01 09 10

search you little tarte

Monday, July 23, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Ratatouille?

As you know, Ted fancies himself an "urban farmer".  What this really means is that we live in the city but there's enough room in our backyard for a modest vegetable garden.  Ted being the enthusiastic guy he is, approaches his little plot of dirt with the same enthusiasm a farmer with a back forty would.

So this year, in addition to tomatoes, Ted has a pot going with an eggplant plant.  Those little suckers sure are prolific.  We've begun harvesting and I'm already stressing about what to do with all the eggplants.  There's eggplant parmesan, and baba ganoush.  And there's ratatouille.  And who doesn't love ratatouille?

The really great thing about ratatouille, in addition to the fact that it tastes so good, is that it gives me an opportunity to use some of the basil Ted's growing as well as some of his early harvest tomatoes.  We're not growing zucchini (thank God), but the garden provided a good start on the grocery shopping.

There's a fair amount of prep work when it comes to ratatouille, but after you have everything cut up pretty much all you'll have to do is stir.  Just saute the veggies together until they're tender and a delicious ratatouille will be yours for the eating.

Recipe:  Ratatouille
(Emeril Lagasse)


1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini squash
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room t

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberries for Sal

Back when my kids were little, one of their favorite books was Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey.  Kate, in particular, loved the book.  Perhaps it was because it was set in Maine and she knew even then, what an important role the Maine would play in her life.  (As I may have mentioned, Kate spent eight summers at camp in Maine.)

Anyway, it was a lovely little book and it was always at the top of the "must read" bedtime story list around here.  In fact, I'm sure that at some point, I would have been able to recite the text to you from memory.

When ever blueberries are in season, I think of Blueberries for Sal.  It's funny to me because, living in Pennsylvania, it's not as though we get those delicious little, tiny wild blueberries that grow in Maine and the rest of New England.  But I think of the book nonetheless.

Recently I made this blueberry pie.  I recently bought a cookbook called United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane.   In it was a recipe for a cornmeal pastry crust which I had been anxious to try.  I had a bunch of blueberries in the refrigerator, and a free afternoon.  Why not give it a whirl.

This turned out to be one delicious pie. The blueberry filling was sweet and the cornmeal crust provided a nice crunchiness.  In fact, this may become my preferred  blueberry pie in the future.  I know I'm going to use this crust again.  The cornmeal give it a little heft so it was much easier to handle  and it was really tasty.

The really great thing about things like blueberries and blueberry pie, is that they evoke memories.  In this case, it took me back to the time when I would lean back against the headboard and read Blueberries for Sal.

And, as delicious as this pie was, those memories are even sweeter.

Recipe:  Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Pastry Crust
(United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane, 2012)

For the Crust:


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6-10 tablespoons ice water


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt until well blended and free of lumps.  Add the butter and shortening, and toss gently to coat.  With your fingertips, work the fats into the flour mixture, rubbing the larger pieces of butter and shortening between your fingers until the mixture resembles gravel.

Sprinkle on the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, starting with a total of 3 tablespoons and then gradually adding more water if needed.  Blend it in with your fingertips, as quickly as possible, pulling the mixture together and creating a dough.  The dough will become less sticky and more of a mass when enough water has been added.  Finally, knead the dough minimally in the bowl to make sure it has just enough moisture.

Divide the dough in half.  (One mound should weigh approximately 10 1/2 ounces).  Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap and seal it.  Gently form each one into a disk roughly 3/4-inch thick.  Place the wrapped dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling it out.  The dough can be frozen for up to q month, and defrosted in the refrigerator before using.

For the Blueberry Filling:


1 recipe Cornmeal Pie Dough
5 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt


1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar


Preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.  Toss well but gently, keeping the berries intact.  Set aside.

On a well floured surface, roll out one portion of the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick and will fit a 9-inch pie plate.  Gently pick up the dough, center it over the pie plate, and ease it into the plate.  Let the excess dough hang over the rim.  Pour in the filling, and spread it out evenly.

