Food Friday: Summer Bounty

We are suddenly overwhelmed by the burgeoning of our half dozen tomato plants. We planted them early in May in the raised garden bed on the side of the house, where they would get lots of afternoon sun. We also planted a row of zinnia seedlings in the front, and another line of hollyhocks behind them, thinking the hollyhocks would provide a colorful background wall, planning ahead for my Instagram feed. We hadn’t planned on Nature running its own headstrong course.

Because of the serendipity of a week of rain, good soil, an attentive neighbor who watered when we were out of town, and a practically weedless growing environment, the tomatoes and the flowers are now enormous. In the two months since they were planted, the tomatoes have spread their wings and fully occupied the small enclosed space. There seems to be competition among the plants to see which can grown the tallest first.

And then there are the tomatoes. The tomatoes are coming in waves. In spurts, in drips, in rivulets, and in quick succession. I promise you, all I did was go out and coo at them a couple of times a week, and now they are the sorcerer’s apprentice of fruit. We have a bowl full of crimson orbs on the kitchen counter, another six or seven resting on the window sill as they ripen, and a bulging paper bag waiting to be delivered next door.

I thought we overplanted last year, when we had tomatoes, beans, peppers and basil all elbowing for space. This year the basil farm lives on the back porch, and we gave up on peppers and beans altogether. The tomatoes are rushing to the sea. The tomato cages are listing under their weight. Now it is time to get practical in the kitchen.

Yesterday I had my first tomato sandwich of the season, thinking fondly of Harriet M. Welsch, (a.k.a Harriet the Spy) the eleven-year-old snoop and scribe who carried a tomato sandwich to school every day. Living below the Mason Dixon Line as I do, I am supposed to slather on the Duke’s mayonnaise – but Hellmann’s is what was on hand. I dusted the slices of juicy tomato with a little Maldon salt and some black pepper and enclosed all that deliciousness between two slices of Pepperidge Farm bread. The result: nectar of the gods. And today I will repeat the process. But that only uses up one tomato. I need to think exponentially.

The eager beavers at Food52 have gone a wee bit overboard, I think, with their tomato sandwich variations: https://food52.com/blog/17722-the-be-all-end-all-tomato-sandwich-4-ways-we-couldn-t-leave-it-alone/

Thursday night we had Tomato Pie.
https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/heirloom-tomato-pie/

https://www.saveur.com/southern-tomato-pie-recipe/

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/228381/summer-tomato-pie/

On Friday night, which is Pizza Night, we will be grilling some Big Love Pizzas. The dough is rising in a big bowl, and there is plenty of basil wafting in the breeze on the back porch.

Big Love Pizzas


1 pound tomatoes, you can eyeball this, depending on how many people you are feeding – because if you need more, you know where to go.
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

Pizza dough
Flour, for dusting
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, torn
Pepperoni
Garlic – at least 1 clove for each pie

Seed and chop tomatoes

Oil and then heat up the grill – we used a gas grill which has 3 bars, using the 2 outside bars. The fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds. We lowered the heat once the dough was on the grill.

Divide the pizza dough into 2 and roll it out.
Oil the side that goes on the grill.
Toss with care onto the grill.
Grill for 2 to 3 minutes and then flip with tongs.
Cover the cooked surface with tomatoes, garlic, pepperoni and mozzarella, drizzling it with a little oil.

Close the top of the grill to let the cheese melt.
The dough will rise, and when you start to smell burnt bread it is time to take it off the grill, about 3 minutes.

Add the roughly chopped basil just before serving.

Experience matters. We discovered that it is easier to combine the oil and garlic and tomatoes in a bowl first and then distribute that mixture on the pie. Lots of burned fingers resulted when putting all the ingredients on by hand.

And since it is Friday night, a celebratory glass of wine, please.

Don’t forget you can always whip up a batch of bruschetta, or make a panzanella salad, too. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/classic-panzanella-393403.

We seem to have made an initial dent in our ever-growing stash of tomatoes. It looks like it is going to be a nice, long summer of fine eating.

“In this world of uncertainty and woe, one thing remains unchanged: Fresh, canned, pureed, dried, salted, sliced, and served with sugar and cream, or pressed into juice, the tomato is reliable, friendly, and delicious. We would be nothing without it.”
– Laurie Colwin

Food Friday: Metropolitan Ice Creams

It is shaping up to be a hot summer. Which is a good thing. It gives us something to reflect upon fondly when we are scraping ice off our windshields in February. Mr. Friday and I will remember the week we just spent vacationing in New York City, where the heat was hellish, the sidewalks were soft and sticky, and there was an endless parade of cooling, delicious summer ice creams forever strutting before us, beckoning us, luring us with chilly, sweet siren songs. And as good tourists, we obliged by eating as much ice cream as we could.

