Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden gifts: Heirloom tomatoes and a special tomato tart

This weekend, we picked close to the last of the tomatoes, some butternut squash, an eggplant, a couple of bulbs of celeriac and some peppers (hot and sweet).  While the crisp air lent itself to a wonderful bike ride down the Harlem Valley Rail trail, I couldn't help but be sad that the days of harvesting a portion of dinner straight from the garden are almost over for the season.  Our own tomatoes in particular have been so wonderful - heirloom and bursting with flavor.  We've enjoyed them in salads with mozzarella or burrata, slow roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and some slivers of garlic, and most recently, in a wonderful, fresh tart.  I had high hopes of canning and preserving some of the flavor of summer - but alas, we were so excited to eat as we went, we left nothing behind.

The idea behind the recipe started here.  But the free-form shape was tricky and the dough a little too loose to be easily worked with.  Some poking around churned up this and the dough was lovely and a keeper.  Similar to the first recipe, I grated a semi-hard cow's milk cheese onto the unbaked prepared crust that I placed into a removable bottom fluted tart pan, and then used a mixture of multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes and the most wonderful currant tomatoes to fill the tart.  The cherry tomatoes were fine mostly cut in half (larger ones quartered) and the currant tomatoes were left whole (if you can find some, buy them - they are bursting with flavor and so unusual to look at).  The result?  A wonderfully flavorful roasted tomato tart that was as beautiful to look at as delicious.  It was a treat to explore a new way to savor the last tomatoes of summer.

Tomato Tart (adapted from Harvest to Heat)

Homemade tart dough, try this one (or in a pinch, use defrosted puff pastry blind baked for 20 minutes at 400°)
1 pint tomatoes cut into halves or quarters as necessary (multi colored cherry and currant make a beautiful presentation)
1/3 pound semi hard cow's milk cheese, grated (love this one)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling
Fresh herbs (basil, chive - oregano also would be nice)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Roll chilled dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Press into a removable bottom tart pan of desired shape.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Fill with tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for ~40 minutes or until crust is golden and tomatoes are popping.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste, fresh herbs, and drizzle with a nice olive oil.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Savoring the last days of Summer with berry popsicles in the country

We have been enjoying an extended stay in the country.  A special time spent mainly cooking at home, exploring outdoors, and dunking in the pool.  We have been in the rhythm of checking the garden each morning and harvesting what's there, with a promise to use at least one garden item in each meal.  We went through waves of vegetables so fresh we never tired of them: snap peas, green beans, cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes to name a few.  The perimeter of of the garden has berry bushes planted last year that provide berries all summer long.  First with black raspberries, then blueberries, then red and yellow raspberries - the latter being the sweetest of the lot.

We get a generous handful of new berries each day, and it seems impossible to think of wasting a single one.  My little one who loved blueberries as a baby, has now decided he's no longer interested in berries, with the exception of strawberries, which are a bit on again off again.  I figured a popsicle might change his perspective?  I started with mixed berry popsicles of local strawberries plus our blueberries and raspberries.  They were so fresh and divine, but apparently not acceptable to him.  He requested purple popsicles.  I moved on to blackberry lime popsicles, a deep purple in color, that we made together (he operated the blender proudly), and apparently hit the spot after some coaxing.  Later this week, having discovered a recipe for fudgesicles in this month's edition of Everyday Food, we made the creamy classic together.  There was no encouragement needed to devour those.

Homemade berry popsicles (will yield ~10 popsicles depending on size of moulds)

Mixed berry popsicles

5 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or whatever you prefer)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste or sweetness of berries)
Juice of one lemon

Blackberry lime popsicles

5 cups blackberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste or sweetness of berries)
Juice of one lime

Combine ingredients in blender until berries are processed into fine pieces.  Taste and adjust sweetness and acidity to taste (note that mixture will taste less sweet when frozen).  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove seeds and any remaining pieces of skin.  Pour into moulds and freeze for at least six hours.  To unmould, run moulds briefly under hot water until popsicles release.