08.22.2017

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The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair was just in town for four days and we hit it hard – rides, games, watching woodsmen chop logs and oxen pull heavy loads. There were piglets and the cutest baby goats of all time. At the end, Dylan announced that the fair is better than Christmas and I have to say, I kinda agree.

Every year we enter homemade goodies in the fair. This year Gray entered a pile of popsicle sticks glued together entitled “Cage” and Dylan entered a clay model of a brown bear. Nick wanted to enter a loaf of sourdough after taking the blue ribbon in mens bread last year but surfed instead of baked. I entered the single crust pie category with a Southern Tomato Pie.

I have to admit I had little hope of my tomato pie fetching a ribbon. This is a very classic yankee fair and summer fruit pies almost always take the ribbons. That said, I am a lover of savory pies and really wanted to take advantage of the amazing island grown tomatoes. I adapted Vivian Howard’s Southern Tomato Pie recipe and got the third place ribbon. This is not a simple, quick recipe. It has many steps but the end result is really special. First, you use over 3 pounds of tomatoes. Half are drained over a sieve and kept fresh while the other half are roasted in the oven with fresh thyme. The crazy part is the cheese mixture that is spread over the tomatoes – fontina, parm, and MAYO. If you know me you know mayo is the one food on this earth that I despise but this was a country fair entry after all and I was baking for the judges, not myself. I have to say, when the pie came out of the oven I was convinced the mayo was a good idea.

*PARTY! If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard this weekend come stop by the West Tisbury Library on Sunday from 6:00 to 7:00. I’ll be there selling books along with island author pals Jennifer Tseng and Susie Middleton. We will have bubbly drinks, cake, and snacks. I hope you come and join us!

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Southern Tomato Pie from The First Lady of Carolina Cooking

Makes 1 pie

For the pie crust

1 14 cups all-purpose flour
2 12 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into 12-inch cubes
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ice-cold water
12 teaspoon white vinegar

For the filling and topping

3 1⁄2 pounds vine-ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch dice, divided
2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced with the grain
1 teaspoon picked thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
14 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
13 cup packed whole basil leaves
12 cup mayonnaise
13 cup grated fontina
13 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large Roma or heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced and blotted dry with paper towels
Make the pie crust: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium for a few seconds. Begin adding the butter one cube at a time. Continue until the flour is speckled and crumbly, about 4 minutes. With the mixer still running, add the water and vinegar until just combined. Do not overmix. Press the dough into a 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Bring the crust to room temperature and lightly butter a 10-inch metal pie pan. Preheat the oven to 400°. Dust your counter and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll the crust slightly larger than your pan. Lay the crust in the pan and press gently into its edges. Cut off the edges that hang over and discard. Freeze for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to blind-bake.
Lay foil or parchment paper on top of the crust and weigh that down with dried beans or rice. Blind-bake the shell for 30 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil or parchment and bake 5 minutes more. Set the cooked crust aside as you prepare the filling.
Make the filling: Toss half of the diced tomatoes with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar. Set them over a colander to drain while you get everything else ready, at least an hour.
Lower your oven to 375°. In a medium sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter and then add the onion and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat until deeply caramelized. This will take about 45 minutes. If the onion gets away from you and burns a little, add 1⁄4 cup of water to the pan, scrape up the overbrowned bits, and keep going. In the end, you have a scant 2⁄3 cup caramelized onion.
Toss the remaining diced tomatoes with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, thyme, and olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a sheet tray with as much room separating the individual pieces as possible. Slide the tray onto the middle rack of your oven and roast for 30-35 minutes. You’re looking for the tomatoes to dry out and brown slightly.
Once all the individual components are done, stir together the onion, the fresh and roasted diced tomatoes, the remaining salt, sugar, black pepper, and basil.
Make the topping and finish the pie: In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, fontina, and Parmigiano. Spoon the filling into your blind-baked crust. Top with the cheese mixture and tomato slices. Bake in the middle of your oven for 30 minutes. You can serve this warm or at room temperature. Both have their virtues.

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07.19.2017

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I swear we haven’t eaten inside our house in almost a week. I am constantly carting smoothies, bowls of yogurt, sandwiches, and platters of fruit outside to gobble down on the porch or in the yard. We’ve spread blankets, set up beach chairs, and gathered around picnic tables to chow down. Sometimes it’s just us and sometimes we’re surrounded by friends. It’s true that summer food just tastes better out in the fresh air, I’m sure of it. The best type of food to eat outside, in my opinion, is one-pot dishes that are good warm or at room temperature. Things that travel well, don’t need anything more than a serving spoon, and require only one trip from the kitchen to the grass.

Here, I’m sharing my favorite summer picnic crowd please – Tomato & Basil Strata. This dish is perfect for brunch, a picnic lunch (served with a big green salad and fresh berries), or a beach dinner (served with grilled steak and corn on the cob). You can assemble it ahead of time and bake it off whenever you have a free moment or a cool kitchen. The classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and rich Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (similar to cheddar – nutty and somewhat sweet hard cheese) is a summer entertaining home run.

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Tomato-Basil Strata

Serves 8 to 10

 1 yellow onion cut into thin ribbons

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 cups cubed French or Italian bread cut into 1-inch chunks

 6 ounces coarsely grated Kerrygold® Dubliner Cheese (2 cups)

 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

 8 large eggs

 2 3/4 cups milk

 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

 1 teaspoon salt

 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

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Cook the onion in the butter over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelize. Now build the strata in layers. Butter a 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Start with the bread – spread 1/2 of the cubes in the bottom of the dish, top with 1/2 of the vegetables mixture and 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat the layering with remaining bread, vegetables, cheese, and top with torn basil.

