Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Is that sand between my toes or are you happy to see me?

Banana Walnut Bread

Banana Walnut Bread

I’ve decided to build an iPhone app that will help people answer the question, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” The twist—the gimmick—will be that you can’t write a word until Summer has receded into memory, your flip-flops have been thrown under the bed for the winter, and you can’t leave the toasty warmth of your kitchen without wearing something made of wool.  Yes, friends, this will be “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Summer Scrap Booking.”

I’m sure I’ll get around to this…eventually.

Following that general timeline, I’m just getting around to jotting down a few poetic thoughts about what came out of my kitchen during the warm weather. Hint: I could fit these thoughts on a cheap postcard of Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  Why Ocean Grove?  It’s a really nice summer place, but I’m scared to go there because John Quinones and the crew from ABC’S “What Would You Do?” keep popping up, documenting people’s bad behavior. Hey, I’m an angel, but with the wrong editing I may come off badly. And as Nora Ephron said, “Lighting is everything.”

But I digress…

The kitchen of my expansive New York City apartment (with views of Central Park, the Hudson AND East Rivers—framed) gets very hot during the summer. I find it interesting that something grown in tropical climates, the common household Banana, cannot survive a 90-degree New York City apartment kitchen without becoming the botanical equivalent of road kill.  Yet, stored in the refrigerator they begin to resemble the pods from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

Predictably, I gave in to the common solution of using dying bananas to make Banana Walnut Bread.  I used the recipe in Craig Claiborne’s version of “The New York Times Cookbook” which dates back to 1961.  As with most things from that era, it has a bit more charm (hello), although this is due to Claiborne having called it, “Banana Tea Bread”.  That name conjures up the vibe of a different era, but I don’t own a tea service or a doily, so this Banana Walnut Bread—with canola oil replacing the recipe’s shortening—was purely a weekend snack.  Toasted, then topped with a little cream cheese, it also made a really good high carb pre-workout breakfast. (I make no claims about this being health food, but it certainly is wholesome.) Using Canola Oil means you can eat it straight from the fridge without it being like a big, cold, brick, but toasting it brings out its earth tones.

Pumpkin Blondies

Pumpkin Blondies

A few weeks ago, one of my treasured yoga teachers, Kyle Miller, decamped to Los Angeles.  All of my teachers are amazing, but yoga seems to waft from Kyle’s pores like the scent of patchouli from a burning incense stick.  I started practicing yoga at a fairly late stage in life, and am about as flexible and graceful as a “two by four”, so I consider myself lucky to have had someone as skilled, enthusiastic, and spiritual as Kyle to get me enthusiastic about returning to the mat.  Kyle has teamed up with some colleagues to start a business called Yoga for Bad People.  I hope someday she’ll return to New York and start “Yoga for Good People who are Bad at Yoga”.  I’ll be there.

Kyle’s final New York class was a packed, emotional (and sweaty) treat to attend. She is beloved. My Bon Voyage gift to her was a short stack of Pumpkin Blondies. I was hoping that the pumpkin and maple flavors would give her a little taste of the Northeast to savor in Sunny LA.  These were based on a simple Blondie recipe I found on line; the pumpkin, maple syrup, and chocolate chunks were my addition. (I struggle when it comes to making things without chocolate. The Banana Walnut Bread mentioned above almost succumbed.)

Mixed Berry Crisp with Pistachio Crumb topping

Mixed Berry Crisp with Pistachio Crumb topping

This past summer I found myself craving the delicate richness of home-made ice cream…often.  Perhaps too often. My excuse was that I was experimenting with using the same base to make different flavors.  Really. It was for the greater good. My favorite flavor remains Peppermint Stick. I tried adding chocolate to it, but the chocolate gets too cold, which blunts its flavor. I had better results adding finely chopped chocolate to the top of the scooped ice cream.

