Food Friday: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s time for all the kiddos to go back to school. Everyone gets back into the comforting routine of an academic year, and the frightening reality of daily lunch obligations and responsibilities. Lunch is my favorite meal to have in a restaurant; I love a good turkey sandwich and please can I have some crispy, hot French fries? But that is my fantasy life – the one where I also live in a cozy little pied-à-terre in London, and get invited to paint watercolors with Prince Charles a couple of times a year. But I digress. Lunch.

Lunch can be a wonderful treat, or the slough of despair. You can take all sorts of time and imagination stuffing little bento boxes with cleverly crafted Where the Wild Things Are broccoli-based creatures, or you can assemble lunches using the items from Columns A through F. These are practical, nutritious and will make you life easier. Because then you can spend more time reading with your own Wild Things, and less time in the kitchen. Print this list and keep it handy whenever you troll the grocery store.

This is the time-honored Spy Test Kitchens Back to School Sandwich Ingredients List. Enjoy!

It is just as timely today:

Column A
Let’s start with bread:
Ciabatta bread
Rye bread
Whole grain breads
Hard rolls
Portuguese rolls
French baguette
Italian bread
Brioche
Flour tortillas
Croissants
Bagels
Challah bread
Crostini
Cornbread
Naan bread
Focaccia bread
Pita bread
(If storing overnight, top bread with lettuce first, then the spreads, to keep sandwich from getting soggy.)

Column B
Next, the spread:
Mayo
Sriracha
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Honey mustard
Italian dressing
Russian dressing
Cranberry sauce
Pesto sauce
Hummus
Tapenade
Sour cream
Mango chutney
Butter
Hot sauce
Salsa

Column C
Cheeses:
Swiss cheese
American cheese
Mozzarella
Blue cheese
Cream cheese
Havarti cheese
Ricotta cheese
Cheddar cheese
Provolone cheese
Brie cheese
Cottage cheese
Goat cheese

Column D
The main ingredient:
Meatloaf
Turkey
Chicken
Corned beef
Bacon
Crumbled hard boiled eggs
Scrambled eggs
Corned beef
Salami
Italian sausage
Ham
Roast beef
Egg salad
Tuna salad
Ham salad
Crab salad
Chicken salad
Turkey salad
Lobster salad
Tofu

Column E
The decorative (and tasty) elements:
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Basil
Onion
Avocado
Cucumber
Cilantro
Shredded carrots
Jalapenos
Cole slaw
Sliced apples
Sliced red peppers
Arugula
Sprouts
Radicchio
Watercress
Sliced pears
Apricots
Pickles
Spinach
Artichoke hearts
Grapes
Strawberries
Figs

Column F
Finger foods:
Cherries
Carrots
Strawberries
Green Beans
Broccoli
Celery
Edemame
Granola
Rice cakes
Apples
Bananas
Oranges
Melon balls
Raisins
Broccoli

Be sure to check with your school about peanut policies.

Nobody will ever complain about lunch again if you can remember to jazz it up a little. My son, who lived for at least an entire year on (requested) white bread, bologna and yellow mustard sandwiches, is now a strapping 6 feet 4 inches tall. Imagine how far into the clouds he would stretch if we had thought to make him fig, goat cheese and caramelized onion sandwiches.

From the people who have time to recreate literary masterpieces: https://www.chron.com/living/article/TK-amazing-lunch-box-ideas-for-back-to-school-11947764.php#photo-10833935

And don’t forget dessert!

“A party without cake is just a meeting”
― Julia Child

Food Friday: Easy Peasy Pasta

(Mr. Friday has whisked me away on vacation this week, so I have reached into the Spy Way Back Machine for a suitable column for your edification and enjoyment. Happy August!)

Here we are smack in the middle of a blazingly hot summer. I am still trying to keep my distance from the stove. But sometimes, even I realize that we cannot live on watermelon alone. Sometimes we need to feed the pasta craving. And for that, we need to boil water.

