tomato toast

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Come late August, early September, tomatoes become an endangered species.  They are still around, but slowly starting to disappear, reminding you that soon enough the prominent real estate they’ve been holding will be relinquished to the apples and pumpkins of autumn.

But there is still time! Just a couple more weeks to soak up all the delicious sweet and savory tomatoeness.  And what better way to do that than by treating them with the utmost reverence?

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This is not fancy. Nor is it complex. In fact, it seems likely that a monkey could put this dish together.  But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.  A great recipe doesn’t always require that you have intensive skill in the kitchen, but should be something you may not have conceived of on your own.

The funny thing about how much I adore making this is that I used to be afraid of mayonnaise.  I loved it, I recognized its value and importance in my diet, but alas.  It irked me.  I couldn’t bring myself to use it.  Then someone made me tomato toast–and I was forever changed. I had to be able to make it for myself, because I was craving it constantly. It tasted like summer. So I faced my fears of mayonnaise. And I’ve never looked back.

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The moral of this slightly rambling story is that if you too love those late summer tomatoes (and herbs, the herbs in the mayo are important) and just want to savor them as long as possible, this is the dish for you.  Ridiculously easy and silly delicious, it is just the way to send these summer delights off in style.  Until next summer when they once again grace us with their abundance.

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Tomato Toast
serves 2

4 slices hearty, thick sliced multigrain bread
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (if you feel daring, make your own, I entrust you to the geniuses at serious eats for that)
1/2 teaspoon each of basil, chives, tarragon, and parsley, diced (or any combination there of that is to your liking)
A bunch of various colored tomatoes, in thick slices (since they come in all shapes and sizes, I leave it to you to determine how much is right. As these photos show, I tend to pile on as many as possible)
Salt and pepper to taste, extra chives for garnish

  1. Combine your herbs and mayo until well combined.
  2. Toast the breads, lightly.
  3. Smear the mayo, on the toasts.
  4. Arrange the tomato slices atop the toasts. Cover with salt, pepper, and extra chives. Eat immediately. Savor summer.
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tomato toast

succotash & shrimps

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Like most kids, I was not always a huge fan of eating my vegetables.  I have vivid memories of crying shriveled peas that had to be consumed before I was allowed my dino-shaped chicken nuggets, and of stealthily hiding florets of browning boiled broccoli in my hands and then sneaking them into the trash can to gain access to the evenings offering of macaroni and cheese.  To my parents’ credit they did try to encourage healthy habits (a success for the most part; as adults my sisters and I are all still of the mind there must be a vegetable somewhere on the dinner table), but clearly I was a bit of a vegetable evasion MacGyver back then.

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But those days are behind me.  I have evolved.  I love vegetables now, particularly in the months of the year when I can get them fresh from farmers’ markets.  That has been the true difference.  That, and knowing that most vegetables can be utterly transformed into the part of the meal I am most eager to eat with the help of a little love and seasoning.  The shriveled, overcooked, and unseasoned veggies-0f-yore are long gone.  And good riddance.

This succotash is an ode to what a vegetable dish can and should be.  Simple, but tasty. Quick, but memorable.  In June corn is sweet and super affordable, and is as delicious raw as it is thrown on a grill.  Shelling peas would be a treat but frozen are just as effective.  And the zucchini are just starting to appear.  All sautéed together quickly in a hot pan of slightly browned butter et voilà, all former fears of vegetables are eradicated.  Alongside a little bit of lemon-drenched shrimp and you have a full meal.  Just add white wine.

