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Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

If this was where you bought tomatoes, wouldn’t you be addicted?

farm stand

I rounded up another bag full of dry farmed Early Girls and made tomato confit again.  This time, I piled them on a pizza spread with marjoram-olive pesto.  So delicious.

Marjoram Olive Pesto
Adapted from Deborah Madison

Ingredients
2 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
1 garlic love
3 tablespoons pitted olives
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of pepper, marjoram, capers, pine nuts, parsley, cheese, and olives to a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Add the vinegar and olive oil and pulse until the pesto is well mixed.  Add more salt if needed.  Toss over pasta or pizza.  The original recipe, found here, recommends serving it over beets.

Pizza Directions
To make the pizza, I rolled out some pizza dough, spread it with a couple tablespoons of the pesto, topped with 1.5 pounds of roasted tomatoes, 3 ounces of chevre, and some salt and pepper.  Into the oven at 425 for 15 minutes and you have a really spectacular pizza.  The pesto is briny from the olives and capers and floral from the marjoram.  With the sweet tomatoes and tangy goat cheese, you will not be able to stop eating it.

Pizza one

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My addiction

fresh tomatoes

I can’t stop buying tomatoes.  The tomatoes in the Bay area right now are just incredible.  All these fantastic colors and they just taste amazing.  Fresh and sweet and not grey and mealy tasting like those sad supermarket tomatoes.  As a result, I just keep buying them.  At the farmers market near my house, at the farmers market near my office, at the Berkeley Bowl, everywhere I see them, every chance I get.  I pile them up on my counter in those green plastic pint baskets and throw them in pasta, make pickled tomatoes for friends, or just to eat with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt.

So that my tomato eating keeps pace with my tomato buying, I’ve been looking for recipes that lets me use pounds of them at once.  And along came tomato confit.  It appeared in my blog reader in a few different forms, and I loved the idea from Herbivoracious to make a risotto with it.  I loosely adapted his approach, which he loosely adapted from Tom Colicchio. 

The finished product was amazing.  I think the standard tomato suggestion is romas, but I used 2 pounds of dry farmed Early Girls.  If you can get your hands on these, I highly recommend them.  Not just because using such a specific tomato makes this recipe sound like an important, ingredients-obsessed chef at a farm to table type restaurant, but because they are really, really delicious, don’t have a lot of water (this is important), and roast up just beautifully.

The confit is basically slow roasted tomatoes, rich with olive oil and lusciously sweet.  I stirred that into a basic risotto and had myself a lovely dinner.

Finally, I’ve always been a bit confused on what the official serving size for risotto is.  I think this would probably serve 3 people as a main course, though it’s really delicious and 2 very hungry people would probably not have too much trouble destroying it.  If you are cooking for 4 or more, I’d double it.

Risotto with Tomato Confit
Inspired by Herbivoracious

For the tomato confit
Ingredients

15 medium-sized ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), such as Early Girls, halved and cored
1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
A few cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of herbs (I used thyme, though any woody herb would work)

roasting tomatoes

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tin foil.  Don’t use a silpat, though one of those deep 9X11 type pans would work.

Toss the halved tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and salt and pepper and place them cut-side down on the baking sheet.  Squeeze in the peeled garlic cloves and thyme around the tomatoes, drizzling with the oil left in the bowl.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the skins have begun to loosen.  Pour off and reserve any juice.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes until you can easily peel off the skins without burning yourself.  Honestly, if you can’t get the skins off, don’t worry about it.  I had a few on and it didn’t really affect the finished product. 

 Lower the heat to 275 F. and return the pan to the oven.

Every half-an-hour or so, pour off and reserve the juice.   You’ll probably only need to do this 1 or 2 more times, depending on how dry the tomatoes were to start with.  The original recipe suggests roasting them for a total of 4 hours, until they have given up a lot of moisture and a very tender but still moist.   I found I reached this point at just under 3 hours.  I might have been able to go a bit longer, but I was concerned that any more time and they’d dry out, so I stopped.   In any event, use your judgment.  The tomatoes should have a concentrated tomato flavor, and still be soft and rich from the oil.

