FLIPPING THROUGH Elizabeth Alston's diminutive new cookbook, "Biscuits and Scones," (Clarkson N. Potter: $8.95) is an appetite-whetting experience. There are only 62 recipes in this 5x7-inch volume, but they range from the familiar, simple baking-powder biscuit to a selection of teatime favorites and sweet biscuit-dough-based desserts with unusual flavorings. An apple pandowdy recipe, for instance, adds rosemary and lemon to lightly sweetened apples before topping them with a rich biscuit crust.
British-born Alston is now a New Yorker and food editor of Woman's Day magazine. A graduate of Cordon Bleu in London, she has impeccable culinary credentials and several other books to her credit. This latest effort is delightful, with clearly written recipes so easy to follow that even the rankest amateur cook should have no qualms about trying them.
In addition to an intriguing variety of recipes for biscuits, scones, biscuit-based pizzas and the like, Alston includes valuable baking tips.
One of Alston's recipes is for a Tomato-Sour Cream Tart with a biscuit crust, made with olive oil and a wonderfully fresh filling of finely chopped fresh tomatoes, sour cream, canned green chiles and green onions. It makes an excellent late-summer appetizer for a casual get-together.
TOMATO-SOUR CREAM TART
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
cup olive oil
2 large, firm, ripe tomatoes (about 8 ounces each)
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons canned green chiles, drained, chopped
3/4 teaspoon sugar
Pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons green onions, white and part of green, thinly sliced
Thyme and / or parsley sprigs (optional)
Mix 1 cup flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Add olive oil and milk. Stir with spoon to make soft, pasty dough. Place dough between two 12-inch lengths of wax paper and roll into 12-inch circle. Peel off top layer of paper. Hold bottom piece close to 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom, and flip dough over into pan. Peel off wax paper. Fit dough into tart pan, pressing it lightly against sides and patching any tears. Roll rolling pin across top of pan to remove any excess dough. (Pierce bottom and side crust about every 2 inches with tines of fork.) Place tart pan on baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees, 11 to 15 minutes or until evenly browned. Let cool. Remove pan sides.
Meanwhile, peel and quarter tomatoes, and scoop out and discard seeds. Cut tomatoes into -inch dice (about 2 cups). Cover and refrigerate. In small bowl, mix sour cream, chiles, remaining 2 teaspoons flour, sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season to taste with pepper. Add green onions if tart is to be served within couple of hours. Cover and refrigerate.
Just before serving, drain tomatoes well and fold along with green onions, if not already added, into sour cream mixture.
To serve cold, slide baked tart shell onto serving board or plate, and spread with tomato filling. To serve warm, turn metal rim of tart pan upside down and rest it loosely on rim of crust to prevent edges from scorching. Broil 4 to 5 minutes or until filling is warm. Remove pan rim and slide tart onto serving board or plate. Decorate tart with fresh herb sprigs. Cut into wedges. Makes 12 appetizer servings or 6 to 8 main dish servings.
Food styled by Norman Stewart; prop styling by RoseMary Aguayo; china, silverware and salt and pepper shakers courtesy of House of Props.