Fall Baking as Summer Recedes

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As the weather starts to cool, but summer's harvest is still available, New York Times food writer Melissa Clark has been inspired to bake. But she hasn't been baking sweets — there are a lot of savory items on her fall menu. She joins us with lots of ideas for using the last of the summer tomatoes and the best of the fall harvest.

Click through to read the recipes mentioned this morning, and read Melissa's article, Ripe for Autumn's Hearth, in today's New York Times.

Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Stilton

Time: 1 1/2 hours

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, more for garnish
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3/4 pound prepared puff pastry
  • 1 pint fresh figs (3/4 pound) stemmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Good-quality honey for drizzling, optional.
  1. In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter with oil. Add onions, rosemary and sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until smooth. Stir in the onions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet.
  3. Use a fork to spread onion mixture evenly over pastry (let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl), leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange figs, cut-side up, in even rows on onion mixture. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over figs. Use a pastry brush to dab edges of tart with egg mixture. Gently fold over edges of tart to form a lip and brush with more egg mixture.
  4. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with rosemary needles and drizzled with honey, if desired, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings.

Tomato Éclairs With Creamy Ricotta and Basil Filling

Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 large tomato (about 10 ounces), cut into chunks but not seeded
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch for the filling
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for sprinkling
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup goat or cow milk ricotta
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved.
  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.
  2.  Using a food processor, purée tomato until smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain purée through a fine sieve set over a measuring cup, pressing with back of a spoon to extract juice; you should have 1 cup. Add water, if necessary.
  3.  In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine tomato liquid, butter, salt and pepper; stir occasionally until butter melts. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball, leaving a film in bottom and sides of saucepan, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer dough to an electric mixer and beat for 1 minute to cool slightly. Beat in 4 eggs one at a time, until each egg is completely absorbed.
  5. Scrape batter into a pastry bag with a medium tip, or a heavy-duty plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Pipe éclairs 3 to 4 inches long and 1-inch wide onto baking pans, leaving 2 inches of space between éclairs. Beat remaining egg with a little water and gently brush mixture on top of each éclair; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until éclairs are puffed and golden brown. Working quickly, use a fork to poke several holes in bottom of each éclair to let steam escape.
  6. To make ricotta filling, use a knife or mortar and pestle to make a paste with garlic and salt. Stir paste into ricotta along with basil.
  7. Slice each éclair lengthwise, as you would a baguette for a sandwich. If the interior of the éclair seems damp, scoop out damp bits. Spread filling on bottom half of éclair, top with 3 cherry tomato halves, then sandwich with top half of éclair. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen éclairs.

Ratatouille and Sausage Potpie With Cornmeal Biscuits

Time: 1 hour 25 minutes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain whole milk yogurt
  • Milk


  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds) cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 small zucchini ( 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil.

  1.  For the biscuits: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Fold in the sour cream. Gently knead mixture until it comes together in a ball, adding a drop or two of milk if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. For the ratatouille: In a bowl, toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil; season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread vegetables in a single layer on one or two large baking sheets (do not crowd vegetables). Transfer to oven and roast, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large, deep, preferably oven-proof sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Crumble sausage into pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. Return pan to medium heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Stir in the onion, pepper, garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and thyme sprigs; simmer gently until tomatoes are cooked and mixture is stew-like, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sausage, roasted vegetables and parsley. If you are not using an oven-safe pan, transfer mixture to a 2-quart gratin dish or baking pan.
  6. Divide biscuit dough into six equal balls. Use your palm to flatten each ball into a 1/2 -inch-thick disk. Arrange on top of ratatouille mixture. Brush biscuits lightly with milk.
  7. Transfer skillet or pan to oven and cook until biscuits are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings.


Melissa Clark

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