Blueberry Breakfast Cake

And, an entire summer later, we’re back in the blogosphere. Long story short, there has been plenty of cooking and feeding going on, but not a ton of uploading and chronicling. Thanks to some kind friends I’ve gotten back to using real, hard copy cookbooks, and the Internet has been as relentless as ever serving up delicious wins and epic fails. Now, it’s time to revisit these favorite recipes so I, a: remember where they are, and b: can share them with my peeps!

We’re going to start back nice and easy. Then we’re going to get a little weird. I promise it’s all good stuff, but weird nonetheless. For now, we have Blueberry Breakfast Cake that I made more times than I can remember last summer. It’s like a delicious collision of a Dutch Bunny a blueberry muffin and a cheesecake.

This comes straight from King Arthur Flour, and it is foolproof. My only additional note is to use a cookie sheet on the rack below if you are using a springform pan, so you don’t bake any blueberry goodness onto your oven floor. Yes, I learned that the hard way.

Other than that, this is bombproof, and perfect for those late harvest blueberries or the ones in your freezer. I hope you love it!

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (124g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (227g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (227g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (120g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (255g) blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake or springform pan that’s at least 2″ deep. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk attachment (or by hand Laura Ingalls Wilder style), beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and lighter in color. Add the butter, ricotta, sour cream, and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder, mixing until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and scatter the berries evenly over the top.
  5. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes if using fresh berries (55 to 65 minutes for frozen), until the edges of the cake are lightly browned. The cake should be set throughout, although it will still jiggle when gently shaken.
  6. Remove from the oven and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to firm up. Serve warm with cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar (if desired).
  7. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

  

The Resta the Fiesta

Cinco de Mayo is coming at us like a Hump Day freight train. This year, we’ve got masks, we’ve got shots for the most part. We’re ready! Let’s review. We’re all set with triple spicy margs, and salsa verde, and today we’re adding one new non-recipe app to get the party started.

But first, we’re visiting to the archives for some basics:

For the apps, there must be guac. Lots of guac. I know full well you do not need a recipe for it, but in case you want to go a little off the reservation, there’s this crazy one with apples, pecans and tequila. For a more mainstream option try this Mango jicama guacamole or just add some chopped jicama to your guac for a refreshing crunch. Score points for doing (slightly) more than using your can opener with some easy and delish balsamic black beans. They can be an app or go on/into tacos, burritos enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, etc.

For the sides? Bust out the Hero Slaw. Full stop. It’s right for any party but especially for a fiesta because it’s fresh, crunchy, spicy, make-aheadable and feeds a crowd. It’s got it all, and neighborhood lore to boot. So, do that. For a more tropical totally refreshing salad Hot Cha Cha Pineapple Avocado Salad is a strong move. There’s got to be a corn course somewhere in there, and for some reason I have no go-to corn salsa recipe. Not to worry! This Mexican street corn inspired corn salad will do quite nicely.

As for the main event, let’s give ourselves the gift of simplicity. That could be: Baked tacos; quesadillas spiced up with Chile crisp, or not; a batch of Chicken taco chili all made easy in the crockpot; summer simmer chicken or some baked salsa verde chicken made with your salsa verde reserves.

Dessert, if you choose to eat it, has got to be Nina’s Margarita Pie. It just does. That said, nobody will complain if you bust out cholliesauce, call it dulce de leche and pour it on anything.

And now, for the non recipe pictured above. These Spicy Shrimp Bites, passed down through a friend chain, are deLISH and so basic. I hope they kick off many fun fiestas to come!

Spicy Shrimp Bites

Ingredients:

Tostitos scoops corn chips
Guacamole of choice (no shame in store-bought for this)
Smallish raw shrimp* (nekkid-no shells or tails)
Touch of oil for cooking
Taco seasoning

Method:

Cook up the shrimp in a skillet with a bit of oil until just done (a few minutes each side). As they are cooking, sprinkle them with taco seasoning on each side, and give them all a little stir together when they’re done.

Fill each chip with a bit of guac and top with a shrimp. Ta-da and Olé!

*Shrimp sizing on the package is a little like jean sizing. Not reliable. Your best bet is to eyeball the shrimp and imagine the Tostito boat it’s going in. I’m thinking 51/60 is a good zone, but if you find your shrimp are too big just cut them in half.

Bringing it:

If your trip is relatively tame, bring these pre-assembled, covered on a rimmed dish. Otherwise, these are easy and quick to put together on site. Just make sure you are kind to your Tostitos so there are enough intact to build your bites.

