Friday, August 31, 2012

Still Summer...

by Xani

It's still summer.  But not for long.  Labor Day weekend is upon us and soon fall will descend.  How soon?  No way to know.  It could be hot and humid into October, the fickle East Coast weather gods messing with our minds as we continue to sweat, longing for scarves, boots, and hot spiked apple cider.  But something tells me autumn is on its way.  Like all other food bloggers, and possibly all other humans, I have mixed feelings about this.  Summer is always gone too quickly, but fall feels like new beginning: new routines, new clothes, new ingredients stocking my fridge and pantry.

So while it's still summer, here's one more post celebrating all those seasonal treats that are gone all too soon.

What could be more summery than a trip to the beach?  As kids EP and I spent a week or two every summer at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Delaware.   This year we made our triumphant return!  Good eating was a priority.  My packing list included: a cast iron skillet, meat thermometer, microplane grater and a box of kosher salt, among other "necessities."  We indulged in the usual beach treats: Fichers popcorn, fries, funnel cakes, and, of course, donuts, but we also pushed the kitchen in the rental house to the max and ate plenty of great home cooking.  This panzenella with corn was so nice we made it twice:
Just perfect tomatoes and corn, a little red onion, cucumbers, classic vinaigrette and of course chunks of crusty bread fried up in olive oil.

Once we returned from the beach, sunburned and swearing never to eat fries again, I got back into my kitchen with a little more equipment at my disposal (even I had to draw the line at bringing the VitaMix to the shore).  I'm all about summer soups in the VitaMix.  Hot or cold, it purees even tough veggies into silky smoothness, no straining required.  Just this week I employed my favorite "roast everything" technique and spread sheet trays with chopped tomato, garlic, eggplant and peppers, roasted til nicely browned, then whizzed it all together with water and a bit of sherry vinegar to make a creamy, but dairy free, veggie soup that was excellent hot or cold.  But I didn't put all the roasted veggies in the soup, I kept a bowl in the fridge to throw into scrambles or omelettes like this one:

Oh, there's a little chorizo in there, too.  That's leftover from this dinner:

That's corn farrotto.  I was tipped off to this recipe by Kit from Mango and Ginger.  I'm not really doing the recipe thing that much these days-- trying to "wing it" and improvise more, but she raved about this one and it caught my eye because, in my house, we have a disagreement about risotto.  I love risotto, and Dave claims not to.  I find it hard to believe him, because what's not to love?  He says its a texture thing, so I thought I'd try this swap and see how that went over.  The farro (which I had never worked with before) kept a pleasant chew even after all that cooking, almost like steel cut oats.  I added some crisped slices of chorizo which went fabulously with the sweet corn.  Dave, always diplomatic, cleaned his plate, but I'm still not sure he's convinced....

I'm bouncing from soup to corn and back again with another corn soup.  I posted one earlier this summer and here's another version, this time with spice from chipotles and creaminess from dairy.  I sauteed onions and canned chipotle in adobo in butter, but that was all the cooking required.  Into the blender it went, along with raw corn, some corn puree leftover from making the farrotto (I'm always "repurposing"), water, milk, and some buttermilk (as recommended by a comment on the recipe).  Flipped it on high, and five (noisy) minutes later steam was rising from the blender carafe.  The soup was warm, spicy and sweet, but with a hint of bitterness that made me wrinkle my nose.  Maybe no buttermilk next time.  Still, dinner was satisfying, rounded out with DIY B. A. (avocado) L.T.s and juicy watermelon for dessert.

Love these green heirloom tomatoes
Finally, something I baked just this morning, on a whim.  Oh the joys of working from home while my office is overtaken by the Grand Prix race!  I'm reading  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table which I stole borrowed from my sister at the beach.  I've been reading Molly's blog, Orangette, for years now, and love it, but the recipes in the book are haunting me.  In a good way.  I can't stop thinking about them and want to make them all RIGHT NOW.  I'm trying to pace myself, but I've already made the slow-roasted tomatoes (can't wait to serve them with pasta, or in messy goat cheese sandwiches, per her recommendations) and when I woke up this morning craving something sweet, it made perfect sense to fire up the oven and start mixing up the batter for her husband's favorite Custard Cornbread.  Apparently the ideal vehicle for maple syrup, I had it in the oven before 8am.  Like Molly, my Dad and boyfriend are also classic Maple Syrup Snobs, so of course we have a big jug of the premium stuff on hand at all times.

An hour later I had answered emails, survived a work call with Eddie barking all the while (do ALL dogs bark incessantly while their owners are on the phone?  Any suggested fixes??), and this:
OMG.  Just as good as you'd expect from a recipe where you pour a cup of heavy cream into the already prepared batter.  The cream does indeed turn custard-y, like a smooth ricotta embedded in the slightly crunchy, slightly sweet bread.  It drank up the syrup and I ate every crumb.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of summer, however long it may last!


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