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Posts from the ‘Summer’ Category

Last Gasp of Summer

big garden tomatoes

I know it’s fall–it looks, smells and feels that way here in the Pacific Northwest–but the giant tomatoes I’m still hauling in from the garden and that keep showing up in my CSA share are ever so welcome. It is that time of year for me though where there is so much produce, both summer and fall crops, that it’s hard to focus. This salad is a good way to work through a lot of tomatoes and cherish their sweet juicy-ness before they disappear for many months.

This quick salad today is not a panzanella, at least not in the typical Tuscan sense, though it may look like it to many. This is panzanella! Thank goodness for a better writer than me and one with more authority on Italian food than me to write a proper post about this wonderful, soggy, yes soggy, Tuscan dish that I ate day after day in Italy and have recreated for students and friends alike, almost always to raised eyebrows of skepticism before and appreciation and wonder after ingestion! I like many of the more modern, American adaptations with toasted bread, I just resist calling them panzanella for some stubborn nod to tradition that occasionally comes over me.

In this salad, a thick slice or two of toasted bread is cut into cubes and tossed with big chunks of tomato, feta, a bit of arugula and lots of basil and some diced red onion. Red wine vinegar and good olive oil and salt and pepper is all the dressing it needs. Buon Appetito!

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Late Summer Perfection

The beautiful beginnings.

The first day, prepared according to  Deborah Madison’s simple recipe in Vegetable Literacy, it was delicious. The second day (breakfast) it was even better with a fried egg, and the third day it turned into a most memorable pasta sauce. This most versatile and rewarding dish is Deborah’s sweet pepper and onion tian. My only other reference for a tian had been Julia Child’s zucchini and rice tian which is delicious but bears  little resemblance to this late summer pleasure.

Here you gently roast torpedo onions (or plain red onions or any onions you have for that matter) with sprigs of thyme, sweet peppers, garlic and a few tomatoes–for 90 minutes. Then you reduce the liquid that accumulates in the baking dish with a touch of vinegar on the stove top and then toss the perfectly tender vegetables with the reduction. It’s the kind of thing I could, and did, eat three times a day, for days, albeit in various incarnations.

It’s the slow, extended cooking time that brings out the flavors and textures of the vegetables that my often quick, thrown-together, summer dishes lack. It begs to be eaten slowly and relished–something I actually don’t do often enough.

I’m sure I’ll play with this technique with other vegetables but frankly there’s something to be said for making this just as Deborah suggests. You need the liquid from the tomatoes and the peppers and onions keep their shape while the tomatoes melt. The vinegar is the perfect counterpoint and complement to the sweetness of everything else. So, make it! And make plenty!

After 90 minutes in the oven.

 

Sweet Pepper and Onion Tian
–slightly adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Oh my goodness this is good. All you need is some time. The preparation is dead simple but it takes 90 minutes to bake. It’s just as good or better the next day so you could make it one night while you’re making something else for dinner and then have it the next day.

3-4 small-ish torpedo onions or red onions or any onions you have
3 sweet red peppers
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 thyme branches or several pinches of dried
6 small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine, sherry or balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to  350 F.

Quarter the onions, leaving the base intact, and peel them. Halve the peppers both crosswise and lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and cut them into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide. Remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them into sixths.

Brush a bit of olive oil over the bottom of a gratin dish, scatter the thyme over it, and add the vegetables, including the garlic and arrange in the dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the vegetables, being sure to coat the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the tian and bake for 1 1/2 hours. The vegetables should be very soft, the tomatoes melting into a jam. Remove it from the oven and carefully pour the liquid that has collected into a small saucepan. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce until it is thick and syrupy. Taste for vinegar and salt; then pour this syrup over the vegetables.

Deborah suggests serving this with slices of grilled polenta or piled on top of grilled bread that has been spread first with a layer of garlic mayonnaise.  See above post for further ways to use, i.e. with a fried egg or blended into a smooth pasta sauce, etc.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For breakfast with an egg.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

Summer Lentils and Beans

French green lentils with summer squash, bacon and parsley and plenty of vinegar and good olive oil.

