Living the Dream

Last week we went to the U.S. Open. It was a dream of my husband’s and although I like golf I think I could have lived without it. The deal was, however, that we would go into East Hampton the next day and hopefully run into Ina Garten. How could I pass up a deal like that?

The golf tournament was ok. It rained, I was soaked, they played on. Blah, blah, blah. I did however see Tiger pull off a good bogey, Bubba walked by and Michelson played very well on the 9th. It wasn’t a bad ending to the day, but certainly there were better things ahead of us. LIKE SATURDAY IN EAST HAMPTON!

Coincidentally, Ina had posted a blog about if we came to East Hampton, here were her favorite places to go. (are you kidding? it was like an invitation to stop by for dinner!) So there I was, with my list, headed to the land of Ina Garten. I would run into her and she would then realize we were destined to be the best of friends. (I might be stretching the truth just a little bit here and although she never responded, I did send her an email inviting her out to dinner).

The first stop (and the best stop) was a little cheese shop in Sag Harbor. It was called Cavaniola’s Gourmet Cheese. I walked in and fell in love. It was so quaint and I knew if I lived closer, I would be there every day. The girls in the shop were so nice and so helpful. We tasted a couple of cheeses I had never had and of course bought some. I ended up buying some of their gourmet items also, much to the chagrin of my husband’s wallet.

I walked in and fell in love. It was so quaint and I knew if I lived closer, I would be there every day. The girls in the shop were so nice and so helpful. We tasted a couple of cheeses I had never had and of course bought some. I ended up buying some of their gourmet items also, much to the chagrin of my husband’s wallet. And as you might have guessed, I asked if Ina really came to the shop. The girls said she came in all the time, was a sweet and as real as anyone. I thought I would hang out for a week or two and wait for her but my husband really wasn’t keen on that idea, so we had to leave.

As I left, I asked them to say “hi” to Ina for me, and told them she just hadn’t realized we’re best friends yet. I’m sure they think I’m some crazy stalker-ish kind of person. I’m not really. I’m just a wanna-be Barefoot Contessa kind of person hoping to run into one of my favorite idols.

And Ina Garten, I’m still waiting and hoping for your phone call.

A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

Cold Weather and Soup

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There comes a point in time when I am tired of the summer weather.  I know many of you won't agree with me but I long for sweaters and fires and cozy comfort.  That is probably one reason why I decided I needed to ignore the 75 degree weather in the beginning of October and make some soup.

I love soup.  It takes me back to those childhood days of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches my mom would make me.  It was soup out of a can but it still gave you the warmth and cozy home feeling after the chill of the autumn air.

I had seen this soup recipe in our local newspaper and of course I couldn't leave it alone...I had to put my own spin on it.  I am so glad I did because as we were sitting around the table in our shorts and flip-flops, my husband said to me that if we weren't already married, after eating this soup he would have married me!  How is that for a testimonial on how good this was?

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This is super easy to make so even on a busy day, you can have this for your family dinner.   A salad and some crusty bread will make it a complete meal.

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Cold weather will be here soon and I will be making this again.  Heavy socks, a warm sweater and a bowl of this soup will take me back to my mom's kitchen.  I don't know about you, but it doesn't get any better than that.

 

Lobster and Corn Arancini

Clearly I am not in control of my life any longer.  Between work, the trips, my food writing class, the boot camp exercise class (that I might add is about to kill me),  and the house and all it involves, I cannot find any time to do any thing.  It’s a sad state of affairs, when I have to schedule time to complete the one thing I love to do…this blog.

This past weekend was one of the first in many that I have been able to devote a couple of hours to myself, so I decided to finalize a couple of ideas I’ve been working on.  It was me and my kitchen, alone at last.  Me and my kitchen along with cheese, rice, lobster and corn.  It can’t get any more romantic than that….just don’t tell my husband I said so.

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I love Arancini. You know them; they’re those cute little cheesy rice balls.  I can’t seem to ever have enough of them and a while back I got this obscure idea to add lobster to the recipe.  And what goes better with lobster than corn?

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With the combination of flavors, all the ingredients made for a very tasty dinner.  What I loved was the sweetness of the lobster and corn combined with the creaminess of the cheese and rice but it all had the crunch from the outside crust.  Yes, my friends, an Arancini affair had begun.  I even invited my husband to come along for the taste train of love, of which I believe he thoroughly enjoyed, given that he ate four of them.

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Make a date with your kitchen and try these cheesy rice balls.  You’ll love them as much as I did, with or without the husband involved.  Just don’t tell him I said so.

Star rating is a huge YUM!

What’s in the Pantry?

Let’s face it.  There are always going to be those times where you just don’t feel you can find another minute to get things done.  For the last two weeks, it seems I did not have any time at all.  I had been overwhelmed with baking (cheesecakes for a friend), taking a continuing education course for my profession (it certainly would have helped if I had not waited until the last-minute), food judging for the area home shows and the list goes on and on.

The other night I came home and my husband asked me what was for dinner.  I just looked at him, probably like a deer in headlights.  I hadn’t even considered dinner and now it was already late.  I didn’t want to go back out to the grocery store, so we had to figure out something.  That’s when operation pantry surprise went into action.

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We have always kept something in the pantry we can work with.  You never know if there would be people collecting for a food drive or the electricity is going to go out.  I took a look in the pantry to see how my creative juices were going to flow.  I had soup, noodles, canned chicken and a jar of roasted vegetables.  The creativity started to flow.

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I was able to put together a meal that was easy, fairly quick and satisfying for the family.  The next time you don’t have time, but you have hungry eyes waiting for you to feed them, don’t order a pizza.  Look in your pantry and see what you can find.  I’ll bet it will be something good.

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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.

Tomato and Onion Pie

Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

PIECRUST

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-4 Tablespoons ice cold water

(optional- you can add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese)

FILLING

  • 6 or about 2 1/4 pounds large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 leeks, whites only sliced thin
  • 10 sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded, and divided
  • 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • assorted herbs, minced (basil, thyme, chives, oregano, etc)

Instructions

  1. TO PREPARE PIE CRUST

Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles a coarse meal. With processor running, gradually add 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Process until dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

  1. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Press dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pie plate. Fold overhanging dough under along the rim of the pie plate. Chill 30 more minutes until firm.

  3. Line pie crust with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights and foil. (this will keep the crust from bubbling up) Place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

  4. ***see note below

TO PREPARE FILLING

  1. Place sliced tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand for 15-20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, sauté onions and leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper each in hot oil over medium heat until they are tender and lightly browned.

  3. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 of the cheese and herbs. Repeat.

  4. Combine the remainder 1/2 cups of cheeses with the mayonnaise and spread over pie.

  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes until lightly browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

  6. ***note*** for a quicker process you can use refrigerated dough or frozen dough by following package directions.

  7. you can also drizzle pie with a pesto sauce or vinaigrette if desired.

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