Last weekend we found a way to enjoy wonderfully gooey gobbets of melty mozzarella without compromising my seasonal standards. We did not dine on a wintery lasagne, which delivers molten strings of ropey cheese in a very satisfying fashion – albeit after much time is spent cooking in the oven. Instead we tossed hot fusilli into a large bowl over the nest of fresh burrata. Then we added a few fistfuls of fresh-from-the-back-porch basil and another of mint, with a smattering of crunchy pine nuts and a satisfying jolt of garlic, and topped it with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Wowser. Fantastic. This has been added to our summer repertoire.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/dining/pasta-herbs-and-plenty-of-melting-mozzarella.html?_r=0

There are so many tomatoes tumbling off their vines right now. We have a small bowl on the kitchen counter, spilling over with the daily harvest from our own modest tomato farm. Since you are a better gardener, you must have truckloads of the ruby red fruit ! And look at the wonderfully arranged pyramids and cardboard containers of tomatoes at the farmers’ market. Outstanding. You will have to remember these glorious days of summer when winter comes, when all that will be available to us in the grocery store will be weak, watery, hot house tomatoes.

I read a story this week about the musician Gillian Welch. She compared vinyl recordings of music to digital recordings as being like, “fresh basil and dried basil.” Suddenly, I understood her perfectly. Fresh basil for me, please. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-vinyls-boom-is-over-1500721202

In the summer we are devoted to three ingredients: tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic. Vampires shun us. This recipe involves a little more time spent standing and stirring at the stove, but it is worth the effort. And why else did I buy a comfort mat to put on the floor in front of the stove? So I could whine as we sit down to a wonderful dinner that took a few minutes of my time. Sheesh. It’s not like I was kneading bread for hours. Or piping dozens of perfect macarons.

https://food52.com/blog/11127-michael-ruhlman-s-pasta-with-tomato-water-basil-and-garlic

There is a recipes from Martha that has been in our summer rep for years: http://www.marthastewart.com/904229/pasta-fresh-tomato-sauce I cook the pasta in the morning before the world heats up, and add the rest of the ingredients, and then let them all stew together all day long. By dinner time it is a magnificent melange of richness, redolent of garlic, which, to quote Martha, “Is a good thing.” Add some bread and butter, a small green salad and lots of cool cheap white wine. Winter is coming.

“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.”
-Mario Batali

Food Friday: What’s on Your Grill?

How is your summer going? Are you working on your tan, or bailing water? Honestly, it has been the summer of the rolling thunder review with all of this rain. Have you had any quality time with your grill? It is still plenty hot, so I hope the rain lets up soon, so we can be standing around the grill, wearing white, twirling kebabs, and swilling chilled rosé.

Beef prices are up, but so is everything else. We are planning on grilling chicken this weekend, eating economically and eating “more better”, to quote Dan Pashman from The Sporkful podcast.

We didn’t feel as if we were scrimping when we whipped up these kababs last weekend: skewered chicken, Vidalia onions and red, green and yellow peppers, served with grilled ears of corn, a nice green salad and a homemade refrigerator cake. (And as always, there are always Popsicles in our freezer – so feel free to stop on by.)

Mr. Friday’s favorite chicken strategy is to allow the chicken to marinate in one of his concoctions for about an hour. First he chunked the boneless chicken breasts (bought on sale) and let the large cubes steep in a bowl of white Worchestershire sauce, with a handful of capers, some good quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. And then he threaded the ingredients onto metal skewers. Then he wrapped shucked corn in aluminum foil, with a big pat of butter. He tossed skewers and the ears of corn onto the grill, drank a beer, threw the ball for the dog and then walked inside to sit down to eat. In the interim, I managed to boil up a pot of rice, wash a bag of salad, lighted some candles and poured my wine. Phew! It is had work being a weekend sous chef!

We also returned to childhood and had a Famous Wafer refrigerator cake. The recipe and the informative photo are right on the side of the box, in case you have forgotten how to whip cream and stack layers of cookies. Food52 gussied it up a little bit, as is their wont, although they did say, “The best summer dessert is also the easiest.” How right they are! https://food52.com/blog/7061-how-to-make-any-icebox-cake-in-5-steps

This “Chicken Under a Brick” recipe from Bon Appétit sounds first rate: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chicken-under-a-brick

But if you want to stick to skewers, this is far more exotic than ours: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sambal-chicken-skewers

Martha weighs in with her fancier-than-thou chicken skewers: http://www.marthastewart.com/341224/cajun-kebabs-with-chicken-and-andouille#Grilled%20Chicken%20Recipes|/275423/grilled-chicken-recipes/@center/276943/grilling-recipes|341224

Enjoy August. It’s hard to believe it is really here, and that school will be starting soon. Have you noticed the light is changing? Some nights Luke the wonder dog and I walk out to the end of the street to get a good view of the sunset, and last night we dawdled a minute or two sniffing some most fascinating leaves of a bush, so we were too late for that golden moment. The pinks were fading to grays and the cardinals had started singing their nighttime songs. Revel in your weekend!

