August, 2010 Archive

Monday, August 30, 2010

fresh tomato sauce

fresh tomato sauce

Around this time every summer, I see the best signs at the markets: “Ugly but tasty!” “Pretty on the inside!” “Don’t judge a tomato by its cover!” Beneath them are usually buckets of craggly misshapen tomato beasts, with coarse seams like they’d been stitched back together after some rough past and distinctly un-heirloom colors. At prices like a dollar a pound, obviously, they were destined for sauce.

matersmake an Xinto boiling watereasy peeling

But how to turn a bucket of awesome into a mindbogglingly delicious tomato sauce? I really thought I had it down. A few weeks ago, I hauled home six pounds for six bucks and me and my assistant proceeded to cook them down, and cook them down and wow, am I still cooking three hours later? Right, I forgot to seed them. And the seeds imparted this almost bitterish tinge. And I realized that I didn’t bring these cheap tomatoes home very often because I wasn’t that confident I could turn them into what I wanted to. Obviously, I was poised for an intervention.

naked tomatoeshalved, but they should be quarteredsqueezing out the seedsroughly chopped

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

perfect blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins, craggy tops

When blueberries first show up at the market, it feels like sacrilege to bake with them — ditto with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mother Nature made them perfect! Why drown them in batter, wilt them with heat and then leave them out to dry? What brutes we’d be! But there’s a day in August — I think it might have been yesterday* — when something shifts. The high for the day is in the 60s, you run out to the market and what is this? Did you wish you’d brought your cardigan? How strange! And all of a sudden the prospect of a berry baked into something warm and cozy, that you might eat with your first hot coffee of the season, seems very right.

blueberries
batter

And it is around this time every year that I try to find the best blueberry muffin. I’ve made them with buttermilk and yogurt and cream cheese too, with streusel and dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar; I’ve tucked them into corn muffins and bran muffins too, back to one I got from Cook’s Illustrated eons ago (introduced to me by the lovely Elise), but that’s different from the recipes in the two Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks that I own and also at least three of the five other blueberry muffin recipes on their site (the last two are hidden behind a pay wall put between people already paying and people paying more than people who are paying, not that I’m venting or anything, ahem). It has a high dome and a thick batter that’s really more of a dough (a classically brilliant technique of CI’s to keep berries from sinking) and every time, they’re as pretty as a picture.

blueberry muffins

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

eggplant salad toasts

eggplant salad toasts

When it comes to bruschetta, I don’t know why tomatoes get all the love. Right next to them at the market, eggplant is sulking… or at least I’d be if I always got stiffed in the Breezy Light Summer Appetizer with Wine department by my fruity field buddies. I got thinking about an eggplant topping for garlic-rubbed, olive oil drizzled toasts last week when I was still on vacation and had nothing but the ocean’s horizon to consider for entire minutes of the day when this constantly-in-motion 11 month-old rested his eyes for a but all I knew is what I didn’t want: a puree, because while there are many great ones, there’s just so much gray and heavy about them and I didn’t want it to need tomatoes to make it work because hey, I love tomatoes but was insistent that eggplant can be awesome on its own.

eggplant
sliced
diced

It wasn’t until I was back in my kitchen this week (reunited with my very sharp knives) that I started puttering around with what I had on hand — namely some stragglers leftover from the previous week’s farmers market fest, some crumbly feta and purple scallions — to make the toasts happen. I roasted the eggplant, doused it with red wine vinegar, tossed everything together and piled it on toasts and this, this is the kind of mid-summer snack I want with my glass of wine. Oh man, I almost typed whine. Being back from vacation has been rough.

roasted

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

sweet corn pancakes

sweet corn pancakes, butter, syrup

Unfortunately, we had to come home from the beach. You see, I’d left my chef’s knife at home and seriously, people, I never knew I was the kind of person who had to have their creature comforts to cook. In fact, I get some sort of sick enjoyment out of making do with whatever’s in front of me (see also: my shoebox kitchen with a mini-stove, single tiny counter and a climbing baby over- under- and hanging-off-of-foot, putting everything he can find into his mouth) but I got bested last week by a drawer full of dull knives and not a sharpener in sight. You don’t want to know what the best of the lot did to some tomatoes — it should be ashamed of itself! Plus, there were the small matters of a city baby who refused to sleep in such foreign places with large rooms, crickets and scary flowers outside and the fact that we’d only rented the house for a week. What were we thinking? Two weeks! A month! More! Farm preschool, here I come!

our beachour house had the cutest pinwheel

And so, I’m back, at least physically. (My brain is still with the swans.) These were supposed to be the perfect beach house breakfast, as what could be a better embodiment of high summer than fresh corn kernels sauteed in butter, lightly salted and tucked into a barely sweet pancake? Nothing, clearly. Alas, they never made it into our rental kitchen but they’re quickly becoming a regular at home and they seem gunning for a savory application too — nixed sugar, a dollop of sour cream and fresh tomato salsa. And now that I’ve given you an excuse to have pancakes for breakfast for dinner, I think my work is done here and I’ll go back to looking at North Fork real estate working hard on that cookbook.

cobssweet white cornbatteroops

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

raspberry limeade slushies

raspberry limeade slushies

I have decided not to leave. Yesterday, I was eating a drippy peach we’d bought from one of those roadside stands that have baskets of homegrown stuff and instruct you to leave your money in a little container (you know, just like in Manhattan!) over the sink and two tiny deer and a bunny appeared in the woodsy area next to our house and seriously, I cannot believe that people own these places and willingly rent them to strangers. Where else could they possibly want to stay?

wine wine wine
tomatoes in every color

Here, there are small beaches where you are frequently the only person on them. Seagulls caw and while I’m sure they’re saying, “Over here! There’s a chubby baby boy napping and he looks very tasty!” I like them anyway. There are enough wineries that if you tried to hit two a day for a week, you wouldn’t get to all of them (but you should try, anyway) and every farm stand brags about their blackberries. There’s an old-fashioned chocolate shop with an actual old-fashioned looking guy in the next room, making your daily dose of dark chocolate turtles. We’ve passed something called a Farm Preschool which I’ve decided I’ll attend instead of the baby because why should he have all the fun? I’m reading a book I was sure I’d find unendurable and actually liking it (though likely because I’m still on the part about the eatin’). And there are 7-11′s all over this town.

limesto be limeadejuicedraspberries

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