Monthly Archives: August 2007

The Tomato Week

It all started with this box:
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A good friend from my hometown met Matt and I halfway between Lubbock and Portales a few weeks ago. I had expressed fear that I would make it through the whole summer without having a single, proper Summer tomato. She expressed her overwhelming abundance of the sort and offered to bring us some. So we decided: emergency roadside picnic! We sat on a bench in a church yard off the main road that runs through Sudan and each brought yummy picnic items: I brought chicken quesadillas and a cucumber/mozzarella salad to which I added some of the sun-warmed tomatoes. She brought homemade salsa and Chicharrones de Pollo (Caribbean fried chicken).
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So we went home with about 30 extra ripe tomatoes and not much time to use them all up! The main thing you need to do with tomatoes like these is simply cut in half, salt and eat.

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Room temp. DON’T YOU DARE STICK THEM IN THE FRIDGE! You will surely answer to the fresh produce gods for this. Anyway, I couldn’t possibly eat that many tomatoes just by that method, so I looked up a few recipes and here were the most tasty:

Tomato-Parmesan-Garlic Tart

This was one of the most flavor-packed recipes I’ve ever made. It’s almost like a little pizza. You start with pie crust in a tart pan, you roast 5 garlic heads till golden and smush them up for the “sauce”, then you top with ripe tomato slices, chopped fresh basil and scallions and crisp bacon, and top that with a mayo/Parmesan/breadcrumb mixture and bake. Totally divine.

the garlic paste
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the cut up tomatoes for the tart

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before you bake, all assembled
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the leftover crusty goodness
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So that was the best recipe using the tomatoes. It came from Emeril, so check it out and make it tonight! I think even if you don’t have fresh tomatoes, the whole canned ones would taste pretty good, too.

Coming in second place was the tomato/crab salad stuffed tomatoes. An original “throw-together” creation of canned crab claw meat, fresh corn cut from the cob, watercress, a bit of mayo, some garlic-chili
paste, and of course, salt and pepper. Scoop out the center of the tomato and add that in, too if you want (but that tends to make things kind of watery) and stuff! Very crisp and crunchy and GOOD. dsc_0041tomatoes.jpg
And coming in third was a basic tomato sauce. Chopped celery, carrot, tons of tomatoes, milk, apple cider, red pepper flakes for heat, bay leaf and lots and lots of simmering. Not too bad served with with some garlic cous-cous and turkey. Not bad at all.

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Thus endeth the tomato saga. I’ve had enough citric acid to tear a hole in my stomach, but it was worth it!
What did YOU do with your tomatoes this summer?

 

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Much Impressed

Matt made pretzel rolls last night. Taste just like a pretzel, but shaped like a dinner roll. These really were impressive  He scored the top (cut slits in the raw dough) and I brushed them with egg whites and sprinkled with Kosher salt. It was such a nice effect – where he scored them, they stayed white and the salt turned a nice opaque white, leaving the rest of the roll this deep, gorgeous chestnut brown. I laughed for a long time when they came out of the oven saying, “They look just like the fake bread at Hobby Lobby!” I don’t know how many of you have seen those plastic rolls that people buy to make it look like they always have rolls on the table, but these just looked so much like that! We’ll see if you all agree. If anyone wants the recipe, I’ll go ahead and post it at the bottom. It’s not that hard….really. You can do this.

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Pretzel Rolls

2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp rapid rise yeast
1 tbs malted barley powder (found in the baking aisle)
1 tsp salt (+a dash more if you’re using Kosher)
1 cup hot water or milk
1 egg white

Knead in a mixer or by hand for about 5 minutes. Seems like a long time, but it needs to “develop” not just mix to combine. After the 5 min, form into a big ball and let rise in a greased container for 1 hour (cover container with some plastic wrap or a towel).
Punch down and form rolls (8) and let rise on a parchment lined baking sheet for 20 min.
Bring 8 cups water + 1/4 cup baking soda + 2 tbs sugar to a boil in a large stock pot. Boil raw rolls 30 sec per side and place on a greased, cornmeal sprinkled baking pan (remove parchment). Brush each roll with egg white and sprinkle with either Kosher or sea salt. You don’t want to used iodized, super fine table salt. You want to be able to SEE the salt!
Score tops with a very sharp knife or razor blade. Don’t be afraid to make deep cuts – they will turn out beautiful!
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Serve with Dijon mustard or a Dijon/butter mixture.

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Ode to the French

Well, maybe we aren’t saluting the French yet, but we are celebrating their food and quite enjoying it, too! This past weekend Matt and I just had an itch to make all new dishes for Saturday night dinner. 75% of the recipes came out of the Les Halles cookbook, the cookbook from the restaurant Anthony Bourdain is head chef. So Matt contributed Poulet Roti (roast chicken), Vichyssoise, (cold potato-leek soup), and the wine pairing, which was amazing, by the way. Pepperwood Creek Viognier – such a gorgeous wine to have with chicken and all the richness of our dishes. It was slightly apricot, green apple, and citrus but smooth smooth. Might I recommend!
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The roast chicken, stuffed with lemon, rosemary, thyme and onion, rubbed with Kosher salt and honey herb butter.

