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May 2016

Roasted Tomato Zucchini Tart

Tomato Zucchini Tart baked

This colorful tart has all the flavors of summer – ripe red tomatoes, bright green zucchini, and lots of aromatic basil atop a three cheese filling. And you don’t need the skills of Julia Child to make this recipe – a foolproof “press-in” tart crust from Cook’s Illustrated eliminates the anxiety of rolling out a pâte brisée. Serve it for lunch with a simple mixed green salad and a nice glass of white wine.

Download Roasted Tomato Zucchini Tart recipe

Serves 4 to 6

2 plum tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 medium size zucchini, sliced a ¼ inch thick

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) part-skim ricotta cheese

1 ounce mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon dried basil, or herbs de Provence

1 recipe All-Butter Press-In Tart Dough, baked and cooled (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. Spray 9-inch tart pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor with four 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse sand, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and process until large clumps form and no powdery bits remain, about 5 seconds, adding up to 1 tablespoon more water if dough will not form clumps. Transfer dough to greased tart pan, scattering walnut size pieces all over tart pan and pat dough into pan. Lay plastic wrap over dough and smooth out any bumps or shallow areas. Place tart shell on plate and transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen tart shell on baking sheet; lightly spray one side of 18-inch square extra-wide heavy-duty aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray. Press foil greased side down inside tart shell, folding excess foil over edge of pan. Fill with pie weights and bake until top edge just starts to color and surface of dough under foil no longer looks wet, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Return baking sheet with tart shell to oven and bake until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Set baking sheet with tart shell on wire rack to cool completely.


  1. Spread tomato and zucchini slices out over several layers of paper towels, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let drain for 30 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in small bowl. In separate bowl, combine Parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella, dried herbs and remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread ricotta mixture evenly over bottom of baked tart shell. Blot tomatoes dry with paper towels and shingle attractively on top of ricotta in concentric circles. Drizzle with garlic-oil mixture. (Tart can be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours before baking.)
  3. Bake tart on rimmed baking sheet until bubbling and tomatoes are slightly wilted, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
  4. Let tart cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. To serve, remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and tart pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving platter or cutting board. Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Tomato zucchini tart prep

Tomato zucchini tart prebake

Tomato zucchini tart slice

Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Chive Butter

Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon Blue cheese Chive Butter 1

Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Chive Butter

This is a great recipe that certainly warrants spending a little extra on high quality beef (friends in NYC should head to Lobel’s) and it’s perfect for a special occasion dinner at home. Rather than just sprinkle pepper over the steaks, the team at Cook’s Illustrated came up with a clever technique that reduces the peppercorns' heat by briefly simmering them in olive oil, and the results are stellar. The steaks are further enhanced with a classic pairing of blue cheese and chives – I used Point Reyes Original Blue, one of my favorites. Serve them with some sautéed spinach and your favorite red wine and enjoy the rave reviews from your guests.

Download Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Chive Butter recipe

For the Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon:

5 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked (see illustration below)

5 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 center-cut filets mignons, 1 ½ to 2 inches thick, 7 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

  1. Heat peppercorns and 5 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at bare simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When mixture is room temperature, add salt and stir to combine. Rub steaks with oil and pepper mixture, thoroughly coating top and bottom of each steak with peppercorns. Cover steaks with plastic wrap and press gently to make sure peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

For the Blue Cheese Chive Butter:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ ounces blue cheese (mild), room temperature

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

⅛ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons minced fresh chive

  1. Combine butter, cheese, red pepper flakes and salt in medium bowl and mix with stiff rubber spatula until smooth. Fold in chives. Set aside while preparing steaks. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before cooking steaks)
  2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place steaks in skillet and cook, without moving steaks, until dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer steaks to hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and top with 1 – 2 tablespoons of blue cheese butter mixture. Let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

Fresh Tomato Cucumber Israeli Chopped Salad

Fresh Tomato Cucumber Israeli Chopped Salad

This simple, fresh, colorful chopped salad can be found everywhere in Israel, from roadside falafel stands to high end restaurants, and is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The variations are endless but the base always includes finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. I just returned from a truly memorable trip to Israel and highly recommend it as a travel destination. One of the highlights of the trip was an excursion to Safed, (also known as Zefat, Tsfat, Zfat, Safad, Safes, Safet, Tzfat, etc.) a charming town located in the northern part of Israel. It’s situated at 900 meters (2952 feet) above sea level in the mountains of Galilee and faces east towards Golan, north to Lebanon, west to Mt. Meron and the Amud Valley, and south to Tiberias and the Kinneret. We stayed at the Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel (http://www.mizpe-hayamim.com)  which has magnificent views of the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee.  It’s an incredibly tranquil spot (with rules like no mobile phones in common areas) which sits on 37-acres of land, with 96 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, an organic farm and dairy, orchards, herb gardens, streams and everything else required to be in perfect harmony with nature. Meals are served in a bright and airy dining room, featuring an enormous buffet table filled with dishes made from the farm's harvest.  Tons of vegetables, homemade cheeses, dips, local fish, pastas, and desserts are presented each day to the hotel patrons. The Israeli salad was always on the table, and paired well at any meal – whether it be eggs at breakfast, hummus and pita for lunch, or grilled fish at dinner. With the summer months approaching, this is a great recipe to utilize fresh garden produce from your own garden or farmer’s market.

This recipe requires a little advance prep, allowing time for some of the veggies to drain, so plan accordingly.

4 - 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves

Ground black pepper

2 medium thin skinned cucumbers, peeled, quartered, seeded, cut into ¼-inch pieces, tossed with 2 teaspoons salt in strainer set over bowl, and drained about 1 hour (discard liquid)

  1. Core and halve tomatoes, then cut each half into 4 or 5 wedges. Toss wedges with salt in large bowl; let rest until small pool of liquid accumulates, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk oil, lemon juice, red onion, red pepper, mint, parsley, and pepper to taste in small bowl. Pour mixture over tomatoes and accumulated liquid and toss to coat. Rest to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add drained cucumber pieces; toss to combine. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

The buffet at the Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel

Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel buffet

Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel Gardens & View

Mizpe Hayamim Spa gardens