It’s hot in Portland and getting hotter. We’re not so used to this here. I have been feeling a deep pang of empathy for the millions of people who have been living through the heat wave/drought this summer in much of the United States.

And it’s definitely that time of year when those seeds and plants we’ve been nourishing for months repay one’s devotion. There’s produce everywhere and the odd tension for me of the joy of the abundance and the pressure to manage it all is in full swing right now. If you, like me are a bit overwhelmed, there are many ways in which to share our bounty. Locally in Portland this is a great resource. Or read this piece from Culinate which landed in my inbox just at the right time yesterday.

So, how to cook/prepare food in a very hot house when there is so much beautiful fresh produce? It’s really the prefect time for the cook-with-what-you-have approach. Who has time for recipes or many steps or much stove time at all? And if you by chance have home-cooked beans in the freezer, now is the time to gloat! I have done this, the gloating (to myself alone albeit) the last few days. I added a bunch of chickpeas to a coleslaw with lots of fresh jalapenos, cilantro and mint. The chickpeas added heft and texture and it was a lovely way to spend NO time at the stove. And if you don’t have cooked beans, canned beans are a good shortcut here.

Previously cooked and then frozen navy beans with tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, sweet onions, feta, and a dressing of red wine vinegar, s & p and good olive oil.

Just now for lunch I employed some just-thawed white beans in my attempt to eat as much produce as possible in one meal. With the company of yet more jalapeno, cilantro, Walla Walla Sweets, and tomatoes (and some feta) it made the perfect hot day lunch. Oh and I added some basil too. Yesterday I added copious amounts of both dill and cilantro to a similar salad–both herbs needed using and the two got along just fine. You may never recreate some of this tossed-together summer dishes but the joy of uninhibited combinations is not to be missed!

The lentil salad with zucchini and bacon pictured above is my new favorite hearty summer salad. It was inspired by the ever creative Nigel Slater and my adaptation of this dish has found its way into most of my CSA recipe packets in the last week or two. It does require you to cook the lentils (they cook so quickly 15 – 20 min) that I don’t cook these ahead of time and freeze. And the bacon, onion and zucchini see some stove time but it’s minimal so consider doing these things while you’re making breakfast, while it’s still cool and then have dinner ready for you in the evening.

Stay cool and happy eating!

P.S. There are two spots left in my Herbs in the Kitchen Class next Thursday and there are some seats left at the Slow Food Portland dinner in celebration (and support!) of our Terra Madre delegates on Saturday, August 25th. Would love to see you there.

Summer Squash with Lentils, Parsley and Bacon
–inspired by Tender by Nigel Slater

Lentils get overlooked a bit in the summer but I especially love salads with small green lentils in the summer. You can make them ahead of time and then have a robust, room temperature dish for whenever you need it. You want to cook the zucchini until it’s nice and browned but still holding it’s shape so use high heat.

1 1/4 cups small French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape when cooked
Splash of olive oil
1 Walla Walla Sweet, diced
4 cups summer squash, cut into small chunks –for zucchini I quarter them lengthwise and then cut them into 1/3-inch chunks
4 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or more red wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry vinegar)
2 small-ish garlic cloves, crushed and then minced
3 (or more) tablespoons good olive oil
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)
¼ cup (or more) chopped parsley

Cook the lentils until tender, about 15-20 minutes (this will vary depending on the kind of lentil you have). You want them to be tender but keep their shape so check frequently.

Drain them and immediately toss them with the vinegars, garlic and olive oil. Set aside.

In the largest skillet you have, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and add the bacon and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the onion softened and bacon rendered but not crisp. Remove the onions and bacon from skillet and add to lentils.

Add another splash of olive oil and the summer squash and a few generous pinches of salt. Cook the squash over high heat for about 7-8 minutes until browned and beginning to soften.

Add the warm squash to the lentils along with the chopped parsley and the additional olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and/or vinegar.

Summer Simplicity and Frenzy

Faux deviled eggs (plain boiled eggs topped with aioli), boiled new potatoes and beet and avocado salad.

