Archive for September, 2010

What Do You Do with Peaches?

September 16, 2010

My parents both grew up in New York.  My dad on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and my mom on Long Island.  I don’t think either of them gave a single thought to the West coast until my dad decided it would be a very good idea to move the family to Seattle for an oncology fellowship.  At that time, the family was just my mom, dad, and me and they thought they would move back East as soon as the fellowship was over.  Unexpectedly for both of them, especially my mom, they fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.  Aside from an ill-advised to Springfield, MA for a quick year, they have been here ever since.

My dad grew up quite poor, living 5 people in a one-bedroom apartment.  When he lived there, the Lower East Side was not the hip place it is now.  He hated New York and missed very little about it when he left.  My mom on the other hand missed a lot of things.  The Italian food, bagels, real bakeries, the shopping, the buzz of the city, and corn, tomatoes, and peaches.  Seattle has come a long way since 1973.  Our restaurant scene is finally getting exciting.  If you know where to go, the shopping is decent.  The bagels still mostly suck but there are a number of good bakeries.  Because of our climate, not much can be done about the tomatoes, peaches, or corn.

Now I know our tomatoes leave a lot to be desired.  There is a farm that brings pretty good ones to our markets from the eastern (and sunnier) part of our state, but I’m pretty sure they are still not as good as one from a New Jersey farm stand.  Personally, in contrast with my mom, I’ve always felt that our corn and peaches were pretty darn good.  Or, I did think so until a couple of weeks ago.

The Friday of IFBC, I was lucky enough to attend a pie baking class with the master – Kate McDermott.  If people could be national treasures, Kate would be one.  She teaches small groups The Art of the Pie and she has taught classes to some of the culinary world’s greats including Ruth Reichl, formerly the editor of Gourmet (RIP).  Kate has an extraordinary energy about her.  She dedicates each pie to someone she knows and she talks to her dough.  I love that.

As Kate went on and on about these California peaches, from Frog Hollow Farm, I got a little suspicious.  She is the type of person who shops as locally as possible – why was she being a traitor to our Washington peaches?  This was the last weekend of August – the peak of local peaches.  Frog Hollow who?

And then, she passed around a peach.  We all smelled it.  I was shocked at the fragrance.  Could we bottle that?  I’d like to spray that on my neck and wrists each day, thank you very much.  And it was not just the smell – the look of the peach was absolutely perfect.  Fat, round, golden, not too fuzzy, and lots of red mixed with the orange and yellow.  It was just gorgeous.  Something I would want to paint if I were the painting type.  With this set-up, I don’t have to tell you how amazing that peach tasted.  Finally, all the years of my mom saying, “You don’t know from peaches” made sense.  I didn’t know from peaches.  I did understand how Alice Waters had the audacity to serve a peach on a plate for dessert.  If it was the peach I tasted, I would have applauded.

Kate went on to show us how truly easy it is to make a pie.  She is not strict about measurements and encourages using your hands as tools.  When her first crust didn’t roll out as easily as she wanted it to, she laughed it off saying that even experts can have challenging-crust days.  The finished pies were perfect in that not-perfect way of homemade pies.

I would love to tell you that I had a huge slice.  The truth is, I had no pie.  Why?  Kate uses lard and butter as the fats in her pies and seeing as lard is not exactly vegetarian, I opted out.  I do have to tell you that I wasn’t aware that Kate used lard and when we first walked in to Diane’s Market Kitchen, the very cool space where Kate’s classes are held, she had little scraps of dough that she had rolled with cinnamon and sugar and baked.  Of course I popped one in my mouth.  Half an hour later, when she pulled out the lard, I panicked.  After not eating meat for 24 years, I had just eaten some lard.  My stomach knotted and I felt like I wanted to cry.  I contemplated leaving the class.  Then I realized that I had two options.  I could freak out, or I could be grateful that my diet is a choice and not a necessity.  I know people with allergies and intolerances that have landed them in the hospital multiple times.  This was just a bummer and better to look at it that way.  Onward.  Diane was kind enough to pull out an almost savory biscuit and top it with many slices of glorious peach and some yogurt/honey sauce that was divine.  Not pie but extremely delicious.

