In the space of a week our weather here in New England has gone from reaching a high in the 90s during the day to a low of 40s at night. Fall is definitely making an early arrival this year! The markets are also beginning to reflect a change of seasons, especially in the produce aisles where the bins are filled with apples. Macintosh, Mollie’s Delicious, Ginger Gold, Gravenstein, and Macouns (my personal favorite) are all on proud display.
I’ve been buying them in varying hues, slicing them thinly, and using them along with fresh sage leaves (from my herb garden) to garnish wedges of local blue and aged goat cheese. This week I branched out and used them in a robust fall salad.
I can’t remember a year when the tomato crops have been better. Heirlooms in myriad varieties, red, yellow and orange cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as field tomatoes (or what I call just plain old summer tomatoes) are having a heyday in western New England this summer. They started appearing in August and are still going strong—so strong that I have been using them creatively week after week in recipes like the simple BLT Soup featured here.
After making countless BLT sandwiches, I decided to try the popular trio in a soup and loved the results. Nothing could have been easier. After frying a few bacon slices until crisp, I used a small amount of the drippings to sauté chopped onion, garlic, and fresh tomatoes, and then simmered this mélange in chicken stock and fresh orange juice. Seasonings of basil and cayenne pepper rounded out the flavors. When done, the soup was pureed to a crimson smoothness.
Editor’s note: Occasionally I receive the best feedback from my readers and testers about the new recipes that they’re trying out. This was a perfect example. I was so pleased to receive this note from a reader along with photos she took of the Tian of Summer Vegetables from the new Sunday Casseroles. Let me know in the comments how you’ve been doing with your own version of the tian or other recipes that you’ve been tackling! And, of course, I always love to see your photos, so send them to me and I’ll post them on my Facebook gallery!
The other day I made the Tian of Tomatoes and Summer Squash with Basil and Mint, from Sunday Casseroles, and it was absolutely fantastic! The kitchen was alive with the smell of roasting vegetables, and chopped fresh herbs. As I layered everything for baking, my husband wandered in to ask when we were having dinner. Here are some pictures of my process.
Like Memorial Day and July 4th that precede it, Labor Day is a holiday celebrated casually. For the last of that triumvirate of summer fêtes, most cooks (and I am certainly one of them!) will be pulling out grills, cooking burgers, steaks, chops–you name it–over open flames. I’m especially excited about my menu this year since I’ve been fine-tuning a recipe for grilled pork tenderloins and plums served with a verdant summer salad.
Nothing could be easier. The tenderloins are marinated in a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, soy, and canola oil with generous seasonings of fresh ginger, garlic, and black pepper. If you have enough time, it’s best to marinate the meat overnight, but in a pinch you can let it rest for several hours. Grilled over a hot fire, the meat needs 20 to 25 minutes until fork tender and the flesh blush pink. During the last few minutes, juicy plums, quartered and skewered, are cooked quickly alongside until slightly charred.
Every Saturday morning in the summer and fall, you’ll find me at my local farmers’ market. Although our market is small, what it lacks in size it makes up for in variety and quality. On a recent visit to our block-long food bazaar, I spotted “ratte’ potatoes (a French fingerling beloved by French chefs). Nearby a cheese vendor displayed wedges of tomme Normande (made in the style of celebrated French “tomme” cheeses). At a yogurt stand, the dairy farmer offered creamy pots of yogurt scented with New England maple syrup. I also found okra in hues of purple and green, a rainbow assortment of heirloom tomatoes, and most surprisingly, boxes of mild Japanese shishito peppers (slim, green peppers from 3 to 4 inches in length.) I can never resist the lure of such interesting fare, and fill my basket with purchases to try at home. The recipe for the delicious vegetable pizza featured here was inspired by one of these shopping forays.
A thin-crusted pizza round (purchased at Whole Foods) was spread with sautéed onions, and topped with shavings of a robust tomme de Savoie. Next, lightly pan-fried baby zucchini or yellow squash (either works equally well) are alternated with sliced plum tomatoes in a spoke pattern atop the onions. They are sprinkled with more cheese and sliced shishito peppers. Seasonings of oregano, red pepper flakes, and a hint of balsamic round out the flavors. Continue reading
Photo by Susie Cushner
This week marked the official launch of my newest book, Sunday Casseroles. I shared this news on Facebook, and can’t begin to thank all of you who sent me good luck notes and congratulations! Like all the books I’ve written, this one was the work of many–assistants who cooked with me daily to create the recipes, testers who offered invaluable critiques, and the talented team at Chronicle Books who edited, designed, and produced this beautiful collection. Oh, and, the gorgeous photos are the work of talented photographer, Susie Cushner!
