Sunday, August 31, 2008

Farewell Summer

For most people, Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. For me, it has the added bonus of marking the end of relaxing, reading, cooking and traveling, and the start of work and drudgery. But it's not September 2nd yet, and yesterday Ryan and I walked through the lovely farmer's market tents that line the square. I get giddy looking at all of the beautiful colors of vegetables. Maybe even a little light headed, because I start suggesting that we bring home eggplants and peppers (neither of which I particularly like or eat) just because they are so pretty. But my husband is amazingly immune to the temptations of organic farm fresh produce. At least he was until yesterday when some little tomatoes turned his head. One stand had an array of red, purple and yellow tomatoes and he became positively entranced. He even managed to sweet talk the seller into letting us mix all three colors in one little pint container so he could try all three kinds together. Of course, I had to find a recipe that showcased the tomatoes, and this is it. The perfect farewell summer salad. For the record, my favorites were the purples and Ryan's were the yellow.

from the SmittenKitchen

2 cups multicolored gorgeous cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups green beans, trimmed washed and cut into edible size pieces
1/2 a large shallot minced
1 T red wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Add enough water in a small pot to cook the green beans in. Allow to come to a boil, add the beans and cook for about 4 minutes. While the green beans are cooking, assemble the rest. Halve the cherry tomatoes and put in a large bowl. Mix the dressing by combining the shallot, red wine vinegar and streaming in the olive oil while whisking, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes. When ready to serve add the cooked, drained green beans. You can allow the tomatoes and dressing to sit together in advance of serving, but don't add the green beans too early or they will discolor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tasty Toasts

These blue cheese and pear on wheat bread toasts are a bit decadent, but they require very little effort and no cooking skills. If you have a knife, a toaster oven and access to a decent bakery, you're all set. They can be served as an appetizer or an hors d'oeuvre at a party or as a dessert. I like a little flexibility in my food don't you?


1 bosc pear (you can tell if it's ripe, it will be all wrinkly around the stem)
a mild, creamy blue cheese
wheat bread or multigrain from a good bakery

Slice the pears thinly and arrange across the bread. Crumble the blue cheese over the top. If you are feeling decadent (and I always am), drizzle with a small amount of honey. Then put in the toaster oven. I use the toast button, and it goes for 4 minutes, which is exactly the right amount of time to melt the blue cheese and make the bread able to support the toppings. To use as a passed hors d'oeuvre, I would recommend using the tiny square bread you can get at most grocery stores and dicing the pears instead of slicing, and popping in your conventional oven on a tray for a few minutes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lemon Chicken Salad with Caramelized Shallots

When I graduated from college and went off to live as a grown-up, my parents surveyed their extensive cookbook collection and gave me the simplest one they owned. Granted, I graduated from college well before Rachael Ray and her 30 minute meals, so what they handed me was Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It's not an incredibly complicated book, but it can be overwhelming. I learned to master exactly one dish: Sauteed Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Lemon and Parsley. It is this recipe that provided the inspiration for this light summery salad.

2 chicken breasts
2 shallots
3 T butter
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
juice of one lemon (approx. 4 T) plus 1T additional

Slice the shallots into thin strips, lengthwise. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a small pan, add the shallots and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Shallots should be golden brown but not crispy.

Once the shallots are well started, begin the chicken. Pound the chicken a bit with either a rolling pin or the bottom of a cast iron pan. You want the chicken to be thinner so it will cook faster, but you don't need it terribly thin. Make sure it is uniform thickness. In a large pan, put a tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Turn the heat to medium high. When the butter is completely melted (it will probably foam a bit, that's okay), add the chicken breasts. Cook for less than a minute total, just enough on each side for the breast to become pale white rather than pinky. Slide onto a plate, and season well with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the lemon juice to the pan. Let it simmer for about 20 seconds and scrape up any chicken bits stuck to the pan. Then add another tablespoon of butter, stir until the butter is melted and return the chicken to the pan as well as any chicken juices that were on your plate. Cook about 2 more minutes on each side, and then if needed (depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts), cook an additional minute or so on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan, and slice into strips and place on a bed of romaine lettuce. Top with the carmelized shallots. Using a spatula, get all of the lemony, buttery liquid out of the chicken pan and put into a bowl. Add any oil that might be left in your shallot pan. Decide if this is enough to dress your salad with. Mine wasn't quite, so I added an additional tablespoon of lemon juice and an additional tablespoon of oil. Then drizzle the dressing over the top of the salads.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Airplane Picnic

I can recall exactly two times when I was actually pleased with the food offered on an airplane. Once, when I was eight, we flew to London on the 4th of July and they served hot dogs and hamburgers in honor of the holiday. Two years ago, I flew Swiss Air and they had actual hot croissants at breakfast. I mean, they weren't bakery quality or anything, more like Pillsbury Crescent rolls, but still, hot croissants! On an airplane! Other than that, I pretty much don't have anything nice to say. The food is crap, and nowadays, they even want you to pay for it. Or else someone has a peanut allergy on the flight and they won't even let you have the tablespoon's worth of peanuts they probably should have replaced with pretzels years ago, back when they found out what a big deal peanut allergies are.

So for our flight to Florida, I decided to pack us a picnic. There used to be a little shop in Boston where we would get these. They were great sandwiches, but for whatever reason the store was always out of a least one ingredient. Fortunately when you make them yourself you can avoid that.


Deli turkey slices
dijon mustard
bread (wheat or multigrain works great)
havarti cheese


To make a sandwich, take two pieces of bread. I like wheat or multigrain regular sandwich bread for this. The texture is right, it's not supposed to be a chewy type sandwich and the flavor is more complex than white. Smear one side with a thick layer of hummus. It shouldn't be too thin. On the other side, spread a thin layer of dijon. I use about a teaspoon for a regular size sandwich. Then on the hummus side, add a layer of thin cucumber slices. I slice little rounds, and about 6 slices cover a regular sandwich. On top of the cucumber, add slices of havarti. Then add the turkey. I use 3 slices for my sandwiches, and four if I'm making it for Ryan. Finally add lettuce. Top with the dijon coated bread and enjoy.


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