.  Add custard until it covers the pears.  Sprinkle lightly with grated nutmeg.  Cook for 40 – 50 minutes until custard sets.  Cool down and serve.

All of my love and best wishes for 2010.  XXXX Nadine

family-picture-2009-721Ho, Ho, Ho and it is the Christmas holidays. I spent last night worrying whether or not we would come down with Salmonella during the night all because I couldn’t resist making mayo.  I go through this mental torture yearly when I pull out the deep fat fryer and decide that for a week, we can have beignets, French fries, and funnel cakes to our hearts’ desire.  Actually it is not very good at all for our hearts and probably takes our bodies a month to recuperate.  Of course, when I make the French fries, I’ve got to eat them with real mayonnaise, not that bizarre white stuff you buy in the store.  And OF COURSE, I make mine with a raw egg which means I stay up all night long worrying if I have poisoned the family.  But once again, we escaped any evil consequences.  And it tastes SO GOOD, especially with rib-eye steak, and a green salad with shallot vinaigrette.

Now I have had a SHITTY month – Mom broke her rib on a fall, and Suzanne crashed Mémé’s (grandmother) car.  So all that I have done for the past 2 weeks, is to put out fires and act as a nursemaid.  In the meanwhile there is also all the holiday stuff I’ve managed not to do such as holiday cards, holiday news letter and finish up packing 5 care boxes that will be shipped to Afghanistan.  And guess what we are doing today – cookies – which means between that and the Christmas Eve dinner, I’ll have 2 hours cleaning up my kitchen.  But what the hey, it’s the holidays.

Back to French fries, here is my take on making great fries and of course, the mayo recipe.  In previous years, I’ve tried making my own fries and tried all types of potatoes, tediously cutting them, putting them in ice water, trying sugar, trying the freezer trick to find out that all that labor intensive crap, isn’t worth it if you have a den of lion cubs and a husband waiting to be fed.  So now I just go out and buy a bag of pre-cut frozen fries, and toss them into my fryer.  Five minutes later, perfect golden fries that immediately get devoured by the family.  Don’t use olive oil in your deep fryer, I mostly use canola or vegetable.  If I want to splurge, I’ll use peanut oil (I adore peanut oil for frying and for mayo).  So here is the skinny on mayo.

La Bonne Mayonnaise – 5 minutes to make, all night to worry

fries-pleaseNo whisking for me, I find that mayo is fool-proof in the food processor.  I’ve tried it in the blender, but the mayo came out hard, like lard.  The food processor (metal blade) makes it creamy.  Also I’m not crazy about the taste of mayo using olive oil, I prefer vegetable or peanut oil, but since I have tons of olive oil in the pantry and little of anything else, olive oil it will be.  So I’ll add a pressed or finely chopped clove of garlic or a tablespoon of a nice Dijon mustard to soften the taste.  The ratio (I always work in ratios so I can memorize recipes) is 1/1/1.5 which means for every egg, you add on tablespoon of acid – vinegar or lemon juice and drizzle slowly 1 ½ cups of oil.  In the same ratio you can add 1 clove of garlic (minced, pressed of finely chopped) or one of mustard.  The trick with mayo is to process for 3 seconds of the food processor all your ingredients except the oil, which gets slowly drizzled afterwards into the mixture while the food processor is working.

INGREDIENTS

1 egg – try to get eggs from a reputable source so you don’t spend the night worrying about your family and guests.

1 tablespoon of an acid such as freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar – I used white balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe’s

2 dashes of salt

1 dash of pepper

1 ½ cup of oil

1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard of 1 clove of finely chopped, minced or pressed garlic if desired

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, blend for 3 seconds the egg, vinegar, salt & pepper, using the metal blade .

Slowly drizzle in the oil while the food processor is on (this takes several minutes).  Taste, and add garlic or Dijon mustard if desired.  Makes over 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise which I serve in small ramekins.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes From All of Us to You for 2010.


During the later part of the fall and into the winter, local area beets are readily available.  They are very easy to grow and stay crisp in a refrigerator for months.  I always love their sparkling colors and crispy taste.  This recipe guarantees that beets will be a big hit with you and your family.  You can cook the beets ahead of time. If you want to boil the beets, I suggest cooking them in the microwave (10 minutes on high with a microwavable lid and ½ cup of water on the bottom of the container) , otherwise cooking beets takes about one hour.  For this recipe the beets can be boiled  (one hour  – cover with a lid) or even better, roasted for a more complex taste.

INGREDIENTS

5-6 medium size beets

Olive oil

3 hard boiled eggs – sliced or chopped

Blue cheese dressing made in the SaladSuccess container but replace blue cheese with  gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup chopped walnuts –  optional

1 apple such as Fuji, peeled and chopped (optional)

Lettuce to line the salad bowl – mesclun, Boston or Romaine

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash beets, scrub skins and remove greens (use for stir fry.  Place beets in a baking dish, and drizzle olive oil on the beets.  Toss the beets to cover all sides with the olive oil.  Bake until a knife can easily cut the beets, usually for 45 – 60.

Line a bowl or a platter with salad greens.  Slice beets and place on top of greens. Add eggs, walnuts and apples.  Pour dressing over salad.

militarySorry, no recipes today since I want to talk about something near to my heart. I know there are a lot of us wondering what we can do to help or assist our men and women who are serving abroad and this is an opening for any of you who would like to assist some of those who are so far from home.   This request came from my cousin Marlaine Koue, whose family is committed to assisting the troups abroad.  Marlaine has outlined for us her easy guidelines for sending packages.

The US postal service has “flat rate” boxes.  These are great since they allow you to fill up a box at a rate you can afford.  The post office will ask you to fill out a couple of forms and the cost would be between $10 and $14 a box depending on which size you send.

Cards and letters are great since everyone needs a family. If you know of a person, family or group that would like to send anything, please feel free to forward this on.  This Squadron is set to be in Afghanistan until June 2010.

Send Items To:

GySgt Kathryn Denham – To get things delivered you have to send to someone in a unit. Kathryn has agreed to be that person.

HMLA – 367 Scarface

Unit 42065

FPO AP 96427-2065

Put a note in the box “to the men and women of HMLA – 367”

Food (They get 3 meals a day but there is no food available between meals) so they would desperately like:

  • Granola Bars
  • Jerky
  • Nuts
  • Candy – chocolate can be sent until March – afterward melting is an issue
  • Fruit Cups
  • Crackers
  • Mints
  • Chips
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee

Personal Items:

  • Blankets
  • Toiletries (There are 15 women in the squadron that have special needs)
  • Scarves / Sunglasses
  • Liquid Body Soap/Shampoo/Conditioner/Lotion/Razors/Combs
  • Toothpaste (do not send mouthwash)
  • floss/ gum

This is a wonderful opportunity you and your family about giving to those who our serving our country and are in harm’s way. Whether it’s a holiday box or a monthly box, it will be met with a smile and grateful hands and hearts.  And a big “thank you” from Marlaine and I.  Happy Holidays and I promise, Almond Pear Custard Tarte to follow.