To celebrate the publication, here’s a recipe for Shrimp Baked in Coconut and Lime Rice, perfect for hot August weather. It’s easy–count on just a little chopping and juicing. It’s also intensely colorful–rosy-hued shellfish, bright orange mangoes, and verdant specks of cilantro form a heavenly color combo. And, it has an interesting flavor profile—hot and spicy accents are paired with cooling and refreshing ones! Add a salad of summer greens tossed in a lime and honey dressing, and for dessert serve scoops of icy cold sorbet with fresh berries and your favorite cookies.
Shrimp Baked in Coconut and Lime Rice
For this delectable dish with Southeast Asian accents, jasmine rice is cooked in coconut milk, which provides a hint of sweetness to the casserole. Lime juice and zest counter with a citrus note, while fish sauce provides a salty tang, and serrano pepper and ginger offer a Continue reading
Okra at the Amherst Farmers’ Market
If you’re one of those who cringe when you hear the word “okra,” then you should have a look at Virginia Willis’ Okra. Published this spring just in time for cooks to take advantage of this summer crop, this slim volume is filled with recipes that will convince “okra doubters” that when cooked properly, okra is not “slimy or gummy” but rather a delicious vegetable.
In Okra, the author addresses the fact that people either love or hate okra. “It’s a contentious vegetable,” she proclaims. But to all those who think they don’t like this versatile ingredient, she says, “They just haven’t met the right okra!” To make her point she follows up with a sampling of recipes with both Southern and international accents.
Like Virginia, I grew up in the South in Tennessee, right next to her native Georgia, and have fond memories of delicious okra dishes that my mother prepared during warm weather months. Sliced okra, coated in cornmeal, then fried in bacon drippings until crisp and golden, was a favorite as was shrimp and okra gumbo served over rice.
Anxious to cook from this book, I’ve prepared Oven-Fried Okra several times—it’s easy Continue reading
My son, Mike, is a talented cook, and during our family’s summer vacation, he and I teamed up to prepare the evening meals. Often we went to the market, chose what looked good, and decided how we’d use if after returning home. That was certainly the case with a colorful tomato and onion confit we whipped up one night.
A cache of plump, ripe summer tomatoes, a mound of garlic heads, and a bag of onions, were the inspiration for a simple but vibrant tomato and onion garnish. We chopped the onions into large pieces, sautéed them until golden, and then added tomatoes and a hefty accent of pressed garlic. Cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper added heat and color to our mélange. We served this quick confit with couscous and grilled Moroccan merguez sausages (easily found in France where we were staying). Back home I substituted lamb chops marinated with the same spices used in the confit with equally delicious results. Continue reading
In Brittany a few weeks ago, my husband and I had just finished gazing at a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean from Cap Fréhel (one of the most visited and certainly one of the most gorgeous sites in that region of France) and wanted to have lunch. If we had blinked our eyes as we drove down a narrow country road, we would have missed La Ribote, a small (think 25 seats) restaurant. The menu announced that the cuisine was prepared with local ingredients, and even listed the names of their suppliers, including fisheries and farms. The single waitress waltzed through the room carrying platters of mussels and oysters, but it was the large bowls mounded high with an incredible salad that caught my eye. Continue reading
Semilla Kitchen Team
The French have an original expression for describing restaurants they are particularly fond of. They call them coups de coeur–heartthrobs. Paris by Mouth (a site I use repeatedly when in the City of Light for terrific restaurant, wine, and pastry reviews) even goes so far as to put a bright pink heart by the names of establishments they deem worthy of this honor. Semilla, a popular eatery located in the St Germain area on the Left Bank is my newest heartthrob. (It’s also the recipient of one of those little pink hearts from Paris by Mouth!).
My husband and I have dined in this lively bistro four times this year, twice during our Continue reading