July is National Ice Cream Month. Thus our gobbling up ice cream was not only good manners, it was patriotic. Since we missed this week’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory lap, I’m glad to say we celebrated the international competition of ice creams with gusto. Cautionary tale: since coming home, I have taken my plump little self back to the gym every damn day. But it was worth it.

On our first day in New York we ambled over to the west side, up on the High Line, and under the hulk of The Vessel, the new M.C. Esher-like landmark built for photo ops and tourist initiations to pedestrian challenges. https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/vessel The Vessel stands in the once industrial Hudson Yards, where Long Island railroad cars are stored before they make their return journey. Now there is a sleek urban mall with hideously expensive residences which rises above the trains, in a city that already has much of the world’s chic and pricey shopping. Take heart – not every shop is as tony as Neiman Marcus or Cartier. In the lower level you will find the bustling populist world of José Andrés’s Spain.

Our first steps into Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain fed us right into colorful whorl of people, murals, maps, small plates, hams, breads, wines, food cases, and this display of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I could not think of anything more divine than these cubic feet of frozen delight. For a more detailed description of this Iberian food paradise, please read Rachel Sugar’s New York Magazine piece: http://www.grubstreet.com/2019/03/jose-andres-mercado-little-spain-hudson-yards-nyc.html

I admire José Andrés’s World Central project where he and his people feed folks who have been stricken by natural disasters. His good work is a lesson to us all. And so I felt justified in supporting him by buying an extravagant ice cream sandwich – before meeting friends uptown for dinner. (Mr. Friday, in the meantime, scarfed down a large plate of paella, in case you wondered.)

Another day of walking the Museum Mile found us battling Stendhal Syndrome: an overwhelming, heart-stopping abundance of gawping and wonder. What can you do? Why not have a gelato or two? After a morning spent in the Planetarium, whizzing around the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and mingling with dinosaurs, the great blue whale and a few grizzly bears at the American Museum of Natural History, we strode across Central Park, and into the Mecca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked with the Egyptians and sallied into the American Wing to pay obeisance to my favorite painting, John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. https://www.metmuseum.org/en/art/collection/search/12127 The only thing to do after that humbling experience is to find ice cream. As the crush of humanity to get into The American Wing Café was unbearable, we perched on some uncomfortable chairs wedged into the Chinese porcelain collection in The Great Hall Balcony Café and spooned up some fortifying gelato. There must surely be a special place in heaven for the inventors of ice cream! Grazie molto!

On our last night we got gussied up and strolled around the Lincoln Center complex, sad that we had not booked tickets for My Fair Lady. Instead we watched little girls in tulle tutus chasing each other around the spouting fountain, while member of various orchestras rushed by, clad in black, hauling their instruments across the marble plaza. Then we ambled north to our restaurant, Café Luxembourg, for a final night of cosmopolitan living. I had a French 75 cocktail, which is always best when served on a silver tray by an obliging waiter.

Mr. Friday had Wellfleet oysters and classic moules frites; I had steak frites, because there was not going to be any frite sharing, I can promise you. But we did split an adorable serving of profiteroles, which were made with ice cream, and not the crème pâtissière we had expected, and it was a sweet and cool way to end our vacation. Tired and happy, heady with wine and frites and sweets. We loved New York.

(And thank you very much, Chef Andrés, for this helpful culinary hint:”Buy the best quality sorbet or ice cream from a local ice-cream maker. It’s the perfect ending.”)

“What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”
― P.G. Wodehouse

Food Friday: Road Trip!

It’s time to claim your fair share of the back seat. Clamber in, and be ready for quality family time. You are going to get along with your brother and no, you cannot roll the window down again. It is too stinking hot. We will get there when we get there, and not a moment sooner. Did you go to the bathroom? Do you have a book from your summer reading list? Batteries charged? Let’s go!

When I was a child we seemed to spend every summer driving up and down the eastern seaboard visiting Civil War battlefields. My father was an elementary school teacher, and had the summers off, and we were his malleable minds. Every moment was a teaching opportunity. We were grist for his mill. The best time he has was spent at the dining room table, unfurling the AAA map, plotting our routes, and showing us everything that we would be seeing. He would have loved Google Maps!

My mother was a complete bluestocking. Everything one needs to know could be learned from reading a book. Somewhere she had developed a romantic notion that picnic lunches were homemade fried chicken, hard boiled eggs and brownies, with Dixie cups of lemonade from the Skotch Kooler to wash it all down. The lunch was best when packed in shoe boxes, everything wrapped in crinkly, unmanageable waxed paper. The March girls must have had a fried chicken picnic luncheon with the Lawrence boy once, passing little paper twists of salt and pepper for the eggs. I haven’t been able to find the literary precedent. But that is what my mother thought was a good meal for a family vacation.

