Friday, August 31, 2012

Tomato and Zucchini Pie | Not-so-original-but-oh-so-good

It seems that everywhere I've looked this past week or two I found yet another version of a tomato pie -- with corn, with bacon, with ricotta, with spinach, with cheddar, with mozzarella. They all sound wonderful.

I'm up to my earballs in tomatoes and I've canned many a pint (perfect for a twosome) of a roasted tomato sauce and eaten many a tomato sandwich. (Or "sammich" as my friend insists on saying.)

Still, I wanted to find new and different ways of using the tomatoes that are ripening faster than I can pick 'em.

Although I've been wanting to make a tomato pie for some time, I avoided it, mostly because I knew I'd end up eating it myself. (Unfortunately, I don't live with a tomato lover! Doesn't he know we call tomatoes "love apples"?)

But I wanted to make one so much I decided to go ahead and portion myself out slices and freeze them for quick lunches for a taste of summer later. And so I did.

So although it's not original, here's my tomato pie. What makes it special to me is that so much of it came from my back yard -- the veggies from my garden, the eggs from my neighbor, the basil from my back deck.

(If only I could {would} make puff pastry!)

Enough to make you feel like an authentic homesteader!

Tomato and Zucchini Pie
adapted from Pepperidge Farm
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 medium green onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
4 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced into rounds
2 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Unfold the pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll the pastry into about a 10 inch square. Snip the corner to make a circle. Press the pastry into a 9 inch pie pan and fold the excess edges under to make a rim.
Layer the cheeses, onions and herbs in the pan. Arrange the zucchini and tomatoes slices in concentric circles on top.
Beat the eggs, half-and-half and black pepper in a medium bowl with a whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until set.  Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Cook's Note:  Although the concentric circles of veggies looked very pretty, actually cutting the pie into pretty wedges wasn't so.  Next time I'll chop most of the vegetables and make a pretty arrangement of just a few slices on top -- just for pretty.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Apologies to Julia Child (And Lessons Learned)

Dear Julia,

So sorry I missed the big party.  Looked like quite the celebration! I meant to come, but life got in the way, Blogger has been giving me fits, and, well, I just couldn't make it.  There were so many lovely tributes I read, though, I knew you wouldn't miss my not being there.

Still, your 100th birthday!  That sure is something. I was remiss in not returning my RSVP.

I loved watching your shows, loved reading your cookbooks.  You made me believe that what I always thought was "fancy" cooking really was not only quite doable, but also quite fun.  And you seemed so approachable.  Even though I know you must have had high standards, you always seemed to have plenty of room for mistakes.

And despite the fact that you were very tall and had a unique voice, you were very feminine, not in a girly-girly way but in a very womanly way.

I feel I would have admired you as much in person as I do from a distance.  I would have loved to be at a dinner table (or the kitchen) with you. From what I've read, you were not only a wonderful cook and teacher, but a witty conversationalist, well-read and opinionated and blessed with a wonderful sense of humor, able to laugh at yourself.