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
-John Steinbeck

Food Friday: Berry Delicious Ice Cream

This summer is zipping past, like a hot knife through butter, which is about how I have been feeling with all the warm weather: like a pool of runny, melted, formless butter. Plus I am very damp around the edges. There has been quite enough rain, thank you.

I am also deeply saddened that we will not be viewing the Total Lunar Eclipse. But we are supposed to have a very good view of Mars. https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/usa/chestertown

I am not looking forward to hurricane season, but I think it is just about time for Labor Day to roll around and bring us some cooler temps and to give me the will to be creative in the kitchen again. I am tired of my desultory attempts at dinner preparation. Tonight we are going to have Panzella Salad. Again. I know I will miss the fresh tomatoes come winter, so I am happy to pluck them with reckless abandon now, but I am also yearning for something warm to emerge from the oven. Is it too early to think about lasagne?

Naturally when the weather is hot, and the day drags, my thoughts turn to home made ice cream. When I was little my older brother and I sat on the back porch steps, taking turns turning the crank on the old manual ice cream churn. No blue tooth gelato machines then! I assumed this Sisyphian task was as every bit as arduous as Laura Ingalls Wilder helping Ma churn the cream for butter. And every time we were called upon to help make delicious slurpily-sweet ice cream, my brother would goad me into tasting the kosher salt. I fell for it every single time. At least the taste of the ice cream is a pleasant memory, with its glorious vanilla perfume. Sometimes all of the sugar didn’t dissolve and there would be little crunchy granular surprises. Yumsters.

My mother never gussied up the ice cream. She was a purist. We had vanilla, pure and simple and nothing fancy. But this time around we are going to try for strawberry. I understand that in adventurous households people also make pistachio flavored ice cream. Well, lah-de-dah, I say. I am screaming for strawberries.

No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 pound of fresh strawberries, hulled and mashed
A few slices of strawberry for garnish

Mash strawberries in a bowl and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, add the heavy whipping cream and the sweetened condensed milk.
Whip the heavy cream mixture on high speed (do not do by hand!) until stiff peaks form.
Pour the mashed strawberries into the mixture and gently fold in until combined.
Pour the whipped mixture into a freezer safe container. We like to use a loaf pan. Top with a few slices of strawberries for garnish (optional). Cover and freeze for about 4-5 hours. In about 3-4 hours you can have a “soft serve” type ice cream. If you prefer a firmer texture, freeze for at least 5-6 hours, or overnight.

That is the lazy git recipe; perfect for me. Now if you want to be a show off, the kind folks at Food52 have a more intensive, riddled with steps and dishes-you-will-need-to-wash kind of recipe for you:

Old-Fashioned “No Short-Cuts” Strawberry Ice Cream
https://food52.com/recipes/28442-old-fashioned-no-short-cuts-strawberry-ice-cream

My only other suggestion is to keep a good supply of popsicles in the freezer.

“Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all if it hasn’t been whipped with whips, just like poached eggs isn’t poached eggs unless it’s been stolen in the dead of the night.”
-Roald Dahl

Food Friday: Hand Me a Cool Drink!

Thank heavens it is finally Friday! What a hellish week it has been, and I don’t mean just all the roiling news from Helsinki and Washington. Anxiety, stress, deadlines, spilled ink, clogged pens, heat rash, dying geraniums, mosquitoes and an overrun tomato patch have been my first world problems this week.

And how about you? Has everything gone smoothly at work? How’s that commute? Is your car’s air conditioning working? Are you enjoying re-reading Howard’s End? Or are you thinking about dipping your figurative toes into Daniel Silva’s latest potboiler?

And just how many editions of Slate’s Trumpcast are they going to produce this week? The dog is getting way too much exercise while I listen to all those podcasts. I’m going to take the weekend off from political dramas and have a nice, cool summer cocktail. Maybe I will even have two.