But when you were driving to Gettysburg from Connecticut, the brownie was gone before you reached New Jersey. The waxed paper was probably tasting delicious along about Princeton. We couldn’t pull off the interstate into a handy dandy McDonald’s then. The closest we came to fast food was an elegant evening meal at a Howard Johnson’s. Ah. Peppermint stick ice cream. Divine.

My own children fared a little better. They had McDonald’s. And an obsessive compulsive mother who loved all those cute little carcinogenic plastic boxes for Cheerios, Capri Sun juice pouches, yogurt in tubes, string cheese sticks, apples, oranges and grapes. I must have been like Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen, with a trail of plastic recyclables following us at all times.

Things have gotten better here in the twenty-first century. We now have adorable containers that won’t kill us – I am a big fan of stainless Bento boxes. Mom is laughing at me, for using nice, safe brown, waxed-paper bags. And the snack foods are better, and easier to assemble. I won’t be sweating away in an un-air conditioned kitchen, frying up a batch of homemade fried chicken the night before our trip, and I reluctantly toss those shoe boxes into the recycling bin instead of creatively repurposing them as adorable little lunch boxes. I still call the window seat, though.

To pack up in cunning containers:
Popcorn – pop your own for heaven’s sake
Protein bars – but I won’t tell if you toss in a couple of Snickers bars
Bananas – be sure to get rid of the peels ASAP! Nothing worse than old banana smell in your car!
Carrots – excellent nutrition, easy to hurl at your brother
Grapes – ditto
Peanut butter crackers – Ritz and Peter Pan, simplicity itself
Pistachios – get the red ones and see whose fingers get the most disgusting
Trail mix – you can do this yourself, too
https://food52.com/blog/22624-how-to-make-a-trail-mix
Pretzels
Cheerios – tried and true!
Slim Jims – you must have a disgusting boy in that car
Cheetos – because you are on vacation
Cookies – because you know you want some yourself
https://food52.com/recipes/78188-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookies
Reusable, leakproof water bottles – PBA free, of course

Civil War battlefield alternatives:
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/8543

https://www.ourstate.com/local-landmark-the-worlds-largest-frying-pan/

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2006404_2006095_2006204,00.html

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2006404_2006095_2006026,00.html

https://www.littlethings.com/weird-roadside-attractions-america/6

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
― Mark Twain

Drive carefully!

Food Friday: Farmers’ Markets

Here we are on the very first day of summer! It starts at 11:54 AM EDT today, Friday, June 21, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Are you getting ready to celebrate? School is out, the summer reading list is varied and full of challenges and delights, the shady front porch beckons with its welcoming wicker chairs and the creaky glider. Tomorrow is Saturday, a day chock-full of potential. Who wants to sleep late when it is summer vacation, and the farmers’ markets are in full swing and in all their glory?

Some of you might be lucky enough to live just a stroll or a bike ride away from the market. We have to drive about ten minutes. Last week we decided to have a Saturday road trip, and we drove an hour to try out another town’s market. There is nothing like a little Saturday car ride, with NPR playing softly in the background, as we drove in the sunshine over bridges, past farms and miles of car dealerships, tooling through little towns and hamlets. After one stop for coffee and a Diet Coke, we arrived.

I don’t care if it is 8:30 in the morning, or 3:00 in the afternoon, those wretched kettle corn vendors always stop me in my tracks. Popcorn is such a miracle and a delight, and kettle corn is insidious and always irresistible. Here is my money, give me some fillings, please. This fool soon parted with her cash, and then had the necessary energy required to walk around the couple of dozen white tents nestled under a grove of large oak trees. In the tents were tempting fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts, live geese and bunnies, organic eggs, jewelry, seafood, and coffees. There was even a live music performance, with a little family jug band: I bet holidays at their house are raucous and joyous events!

We wandered around for a while, saying hello to the many dogs who were behaving so nicely. I fear that Luke the wonder dog might have a little too much energy for such a public outing. The other dogs all seemed inured to the passing variety of people and dogs. There were few surprises for these farmers’ market habitués, as they tagged along with their yoga pants-clad people. An ancient, white-muzzled black lab waddled after its plump, madras shorts-wearing folks. A young springer spaniel struggled to contain himself on a short pink and green leash with its young Lilly Pulitzer family. A mutt (rather like Luke) was sartorial in a pink bandana; nothing makes a dog look more jaunty, I think.

Luke would have leapt at the opportunity to gambol with his fellow dogs, scarfing spilled kettle corn, hoovering up dropped sausage biscuits, and sniffing appreciatively at little girls who walked by with ice cream cones, held temptingly low to the ground. Poor thing. Don’t tell him what he missed.