To accompany one particularly silky batch of Vanilla Bean, I made very simple, little Berry Crisps.  These make suitable baking subjects during the hot weather because the berries are (relatively) cheap and plentiful, and because you can throw them in the oven and retreat to the air conditioning while they bake.  The zaftig smoothness of the ice cream cuts the spiky, almost vinegary sweetness of the berries.  And the cold / hot “thing” is my second most favorite food juxtaposition, after “salty / sweet”.  So, there may have been the odd salted pistachio in the crumb topping.

My Revolution

Eight Grain Hamburger Rolls

Ready for the backyard...if I had one.

I don’t like to write about politics in this venue. A friend of mine—much wiser than I—is fond of saying, “If you want to send a message call Western Union.” He’s usually talking about plays, TV shows, or movies that are used as vehicles to put forth a political or moral argument. I tend to agree when it is done poorly. But if you succeed in entertaining me, then I say, go ahead and preach.

It can be easy to dismiss these messages. Personal zealotry can be just as repellant as it can be appealing. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I had never given Jamie Oliver, the young British chef and restaurateur much thought. Fact is I’ve never given most celebrity chefs much thought. Do I think they are talented? Absolutely. Do I care? Nyet. I am most assuredly not a restaurant foodie; unlike most New Yorkers I prefer to eat at home. (I could have titled this posting, “Never Been To Nobu”.)

Yet there I am, in front of my TV each week watching “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Didactic? Yup. Preachy? Affirmative. And totally my cup of tea because I am totally in step with the message being tooted.

The show, an extension of a program he started in the UK, follows Oliver’s “man vs. the machine” quest to improve the eating habits of America’s children, starting with the food they eat in their schools’ cafeterias. Last season concentrated on a couple of schools in Huntington, West Virginia; this season he has picked a bigger rock to roll up hill: Los Angeles.

In an age when TV executives seem unable to provide anything better than endless competition shows (“America’s Next [Fill In The Blank]”), freak shows (“Hoarders” which I think of whenever too much time has elapsed between apartment cleanings—so, often), and cotton candy (anything Kardashianic), one has to wonder how “Food Revolution” ever made it to network television. No one gets voted off. No one throws a glass of wine at anyone. No one is designing a line of jeans.

The closest the show has ever gotten to the voyeuristic realm of reality television was last week’s brief glimpses of Oliver’s family in the kitchen of their rented LA home which showed his baby daughter mesmerized by turning the faucet on and off with her feet. (I thought it was sweet, cute, and very funny. And yes, I am a sap.)

The answers are likely a combination of the show’s Executive Producer, that twenty-first century show-biz virago, Ryan Seacrest, the family-friendly Disney owned ABC, and the fact that the British version of the show was a hit.

What amazes me is the fact that the changes he wants to make are considered a revolution. Last year in West Virginia he noted that the only milk choices were Chocolate or Strawberry – both contain the equivalent of 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar. He fought to get regular milk in the cafeterias—and lost.

When I was a kid (lo those many years ago) the schools served us a little half pint of regular milk each day. Ice cold. It was delicious—and I’ve never been a big milk drinker. Every once in a while there were kids who added a spoonful of Nestlé’s Quik, but for the most part they were the exception, not the rule.

I ride the subway and notice with increasing alarm the increasing size of our youngsters. When I was a kid if you were overweight you were ostracized because most kids were skinny until they hit their teens. Is overweight the new normal? Are we raising a “Big Gulp” generation? When did a tanker-sized cup of soda become the normal serving?

There are as many theories of what has caused the so-called “epidemic” of childhood obesity as there are people. I’m not claiming to know the answer, but I’m convinced that people have been overwhelmed by information: everything is bad for you, therefore, what’s the difference? Order whatever you want—sauce on the side.

Where, you ask, does a man who writes about baking and sugary treats get off attacking sugar? A valid question. The idea isn’t to make cake disappear. The idea is to eat good cake, made from quality ingredients, and as part of a healthy diet. It’s a treat not dinner.