As folks celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Sex and the City it seems appropriate to have a Cosmopolitan, which was the potent and extravagant pink drink of the four fictional friends on the show. I came late to SATC, and only binge-watched it last year. I feel lucky that I never wanted their expensive shoes, and as much as I would have liked a chance to live in New York City when it was perpetually spring, I think a Cosmo will manage to assuage my tormented soul.

Cosmopolitan

Serves 1
1 ounce Citron Vodka
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce cranberry juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Shake all ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a large cocktail glass. Garnish with lime slice. (I use a straw because a Martini glass is just too tippy.)

http://iba-world.com/cocktails/cosmopolitan/

During this overwhelming summer we are all about simplicity and relaxation at home. I do not want to fly out to the store to buy an expensive ingredient that I might only use once a year. No elderberry cordial for us. Our bottle of Cointreau is probably two years old, which shows how many Cosmos we drink every year. Although that number is more than the pairs of Jimmy Chou shoes in my closet, for sure.

We are fond of Prosecco, raspberries, and mint, however. Our raspberries are store-bought (although you can probably keep a supply in the freezer in case you get an unexpected hankering for one of these drinks) and our mint is from the garden. We bought a clump of mint for Kentucky Derby Juleps, and now it is threatening to take over the aforementioned tomato patch.

Raspberry, Prosecco and Mint Cocktail

Serves 2
2 ounces simple syrup (you can buy this now, you lazy git)
1/2 pint raspberries
2 ounces vodka
Handful of mint leaves, artfully torn
Pinch of red chili flakes
4 ounces Prosecco

Purée the raspberries in a food processor or blender until smooth. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice, and add the vodka, mint leaves, chili flakes, raspberry purée and the simple syrup. Shake these well. Strain into cooled glasses and top with Prosecco. Garnish with a speared raspberry. If you must. Add a pool, beach ball or an Adirondack chair. Relax.

Sometimes I long for cocktails that aren’t sweet. I am raiding the garden again for this drink I am going to try this out on Mr. Friday, because he doesn’t drink Cosmos. He and Mr. Big. This drink calls for robust heirloom tomatoes, aromatic basil and lots of vodka.

Fresh Tomato Martini

this makes 5 drinks, which is a lot. But it is much lighter than Bloody Marys. It is a perfect summer cocktail, while also dealing with the bumper tomato crop.

1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
10 ounces vodka
5 medium basil leaves
Ice
5 lemon twists

• Place the tomatoes and measured salt in a medium bowl and smash with a potato masher until the skins separate from the flesh and seeds.

• Place the mixture in a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Using the potato masher, firmly press out as much juice as possible (be careful not to break the strainer). Switch to a rubber spatula and continue to press until only solids remain. Scrape the bottom of the strainer and discard the solids. You should have almost 1 cup of juice; set aside.

• 
Place 5 martini glasses in the freezer to chill.

• 
To make 1 drink, place 2 ounces of the vodka, 1 1/2 ounces of the tomato juice, and 1 basil leaf in a cocktail shaker. Muddle until the basil is just crushed and fragrant. Add ice to fill the shaker halfway and shake until the outside is frosted, about 30 seconds.

• 
Strain into 1 of the chilled glasses and garnish with a lemon twist and a pinch of salt. Repeat to make 4 more drinks.

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/fresh-tomato-basil-martini-30770

Out on the back porch, the sun has set as we swat away the mosquitoes. The air is cooling and we are enchanted once again by the emerging fireflies. Breathe.

“Again and again, the cicada’s untiring cry pierced the sultry summer air like a needle at work on thick cotton cloth.”
― Yukio Mishima

Food Friday: Holiday Leftovers

I just had a tentative peek inside the refrigerator, which is packed and groaning with leftovers and good intentions.

I honestly meant to bake the annual Fourth of July cake yesterday, but Mr. Friday was using the oven to bake ribs. All afternoon. Half of a rack of leftover ribs is contained by a large Baggie, and it is taking over a shelf in the fridge. Also two pints of blueberries, and a pint of raspberries for my holiday-themed cake. Not to mention the large container of heavy whipping cream. The stuff is packed in there. Tight.