At the end of the two hours, I had learned a lot and had certainly fallen in love with Frog Hollow Farm peaches.  I told Kate I was on my way to pick up 5 food bloggers who would be staying with me for the weekend and she offered me one of the finished pies to take with me.  How sweet is that?  The next day, on a break from the conference, my 5 friends and I came back to the house to eat pie.  I told them my lard story and about my new found love for California peaches.

End of (very long) story.

A few days after the conference, when the hubbub had died down, I received a box.  It was, yes, a box of Frog Hollow Farm peaches sent by my friend Cheryl.  Talk about an amazing hostess gift!  Because there were 12 beauties in the box, I got to make peach ice cream, a peach crisp, give them to my boys for breakfast, eat them myself for breakfast, and enjoy them in this salad.  Here I used local heirloom tomatoes, local green beans, local basil, local shallots in the dressing, and those California imports.  This may have been my favorite way to eat them.

Interesting that my posts from one and two years ago include “What Do You Do with” in the title.  It’s a mid-September kind of question apparently…

One Year Ago: Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
Two Years Ago: Zucchini Stuffed with Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous

Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Dana Treat Original
Serves 2 generously

1 large ripe peach
3-4 small heirloom tomatoes, preferably different colors
½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed
¼ cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips

1 small shallot
2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.  Add the green beans and allow to cook until slightly tender but with some personality, about 4 minutes.  Scoop them into a large bowl of ice water.  Once they are cool, drain well.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate.)

Cut the peach in half and remove the pit.  Cut into thin slices and add to a salad bowl.  Cut one of the tomatoes into thin slices and cut the others into wedges; add to the bowl.  Add the basil and drizzle with dressing (you won’t need all the dressing.)

For the dressing:
Finely mince the shallot.  Place in a bowl or in a glass jar with a lid (my preference when making dressing).  Pour in the vinegar and the lemon juice.  Add a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Mix well.  Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk or shake well.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Hot-Tin-Roof Sundaes

September 15, 2010

Let’s pretend for a moment that this is a great photograph.  Let’s pretend that it was taken outside in natural light with no shadows and just moments after this Tin Roof Sundae was made.  So it is not melty and there are no artificial lights bouncing their glare off the glass.

My brother Michael’s birthday is August 26th.  It is sandwiched between my anniversary ( August 24th) and our brother Alex’s anniversary (September 1st).  It falls in the last week of August when my parents are always in Sun Valley.  That last week of August also happens to be when people are cramming their days full of summery things because school is about to start.  And Michael is always very aware of the fact that school is about to start because he is a teacher.  Suffice it to say, Michael’s birthday tends to get a little overlooked.  (I have tried to teach him that if you make a big stink about your birthday, you can actually milk it for a month or more.  But I am a Leo and he is a Virgo and Virgos seem not to care.)

This year, our other family members and his girlfriend were out of town on his big day, so I offered to make him dinner.  I told him he could invite friends and I would make whatever he wanted.  He paused for one second and then told me he wanted the Banh Mi-like Vietnamese Tofu Sandwiches.  He left the appetizers and sides up to me but he was adamant about dessert.  Hot-Tin-Roof Sundaes.

Last summer, Micheal asked me to cook a special bachelor dinner for his best friend who was about to get married.  It was a long night – five courses.  It was the night that I made vegan pâté, a melon soup, and that tomato-burrata salad that I won’t shut up about.  By the time the main course rolled around, I was tired and just done taking pictures.  The sundaes turned out really well and the very full groom-to-be and his friends wolfed down every bite.  I was sorry I didn’t get a picture so I could share with all of you.

So, if you are excited about this, it’s Michael you should thank for asking me to make them again.  To be honest, I was surprised this was his birthday choice.  Michael is a cookies guy, a cake guy, a pie guy – I didn’t really think he was an ice cream guy.  At least not as his first choice.  When I asked him, he said that he just loved the combination here.  He remembered the components better than I did.  Cocoa nib ice cream, chocolate caramel sauce, and chile-lime peanuts.  Oh yeah.  That was pretty good.

So I couldn’t let another stab at this beauty go by without sharing.  Please, look past the bad photo and give this a try.  Of course, you could do any one part of it and have a great dessert.  Or just make the peanuts for a pre-dinner snack.