Triple Spicy Margaritas

No Acepte Imitaciones

We all have those friends who don’t F around, who cut to the chase and know just what you need, when you need it. I am blessed to have a fleet of them. A battalion? Whichever is bigger, and armed with more badassery and love. Most of the time they simply make life fun. When you face challenges, they make life So. Much. Better.

Exhibit A, is German Jules, gold-hearted truth-teller and purveyor of the giant triple spicy margarita. I did promise a review of Bring It Fiesta basics, but, because Monday is the new Friday, we’re jumping ahead to the crown jewel of our Cinco de Mayo prep. It’s the right thing to do, because if you’re going to bring your Fiesta A game, you might need to practice.

This recipe (as seen in the proper volume below) comes straight from the source (above), with guidance from the bottle of Ancho Reyes, a little treat that apparently has been around since 1927. Close to 100 years later I am on it! And because I am a rule follower, I will from here forward obey the label: “No Acepte Imitaciones.”

The spice come from ancho chiles in the liqueur, ginger in the ginger beer and, if you dare, jalapeños in the infused vodka. You can dial down the heat by using regular tequila, and the strength by using more ginger beer. You know you, so adjust accordingly. And…Olé!

Triple Spicy Margaritas

Ingredients:

  • 1 part jalapeño-infused tequila* (or regular)
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes liqueur (non-negotiable)
  • 1 part, or less, fresh (or as good as you’ve got) lime juice
  • Splash, to taste ** agave or maple syrup (Yankees, do the right thing!)
  • Ginger beer (the good, spicy stuff)

Method:

Combine everything but the ginger beer, and shake with ice. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Dial the ginger beer up or down to get the desired effect. Pro Tip: Pour a ginormous one in a huge vessel over tons of ice. Take your time—say an afternoon—pouring more ginger beer over the top to refresh and slow your roll.

*Make your own jalapeño infused tequila by slicing up some jalapenos into a mason jar, filling with tequila and letting it sit for a few days. Strain and enjoy. Here’s an actual recipe for it.

** Technically, the recipe on the bottle calls for 1/2 part sweetener, but Jules goes with a splash Do what you will for you or your crowd.

Go big or go bigger

Return to Fiesta Salsa Verde

The thing about getting through this pandemic with any sort of grace, is having hope. For me, that hope has now come down to Cinco de Mayo and the prospect of a great excuse to drink margs and eat an irresponsible amount of avocados. Maybe I misplaced the irresponsible in this sentence, but regardless, this is an occasion worthy of preparation.  Let’s venture back to last Cinco de Mayo, which was on a Saturday and coincided with what was supposed to be Derby Day. Instead, it became a a sad early milepost to all the celebrations we would lose.

But this Cinco de Mayo will be different. It marks us clawing back at a social life.

Granted, it’s on a Wednesday which is kind of fitting, because long ago my inner circle determined Wednesday is the new Friday.

So let’s spend the rest of our month planning for it shall we?

First up, salsa verde. This is a super easy recipe that involves roasting tomatillos, onions and jalapenos then pulverizing them with a mass of cilantro (Nothing to see here, Sister B). The original recipe calls for olive oil, which tastes great but gives it a weird texture if you refrigerate it. I say bag the oil, but the recipe Gods say you’ve got the option.

I never ventured into tomatillos before, because the husks seem intimidating. They seem to say, “These are for other, more skilled people.” But it turns out, tomatillos are for this person! They’re tangy and kind of citrusy, so they’re even good raw, but amazeballs when roasted and salsified.

I came across this recipe after making an awesome and awesomely easy crock pot recipe of salsa verde chicken, that basically involved chicken and a jar of salsa verde. My friend loved it and wanted to make it for his mom who is on a low sodium diet, so we looked at the label on the jar and…no bueno!

Making salsa verde was the pro move here, and luckily it is totally easy. Easy seems like a great place to start for our Cinco de Mayo prep, so get yourself some tomatillos and let’s get this party started!

Fiesta Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

12 oz. tomatillos, husked, washed, and halved
1 small white onion, quartered
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced in half
2 tbsp.vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 c. cilantro leaves and tender stems (chopped up if your blender is not top notch)
1-3 tbsp. lime juice (depending on taste)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil (totally optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss tomatillos, white onion, and jalapeños with vegetable oil on a sheet tray, and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Roast until softened and charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Transfer roasted vegetables, cilantro, and lime juice to a blender and blend while streaming in olive oil, until mostly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Serve with chips alongside quick easy cheap salsa or…. bake up a batch of baked salsa verde chicken (thinking it would work with tofu as well) or… press the big fat easy button and use it to smother chicken in a crockpot.

