IUnch was a late affair, as is so often the case on a summer’s day. I had taken my time making a pie, rubbing thyme leaves into the dough, carefully lining the old pan, meticulously sealing up any tears to prevent the filling from leaking. I brought my work to the table, still warm, its cream barely set, the soft pinks and greens of salmon and dill interrupted only by clouds of cream cheese. There was also a cucumber salad on the side, with a mustard and wine vinegar vinaigrette to give the calm summery notes a little edge.
Few around the table knew the amount of work involved in this rascal, albeit done at a leisurely pace, the radio on, the kitchen door wide open to the garden. At the other end of the scale, equally seasonal pastries appeared the next day, made in minutes this time from a sheet of frozen puff pastry and a bag of ripe nectarines. On this occasion, a layer of cream cheese was mixed with ground almonds and vanilla extract, and hidden under the fruit.
There is often some sort of light, fresh cheese in the fridge at this time of year. The labneh that I prepare by straining yoghurt, salt and lemon through cheesecloth overnight; the thick, greasy stuff in deli trays to spread on toast and sprinkle with beans and olive oil; and a white goat curd with a more pronounced and soft taste like a mousse. This slightly bland, airy, paper-wrapped cheese takes on summer flavors well, especially cucumber and radishes, salmon, raspberries and herbs, like mint and basil.
I also save it for midnight too; that last bite before I go for the night. Current favorite nighttime fridge raids involve toast, a thick wave of silky cottage cheese, a scattering of raspberries or a sliced apricot, and then a pool of olive oil as deep and green as a pool of rock.
Salmon and Cream Cheese Pie
It is essential not to leave any tears or holes in the pie shell. I give the dough a brief knead before rolling it out, lightly dusting the counter with flour, then loosely wrap it around the rolling pin and lower it into the pie pan. Repair any tears as you go, but they should be well sealed before cooking the empty case. For 6 to 8 people
For the pastry:
plain flour 200g
Egg yolk 1
For the filling:
olive oil 1 tbsp
dill 4 tbsp, chopped
spring onions 2
Cream cheese 200g
Make the dough. Set the oven to 200C/thermostat 6. Grind the flour and butter into coarse crumbs in a food processor, then add the egg yolk and a few drops of water and bring together to form a ball. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place the salmon in a roasting pan, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and half the dill. (I often wrap the salmon in foil to make cleaning the pan easier.) Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly cooked. Remove and let cool.
Roll out the dough and line a 22 cm tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure there are no tears or cracks. Fill the pie shell with parchment paper and dried beans and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and return the dough to the oven for 5 minutes until dry to the touch. Remove the pie shell and lower the heat to 180C/thermostat 4.
Beat the eggs and cream until lightly combined, then season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice and add the spring onions. Break the salmon into large flakes and place it in the pie shell. Add the remaining dill, then the cream cheese in tablespoon-sized pieces. Pour in the egg and cream mixture, then return to the oven on top of the griddle and cook for 25 minutes.
The pie is ready when slightly set. It should be wobbly when you shake the tray gently. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.
Nectarine and cream cheese pastries
I make rectangular pies, so as not to waste dough. You can cut round pies and make cheese straws with the fillings, brush the leftover dough with beaten egg and mix with grated parmesan before baking. Give 6
puff pastry 325g
nectarines mature 4
fruit jelly such as quince or apple, 6 tbsp
For the filling:
whole cream cheese 200g
ground almonds 50 grams
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
caster sugar 1 tbsp
Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 35 cm x 22 cm. Cut into 6 equal rectangles, place them, with space in between, on a baking sheet. Using the tip of a very sharp knife, incise a smaller rectangle 1 cm from the edges of each piece. Place the pasta on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Put the cream cheese in a mixing bowl, add the almonds, vanilla extract and sugar and mix briefly. Set the oven to 220°C/thermostat 8 and place a baking sheet on the middle rack. (Putting the pastry sheet on top will help them crisp up.)
Bake cooled pastries for 20 minutes until light golden brown. Meanwhile, halve, pit and thinly slice the nectarines.
Remove partially baked pastries from the oven. Using the back of a teaspoon, press down on the marked area in the center of each pie to leave an indentation. Fill with the cream cheese mixture, then place some of the nectarines on top, divided evenly.
Return the tarts to the oven for another 15 minutes, until golden brown. Melt the fruit paste in a saucepan. Take the tarts out of the oven and brush them with the melted jelly. Leave to cool and serve the same day.
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