Tomato and Onion Pie

There is nothing better than tomatoes.  I love walking to the garden and picking a sun-kissed tomato off the vine, sprinkle it with a little salt and bite into it, tasting the acidic sweetness and feel the juices run down my chin.  Or, I slice them and place them between two pieces of bread with gobs of mayonnaise.  I purée them into sauce or bake them into a dessert tart tatin.  There are just so many ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes.

And now we have tomato pie.

I remember a few years ago at a girls’ night having my first taste of a tomato pie.  A friend had brought it and I’m ashamed (or happy?)  to say I went back for seconds and wanted thirds, it was that good.  After that night I never really thought of it again unless I’d see a recipe about it.  I would rip it out of the magazine and add it to the stack of “someday I’m going to make this” pile.

This year was different.  From the moment we planted the garden, I decided I was going to make a tomato pie.  Of course every time I thought about it we were eating something else or not at home.  Finally however, last weekend I put my foot down and I made ” The Pie.”

It was like the sun had risen, the stars came out and fireworks lit up the sky.  I don’t think a word was spoken between us because we were just too busy eating.  In fact with my son and husband at the helm, leftovers didn’t exist since the entire pie had been eaten.  This definitely is one of those recipes that you will make over and over and always get rave reviews on.

So, while you’re standing in your garden and feeling the warmth of the sun,  tomato juices running down your chin and staining your shirt, remember to save yourself a few of those tomatoes so you can make a Tomato Pie.  It will be well worth the sacrifice.

Roasted Caprese Pasta

Sometimes, even though it’s the middle of a hot summer,  I want some comfort food.  Although I love grilled veggies and fruit, salads and fish, there comes that time when I just want a dish of pasta.  Typically this time of year is just too hot for that.

We had two weeks of high temperatures and humidity and just when I thought I was at the breaking point we got a cool day.  Well, if you can call 79 degrees cool.  But it was the break I needed and that craving of pasta came crawling back into my brain.

I didn’t want a heavy pasta dish because it was after all still summer.   And then it hit me….. fresh tomatoes from the garden, homemade sausage and mozzarella from our trip to NYC,  with fragrant basil from my herbs..  My version of a caprese pasta was born.

it was substantial enough to meet my requirements of comfort food and yet light enough to still follow the rules of summer eating.  I felt like I had wrapped up in a comfortable sweatshirt and it made me happy.

We all need a break sometime, even if it’s about the weather.  Take advantage of it next time you get one.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

Seared Scallops with Blue Cheese and Bacon Risotto

No matter what I do in life, it seems it’s always better when bacon is involved.  There is just something about the sweet, salty, meaty combination that makes us all fall in love with it.

I’m not even sure when and where I saw this recipe.  It might have been a posting from a local restaurant or a picture in a magazine, but when I saw bacon and risotto in the same sentence, I knew I wanted to make it  On that same note I remember thinking how much my husband liked scallops and how much I like risotto, so as in life….a perfect pairing!

I’ve always made what I think is a pretty good risotto, but I’ve always used parmesan.  This recipe just shows you that it’s okay to think outside of the box.  Of course, the nice thing about risotto is you can add pretty much whatever you really like and it will come out good.  That is the beauty of this dish.

When you see a picture or have an idea that inspires you….give it a try.  Nothing lost, nothing gained as my grandmother would always say.  You might actually find you’ve created something worth talking about!

Bon Appétit!

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Visiting Family

This last weekend was full of family and traveling.   It was also full of great restaurants and food.  I wasn’t able to cook anything but I had plenty of opportunities to go outside of the box and try some new things.  I was deliciously surprised at how wonderful everything tasted.

Our first dinner out was at a place called The Boatyard in Ithaca, NY.  It’s located at the tip of the Cayuga Lake.  They have a good variety of foods and my only regret was that I did not take any pictures.  To start with we had Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls and Sizzling Potato Chips with Blue Cheese sauce.  The egg rolls were crunchy with just enough heat, filled with chicken, and a nice blue cheese and hot sauce dipping sauce.  The Sizzling Potato Chips were not what I expected but so yummy!  Potato chips shaken in a bag with Blue Cheese, Gruyère, and Parmesan and dropped on a really hot cast iron pan.  The cheese sizzles and melts, and the fragrance makes you drool.  I told my nephew that I had to try to re-create this very soon! Dinner was Ahi Tuna with a pear slaw and jasmine rice.  The tuna had been cooked to perfection and the pear slaw was a bit of sweet and crunchy, which was an excellent accompaniment.   Dessert was a sizzling chocolate chip cookie with warm caramel sauce.  All I can say is, if you are ever in the upstate region of New York, you must stop by The Boatyard and grab a meal.  YUM!

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To continue our trip we drove to Long Island to kiss and hug the husband’s grandchild.  Of course seeing our little Pickle was the highlight of the weekend, but throw in bacon, egg, cheese on a roll, a slice a pizza and bagels with scallion cream cheese and you’ve got what New York is all about.  I absolutely love the Italian markets and the deli’s up there and we always take a trip to pick up a cooler full of sausage to bring back.  And this time we added rice balls and homemade pancetta to round out the experience.  I cannot wait to use them!

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Our last night there we decided to go full Italian for dinner.  With a little discussion, we decided we would go to “da noi” in Islip, NY.  And what an excellent choice that was!    It’s a quaint little place that holds no more than twenty tables.  We were greeted warmly as soon as we walked in and the owner, who has a thick Italian accent told us the specials of the night. As soon as we sat down, drinks were ordered and the very best Bellini I’ve ever had was brought to me.  Along with our drinks, they brought homemade bread and oil for dipping and bruschetta.  The tomatoes were so sweet I knew the evening could only get better.  My husband decided to start out with baked clams casino and I got their fig, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella appetizer.  The clams were good but we decided I had made the better choice.  The sweetness of the figs and the saltiness of the prosciutto mixed with the creaminess of the mozzarella was exquisite.  I think they had made the mozzarella five minutes before they brought it out.