Teetering on a top shelf, next to the container of whipping cream, is a quarter sheet cake pan, still half full of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake, slathered with the best buttercream icing I have EVER made. No wonder we are Weeble People! There are two pint containers of blueberries (One which I upended and scattered all over the kitchen floor on the Fourth in the heat of battle. The takeaway – Luke the wonder dog has no interest in blueberries.) and one of raspberries. There is a wedge of watermelon, and half a cantaloupe.

Sitting boldly in the middle of the fridge is a huge mixing bowl full of potato salad. And right next to that is a Tupperware container of cole slaw; a gallon o’cole slaw.

Crammed into a drawer are half a dozen ears of corn, and an elastic-bound bunch of asparagus.

Also on the top shelf are rye bread, a can of raspberry La Croix fancy fizzy water, a stainless steel tub of extra buttercream frosting, three bottles of store-bought salad dressing, and one Pyrex cup of homemade vinaigrette. I am not happy with any salad dressings these days, and am searching far and wide for a good recipe. Keep watching this spot.

Scattered into any nooks are bottles of middling white wine, and in the crannies are the cheap white wine, milk, Diet Coke and mayonnaise.

There is a package of salted butter, and another of unsalted butter. Also eggs; brown and white.

The Fourth of July cake goes in the Might Have Been a Good Idea category of good intentions paving that slick route to hell for me: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/flag-cake-recipe-1941624, thus the raspberries and blueberries. I have read that Ina Garten and Martha Stewart can’t agree who first came up with the now ubiquitous Fourth of July flag cake. I am inclined to believe Ina Garten, but only because she and I grew up in the same town. Martha was late to the Connecticut scene.

Since I could not bake anyone’s Fourth of July cake, we managed to get by with slices of leftover chocolate cake. There are still quite a lot of cake leftover, so stop on by later.

Mr. Friday stepped away from the grill this Fourth of July, and brought his cooking skills inside. It was the heady combination of a new, sure-fire baby back ribs recipe, and the stinking temperatures outside. And it was easier for him to monitor the ribs while they cooked, from the comfort of his sofa, and the World Cup games he had TiVo-ed… https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/220987/baked-bbq-baby-back-ribs/

No Fourth of July could be complete without someone’s mother’s potato salad. This year I chose my mother’s. Of course.

Potato Salad

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. Plus you can make it in the morning, and it is just right by suppertime.

• 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 – I have melted my fingerprints by slicing too early and my life of crime may start any minute now) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – one layer of 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 it.

Also necessary for summer holiday feasts is cole slaw. My mother’s won. Again.

My Mother’s Boring (Yet Reliably Deelish) Cole Slaw

• 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise (Duke’s if you live father south)
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar vinegar
• 1 tablespoon celery seed (not celery salt)
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt
• 1 half teaspoon coarse black pepper
• Some people add carrots for color. I don’t think my mother would approve.
• 1/2 largish head of cabbage, green or purple, your choice, you will have to live with the consequences. You will be dissecting the cabbage to make workable pieces for slicing.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, and salt until smooth.
Mix in the shredded cabbage and fold over with spatula until completely coated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.
It is always better the next day.

We were in California last month and had the great pleasure of eating at the Bouchon Bistro. I bought the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook which is a beautiful, yet weighty, tome with intimidatingly precise recipes. I thought I would be whipping out professional-looking macarons and pain au chocolat immediately upon our return home. Instead, I grabbed a box of Ghiradelli dark chocolate cake mix, and turned to my friends at Food52 for icing guidance. I don’t know why I entertained the notion that I would find time, or oven space, to bake a Fourth of July cake. The chocolate cake is something we know and love, and was perfect for watching Macy’s jubilant fireworks, before we returned to our Independence Day film fest.

Basic Buttercream Icing
https://food52.com/recipes/70448-buttercream-frosting-adapted-from-wilton

Tonight we will not be tossing our usual Friday night pizza. Instead I am rooting around in the freezer for some hot dogs. We will top them with leftover slaw, and have a side of potato salad, and yet another slice of chocolate cake. Oh, and some of that cheap white wine. We need to clear out some space. Happy July!

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
― Calvin Trillin

Food Friday: Cookout Season

Summer is here, and with all those hot, languid afternoons come the cookouts. As my Gentle Readers will remember, I live for summer and delegating the cooking responsibilities to Mr. Friday, who actually enjoys standing outside on the back porch, in 90-degree weather, hovering over a hot gas grill, tenderly flipping burgers, adjusting ears of corn, and prodding susurrus steaks. It is a fine seasonal division of labor.

