An Eclectic Dinner
I’ll be honest. The menu for this particular dinner started with the intense craving for apple pie I’d been having for weeks and the fact I hadn’t made it yet for our new and already good friends that we were having over for dinner. I have been making this pie for years and it’s become sort of a staple. All of our friends have had it at least once and it’s always warmly welcomed by everyone, it’s a star even among the fruit dessert skeptics.
The rest of the menu worked itself backwards and sprung from the large amount of red onions that I had on hand and the ripe avocado lying in the fridge. While I don’t consider it one of the most cohesive dinners as far as the different dishes pair together, I absolutely don’t want to shine a less than positive light on it, so I’ll call it eclectic; and delicious for that matter.
I love vegetarian meals and I really enjoy cooking with vegetables. Including fish in the menu in the shape of a salmon tartar was sort of a treat and not having to cook it was kind of great, a time saver and a nice opportunity to eat raw food. This tartar is just a couple of chops away; it’s also refined, fancy looking and a restaurant quality dish, so if you want to wow your guests, you can count on this dish to do just that.
As for the main course, I know the word tart sounds daunting to many, but I promise that this onion tart is really easy to make. The crust can be made ahead, the filling is ready in no time, after which it just needs some oven time.
As for the apple pie, I’ll admit it’s probably harder to make, it took me many a tries to get it just right, but I blame this solely on my lack of patience. If you follow the steps thoroughly you can’t fail, I promise. Besides, it’s probably the best apple pie in the world. Actually, it’s so good that it probably deserved a post of its own, but I couldn’t wait to share it here, so there, my lack of patience strikes again!
Soy Salmon and Avocado Tartar
300gr/1/2 pound salmon fillet, diced
1 scallion, finely minced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tsp soy sauce (the less salted kind is best)
1 tsp mirin or substitute with 1/2 tsp clear honey mixed with 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 avocado, diced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Juice from 1 lime
A handful black sesame seeds
A handful chives, halved
In a medium bowl, mix together salmon, scallion, cucumber slices, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. In another bowl, gently mix the avocado with the lime juice and salt to taste. Divide the mixture between four individual martini glasses or small ice cream bowls and garnish with the sesame seeds and chives.
Onion & Mushroom Tart
For the crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-3 Tblsp ice water
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. In the bowl of your free standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the flour and salt and mix. Drop in the butter and mix until it begins to resemble breadcrumbs. Add the ice water in a slow and steady stream and mix until the dough clumps together. Turn onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.For the filling
1 pound medium red onions
500gr/1 pound Crimini mushrooms or regular button mushrooms
100gr/1 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
375gr/1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
A handful of finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper, to taste
Peel and remove the ends of the onions, then slice them in quarters and place in a medium sized oven-proof dish. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegar over the onions and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the onions are softened but still hold their shape, for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
While the onions are roasting, cook the mushrooms. Over medium heat, melt the butter. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes until golden. Remove from the hob.
Assembling the tart
When pastry dough has chilled, roll it into a circle on a lightly floured surface, then transfer and fit into a 20cm/9in pie plate. Prick bottom of tart with a fork and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Mix the egg yolks with the ricotta, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, 74gr/ 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and chives. Remove the tart shell from the fridge and spread the ricotta mixture in it evenly. Place the onions on top and fit the mushrooms in between the onions. In another small bowl, beat the reserved egg white, heavy cream and the remaining 25gr/1/4 cup Parmesan. Pour mixture evenly on top of the onion and mushroom filling. Cover the tart with foil and bake at 180C/350F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until top is bubbling and crust is slightly brown, but not too dark. Sprinkle some more chives over top before servings. Serve warm with green salad.
Old Fashioned Apple Pie
For the crust (makes one 20cm/9in double crust pie)
320gr/2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
225gr/1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
50-100 ml/ 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of your free standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the flour and salt and mix. Add butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining. With mixer running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream just until dough comes together without being wet or sticky. Divide dough in half, and shape into disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.For the filling
60gr/5Tblsp all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
Egg wash: 1 egg yolk whisked with 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1,5kg/4 pounds assorted cooking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1,5cm/ 1/2 in slices
3 Tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
100gr/1/2 cup organic unrefined granulated sugar or caster sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
60gr/1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tblsp powdered sugar
Turn out 1 piece of dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 30/13in round and fit into a 20cm/9in pie plate. Trim edges flush with rim and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Roll out remaining dough to a 30cm/13in round. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Put apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Fill pie shell with apple mixture and scatter butter on top. Lightly brush edge of pie with egg wash. Place dough round on top of pie. Trim edges flush with rim and press to seal. Crimp edges as desired, I used the back of a fork. Make four 1,5 cm/1/2 in slits in center of pie, brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Place pie on a baking sheet and bake until crust begins to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180C/350F. Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cover with foil if browning too quickly. Serve warm, with vanilla ice-cream or at room temperature.