We stood in one line that snaked out of a tent and around an oak tree for some ears of corn and heirloom tomatoes. Then we found the second longest line for some new potatoes. The farmer told us as he manipulated the digital scale and calculator that he had dug the potatoes on Thursday afternoon. Pretty amazing when there is no middle man! While waiting our turn to pay we admired some produce that was unusual for us – golden beets! Gorgeous! To describe them as jewel-like is not excessively florid.

And then we got in the car, hoping that it was time for Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, as we turned toward Luke and home. We could have saved a couple of hours and just buzzed over to the grocery store to make our produce purchases, but it was a worthwhile adventure to get out and meet the folks who raise and grow and dig our food. It was a sunny beginning to summer.

Now it’s your turn. Go out to your farmers’ market tomorrow and buy some kettle corn, some home-churned ice cream and some heirloom tomatoes. Pat some dogs. And maybe you’ll try one of these recipes for those beauteous golden beets. Happy summer!

https://food52.com/recipes/26822-roasted-golden-beets

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes-menus/our-unbeatable-beet-recipes-gallery

https://www.marthastewart.com/314119/golden-beet-salad

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Food Friday: Remembering Betsy Ross on Flag Day

I guess I was actually thinking about Barbara Fritchie. I am forgetting my fifth grade history lessons. Barbara Fritchie, was from Frederick, and the Whittier poem about her is from the Civil War. Betsy Ross, equally sentimentalized and linked to our nation’s flag, was from Philadelphia, where she sewed the first flag, the Stars and Stripes, in 1776. Or maybe 1777. History is a little vague about this Colonial American legend.Move to Trash

I remember reading a fifth grade-level bio about Betsy Ross, where she smartly showed George Washington (who came to her upholstery shop, to personally discuss the flag situation with her) the beauty and economy of motion required to make a five-pointed star, when he and Congress had wanted six-point stars. It was easy to trim a five-pointer out of fabric, which she demonstrated with aplomb. I suppose it is a daydream worthy of a hardworking seamstress. http://historicphiladelphia.org/betsy-ross-house/what-to-see/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw6IfoBRCiARIsAF6q06u-QI74ao7rqysARw6DSqRL6XLQhkQxM2mrbOAdTCxaQlEB2caAhkEaAt0BEALw_wcB

Flag Day commemorates the day that the United States adopted this flag design (maybe sewn by Betsy Ross – her grandchildren waited 100 years before making their claims on the flag’s origins) on June 14, 1777. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. And so it goes.

I have decorated our window boxes and the pots of unhappy geraniums on the front porch with lots of little American flags. I am waiting for the Fourth of July before I break out the bunting and flag swags. I am also waiting until the Fourth rolls around before I start to bake (or assemble) labor intensive flag-inspired dishes. I think Betsy Ross would agree with me – speed and efficiency are required. And so, instead, tonight Mr. Friday and I will indulge in a couple of Betsy Ross-inspired cocktails. But you might want to be a little splashier with your patriotic gestures, so here are a couple of red, white and blue recipes to get you started.

This first recipe is pretty easy, and colorful. But HUGE! If you are having a neighborhood Flag Day Fete it will be perfect. You can substitute whipped cream or vanilla pudding for the custard. Vanilla ice cream works, too. It all depends on what kind of Friday you have had. Simplify!

Betsy Ross’ Berries
INGREDIENTS
3 pints cleaned raspberries
3 pints cleaned blueberries
Creamy Custard Sauce

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In large saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, sale and milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil; stir and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir a little cooked custard mixture into 4 beaten eggs; return eggs to saucepan; stir well to blend thoroughly. Stir in sour cream and vanilla; blend well. Remove custard to medium bowl, cover and refrigerate until serving. Makes 3 cups.

In large bowl, gently mix together both berries. Portion about 1/2-3/4 cup berries into individual serving dishes; top each serving with about 1/4 cup Creamy Custard Sauce. Makes 12-16 servings.

http://alfafarmers.org/local-flavor/recipe-results/search&keywords=creamy+custard+sauce/

Patriotic Angel Food Cake
https://aclassictwist.com/angel-food-cake-with-coconut-whipped-cream-and-berries/

The Classic Fourth of July Sheet Cake
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/flag-cake-recipe-1941624

Betsy Ross Burgers – of course!
https://www.farmergirlmeats.com/blog/recipes/post/betsy-ross-burgers

Our Flag Day option:
Betsy Ross Cocktail

2 ounces Cognac
3/4 ounce Ruby Port
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Grated nutmeg, as garnish

Shake with ice.

Yumsters.

There is another cocktail recipe from Epicurious that calls for a raw egg yolk. Your call – but I am not inclined to try that one. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/betsy-ross-200071

Betsy Ross (and Barbara Fritchie), we salute you!