I get to stay inside, enjoying cool air and cooler wine. I do my outdoor bit first thing in the morning. After I walk Luke the wonder dog for half an hour, I spray all exposed wobbly flesh with insect repellent, and then I charge out into the mosquito-infested side yard to water and weed the raised garden bed. And I harvest the crops.

This small garden has been our first proper vegetable garden in years. We had been getting by with container gardens of spindly tomatoes and etiolated bean plants. This year we are jokingly worried that Jack’s beanstalk will be tapping on the kitchen window soon, as the bean plants have grown up and out and soon we will find a magic goose in the back yard, pecking around with the robins. And yet – we have only harvested five measly beans. There must be more to this gardening than just planting seeds and rigging up strings for the beans to climb. We might have to analyze the soil, and consider when we should have planted the beans. In the meantime, though, the tomato plants are going to town.

We have been enjoying a surfeit of tomatoes: heirloom tomatoes, patio tomatoes, Tom’s Big Boy tomatoes. There are a dozen ripening tomatoes lining one of the kitchen windowsills right now. This is the second dozen that I have picked this week. It is probably just as well that we didn’t plant zucchini this year, or we would have been reduced to even more of a suburban stereotype than we already are. I guess this means I am finally going to have to introduce myself to the new neighbors, and hope that they like tomatoes.

Consequently I have had to do research and find more to do with tomatoes. I can’t just quarter them and throw them on top of a bed of crunchy iceberg. Luckily I can reduce our considerable tomato inventory if I make something large enough to share at a Fourth of July cookout. I have been pouring over this handy dandy cookbook,The Southerner’s Cookbook, from Garden & Gun Magazine. I love the folks at Food52, but the clever cooks from G&G indulge in gracious living. At least in the summer. (This is a killer cocktail: https://gardenandgun.com/slideshow/summer-south-20-must-try-recipes/7/)

If you, too, have tomato overload, try this recipe. It was divine. Even if I did have to steam an ear of corn, and cook two pieces of bacon. I always need something to complain about…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

(SERVES 6)
6 ripe garden tomatoes, sliced inch thick
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Kernels from 1 cooked ear Silver Queen corn
2 thick bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives

Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing

(MAKES ABOUT ¾ CUP)
1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

For the Heirloom Tomato Salad:  Arrange the tomato and cucumber slices artfully on a platter. Drizzle with half of the dressing. Sprinkle with the corn kernels and bacon. Garnish with the chives. Serve with extra dressing on the side. (Any remaining dressing will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.)

For the Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing: Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, chives, dill, and tarragon in a blender. Blend until smooth.

https://gardenandgun.com/slideshow/summer-south-20-must-try-recipes/1/

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
– Lewis Grizzard

Food Friday: Out of the Mouths of Babes

An impressive array of fruits and vegetables are ripening this very minute. As you sit reading this on your phone, I hope you have got some reusable shopping backs in the back of your car, and you are ready to hit the farmers’ markets with enthusiasm. You need to go stock up on blueberries and cherries. Right now. No delay. Because you can make the easiest desserts without worrying about anything but the deliciousness that comes with summer fruits.

I have finally reached an age where my son can share his own advice and recipes. This is one of the wonders of overlapping lives. Had I known this about him back when we were pacing the floor early in the morning, when he was wailing and wouldn’t sleep, when I discovered that the farm report on TV was a real thing, and not just a myth, it might have cheered my sleep-deprived self a little, and lifted my weary soul knowing that one day he would grow and thrive and be much taller than I was. That after the dark despair of those nights, I would one day be given a recipe for blueberry cobbler by a mewling, puking, outraged infant. Imagine that!

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler (courtesy of the New York Times)
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9291-chez-panisses-blueberry-cobbler

INGREDIENTS
THE BERRIES:
4 ½ cups fresh blueberries
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
THE DOUGH:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
¾ cup heavy cream, plus additional for serving, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To prepare the berries, place in a bowl and toss with the sugar and flour. Set aside.
To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Put the blueberries in a 1 1/2-quart gratin or baking dish. Make patties out of the dough, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Arrange them over the top of the berries. Bake until the topping is brown and the juices bubble thickly around it, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Serve warm, with cream to pour on top, if desired.