In Los Angeles this season, Oliver isn’t trying to make burgers disappear. He is helping a guy who owns a typical LA drive-through burger joint change the quality of the ingredients he uses—ranch-fed beef, good sauces, and whole grain rolls. The trick is to make sure that the guy who owns the drive through continues to have a thriving business even though the ingredients may cost more. (He seems to have succeeded.)

Listen, I don’t know Jamie Oliver. I don’t know what compelled him to adopt this cause. But I sure do admire the work he has done. I admire the work Alice Waters has done with her Edible Schoolyard program where she has set up school gardens. The students raise the vegetables which are then used in their lunches. Maybe if kids get closer to understanding where their food comes from they’ll make better choices? (Question mark intentional.)

I thought it would be fun to recreate the Revolution Burger at home, at least in concept. The organic farm-raised beef was the easy part—Fairway Market here in New York took care of that. My responsibility was to create a hamburger roll that would make Jamie proud. Seven grains? Feh! I used eight!

A really good burger sitting on a rock hard roll is no one’s friend, so I knew I needed to make a roll that had some squish and richness. I “appropriated” an idea from America’s Test Kitchen: use cooked eight grain cereal in the dough. This is brilliant because uncooked whole grains can be too hard to digest while making the roll too dry to enjoy. Further, I cooked the cereal in milk which added richness to the dough. (Bread made with milk also tends to have a toastier crust.) A touch of honey brought out the sweet fragrance of the grains.

The result has the heft of whole grain and the squish and sweetness of plain ol’ hamburger rolls.

If you know Jamie, pass this along and ask him if he approves.

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Click here for my recipe for “Eight Grain Hamburger Rolls

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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Go ahead: tweet this posting. Tweeeet…

Christmas in July (The Figgy Pudding part anyway…)

Semolina Fig Cake

fa la la la la...

Over the past several days I have been noticing that retailers — both on line and off — are trying to use what may turn out to be one of the hottest summers on record to their advantage. The other day while channel surfing I happened upon a show on QVC devoted solely to Christmas trees and wreaths. The show’s title (you guessed it) was Christmas In July. Well heck, these folks don’t trade in subtlety, they trade in cubic zirconia.

Can you blame them for trying? The thought of the holiday season may have a cooling effect on some folks, others will be enticed to start their shopping early, and still others — like me — watch in amusement from the artificial winter of my air conditioned living room.

As I sat watching the various ways you can adjust the trees to flash their twinkling lights, my air conditioner faithfully fighting off Mother Nature’s sticky panting, I thought of the song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” most notably the line that beckons, “Oh bring us a figgy pudding.” (I would think of food.)

Wait. Did I think of the song or was it playing in the background as the host of the show demonstrated how the remote control on the battery powered wreath works?

No matter: it put the thought of figs in my mind. Fresh figs, happily, are actually in season during the summer months, unlike the PVC wreaths flashing their LED lights in tempo to “Jingle Bells.”

I love Christmas and the entire holiday season, but I hew to a different vocabulary of tastes during the summer months: a better way of putting it would be to say “a time and a taste for everything.” (Sounds like a T shirt slogan. On sale in the lobby gift shop.)

During the summer I gravitate towards lighter foods, and things with brighter, fresher flavors. That does not mean that cake is out of the question. In fact when the thought of figs came to mind so did an old recipe of mine, one that I’ve been anxious to revisit for quite a while. It’s the first recipe I ever wrote that got published. Make that ghost-published.

You see, I have a friend who spends a great deal of time away from New York, so when he’s in town we always try to get together and catch up. Usually this involves gabbing in a Chinese restaurant until the staff makes it abundantly clear that they’d like us to leave. One time a few years ago he came over for coffee and cake.