‘“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,

But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word:

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.’

-John Greenleaf Whittier

Food Friday: Green Garlic

Are you enjoying the bounty of spring vegetables and fruits? Are you rhapsodizing poetical as you cavort around the farmers’ market, gazing affectionately on new asparagus, young beans, tender strawberries and brilliant, jewel-like radishes? Have you found your way yet to the shrine of green garlic? You must search until you have achieved the bliss that comes with spring and young garlic.

There are some notable folk who do not enjoy garlic, and keep it off their menus and out of their kitchens, these poor sad, misguided creatures. The Queen, for one, cannot abide garlic. Which is why, perhaps, that at the grand state dinner at Buckingham Palace this week, this was the menu: steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse, asparagus spears and chervil sauce, followed by the meat course of Windsor lamb with herb stuffing, spring vegetables and a port sauce. There were no double cheeseburgers. There was no shrimp scampi. It looked as it it was delightfully bland mélange of locally raised meat and produce, without a trace amount of garlic.

Enjoy the tender, young green garlic while you can. It is deelightful. And it is not like the truculent garlic we depend on in the winter to get us through the long cold nights without Jon Snow. We need that strong, reassuring garlic in our spaghetti sauces and our beef bourguignons and garlic roasted pork chops with winter vegetables. We need heaps of garlic in the winter. But now, as we trip into summer, something lighter and more merry is in keeping. Something like the smell of onion grass when the lawn has just been mowed. Something ineffable, like the scent of warm tomatoes as you walk past the tomato patch, sneaking a peek at the burgeoning zinnias, whispering encouragement to the nascent sunflowers. We are not coping with the oppressing heat of summer just yet. Our dog still likes lying in a liquid puddle of buttery sunlight. We are enjoying the emergence of fireflies. Life is good.

I, for one, could live on this garlic bread. My apologies to Her Majesty. This is sheer genius. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inx8GlcdIOw

https://www.thekitchn.com/jump-into-spring-with-green-garlic-lets-try-something-new-218135

I expect that this recipe will send out plenty of scented warnings, so any errant Windor-Mountbattens who are wandering by my house will keep on their royal way: https://www.marthastewart.com/341743/pasta-with-three-kinds-of-garlic Thank you, Martha.

And in case you want to explore more garlic avenues all year long, here is a handy dandy garlic cheat sheet: https://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/ultimate-garlic-cheat-sheet-which-type-garlic-goes-best-with-what-0156924/

“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime…Please, treat your garlic with respect…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
― Anthony Bourdain

Food Friday: Broccoli

Fun facts to know and tell: broccoli has as much calcium, by weight, as milk. And yet, it is a much livelier color, especially after you steam it. With only three more weeks until summer officially starts, you should be working on your repertoire of simple summer foods that are tasty and nutritious, and won’t keep you in the kitchen a moment longer than is necessary.

You can steam broccoli in five minutes. Which leaves you plenty of time to go back to streaming Fleabag. Fact #2: the longer you steam broccoli, the more nutrients you lose. Which means we shouldn’t follow our mothers’ rules for boiling broccoli into submission. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=9

You can grill it, too. Which will take it outdoors. In our house, cooking outdoors means that Mr. Friday takes over the cooking responsibilities. Grilled and roasted broccoli are his new passions. The smarties at Bon Appétit have a recipe that he just loves for steak and roasted broccoli: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pan-roasted-steak-with-crispy-broccoli. He is also a sucker for doing steak indoors in a cast iron pan these days. I have found him reading recipes online, which he enthusiastically abandons in favor of his innate instincts about these matters. And mostly he pulls off his experiments, for which I applaud him. I do my fair share, washing up behind him. He generates a lot of dirty pots and pans in his creative cooking frenzies.

Mr. Friday’s Spicy Hot Grilled Broccoli

INGREDIENTS (Mr. Friday eyeballs all of these measurements, and you should, too.)
3 – 4 crowns fresh broccoli
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 – 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 tablespoon Maldon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Clean the broccoli and remove from the stalks. Put broccoli in large bowl and add olive oil. Stir lightly to coat the broccoli with oil. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Stir again.

Set the grill temp to high. Use a sheet of aluminum foil or we have a perforated pan for grilling vegetables. Lay the foil (or pan) on the grill, and spread the broccoli. Close the grill lid, and cook at high heat for 8-10 minutes. Voilà! C’est bon!

When they were little it was hard to persuade our children to eat broccoli. They had a sixth sense about avoiding steamed broccoli, but sometimes we could persuade them to try it with a tasty side of ranch dressing. They are too sophisticated now to fall for bottled salad dressing, but I bet they would try these dips:

Basic Vinaigrette
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oi
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Maldon salt
Pepper

Combine the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in an old mayo jar. Cover and shake to dissolve the salt. Add the olive oil and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning.Keep in the fridge for other salad and vegetable needs.