Sadly, there is a hitch to my fairy tale: I prefer cherry crumble. I am not a big fan of baked blueberries, unless they come wrapped in a nice warm muffin. Forgive me, Tall One. Let me suggest that you try baking this cherry crumble this weekend, as one adult to another.

Fresh Cherry Crumble
(Thanks you, https://www.countryhillcottage.com/cherry-crumble/)

For cherry filling
2 lb / approximately 6 cups sweet cherries, cleaned and pitted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

For the hazelnut streusel
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, cane sugar
1cup ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For decorating
confectioners’ sugar for decorating
1) Prep work
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Grease the ramekins or pie dish with butter, vegetable, oil or baking spray.

2) Cook the cherries
Add the cherries, granulated sugar, and corn starch into a heavy bottom saucepan and stir until well combined. Let the cherries macerate for 20 minutes to 1 hour, so the fruits soften and draw juice. If the cherries don’t draw a lot of moisture, add 3/4 – 1 cup water or cherry juice.  Then cook the cherries for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cherries soften, and the mixture thickens. Stir constantly, so the fruit doesn’t burn at the bottom of the saucepan.

3) Make the hazelnut streusel
Add the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and cold butter cubes into a large mixing bowl. And knead into a crumbly mixture. Use your fingertips to squeeze together the dough to form large clumps.

4) Bake the crumble
Spoon the cherry mixture into the prepared baking dish(es) and top with the streusel. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm or cold with cream, or ice cream.

I’m not trying to have the last word. Really. I’ll make the Blueberry Cobbler for Mr. Friday. And he will be amazed, just like I was, that everyone is growing up and changing.

“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: Father’s Day

We have a holiday family tradition. If the holiday is not food-centric (i.e. Thanksgiving=turkey) we usually try to have a good, buttery, messy, celebratory lobster dinner, complete with corn, beer and lots of laughter. I think a lot of laughter is called for these days, and so we will celebrate mightily on Father’s Day as we toss some bugs into the lobster pot. It will be an Instagram moment!

I read a lovely tribute to Anthony Bourdain the other day. Actually, every story about him has been a moving paean. What an incredible force of nature with an appetite for all the wonderful and mundane that the world offers up. I’m adding a link to a story about his daughter, and a food choice she made which delighted him. Lobster used to be the working man’s food of New England, not fussy or rarefied, or expensive. No candlelight is needed, nor is there any call for a maitre d’. I think Bourdain would approve of a simple lobster fest for Father’s Day. He would enthuse. Read this and see if you don’t agree with me: https://www.bonappetit.com/people/chefs/article/ever-wonder-how-anthony-bourdain-came-to-be-anthony-bourdain-and-what-he-looked-like-in-1972

A two-pound lobster, serving one, fetches $9.99 per pound this summer. (Conversely, ground chuck is $3.99 per pound, and I bet I can get four hamburgers from that pound.) Before lobster became a pricy treat, it was considered food good enough for servants and prison inmates. Colonial dock workers had a contract stating that they would NOT be fed lobster more than three times a week. People fed lobster to their cats. (https://psmag.com/economics/how-lobster-got-fancy-59440) Lobsters were abundant, easily caught, and simple to prepare. Lobster grew in popularity as the nation expanded west, and it began popping up on restaurant menus in hotels and on trains. It developed cachet. And as lobsters are not caught in South Dakota or Ohio, both the demand and appeal grew.

We steam our lobsters in a huge honking pot. Heartless as we are, we usually stage a lobster race on the kitchen floor. Our children have been deeply scarred as they watched the race participants being tossed into pots of boiling water.

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters comfortably; do not crowd them. A 4 to 5 gallon pot can handle 6 to 8 pounds of lobsters.
Put 2 inches of salted water in the bottom of a large kettle.
Set a steamer inside the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Add the live lobsters one at a time, cover pot, and start timing.

