It occurred to me that I may talk somewhat excessively about my love for each and every season. And I enjoy feathering my nest during the Winter and spending long sunny weekends at the lake all Summer, but I am deep in romance with Fall. It just has everything going for it- the smell of the northern hemisphere’s collective fireplaces, cider mills, Halloween costumes, college football, and perfect sleeping weather. I have glittery pumpkins on my mantel and spent the afternoon on an architecture tour of the gorgeous cemetery in my neighborhood. What’s not to love!?
My entire extended family is very much into gross out humor. Two years ago, I baked a kitty litter cake for my little cousin’s birthday and since then, she and I have been stepping up our game with each subsequent birthday. Last year was a chocolate fudge cake with homemade hot pink raspberry icing- pretty, but not particularly clever. Imagine my pride when this year, a full two months before her 9th birthday, she sidled up to me a brunch and said, “Emily, I know what kind of a birthday cake I want this year- a dog poop cake!” As we hashed out the details, we decided the cake should be a scene of a dog park, complete with grass, play areas, and defecating dogs.
Don’t worry, cakes are not going to become a regular feature on this blog. Although my obsessive compulsive tendencies lend themselves fairly well to the precision of baking, I’m much more into rustic desserts. In fact, I only create a ‘celebration cake’ a few times a year. But thanks to the Baking & Pastry Boot Camp my mom and I took last fall, I have acquired some skills that allow me to turn out a cake that is both delicious and humorous.
The irony of summer is that the season that brings with it the year’s most amazing produce is also the most overscheduled. Not that I didn’t enjoy the bounty. Hello, Flamin’ Fury peaches layered with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and a dusting of pink Himalayan salt. But if I have been lax about sharing new recipes (and I have), it is because I have been busy celebrating the unions of some of my favorite couples, the grand entrance of Baby #3/Daughter #1 of a friend with excellent taste in names, and… the much anticipated arrival of my own niece, my sweet little Nugget. May this be the first of many metallurgic/food-related nicknames I give her!
I have a knack for making simple tasks complicated and impractical. When it occurs to me to bring in breakfast for the office, my mind immediately leaps to waiting in line at The Doughnut Vault , before I remember the many pastry shops that deliver. And don’t ask my mom about last year’s Thanksgiving turkey- the one I volunteered her to drive an hour to pick up, the turkey so large she had to secure it to her front seat with a seat belt. More recently, I offered to make dessert for a housewarming dinner at my friend’s new condo, so of course I broke out the cast iron skillet, in spite of the logistical difficulties of transporting it on two train rides.
This week, I found myself in possession of a bounty of produce from a friend’s mother’s garden (thanks, Carol!). For starters: squash blossoms, four kinds of basil, fresh peppers, the most fragrant rosemary I have ever encountered, and best of all, a bevy of tomatoes. As you may have gathered from the simple summer recipes posted lately on this site, I am a firm believer in a hands-off approach to peak-season vegetables. And while a fresh tomato needs nothing more than a dusting of salt, once bacon and hard-boiled eggs are involved, we are talking about some next-level eating.
My family has a historically weird relationship with BLTs. As a child, my sister and her best friend would eat BLCC- bacon, lettuce, and cottage cheese- sandwiches, skipping the tomato. Conversely, I dislike lettuce on sandwiches in general- I’m fine with a handful of arugula, but iceberg, romaine, and the like are far too wet to go on bread. But this sandwich has nothing to do with the mushy tomatoes on toasted Wonderbread of our youth. I present, for your near-instant gratification, the BTE sandwich- my favorite use of a just-off-the-vine tomato in recent memory.
Preparation could not be simpler- I layered slices of hard-boiled egg and tomato, thick-cut bacon, and a miniscule amount of mayonnaise on toasted sourdough bread. But as usual, delicious is in the details. I cooked the bacon in my beloved cast iron skillet, and in a move both lazy and decadent, toasted the bread directly in the pan full of bacon drippings. Of course, for a healthful twist, you could use dry toast to construct your sandwich. Your arteries would thank you, but your spirit would not.
The BTE Sandwich
4 slices thick-cut bacon
4 medium-thick slices of sourdough, or any rustic-style bread
1 ripe tomato, as fresh as possible, sliced thick
2 hard-boiled eggs, chilled, peeled, and sliced
In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, cook the bacon until crisp, turning often. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate to cool. In the skillet with rendered bacon fat, toast four slices of bread, flipping several times. Set aside to cool.
Once bread has cooled slightly, spread one side of each piece with a thin layer of best-quality mayonnaise. Top two pieces of toast with bacon, tomato, hard-boiled egg, and a second slice of toast.
Makes two very filling, very tasty sandwiches.
My love for all things nautical borders on the obsessive. I own an anchor-print swimsuit, no fewer than five red-and-white striped shirts, and have a ship’s bell on my back porch. I like to eat nautical too. Though I generally aim to try new restaurants rather than visit the same place twice, since FishBar opened, I find myself going back again, and again, and again…. The power of the lobster roll compels me.
On our last visit, the manager brought my friend Missy and I a little taste of a new tartare the kitchen was experimenting with. Salmon + dill = perfection.
We split the Soft Shell Crab Po’Boy (amazing)…
… and of course, the lobster roll. Because we’re decadent like that.
In fact, I went on about these lobster rolls so much, my parents put on a lobster feast for the Fourth of July. Sparks flew.
Oh yes, those too. But really, lobster tails, deviled eggs, and my best friend in from New York for the occasion… that is reason enough to celebrate.
To create your own Lobster Fest ’11, grill lobster tails over medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side, brushing generously with butter. The shells will turn bright and the lobster meat will be opaque when ready. Serve with lots of melted butter and plenty of napkins.
At the lake, I love a dish with a long inactive prep time. Marinades, anything requiring a requiring a rest in the fridge, or ingredients brought to room temperature- these are recipes I lack the patience to make for a weeknight dinner. But on a Saturday at the cottage, I can take care of these tasks after lunch and still squeeze in a full afternoon of floating. Last weekend, I made dinner for some friends and my parents, including an heirloom tomato and corn salad that has been lying latent in my mind since I read it in last June’s Bon Appetit. The corn, still in it’s husk, soaks in a bowl of water for an hour before going on the grill, where it steams in it’s own little wrapper. It is shucked, tossed back on the grill for a little charring, sliced from the cob, and tossed with heirloom tomatoes in a fresh basil vinaigrette. This salad is phenomenal, with the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, and I highly recommend the full-out version- if you have two hours, a grill, and a mother will asbestos hands and killer knife skills (she offered!).
I knew I needed to recreate this salad immediately, so driving home, I picked up some sweet corn and a few early heirloom tomatoes at a little farmstand in preparation for Round 2. This is the Monday evening, 7 p.m. start time version. Still light and summery, the addition of whole wheat pasta rounds out the dish with an appealing nutty flavor.
Heirloom Tomato and Sweet Corn Pasta
Adapted from Bon Appetit
8 oz whole wheat penne pasta
4 medium heirloom tomatoes
4 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced, plus additional for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente; drain, and set aside to cool.
Core tomatoes, and chop into bite-sized pieces, reserving 1 handful of diced tomatoes with their juices.
With a very sharp knife, slice the corn kernels from the cob. In a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and add minced garlic, then corn. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Turn off heat and add reserved tomatoes to deglaze the plan. Briefly stir, then remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.
To make vinaigrette, combine white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, basil, and a pinch of salt in a small jar. Shake vigorously to emulsify.
In a large bowl, gently toss pasta, tomatoes, and corn mixture with the vinaigrette. Salt to taste, and garnish with basil.