Herbs, hardboiled eggs, salads, fresh fruit, bread, cheese. . . .zucchini and green beans starting to come out of my ears. . . .It’s a good time of year for cooking (or assembling) with what you have. And as much as I love to cook I don’t really want to be at the stove much (other than making jam and baking pies and tarts) these days. We’ve been having a lot of  dinners of late that I loosely refer to as Abendbrot–the German word for a light evening meal, meaning literally evening bread.

I use the term to refer to any meal that is cobbled together with a variety of cold or room temperature items. Last night it was cooked green beans with aioli, the last jar of tomato jam from last fall, some bread, a few hard-boiled eggs and a bunch of blueberries. It might be steamed artichokes, a green salad and bread, or roasted beets, some canned tuna (delicious Oregon Albacore) and a white bean salad.

We’ve been digging our first couple of hills of potatoes and they need nothing more than salt or a bit of aioli or some fresh parsley to be perfect. And speaking of  parsley I made a pesto with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds last week that may well find itself into my Herbs in the Kitchen class in August. If you grow a few of your own herbs, they are really the cheapest and tastiest way to shape a meal.

Toasted bread topped with parsley and pumpkin seed pesto and a fried egg.

When I’m really pressed for time dessert has been fresh fruit, as is, and thus my five-year-old has become an expert cherry eater and cherry pit spitter. But I have also been staying up late or baking in the afternoon and then working late at night to make this fantastic cherry slab pie from Smittenkitchen, David Lebovitz’s blackberry sorbet , the Tutti Frutti Crumble from Super Natural Everyday and jam after jam after jam.

Cherry slab pie from smittenkitchen.com–you get a bit more crust per cherry, it feeds an army and is most of all perfectly delicious.

This time of year is a conundrum for me. I get greedy. I want to pack that freezer with berries, make all my favorite jams and keep up with the green beans and parsley and squash in my garden. I have this slightly frenzied feeling in my body that is hard to control that makes me pit cherries and apricots faster and carry more canning jars up from the basement at once than is wise. I’m racing with myself and some deep-seeded need to preserve and not waste and take advantage of our ridiculous bounty right now. I feel so blessed to have all this amazing produce and fruit at my finger tips. So it’s one part greed and one part responsibility to use it and make the most of it and be frugal, frankly, so that for several months out of the year I wont buy much fruit at all. It’s a privileged position to be in–to have a flexible enough schedule to do this kind of thing–and a choice I’ve made deliberately. And I’m very grateful for that. And at the same time I want to let myself relax a bit and enjoy these fleeting weeks of warmth, neighbors on the porch sharing in that cherry pie, the sticky jam jars and even the fruit flies.

Happy eating, cooking and preserving!

 

 

When Time is Short – Chickpea Avocado Salad Sandwich

Cooked chickpeas are mashed together with avocado, cilantro, green onion and lots of lemon juice. Eat by the spoonful, on/between toasted bread, in a tortilla, as a dip. . . .you get the point. It’s delicious and versatile.

Time has been short for my lately, hence my long absence here. I’ve been consumed with all sorts of projects and I have missed this place. So, hello again!

These busy weeks have had a few silver linings, one of which was that I was probably living more like many of my students (and possibly readers) who have far less time than me to spend in the kitchen and less time thinking about what to make for ourselves and our families on a daily basis. And thus I have gained a bit of perspective and have some new ideas about how to eat well and with minimal stress (and minimal processed food) in times of heavy workloads.

Yesterday I taught a class as part of the Wellness Program for county employees. Many of them work 10-hour days and getting a healthy, delicious meal on the table is really a stretch. I taught three things (a frittata with snap peas, herbs and feta; an arugula, white bean and tuna salad, and this chickpea avocado dish). They were all devoured but this one was met with the most initial skepticism and then maybe loved the most–for its adaptability, speed, and flavor. I also love this dish because it uses herbs in great, heaping quantities. I’m teaching an herb class in July because I’m almost as much of an herb evangelist as I am a bean evangelist.

If you have pre-cooked chickpeas on hand (or you can use canned ones after rinsing well) this comes together in minutes.

