The tomatoes are coming. You can see them popping up here and there, in glorious shades of yellow and orange, and even bits of red. They will continue gain glory as the summer progresses. It’s all terribly exciting.
Tomatoes tend to pair well with a lot of different flavors since they somehow manage to be sweet and acidic and unique all at once. However one of the simplest, and most pleasurable ways to enjoy them is unadorned with some basil and mozzarella. And bread, obviously. Because bread makes everything better. You add roasted garlic and it just becomes aggressively addictive.
Sometimes you have to just eat this standing up at the kitchen counter, because to take it all the way to the table is just too long to wait.
Caprese & Roasted Garlic Bruschetta
The caprese piece of this is as you expect, but the roasted garlic is the secret weapon that sets it apart. It’s such an easy way to add another element to an already delicious situation.
3 medium beefsteak tomatoes (or 2 quarts of cherry tomatoes), diced
2 large balls fresh mozzarella, cubed
fresh basil to taste
1 head of garlic
1 baguette, sliced
fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the head of garlic horizontally and place on a baking sheet flesh side up and drizzle with olive oil. Cook until fragrant and slightly browned. Set aside.
2. Dice tomatoes and mozzarella, mix together in a bowl with salt, pepper, chopped fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar.
3. Slice the baguette (or other equally delicious bread) and drizzle with olive oil and toast in oven until just browned on the edges. Dig the roasted garlic cloves out of the husks and spread one or two cloves on each slice of bread (the beauty of roasted garlic is that it becomes creamy and takes on a nutty, dreamy flavor. If you don’t like it though, you can omit it or use butter).
4. Top the slices with the tomato and mozzarella mixture, and eat immediately while the bread is warm and the mix is cool.
Recently I went to Canada. In the winter. It was…chilly.
But the beacon of warmth came from the incredible food we found there — specifically at a bread shop called Hof Kelsten. (I found comfort in carbs. No one is surprised).
Though most of the bread didn’t make it back over the border due to hungry travelers and the fact that it was just too good not to eat immediately, some of it did, and that some got put to good use.
Jeffrey Finkelstein, the bread whisperer responsible for Hof Kelsten, makes challahs on Fridays that are the size of a small child. Luckily their monstrousness meant I still had some upon arriving back in the States which immediately became some of the best french toast of all time.
It is such a simple luxury, and easier than you think to pull off well. And while you don’t need Hof Kelsten challah to make this version of the breakfast classic, good eggy breads like challah and brioche are the best for french toasting. And a little Canadian maple syrup doesn’t hurt either.
Simplest French Toast serves 4
4 thick slices of challah, cut in half (or other white bread, if it’s thin count 2 slices per person)
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Soak each piece of bread through just before you put in the pan, making sure both sides are well coated.
4. Butter the pan (liberally) and cook each slice for 4 minutes on each side or until the slices are evenly browned, and no liquid is released when you press on the center of the bread.
5. Serve HOT with maple syrup. And if you’re feeling dangerous, a dusting of powdered sugar.
The following is a brief photographic exposé of a day spent not only with bread but also in the exceedingly pleasant company of the incomparable Sheryl Julian, Food Editor for the Boston Globe; and Jaclyn Fishman: food writer, friend, and baker extraordinaire.
Jaclyn wrote this fantastic piece on sourdough for the Globe this week. Last week, she and I had the privilege to help Sheryl and a Globe photographer style and shoot the pictures for the pages. It was magical.
Jaclyn baked cakes. And baguettes. And soft rolls and hard rolls and boules and biscuits. We had sourdough in every conceivable variation, and it was as if all my dreams had come true.
Having the opportunity to eat delicious bread while learning the nuances of food photography and styling was this hungry kid’s equivalent of Christmas. (It’s a work in progress though, we are clearly still learning here.)
But the best part is that you too can have all the sourdough your heart desires, because Ms. Fishman has shared her secret to starters in the article. Starters can last forever if they are well tended, and since they certainly are more versatile than you were thinking when you started reading this, hop to it! These mountains of carbs could be yours.
This salad is micro both for its petit size, and its use of micro greens. However, the real secret gem ingredient is sugar snap pea tendrils. They are tendrils…that taste like sugar snap peas.
They are these beautiful green curlicues that grow along with the leaves and pea pods. In season now, they are irresistibly playful, and tasty too. It is the perfect touch of sweetness in this baby salad.
You could absolutely beef this up with some other lettuces, or perhaps the addition of some seasonal fruit, but just as it is it perfectly suits a midday appetite (particularly on the weekends when you’ve had a massive breakfast and know you’re eating an early dinner but still can’t ignore the afternoon hungries).
Don’t be intimidated by its simplicity, it just wants no muss or fuss. But not surprisingly, it does want a side crouton. Sorry I’m not sorry.
1 bunch pea tendrils
1 box micro arugula greens
¼ cup chives, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 demi baguette, sliced & toasted
sea salt & pepper to taste
Slice baguette, toast for 5 minutes or until just browning on the edges in a 350 degree oven.
Slice chives, combine with other greens in a large bowl.
Over medium high heat, toast almonds. They are done when they become fragrant and just begin to brown, it should take about 5 minutes. Move them around in the pan periodically so one side doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
Spread goat cheese on the toasts. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Add almonds to the greens, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle everything with balsamic vinegar to your preference. And might I suggest just putting the salad right on top of your toasts for eating.