Greek Tzatziki
Mix Greek yogurt with olive oil, chopped cucumber, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Wowser.

Even Martha weighs in with a simple honey mustard dip for raw vegetables: https://www.marthastewart.com/339751/vegetables-with-honey-mustard-dip

And these recipes are not just for the younger set, they are also good for cocktail hours, when you are having a cold drink with friends and want to lessen your existential angst and ward off cancer. The virtue of broccoli!

“Listen to your broccoli and it will tell you how to eat it.”
― Anne Lamott

Food Friday: Memorial Day Salads

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Hurrah! We can all use a three-day weekend to prepare for summer. It’s time to pull out the white shoes, iron linen dresses, paint the Adirondack chairs, get the boat in the water and head to the beach. There is going to be a lot to do! Some of us are even going to entertain. I’ve strung the lights on the back porch, and have already seen some fireflies return the compliment. Summer is almost upon us!

I love ritual celebrations. I love small town parades. Once, back in his misspent youth, Mr. Friday and his chums had a martini stand at the annual Memorial Day Parade. And back in those days, when one could drink with impunity before noon, we sat in lawn chairs with martinis in hand, and cheered as the Scouts, the school marching bands, the firefighters, some vintage cars, town officials and proud veterans paraded past us. And then we went to a Memorial Day cookout in a park, under the trees, on the river. It was a warm and sunny day, as most happy hazy memories tend to be.

There are many ways to have a Memorial Day cookout. You can go fancy, or you can take an effortless route. Guess which I suggest? There is no need to get elaborate, even with freshly ironed linen. Here are some favorite: traditional and manageable cobbler https://www.bonappetit.com/story/cherry-biscuit-cobbler?, hot dogs or sausages and hamburgers are swell American foods and are great for any Memorial Day picnic. I usually whip up a batch of potato salad, but a bag of Utz sour cream and onion potato chips is never out of place! Is it too hot to bake a cobbler? Just bring out some Bergers. You will be a hero. Or slice open a frosty cold watermelon. Put beers and glass bottles of Coke in a bucket of ice, and don’t forget the cheap white wine.

For picnics and cookouts we like made-ahead and cool foods. If you are hosting a gathering, or are asked to bring something to a holiday event, made a nice, simple salad: corn, fruit, potato, Caprese, pesto, green salads are easily prepared ahead of time, and can be a side dish or a main dish if you have pesky pescatarians lurking:

The Kitchn’s Corn Salad – no cooking required!
https://www.thekitchn.com/corn-salad-268340

Bon Appétit’s fruit salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fruit-salad-fennel-watercress-smoked-salt

My Popular Potato Salad
This is a recipe that people actually ask for – and not just because they are my in-laws and trying hard to be polite! It that constantly evolves and adapts, and each summer brings a new twist. I don’t always have green onions – Vidalias work just fine. No red potatoes? Go for Russets. A little fresh thyme? Why not? It is dependable, tasty and can be adapted and stretched to feed the masses. Just add more potatoes and more mayonnaise. Particularly fine for large picnic gatherings. It tastes best if it has a little time to sit and mellow, so if you can make it in the morning, it is just right by suppertime.

Many, many servings…

2 pounds little new, red potatoes
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – 1 layer potatoes, then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb the mayo. Put on the table and stand back – the stampede might knock you down!

We are always big fans of Caprese salad – it is so delicious and such an easy supper to whip up when it has been a frantic day in The Spy test kitchens. We tend to have a line up of tomatoes on the kitchen window sill all summer long and with the basil growing like kudzu on the back porch, there is no excuse not to invest in tomato futures. I plan to indulge in a fresh ball of mozzarella every couple of days to help keep our basil plant well-trimmed and feeling useful.

Caprese Salad
(For which you don’t really need precise measurements.)
Eyeball what you have in the fridge.
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup small mozzarella balls
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 generous pinch Maldon salt

Arrange the basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella on a plate or in a Tupperware container and drizzle the olive oil dressing over the top. Add salt and pepper as desired. Apply sunscreen and adjust your hat. Instagram. Ah, Tuscany.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/insalata-caprese-13232

Pesto Salad
We like a nice light pesto sauce for fresh pasta when the temperatures rise. Years ago we stopped adding the pine nuts, and instead make a nice thick paste of basil, olive oil, garlic gloves, salt, pepper and fresh Parmesan cheese, that we swirl around the mini-food processor for a moment or two. If it seems too thick, we thin it with a little pasta water. We gave up the pine nuts because they were hard to find, are chock-full of cholesterol, and are expensive. Some people substitute walnuts, but I don’t like walnuts, so I have opted for simplicity.