I got the idea for this salad/spread/dip here and have since made it with mint instead of cilantro, green garlic instead of green onions, cumin and smoked paprika, and Serrano chilies and lime juice instead of lemon. You can mash it really well for an almost hummus like consistency or leave it chunky. You can thin it down with more bean cooking liquid, water or more juice and olive oil. You can make a big batch and have it for lunch several times in a row. . . .In other words, it’s a perfect cook-with-what-you-have/like candidate.

You can just gently mix all ingredients or mash them together well for completely different consistencies.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad/Sandwich
–inspired by twopeasandapod.com

This is delicious as a dip, on toasted bread, as a sandwich filling or just as is. You can adapt this in many ways too—add your favorite hot chilies or hot sauce, different spices or herbs, etc. See more ideas for variations above. I particularly like using mint or basil or a combination. Tarragon and chives are good and so is parsley.

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 greens onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 small or ½ a large, ripe avocado
1/3 cup (or more) chopped cilantro (stems and all)
Juice of half a lemon or lime (or more to taste)
Splash of good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the chickpeas in a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mash some more and mix well. If you want to serve it more like a salad or side, just lightly mash the chickpeas and dice the avocado and mix everything together more gently. You don’t need to achieve such a uniform texture in that case.

Cabbage and Potato Gratin

I didn’t actually think this dish was going to be that good or even remotely blog-worthy. I didn’t take photos as I was making it (wish I had but I did capture the finished product) but then when I  ate three servings for dinner and enjoyed it just as much the next day and the next, I figured it should be noted publicly. It obviously made a large quantity, seeing that I was still eating it three days later and that that was a good thing. . . .It’s made with the most ordinary of ingredients and could be varied in umpteen ways.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato (and Pasta) Gratin

This dish came about because I had a huge wedge of green cabbage in the fridge that needed using. I had a handful of potatoes and I had some milk. So I cooked the potatoes in a big pot of boiling water. Then I tossed in a handful of little tubetti pasta to make it appealing to my four-year-old who will eat anything that has pasta in it. But the thrust of this dish is purely cabbage and potatoes and unless you have a similarly  habituated child (or adult in your household) I’d skip the pasta. Then, I tried to estimate when I should add the cabbage so that I could drain the whole pot of potatoes, pasta and cabbage at once and all at the appropriate stage of doneness. That was really the only trick of this dish. Some of my potatoes were beginning to fall apart when the cabbage and pasta were tender and when I drained the whole, pale contents of the pot I began to doubt the wisdom of this process.

The humble ingredients of this, now favorite, comfort food.

However, knowing that I was going to mix said contents with a quick Bechamel sauce I figured I still stood a chance. And I was going to add some grated cheese and top it with a few bread crumbs and then get it all bubbly and crisp in the oven. . .

A side-note about bechamel, or simple cream sauce:  It was one of the first things I mastered as a young cook when I was about  8 I think. All you do is melt some butter, whisk in an equal amount of flour and then after a few minutes add hot milk and a few seasonings and simmer that for a few minutes (or much longer if you’re feeling fancy). It seems like a bit of a throwback and I certainly don’t see recipes with it on any food blogs these days but I think it’s a lifesaver sometimes.

So, give it a try and let me know if it was worth it. And I do really hope you  make this whole dish, or some version of it.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. For those of you in the Portland (OR) region and for those of you interested in or already devoted CSA fans, I am working with 47th Ave. Farm on their Winter Share and will be providing comprehensive recipe packets with each share all season. So if you’ve thought about joining a CSA but were afraid you wouldn’t know what do with all the veggies, fear no more.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Gratin

You could add lots of chopped parsley or oregano or basil or chives to the dish as you’re assembling it, before baking. You could use other vegetables. I imagine diced winter squash instead of the potatoes would be fabulous and very pretty. Sausage, bacon or any kind of leftover meat would be good. You can vary the cheeses, omit entirely, and so on and so forth!