One Year Ago: Holly B’s Bruschetta
Two Years Ago: Pomodori Al Forno (this is one of my most requested appetizers)

Hot-Tin-Roof Sundaes
Adapted from Gourmet
6 to 8 servings

In my experience, this recipe makes way more chocolate sauce than you will need for the sundaes.  This is not a terrible problem to have.  However, if you make it in advance and are reheating it, don’t reheat the whole portion at once.  Just scoop out as much as you will need and rewarm that portion.

Chocolate-Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% cocoa), chopped

Ice Cream
3 cups reduced-fat milk (2%)
12 tbsp. cocoa nibs, divided
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. light corn syrup
3 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1½ cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Pinch of kosher salt
Chile-Lime Peanuts (recipe follows)

For Chocolate Sauce:
Stir first 4 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing down pan sides with wet pastry brush.  Increase heat and boil until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add cream and butter (mixture will bubble up).  Stir until any caramel bits dissolve.  Stir in salt and vanilla.  Add chocolate; stir until melted.  (Can be made 1 week ahead.  Transfer sauce to medium bowl.  Cover and chill.  Rewarm before using.)

For Ice Cream:
Bring milk, 6 tablespoons cocoa nibs, sugar, and corn syrup just to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; cover.  Steep 20 minutes.

Whisk egg yolks and cornstarch in medium bowl until blended; gradually whisk in warm milk mixture.  Return custard to same saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and just begins to boil, 2 to 3 minutes.  Strain custard into large bowl; discard nibs.  Whisk in cream and salt.  Chill custard until cold.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to container; mix in remaining 6 tablespoons cocoa nibs.  Cover and freeze at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

For each sundae, place 2 scoops ice cream in a short tumbler; spoon warm sauce over.  Sprinkle with Chile-Lime Peanuts.

Chile-Lime Peanuts
Makes about 2 cups

2 cups raw Spanish peanuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
¾ tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Toss peanuts, olive oil, coarse kosher salt, and sugar in medium bowl to coat evenly.  Scrape mixture onto rimmed baking sheet.  Roast nuts until fragrant and beginning to darken, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Transfer nuts to large bowl.  Add lime juice, hot pepper sauce, and cayenne pepper; toss to coat.  Cool nuts completely.  (Can be made 1 week ahead.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator.)

Soup for a Hangover

September 14, 2010

(Note:  After I wrote about a corn pudding in my post about the Chard Tart, I got some email asking when I would be sharing that recipe.  It’s up now at Amazon Fresh.  Go check it out – it’s a new favorite!  Depending on when you read this, you may have to scroll down a bit on that page.)

Sometimes I have these moments when writing posts for my blog when I wonder, “Am I revealing too much here?”  A while ago, I wrote a post which included a story about drinking too much.  And here I am again with a suggestion for good food to eat when you have a hangover.  My last post was about the mixed emotions I have about my kids growing up and now a recipe that came after a night of overindulging.  Is that weird?

I know a lot of wonderful women, some mothers and some not, who love their beer/wine/cocktails.  I’m guessing if you stop by here often and have come to know a little about who I am, the fact that I love a good glass of wine or three will not be surprising to you.  Because I am vegetarian, because I really sincerely like healthy food, because I am in shape, and because I have a dedicated yoga practice, some people might assume that all I drink is vitamin water and freshly brewed tea.  But that is not the case.

Last Sunday night, I probably would have been fine if I had alternated vitamin water or freshly brewed tea with the I-lost-count-of-how-many-bottles of wine we had at our dinner party.  But I did not and I woke up feeling, um, not great.  I have kids who are really good sleepers but if there is one thing I can count on, it is that if I need them to sleep in a bit, they will wake up earlier than usual.  And then, they will need to be entertained.  And fed.  The nerve.

In this particular instance, Randy was worse off than I was, so I took the boys out of the house and attempted to run them in the rain.  This is a pretty standard activity for a weekend day but in this case, I was also trying to insure that they would take a nap.  As I revealed in my last drinking post, I tend to feel worse as the day wears on.  Last Monday was no exception.  I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t have to cook that night and could just lie still for a few hours while the boys napped.