Basic Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine basil leaves, oil and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced, and then smooth. Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine. Store in refrigerator or freezer, because you will need a container of sunshine in your fridge for a rainy day.

Enjoy your weekend!

“‘Never plan a picnic,’ Father said. ‘Plan a dinner, yes, or a house, or a budget, or an appointment with the dentist, but never, never plan a picnic.’”
― Elizabeth Enright

Food Friday: Celebrating Sophie Kerr

Sophie Kerr, one of the patron saints of Washington College, in Chestertown, wrote very popular women’s fiction in the early twentieth century. She grew up on the Eastern Shore and started her career in New York, writing magazine pieces, editing the famous Women’s Home Companion, while writing books, plays and short stories. Sophie Kerr was wildly successful in her field, and her financial legacy continues to endow an annual literary prize at Washington College. This year the Sophie Kerr Prize is $63,912, and will be given to one lucky, ambitious student writer on Friday, May 17. Here are some recipes for a jubilant celebration. Please add lots of good Champagne.

https://chestertownspy.org/2019/05/14/the-2019-sophie-kerr-prize-will-go-to-one-of-six-wc-seniors/

Sophie Kerr’s fiction is littered with plucky heroines, and her food writing is full of great regional, American dishes. In the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Kerr wrote a section called, “American Cooks are Good Cooks”, countering arguments that American foods were hopelessly provincial, and lacked the subtleties and sophistication of European gourmet dishes. Stuff and nonsense! Gingerbread, spoonbread, strawberries, clam chowder (with or without tomatoes) – all-American dishes that could turn everyone in the twentieth (and twenty-first) into foodies.

Here is one of Kerr’s recipes from The Best I Ever Ate, by June Platt and Sophie Kerr Underwood, 1953:
Strawberries Romanoff
“Cleaned and capped strawberries are lightly sugared, then chilled for two hours in a mixture of one-half fresh strained orange juice and one-half Curaçao. Serve with heavy cream sweetened stingily, whipped and flavored with vanilla.” That is a writer’s recipe.

There have been many American newspaper and magazine writers who have reliably enlivened our food culture. A few of my favorites are: Nora Ephron, Alex Witchel, Ruth Reichl. (Disclaimer: I am currently reading Ruth Reichl’s latest memoir, Save Me the Plums, and it is terrific! Go grab a copy!)

Nora Ephron, the food writer, novelist, and filmmaker, was a powerhouse of creativity. She was witty, acerbic, clear-eyed and romantic. She could cook. And bake. https://offtheshelf.com/2016/07/reading-nora-12-essential-books-for-every-nora-ephron-fan/

Nora Ephron’s Famous Peach Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sour cream
3 peeled and sliced peaches

Put first 4 ingredients into a food processor and blend until a ball is formed. Pat out into a buttered pie plate. Bake 10 minutes at 425° F. Remove from oven. Beat 3 egg yolks slightly. Combine with 1 cup sugar, flour and sour cream. Arrange peaches in crust and pour egg mixture over peaches. Cover with foil. Reduce oven to 350° and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 15 minutes or more until filling is done. Yumsters!

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/nora-ephrons-peach-pie-1259999

Alex Witchel is a James Beard Award-nominated staff writer at The New York Times. She has written a poignant memoir about her mother’s decline into dementia, All Gone, but she has also written some hilarious stories, one about trying to find an ashtray in Martha Stewart’s daughter’s carefully curated minimalist hotel: Girls Only. She also knows quite a lot about food and writes a monthly column, Feed Me for the Times. This will be just the thing for a festive literary celebration:

Lemon Mousse for a Crowd
From Alex Witchel, The New York Times Magazine, May 24, 2006

Ingredients
1 cup egg whites (from about 8 eggs)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 1/2 large lemons)
1 cup light corn syrup
3 cups whipping cream

Instructions
In a double boiler or bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the egg whites, sugar and lemon juice. Whisk the mixture over the simmering water until smooth, airy and very thick, about 5 minutes. Add corn syrup and whisk just to combine, then remove from heat. Transfer egg mixture to a large mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour.
Remove from refrigerator and add whipping cream. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until thick enough to hold stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Spoon the mousse into dessert cups or bowls, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 15 minutes to 1 hour before serving.