For Bechamel:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

generous 2 cups of whole milk (2% can work in a pinch)

salt

pepper

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

pinch of ground nutmeg or cloves

fresh minced thyme, parsley, chives, etc. (optional)

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over med/low heat. When melted, whisk in flour. Continue cooking the roux for 2 -3 min, whisking frequently. Meanwhile heat milk until it’s scalding. Whisk hot milk into roux and add several pinches of salt, grind in some pepper, add chili flakes (or omit if you’d like), add mustard and a bay leaf and a grating or two of nutmeg. Stir well and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes until thickened and bubbling.  Add some grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, etc. ) and fresh, chopped herbs if you’d like at this point.

For the gratin:

3-5 potatoes (depending on size) and cut into thumb-sized chunks

1/2 medium to large green cabbage (or a whole small one), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

Handful or two of small pasta (optional)

Salt

Bread crumbs (optional)

Grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, . . .)

Put potatoes in a large pot with lots of water and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. If you are using some kind of pasta you’ll want to add it to the potatoes just a few minutes after the water comes to a boil so the pasta can cook for 8 or so minutes (depending on the type you choose this will vary. The pasta can be quite all dente when you drain everything though since it will keep cooking in the oven.) When the potatoes (and pasta, if using) are almost tender add the cabbage to the pot. Cover and cook for another few minutes until the cabbage is tender. Drain.

Spread the vegetables in a large baking dish. Pour the béchamel over the top and mix in a bit. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra cheese (if you’d like) and bake  at 400 until bubbly and crisp on top (I broil it at the end for a few minutes).


Hanging on to Summer Veggies

The farmers markets here in the Portland area are probably at their most abundant right now. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, and eggplants are still bountiful and colorful. But trying to crowd them out are the piles of winter squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts and the rest of the fall contingent. The weather is leaning towards fall but I’m a die-hard summer veggie eater as long as I possibly can be. I know those hefty squash that have absorbed a season’s worth of warmth and turned it into an edible hunk of sunshine will be there for me in a few weeks and will stick around until early spring, not much worse for wear.

Eggplants and a sweet, red pepper needed for the Hot, Sweet, Sour Eggplant dish below.

But the summer veggies are more fleeting so I’m cooking with eggplant and peppers almost every day and madly preserving tomatoes along the way.  I tend to make Italian dishes with these but lately I’ve been having fun with a Chinese-inspired dish–Sweet, Hot, Sour Eggplant–named so by me and undoubtedly inauthentic. It’s quick, full flavored and richer tasting than it is. The Thai basil that’s still thriving in a pot in my backyard makes it extra good but more common Genovese basil, cilantro or even parsley would all be good.

I neglected to take a picture on the evening I made this so this photo is of the leftovers I heated up together with the rice for lunch the next day.

Sweet, Sour and Hot Eggplant

My favorite way to serve this quick Chinese-inspired dish is over short grain brown rice but any rice is excellent. It’s a rich-tasting dish though actually fairly light in preparation.

2 medium eggplant (or several smaller ones—any kind of eggplant will work in this dish—the long slender Japanese ones, more common Italian, globe ones, . . .), skin on, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh, minced Serrano, jalapeno or other hot pepper

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower or other oil

3-4 tablespoons Thai basil, basil, cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowel.

In a large skillet or wok heat the oil and sauté onions and pepper (if using) over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add red pepper flakes (or minced hot pepper) and eggplant and cook until it softens and browns a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. A few minutes before the eggplant is done add the minced garlic and stir well. Then add the sauce and stir well to mix and coat veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Stir in the herbs, saving out a few for garnish if you’d like. Serve hot over rice with reserved herbs.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Tomato Post # Three

Tomato Paella--a quick, inexpensive, vegetarian version of the classic rice and seafood dish.

I’ve written a lot about tomatoes recently and this will likely be the last post for this year’s crop. Having fresh tomatoes on the counter is a marker of late summer. And there’s nothing like a few tomatoes to inspire a quick meal. They’ve been doing it over and over and I still haven’t gotten through all my favorite tomato recipes. Last night we had BLTs for dinner. The night before we had the above Paella. And tonight we’ll have panzanella or my favorite raw (blended) tomato sauce with lots of basil and olive oil served with pasta (at room temperature) with big chunks of fresh mozzarella. And then maybe I’ll be done. . . . or not quite.