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For dinner, Peter ordered the veal saltimbocca and I ordered lamb ravioli with a champagne cream sauce and grapes.  I was a little hesitant in ordering that because it wasn’t anything I had ever had, but again, once we tasted everything we decided that I had chosen the best dinner option.  The homemade ravioli was light but a perfect al dente and the lamb was tender and moist.  I still have not quite figured out the ingredients in the champagne cream sauce but I will….it tasted amazing.  And surprise….what a beautiful addition the grapes were!  For a finale they brought us each a glass of chocolate wine.  That in itself was the richest dessert.  Thick and creamy like chocolate milk but it had that adult pleasure taste we all love to have in our after dinner drink.  Perhaps you will never get to experience what we did, but I hope you can.  If you are ever in this area, please make sure you get reservations and go for one of the best dinners you will ever have.  I am so glad we have family that lives there, because I want an excuse to go back.  It was absolutely amazing in taste, presentation and customer service and I would put this in my top five of restaurants I have been to.

So I didn’t have time to cook this week, but I hope I tempted your taste buds with my travels.  Weekends with family are the best, but when you mix it with excellent food, you can’t beat it!  Love to all my family and can’t wait to come back and see you again…..and can you make reservations for four?

 

Practice makes perfect

One of my favorite saying is from Julia Child, “Cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn.”  I try new things all the time and sometimes they come out pretty darn good and other times they can be a dismal failure.  But I find the more I do things, the better I am at them.

Such was my semi failure in the kitchen today.

I wanted to make pâte á choux with a Limoncello cream idea.  I have made profiteroles before and they came out okay, so when I saw a step by step in my favorite food magazine I thought I would give it another try.

Everything was going beautifully.  I had all my ingredients ready to go and went step by step.  The water, sugar and butter boiled just like it was supposed to.  I then added the flour and stirred until it pulled away from the sides of the pan, just like it was supposed to.  Then the eggs were added…. and something went wrong.  I apparently missed the part where it said to beat the eggs first, but I beat the eggs in and it seemed to work okay.   According to the directions, this is supposed to be a smooth batter that drips from the spoon in thick ribbons.  Mine?….not so much.   It was a very thick and didn’t drip at all.   I even added an additional egg as it suggested if your batter was too thick.  No drip.  It stuck to the spoon like it was glued.

Well, this is what I found out after the fact that might help you when you make them.  Apparently even though it didn’t say any different, from asking questions, the best way to add the eggs are when they are beaten but also removed from the heat and beaten with a paddle mixer.   Add your eggs one at a time and the true test of the batter being correct,  when you run your finger through it, is the track that your finger created should take approximately 2 seconds to ooze back together.   If it takes longer, add another egg and test it again.  If it takes less time, throw the batter out and start over.  That was helpful advice too little too late, but I hope you have much better luck with it than I did!

So don’t worry if it doesn’t come out right the first time.  Have fun with it and just remember what Julia said and make it again. Chances are, the next time, it will be that much better.

Bon Appétit!!

Roasted Beets from the Farmer’s Market

There is really only one reason I will get up early on a Saturday morning and venture out before 9AM.  It’s all about the Farmer’s Markets.  The feeling I have is almost like when I was a child and the fair was coming to town.  The sights, the smells, the people all make the morning of the farmer’s market visit so appealing and so euphoric.  When I leave it I have the feeling I’ve just finished a massage and left behind a very good friend, but I know that they will be there waiting for me the following Saturday, so it’s all okay.

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The market makes it so easy to follow the adage of From Farm To Table.  You walk around and everything is so beautiful, it makes you want to buy the freshest and the healthiest of what you will be eating.  I remember not to long ago my friend Erin and I were at the market and she told me how she loved a roasted beet salad.  I, never being a fan of beets, ended up taking some home and making a roast beet salad.  Both my husband and I became instant beet lovers!

 

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For me, it’s almost like going to an organic mini mall.  You can buy flowers, herbs, homemade breads and cheeses.  There are jewelery vendors, crafts and of course all the freshest vegetables around.  Can it get any better than that?  On our last Saturday outing, my husband said as we were leaving how much fun it was.  And that, my dear friend, is exactly what I’ve been talking about!

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So next Saturday get up early and go to your local Farmer’s Market.

Buy fresh, buy local….and make a roasted beet salad.  From farm to table, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce for Mom’s Birthday

We all hit milestones.  Sometimes it’s when you graduate high school or college, when you get married or when you hit a major age in life.  They are all important events but none is more important than my mom turning 80.   A tremendous age to hit, with lots of stories, heartaches, celebrations and memories along the way.

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For such a big occasion we had to make a special dessert.  When I asked her what she wanted she said a cheesecake.  My mom would have been happy with any kind of cheesecake, maybe even the no bake out of the box cheesecake.  I couldn’t have that for her however, so I had to search all my recipes to see what I could come up with.  Frustrated that I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted,  I adapted my recipe from three different recipes, but what we ended up with was a dessert I could be proud serving my mom on such a special day.

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The day was so special, I have to say I forgot to take pictures of the process.  What really counted was that my mom really enjoyed herself, enjoyed the company and really enjoyed the cheesecake.  My husband, who never eats dessert had two slices.  So despite that I don’t really have pictures, please try this recipe.

It makes for a wonderful celebration of an important milestone….in anyone’s life.

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