Next up…a review of our Bring It Fiesta basics. And yes, we’re starting with Hero Slaw!

Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Some days we need a little sunshine. Heck, some years we need it. This would be one of those days in one of those years. This recipe is one I have been meaning to post since the day, in the depths of winter, a glorious box of Meyer lemons arrived from Cousin D in California. As if the lemons weren’t treat enough, they concealed some vintage lederhosen, which of course EVERYONE needs.

Similarly, everyone needs a bit if sunshine, and this loaf (easily Veganized) serves it up.  It comes straight from Cookie and Kate, and was the answer to many questions, like:

What can I make that uses every part of these luscious lemons?
What can I make that is easy and delish?
What can pass off as a homemade dessert when we have visitors, or a satisfying snack or breakfast when we don’t?
What’s going to hit the above and have some redeeming nutritional qualities?

This is the answer to all that! I hope you like it, and that it brings a little sunshine to your day. After seeing what lemon zest does to sugar you will never let your lemons go unzested again.

Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2 medium lemons, preferably organic, to be zested and juiced
  • 1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar if you’re fancy)
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk (full fat) yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 3 extra-large eggs (aquafaba works great too)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not defrost!)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Optional accompaniments: coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter and flour a 8½ by 4¼ by 2½-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Pour the sugar into a separate medium-sized mixing bowl. Grate all the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is yellow and fragrant. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Whisk well, until the ingredients are combined.
  4. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil, making sure it’s all incorporated. The batter will be shiny. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with about one teaspoon flour (this will help prevent them from sinking while the cake bakes.) Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden and the sides just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons lemon juice and two teaspoons honey just long enough for you to whisk the honey into the juice. You can do this in your smallest saucepan over medium-low heat or in brief bursts in the microwave. Once the honey is mixed in, taste it—it should be pleasantly tart. If it’s too sour, mix in more honey. Using a pastry brush, brush the lemon-honey glaze on top of the warm cake. Repeat until you have no more liquid left.
  7. Run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen. Unmold the cake by placing a large plate or cutting board upside down over the loaf pan and carefully turning it over. Turn the cake back onto a flat surface to cool completely. Then slice and serve!

Bringing it:

This is the PERFECT offering to bring anywhere anytime. It’s portable, sturdy and easy to eat at any venue. Bring it on!

Pilgrim Pie: When cranberries get nutty

Here’s an idea. Since this Thanksgiving is going to be necessarily smaller, probably weird and definitely unique, maybe we take a different approach. Maybe we bag the turkey and the hassle of all those sides, cut to the chase and make it all about pie.

I know…ain’t gonna happen. Once everybody gets themselves swabbed for COVID before showing up, they’re going to deserve a proper feast for the effort.

But for some of us, it’s still all about pie. For a new take on it this year, I highly suggest Pilgrim Pie, AKA the cranberry curd tart that has been all over the Internet. It’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie but with cranberries and without the meringue. With the toasted nut crust it definitely becomes it’s own thing.

This version is a hybrid of the one that appeared recently in the New York Times and the one in the Hannaford flyer. It is the best of both recipes. As a bonus, I sifted through the hundreds of comments on the NY Times one (you’re welcome, and…damn those readers have a lot to say!) and assimilated the complaints and suggestions into hacks and options. Because it took me three pies to get a decent photo, I got a lot of practice with all my tweaks.

Bottom line: Make this pie! I know you need pumpkin and apple and pecan and maybe mincemeat for that one person who insists it is edible.  I feel your pain. But I urge you to dig deep. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re all hanging on by a thread. One thing you CAN handle is another pie.

Some notes: The nut crust is what really does it for me. I have tried it as written, with hazelnuts, and also with almonds and a mix of almonds and walnuts. Love the nut you’re with. For a healthier version the pecan coconut crust from knockout vegan pumpkin pie would also be divine, especially if you doubled it and made it super thick like this one.

The filling is strained through a sieve, and you will need a rubber spatula for this. Some rogue commenters didn’t bother straining the filling and said it was just fine that way, so if you’re the rustic type go for it. If you’re going for perfection, do scrape the sides of the pan periodically with that rubber spatula as it cooks, to keep the filling silky smooth .

That’s all. Happy Baking!  

Size matters? Not so much. With pie it’s all good!