This tomato paella would be the perfect dish for this coming Saturday’s Day of Action–Slow Food USA’s campaign to reclaim the “Value Meal”. Read more about it here with some tips on inexpensive, delicious cooking from yours truly.

Mark Bittman published this recipe in the New York Times five years ago and I’ve been making it ever since, with a few variations. It’s best with really flavorful, ripe tomatoes–and not sauce tomatoes like Romas or San Marzanos but heirloom, slicing tomatoes. Unlike Bittman I cook the whole thing on the stove top instead of finishing it in the oven but with either method it’s a quick one-dish meal with a simple green salad on the side.

The flavorful base of onion, garlic, saffron and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) is the foundation of this dish.

You arrange the tomato wedges on the rice once you've added the stock. Once the stock is absorbed you can see the pin wheel of tomatoes on top of the rice.

Tomato Paella

–Adapted from Mark Bittman

This is a delicious, quick, and inexpensive (and vegetarian) twist on a classic paella. It’s perfect this time of year with beautiful, juicy tomatoes. It’s very important to season the ingredients properly as you go. It’s really a shame to under salt this dish. Taste your stock or bouillon to make sure it’s well seasoned.

3 1/2 cups stock, water or veggie bouillon (made with 4 1/2 teaspoons bouillon paste and 3 1/2 cups water)

1 1/2 pounds ripe, slicer/heirloom tomatoes (not sauce tomatoes), cored and cut into thick wedges (about 4 medium to large tomatoes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Large pinch saffron threads

2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika

2 cups Spanish or Arborio or other short-grain rice (I use Arborio)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (if the stock isn’t very salty or you’re using water)

Warm stock or water in a saucepan. If using water, add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in saffron if you are using it and pimentón and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another two to three minutes. Add hot stock or water and stir until just combined.

Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Cook over medium heat undisturbed, for 15 -20 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, keep cooking for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving. If you have time you should definitely do this last part. The crust is fabulous.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Blackberry Pie for Breakfast and other Summer Treats

Blackberry pie for breakfast is an annual late summer treat.

Cooking in the summer for me is a funny combination of quick, whatever I have on hand because I don’t want to be sweating over a hot stove meals, and on the other hand, making more laborious, involved things that I only get to make once or twice a year because the season is fleeting and precious. And somehow sweating over a hot stove for hours is part of that fleeting pleasure and experience that makes it what it is. And it’s often done in the name of preserving that treasure for the cooler months so it’s time extra well spent.

The past few weeks have seen lots of the former and a few of the latter. Blackberry pie, though not terribly time-consuming is in the latter category. I just don’t make pies that often and blackberry may be my very favorite. It manages to evoke the feeling of hot summer afternoons picking blackberries in the woods–dusty, sticky sweet and all scratched up–in one single bite. I use an all-butter crust (this is a good recipe) and about 6 cups of blackberries, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, juice of one lemon and maybe a little lemon zest, for this summer treat. And if you make a blackberry pie, leave it out over night (covered with a dish towel) and don’t refrigerate it. In the morning you’ll have the best summer breakfast imaginable waiting for you.

In the slow and hot department, I’ve made lots of jam this year: raspberry, strawberry, marionberry peach vanilla, blackberry, peach vanilla, and blackberry fig lemon. I’ve approached jam with a cook-with-what-you-have (and desperately need to use up before it goes bad) attitude. Thus the blackberry fig (Dolores thank you for both!) and marionberry peach. It’s been fun, hot and sticky and I can’t wait to give many of these jars away come the holidays.

In the quick department, it’s been tomatoes and more tomatoes these days. Oh and a beet salad that’s worth briefly noting. I tossed chunks of cold, roasted beets with avocado, green onions, cilantro, feta and a bit of lime juice, olive oil and salt. It was an impromptu lunch but will certainly turn into a planned affair in the future.

Back to tomatoes and quick lunches. This is my idea of  the perfect summer lunch:

Fried egg on a slice of tomato, some basil, a few slivers of sweet onion, butter, a good pice of toast and topped with some basil and salt and pepper! Divine!