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The honey herb butter. It had thyme, sage and basil – all fresh. SO GOOD on my Gougeres!
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The Vichyssoise – pureed potato-leek soup served cold in a chilled bowl. I was a bit of a philistine and preferred mine hot…I like it cold, but I have to get over my mental aversion to things that should be hot, being cold. Train that palette, Palmsey!

To our meal, I contributed Gougeres, (Gruyere cheese puff pastry bites) and a proper Caesar salad. I say proper because there is hardly ever a Caesar dressing that I think should legally be called Caesar. I have NO idea what people do to make it white and gloppy, but the traditional way is lighter, spicier and has a bite. We also got to buy anchovies for the first time to put in the dressing and I really liked the briny addition it gives. So proper Caesar = anchovies, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon, Parmesan, Romaine and homemade croûtons.
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Gougeres coming out of the oven. Topped and filled with Gruyere cheese.
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Light as air and chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside. You can seriously eat a dozen and not feel a thing.
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My Caesar salad – Spicy!
Because the Gougeres are so easy and so amazing, I want to write out the recipe here. Make them a little bigger than the recipe says and you have an amazing alternative to the dinner roll. I can’t explain how wonderful these are. Don’t skimp out on the cheese – yes, Gruyere is more expensive, but the taste is so fantastic, it’s worth it to splurge now and then.

Gougeres
1 cup water
8 tbs unsalted butter
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 cup diced Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the water, butter and a teaspoon of the salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool slightly, stir in the flour, and mix well. Return the pan to the heat and stir with a wooden spoon over high heat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan (for me, I didn’t have to return it to the heat for it to do this). Remove from the heat.
Stir in the eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add the diced cheese, the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper, stirring well.
Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto a well-buttered baking pan. Smooth the top and sides of each gougere with a knife, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Bake in batches for 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
Serve immediately!

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latest photo shoot – 8.10.07

I got the privilege of doing an owner/pet shoot last Friday. I’ve always wanted to do more pet photography and even took my business card around to pretty much every groomer in this town, but no one had taken me up on it yet until last week when a sweet girl named Dustie called me and said that her dog was her baby and that everyone else has family photos taken, and she wanted some, too! I thought they were both simply adorable. We had a ton of fun, and her dog, Carley, was definitely the star of the show! Here are some of my favorite shots:

 

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check out this dog’s eyelashes
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Faux-Reos

Matt got this recipe from www.kingarthurflour.com and made them last week in place of his usual bread. In all honesty, I am posting this because the pictures I took of the “oreos” match the color scheme on my blog really nicely. How’s that for simple. The cookies were really good and the best part of making them yourself is you can make not just a double stuff, but a triple or a quadruple stuff cookie if you want. Which, to me, is the whole reason for buying Oreos to begin with. I mean…who’s in it for the chocolate cookie? I’ll even post the recipe for those of you who want to make them.

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Cookies
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 7/8 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour or Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) black cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa, plus 2 to 3 additional tablespoons for coating the cookies

Filling
1 teaspoon + a heaping 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (you’ll use part of a 1/4- ounce packet)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold water
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening, trans-fat-free preferred
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) confectioners’ sugar or glazing sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, or more if you have them; you’ll make 3 to 4 baking sheets’ worth of cookies. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons black or Dutch-process cocoa in an 8″ or 9″ cake pan, shaking to distribute it across the bottom of the pan.

To make the cookies: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, salt, and espresso powder. That’s right; there’s no leavening in this recipe, so don’t worry that something’s been left out. Beat in the egg, water, and vanilla, then the flour and cocoa. The dough will be very stiff.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a chestnut (about 2 level teaspoons). Note: A teaspoon cookie scoop works fabulously here, as well as for the filling. If you don’t have one, consider a purchase; you won’t regret it. As you roll the dough into balls, place them in the cake pan with the cocoa. When you have 6 to 8 balls in the pan, shake gently to roll them in the cocoa, then place on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with all the dough.

Use the flat bottom of a glass, dipped in cocoa as necessary to prevent sticking, to flatten the cookies to about 1/8″ thick. Take a ruler and measure 1/8″; you want to get pretty close to this measurement, for the best-textured cookies.

Bake the cookies for 18 minutes. It’s important to bake them just the right amount of time; too little, and they won’t be crisp; too much, and they’ll scorch. Watch them closely at the end of the baking time, and if you start to smell scorching chocolate before 18 minutes has gone by, take them out. When they’re done, remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool completely, on a rack or on the pan.

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling. Soften the gelatin in a cup with the 2 tablespoons of cold water, then place the cup in a larger dish of hot water and leave it there, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves and becomes syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. While this is happening, beat together the shortening, vanilla, and sugar. It’ll seem very dry at first, but will eventually begin to clump together. When this happens, add the dissolved gelatin, and beat until smooth.

Place one level tablespoon filling in the center of one cookie; again, a teaspoon cookie scoop, slightly heaped, is perfect for this task. Place another cookie atop the filling, and squeeze to distribute the filling evenly. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: about 2 dozen 2″ sandwich cookies.

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