If you’re lucky enough to spend a little summertime in Europe, and particularly in France, you might see quite a stunning visual array of savory tarts, quiche, pizza, pissaladiére, Flammkuchen, Zwiebelkuchen, and many other pastries in bakeries, cafes, and restaurants. The pastry or crust fillings may include a little bacon or anchovy here and there, but often as not vegetables and/or cheese are the superstars. Baked before the day gets hot or in a blissful outdoor oven, these tasty light meals are the perfect hot weather treats served warm or at room temperature on their own or with a crisp green salad on the side. A little white wine? But of course.
Here in the states, we’re typically more into pizza across the board (a few quiches, too, I’ll admit) but lately I’ve been spying — and maybe you have, too –quite a few Tomato Pies showing up here, there, and everywhere while the ruby red tomatoes are coming in hot and heavy. (I will have to make one as they feature tomatoes and mayo–one of my warm weather favorite combos.) My tomatoes here in Colorado are still just barely ripening — and they’re all of the cherry or grape variety given our short growing season. But a slew of sweet Camparis on my counter found me searching for a French-style tomato tart I remembered seeing somewhere. But where? A little google mining brought me to Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa website and a reminder about Anna’s Tomato Tart, which is in Ina’s COOKING FOR JEFFREY book — right on my own shelf! Now I didn’t particularly want a tomato-ONLY tart, but rather had in mind something with a sort Provençal feel that included olives, fennel, mushrooms, peppers, and more. Anna’s tart would definitely serve as my springboard. Scroll down to read up on the late cook-caterer-writer, Anna Pump and her great store on Long Island– Loaves and Fishes.Links to other savory tart recipes included there, too.
In September as the peaches wane and the apples are just ripening, here in Colorado we have trees and trees full of plums. These aren’t the big old black, handful plums we see a bit later on, but rather are the small dark purple, firm-when-ripe Italian prune plums. While excellent for snacking, perhaps they’re even better for baking since they tend to hold their shape and aren’t overly sweet. You might think of plums as the fall bag-lunch fruit —and I do, too— but for the past few years I find I adore a beautiful plum tart or, in this case, crostata.
It came without warning. All of a sudden it was the end of June. It was nearly the 4th of July. Dave and I were both off by about a week and had no idea why. This man’s birthday is July 3 and yesterday he said to me, when I asked about a birthday dinner reservation, “What? Is my birthday this weekend??” Why, yes it is!
In the meantime, I’d been working on a risotto post for the blog. Having a fun old time making the risotto, finding the dishes, taking the photos, writing the text and recipe and so on. Except I had nothing for the immediate holiday. Necessity is the mother of disaster sometimes, but hopefully not here. (Watch this space for the risotto love coming up next week or maybe even the week after.)
While our world feels like a fearful, indescribable mess — and it is, dear friends — I can handle it better if I’m baking. Especially for a holiday and, like it or not, Easter’s coming. Think renewed life, rebirth, clean beginnings — positive thoughts for anyone of any faith or none. We need this now, even if only two are gathered. A holiday for a duet is a tender occasion and while there’ll be a gorgeous lamb chop a piece and not our huge traditional Italian roasted leg of lamb for a crowd, we’ll also have dessert to remember this spring by.
I’m looking at Susan Hermann Loomis’ recipe for lamb chops. You might, too. (Do you know Susan’s work? She’s one of my very favorite cooking teacher/writers.) I squirreled away the chops weeks ago, but there’s still time for you to get some. Or something else you fancy more.
Need more Easter or Good Friday ideas? Just type “Easter” into the search window.You can also type “brunch,” “eggs,” “lamb,” “Friday Fish,”etc.
My good friend, next-door neighbor, and sometime cooking student, Mike (below), knows that if you really don’t want to make pie dough, it’s fine with me that you use purchased refrigerator case pie dough (not frozen). I’d love for you to bake pie however it happens. Hopefully next time –or sometime–you’ll try to make dough; practice definitely improves the product. Take it from me.
It’s more than ironic that many of the best fruit pies need to be made when the weather is sizzling, sultry, humid, or plain old drippy hot. As a cold-weather fiend, I particularly find this one of the most unhappy cooking situations. I am thus incredibly blessed to live in Colorado where the summer days may be hot, yes, but might also occasionally dip down into the 40’s and even more often into the 50’s with the advent of a good, old-fashioned hail and/or rain storm. In fact, nightly fifty-some temps aren’t unusual even without rain. (Of course that’s why our tomatoes don’t do squat. Thank God we have the best beer in the country to partially make up for that.)
I think of Violet as my loving friend Chris’s mom because that’s who she was to me. Of course Violet was VIOLET. And if you lived in Atwood, Kansas (population 1,222), you knew who that was. You knew her rather well indeed if you happened to be a member of Atwood United Methodist Church where she directed the choir, organized many church suppers, and was the leader of the Altar Guild for oh-so-many years.
Baking at Thanksgiving. It’s a big deal to some people and a late afternoon stop at the grocery for others. Perhaps because often folks are cooks OR they’re bakers and rarely both. The pumpkin pie may have all the memories the turkey never garnered and the homemade yeast rolls and butter just might be why your grandson shows up. On the other hand, it could be all about the dressing, gravy or even the ham at your house where no one looks twice at dessert. I once brought turkey and dressing to a summer potluck, where a close friend refused to eat a bite. When I asked why, she said, “You didn’t make gravy. I don’t eat dressing without gravy.” She truly had some serious food traditions and it’s not unusual. Listen to your friends and family talk about Thanksgiving and you’ll see.
As the bittersweet arrival of the last of the northwest blueberries coincideswith the happy coming of the first glorious Colorado peaches, the two together feel exactly like a match made in heaven in my kitchen on a beautiful cool morning. With just a smidge over 5 cups of beginning-to-pucker and wilt Oregon blueberries in the fridge, I had not quite enough for a 9-inch pie. A case of peaches sat wafting their keen aroma from the mudroom, so I followed my nose out there and snagged a couple of not-too-ripe beauties to peel and slice for the bottom of the pie, filling that empty extra inch of space. The buttery sweetness from the berry mixture on top would provide plenty of juicy goodness for the still somewhat tangy peaches. Making something with peaches that aren’t quite ripe or up-to-snuff? Add a pinch of ground mace to increase their flavor.
Other food bloggers or food writers will get this:Thanksgiving is so over photographed, written about, schmoozed on, slobbered over, that we usually just don’t know what to do with it that hasn’t been done ad nauseum. (How about another post on SIDES??? Another torch-browned turkey on the front of a magazine?)