And finally, my new favorite tomato dish, that I made for dinner last week and will make again, at least once, this week. It’s a brilliant, quick combination of simple ingredients. I got the idea and only slightly changed the recipe from Deb at smittenkitchen.com who only slighted adapted if from Ina Garten.

Their versions call it Scalloped Tomatoes but because there is no milk or cream in it, which I think of when I think of scalloped anything, I’ve started calling it a Tomato Bread Gratin. But no matter, it’s really good.

Tomato Bread Gratin--a quick, hearty but light summer dish that is much lovelier than this lackluster photo conveys.

Tomato Bread Gratin

–adapted from smittenkitchen who adapted it from Ina Garten.

You can vary the quantities and ratios here with no problem. More tomatoes will make it a little moister and might take a little longer to cook and more bread will make it denser and more crisp. I used less cheese than the original(s) listed and loved it. You can vary the herbs and increase the quantity if you’d like.

3 cups cubed, stale bread (not sandwich bread–something with a bit more texture and heft), crusts included

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 – 3 lbs tomatoes, diced

2 -3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt (yes, use all of this)

1/3 cups of basil, sliced into thin strips (or combination of basil and oregano)

1/2 cup (or more) grated Parmesan or other hard cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish or other shallow dish.

Toast bread cubes in a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the bread is toasty.

Add the diced tomatoes, sugar, salt and garlic  to the skillet with the bread and stir really well to incorporate evenly. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Take off the heat, stir in the basil and pour contents into baking dish. Top evenly with parmesan and bake until bubbly and crisp on top, about 35 minutes.

Serve with a big green salad or other summer salads. This is, as Deb at smittenkitchen suggests, fantastic with a fried or poached egg on top.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. Now that school has started I’m gearing up for fall classes. Lots to choose from here at Cook With What You Have including the next two classes that take advantage of all this fabulous, late summer/early fall produce. So come take a class and enjoy these fleeting treats with some new ideas.

Tomatoes

Even with our cool, wet spring and cool, wet early summer my tomatoes are coming on full steam. I pick some everyday now and somehow having fresh tomatoes on the counter makes dinner easy. They are so long-awaited, so sweet and beautiful and liven up practically any ingredient or comfortably take the main stage. And speaking of the tomato bounty and the pepper, eggplant, and corn bounty that’s upon us, I have two classes scheduled in late September that will take full advantage of these fleeting pleasures.

The first Black Krim, some Early Girls, Stupice, and Sungolds--this morning's harvest.

But back to today’s tomatoes . . . for lunch they make their way into sandwiches with a fried egg or just basil and sharp cheddar or a BLT if I really have it together. For dinner they get diced and tossed with feta and basil and maybe cucumber and lots of basil.

And there’s nothing better than that first fresh tomato sauce. In a large skillet, even the juiciest slicing tomatoes cook into a luscious sauce over high heat in just 10 minutes or so. Start with some diced onion, add the tomatoes (I never bother to peel or seed them, just dice and toss them in) and a bit of minced garlic if you like and finish with a bit of fresh basil or dried or fresh oregano. Toss with pasta or top a pizza with it. Or poach some eggs in it and eat with some good, crusty bread

This is a standard Italian dish. If you have pre-made tomato sauce it takes mere minutes and if you have fresh tomatoes it doesn't take much longer to put together a quick sauce. Top the eggs with some grated parmesan towards the end for a fancier dish and be sure to have some good bread on hand to serve with this.

If you have a little more time, I urge you to make this wonderful tart with tomatoes and goat cheese I started making last year after seeing it on David Lebovitz’s blog. It’s actually quite simple even though it does involve a crust.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

And finally, if you need a picnic dish (though the tart is great for that too) and have some garbanzo beans (or white beans would probably be good too) on hand, toss them with diced tomatoes, some cucumber, maybe some arugula and/or basil and some sweet onions. Crumble some feta and dress with a vinegary dressing and you’ve got a wonderful refreshing and hearty salad.

Quick Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Salad.

Happy Cooking and Eating!