Pilgrim Pie

Ingredients

For the nut crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts or sliced almonds.
  • 1 cup flour (rice flour to go GF, sprouted wheat flour to be fancy)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the cranberry curd:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (~3 cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 chunks

Method

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. If using hazelnuts, roast them on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool. For sliced almonds, 10 minutes of toasting ought to do it.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts. Add the flour and salt and pulse together. Add the cut up butter and pulse until it hangs together when you squeeze a bit of it.
  3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and around sides of a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie dish; Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  5. While the crust bakes and cools, make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Puree the cranberries in a food processor until smooth (careful here—they’re hot), wipe out the pan, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula. Discard solids (or sneak them on toast to bide your time). You can also use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then strain it into another saucepan.
  6. Combine eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then pour eggs into the saucepan and whisk together.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and reaches 170 degrees (8-12 minutes if you, like me, can’t find that dang thermometer)
  8. Remove from heat, whisk in butter one chunk at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in lemon juice.
  9.  If using immediately, let cool to room temperature-ish. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  10. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  11. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Variations:

Healthy it up a bit with the pecan coconut crust from this Vegan pumpkin pie.

Sub in orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Go nutty and switch out the nuts with whatever turns your crank

That’s about all I’m going to mess with here. It’s darned near perfect.

Squash Season with a side of Pumpkin Muffins

Those cute Halloween pumpkins?  Going, going…gone! It’s time to put them to work. It seems we skipped right over apple season. I know that we didn’t really skip over it. Pies and crisps were made, cider was chugged. But apples did not get their due on Bring It this year. Let’s just blame COVID and move on.

Move right along to squash.  The phrase “too many squash” is never uttered in my kitchen (by me at least). Butternut and denser, drier kabocha squash fill the void left by watermelon at summer’s end, finding their way into my cart every time I go to the grocery store.  This year, I hit the jackpot when a friend shared her bounty of homegrown butternut squash and sugar pumpkins (thank you Carole!), so we’re having a full-on Squashtacular.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a round up of my favorite winter squash recipes, with a bonus new pumpkin muffin recipe at the end. They are my faves by far after way too much experimenting. For me, pumpkin baked goods can be a tough sell, as they usually involve way too much sugar, oil and spice to overcompensate for being vegetable based. They’re like the macho player of baked goods.

BUT, put squash in the savory role, and it becomes something else entirely, something comfortable with itself that doesn’t have to try too hard. It adds body and nutrition and enough sweetness to become its own special treat without dressing itself up like dessert.

My go-to squash recipes start with the ever-satisfying Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, featuring the brilliant threesome of red curry paste, coconut milk and candied ginger. For an even simpler, an very similar version try almost instant Halloween Soup.

Almost instant squash soup, with pro toppings for extra credit.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong when you invite caramelized onions into the mix with some butternut squash on toast. Work through your kale supply with the easily made ahead Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry salad.

If you’re willing to get a little weird on pizza (or pasta) night, try Butternut Squash Sauce, or an easy, outstanding creamy pumpkin pasta  (a little crumbled bacon on top shuts the doubters right up).

And finally, my baked goods comment notwithstanding, I’ve fallen back in love with Knockout Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It’s all about the crust, which I made with hazelnuts instead of pecans this time. Soooo good. 

If you still have some pumpkins hanging around, fergawdssakes get them into the oven! …and save a bit to try these healthyish whole grain muffins that are proud to be themselves—just sweet enough, moist but not greasy, and only mess up one bowl in your kitchen. Happy November…the countdown is on!

Proud Pumpkin Muffins

Based on these from Cookie and Kate

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ⅓ extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil 
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey (as if…maple all the way baby!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature (or 6 Tbsp aquafaba)
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or winter squash) purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (plant, animal, whatev)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease or line all 12 cups of your muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs or aquafaba, and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now. (a heaping half cup chopped walnuts is outstanding)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.
  6. These muffins taste even better after they have rested for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).

 

Late Summer Zucchini Tian

The summer veggies are hanging in there, but we’re definitely bridging into squash and apple season. I’m looking to you, potatoes, to help us across that divide, by adding a little heft to the rest of the zukes and tomatoes.

Behold the tian, which is basically a whole lot of veggies layered over each other in sequence, each layer blessed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The whole shebang is then topped with cherry or grape tomatoes and breadcrumbs and then melded together in the oven. It’s pretty brilliant in its simplicity and humble (until I bragged about it) elegance. 