It takes about 10 minutes for a 1-pound lobster, 12 minutes for 1 1/4 pounds, 18 minutes for 2-pounds. The shells will be bright red. Be sure to melt plenty of butter. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/perfectly-steamed-lobster

Or, you can broil lobster tails: https://sweetcsdesigns.com/10-minute-perfect-broiled-lobster-tails-recipe/

You can skip right to the lobster roll and discover if you come from the butter camp or the mayonnaise camp: https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/lobster-rolls-29308

Or you can get Food52 fancy and poach them in oil: https://food52.com/recipes/4155-olive-oil-poached-fish-or-shellfish

I’m sure you and your group will find the ideal lobster recipe, and will write your own family’s chapter about lobster races on the kitchen floor. Enjoy your Father’s Day. Don’t spend money on a tie, buy a lobster! It will be much more memorable! Grab the gusto and torment your children!

“Lobsters display all three of the classical biological characteristics of an insect, namely: 1. It has way more legs than necessary. 2. There is no way you would ever pet it. 3. It does not respond to simple commands such as ‘Here, boy!’”
-Dave Barry

https://www.history.com/news/a-taste-of-lobster-history

Food Friday: Summer Prep

Now that we are finally drying out from all the May and early June showers, it seems appropriate to turn our thoughts to summer and the last day of school. Faithful (or long-suffering) Food Friday readers will remember that once the heat of summer sets in, I do my best to skeedaddle out of the kitchen. I do not enjoy hovering around the stove when I could be lounging gracefully in the shade, clad in floaty white linen, reading important books, and drinking cool wine.

The reality of my humdrum existence, however, means that I still have to plan for night-time meals, because Mr. Friday must be fed. And so I must find foods that meet the basic summer criteria: one-dish meals which don’t heat up the kitchen. And despite my deeply-flawed and lazy-damn-git nature, I do enjoy sitting down at the end of the day, sharing a meal, and catching up. I will even open a can of tuna for that man.

I do rely on a heavy rotation of salads in the summer. Last night we had a chicken salad that is always in a summer staple. I’m not sure it serves any healthy purpose – it contains mayonnaise, bacon, and croutons fried in bacon. But it is deelish. I boiled the chicken while I was eating a lunch sandwich made from Monday night’s leftover tuna salad. (Mayonnaise is a valuable commodity in our house in the summer.)

Chris’s Chicken Club Salad
serves 4

1/2 pound bacon, crisp and crumbled (save the fat)
1 cup bread cubes
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed and chilled
2 large tomatoes, quartered (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 head Romaine, torn (not cut) into bite-size piece

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Sauté the bread cubes in the bacon fat, tossing constantly to toast all the sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, and dried basil. Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with dressing, add the capers and toss to coat each piece with dressing. Chill for half an hour. Arrange lettuce on individual plates and mound the chicken salad on the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top, surround with tomato quarters and top each with the crunchy, wonderful croutons. Serve with a delectable Chardonnay. Yummm. Perfect for picnics.

Here is a variation on that salad which might actually be good for you:

Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 radishes
2 stalks celery
1 small green apple
2 scallions

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the radishes, celery, apple and scallions and mix to combine.

It is a spicier salad, incorporating peppery radishes. Normally I eat radishes sitting out on the back porch in the summer, filching them one by one from a bowl filled with ice water, the spicy radish bite tempered by the icy coolth of the water. And maybe sometimes I’ll be fancy, and swipe a schmear of butter on a radish, using the fancy French butter for something other than warm bread.

This is a very continental approach to take with radishes, which appeals to my languorous inner life: wash and gently dry a handful of radishes. Serve the radishes with slightly softened high fat content butter and a bowl of fleur de sel sea salt. Maybe it is Saturday night, and you could add some crusty French bread and the casual insouciance of a glass or two of Prosecco. Yumsters.

If you feel the ridiculous compulsion to serve a hot meal, here is an interesting pasta, with radishes added at the end: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/strozzapreti-carbonara-with-radishes

Radishes are high in Vitamin C, are low cal (about 1 calorie per radish, until you add the schmear of butter) and provide cheerful color and bite to an everyday salad. You will thank me come August, when your crowd is surly, and will not eat one more cool vegetable, and is screaming for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Until then, we have the radishes, chicken salads, and the occasional glass of wine.

Here are some radish varieties to tickle your tongue on your way to the farmers’ market: Watermelon, White Icicle, Cherry Belle (what we usually see in the grocery store), Sparkler White Tip, French Breakfast, Easter egg, Black Spanish, White Beauty, Early Scarlet Gold, Daikon Long White, Fire and Ice and China Rose.

Here are some more radish recipes: https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/radish-guide

“Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.”
-Thomas Carlyle