Monday, July 29, 2013

Little Summer Fruit Cakes

There are winter fruitcakes, and there are summer fruit cakes.  Hands down, the summer ones are way better*.

And little vanilla, lemon and almond-laced summer fruit cakes are the best of all.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tomatomania makes even me look good

I am such a crappy gardener that last year I actually paid a farmer to grow vegetables in my own back yard for me.

My farmer's name was Anthony, and he was awesome.  I had beautifully tended raised beds of exotic produce, and bumper crops of squash and eggplant.  I also had a husband who informed me that I needed to stop hanging out with my girlfriends who were doing things like hiring farmers.  

So this year, I was on my own.  

Consequently, my carefully selected* baby heirlooms from the good people at Tomatomania, planted lovingly back in April in neat rows and tied up with string, are now a massive jungle of crazy ass tangled up tomato plants.  Plus, there's a scraggly patch of sage and some sad, leggy basil bushes with holes in all the leaves, probably from some kind of icky bug.  Anthony would know, but I'm not allowed to call him anymore**.

Amazingly, the tomatoes are thriving under my policy of complete and utter neglect, and the thicket is spewing out fruit like there's no tomorrow.

I can't take any credit for the crop, but I will take credit for all the delicious food we've been having as a result***.

Heirloom Tomato Pie

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Consider the reunion

My food writing class ended a while back.  I didn't mind.

Class turned out to be both more and less than I expected*  Recovering from the initial anxiety, I showed up at a stranger's home and read my piece, Consider Chopped, out loud.  Six pairs of eyes stared at me blankly.  No one, it seemed, had ever watched the show.


At least there was wine.

But then, despite their evident confusion and concern about why I was stifling a case of the giggles as I spoke, they gave me feedback that made my work better**.

I think it was kind of like that for everyone. The range of sensibilities in the small room was huge, and it was an effortful thing, the writing about food.  Talking about food, though, was easy.

It makes perfect sense then, that almost as soon as class ended, someone planned a five course dinner party reunion.

With wine***.

Jess' spectacular cool, creamy and spicy avocado soup (recipe below)

 Amelia's light and summery Arugula Salad with Parmesan, heirloom tomatoes, homemade croutons, and lemon vinaigrette.

 Keitha's meltingly tender Pan-Seared Salmon in a Sorrel Cream Sauce (recipe, from Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud Cookbook, is here)

 Catie's marvelous cheese course

We may never write together again, but I sure hope we get together again.

* More earnest reading about oysters and making dinner out of weeds, and a lot less snacks. I did enjoy Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace, and the one week we had cake.  The best part for me was the directed short in-class writing time. Most of Cherry Blossom Picnics was written during a 15 minute exercise on food memories.
** You can read it here.
*** Keitha, our hostess and a wine aficionado herself, invited a fellow wine expert Alexander, of The Maverick Palate, to do pairings with the meal.  Words like "chalky" and "zingy" were used by many people (Not me.  I used, "yummy").  Alexander has posted the wine list, some great photos, and notes on the evening here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Raining Corn

One of the sure fire signs of summer* is fresh corn on the cob.  It's amazing roasted over an open fire, or simply boiled according to this classic recipe**:


Even my normally veggie-loathing small children adored the ritual of gnawing their way delightedly along a hot ear of sweet, juicy goodness, usually winding up with a sheen of leftover melted butter gleaming on their grinning faces.

So when this happened:

I'm referring to losing their front teeth, not having to hold a giant slimy toad

It was devastating.
No teeth = No corn.

Wobbly lower lip. Brimming eyes.

Mom with a big sharp knife.
Flick! The cob tilted over the plate. Golden kernels pouring down in a stream into a messy, gloriously edible pile.

Wide, astonished, hopeful eyes.

"Mommy! Can you rain my corn***, too?"

You bet.
As a bonus, I'll bake it with a little butter, and turn it into sweet-salty-creamy-dreamy-almost-better-than-corn-on-the-cob corn.

Moms are magic like that.