This recipe has the clever touch of being assembled over a low burner so the potato base layers get a little head start cooking. I’m including the whole recipe—as written by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame—but also giving you the Cliffs Notes, because this is more technique than exact recipe.

You’re melting the butter in the bottom of a big pan, making a base of two layers of sliced potatoes, then covering that with successive concentric layers of onions, zukes, potatoes, onions, zukes and finally all the tomatoes and a sprinkling on breadcrumbs. Each veggie layer  gets its own drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt, and cooks along as you keep slicing away.

You can futz with amounts, but there are some key points to follow, starting with the your slicing. To get an A+ tian your potatoes, onions and zucchinis all need to be sliced thinly, hence the mandoline. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend springing for it. My $12 beauty is admittedly bare bones but it does the job and I still have all my fingers, so there’s that. On that note, do pay attention and use the protective pusher when you get anywhere near the end of your veggies. Those blades are sharp!

Also, the stove-top steaming step is key to cooking the potatoes. I got lazy and made a second  tian by layering everything in my baking dish (some of us only own 1 cast iron pan) then putting it in the oven. It was good, but not great, mostly because the potatoes were not as perfectly cooked. If you go that route, cover your vessel with foil for the first half hour of cooking and leave it in for an extra 15 minutes, uncovered.

I also distilled the comments from the New York Times version of this recipe, which are many. They separate into two camps, both pretty indignant. The “How can you possibly not include garlic and fresh herbs in this?” camp and the “Keep it simple and let the fresh ingredients sing” camp. The latter crowd reminds us that the dish originated from a nonna in Puglia, and Pugliese hate garlic. Who knew? Thankfully, pretty much everybody agrees that blanching the tomatoes is only for teacher’s pets, and quite unnecessary.

Anyway, the bottom line is that both camps like this dish a whole lot, and with a long potato season in our future, it seems like a good time to get comfy making tian.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 ounces)
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 zucchini (about 12 ounces), washed and wiped free of any clinging grit
  • 1 pint yellow Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup coarse bread crumbs

Method

  1. In a pot, boil 2 inches of water for blanching tomatoes (OR NOT). Place an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet on a burner over low heat, and add butter to melt.
  2. Peel the potatoes, and slice on a Japanese mandoline into 1/4-inch-thick disks, then arrange in a single layer circle covering the bottom of the cast-iron skillet with its melted butter, keeping the skillet on the burner and leaving the heat on while you start to build the tian.
  3. Add a second layer of potato slices, and season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and cover with a lid to slightly steam while you slice the yellow onion.
  4. Peel the onion, then slice into even ¼-inch or thinner rounds. The Japanese mandoline is sometimes too narrow to use for this, so you may have to use a sharp knife and do it manually.
  5. Layer abundantly half the onion rings evenly around the pan on top of the steamed potatoes, season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and recover the pan with a lid while you slice the zucchini.
  6. Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and layer half of them in concentric, just-overlapping shingled circles over the onions to create a neat layer. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil and recover with the lid while you blanch the tomatoes.
  7. (FOR OVERACHIEVERS ONLY) Season the now-boiling water with a few good pinches of salt, and drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as their skins split — about 30 seconds — retrieve the tomatoes and run under cold water to quickly cool enough to handle; set aside.
  8. Build another ring of potato around the tian on top of the now-steaming zucchini, this time just a single layer. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and recover with the lid to steam a bit while you slip the skins off the tomatoes (IF YOU MUST).
  9. Layer the other half of the onions as before, season and drizzle and replace the lid as before, while you split the tomatoes in half horizontally with a small sharp knife.
  10. Add final layer of zucchini to the tian, and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover, and let steam while you heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  11. Place the tomatoes around the top of the tian evenly, and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top evenly. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.* (If your skillet threatens to bubble over, slip a sheet pan underneath to prevent any burned wreckage in the bottom of your oven.)
  12. With a spoon, baste, and drizzle the pan juices that accumulate in the tian over the top when you remove it from the oven at the end. Allow the tian to cool, settle and kind of meld for an hour before eating.

*I’m pretty sure this is meant to go in uncovered though none of the bazillion comments actually answered this. Mine goes in uncovered, and it’s darned good.

 

Coolest Cucumber Soup

Labor Day be damned summer is NOT over yet. Well, not totally. Sadly, I was skunked at two corn suppliers yesterday, so that ship is quickly sailing. But cukes and zukes are still going strong. I’ve got a pretty epic zucchini creation coming soon (I was so busy marveling at it that I forgot to take a picture), but while we’re waiting, here’s a cool way to use up some of the many cucumbers you may be experiencing.

