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.
The beauty of a vegetable soup is manifold. It’s mouthwatering, colorful, done in a snap, affordable, versatile, full of vitamins and fiber, accessible, easily vegan/gluten-free, and pantry-friendly. Wow! The beauty of a vegetable soup with legumes, or in this case both lentils and chickpeas, is even greater as there’s the addition of plant-based protein (and lots more fiber) which makes the soup increasingly healthful — to say nothing of filling. Now all those things are true, real, and make me feel happy about putting a pot of this goodness on the table anytime. But I mostly want to make vegetable soup because I like to eat it (especially right after Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day!) and before that, I like to smell it cooking in my house. Is there anything better?
If someone asked me, “What is a romantic meal?” I’m sure I would be expected to have an answer. After all, I’m a food blogger; I’m a cooking teacher. I’m married to the man of my dreams. I don’t think I do, though. (Today’s Pork Chop Parmesan with Lemon Mushroom Risotto might qualify!) Do I even know how to define “romantic”? To begin with, the word “romantic” is both an adjective and a noun. Leave it to the English major to think of that. If you just drop the word “romantic” into a conversation, I’m likely to think of Brahms, Chopin, Verdi, or Beethoven because I’m also a musician. While several definitions pop up when you search, here is one likely to make sense to most folks:
...conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
"A romantic candlelit dinner."
Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.
In 2009, husband Dave, daughter Emily –for a couple of weeks anyway– and I spent the summer in St. Paul, Minnesota so I could take a few graduate music courses at University of St. Thomas. While there, we lived in a 3rd-floor walkup apartment on Grand Avenue above a Thai restaurant named — you guessed it — Pad Thai. (See below)
Some years we have no bunnies at all in our yard. Other times, such as now, we are overrun by the the dreaded chomper-hoppers. (Have you ever seen one hop straight up 4 feet or more? They can. ) I blame it on the lack of outdoor cats and our local bob cat family temporarily taking up residence in the next subdivision over. While cute, especially when oh so very small, they eat everything we don’t want them to eat but perversely leave the weeds for us to pull.
“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked. “I never met an egg I didn’t like,” said my very dear friend Chris Kliesen Wehrman with a gleam in her eye one morning after she had spent the night at our house.
I often cook thick bone-in pork chops for guests. In cold weather, they’re served with a creamy and decadent mushroom sauce on a bed of softly mashed root vegetables with a green vegetable or two on the side. Longtime blog readers and friends who’ve eaten at my table will easily recognize the dish that often looks something like this: