Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Backyard Tomato and Garlic Bruschetta

My Brooklyn counterpart came to Berkeley and found herself harvesting tomatoes in my backyard. Since it was our first time growing tomatoes I was excited for help in choosing the perfect little red globes for our Bruschetta! We mixed them in with sweet orange tomatoes from our favorite Berkeley market, Monterey Market to create a delicious late summer appetizer.


- Glorious late summer tomatoes (store bought, from a farmers market, CSA or your backyard)
- Garlic
- Backyard Basil
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- French Bread

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, if they are small cherry tomatoes cut them in half. chop the garlic and mix with tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste, and chopped basil, let sit.

Take a fresh baguette and cut small rounds. We got our baguette from North Berkeley BART, the Metropolis Baking Company was passing out free bead at rush hour to promote their bakery.

Drizzle olive oil on to the bread and toast the bread in a toaster oven or the oven.

Spoon the tomato mixture on to the bread and serve!

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

If cooking is a some combination of pleasure, work, utility and delight, what could be more lovely than cooking flowers? Squashes are sprawling out of every garden right now (or crawling onto the sidewalks of Berkeley) and tucked behind the broad and furry green leaves are giant mellow-orange flowers that can be plucked and, after several steps, happily consumed.

Stuffed squash blossoms are an Italian dish that employs delicious things like fresh ricotta, feta, or other cheeses, and herbs as a filling. (However, there's also a Thai way to make them--see here.) The flower petals taste surprisingly squash-like (although, the most young and tender version of squash since it's basically pre-natal). The blossoms can be hard to find--they are extraordinarily perishable--but right now is the best time to find them.

First, wash and dry the blossoms and carefully pluck out the yellow pollen-dusted inner, uh, stamen, if that's what it's called. It's only on the male blossoms and you'll know when you see it. Then comes the filling.

We made a filling with ricotta, lemon thyme, and a bit of salt. Spoon the filling into the flower and then close the petals around it. Then dredge in a mixture of 1 egg and a 1/4 c. of milk, with salt and pepper. Quickly transfer to a shallow bowl of masa harina or corn meal. Fry in a good amount of olive oil until toasted and crisp on all sides.

While they end up looking like fried okra, the taste is miles away. The crispy outer layer and the soft cheese inside meld with the delicate zucchini taste for a very memorable dish. An excellent accompaniment to any late summer meal. And (shockingly!) it goes great with white wine. But what doesn't?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fava bean spread

It is the end of the Fava bean season, at least at my local organic market. These eccentric beans take some time to free from their shells but are well worth it. I created a fava bean spread for our block party last weekend, it was a hit!

I tried to pick Fava beans with less bruising on them, but found that the appearance of the outer shell had very little impact on inner bean.

The key to cooking with Fava beans is to buy more than you think you need because so much of the bean is shell.


- 1 cup shelled fava
- 3 cloves garlic
- teaspoon chopped shallot
- half of lemon juiced
- olive oil (for cooking and finishing)
- salt and pepper to taste

Shelling is the most time consuming part of this recipe, put on some music and make yourself comfortable…

Shell fava beans while bringing pot of salted water to a boil. Boil shelled favas for one minute. Then drain and submerge them in ice water, this will help with the next shelling phase. Remove beans from translucent inner shell – often you will need to use your finger nail to free the beans.

Add the beans, some olive oil, a few tablespoons of water, crushed garlic and chopped shallots to a hot pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Then poor contents into food processor and blend, adding lemon juice, salt and pepper and olive oil to balance the consistency.

My favorite way to serve this spread is on toasted fresh baguette topped with parmesan cheese

... Next time I will have a photo of the finished product! we were so excited to eat we forgot to take a picture.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cherry tomato pasta salad

Cherry tomatoes pack more flavor—salt, sugar, savory—into one bite than many of their larger cousins. You can slow roast them until they resemble candy, chop them up with fresh herbs, or just pop them in your mouth straight from the vine.

Unlike my West coast counterpart, I live in an apartment in Brooklyn without this mysterious area known as a "yard." However, this summer I embraced container gardening, growing cherry tomatoes and herbs out of plastic milk cartons or old olive oil tins. My bounty, pictured above, has been harvested (which took all of three minutes--such a farmer!)

Craving a pasta salad (I am game for anything that can be eaten very COLD these days), I put together the following:

14 or so cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
sprinkle with good olive oil
A handful of black or kalamata olives
zest of one lemon

Add about 2-3 cups of cooked pasta. I like fusilli for pasta salads.
Dress with olive or walnut oil and a good vinegar, I used sherry.
Chop up a handful of fresh basil leaves.

Mix all together and chill until cold. Serve with some ricotta salata or other hard salty cheese (asiago, parmesan) shaved on top and a glass of very cold white wine.

Enjoy your summer evening.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Peach Pie

Peach pie, with its tart fruit and sugary crumble crust is one of the most sublime ways to enjoy the dog days of summer.
It's August and despite the abnormally cool summer, Brooklyn is heating up. Motivation has slumped, wet clothes won't dry, and the subway platforms are an inferno. But this is the best month of the year for fresh fruits and vegetables and the very best time for fresh peaches.

Feeling a bit lazy (I blame the humidity) I opted not to make a pie crust from scratch--for all the labor they don't taste that different from frozen! Plus my last attempt, for a failure of an apple pie last spring, ended up a bit salty and far too flaky. So, I laid the New York Times's perpetual debate over leaf lard, shortening and butter aside and bought a frozen crust. Sometimes, when you want pie, you want it NOW.

I found a good and simple recipe for an open-faced peace pie online at The labor is minimal, just cut about 5-7 peaches in half and place them into the crust.
Then mix dry ingredients:
1 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon

Rub with 2 T. of butter between your palms until the mixture resembles a soft, pale brown mound of sand

Sprinkle crumb mixture over peaches, and then take two beaten eggs and pour over the pie. I found it helpful to make little craters in the top of the pie so the egg wouldn't just run off the surface, but sink down toward the crust.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then turn down to 325 for 40 minutes. It looks spectacular when it's finished, and fills your kitchen with the smell of cinnamon, fruit, and golden crust. Enjoy warm, with or without vanilla ice-cream on a warm afternoon.

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
~Henry James