Monthly Archives: September 2010

When the Cupboard is Bare

Yesterday, my sister accused me of being a slacker. It’s true that I have been cooking less than usual over the two weeks or so. It’s also true that I really haven’t had much time to write about what I have cooked. So, Jane, this post is for you.

Last week, we were getting ready for a weekend in New Jersey to celebrate Howard’s parents’ 205th (their 75th birthdays and 55th wedding anniversary). The evenings last week involved some unexpected shopping and hemming (of pants). This week, we’ve been getting ready for a visit from my dad and stepmother this weekend. The evenings this week have involved lots of overdue housecleaning.

With all this activity, the cupboard has been pretty much bare. After a weekend of eating way too much, we really needed a home-cooked meal. I managed to pull this spicy pasta together from the pantry, loosely inspired by a recipe for Pasta Arrabbiata from a Rachael Ray cookbook (Just in Time). I didn’t have the exact ingredients, but the end result wasn’t bad.

As a bonus, I went out to the garden to pluck some basil and noticed that the spring lettuce bed, which never got replanted over the summer, was filled with gorgeous arugula. Apparently, the arugula that bolted in early summer self sowed. We’ll have some great salads before frost.

Mother Hubbard’s Pasta Arrabbiata
Serves 4 – 6

1 lb Mostaccioli or other tubular pasta
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup red onion, diced small
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 28-oz can Muir Glen crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 cups arugula, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining the pasta.

In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and onions. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions start to soften. Stir in the vinegar. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta. Top with reserved pasta water, tomato sauce, and Parmesan cheese. Toss well. Add chopped arugula and toss until it wilts.


Summer Wind Down

I can’t believe it’s already after Labor Day and summer is unofficially over.  Next week it will be officially over with the arrival of the Autumn Equinox.

Howard will continue to eat corn until the last sweet ear.  We also starting cutting kernels off of cobs and freezing for the winter. This Sunday’s Globe magazine has some amazing-looking corn soup recipes, so I see one of those in our future eating.

I can tell the days for summer tomatoes are numbered, but I’m making the most of them. I made two tasty tomato dishes this week, both worthy of sharing.

First was a spicy tomato pie.  It made a great lunch, both fresh out of the oven, and reheated at work.  The pie sandwiches fresh tomatoes between a peppery biscuit dough.  The tomatoes are covered with grated cheese and a spicy mayonnaise.  Howard found it a little too spicy, but I loved it!  I used a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, so my pie only had two layers of tomatoes.  If I had used a regular pie pan, which would have been deeper, I could have had more layers.

Spicy Tomato Pie
Adapted from The Good Cook’s Book Of Tomatoes by Michele Anna Jordan
Serves 6-8

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling the tomatoes
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup milk
3 or 4 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and sliced
A generous handful of cilantro, chopped coarsely
2 – 4 oz grated smoked cheddar cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
Juice from ½ lime

To make the biscuit crust: Mix together the flour, pepper, salt and baking powder.  With your fingers, quickly work the butter into the flour until it is the consistency of coarse-grain sand.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the milk into the well.  Using a fork, mix quickly, until the dough comes together.  It will be soft and sticky.  Turn onto a WELL-floured surface.  Knead the dough for about 30 seconds. Then let it rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough in half.  Roll our one half to fit the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Line the pan with the dough.

Cover the pie dough in the pan with a layer of tomato slices.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt, and some chopped cilantro.  Repeat with another layer.  Top the tomatoes with the grated cheese.  Thin the mayonnaise with the lime juice and whisk in the chopped chipotle.  Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the surface of the pie.

Roll out the other half of the dough and place over the top of the pie, pinching the edges of the top and bottom crust to seal.  Cut some slits to allow the steam to escape.  If you want to, brush the surface with cream or an egg wash.

Bake until the pie is hot all the way through and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.  Let the pie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Loosen the edges of the tart pan and remove the outside piece (leaving the pie on the base). Cut into wedges to serve.

I also went to a potluck dinner this week, hosted by Teresa from Farm Share Stories Farm Share Stories .  She invited the food bloggers who participated in the Loving Local blogathon a few weeks ago to her home.  My contribution to the bountiful table of good food was a new bread salad I concocted.  The salad was a sort of deconstructed pesto bread salad, with a vivid green basil dressing.  I have a new batch of croutons waiting to be made into this salad again for dinner tonight.  This time I’m going to try adding a clove of garlic to the dressing to make it more pesto-y.

Deconstructed Pesto Bread Salad
Serves 6-8

For Basil Dressing:
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For Salad:
4 – 5 cups homemade croutons, ¾ to 1-inch cubes
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth.

To make the salad, place croutons and remaining ingredients in a very large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and toss to coat all ingredients well.

Let the salad sit about 10 minutes before serving so the bread can soften up a bit.

You can prepare the ingredients up to a day ahead of time.  Don’t combine the ingredients more than an hour before serving because the salad will get too soggy.  Leftovers don’t keep that well.