Posts Tagged ‘Saveur’

Pickled Fig Tarts © dinaavila

All images © Dina Avila

DinaFlourish (1)22

Well this was interesting. Did you know phyllo dough and puff pastry are not the same thing? Similar, of course, but not necessarily to be used interchangeably as I learned this morning. It was one of those early mornings of chopping onions with weeping eyes wondering why I got started before having enough tea. These crazy warm summery spring days we’re having in Portland means the light changes so quickly – beautiful soft light turns into harsh sun in a flash in my kitchen – which means I need to crawl out of bed fairly early if I want to shoot for the blog. So here we are, after a mildly shaky morning with a paring knife wondering what the heck Saveur is talking about, with these, shall we call them ‘rustic’?, savory tarts.

Oh, but they’re good. As we know, rustic is my style, right? So let’s call the whole thing intentional. Julia Child always said to never apologize for your mistakes in the kitchen. So here you go. I made them this way :)



Pickled Fig Savory Tarts with Kale and Fennel

Adapted from Saveur

I used a fig spread that I received as a gift for Christmas (thank you Heather & Brett). 

Feel free to substitute the figs for 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 bunch kale, chopped in to bite-sized pieces

1/3 cup sheep’s milk feta, crumbled, plus more for topping

1/4 cup picked figs

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

1 170z box phyllo dough, thawed

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Coarse sea salt


Warm oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown. About 5 minutes.

Stir in fennel and garlic and cook for about another 5 minutes.

Lower heat to medium low and stir in chopped kale.

Add a splash of water, cover and let cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and fold in feta and parsley.

Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Warm oven to 375.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly flour a large work surface and lay thawed phyllo dough down.

Divide the phyllo in half, laying the two halves side by side.

With a paring knife, cut about 9 squares out of each half of phyllo.

Take each square and slice an L shaped slit that’s about an inch long onto each corner.

Fold the corners toward each other so they overlap – Trust me, it’s hard to explain which is why I had so much trouble this morning. Fold them in a way that makes sense to you, but you basically want to create a pocket for the filling to rest in.

Using a large spatula, place six of the tarts onto each baking sheet.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the pickled figs into the center of the tarts.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the kale mixture on top of the figs.

Crumble a bit of feta on to each tart.

Place the pans in the oven on two racks and bake for about 30 minutes rotating the pans halfway through.

Serve warm with a bit more crumbled feta and a dusting of coarse sea salt.


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© Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

DinaFlourish (1)22

I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this recipe with you. I found it while sifting through soup recipes at and it stopped my in my tracks. I absolutely love fennel. Adore it. But I’ve never made fennel soup and the recipe kind of took my by surprise. It’s original version has all of seven ingredients-including salt and pepper. I, of course, tweaked it here and there and, I have to admit, this soup kind of blew me away. The fennel simmers for a long time and you would think it would develop a concentrated licorice-y flavor. It does not. In fact, it stays bright and green tasting even when cooked to virtual mush. Granted I added a splash of Champagne vinegar and a dash of tarragon towards the end of cooking to facilitate that brightness, but I think the soup would be perfect if the original recipe was followed to a T.

Adam and I stirred it pieces of freshly roasted chicken and it took this soup to a new level. It became what chicken soup aspires to be. Perfect when it’s barely 29° just on the other side of the windows.

Speaking of roasted chicken, I usually make my roasted chicken according to my recipe that you can find here, but decided to rub the skin in slightly melted butter (along with salt, pepper and dried thyme) rather than olive oil. What a difference! It may very well have been the most delectable crispy chicken skin I’ve ever had. So good that I had difficulty resisting peeling bits of skin off to nibble on before serving.



Winter Fennel Soup

Adapted from


3 medium fennel bulbs

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

4 cups chicken stock

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered.

About a teaspoon of dried tarragon

A pinch or two red pepper flakes, to taste

A splash or two Champagne vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Trim and quarter your fennel reserving about two tablespoons of the fronds.

Remove the core and cut the fennel into medium-sized chunks.

Warm the butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.

Add the fennel, shallots and one cul of the stock.

Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Until the fennel is soft and becoming translucent.

Turn the heat up a notch and add the potatoes.

Pour in the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes and stir the tarragon, Champagne vinegar and red pepper flakes.

Let simmer for another 10 minutes until the potatoes are very soft.

Season with salt and pepper.

Gently mash the vegetables with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Until the soup is creamy but still a bit chunky.

Add water or stock if the soup is too thick for your taste.

Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving so the flavors can develop.

Serve warm with a few fresh fennel fronds and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Some slivers of fresh pecorino romano would be a great addition.

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Nothing says autumn in the Pacific Northwest than chanterelle mushrooms. All over the state mushroom gatherers are hiking and harvesting in a crazed hippie state that only wild mushrooms can induce. No, not those mushrooms…although I bet some of that goes on as well.

Apparently, the chanterelle is Oregon’s state mushroom. They grow so well here that you can go back to the same spot over and over again and leave with an abundant harvest in your arms.

I, on the other hand, picked my mushrooms up at the store. I’m sure chanterelles are easy to find and harvest, but I don’t know enough about wild mushrooms to trust myself not to pick the wrong ones. So I’ll leave the hunting and gathering to the mycologist and the hippies and trust that when I buy a basket of chanterelles in the store I will be enjoying a yummy dinner of delicate buttery mushrooms, and not watching my face melt in the mirror.

I decided to use short-grain brown rice for my chanterelle risotto recipe. Every recipe I read online said it would take about 25 minutes to cook. Wrong. It took about an hour of stirring and adding broth and water to get the grain to a firm but tender state. And I need to be honest with you, I lost count. The liquid measurement in the recipe below is just an approximation. I apologize.

In the end, the earthiness from the brown rice complimented the earthiness of the mushrooms, and it was definitely worth it.  However, I think white rice will work just as well with the chanterelles if that’s what you choose to cook with.

I served the risotto with lamb chops we happened to have in the freezer. Ok, “happened” is not the right word for that. Whole Foods was having a sale on amazingly delicate and tender Icelandic lamb chops and Adam went a little crazy and stocked up. If you can find Icelandic lamb I highly recommend you buy some. The flavor is so soft and mild; it lacks the gaminess (which I love, by the way) that you get from other lamb. My guess is that the sheep are fairly young when they are slaughtered. It could also have something to do with the terrain they live in and what the feed on. If that paints a better picture in your mind than baby sheep going to the slaughter, then I’m all for it.

The recipe is adapted from Saveur’s website. If you don’t read Saveur then you are missing out on one of the more culturally interesting food magazines. Magazine is probably not the right word; it’s more of a cultural food and travel journal. Every time I read it I get itchy feet and dream of Morocco, or Spain, or…


Chanterelle Risotto

What you’ll need:

32 oz+ chicken stock

8 oz dry white wine

8 oz+ water

4 tablespoons butter

2 shallot cloves, minced

4 cups chanterelles, washed and sliced

1 cup short-grain brown rice, or white

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring to a steady simmer. After it has begun to simmer add white wine and allow the broth to return to a gentle simmer. Add water to stock as needed.

In a medium pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for about a minute. Add chanterelles and sauté for about 5 minutes until they are soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place mushrooms and shallots in a small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons in the same pot and add rice. Stir rice constantly for about 3 minutes, until rice is lightly toasted. Stir in 1 cup of warmed broth stirring frequently until stock is almost absorbed completely. Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time stirring frequently. You want your rice to be al dente, tender but firm. This took about an hour to accomplish, but it may take less time depending on the type of rice you choose to use.

Add chanterelles just before you add the last 1/2 cup of stock. Stir in parmesan and serve immediately.

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