He liked the cake so much that he asked for the recipe. A while later, with my permission, he volunteered the recipe for a book that was sold for charity, adding an amusing back-story that bore no relation to the truth. Did I care? No! I had published my first recipe. (I have no idea how well the book sold.)

The funny thing is that when I baked the cake I faced a kitchen with dwindling supplies, including – uh-oh – not enough sugar.

So, winging it with whatever I had in the cupboard, I came up with an adaptation of a basic Italian Olive Oil cake recipe that was satisfyingly plain. Don’t confuse plain with boring, because the cake was flavorful, moist, and had an unexpectedly hearty crumb. (Is using the term “crumb” a little high-falutin’? Apologies. It sounds like we’re having a cake tasting the way folks have wine tastings, but instead of comparing bouquets we’re comparing crumbs. A slippery slope. I promise to use caution.)

Some people hear the words “olive oil” and “cake” in the same sentence and get a little worried. If you’ve cooked with olive oil you know it usually has a scent that ranges from grassy green to turpentine. In salads or cooking that’s usually not a problem; in chocolate chip cookies this could be objectionable. But with the right cohorts olive oil can be a welcome addition to the sweet part of the meal.

Just like when you’re making chicken, a touch of lemon is compatible with olive oil. Maple syrup lends a bit caramel, and vanilla adds…well, vanilla.

The real difference is using semolina flour. This adds a texture, color, and a slightly sweeter grain flavor than plain flour. The result is like a big, moist corn muffin with hints of undecipherable influences. It’s good cake, and I thought, perfect for a re-visit, fresh figs in hand.

The figs I found were just on the cusp of going past their prime, so I carefully diced them (a serrated knife helped), and gently folded them into the batter. For a touch of crunch I sprinkled Demerara sugar on top before baking, the large sugar crystals lending a touch of molasses crunch to the finished cake. The figs dissolved slightly into the finished cake, but not enough that the little pop-pop-pop of their seeds – a la “Fig Newtons”—was lost. Their gentle honey flavor mellowed a bit, mixing beautifully with the other sweet ingredients. It all sounds kind of icky sweet, but in truth, not so much. Mellow is the best adjective here.

A perfect light summer dessert, yes, but not a bad choice with coffee, even for breakfast.

And this time the recipe’s all mine. No ghosts.

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Click here for my Semolina Fig Cake recipe.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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Summer Blues

Blueberries with Mascarpone

Oh my! We are fancy, aren't we?

The other day I was walking down my street when I spied a woman sitting on her stoop, a dog parked patiently and loyally by her side. This was a scene clipped out of a Ralph Lauren magazine ad: the woman, whippet-thin, prototypically WASP-y in bearing, and her dog, a spotted Springer Spaniel-style elegant creature whose own bone structure gave his mistresses’ a run for its money.

Aside from the fact that this slice of Connecticut Hepburn-style Americana seemed so out of place in my heavily Dominican-influenced neighborhood, what drew my eye was that the woman was sitting eating a peach. Yes, a wise choice of refreshment on a stinky-hot New York City Summer afternoon, but my internal dialogue tut-tutted, “Hmph. She would be eating a peach!”

Why so judgmental? Jealousy. I have never been able to eat a peach out of hand. I find them too mealy — and that’s after I remove the fuzzy skin. I love the flavor, hate the journey. Every summer rolls around finding me determined to “find the Zen” of eating a peach out of hand, and every summer rolls away having found me unable to do so. Could it be that I have never actually had a good peach? That hardly seems likely.

I have tried grilling peaches with a bit of brown sugar, albeit with mixed results: they taste good, but they’re still mealy. (Throw enough caramelized sugar on a baseball glove and it’ll taste good too.)

I do love peach ice cream, but the peaches have been chopped into small pieces, and the mealiness is frozen, so that’s cheating. Ditto Peach Crisp: “Yum-o” to borrow a Rachael Ray-ism.