Roll out the second portion of dough to the same size.  Lay the dough over the filling, and trim the edges of both layers to leave a 1-inch overhang.  Pressing the edges together, fold them under, and then decoratively crimp the perimeter.  With a sharp knife, cut 5 vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375 and continue to bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Let the pie cool to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As You Like It

It's about 10,000 degrees outside.  And it's humid.  Needless to say, this is not turn on the oven and roast a prime rib kind of weather.  I'm not even excited about standing near the radiant heat that emanates from the barbecue.  It's just too hot.

Did I mention that I'm not a big fan of hot, humid weather.

Either is my hair.

But I digress.  Since I have declared the oven to be off limits until this weather breaks, I am searching for no-cook but looks like I've gone to some effort dinnertime options.

This is no small order, but not quite as impossible as you might think.

And no, this does not include ordering in Chinese, although the thought did cross my mind.

Last night inspiration hit.  And it hit a home run.  I made a gorgeous salad nicoise.  It was cool.  It was fresh.  It was crisp.  In short, it was perfect.

The really nice thing about a salad nicoise is that there really is no recipe.  You can use the delicious and extremely decadent Italian tuna canned in olive oil (the traditional), or you can grill fresh tuna.  Or, if you don't like tuna (but who doesn't like tune?), you can grill some salmon.  It doesn't really matter and that's the beauty of this salad.

Quality counts here.  Use the best tomatoes you can find.  Hard boil your own eggs -- don't buy the ones ready made because they tend to be tough (and who would pay $3.50 for six hard boiled eggs anyway).  Make a nice new potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing and pop that on the platter too.  Olives, some arugula or watercress, and anything else that appeals to you.  It's all good.

Top the whole thing off with a nice light mustard vinaigrette and you're ready to roll.

The best thing about the salad nicoise is that there's really no recipe and you can include whatever you like.  It's your opportunity to shine.  A loaf of crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment.  Oh, and a nice glass of wine.

Recipe:  Salad Nicoise

Here are some ideas:


Italian tuna packed in olive oil, grilled tuna, or grilled salmon
(You can go with regular tuna packed in water but it just doesn't have the same taste)
Watercress or arugula
Hard boiled eggs
French potato salad (recipe below)
Blanched haricot vertes
Marinated artichoke hearts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Arrange ingredients artfully on a large flat platter.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette:


3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil


For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

Recipe:  French Potato Salad
(Ina Garten)


1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves


Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 13, 2012

And We're Off... Again

So this is how it feels.  This is how it feels to be one of those people who "travels".  For years, Ted was constantly on the road "doing deals" and I never thought about how tiring that must have been.  Now I know and I'm not even "doing deals".  I'm watching Kate play tennis.

But, be that it as may, we are off again.  This time to lovely Rome, Georgia... in July.  It will be hot.  It will be humid.  My hair, usually so compliant, will all of a sudden become as difficult as a teenager girl.    Nothing, not even a flat iron, will be of help... and I have straight hair.

But last night we got lucky.  The four of us were all home for dinner and we all sat down together.  I would love to tell you that it was lovely, but my kids are 20 and 17.  Need I say more?  They are sometimes a lot like my hair... in July...  In Georgia.  Not quite as cooperative as I might like.

Nonetheless, even allowing for the fits and starts of kids, it was a lovely dinner.  The food was good and it was so nice to have everyone together.

And now we're off again.

A Nice Summer Dinner on the Patio

Recipe: Red Wine and Coffee Marinated Frank Steak
(Fine Cooking Magazine, July 2012)
This marinade works well with beef and pork.


1 cup brewed espresso or very strong black coffee, at room temperature
1 cup full-flavored red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, or Zinfandel
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, grated on a rasp grater
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Coarsely ground black pepper
Flank Steak (or any other cut you like)


In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk the coffee, wine, olive oil, garlic, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon, and 2 tsp. pepper until well blended.

Recipe:  Couscous with Fresh Corn and Blue Cheese
(Fine Cooking Magazine, July 2012)


2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 to 4 medium ears)
1 cup sliced scallions (white and green parts)
Kosher salt
1 cup couscous
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tbs. crumbled blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the thyme and cook until fragrant, a few seconds. Add the corn, scallions, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the scallions are softened, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup couscous, stir, and then add 1 cup of boiling water and the cayenne and stir again.


Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, stir in 2 Tbs. crumbled blue cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe:  Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Tart
(Fine Cooking, July 2012)


Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet (half of a 17.3-oz. package) frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
4 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup honey (preferably dark)
8 ripe, fresh figs (6 if large), preferably 4 black and 4 green, stemmed and quartered lengthwise
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

Lightly dust a sheet of parchment with flour. Unfold the pastry, place on top of the parchment, and lightly dust with flour. Roll out the pastry to a 10-inch square. Prick all over with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Make a 3/4-inch border on all sides by pressing the edge of a ruler into the pastry to mark it. Fold the pastry over at the markings to make a double-thick rim. Transfer the pastry on the parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. (The pastry can be prepared up to this point a few hours ahead and kept in the refrigerator.) Bake until the center is golden-brown and puffed, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the goat cheese and 2 Tbs. of the honey in a medium bowl. Spread the cheese mixture inside the border of the puff pastry. Arrange the figs on the cheese, alternating colors if you like. Sprinkle with the rosemary and 1/8 tsp. salt. Bake until the rim of the pastry is golden-brown, about 7 minutes.

Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbs. honey and cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where Am I? What Day Is it?

Fine Cooking Magazine, July, 2012

When we last met, I declared this to be the summer  of Kate's tennis.  Well, it's still the summer of Kate's tennis, but it's also turned out to be the summer of Where In the World Are Kate and Nadine?

Let me tell you, we are spanning the continent.  Last weekend we were in Albuquerque (more on that in a moment), and this weekend we are off to Rome, Georgia.  In a couple of weeks we are off to exciting Indianapolis.  I hope you're not too jealous.  Junior tennis is just so jet-setty.

Kate had a big tournament in Albuquerque last weekend.  Sure, we could have chosen another exciting venue like Dayton, Ohio or Birmingham, Alabama.  Even with all those scintillating choices, we decided to throw caution to the wind, start hydrating, and pack our bags and head to New Mexico.

We'd never been to New Mexico before so I wasn't sure what to expect.  What I didn't expect was the most gorgeous weather I've ever experienced in the summer.  Sure, it was hot, but it was dry with no humidity, and the sky was crystal clear and bright blue.  And, as an added bonus, my hair looked fabulous the whole time.  There was no flat and limp hair for me.  Kate's tennis ponytail was actually manageable.  It was heaven on earth.

And, if all that wasn't enough,  Kate did well.

Life is good.

This weekend doesn't promise the same good hair karma.  We are again packing up, and this weekend we're heading to Rome Georgia.  It's going to be hot.  It's going to be humid.  My mascara is going to give me raccoon eyes and my hair is going to be awful.  Kate's tennis ponytail is going to go wild.  This isn't going to be good.

Kate will be playing tennis.  I hope that goes well go well.  That way I'll be able to excuse all the bad hair and sweaty makeup.

The point of all this is that I've barely been home.  And I'm barely going to be home for the next couple of weeks.  This schedule does not lead to a lot of cooking.  It does however lead to Ted and Charlie  ordering in a lot.

I feel a little guilty for all this, although Ted is more than welcome to take Kate to some of these tournaments and he's declined.  So, tonight I made dinner.  I even tried a new recipe for a wonderful little summer salad with baby greens and nectarines.  It was light and delicious.

This is the perfect salad to combat the humidity in Rome, Georgia, or where ever you happen to be.

Recipe:  Mixed Green Salad with Nectarines and Gorgonzola
(Melissa Pellegrino, Fine Cooking Magazine, July, 2012)


2 firm-ripe medium nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. honey mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. (5 cups) mixed baby greens
3 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola


In a medium bowl, toss together the nectarines, thyme, orange zest, sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 Tbs. of the oil and toss to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, honey mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually whisk in the remaining 3 Tbs. of oil.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Add the nectarines and toss to combine. Divide the mixture among the serving plates, sprinkle with the Gorgonzola, and serve.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Last Night I Couldn't Sleep At All

I really hate when I can't sleep.  I'm usually so exhausted that it doesn't happen all that often, but when it does it just drives me crazy.