Ruth Reichl, another writer who will enliven any literary soirée, has been a chef, a journalist, a food critic, the last editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine and a television producer for PBS. She will make you weep with delight when we celebrate the latest Sophie Kerr Prize winner. Follow her haiku-like tweets on Twitter if you would like to smile every day: (@ruthreichl)

Ruth Reichl’s Giant Chocolate Cake
INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CAKE:
1 ⅛ cups/100 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process), plus more for dusting the pans
¾ cup/175 milliliters whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons/7 1/2 milliliters vanilla
3 cups/375 grams flour
2 teaspoons/10 grams baking soda
Salt
1 ½ cups/340 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups/356 grams dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups/300 grams granulated sugar
6 eggs
FOR THE FROSTING:
5 ounces/143 grams unsweetened chocolate
¾ cups/170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup/225 grams whipped cream cheese
1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla
2 ½ cups/312 grams confectioners’ sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter two large rectangular baking pans (13 by 9 by 2 inches) and line them with waxed or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with cocoa (you could use flour, but cocoa adds color and flavor).

Measure the cocoa powder into a bowl, and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water until it is smooth, dark and so glossy it reminds you of chocolate pudding. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat in the sugars until it is light, fluffy and the color of coffee with cream (about 5 minutes). One at a time, add the eggs, beating for about 20 seconds after each before adding the next. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternating flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour.
Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the pans rest on cooling racks for 2 minutes, then turn the cakes onto racks to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Let it cool so that you can comfortably put your finger in it. While it’s cooling, mix the butter with the whipped cream cheese. Add the chocolate, the vanilla and a dash of salt, and mix in the confectioners’ sugar until it looks like frosting, at least 5 minutes. Assemble the cake, spreading about a third of the frosting on one of the cooled layers, then putting the second layer on top and frosting the assembled cake. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017692-ruth-reichls-giant-chocolate-cake

That is probably enough sweetness for one celebration. Good luck to all you Sophie Kerr contenders!

“I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times.”
― Nora Ephron

“Part of the power of home cooking is that everything tastes better when someone else makes it for you.”
― Alex Witchel

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl

This is charming: https://www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/sophie-kerr-legacy/

Food Friday: Don’t Forget About Mother’s Day!

It’s not too late to start planning a little Mother’s Day gesture. But you had best hurry up. I would advise you to put a little thought in it, though. I had an email this morning suggesting that a trip to Jersey Mike’s Subs would be a good idea; “Treat Mom to a Sub!” Perhaps not. I like a good cheesesteak as much as the next mother, and this is definitely a first world problem, but I’d like something homemade. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or well-crafted (and believe me, I have a drawer of summer camp ashtrays, plaster handprints, and dollar store jewels). Maybe this Mother’s Day I could get first pick of sections of the Sunday New York Times, some sweet and crunchy French bread, and some bacon.

I love bacon. I don’t like cleaning it up. Bacon is one of those foods that tastes better when someone else has cooked it. And then poured the bacon grease into a can, cleaned up the splatters, washed out the pan, and has tossed the dish cloth into the laundry, where more elves will take over. Such a life of fantasy I enjoy!

In real life, I tried this glazed bacon recipe from the New York Times last weekend as part of my exhaustive food research for The Spy. We also had French toast. It was divine. Be sure to get thick bacon – otherwise, why bother?

Glazed Bacon https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016900-glazed-bacon

“½ pound thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine

PREPARATION
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil; it should be large enough to hold the bacon in a single layer. Place bacon in pan and bake until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. While bacon cooks, mix remaining ingredients together.
Drain bacon fat from pan. Brush the bacon strips on both sides with the brown sugar mixture. Return bacon to the oven and cook another 10 minutes or so, until glaze is bubbling and darkened.
Remove bacon from the oven and transfer to a cutting board or platter lined with foil or parchment paper. Let cool about 15 minutes. Bacon should not be sticky to the touch. Cut each strip in thirds and arrange on a serving dish.”

I did not cut up the bacon – I divided it evenly between Mr. Friday and myself. With no apologies to Luke the wonder dog, who went without.

This is my standard recipe (practically foolproof) that I pull out for every occasion that calls for French toast: houseguests, Easter, vacation, first day of spring, Sundays, and even birthdays. It was featured once on Food52, although they did not use my illustration, which still makes me a little huffy.

We always have day-old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And Mr. Friday loves the added kick of the rum on an otherwise uneventful Sunday morning.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 5 min

Ingredients:
1 cup milk (or half and half)
1 pinch of salt
3 brown eggs (any will do, actually – brown are prettier)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg – grate it fresh – do NOT use dried out old dust in a jar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop of rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices of day-old French bread

Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until super-saturated. Cook bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with warm maple syrup and powdered sugar. If you add some strawberries and whipped cream it will remind you of the Belgian Waffles from the World’s Fair in the 60s. Childhood bliss!
https://food52.com/recipes/4622-weekend-french-toast

Your mother will thank you for this breakfast, especially if you remember to use cloth napkins, and if you wash up afterward. Then leave her alone to wander over to her Adirondack chair on the back porch, so she can read Normal People, all by herself.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.”
― Sally Rooney

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