I discovered while searching for a soup that involved zero cooking or warming of any kind, and could all be made in the blender. Slackers delight!

This one goes out to you Californians and westerners who are feeling the heat, and the smoke, and the earthquakes. As a bonus, it involves an avocado. The original recipe calls for the avocado on the soup, but this is not my first soup rodeo. Adding the avocado to the blender adds heft and creaminess without actual cream.

I hope this soup helps you soak up every last bit of summer, and frees up some space in your fridge.

Coolest Cucumber Soup

 Adapted from The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or use 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup water) *
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional) **
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste ***
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste (omit if using miso, then add if needed)
  • ½ avocado ****

All The Options

  • 4 slices toast of choice
  • ½ avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
  • Fried shallots or onions (if you’ve got ’em, why not?)

* Vegans, you have your milks. Use them here, soured with vinegar or lemon juice
**I used 2 tsp miso paste instead, for saltiness and funk, or what one might call “umami,”
*** I used 1 Tbsp lime juice (half a lime)
**** I threw the avocado intended as a topping right into the blender. Save the other half for toast…or throw it in as well. Did anyone ever complain about too much avocado? Ok, except for my husband?

Method

  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. Smash avocado slices on the toasted bread. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, squeeze the juice of the lemon half over the top and finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and some pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve avocado toast on the side.

 

 

 

Corn Star: A One Ingredient Summer Fantasy

We’re hanging on to summer here, even if it was the weirdest summer ever, with the haziest boundary on either end. We’re not sure when it started but it is definitely ending. I know this because it is corn season.

Cooking inspiration has been lacking in this household, thanks to the general laziness that goes along with hot days. For a recipe to get me back in the game and try something new it has to be really good or really weird. When it is both…Hallefreakinlujah!

First, some context on why this recipe is so perfect right now. I mentioned corn season, and my people take it very seriously. More nights than not, we’re having fresh corn. Our compost pile, with its layers of corn husks and watermelon rinds, pretty much tells the story. That means we have plenty of opportunity for corn experimentation.

This recipe came via Sister A, purveyor of all things Vegan, who knows I appreciate weirdness. It is a little bit of food magic and alchemy that turns corn first into milk and then into butter. Basically, you’re cutting corn off the cob, pulverizing it, straining it,  then cooking the resulting “corn milk” for just a few minutes until it thickens up into creamy deliciousness.

The result is a summer fantasy—the essence of fresh corn in a luscious spread. It does not taste like butter, but it looks like it, spreads like silk and is simply delish.  It has the added bonus of being Vegan, which you can either use as a selling point or keep to yourself. 

Slacker note: Now that I’m on to it, I’ve read versions of this recipe using canned corn, and that don’t even call for straining the corn. I will likely try that come November when fresh corn is a distant memory. But for now, I’m sticking with this version, which is a bit labor intensive but sublime.

If corn on the cob is your jive, there’s no shame in that. But if you’re looking for other ways to enjoy the bounty of the season, I highly suggest giving this a whirl. It pairs well with zucchini “butter,” another brilliant recipe that will use up the August veggie filling your fridge.  

Sweet Corn Butter

From Whitney Wright via Food52

Ingredients

  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn (or less), shucked
  • Salt and butter, to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Cut off kernels: Use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels from each ear. 8 ears of corn will yield 4 to 5 cups of kernels (I got way more). If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape the back of your knife along the cob to get the juice.
  2. Blend: Put the kernels in a blender or food processor and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
  3. Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear, about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
  4. Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy, and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt and pats of butter (defeats the purpose of this exercise I’m thinking, but do what you must). The corn butter will keep for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

How do you use it? The original author, a fancy pants chef, suggests these ways, to which I added:

  • Slather onto cornbread, a muffin, toast or fresh bread instead of butter
  • Use it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
  • Put it in quesadillas or omelets
  • Fold it into sautéed spinach with onions, and finish with just a touch of cream for killer creamed spinach
  • Dribble it onto a hot dog for a DIY corn dog
  • Stir it into risotto and finish with Parmesan
  • Blend it with vanilla ice cream for a crazy delicious milkshake
  • Top tacos or fajitas with it. Or…pizza anyone???
  • Mix it with shredded cheese, a little sour cream, and a jar of drained jalapeños, bake and serve as a LIFE ALTERING (and so not Vegan) dip for tortilla chips
  • Layer it on zucchini or tomato anything

Pure buttahhhh