So, last night I went to sleep at around 11:00.  Usually by 11:00 I'm pretty much comatose, but Ted and Charlie had been at a baseball game and I waited around for them to get home before I went to bed.  (This is not strictly true. I was watching TV on the bed and fell asleep only to be awaked when they got home.)

But I digress.  I turned the light off at around 11:00.

All was well and I was cozily asleep until middle age called at about 2:30 a.m.  One trip to the bathroom and two hot flashes later, I found myself still awake and frankly getting a little bored fanning myself and looking up at the ceiling.

So I got up.  Big mistake.  Big, big mistake.

This is where the real trouble began.  I decided (or rather I was drawn like a magnet) to my computer and all the email that generally skip over and eventually delete without looking at it.  All of a sudden, I felt his unnatural urge to actually look at every email that had piled up in my in box.

In case you were wondering.  Doing that takes a long time.  Like an hour or two.  Or more.

Boy I get a lot of crappy email.

But there's good news in all this.  I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I love a good summer salad, especially one with some crunch and this salad sounded like something I just had to make.

At this point it was 5:20 a.m. and had I not been so completely exhausted (and aggravated at being up half the night), and had I had all the ingredients in the house, I might have whipped it up at that moment.

But good judgment got the best of me and I went back to bed where I looked at the ceiling until it was time to get up.  I saved making the salad for dinner tonight.  Hopefully I can manage to stay awake to enjoy it.

Use some nice crunchy veggies for the salad.  I also threw in a cup of cooked quinoa, which added a little bulk to the salad.

Recipe:  Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime, Mint and Sunflower Seeds
(Smitten Kitchen)

To bulk this up into a more rounded dish, you could add a cup or two of thinly sliced lettuce, 1 to 2 cups of cooked, cooled grains such as barley, quinoa or farro, or a cup or so of cooked black beans, to add to the Southwestern vibe. In each case, it would be best to double the dressing so you’ll be able to cover everything evenly.

Serves 4 as appetizers and 2 as more of a meal-sized salad


3 cups chopped, crunchy vegetables
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta, queso fresco or ricotta salata
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup well-toasted sunflower seeds, salted or unsalted
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon chile powder or 1/8 teaspoon each your choice combination of chile powder, cumin, cayenne or sumac
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves


Mix the vegetables, feta, scallions, seeds and mint in a medium bowl. Whisk lime juice, olive oil, salt, spice and black pepper in a small dish and pour over vegetables, tossing to evenly coat. Adjust with more salt or pepper as needed. Garnish with mint and crunch-crunch-crunch away!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How To: Corn on the Cob

Tonight everyone was home for dinner.  That's been rare this summer because Kate's been pretty much playing tennis 24/7 and when she's not doing that she's been hanging with her friends.  Charlie's been working a zillion hours a week on the Obama campaign.  So that's left just Ted and I.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But here's the thing.  There's a limit to how enthusiastic I can get about cooking a whole dinner for just the two of us.  It's just so much easier to throw something uninspired on the grill or to go out.  Honestly, I know summer cooking is great but it's mostly great if you're cooking for a crowd, or at least for more than two.

But tonight I got lucky.  Charlie and Kate were home so I did it up right.

I'd love to say that I made something unique but instead I went for a favorite.  My kids love hamburgers so that's what we grilled.  And we had corn on the cob, which is a fan favorite every summer.

Corn on the cob is maybe the easiest thing in the world to make.  Everyone has their own way of doing it, and most of the time it's delicious.  But the one thing of a cooking nature that Ted brought to our marriage was his foolproof method for making perfect corn on the cob every single time.  

My mother used to boil the water and then throw the corn in and keep boiling it until the corn was done.  The results were a little mushy.  Other people like to simmer the corn.  But I am here to tell you that Ted's method is the best.  Here's what you do:

Recipe:  Perfect Corn on the Cob


Corn on the cob, shucked
Kosher salt


In a pot large enough to comfortably accommodate the corn, bring the salted water to a rolling boil.  Once the water is boiling, turn the flame off.  Add the shucked corn, and cover.

Let the corn sit in the hot water until you're ready to eat, up to 20 minutes.