Monthly Archives: August 2007

Tomato Tart with Cheddar Crust

Tomatoes, or Pomodori (aka “Apples of Love” in Italian) are in peak season right now in the tri-state area here around New York, as well as in other parts of the country. The Greenmarket just seems to have exploded with them, their red, yellow, orange, and even purple colors jazzing up the greens of the zucchini, basil and corn husks, as well as the hues of the other summer bounty.

As with the apricot tart I’d made a few weeks ago, I’d been waiting, holding out, trying not to be tempted by the very first batch I’d seen, for the perfect moment to buy the small, pomodorini (little tomatoes) that I’d need to make a tomato tart recipe that I had pulled from an issue of BBC Good Food last summer. With the collection of tiny red, orange, and yellow gems that I brought home yesterday, the time seemed perfect to try it again.

The Tomato Tart with Cheddar Crust is just the perfect taste of summer, especially with the dog days of August lingering here. Crème fraîche, mustard (I use the grainy kind rather than regular Dijon), pastry with cheddar cheese (definitely get the sharp English variety), and perfectly-ripe, in-season little tomatoes – what else could one look for in a perfect summer lunch dish? As with many recipes I use again and again, this one does not have to be served piping hot. The appeal of this means that the timing doesn’t have to precisely sync with any other items you would put on the table.

Having it a room temperature, alongside a fresh green salad, would make an amazing, easy dinner as well. This means that it can be prepared in advance and set to the side until you are ready to serve it. It also means that you can cook it during the cooler time of day, as well, which is, in fact, what I did do.

Buon appetito!

An NYC Foodie Dilemma – Too Many Options

On Friday, I realized when I’d checked out some of the activities taking place in town this weekend that there was A Conflict. A huge conflict. The kind of conflict that caused a surge of existential foodie angst in my soul. Two big street fair/food festivals taking place on the same day in the city. You think the permits committee would have also noticed the same and made someone move one of them. Maybe they just don’t have their stomachs in the right place or don’t appreciate the drama that this causes for some of us who travel more by our sense of taste. Indian food and Barbecue in the same day. In the same city. What to do????

Today was the 8th Annual Blues BBQ over on Pier 54 on the Hudson River. Great music, wonderful food. Roots deep into my Southern soul. Hanging out on the river. Eating juicy, smoky, delectable barbecue with all the sides. Listening to the deep, soulful sounds of the blues by some great artists. What could be better on a hot August afternoon?

On the other hand, in Madison Square Park today, the annual India Day Parade was also taking place. This is an Asian-subcontinent culinary lovers dream. Dhal, rice, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala ready to eat and waiting for me. The air filled with spices. Shake Shack closed for the day so that all that one can smell is the exotic perfume of curries without the clash of hamburger grease (much as I like that smell in its own right). The part of my life and soul that craves these tastes is lit on fire by the thought.

Arrrgghhh!!! What to do? Would this cause chaos for my digestive system and my tastebuds? The timing of each of these events could allow me to go to both. Would my very being be torn in two by trying to attempt to satisfy both very different parts of my persona in one day? What was I to do?

There was always Option D – A and B to pick one or the other and C being to do both – which is to do neither and go home and take a nap. This is an option that is sometimes offered by a sibling of mine. The weather was gloomy and rain threatened. The bus I wanted to take downtown never seemed to show, although every other bus seemed to arrive. I took that as a sign that I was not meant to go to either festival. In the end, I decided on a version of Option D, which was to go home and watch cooking shows.

For dinner, I pulled these sausages out of the freezer that I’d gotten at the Greenmarket a few weeks back. Their curry taste is subtle and filled the bill for my Indian food craving. The barbecue part will have to wait until lunchtime next week when I can make it to Daisy Mae’s food cart in Midtown for a smoky, pulled pork sandwich and some sweet iced tea.

Buon appetito!

Making Crêpes – I’m so not Julia

I was checking on on the folks at “Is My Blog Burning” and came across another group effort in which I thought it might be fun to participate. The blogger who hosts Champaign Taste asked for contributions in honor of Julia Child’s birthday on 15th August.