So, like two other summer activities — sun tanning and riding roller coasters — where lack of success has forced me to redirect my ambitions (a/k/a “Quit”), I think I’ll just have to shelve my peachy ambition too. (The last time I rode a roller coaster I wasn’t “right” for days. Pale, queasy — and now peach-less, that’s me.)

So what does one do when life presents you with mealy peaches? One eats blueberries. (At least that’s what I do.)

What I like about blueberries is that they are so easy going; they will happily follow you down any path. When I was a kid we used to eat them straight off the bush — talk about a fresh and easy snack — but truly, there’s not much that is easier, faster, and more satisfying than cold blueberries in a bowl with a bit of milk and a few grains of sugar.

If, however, you are looking for something with a bit more ceremony, blueberries are just the ticket, no matter what the ticket happens to be. Think of them as the culinary equivalent of the fine worsted wool fabric a bespoke tailor uses to build a suit. (Wha??)

When I was a kid, my Mom always used to find tiny Wild Maine Blueberries. Unfortunately, here in New York I can only find those bagged and frozen. She always cooked them a bit, which only magnified their natural sweetness, making them pair beautifully with the aforementioned milk.

Even better, — for me — would be to drizzle the cooked berries and their juices over a small biscuit with a touch of very softly whipped cream for an instant shortbread.

Big fat New Jersey Blueberries are currently the easiest to find in New York, so I played with those over the weekend. You can see my comic “riff” on fine dining in the picture above. Laugh with me not at me: I painted the plate with a swoop of Blueberry Coulis, carefully placed a couple of quenelles of honey-sweetened Mascarpone cheese over a ladyfinger, arranged the berries so they’d look as if they didn’t care, and then finished the whole thing with a sprinkle of pearl sugar. A ridiculous exercise. The only reason to present food like this at home is to get a laugh, even if it is your own. But it does illustrate blueberries’ innate elegance and that they are versatile enough to stand up to anything. Evidently, they’re up for a laugh every now and then too.

You wouldn’t have laughed if you had tasted my silly, deconstructed, decaffeinated Tiramisu. The gently sweetened Mascarpone didn’t mask the blueberries; rather it added a creamy underscoring that plain whipped cream doesn’t have the chops to play. The coulis added sweetness and a bit of liquid to relax the cheese. Even the pearl sugar played a subtle role by adding a light crunch. I’ll be trying this again, although in a slightly more casual form.

I haven’t forgotten Blueberry Pie, but for me that’s just a happy excuse for ice cream.

I know that Blueberries have become the “vitamin-pill food of the moment” due to their high levels of anti-oxidants, but it seems a shame to obliterate them (as many do) by throwing them into a blender to make a breakfast smoothie. Okay, if that’s what works for you, go for it.

Mentioning blueberries and breakfast together makes me think lovingly of the gigantic, sugar-crusted Blueberry Muffins that used to be sold at the in-store bakeries of the old Jordan Marsh department store chain in Massachusetts. More cake than muffin, you could frost those behemoths, stick a plastic bride and groom on top, and be ready for a wedding.

Hmmmm…Blueberry cake with white frosting…that sounds mighty tasty. I think I owe you a recipe.

Why wait for a wedding?

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No Suffering

Succotash

Succotash with Cheddar Cracker Crust

One of the truly iconic images of late summer is fields of corn, to quote a song lyric, “…as high as an elephant’s eye.” True, it is not late summer yet, but, while shopping this past weekend I had a choice of fresh peaches or early fresh corn, and almost compulsively chose the corn.

(Peaches or corn? Why not both? Hmmmm. I’m not sure.)

Anyway, why my “almost compulsive” choice of corn? I think it has something to do with happy memories of summers gone by. It should come as no surprise to anyone that someone who writes a blog measures nostalgia in meals partaken.

Granted us urban folk don’t glimpse fields of corn from the windows of the subway, but I grew up in suburbia, and in an era before every available square inch had been developed, so there were frequent views of open fields as we drove by in the station wagon.

