Broiled Feta with Honey

This weekend was the first time I visited Iowa without a jacket and boots. The recent streak of 100°+ days we were warned about gave way to much better temperatures. We wore shorts, drank great rosé wine, and danced all night at a wedding. We drove with the windows down, were charmed by Moonrise Kingdom, and picked tomatoes from the backyard garden of the home where Danny grew up. He mastered that little move in the wrist to flip egg in a pan and turn it into the perfect omelet. We dipped strawberries in chocolate and grilled salmon for dinner until the skin was crisp.

Broiled feta with honey was part of the plan well before we landed in Iowa City. The idea came from a book Danny’s mom, Kathy, said she didn’t really like except for this recipe that sounded good. And it was.

There’s not much to preparing feta cheese this way, and there are so many ways to tweak it depending on what you like beyond the combination of salty feta and sweet local honey. Grind black pepper over the cheese to finish it. Try garnishing the cheese with some thyme or parsley. Lay the cheese over a salad. Try mixing in a favorite spice with the honey (this recipe originally used aniseed). Let me know what you come up with.

broiled feta with honey

Play around with the toppings for this broiled, bubbly cheese each time you make it. Try finishing it off with fresh herbs like parsley or basil. Try toasted pine nuts or cut the pieces of cheese into chunks and toss them into a salad.

1 block (8 to 12 ounces) feta cheese cut into long slices about 3 inches wide and 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
a handful of crushed almonds (optional)

Turn on broiler. Place cheese slices in a few ceramic ramekins that can handle the heat of the broiler. Brush cheese with oil.

Cook until cheese bubbles and the edges turn golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Watch cheese carefully so it doesn’t burn, and give it another 2 minutes at a time if it’s not yet bubbly and browning.

Remove ramekins and let cool for a minute before moving to another plate. Drizzle honey over the cheese or heat honey in a small saucepan over medium heat if you want to thin it out. Sprinkle crushed nuts over cheese if using and serve.

Serves 4. Adapted from “The Mediterranean Diet” by Marissa Cloutier and Eve Adamson.

Five Things

Hello from Iowa! We’ve been eating well this summer, and I hope you have, too. Plenty of fresh food, grilling, and refreshing drinks, which brings me to this week’s five things.

(1) A housewarming gift from a friend. She made the bowl, and it’s just what the dining table needed.

(2) Summer eating. Caprese salad with a really good tomato and rosé brought back from the California trip.

(3) Scallops the size of my fist! My hands are small.

(4) Grilling peaches for this salad. Totally worth it.

(5) Weekend breakfasts.

Burnt Granola

The house smelled of cinnamon, making me think it was a completely different time of year. I couldn’t wait for breakfast.

Granola is a bit dangerous for me (how ridiculous does that sound?) and I don’t usually keep it around because it disappears way too quickly around me. Still… I found this recipe a couple days ago and couldn’t resist trying it out. Coconut, dried cherries, cashews, honey, and slivers of almonds. Come on.

Everything was going great until it wasn’t. The granola was toastier than most people would like and of course continues to cook some more before it cools. It’s not all bad. I had some this morning with milk and blueberries, but it’s not right just yet.

It’s only when you google “burnt granola” that you find very good information you wish you’d known 30 minutes earlier. I found some really good tips for making the next batch better, and I’ll share that with you soon. Do you have any suggestions? I’ll get this right. For now, please just look at this pie.

Savory Onion Pie (with a scone crust!)

The chilled avocado soup didn’t satisfy. We scanned the menu at Pearl in the Grove for another appetizer, this time noticing an onion pie with a crust made from a scone dough. Done. Ordered.

A warm slice of pie came to our table with the slightly caramelized (and slightly sweet) onions and cheese still soft. The golden pie crust was like a piece of one big buttery biscuit.

It was the perfect set up to the salty and juicy young chicken (poussin) I had for dinner, which I’ll have to tell you more about some other time.

    

One-lane roads lead you down to the Pearl, a small restaurant out in Dade City in the middle of nowhere and farms. Outside on the unpaved parking lot, the sky is brighter with stars I can’t see from my home. The owner comes by your table at some later point in the meal to see how you liked the chicken, the pie, the lamb, the fried green tomatoes, and that little dark chocolate layer birthday cake made just for this table. He told us more about the pie, and how it’s their version of a recipe from Nigella Lawson.

