Monday, August 9, 2010

Everyone who thinks that a tomato is a perfectly acceptable dinner, raise your hand!

Well, not just a tomato, of course. Even in this heat, I need something a little bit more substantial than just a tomato to make a meal. But not a whole lot more. Take this tomato and bacon salad, for example.

Ten minutes in the kitchen and dinner's ready. Above, we have two lovely ripe tomatoes - one heirloom, one not - sliced and topped with a few slices of crispy bacon, a handful of sliced basil and a quick vinaigrette made from bacon fat, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. It's great - sort of like a low carb BLT, infused with smoky bacon-y goodness in every bite.

Not that I have anything against carbs, of course. Check this regular-carb BLT for proof:

Toasted Bread Alone peasant bread (shouts to Boiceville, NY, home of my elementary school and the original Bread Alone bakery) spread with a slightly obscene amount of mayonnaise and filled with a sliced tomato, crunchy thick-cut bacon and this weird dark purple lettuce from the CSA. As both a tomato snob and a serious admirer of the BLT, I really only eat these things from July until September - prime tomato season - and so I cram as many of them into my life as possible during these three short, sweltering months.

(Honestly, I'll take the 95 degree subway platforms in the morning as long as it means I get to eat as many tomatoes as my little Italian heart desires.)

Speaking of Italian - and of late summer delicacies - here are some fried squash blossoms and, underneath, some zucchini and squash fritters. A week or so ago, I went over to Nicole's with a Ziploc bag full of Lynnhaven Farms goat's milk ricotta, an egg and some parsley. We piped the ricotta mixture into some of the above blossoms, twisted their little tops, dipped them into a batter made with flour and seltzer and quickly fried them. Oh, bliss! I thought the goat ricotta might wind up being a little too funky, but it wasn't - it was so creamy and sweet and perfect with the mild floral bite of the blossoms.

I wanted to repeat that evening's success for a weekend dinner with Ed, but I wound up getting a little too creative. I had a bunch of zucchini and zephyr squash in the fridge that I wanted to use up, so I figured I'd dice them up, saute them and add them to the ricotta mixture. Squash stuffed squash blossoms! Brilliant, right?

Yeaaaah... until the watery cooked squash hit the ricotta, egg, parsley and basil mixture.... and melted everything into a soupy mess, completely unfit for stuffing anything. Uh oh.

"How's it going in here?" Ed asked, coming into the kitchen to investigate.
"I think I fucked it up," I said, glancing towards the takeout menu drawer.
Ed thought it over for a moment, then said, "It'll be fine. Just add a couple of tablespoons of flour and you can make fritters instead."

Ricotta and zucchini fritters? Brilliant, for real! Flour added, crisis averted, and minutes later, we were sitting at the table, eating crispy battered blossoms and piles upon piles of fluffy squash fritters and licking the grease and salt off of our fingers.

And finally, a quick Friday night dinner with Jessica. There were some Italian frying peppers left over from that week's CSA share that I had no real idea what to do with. So, dear readers... I stuffed them. With saffron risotto and mozzarella cheese and peas. And then I covered them in garlic and crushed tomatoes from a can and I baked them for a really, really long time. (During said time, Jessica and I were like totally starving and were reduced to eating piquillo peppers out of a jar and Manchego cheese. Oh wait, actually, the peppers and cheese were awesome. But whatevs, we were totally just killing time til the peppers were done.)

They were good. They were really, really good. I just don't have any pictures of them. Which is probs for the best, cause baked stuffed peppers? Not particularly photogenic.

Anyway, I do have a picture of the plum upside down cake that I made for dessert! Two, actually.

I thought it actually came out a little bit dry... so this obscene amount of whipped cream was totally necessary to the overall integrity of the dish. Totally necessary. Not overboard at all. Really, I was there. Trust me.

This is what happens when I get too ambitious at the farmer's market. Two pints of sugar plums sound like a totally aces idea in the moment! But a week later, they're getting soft in the fridge and I'm still snacking on pretzels at happy hour instead of plums after the gym. At that point, there's only one option: make a cake and attempt to foist slices onto all of your friends. Starting with Jessica.

Mission accomplished!