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I am not sure who they are, but they are right. For me, few things come close to a perfectly cooked egg or a piece of toast slathered in butter. I am a glutton for breakfast treats (current addiction being the lemon curd danish at Crema Café in Harvard square…it’s divine), I am addicted to cereal, and I would wear maple syrup as perfume if it wasn’t so sticky.
I could wax poetic on all ways that breakfast is culinary heaven, but instead I shall recount some early morning excursions I’ve been on lately so that you might go off and have your own adventures amidst Boston’s best pancakes, homefries, and the like.
Puritan & Company: Brunch here literally blew my mind. Everything was phenomenal, and we tried the majority of things on the menu. Highlights were definitely the flawless over easy eggs that topped most of the dishes, the sourdough griddle cakes, and the deconstructed yogurt and fruit parfait. They even have a central breakfast treat table to display the assorted homemade pastries too. I want to wake up in their dining room every Sunday morning. Creepy? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.
Boston Brunchers at Brio: I got really lucky and had the chance to attend a brunch at Brio in Chestnut Hill with the Boston Brunchers, a fantastical group of bloggers in Boston that get free brunches about town and then tell the rest of the world about them. We got a complimentary stint at SoulCycle (which nearly killed me) and we were rewarded with brunch. There was stuffed French toast, eggs benedict, sweet potato hash and huge bowls of fresh fruit. The place is lovely and the service was friendly. Great spot for an easy morning meal.
Bagelasaurus: This micro bagel shop lives inside Cutty’s (which is fantastic itself). On Friday and Saturday mornings Mary Ting Hyatt is making bagels the old school way: from scratch and rolled by hand. You have to get there practically right at 8am when they open to ensure you can get them before they run out, and even then you’ll likely be waiting in line. But they are worth getting up early for. They are unlike any other bagel around…the outside has that ideal crispness that gives way to an airy, chewy interior. And it doesn’t even require toasting, just a good slathering of schmear. (Edible Boston put Hyatt on the cover of their Winter 2014 edition, and the article is worth the read and littered with ridiculously pretty pictures).
OTHER PLACES OF NOTE: Keltic Krust in Newton (go for the breakfast sandwiches on traditional Irish brown bread); Mul’s Diner in South Boston (epic greasy spoon, cash only, a classic breakfast); Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont (unreal donuts but not for the faint of heart, these are industrial sized pillows of sugar and joy).
Now accepting any and all breakfast/brunch recommendations.
Ireland has a bad food rep, but I want to remedy this misconception. On a day typically reserved for liquid meals of Guinness and Jameson, I present the following photographic documentation of some gems from this one time I visited the great green yonder:
It’s not all beef stews and shepard’s pies (though both of those things are deliciously done there) – for instance, they do breakfast better than anyone. Porridge with baileys…as a first course. All the scones. Every kind. The list goes on.
I guess all I am trying to say is thank you, Ireland. Sorry no one gives your food the credit it deserves. And the happiest of St. Patrick’s days to all.
I do realize that a strong percentage of people claim to “love carbs”. Not like I do. There are few people I could imagine are on the same level as me with carb addiction. This elite level of obsession that I have attained is truly something, and it is like a sickness I never want to be cured of. And for people who do not like carbs…I already don’t trust you and am fairly certain we would not get along.
EXHIBITS A & B:
Boston is not exactly a carb wasteland, but it certainly isn’t Paris where the scent of bread permeates every street corner, nor is this Italy where fresh pasta is mandatory in homes and restaurants or I think they kill you. You have to search for it. Work for it. Want it. And I do. I adore carbs in all forms. Loaves, cookies, pasta, breakfast pastries, to name a few of my top carbs. Allow me to add the disclaimer that a love of this intensity does mandate a mild commitment to exercise on my part. Please do not for one second think that I could get away with eating these kinds of things without suffering through a few morning workouts per week. But please also understand that I hate every moment of those pathetic pre dawn endeavors of athleticism.
In an attempt to reconcile my love of bready treats and the need for exercise they create, I have fortunately found the perfect solution. Near where I live is quite possibly the best little bread shop in town, Clear Flour Bakery. It is pretty teeny tiny and lives in a semi residential area on the outskirts of the city, and it is about a mile from where I live. AIRGO. I walk there! And then indulge in whatever treats my little heart desires in that moment because hell, I walked there. And usually it’s a Saturday. And who exercises on Saturday!? Double win. Treats for everyone. (Note that I walk, not run, because I don’t like running, AND it was Saturday).
This place has everything from French loaves to Italian loaves to cookies to cakes to scones and croissants and a million other delicious things I won’t take the time to write. Every time I go I love it more. And before you’re even in the door you know it’s going to be good because that scent of butter and flour and yeast waft out every time the door is opened, that elusive smell that makes you want to live in Paris even though you don’t speak the language and have love handles that would probably offend French people just so you can smell that smell every morning no matter where you are. I should also say I have only been to Paris once and maybe my delusions about the smells there are just how I want to remember it.
Allow me then to just say this. Find yourself a local bakery or treat shop, and en.joy.it. Carbs are not the enemy people, they are dreamy, pillowy, tasty bits of joy, and no one should deprive themselves of joy. Obviously, moderation is to be practiced. But don’t fight it. And if you’re in Boston, get yourself to Clear Flour.