But I happened to pick up my already much-loved copy of Plenty while on my back and without searching found this recipe for Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup.  Like most people, what I want to eat when I have a hangover is a huge plate of greasy eggs and hashbrowns.  With a side of Tabasco.  At the same time, when I have a hangover, I feel -well, puffy.  I want grease but I need something really healthy and light.  In this instance, because I felt particularly bad, I wanted something comforting.  I also wanted something to show for myself after wasting a perfectly good holiday (Labor Day) doing basically nothing.

I had everything on hand for this soup and it came together beautifully.  Now, to keep it from essentially tasting like savory Cream of Wheat (not that there is anything wrong with that), I added some texture with some small cooked pasta that I had in my refrigerator.  I prefer something to chew on in my soup so I loved the noodles in there.  I also thought chickpeas would be a great addition but opted to keep it simple and close to the original recipe.  The soup thickens as it sits so you will want to thin it with some water if you make it in advance.  I would also recommend seasoning repeatedly throughout the process because it needs a lot of salt.  After eating this soup and a salad for dinner and a good night’s sleep, I felt like a new person the next day.

One Year Ago: Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in Gingersnap Crust
Two Years Ago: Chantarelle and Corn Risotto with Fresh Thyme and Basil

Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 4-6

Olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
6 cups water, plus more for thinning if necessary
1½ tbsp. sugar
1 cup semolina
1 cup cooked pasta
Juice of 1 lemon
Greek yogurt (for garnish)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put a medium soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onion and celery along with a good pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, and half the cilantro.  Sauté until the onion is golden and soft and the mixture is very fragrant, about another 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and the tomatoes; cook for another minute.  Pour in the water and sprinkle in the sugar and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Next, add the semolina to the simmering soup in a slow steady stream as you whisk vigorously.  Keep on cooking for 10 minutes whisking occasionally to avoid lumps.  Add the pasta and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Before serving, add more water if the soup is too thick for your liking.  Ladle into bowls and spoon yogurt on top.  Garnish with the remaining cilantro.


September 9, 2010

Yesterday was a big one in our house.  It was Graham’s first day of kindergarten.

When he was an infant, I actually imagined this day.  At that time, I could not ever see myself being apart from him for a whole day.  I could not imagine a day when I would put him on a bus and into the care of a bus driver, a teacher, and school children – all of whom would be strangers.  I could not believe he would ever be a big boy because, as we all know, it is big boys (and girls) who go to kindergarten.

Having children is complicated.  You don’t go from those confusing and highly emotional days of your child being an infant to getting on the school bus at age 5¾ overnight.  There are many transitions, many milestones, many ups and downs, and in our case, another child added to the family along the way.  There are babysitters, play groups, and preschools that prepare you for the separation and for the school journey.  There are also things like the terrible two’s or three’s or even four’s which make it very clear that having your child in the care of someone else might be a very good thing for a time.

This is not Graham’s first time getting on a school bus.  He spent all last year in an afternoon developmental preschool and came home four days a week on a bus.  I walked through the halls of a real live public school (as opposed to his regular little kid preschool) with him on those days trying to stay out of the way of the 5th graders running out the door for recess.  I got a real taste for what kindergarten would be for him.

So, I figured I was ready.  I didn’t think that I would be an emotional wreck sending him off on his first day.  Because he is such an easygoing child, I knew that he would have a relatively easy time with this next step in his life.  He did say to me, “I might be a little bit scared so I will give you a hug”, which very nearly broke my heart.  When the time came and the little bus came barreling down our street, chaos overtook emotion.  It was pouring down rain and I was trying to keep both Spencer and Graham dry with one umbrella.  I had to muscle myself, Graham, Spencer, and the umbrella on the bus conscious all the while of the long line of cars waiting for us to do so.  I was too fixated on getting Graham’s ancient seatbelt buckled and keeping Spencer from jumping on the seats to feel emotional.  For his part, Graham was so thrilled that the kid across the aisle from him had the same Spiderman backpack! that he just waved me off.  Once off the bus, we gave a quick wave and then headed around our to our car so I could drive Spencer to school.

Dropping my younger son off, same preschool but different classroom, is where I started to feel the tingle in my nose and the pressure in my throat.  Spencer is my less snuggly child but he likes a big hug before I leave him there.  He, more than Graham, seemed to sense a change.  That his days of the extremely nuturing Green Room had given way to the greater expectations of the Orange Room and he was reluctant to let me go.