I also have a Mom who is a daughter of the depression. Like many folks who grew up in the depression she celebrates her removal from that era by practicing a certain kind of food snobbery. When I was a kid she flat out refused to serve anything from a can. Chef Boyardee? Horror. This extended to other food as well: Supermarket bread? Are you kidding? (Except of course for Pepperidge Farm, back in the day when it was a little regional bakery.) (Not that she baked her own, but that’s what the neighborhood bakery was for.) Then there were also certain table manners: the ketchup bottle was never allowed on the table. You poured a bit of ketchup into a dish and that’s what was placed on the table.

The only canned vegetables that were allowed in our house were Le Seur Baby Peas – which were so fancy that Sex And The City fans may remember the Samantha character trying to seduce a Monk by donating a can of the peas to his food drive.

My Mother was a regular at what used to be known as a “greengrocer” which was the storefront version of a farm stand. Later on when my parents moved to a slightly deeper slice of suburbia she found and frequently haunted a real farm stand.

I’d hate to think that this all sounds as though I grew up in a stuffy home with a frilly Mother who tinkled a little bell when dinner was served. That was not the case.

On occasions when she would return from the farm stand with a big bag filled with ears of corn, we would all dig in and help shuck the ears. As I was shucking corn this past weekend in my own kitchen I was struck by how easy the task is, the surprise stemming from memories of childhood when – for little seven or eight year old me – shucking corn was hard work. I also remembered all the different ways there are to cook corn on the cob. My favorite was actually learned in adulthood: shucked, smeared lightly with butter, wrapped in foil, and roasted directly on the barbecue coals.

This brings up an important point: corn is hard to ruin, its dirty little secret being that it is actually perfectly edible uncooked. True, you can over-boil it. But in the sauté pan or roasting in the barbecue coals even if you overcook it slightly it is still good, if perhaps a bit toasty.

Now, you don’t need me to tell you how to make corn on the cob. Besides that, I eat my corn “de-cobbed.” (Long story: let’s just say this is due to adventures in orthodontia that would fill a whole other blog.) Anyway, fresh corn off the cob is my ticket to a bit of culinary play time.

Succotash isn’t necessarily as summer dish, but its key player is our summery buddy, corn. Besides, if you cook Succotash, you get to tell people that you cooked Succotash. Say it. Out loud. See what I mean? And if you bring a big casserole of Succotash to a barbecue announcing, “Hey everyone! I brought Succotash!” you may garner a laugh or two. (Past performance is no guarantee of future results.)

The definition of Succotash is really wide open, the only constants being corn and lima beans. I scoured the web and found as many variations as there are kitchens. My favorite finds indicated that a cracker crumb topping was a particularly popular finishing touch. Fresh corn topped with buttered cracker crumbs? I’m at a loss for a worthy adjective. Use a really sturdy unsalted cracker like oyster crackers or Neva Betta crackers for best results. (In a pinch unsalted Saltines will do, although the results may be slightly soggy.)

You’ll see from my “recipe” that there really isn’t a recipe, more like a “how-to” guide, so feel free to adjust this to your own tastes.

Actually I added a little “zetz” to this by changing the buttered cracker crumbs to a Cheddar Cracker Streusel crust by adding a healthy handful of the sharpest English cheddar I could find. This transformed a side dish that is almost an afterthought into a really great summer meal.  Be warned: this cracker crumb crust may find its way—cheddar cheese included – this coming fall on top of apples for a really amazing Apple Brown Betty.

Stay tuned!

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Click here for the recipe for Succotash.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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As Seen On TV!

Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart

Attention infomercial marketers: I am your perfect audience. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

It is frighteningly easy to get me to sit and watch an infomercial. Just the other day I tarried in front of the TV for a screening of Joan Rivers’ latest epic “Great Hair Day”, which consists of a little comb and make up set that allows those stricken with thinning hair to “camouflage” the thin spots. I couldn’t tear myself away.