When they are finished, remove from the oven.   If you aren’t going to make the risotto (or anything else with them) right away, store in the refridgerator in some oil (not the reserved juice.  Store that, just seperately.) 

For the risotto
Ingredients

The reserved tomato water (measure it, and then add enough water or broth to have a total of 4 cups of liquid)
4 tablespoons of the oil
1 shallot
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
all of the roasted tomato halves (give them a coarse chop if they are still fairly large)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Directions
Bring the tomato water, broth or water, and bay leaf to a simmer.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot.  Saute the shallot for a couple of minutes until softened but not browned.  Add the rice and saute for a minute or two until it turns slightly translucent.

Add the wine and the thyme and stir until the liquid is absorbed.   Slowly add the tomato/broth mixture (don’t add the bay leaf), one ladle at a time, stirring often.  When each ladle of liquid is absorbed, add another ladle. 

Continue adding the liquid slowly until it’s all absorbed and the rice is soft but still has a bit of give to it.  You might need an extra 1/2 cup or so of water if it’s still too firm after the first 4 cups has been absorbed.

When the last of the water is absorbing, add the tomatoes and give it a gentle stir, then remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. 

The finished dish is wonderful.  The tomatoes are rich and sweet and the dish just tastes like late summer. 

risotto 2

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Make melon salsa.

I made this a while back, when we were still getting boxes from our CSA.  I like melons, but I don’t love them.  I probably would order the healthy side of fruit option with a sandwich instead of fries a lot more often if it wasn’t usually just a big pile of cantelope and honeydew chunks, with a half a strawberry thrown in so that they can actually argue that it is indeed a fruit salad.

This however was a wonderful way to use up the very gorgeous melon we got from Eatwell.   I’m not sure exactly what kind of melon it was, as the outside skin was a gorgeous shade of yellow, but the inside tasted like cantelope. 

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I think this recipe would work with any basic cantelope or honeydew type of melon, though I think watermelon would be too watery.

I found this recipe on the always amazing blog, Smitten Kitchen, who in turn based hers on a variation in Gourmet.  I changed things up a bit using what I had in the fridge, and brought it to a barbeque with some tortilla chips.  It was a huge hit.

Cantaloupe Salsa
Adapted from Gourmet and Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 3 cups of salsa

2 cups finely diced cantaloupe or other melon (about a half a melon, maybe a little less)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1-2 sweet gypsy peppers (depending on the size), diced.  If you can’t find gypsy peppers, I would use one small red bell pepper, chopped very finely.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (2-inch-long) fresh hot red or green chile, minced (use the seeds if you want extra heat)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together and eat as soon as possible.  After about 2-3 hours it will start turning watery and not attractive, so you can’t really make this too far ahead.

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Unfortunately, that day threw me another lemon…or melon..and my digital camera is no more.  So, if any food bloggers out there have recommendations for a good one, please let me know!

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Back in May, when the cherries were just in season, I bought a whole bunch to make Martha Stewart’s delicious looking cherry almond teacakes for my book club.  And it was a disaster.  I am not sure how such a delicious looking recipe could result in such a hot mess, but that’s what happened.  They looked cute, but tasted terrible.  Others have had better luck, so I must have done something wrong.  I didn’t have the time or desire to try again, so off I went to book club, with my store bought ginger snaps to talk about Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher. 

When Smitten Kitchen posted these cherry brown butter bars a week before my July book club, I knew it was time to conquer the cherry dessert again.  This time, I had much better luck, and Confederacy of Dunces was made all the more enjoyable by something so delicious and easy on the valve.  The filling is creamy but not too rich, and the crust is nice and buttery. 

The recipe originated in Bon Appetit, where it was more of a traditional tart.  Smitten Kitchen adapted it to make it more finger food friendly, which I just love.  It’s hard to find fruit based desserts that you don’t need a fork for, and I think this would work with any seasonal fruit.  I think I’d like to try it with chunks of persimmon in the winter.

If you do make it with cherries, a cherry pitter is helpful.  I know Alton Brown is all anti uni-taskers, but a cherry pitter also doubles as an olive pitter.  So, if you eat a lot of olives like I do, it’s a worthwhile investment. 

