Nectarine & Goat Cheese Tart

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I have one tip for cooking for last minute guests: throw whatever you can on a sheet of puff pastry, your chances of failing are very low because you can basically put anything on puff pastry and it would taste fabulous. I always keep sheets ready in the freezer for whenever I need to pull something together on a whim. It’s a pantry staple, just like cheese. I always advise to keep three type of cheese in the fridge: parmigiano reggiano for pastas, something soft such as feta or goats cheese for salads and something melty like mozzarella or cheddar. It’s so important to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you aren’t fretting to the grocery store if you have last minute company over.

This nectarine and goat cheese tart is perfect for one of those occasions, I love the combination of sweet and savory especially with cheese pairings. The tart juicy flesh of the nectarine wonderfully compliments the creaminess of the smooth goat cheese. Tarts such as these are so incredibly easy, feel free to switch up the ingredients to what you may have laying around the kitchen.

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Recipe

one sheet of thawed puff pastry

4 ounce package of soft goat cheese (chèvre works wonderfully)

2 eggs

1 tbs chopped fresh thyme

1 shallot finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

2 ripe nectarines sliced

egg wash

drizzle of olive oil

fresh basil leaves for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 400F/200 C. In a bowl mix together the goat cheese, eggs, thyme, shallot, salt & pepper till combined. Unfold the thawed puff pastry sheet onto a lined baking tray, push down to flatten slightly. Using a fork prick holes across the pastry. Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly on the pastry leaving a one inch border at all four sides. Carefully lay the nectarine slices on top in an overlapping pattern. Brush the borders with the egg wash and drizzle the olive oil on top of the tart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Garnish with freshly torn basil leaves.

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Phuket & Singapore

For my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday she planned a trip to Phuket to bring in the celebrations. I had only been to Bangkok and never had the chance to explore the beaches of Thailand, so it was completely new territory. As usual I spent weeks trying to research where to eat, what to eat and what to do. Phuket proved quite difficult for me,  I just couldn’t really get a grasp over the food culture and everything seemed to be very catered to tourists. Alas we arrived at our resort and spent most of our time chilling by the pool, drinking copious amounts of coconut water and getting pampered by the readily available massages.

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As much as I love my relaxation time part of me always yearns to see more, so one morning my SO and I got up early to head out to Old Phuket town. The old town was a glimmer of light far and away from the touristy resorts and washed out restaurants, it was absolutely lovely. Formerly inhabited by Chinese miners who migrated to Phuket, the tiny winding little streets are adorned with colorful and ornate shop houses, cafes and temples. We stumbled upon the most darling bookshop/coffeeshop called Bo(ok)hemian. The shop walls are covered with shelves of old and new books while the coffeeshop serves up an amazing iced latte, a real hidden gem. I even found an enamelware shop carrying all different kinds of enamelware cups, plates and bowls, I picked up two mugs and two bowls with true restraint.

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We also trekked to Phuket’s oldest coffee roaster Hock Hoe Lee, I’ll be honest their coffee didn’t blow me away but they carry wonderful cold pressed juices from Sun Beach Cold Pressed which had to be some of the best juices I’ve ever had! I think that’s because Thai fruits are just so incredibly sweet, we really enjoyed them.

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On our way back from Phuket we stopped in Singapore for two nights. It was such a dramatic contrast from the island life in Thailand, but I was ready for some urban feel. The first thing I was struck by was how green the city is, there is so much lush vegetation and the most dramatic trees with heavy intertwining branches.

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I instantly fell in love with the food and coffee culture, and every meal we had was wonderful during our short time there. During our first evening we actually had two dinners, that’s when you know you are truly a foodie/insane. We started the evening at Esquina, a modern Spanish tapas eatery by Chef Jason Atherton. Indulging in warm thyme & onion bread with smoked bone marrow butter, fried churros with black olive burrata, beef tartare with frozen foie gras and truffle, picked beetroot salad with truffle honey, walnut crumble and whipped burrata, raw scallops and wagyu beef rump with fried oyster we somehow had room for a second dinner at Three Buns. At Three Buns we literally stuffed our faces with their signature fancy junk food including their classic hu-ey and buttermilk fried chicken burgers along with spicy bearnaise, beef chili, crispy shallots topped fries and double cooked truffle chips topped with truffle hollandaise. I’m wiping drool from my salivating mouth whilst I reminisce on this meal.

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Another thing I loved about Singapore is the cafe culture. Every neighborhood we explored had a plethora of gorgeous little coffeeshops and cafes serving up wonderful meals and cups. By far my most favorite pastime is sitting in cafes, it’s just pure bliss.