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succotash & shrimps
serves 4

2 medium zucchini, diced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup shelled peas
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt, pepper, and lemon to taste

  1. Dice the red onion and zucchini into bite size bits to match the corn kernels and the peas.  Over medium heat, melt the butter in a sauté pan until it just begins to brown (it will have a nutty smell and appear golden).  Immediately add the zucchini and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until they soften and begin to brown.  Add in the corn and peas and cook until just warm, about two minutes.  Season with salt and pepper then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Pat shrimp dry (this will help them brown), and salt and pepper to taste on both sides.  Cook over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are just pink.  Turn heat to low and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp (the heat from the pan my cause some splatter).  Stir to coat all the shrimp and pick up the tasty brown bits at the bottom of your pan. (If you’ve got a grill, cooking your shrimp on it instead of on the stove would be a wonderful deviation).
  3. Place shrimp on top of succotash and give an additional hit of lemon, salt and pepper if necessary.  If you have fresh herbs, say basil or chives, they would be a great way to add from brightness sprinkled over the dish. Serve immediately.

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succotash & shrimps

farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon

It’s true, there is yogurt in this pasta. Your first inclination might be to think that is not quite right, but think again my friends. Everyone secretly loves a creamy, cheesy pasta dish, but it inevitably makes you feel super bloated and full for about 2.37 days. Greek yogurt is the solution.IMG_6082Tangy is Greek yogurt’s most widely recognized characteristic, and it definitely brings that to the table here. But paired with a tiny bit of cream cheese, a healthy dose of salt, and the brightness of lemon zest–it really works.  And it’s just creamy enough to give that element of comfort minus the food hangover.
IMG_6074Rainy spring nights are the perfect setting for a heaping bowl of pasta, and thankfully (albeit slowly) vegetable isles across the northeast are once again showing signs of life. Grated zucchini is a pop of color and a subtle flavor that melts right into the mix and doesn’t event require additional cooking.  Frozen peas add a sweetness that offsets the zing of the yogurt and lemon. Someday I will swap them out for fresh peas…someday.
IMG_6083Important note to leave you with: feel free to get heavy handed with that parmesan cheese. It’s for your own good.

farfalle with zucchini, greek yogurt, and lemon
…slightly tweaked from Al Forno in Providence, RI via Food & Wine
serves 4-6

1 pound dried farfalle pasta
1 cup frozen peas
2 large zucchini, grated
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tbs plain cream cheese
2 tbs unsalted butter
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until just cooked.  In the last minute throw in the frozen peas to flash cook. Drain (reserving a cup of pasta cooking water) and set aside.
2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then turn off the flame. Add in the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Incorporate the zucchini, peas, and pasta.  Stir together, incorporating reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if desired.  Add the parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning, add additional salt and pepper if needed.
4. Serve hot with extra cheese (see note above).
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farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon

simplest french toast

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)
8 eggs
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.

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simplest french toast

mini dutch babies

We threw a harVEST party. Vests were required for entry.

There was some food, but this was the only dessert treat. Perfectly poppable and subtly sweet, these little guys are great for using up all those apples you picked but didn’t manage to eat. Because it’s a law of nature that no one can possibly eat all the apples they pick.

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These are a play on a dutch pancake, which texturally and tastily is an intersection between a crepe, a pancake, a soufflé, and clafouti; and the apple and pumpkin pie spice give them that autumnal edge.

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Ideally these should be enjoyed with a cup of tea or other warm beverage. They can be breakfast, dessert, or just a snack. As we are careening at a terrifying speed towards New England winter, these might help you hold on to fall just a little bit longer.

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This recipe makes about 24 mini dutch babes if you use mini muffin tins (which you should, because that makes them adorable).

2 small apples, peeled and diced
1 tbs cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for pans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

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  1. set oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 mini muffin tins.
  1. peel and dice the apple into small cubes. Immediately coat with lemon juice to avoid browning. Toss with pumpkin pie spice and add a pinch of salt, make sure apples are well covered.
  1. whisk eggs until frothy. Add in flour, then sugar, vanilla, and milk. Throw in an extra pinch of cinnamon if you’re feeling dangerous.
  1. give each muffin space 5 or 6 apple cubes, and cover each with batter so they are ¾ full. Bake for 40 minutes.
  1. Let cool ten minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve
mini dutch babies

sunday evening chippers

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hello gorgeous.