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Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
About 20 or so cherries, pitted

Directions

To make the crust

Preheat over to 375°F.  If you don’t have a square tart pan (and honestly, who does?) cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.  Or you can just cut a big sheet of parchment paper, squish it down so it lines the pan, and hope for the best.  Which is what I did.  The corners of the tart came out kind of gimpy, but the rest of it was fine.  So unless you want perfect corners, I say, make life easy on yourself.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated.  Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust until golden, which, if you are using Bon Appetit’s oven, is about 18 minutes.  If you are using my freakishly hot oven, it’s closer to 14.   

When it’s done baking, transfer it to a rack and cool in pan.  Maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling

Cook butter in heavy small saucepan(preferably a lighter colored one, so you can keep a better watch on the color of the butter) over medium heat until deep nutty brown, stirring often and watching carefully so it doesn’t burn, about six minutes.  Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the fruit of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust.  I wanted to make 20 bars, so I arranged the cherries as best as I could in evenly spaced rows of 4 X 5.  If you are less picky than I am or want to make bigger or smaller bars, feel free to put the cherries in however you want.  But, keep in mind that it might be harder to get smooth cuts if you are trying to cut through a bunch of cooked cherries.  Not impossible, but you do have to be a lot more careful so you don’t drag them out.

 Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit.  Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.  Watch the bars carefully.  Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove it from pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

You can make these a day or two in advance and store in the fridge.  I found the bars actually tasted better the second day because it gives the custard more time to absorb the cherry flavor.

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And it still tastes good!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some risotto.  In fact, risotto was one of the first things I ever taught myself to make, after practicing a risotto recipe in the first cookbook I ever purchased over and over again in my tiny little studio kitchen, using a non-stick saucepan, a non-stick frying pan, and a plastic ladle, because that’s all I had at the time.  I’ve since gotten better equipment and better skilled at making it, but I’ve never done anything else with arborio rice besides make risotto.

Until now.

Arborio rice works really nicely in this rice salad.  It’s still has a creamy taste to it, even though there’s no dairy in this salad at all.  It’s really fresh and summery, and would be great for a barbeque or a light lunch. 

Lemony Rice Parsley Salad
from Food and Wine

Ingredients
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 small sweet Italian frying pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 cup oil-cured pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

This is a pretty loose list of ingredients and I didn’t really measure anything, just tossed everything together and adjusted for taste as I went along.  Also, I have no idea what a sweet Italian frying pepper is.  I bought a Hungarian wax pepper at the farmers’ market and used that, though I think any pepper would do except for a green bell pepper, which would probably be too harsh tasting.  I also skipped the capers and just upped the olives a bit, and for those, I just used kalamatas because that’s what was in the fridge.  I actually liked the briny taste of them in the salad, and would do it again over using the oil cured kind.

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.   Add the rice and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 14 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

In a large bowl, toss the rice with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Stir in everything else and season with salt and pepper. 

Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature with the lemon wedges if you’d like (though I skipped those too).

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On Saturday night, we had friends over for dinner.   The farmers market is just incredible right now, with all the wonderful summer produce everywhere, so I had a lot of fun planning out this meal.  Since I tried several new recipes, I’m going to make three posts over the course of this week.  Today, drinks and appetizers.

We aren’t really cocktail people, but I thought it would be fun to try making one.  I found this recipe in Food and Wine, created by Todd Thrasher.  When we lived in DC, we were lucky enough to enjoy his drinks at the wonderful speakeasy-style bar, PX, and as his other home, the absolutely incredible Restaurant Eve.  His drinks were always fantastic, so I knew this drink would be good.

Sweet Basil

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10 basil leaves, plus 1 basil leaf for garnish
Ice
3 ounces Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce gin
1 ounce Simple Syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled until the sugar dissolves, and cooled)

In a cocktail shaker, lightly muddle the 10 basil leaves. Add ice and the Lillet, gin and Simple Syrup and shake well.  Strain well, using cheese cloth,  into a chilled glass and garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

The drink was amazing.  My only complaint is that this drink was very sweet.  I prefer less sweet cocktails, and if  you do, I suggest reducing the simple sugar and the Lillet and increasing the gin by equal amounts to get to a balance that works for you. 