Cathy Mitchell and the Xpress Redi-Set-Go cooker? Who wouldn’t love to live in a house where the kitchen has a series of what are basically little round waffle irons that will cook you a restaurant-quality steak in minutes, a freshly baked chocolate cake, and a breakfast tortilla – all without ever having to turn on your stove?

The one that truly rings my bell though is the Topsy-Turvy tomato growing “system” (“system” being one of the infomercial marketer’s key buzz words.) This wise invention will allow you to grow tomatoes anywhere, upside down, basically turning a tomato plant into a hanging plant. You water the top of the plant which is now the roots: the fruit are now at the bottom. If I recall correctly, the infomercial even shows the plant hanging on a typically urban fire escape like we have here in the Big Apple.

I just can’t believe that whoever wrote that ever lived in New York City. Even if you are lucky enough to have a building Super or landlord who will look the other way while your tomato plant trots them out of compliance with fire laws, the squirrels will nab your tomatoes before you can say, “vinaigrette.” (New York City squirrels are notoriously smart. It’s just a matter of time before one of them runs for Mayor. Buh-dum-dum.)

Sadly, here’s where I go lacking as an infomercial audience member: I never order anything from these shows. Call me cheap, or discerning, as long as you spell my name correctly. I did once order a set of environmentally-friendly cookware from Home Shopping Network, opened the box, immediately closed the box and sent them back. (Money back guarantee. Need I say more?)

Anyway, living in New York you really don’t need to grow tomatoes on your fire escape, as we have several excellent farmers’ markets. Buying tomatoes at a farmer’s market is my version of the Topsy Turvy, and – to quote many an infomercial – that’s not all: I also get to support folks who are trying to make a living as farmers.

This past weekend I was able to find an ample supply of heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are grown from older seed stocks than those that produce the usual perfect round red fruit to which we’ve become accustomed. My purchases included a variety that looked like a variegated red oblong balloon that had been slightly overinflated and a big plump variety whose sunny yellow practically screamed, “Summer!”

I’m usually pretty good at buying only what I think I will eat within a day or two, but enthusiasm – and hunger – must have gotten the better of me. I can only eat so many salads and slices of tomato with mozzarella. I needed to use up my excess.

I decided a Tomato Tart was perfect for this exercise. While Tomato Tart shares DNA with pizza, it is actually closer in temperament to quiche, but really it is just a gratin in a tart crust. Kind of simple and the type of thing you can eat hot from the oven or cool with a salad for a refreshing dinner on a stinky hot summer night.

Because I can’t resist fiddling with what is likely already good enough I decided to channel a collaboration between my (imaginary) ex-hippie Italian Grandmother, and Alice Waters. (Imaginary) Grandma created a semolina pastry crust (the semolina again adding a bit of sunny color to the proceedings) and Alice Waters added a bit of locally-produced Goat Cheese to the white sauce that serves as a glue holding the tomatoes in the crust.

Because the heat has made me a little lazy (or unmotivated?) I made a crust that didn’t need to be rolled. The semolina crust is by nature sandier than a normal crust, so I just dumped it from the mixing bowl into the tart tin and pressed it evenly around with my fingers and the flat bottom of a measuring cup.

If calling it a Tomato Tart seems too “frou-frou” for your tastes, feel free to call it a Tomato Pie. I baked mine in a French tart tin, but you can use a rectangular baker or Pyrex lasagna dish and get the same result.

Don’t be afraid of salt with the tart: tomatoes and salt are well known for collaborating happily. Use a softer salt like sea salt: mine has a liberal sprinkle of flaky sea salt, and a snowy drift of good grated Parmesan on top before baking (or reheating) will add a bit of brine too.

Now, will someone explain to me how “HD Sunglasses” work? (Just saw them on TV.)

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Click here for the recipe for Tomato Tart.

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