If I had made it to the party on time, I would have wanted to tell you what I've learned from you, and it's not all cooking:
  • It's never too late. You didn't start really cooking until you were in your thirties; didn't start your first TV show until you were 50.  And your "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was years in the making. As I approach (another!) decade birthday, I am heartened to know that I can still believe there's time to do the things I want.
  • There's nothing like a good man.  I love Mr. Rosemary to pieces. (Even when we irritate each other! He calls our disagreements "spatulas.")  From what I've had glimpses of, you were very much in love with your Paul, on every level.  It reminds me very much of my aunt, the one who inspired me to cook.  Like you she married later than most, never had children, but shared a love of food and travel and the finer things in life with her husband, who adored her.  And she him.
  • There's also nothing like a good knife. I have a couple really good knives; most of them are so-so. But I remember you every time I have recently sharpened my best knife and use it.
  • One good thing leads to another. Your delight in good knives was what led you to one of your greatest friendships -- with Avis DeVoto -- and your connection to getting your work published. I devoured, "As Always, Julia."
  • Letter writing is a good thing. Your letters back-and-forth to Avis are simply delightful. A collection of your e-mails and tweets would not have been the same.
  • It's okay to make mistakes. Your famous line about dropping the lamb when you're alone in the kitchen ("Who's to know?") always makes me smile.
  • Be flexible.  It's good to have a plan, but you need to be able to shift gears if the situation changes, or you run out of cream.
  • Be passionate and persistent. Whether in marriage, friendship, or cooking, nothing really great comes of half-hearted efforts.
  • Butter is good.  All things in moderation is a great motto.  Who can not smell butter melting and not know good things are coming?
  • So is bourbon. The fact that you enjoyed wine and liquor, either cooking or imbibing, wasn't a secret. Nor was the fact that you didn't think much of my favorite cuisine, Italian, especially when compared to French  (You thought  Italians just shopped well.) I love the story Mary Ann Esposito tells of the time you cooked with her on her show making fritattas and omelets side by side. When Mary Ann asked what you would  have added to the fritatta, you said, "Bourbon."  (I prefer scotch.)
The hoopla has died down now, and I think it was a wonderful celebration. Thank you for sharing your love of cooking, your love of life. It's infectious, just like your laugh.



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fire and Ice | Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad

There are few  things that scream "August!" more loudly than corn and tomatoes.  They're ripe and plentiful and at their absolute best at this time of year.  Is there anyone who doesn't love biting into a freshly cooked ear of corn?  (Excluding those wearing braces on their teeth.)

For me, the same goes for tomatoes. While I was picking the first of my new tomatoes in the garden the other day, I really just wanted to bite into one right then and there, no salt required. Always reminds me of the time my younger sister and I  -- at about the ages of  5 and 7 --  snuck off with a peck basket of tomatoes my mother had just bought at a farmer's stand that day and ate nearly half of it ourselves.  We were a bit sick, but my mother was so amazed, she shook her head in awe more than she was angry with us.

Although I can exercise better restraint these days, I still relish the freshness of corn and tomatoes. Only lately have I started to enjoy grilled corn, either on the gas grill or on a gas stove burner flame or from an outdoor campfire. And I'll eat a tomato hot or cold, peeled or seed, or not.  Just love 'em.  Any kind.  Any size. The combination of the roasted corn with tomatoes and cucumbers and jalapeno really needs no more than a drizzle of olive oil and a generous squeeze of lime.  But the addition of smoked paprika adds a nice bit of spice to this super combination.

 I obviously like to combine corn with other veggies (and fruit!) in a salad because I've done it a time or two before.  The corn and blueberry combo above was from a previous post, as was this corn and red pepper salad.  It's the jalapeno, though, that makes all three of these special.  (And the lime juice.  And th cilantro.)

Joy the Baker's salad included bacon and avocado, which I know would be deliciously perfect.  And she made it as filling for a a lettuce wrap.

I have to admit:  I've never been much of a cilantro fan, but I grew some this year and have begun to love it (I also grew jalapeno peppers for the first time this year.)  And I also have to admit it, along with the smoked paprika, the cilantro was the perfect finish to this fire and ice salad. Come to think of it, though, wouldn't cumin be nice?

Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad
makes about 4 cups of salad
adapted from Joy the Baker
3 ears of roasted corn
1 or 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (for as much heat as you want) and minced
juice of one lime
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
chili powder
smoked paprika
fresh cilantro

Roast the corn your favorite way.  (I used the gas grill, placing ears of corn still in their husks and soaked in water for several hours.)  Let cool before husking and removing the corn from the cob.

Combine the corn with the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and jalapeno in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the juice of a whole lime over all and drizzle with olive oil.  Add chili powder, paprika (or cumin) to taste and toss.  Taste and adjust as you like. Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over all and serve.