Next, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl and pour it evenly over the strata. Cover with foil and chill the strata for at least 8 hours or up to a day.

Before baking, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in the middle of the oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe is sponsored by Kerrygold® USA and Martha Stewart Living.

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01.10.2017

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Our first big snow fall hit this weekend and all I can think about is cooking and eating soup and biscuits so forgive me for another soup suggestion. This Spicy Tomato Soup is from Barabara Lynch and it is spicy. If you don’t love a serious kick of heat I would cut the red pepper flakes in half. At its core, this recipe is a 5-ingredient vegan soup built from simple pantry items. And where there is soup there is dipping. Biscuits make mean dippers – especially when they’re covered with everything bagel seed mix. If you’d rather use your biscuits to hold fried eggs, red onion, cheese, and spinach then I’m not stopping you. We started our fair share of mornings that way too.

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Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup

serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste — I used a 1/2 teaspoon and it was almost too spicy for me)

2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Crème fraîche, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. (If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the simmer time — just add a bit less water.) Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

3. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off).

4. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

5. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot. If you choose, serve topped with a tablespoon of crème fraîche.

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Everything Biscuits from Small Victories

Makes 12 biscuits

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons onion flakes

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-in cubes and chilled

1 ½ cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. (You can skip this if you’d like, since all of the butter in the dough will keep the biscuits from sticking, but I love anything that makes cleaning up easier).

2. In a small bowl, stir together the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and onion flakes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk more than you think you should — this isn’t just to combine the ingredients but also to aerate them. Plus, how much easier is it to clean a whisk than a sifter, amiright?? Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing it between your fingers until the mixture turns into coarse crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the buttermilk until the mixture becomes a shaggy dough — no need to overmix here. Stir in half of the poppy seed mixture.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it out so that it’s about 1 in thick. Using a 2½-in round cutter (or a juice glass), stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Pat the dough scraps together (do not overwork the dough), reroll, and cut out more biscuits. You should end up with a dozen biscuits. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the biscuits for about 1 hour. Baking them from cold will yield flakier biscuits (the butter will be slower to melt and will create more distinct layers); but if you don’t have time, don’t worry—the biscuits will still be very good.

4. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F. Right before baking, brush each biscuit lightly with buttermilk and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining poppy seed mixture.

5. Bake the biscuits until they’re risen and golden, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through baking. Serve warm

07.19.2016

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On Thursdays and Fridays Nick works from home. He sits perched up in our bedroom in front of the computer, wedged between laundry and old magazines. Smartly, he keeps his headphones on most of the day either listening to a new podcast, Phish, or Grateful Dead show. It being summer, working from home with your wife and two young boys around can be a challenge…for all of us. It’s hard to pretend he’s not here when he is. There are many knocks at the door and frantic requests for help at less than ideal times.

One benefit of these work-from-home days is lunchtime. Once Gray is napping and Dylan occupied, we can sometimes (okay so far it’s only happened twice) sit down together for a grown-up lunch. This Tomato & Crouton Salad is one such meal. Everything on this platter is Island grown – North Tabor Farm greens, Morning Glory Farm Tomatoes and Basil, and Cinnamon Starship Oatmeal Bread. It was delicious.

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Tomato & Crouton Salad

serves 2 starving and tired parents or 4 regular people

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese, roughly torn

1 big handful fresh basil, roughly torn

2 cups baby greens

1/4 loaf of bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper

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First, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Heat the oil then toss in the cubed bread and a sprinkle of salt. Toast bread until golden and crisp, moving it around the pan often. When the bread is crispy, turn off the heat.

Grab a large platter. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cheese, croutons, greens, and torn basil in small piles. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Eat.

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07.10.2016

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A couple of weeks ago I made a new promise to myself. I vowed to take the chunk of time during our 2-year old’s nap on Sunday afternoons to plan out our dinners for the week. During the school year I have a solid rhythm of planning, shopping, cooking, and packing up leftovers. But then summer starts and with it comes the late night events, stops for pizza and ice cream, and evening beach hours (who needs dinner when you can eat 4 lbs of watermelon!). Our family dinners at the start of this month were fairly pitiful but I am doing my darnedest to get back on track.

So far, the new plan is working. On Sunday afternoons I pick out three to four dinners I want to make that week and head for the market. The other nights we eat really simple stuff like salad/grilled chicken, eggs/bacon/greens, and rice/beans/avocado. This Pasta & Fried Zucchini Salad from Ottolenghi’s Plenty was a huge hit last week. It was delicious for dinner but perhaps even better the next day tossed into a huge bowl of baby lettuce at lunchtime.

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Pasta & Fried Zucchini Salad from Plenty

Serves 4

2/3 cup sunflower oil

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3/4 cup frozen edamame

2 cups basil leaves, shredded coarsely

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/3 cup olive oi

Salt and black pepper

9 ounces strozzapreti or penne pasta

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tablespoons capers

7 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand into chunks

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Fry the zucchini slices in a few batches, making sure you don’t crowd them, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides; turn them over once only. As they are cooked, transfer to a colander to drain. Tip the zucchini slices into a bowl, pour over the vinegar and stir, then set aside.

Blanch the edamame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain, refresh under running cold water and set aside to dry.

Combine half the basil, all of the parsley and the olive oil in a food processor, adding a bit of salt and pepper. Blitz to a smooth sauce.

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under a stream of cold water. Return to the pan in which it was cooked.

Pour the zucchini and their juices over the pasta. Add the edamame, basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, stir in the remaining basil.

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