To accompany it, I wanted something mild tasting that wouldn’t taste weird with the basil drink.  I made a simple white bean puree and some pickled crudite.

White Bean Puree

I’ve made this dip a number of times, and each time it turns out differently.  Basically, I throw a can of white beans into the food processor and add whatever is around – herbs, spices, onions, garlic, whatever.  This time, I used 12 scallions, a clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, and a splash of olive oil.  Add some salt and you are good to go.

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Salt and Sugar Pickles

Back in February, I wrote about the easiest appetizers ever.  I take that back.  These are the easiest appetizers ever.  I got the recipe from the June 2007 Food and Wine.  Mix equal parts sea salt and sugar and sprinkle on cut vegetables.   Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and the mixture quickly brines the vegetables.  Serve immediately, because the vegetables get watery and soggy after about an hour.

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Food and Wine recommends radishes, daikons, cucumbers, and watermelon.  I used radishes and lemon cucumbers, both of which were great.  The salt and sugar mixture is very subtle, but cuts the raw taste of the vegetable just enough, so you feel like you are eating a yummy snack and not just a pile of bland vegetables.  I really think this might become an entertaining staple. 

Later this week, I’ll blog about the sides and the main course.

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I have an irrational phobia of pie crust.

Actually, it’s not entirely irrational.  When I first started learning some basic cooking techniques, I watched an Alton Brown episode on pie crust.  Inspired, I decided that that year, for Thanksgiving, I was going to make the best damn pie crust anyone had ever eaten.  So that Wednesday night, I got home from work, and armed with Alton’s meticulously researched directions, set about on my pie crust adventure.

And two hours later, my kitchen was covered in a crumbly, buttery mess, and I was in the grocery store buying Pillsbury frozen crusts.

Ever since then, I have pretty much stayed away. I keep frozen ones in my freezer for quiches and other quick meals.  I’ll do pies with cookie-type crusts to press into the pan, but I don’t think I’ve attempted a proper pie crust since then. 

Until now.

I’ve been seeing beautiful fruit tarts popping up in others’ blogs and I was getting the itch.  When I went to the farmers market on Saturday and saw some gorgeous peaches and lovely organic lavender, I knew my time had come to conquer my pie crust fear.

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And I am so glad I did.  I used Martha Stewart’s pate sucree recipe, which wasn’t too difficult.  And the nice thing about a galette is that its shape is free form and rustic looking so when the directions call for you to roll the dough out into a circle and your flattened dough looks more like the shape of Michigan, you don’t have to resort to Pillsbury.

Peach Lavender Galette
Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Plum Galette and Food and Wine’s Peach Lavender Cobbler

Ingredients
For the Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling
5 cups peaches, pitted and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (approximately 5 peaches)
2 teaspoons lavender blossoms (just tug the little bulbs off the stem, they should come off pretty easily)
1 Tablespoon flour, plus more for work surface
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar), plus more for sprinkling (Martha suggests turbinado, I used vanilla sugar again)
1 egg white

Directions

To make the crust
In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

With the machine running, add ice water, drop by drop and slowly add egg yolks, until the dough just holds together without being wet or sticky; about 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is too crumbly, add a bit more water.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press dough into a flat circle with your fists. Wrap dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

To make the galette
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle a lightly floured work surface with flour.  Roll out dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour. 

In a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, sugar, and the lavender.  Gently toss in peaches until evenly coated with the flour mixture.

Transfer to the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over plum mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds.

Brush edges of dough with reserved egg white, and sprinkle with either turbinado sugar or vanilla sugar.  Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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It was really good.  The lavender works perfectly with the peaches, which are slightly floral themselves.   And yes, I am posting two pictures of it because I am so pleased with my crust.  You would never know that that dough was once shaped like Michigan.

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 We brought it over to some friends’ place, where it was a hit.  The only bad thing about it was parting with the leftovers, but my friends gave me something very exciting in return.  Something I’ve been wanting for a while.  Stay tuned, as I’ll be cooking with it later this week…

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