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 Common Man Coffee Roasters

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 Roasted Almond Latte at Group Therapy Coffee

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Acai Bowl from Project Acai

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On our last evening in we just had to indulge in the traditional Singaporean chili crab from Jumbo, it may be a bit touristy but that crab and sauce was delicious. We finished our meal with a valrhona chocolate waffle topped with blood orange sorbet at 2A.M. Dessert Bar.

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Lemon Scented Lavender Shortbread Cookies

IMG_2320I picked up a beautiful bouquet of dried lavender at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. While it had been serving its purpose of adding a wonderful scent to the apartment, I really wanted to use the flowers for something special in the kitchen. I remember planting little lavender seedlings years ago at home in Rhode Island, the flowers carry such a distinct scent that is so earthy and rustic. As I mentioned a few posts ago I have been on a baking hiatus so the time had come when I yearned to get some flour and butter back on my hands. Shortbread cookies are so simple yet delicate. They are a true example of how a few ingredients can just transform into something wonderfully edible, I think that’s what I love about baking most.

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There was a bit of apprehension and I was worried that the cookies might taste like a bottle of lotion or a day at the spa but the slight hint of lavender was really nice. Use the flowers with a soft hand otherwise it can get quite overpowering. I used the lemon zest to add that citrus kick which worked beautifully with the buttery vanilla sugar goodness of the cookie.

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Recipe

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 cup of room temperature unsalted butter

2 egg yolks

zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (you can use a mortar & pestle to grind them if you would like)

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

pinch of salt

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, lemon zest and lavender. Add the butter, egg yolks, & vanilla paste and using your hands, a wooden spoon or a pastry cutter mix until it is fully combined and forms into a soft cookie dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Roll the dough out and using a cookie cutter of your choice form into cookies. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool before enjoying.

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#tableporn

“A New U” was the theme of the latest issue of Food e Mag DXB, Dubai’s online magazine featuring curated content by bloggers. I was asked to create a table setting reflecting this theme and intertwining the natural elements of food. Setting up tables is by far one of my favorite things to do, it even supersedes cooking. I love the creative process of scrounging for items from all over and transforming them into a table setting. I really wanted this table to embody a true rustic “farm to table” look that is both authentic and attainable. My weekly haul from the Farmer’s Market on the Terrace left me with a bounty of vibrant, organic vegetables to play with. Gathering inspiration from raw linens, twine and pops of color my table setting defines the whimsical spirit of a new year and “a new u.” To view the spread click here, also sharing photos below:

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Acai Bowl Love

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Acai bowls, I love you so. If you haven’t tried these glorious bowls you are truly missing out. Acai, (pronounced aa-saa-eee) particularly the acai berry is a Brazilian superfood originating from the Amazon. I don’t need to go through the long list of health benefits, that’s what google is for, but trust me it’s good and good for you. Acai bowls have been such a hit in the US and are widely available in juice bars and cafes, even most speciality grocery stores carry Sambazon acai puree which is perfect for making acai bowls at home. You can imagine my disappointment upon discovering that acai is extremely hard to come by in Dubai (there have been rumors of an acai bowl joint opening soon!). Thankfully I was able to find Sunfood brand freeze dried acai powder, it isn’t as good as the puree, but it’s a pretty good option for now (acai puree now available, see update below). I blend the acai powder with frozen bananas and strawberries to get that thick texture similar to the puree. Acai bowls are also so fun to garnish, you must have seen all kinds of “acai art” on social media. I love using fresh berries, sliced bananas, different types of seeds (chia, flax, hemp), homemade granola, almond butter, bee pollen, cacao nibs, dried goji and mulberries, the list goes on and anything works. I have made enough bowls using the dried acai powder so I just wanted to share my recipe for what I believe yields the best textured puree:

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Recipe (makes 2 bowls)

1 1/2 frozen bananas

3/4 cup frozen strawberries

2 tbs freeze dried acai powder

3/4 cup almond milk

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till a thick puree is formed. Garnish with your favorites fruits, nut butter, seeds and superfoods.

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*update* I have recently found acai puree being distributed in the UAE by http://www.acaimiddleeast.com. The puree is by Mil & Ross direct from Brazil and they do home deliveries (minimum order of 210 aed required for delivery). I made an acai bowl with the puree this morning and it was quite lovely. I do think it’s a bit sweet, because they add guarana into it but the texture and taste is spot on. Here is a photo of my acai bowl made with Mil & Ross acai puree:

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