italian jam tart

italian jam tart recipe

This is a homey Italian grandma dessert, plain and simple. The crust is a basic sweet dough easily made in a food processor and the filling is good quality jam. I used wild blueberry in this one.

I had an Italian grandma – two, in fact – but I can’ t remember if either one ever baked a jam tart. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of baking in their kitchens, come to think of it.  There were so many traditional family bakeries in the neighborhood that I’m guessing sweets became something my nonnas delegated to the professionals.

There wasn’t a homemade crostata di marmellata, but there was almost always a brown bakery box tied with string sitting in the pantry or on the kitchen table.

italian jam tart

While we wait for fresh summer fruit to come into season, jam tarts come to the rescue. Try to use really good quality preserves, the kind with lots of visible fruit and not a ton of sugar. Hint – the fruit or berry flavoring the jam should be the first ingredient listed, followed soon after by sugar.

If you’re lucky to get your hands on homemade jam, this has your name on it.

italian jam tart

italian blueberry jam tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart

Ingredients

  1. 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 1/3 cup sugar
  3. ½ teaspoon salt
  4. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  6. 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  7. ¼ cup whole milk
  8. 2 cups good quality wild blueberry preserves (or other fruit)

Instructions

  1. To make the crust, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor 3 or 4 times to blend; scatter the butter over the flour and process until the mixture looks sandy and you can’t see any butter chunks.
  2. Whisk together the egg, yolk and milk; add to the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to come together (but not until the mixture forms a ball over the blade which will toughen the dough). Add some ice water drop by drop if it seems dry. Remove the dough from the workbowl and knead it gently to form a ball. Flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator about 1 hour until firm but not hard. If the dough gets too cold and seems hard, leave it out for 15 minutes until it’s workable.
  3. Lightly dust the dough with flour and put it on a lightly floured surface (a smooth countertop is ideal). Slice off 1/3 of the dough and set it aside, covered loosely with a floured towel.
  4. Place the remaining 2/3 dough between two large pieces of lightly floured parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll out to a 12-inch diameter circle. Carefully peel off the parchment, roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll over a 9-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the pan and up the sides, trimming the top edges of the dough flush with the pan by running the rolling pin over the top.
  5. Spread the jam evenly over the tart.
  6. To make the lattice, roll the reserved 1/3 portion of the dough on a floured surface to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into ½-inch wide strips with a fluted pastry cutter or small, sharp knife.
  7. Lay the strips in a diagonal lattice pattern over the tart, starting in the center with the longest piece, trimming if necessary. Pinch the dough where the edges meet around the diameter of the pan. Put the tart in the refrigerator and chill 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 30 minutes, or until the lattice is golden brown and the jam is bubbling.
  9. Cool to room temperature before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/italian-jam-tart/

A version of this post was contributed to Go Bold with Butter. All opinions are my own.

eggplant parm mac and cheese

eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese-recipe

Eggplants are to Sicilians what potatoes are to the Irish. – Fabrizia Lanza

However you personally define comfort food, somewhere down the line it all comes down to memories of being cooked for and fed before you were able to do so on your own. I can’t help guessing what would trigger my food cravings if I hadn’t grown up in the United States during the sixties and seventies, but rather in a completely different culture; like Japan or India.

Or, a hundred years ago in the areas of Italy where my ancestors lived.

Instead of the sweet, white and starchy things that my generation learned to want as kids (and probably what lots of 21st century ones do, too) my taste buds might have been formed by a another set of flavors and textures. And if I had been a child during my Italian ancestors’ time, those things would have been the stuff of peasant cooking; la cucina povera.

baked-eggplant-parmesan-recipe

I’m drawn to those humble, earthy foods so completely that I wonder if it’s somehow coded in DNA. How else do I have a taste – and even a sense of nostalgia for – a way of eating and living I never experienced? A plain explanation must be just that it TASTES GOOD.  No matter the origins of any person’s family tree, we can all relate to satisfying our hungers with recipes that are grounded in peasant cooking.

I can’t know for sure that my great, great, great grandmothers prepared something similar to what Americans know as Eggplant Parmesan, but it’s safe to say that Neapolitans and Sicilians have definitely been eating eggplant, tomatoes and fresh cheeses like mozzarella for thousands of years.

I was thinking about my take on comfort food when the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board asked me to contribute a macaroni and cheese recipe to the blog 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese. Eggplant Parm plus any kind of pasta with cheese are right at the top of my list of favorites.

My everyday style of cooking doesn’t usually mean deep-frying, which is often a step in classic recipes. So I’ve come up with an oven-roasted method for crusty eggplant  – not exactly old school, but somehow it brings the old world and 21st century comfortably together.

eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese-recipe

eggplant parm mac and cheese

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

I make my own marinara sauce, but feel free to use your favorite.

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium eggplant, ends trimmed; peeled
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 teaspoon salt; plus more to taste
  4. ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  5. 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  6. 3 cups Italian-seasoned panko crumbs or bread crumbs
  7. Olive oil
  8. 2 tablespoons butter
  9. 2 tablespoons flour
  10. 2 cups whole milk
  11. ½ cup grated Asiago cheese
  12. 1 pound cooked pasta shells or spirals
  13. 1 cup marinara sauce
  14. 3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese

Instructions

  1. Place a large rimmed baking sheet on an oven rack and turn oven to 450 degrees to preheat.
  2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and then into ½-inch wide half-moons.
  3. Whisk together egg, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and garlic in a large bowl; add eggplant and toss to coat. Dredge eggplant in crumbs on a cookie sheet.
  4. Pour enough olive oil over the bottom of the preheated baking sheet to cover to a depth of 1/8-inch. Lay eggplant on pan and roast 10 minutes; flip eggplant slices over and roast an additional 10 minutes or until eggplant is tender and crust is golden. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan over moderate heat; add butter and heat until foaming subsides and butter is melted. Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk while whisking. Bring to a simmer; lower heat and cook 5 – 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Asiago cheese; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine the pasta with the milk mixture and transfer to a large casserole or baking dish. Top with the eggplant, marinara and Fontina cheese. Bake 15 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/eggplant-parm-mac-and-cheese/

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Cipolline Onions

Pan-Roasted Cipolline

I look forward to seeing tiny, sweet Italian cippoline onions when they appear during the fall. This is my twist on the traditional bowl of Thanksgiving pearl onions; roasted on the stovetop with a buttery balsamic glaze.

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Cipolline Onions

Ingredients

  1. 1 pound cippoline onions
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  6. 1 sprig thyme or rosemary
  7. Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Blanch the onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes; drain, let cool slightly then slice off the very tops and slip off the skins.
  2. Heat the butter and oil over medium-high in a heavy skillet until the butter melts. Add the onions and cook until they are brown all over, stirring them around occasionally.
  3. Sprinkle the onions with the sugar. Pour over 1/3 cup water and the vinegar. Add the herb spring, cover the pan and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the onions are caramelized.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/11/pan-roasted-balsamic-cipolline-onions/