I think of this time of the year as transitional—not quite the end of summer, but not exactly fall either. Here in New England since September arrived, we’ve seen the thermometer reach a sweltering 90 degrees and just as quickly watched it drop to the chilly 50s. As a cook, the challenge is obvious. What I want is dishes that are just as tempting for those lingering hot, humid days as well as for the cool, crisp ones that hint at autumn.
The following recipe for a creamy tomato soup scented with goat cheese and garnished with tarragon easily bridges both these weather extremes. It can be prepared with the last Continue reading
After a long morning of prepping for a cooking class scheduled the following day, my two assistants and I were wondering what to have for lunch. Looking in the fridge we spotted some limes and lemons, a large bunch of cilantro, a couple of ears of corn, and a bag of leftover salad greens. On the kitchen counter we noticed a ripe avocado and a bowl of multi-hued cherry tomatoes. It didn’t take us long to decide we could make a salad with our cache. What we weren’t expecting was for this impromptu creation to be so memorable!
We whisked lime and lemon juices with olive oil for a simple citrus vinaigrette, and for the salad we began by sautéing corn kernels scraped from the cobs. When lightly browned, we combined the golden morsels with halved cherry tomatoes and diced avocado. Since we had only a handful of salad greens, we used a generous amount of torn cilantro sprigs as a substitute. The substantial hit of cilantro’s assertive flavor turned out to be the secret to this salad’s delicious taste.
We piled the salad high on plates and dusted them with some coarsely grated hard-boiled egg. We also added a sprinkle of Mahon cheese, but the latter can be optional. The salad has become such a favorite that we’ve had it three more times for lunch on work days. Now each of us is planning to use it for summer suppers as a side to grilled mains such as chicken, lamb, or shrimp!
Savory Mexican Cheesecake with Tortilla Chips
Guests sampling the buffet.
Claire on the left and Liz on the right–two Amherst grads who helped cook and in my kitchen!
The professor congratulating his students
Manchego, Tomato, and Avocado Toasts
Melon with Pernod and Mint
Cheeses with Fresh Cherries and Sage
My husband and I look forward each spring to celebrating graduation at Amherst College. We host a party for my spouse’s students, and make it a family affair by inviting the moms, dads, siblings, and grandparents of the honorees. This year was a particularly large group with almost fifty people at our home last Saturday for champagne and appetizers.
I set out a buffet that included smoked salmon with lemon crème fraîche, a tray of cheeses garnished with fresh cherries and sage, and roasted asparagus spears with a gribiche sauce (mayo with chopped hard boiled eggs, mustard and chives). Skewers of cantaloupe marinated in Pernod and mint, plus a savory Mexican cheesecake (scented with cumin and chili) served with yellow and blue tortilla chips rounded out the menu. But, it was a simple passed hors d’oeuvre for Manchego, Tomato, and Avocado Toasts that garnered the most attention. Continue reading
Recently, while going through some old files, I came across a recipe of mine for crab and tomato quesadillas. I hadn’t made these pan-fried tortilla sandwiches in years, but the ingredients sounded as delectable today as they did over a decade ago.
Flour tortillas were spread with a mixture of grated Jack cheese and cream cheese scented with citrus accents of orange and lemon. Then, a colorful mélange of crabmeat, diced tomatoes, and chopped green onions was added before the tortillas were folded in half and cooked on the stove top.
I tweaked the recipe slightly, replacing the lemon and orange seasonings with the more assertive flavor of lime. And instead of Monterrey Jack, I used Mahon, a delicious slightly sharp Spanish cheese. I also experimented with both whole wheat and regular flour tortillas, and found that each worked well. Continue reading
Last week by some miracle (read a blizzard-free night), ten of the thirteen members of my book club braved the freezing temperatures and the snow covered streets and roads of our small New England town to meet at my house for our monthly gathering. Although the menu choices are up to each host, I thought we all needed some comfort food, and decided on a soup supper. A winter tomato and garlic soup garnished with creamy blue cheese bruschette was the centerpiece and a dense chocolate cake the finale. A mixed greens salad tossed with julienned fennel, blood orange segments, and toasted walnuts rounded out the meal. Both the food and the book selection—All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—got good reviews!
This delicious tomato soup, vibrantly scented with garlic and unexpectedly with a hint of bracing orange, is a snap to assemble and takes less than half an hour to simmer atop the stove. Although it is pureed, the texture of this rustic soup is still slightly chunky, adding to its charm. You can make this dish several days in advance and reheat it. For the bruschette, toast the baguette slices several hours ahead, then spread them with Gorgonzola and pop them in the oven at serving time. Continue reading
This fall has seen the coincidental publication of my Sunday Casseroles and When Paris Went Dark—The City of Light During the German Occupation, my husband’s new book. As a consequence, the past two months have been a blur of travel for us. I’ve been to Maine, Boston, and Ohio for book events, and tagged along with my spouse to New York, Washington, and Connecticut for his talks and signings. This chaotic schedule has meant that I’ve had to cook smart, and make plenty of dishes in advance. Soups, it turns out, have been my salvation since they are so easy to do ahead. One of my favorites has been a comforting Italian –style “zuppa“ of tomatoes, fennel, and sausage.
This hearty soup is made by sautéing slices of sweet, fennel-scented Italian sausage along with leeks and then gently simmering the duo in chicken stock and tomatoes. Simple seasonings of basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic round out the robust flavors, while a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano provides a fitting garnish.
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
This summer the price of lobster in my local supermarket reached an all-time low of $5.99 a pound, prompting me to add this popular crustacean to menus on more than one occasion. For two family birthday dinners we steamed lobsters, and served them with pots of melted butter and sides of corn on the cob and salad.
Then I got more creative when one local grocery chain started cooking lobsters, removing their succulent meat, and selling it fresh or frozen. I bought home a small container to use for—lobster BLTs! My first attempts were good, but not stellar. I prepared a delectable mixture of lobster, mayo, lemon, and tarragon as a base for the sandwiches. But then I overwhelmed it with too much bacon and an unnecessary addition of sliced avocados. Continue reading