Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Friends, Fireworks, and Food!

I hope you all had an amazing Fourth of July! :)

We had a fun day planned, and we were busy all day planning and getting ready to go to our friends house for a Fourth of July party later that evening.
And since we live down here in "Sunny Florida" it decided to rain for us here about noon. You can be sure that we were incredibly disappointed, and my brothers were in the lowest state of despair.
"How can we light fireworks in the rain?"
"Will the party be canceled?"
These and other questions came from the boys as they sat on the living room floor listening to the rain pelt our house.
Everyone was upset, and dad went to check the weather report on the computer.
I had planned on making some yummy goodies to bring to the Fourth of July party, and I decided that I would still make them. Yummy eatables taste just as good at home as they do at a party, so I got my favorite measuring cup out (I can't quite bake happily without it), and set to work.
I was planning on making an appetizer and a desert, and mom was making salsa.
The desert was a berry buttermilk bunt cake with a lemon glaze that I had found online, and I had tweaked the recipe a bit. I actually hadn't planned it, strawberries and blueberries being the only berries in the house, but when cut into, the cake was red, white and blue! (I love when things work out like that....)
The cake turned out really well except for the fact that it could have been cooked a little longer, but it actually tasted really good!
So I had decided to try something savory for a change as I don't normally make things like that, so the appetizer was a Ratatouille Tart. I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs: Smitten Kitchen. You can find so many great recipes on there, and they are relatively simple to try too.
 The tart was surprisingly easy, and it called for frozen puffed pastry from the store, so you don't even have to make your own crust (although you definitely could if you wanted to).
Ratatouille Tart:
 18 oz. frozen puffed pastry 1 Asian eggplant
1 small zucchini 1 small yellow squash
1 bell pepper (any color you like) 1/3 cup tomato puree (I used crushed tomatoes)
2 Tbs olive oil Salt and pepper
A few sprigs fresh thyme (I used dried) 1 cup crumbled feta

Defrost the puffed pastry overnight. The next day: heat oven to 375F. Lightly flour a work surface, lay one sheet of the pastry out (there should be two sheets in the box), and gently roll out until it measures about 11x15in. (the dough looked like it was going to just unfold, but it didn't. You just have to roll out the folded piece--just how it is.) Slide the pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (we didn't have any at the time, so i just sprinkled a little flour on the pan, and it worked fine).

Poke the pastry all over with a fork. Spread the tomato puree evenly over the dough, leaving a one-inch border around the edges. Trim the ends off the veggies; for the pepper, you have to cut the ends off carefully, then hollow out the middle, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. On a mandolin, adjustable-blade slicer, or with a very sharp knife,* slice the veggies into very thin slices (about 1/16 of an inch thick). Arrange slightly overlapped slices of vegetables in rows over the puree, alternating vegetables (don't forget to leave the 1in border around the edges). You will probably have a few left over (I ended up with a BUNCH left over, so make sure your veggies are small when you get them at the store.....or just use half). Drizzle olive oil over the top of the tart, and season with salt, pepper and thyme leaves (no stems). Bake in a heated oven until the pastry is puffed and browned (including the bottom), and the veggies look softened, 25 to 30 mins. Slide onto cutting board, sprinkle with feta, and cut into squares or strips (a pizza wheel works really well for this). Serve warm or at room temperature.

*For the peppers, I found that the mandolin wouldn't slice it well, so I filled the pepper with paper towels (so it would hold its shape), and sliced it thinly with a steak knife. :)

Now since the pack of puffed pastry came with two sheets of dough, and it was still raining, I decided to make another tart: a sweet one this time.

I rolled out the dough exactly how it said in the first recipe, and made a sauce-like base to go on the bottom:

2 or 3 med. size spoonful's of ricotta cheese (this would be amazing with mascarpone cheese too.)
a few tbs lemon juice
about 1 tsp lemon zest
3 or 4 tbs sugar (just keep adding and tasting until you get the sweetness you want--it doesn't have to be very sweet.)**

And just mix it all together and spread it evenly on the crust (just like in the last recipe).
I then sliced a bunch of strawberries roughly: 1/8 to 1/4 inch. And I laid them in rows on the tart (remembering to leave the one-inch edge). When I had the tart covered with strawberries, I sprinkled some blueberries over the top (I think it would be best with fresh blueberries, but i used half-frozen ones and it was really good).

Then I made a really simple crumb topping:

2 or 3 handfuls of flour (depending on your hand size)

1 med. size handful brown sugar

a few tbs soft butter

Just mix it all together with a fork. For the butter, just add it 1 tbs at a time until it is crumbly, but will stick together if you squeeze it with your hand. For the brown sugar, you can taste a little bit of the mixture (after everything is mixed in) to see if you have to add more **(note: the crumb topping should be sweeter than the ricotta mixture, so make sure not to make the ricotta mixture extremely sweet, as the crumb topping shouldn't be really sweet either.) Then sprinkle the crumb topping over the fruit in little pieces (the butter should have made it stick together a little bit).

Then, to just add just a little bit more lemon, I mixed 3 or 4 tbs sugar with a few tsp lemon zest, and sprinkled it on the top--only this I also sprinkled on the edges of the crust as well (just so it didn't' get left out.....and so it wouldn't be quite so flavorless).

And that's it! This wasn't the first time I had tried to make something like this without a recipe, but it was the first time that I did and it turned out really good!! :D

So I am sorry that I couldn't give a better recipe, but I actually was in a rush when I made it, so the fact that I actually got pictures was surprising. :}

And by the time I finished the last tart, it had stopped raining and it was time to go to the party! We got to hang out with a bunch of friends, played games, and afterwards we all went down town to see the fireworks. I don't have any pictures, but you can take my word for it--it was one of the best Wednesdays ever! ;)


  1. Wow, what cool pictures. I like how some of them look kind of rustic. :)

    Yummy! I hope we get some of this some time. ;)

  2. Oh, delicious-ness! What scrumptious food, and might I say that you are getting rather handy with your camera there! Keep it up, mate. :)

  3. Thank you guys! :) And Ruth: thanks! but the only reason they look that way is because of our old pans and stuff, and my limited picture-taking abilities.... :P

    And sorry about the way the text ended up in this post. Blogspot was acting wierd, and nothing I could do would make the text work.... :\