The tears actually came once home and while sorting through their clothes.  I was pulling tags off their new things and sorting through the things that no longer fit.  Graham’s size 5T things made their way to rest a year in Spencer’s closet while Spencer’s 3T things went into a bag for a friend.  I pulled out a certain shirt, nothing special – just blue with white stripes – and that was when I started crying.  I swear it was yesterday that we bought that shirt for Graham.  We were in Sun Valley with my family.  There was a great sale at one of the kids’ clothing stores and we bought it for him even though it was the size that he was almost growing out of, and it was short sleeved, and the summer was ending.  I was pregnant at the time, about to find out the sex of that second baby and I thought, “Maybe it will be a boy and he can wear this shirt even if Graham never gets a chance to before cold weather sets in.”

Graham did wear that shirt a few times and I did have another boy who did wear that shirt and now that shirt is too small.  I wasn’t crying just in a “where did the time go?” kind of way but in a “while I have been yelling at my kids to put their shoes on and hustling them out the door and rushing from place to place and not taking them to the park enough and threatening them with no dessert if they don’t finish their dinner, they have outgrown this shirt” kind of way.

Every mother I know feels some degree of this failing.  Having children is difficult, draining.  Joyful of course too.  I am forever trying to be more present in the joy than in the challenges.  I could go on and on in this post talking about the unique challenges that Graham presents but instead I will tell you that I am very proud of him.  He had a wonderful first day.  He ate all of his lunch, he loved the bus, he played basketball at recess, and he went to bed early.

(All three boys in their “Daddy shirts”.)

Worth Another Mention

September 7, 2010

Long ago, back when the only people who were reading this blog were my husband and my brother, I posted the recipe for these squash.  Because I make them all summer long, because I have streamlined the recipe since the last post, and because, unless you are my husband or my brother, you didn’t read about them the first time, I decided to talk about them again.  (That is 5 commas!)  Also, the original post has a truly terrible photograph and you, the Dana Treat reader, deserve better.

I have made these little guys more than almost anything else in my cooking life.  I used to follow the recipe to the letter but in the past year or so, I haven’t bothered looking at the book and I like how mine have turned out.  A lot.  So does everyone I make them for.  I have made them for gatherings large and small and they always get a lot of attention.  They are adorable of course, but the flavor is surprisingly sophisticated.  A little bit of curry powder is the thing that makes you go hmmmm.

The recipe originally called for a more-complex-than-necessary layering within each squash and also suggested that you bake the filled and finished product.  This summer I decided to do away with the baking step and just serve them room temperature.  They are delicious both ways.  The original recipe also instructed you to cook the “hats” along with the bodies and replace them before serving.  Cute but too much trouble.  And if you are making 30 of them, as I have done for parties, I can’t be bothered to keep track of which hat goes with which body.

I have made these with larger (think tennis ball) squash and with these little ones which are closer to golf balls.  I’ve served them standing upright as you see here and I’ve also served them on their sides with the filling nestled on top.  Are you sensing a theme here?  Make these.  They are good.

One Year Ago:  Thai Green Curry

Summer Squash Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint
Inspired by The Paris Cookbook
Serves about 8

If presentation is important to you and you want all the squash standing upright, slice a thin layer off the bottom of each one.

2 lbs. small round zucchini or other summer squash
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into very small dice
Kosher salt
1 tsp. curry powder
About 5 ounces soft goat cheese such as Montrachet
4 tbsp. fresh mint, cut into fine ribbons plus extra for garnish

Cut the tops off the zucchini.  Using a small melon baller, carefully scoop out the insides of the squashes.  Finely chop the pulp and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the squash shells (and their tops if you want) in the water.  Cook for about 3 minutes and then drain.  Finely chop the pulp from the squash and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until just soft and not brown, then add the squash pulp and the curry powder.  Cook until the pulp is soft and the whole mixture is very fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the mint.  Allow to cool slightly.

Line the squashes up on a serving platter.  Spoon about a teaspoon of goat cheese into each one.  (The amount will depend on the size of your squashes.)  Top with enough of the curry mixture to fill the squash shell.  If you would like, top with another dot of goat cheese and garnish with the mint.

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