Remember a few months back when I said that I really should learn how to make Crêpes Suzette as I do love to eat them? This blog round-up seemed like the perfect opportunity to get me motivated to attempt this recipe. The timing seemed even better as I’d recently brought back to New York the two-volume set of Julia Child’s (and company’s) “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” from Virginia, where they’d been in storage at my parents’ house, along with my other cookbooks.

This also gave me an excuse to use the crêpe pan that my youngest sister had given me as a present many years ago – something else that came out of storage recently (not my sister, the pan). Even though I’d made crêpes several times before under the watchful eye of my mother, this time I didn’t feel as though I was really getting the hang of it, as tries #1 and #2 show.

Not the most beautiful things, but still edible
By attempt #4, things seemed to be working better (see below). One trick is to get enough, but not too much batter coating the surface of the pan. Much like making waffles (sorry if that sounds insulting to Ms. Child), one has to get just the right amount. Too much and they are gooey and undercooked, and too little and they are crunchy thin and overdone.


See what I mean about the waffle analogy?

The other trick is in the wrist. This was probably the harder part for me. I had to wait until just that point where I could guess how done the one side of the crêpe would be and then work quickly to get the spatula underneath it to flip it without having the sides curl underneath. I lost a few earlier attempts by messing up that part of the process. “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” had a great tip – shake the crêpe to loosen it from the pan before trying to flip it. Once I got the hang of that, it went much more easily and with greater success.

Of course, once it did start to come easily, I was about three crêpes away from being done with the batter. Still, now that I know the tips and tricks, I think the next time I try it, it will go much better. To finish, I added the orange butter sauce and liqueur, lit a match to flambée it, and dessert was sûr la table. Despite the fact that these tasted fine and looked o.k. in the end, I realize, I have a long way to go before I can even come close to touching the art of French cooking, much less trying to master it.

Zesting the orange
Orange-butter-sugar sauce
Ready to plate and ready for me to eat!

Buon appetito!

National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

The three days of 90-degree-plus temperatures this past week (more than 35 Centigrade) qualify as a heat wave, per the meteorologist for my local news channel. Good thing, then, that this past Thursday was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day according to Slashfood. I have to admit that, despite all the great gourmet-handmade-ices/gelatos/small-dairy-production things available today, sometimes, the only thing that hits the spot is a simple, elementary-school-style ice cream sandwich or one of those cone things with the chocolate and the peanuts on the top.

I won’t apologize for it. Instead, this week, I chose to embrace it as you see from the photos above. By way of complete disclosure, I actually bought two, yes, two ice cream sandwiches from the bodega half a block from my apartment while I was on my way home on Thursday. I’d been fixated on them all afternoon and couldn’t convince a co-worker that our team really needed to take a break, so he should really go and get them for all of us. The ice creams were 75 cents apiece. That’s a far cry from the 15 cents I used to pay in elementary school, but then it has been quite a few years since I was there.

Like the theory for the best way to eat a sandwich cookie, there are also several ways that people eat ice cream sandwiches, as well. Peel off the top and eat it while saving the bottom cookie with ice cream for afterwards. Or, do the first step above and the try to break the bottom ice cream cookie layer in half to have a sort of double-stuffed ice cream sandwich.

My personal favorite way, developed when I was in elementary school, is to lick around the sandwich to get to the extra soft vanilla ice cream first. This is also a way to test if the ice cream is too melty. Then, finish it off via one of the above options or eat as you would a normal sandwich between two layers of bread, trying to race against time as the ice cream grows softer and oozes out the sides.

The key to any one of these methods of devouring this dessert/snack/dinner (so, I ate them for dinner the other night), is to get one of the ice creams at the optimal “meltiness to frozeness” ratio. Too soft and it is messy to eat and the cookie slides around. Too hard and chomping on it makes your teeth freeze.

As for me, the moment has passed. I’m saving myself for the next ice cream holiday. Per this website link, it is National Creamsicle Day on August 14. Now, how many years has it been since you’ve had one of those?

Buon appetito!