There’s a recipe on Epicurious from the April 2001 issue of Gourmet with a version of Lawson’s onion pie. Gourmet tweaked her recipe for an American audience, using yellow instead of red onions and giving this pie a lighter crust. This led me to my new collection, and I found that I already owned a copy of the recipe I was looking for.

One week after trying this pie, we spent a morning rolling out our own. My first pie. We increased the amount of onions and used white instead of yellow. It is not difficult to put together, and it is made mostly of simple ingredients. Cheese. Butter. Flour. Onions, which only need time and heat (and maybe a little butter) to soften into something so powerfully good the aroma lures you into the kitchen to pick a slippery slice right out of the hot pan.

After 25 minutes in the oven, the scone dough puffed up into a golden brown, crisp crust that looked and tasted surprisingly perfect. Don’t hesitate on flipping the pie, though running a knife around the edges is a good idea. A few minutes to let the pie cool is all you need, and was about as long as I could wait for my slice. Those soft onions and cheese ease the pie right out of the pan with just an onion or two staying behind.

Eat it warm. Serve it to friends. And yes, feel like a domestic goddess.

savory onion pie

Eat this one not long after pulling it from the oven. The pie is best warm and with the scone dough still fresh.

for the onion filling:

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 or 2 large white onions (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), each cut lengthwise into 12 wedges and layers separated
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a couple sprigs for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces (3/4 cup) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

for the scone crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (1/2 cup) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
3/4 teaspoon dry (ground) mustard

Heat oven to 400°F.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Take skillet off the heat. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Let cool.

Mix cheese with onion. Spread into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch glass pie plate.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Add cheese and pulse a few times t combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk buttermilk and dry mustard together in a small bowl before adding to the dough mixture, then pulse until liquid is mixed in and dough starts to clump. Don’t let it form into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, folding the dough over on itself a few times to lightly knead. Roll the dough into a ball. Cover the dough loosely in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Flatten out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, using a rolling pin to form the dough into a 10-inch round. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, and flip the dough onto the onion in the pie plate. Peel off last layer of plastic wrap and use your fingers to tuck in dough around the side of the pie.

Bake pie in the middle of the oven until crust is golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool pie on a rack or pot holder for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pie to loosen, then place a plate over the pie and flip the pie onto the plate. Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with a few sprigs fresh thyme. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

Recipe dapted from Gourmet and “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Salad or confetti? After shredding a dozen Brussels sprouts into small, crunchy ribbons, a bowl full of them could go either way.

We went with salad. Raw Brussels sprouts are thinly sliced and dressed up in a mustard vinaigrette with toasted walnuts and good parmesan cheese. If you use a Microplane grater to get that cheese grated really fine, you’ll get what looks like cheese snow.

At this point, the salad was a great start to dinner on a July night, but it needed something else.

    

For me, the salad needed a little something to make it taste fresh. A big squeeze of fresh lemon juice was just the thing.

Shredding the sprouts will remind you of slicing the larger cabbage used in a coleslaw, but this is much lighter. It’d be great on the side of grilled chicken. Tracy Shutterbean said this salad is addictive, and she kept going back to the fridge for a few more forkfuls. I couldn’t tell you about that as there were no leftovers to speak of. This salad was supposed to serve four, but two of us ate it all in one sitting.

shredded brussels sprout salad with mustard vinaigrette

I love my sprouts browned and roasted, but I was pleasantly surprised with this recipe for serving them shredded and raw. The mustard vinaigrette makes it. This recipe doubles easily.

12 Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1/2 cup walnuts
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toast the walnuts in a small pan over medium high heat until fragrant, 5 to 9 minutes. Let cool in a small bowl.

Rinse the Brussels sprouts in a strainer and pat dry. Cut the bottoms off the sprouts and split them in half lengthwise, removing any sad-looking leaves on the outside. Thinly slice the sprouts with a sharp knife (or a mandolin or food processor) to shred them.

Break the walnuts into smaller pieces and toss them in a bowl with the sprouts and cheese.

Add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Twist the lid back onto the jar and shake it like a polaroid picture. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to coat. Taste to see if you want more lemon juice or salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 4. Adapted slightly from Shutterbean and Gluten-Free Girl.