Thursday, May 29, 2008

Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes?

I am seriously craving the "peanut butter mashed potatoes" that the awful Lisa concocted on last night's Top Chef. (Why won't she just get SENT HOME??) The main judges all thought it sounded absurd and I get the impression that it wasn't the best received combination (although the steakhouse guest judge raved about it), but I just CAN'T stop thinking about how great it would be to have a big bowl of warm, creamy peanut butter mashed potatoes. WANT. NOW.

Maybe I just want a big bowl of peanut butter that I'm allowed to eat with a spoon. PB Mashed potatoes are (somewhat) socially acceptable. Eating spoonfuls of Jif is not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Googler Wife's Banana and Chocolate Tart

This morning, for the first time ever, I morphed into one of those people who comments on Epicurious! You know, those “this recipe was great, but I just decreased the amount of butter and added persimmons instead of blueberries and tossed some chopped raisins in because my son loves them and substituted half the potatoes with yams and cooked it in a round pan instead of a square one, but otherwise I kept it exactly the same” people? They’ve always existed in a land where confident home cooks live unbound by the written word of their recipes. I want to move there. But man, improvisation is scary.

For the past few years, I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s Farmer’s Wife’s Pear Tart, which I read about years ago on The Amateur Gourmet’s site. It’s as simple as simple can be – mix your batter, chop up your fruit, stir, pour into a pan, dot the top with butter, and open your oven 45 or so minutes later to a thick, fruity pancake. More a thin cake than a tart, it’s fluffy but not doughy, and sweet but mostly due to fruit. I tend use less than an entire cup of sugar (rebellious!) and it comes out just fine.

Around the last time I made it, Jeff started talking about a banana dessert he had at work that day. My brain went, mmm, bananas. Mmm, bananas and chocolate. Mmm, bananas and chocolate in my pancake tart, maybe? Mmmm. And since that time, I’ve wanted to experiment. Would it work? (I mean, duh, of course it’s going to work. But I’m timid when it comes to culinary change, so bear with me.)

I made it this morning, subbing out the pears, replacing with three sliced bananas, some cinnamon, and a few handfuls of chopped semisweet chocolate. (Oh, how cavalier! “A few chopped handfuls.” I would hate me.) Dare I say it improved upon our beloved pear tart? It was gooey where it used to be a tad juicy, with chocolate chunk surprises throughout. A new staple is born. Playing with food is fun. Who knew?

Banana Chocolate Tart (adapted from original recipe by Marcella Hazan by way of Amateur Gourmet)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9-inch pan. I use a springform pan (thank you, wedding registry!), but any pan will do.

In a medium bowl, beat together 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk. Mix in 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, and a good shake of cinnamon (I think I put in about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Mix until combined -- this will be a little bit lumpy, but don't worry.

Slice three bananas into thin coins and chop up semi-sweet or dark chocolate and add to your personal taste. I added chocolate chunks until they were dotted throughout by batter but didn't overpower it. Much more banana than chocolate. Chocolate chips would work fine here, too.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Chop up about 1/4 cup of cold butter and push butter chunks into the pan all over your uncooked tart. When you put the tart into the over, it should have butter polka dots all over the surface, slightly pushed in.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the top of your tart is light brown.

Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fresh, Local, and Organic -- Here I Come!

I want to be one of those people who stops by her local farmers’ market when it’s open, buys what’s fresh and local, and cooks up an inspired dish for dinner. In my mind, I link myself with that crowd... nod knowingly when I read about the wonders of organic produce and quietly roll my eyes at people who buy wan tomatoes from Key Foods in the dead of winter.

Truth is, I’m a sham--a food elitist with absolutely no cred, what with my nightly takeout from Joya or a can of Amy’s Soup with toast. At least the pink tomato people cook. I can barely be bothered to warm up leftovers the next day.

There is a tiny farmers’ market right outside my Financial District office. This summer, I vow to stop by at least once a week, pick something that captures my fancy, and cook up dinner for me and my husband. Look out, honey, there’s asparagus in your future!