Something about Sunday evenings makes me crave sweets.  Sometimes I fight it, mostly I don’t.  Besides, what could be better than curling up on the couch to toggle back and forth between the guts and gore of Game of Thrones and the smooth talking confusion of Mad Men with a cookie? Maybe 2 cookies I guess.  (note: we are between seasons of Downton Abbey. otherwise there would be nothing but Branson and Maggie Smith on a Sunday night.)

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brie’s originals

My sister is the baker in our family, and her chocolate chip cookies are sensational.  Maybe I’m biased, but it’s true.  She passed on her recipe to me about 2 years ago and I had yet to make them because I lack the patience, precision, and mathematical prowess inherent to most accomplished bakers.

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good enough to eat…despite being uncooked

But look at these beauties! I subbed out half the all purpose flour for whole wheat, browned the butter slightly, and cut the chocolate in half to sub in some pecans, but otherwise this recipe is a direct copy from my sister.  I also sprinkled them with flaked Maldon sea salt. Because why not, right??

They tasted as dreamy as they look. And I ate several on the couch last night.

Important note: you don’t need to eat them on Sundays. They can cure the Mondays. And just taste great on all other days also.

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too good for words

Sea Salted Chocolate Pecan chippers

1 cup melted butter (slightly browned)

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet morsels

1 cup chopped pecans

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Set oven to 375 degrees.

  • Prepare the dry ingredients: Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Prepare wet ingredients: Melt the butter. In a separate bowl from the dry ingredients, cream together with brown sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla.
  • Add the sugar/butter/egg/vanilla mixture to the flour/baking soda/salt mixture, mix until just combined.
  • Add semi-sweet morsels and chopped pecans to the batter and fold into batter.
  • Using a tablespoon as a measure, form into balls and set on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Sprinkle the top of each with a couple flakes of sea salt.
  • Cook for 10 minutes until cookies are just set. Remove from the oven and let stand on their baking sheet for 5 additional minutes to finish cooking, then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • Cookies will be cool enough to eat in 10 minutes. Try to contain yourself.

 

sunday evening chippers

the streit’s is right

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THE pink box

Passover can be a tough time for a carb lover such as myself.  Every year I try to remember that 8 days without leavened bread is really not an actual hardship.  And yet here I am, whining because all I can think about is baguettes. And cookies. And sandwiches. And baguettes.

Until I remember the silver lining…the matzah brei. Spirits = lifted.

Matzah brei is traditionally made with matzah (obviously) and eggs, can be savory or sweet, and has many variations.  If you happen to be of the Jewish persuasion, chances are the lovely pink Streit’s box is a familiar sight.  The Streit family has been making matzos in the lower east side of Manhattan since 1925, never changing their methods or recipe, and always keeping it kosher.  They gathered a dedicated following of New York City Jews who in turn instilled in their families a loyalty to Streit’s, and that loyalty has continued generation to generation.  Which is all to say in my family we always eat the pink box at Passover because my grandparents grew up in Manhattan eating it and taught me that it was the best.

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Image prep work.

Another thing they taught me, or more specifically that my Grandfather taught me, was that during Passover matzah brei is the only breakfast worth eating. He made a mean French toast, and when carbs were off the table he simply took his killer recipe and used broken up matzos in place of bread.  The man had a way with breakfast, among other things.

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the man. the myth. the legend. grandpa “sid the kid”.

Whether or not you celebrate Passover, this recipe is worth it.  It evokes all the comfort of a French toast, though I’ll admit it is perhaps slightly less pretty.  But who cares really? To me anything cooked in a healthy amount of butter and smothered in maple syrup is bound to taste like dreams.

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Sid’s Matzah Brei:
Serves a crowd

12 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup of milk
8 pieces of matzah
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
4 tablespoons salted butter

  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Break the matzos into bite size pieces and soak in cool water for 2 minutes, then drain.  Add the matzos to the egg mixture, until fully coated.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add matzos to the pan and cook until no longer wet.
  • Serve immediately smothered in maple syrup.
the streit’s is right