Saturday, September 1, 2012

Garden Explosion + Tomato Pie

This summer has been a strange one. Strange in that it has been SO. HOT. And DRY. Although Minnesota summers can definitely get hot and humid, this one has topped the charts. We planted our usual gardens this year and although I had believed think that the heat is good for tomatoes, this year I am not so sure. This year it seems our garden harvest has gone from summer squash explosion directly to winter squash explosion, fast-forward style. What are we missing from this equation? Tomato explosion! We do have a large cherry tomato plant that is taller than I am and cock-full of tomatoes, but they are taking their sweet time turning red.

I actually resorted to buying tomatoes at the farmer's market this week because I couldn't get visions of tomato pie, enchilada sauce, bruschetta and oven-roasted tomatoes out of my head. Last night I made my mother's delicious tomato pie. All the squash have been relegated to the refrigerator and the counter. Our current stock includes 3 acorn squash, 6 large patty pan, 3 zucchini, 3 large summer squash and 3 large butternut squash. I do enjoy squash and have many good recipes,!

Tomato Pie

A real summer treat. So easy, I'd say you could enlist the help of a young child.


1 pie crust (prepared, like refrigerated Pillsbury pie crusts, or make your own)
approx. 3 large tomatoes, sliced
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/3 C chopped fresh basil
Salt + Pepper to taste
Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Roll the crust onto a pie plate and prick with a fork. Par-bake the crust for 6 minutes.
- While you are waiting, stir together the cheese, mayonnaise, and basil in a medium-sized bowl.
- Remove crust from the oven and layer tomatoes on top. Remember the tomatoes will shrink down a bit in cooking, so don't be shy about piling them in. I like to cut some of the smaller slices to fit in the gaps.
- Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.
- Dollop the mayo/cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes. Spread evenly over the tomatoes.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the juice from the tomatoes is bubbling and the top is turning golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into 6 slices. (If you're impatient and cut into it right away, the slices won't hold together very well and you may end up with a sloppy mess.)

Makes: 6 slices
Best served right away, but will still be good for a couple of days if kept covered in the fridge. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fridge Cleanout

Today at my office, the semi-regular memo went around saying it was time to clean the refrigerators again. Building staff would be coming through and throwing away any food not marked with someone's name/date. I decided to take it upon myself to do my part in helping in this operation. Not that I keep much food in the refrigerators for long. For the past week I have been watching leftover soup catered from Kowalski's languish in the fridge after being delivered to a meeting with the higher-ups. I had only brought a light lunch today, so helped myself to a bit of creamy chicken tortellini soup. A few days ago I enjoyed the beef-barley.  

Next I moved on to the freezer, where I noticed a few days ago two boxes of Dairy Queen Dilly Bars with post-it notes attached that read "FINANCE." If I worked in the finance department, I would need dilly bars, too. Today, however, the post-its were gone and a couple of dilly bars were left. I think I see desert in my future. 

Is this strange behavior? Am I crazy for trolling for extra, unwanted food in the work refrigerator? I take some credit in the fact that after college I spent a year in a volunteer program where made $7,000 that year. Total. So my philosophy was one of "take what you can get, when you can get it!" One of my housemates and fellow volunteers worked at a food shelf and would come home Friday afternoons with a stash of food shelf remnants from the week (the food shelf was not open on the weekends). She would practically die before wasting food, so would pull any number of things from her "magic backpack" (or so we dubbed it): a bag of softening key limes she would make into lemonade, fancy hemp bread, spelt English muffins, or a crate of bruised peaches for crisp. I did enjoy the remains of that food shelf - is the office refrigerator so different?  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend Italiano: Mozza Mia

I'd like to think that I don't eat out a lot, but recent habit seems to be proving otherwise. Last weekend I went out to eat three times. That's right, three times in three days. Two of these three outings were at twin cities Italian restaurants: Mozza Mia and Scuzi. Both were good in their own right. A few impressions about Mozza Mia: 

Mozza Mia
Image via Yelp

A few college friends wanted to get together for dinner Friday night, and one suggested the relatively new Mozza Mia at 50th and France. None of the eight of us in our party had been there, but I had read mixed reviews some time ago and was still intrigued by their house-made mozzarella. We learned, delightedly, that they take reservations. Anyone who has tried to go out to eat in the twin cities on a weekend night and had to wait some length can appreciate a reservation! We got right in and decided to see what all this homemade mozzarella fuss is all about. My husband and I ordered the cheese sampler to start and were excited to get a generous plate of homemade mozzarella, ricotta, rolled mozzarella (with procuitto), smoked mozzarella, and burrata - not to mention the exceptionally tasty pear-mustard chutney, chick peas, grilled baguette slices and quartered tomatoes that accompanied the cheese. I'd never had burrata before, and it was one of my favorites. The smoked mozz was also a treat. 

My unwitting friends decided to start with the Scilian salad, advertised as "fresh fennel, orange, arugula, pine nut, citrus vinaigrette". They were not pleased, as it were, to receive  a giant plate of frisee along with all of the above. I can appreciate a small sprig of frisee in a mixed-greens salad, certainly, but as Adam Roberts suggests, a whole plateful is a "blight on our culinary landscape." My friends, who assert they never send food back, sent their salad back and opted for the panzanella instead. It was much better.

As for my husband and I, we moved on to the Fig and Proscuitto wood-fired pizza. It was great! A good size for two, particularly after devouring our cheese sampler, and with just the right amount of fig, onion, and thin, salty proscuitto. Other pizzas enjoyed at our table included one with squash and chicken and one with ham and sausage. All in all, it was a pleasant dining experience, convenient for our group, and with good food. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

North Coast Nosh III

Friday night my husband and I attended the North Coast Nosh in Minneapolis. A loyal Heavy Table reader, I've considered attending these events in the past, and finally took the plunge. This sip-and-sample tasting soiree turned out to be a great way to spend a Friday night. We got there close to the time it began (5:30), and were glad for it. We could get some Gai Gai Thai without waiting in line and perused all the vendors without bumping elbows. By the time we sampled all the offerings (some twice-over), the place had gotten considerably more busy. However, by all standards for these kinds of events, the crowd was definitely doable. Let's just say it wasn't Firkin Fest. Or the MN state fair. 

There we are! Guy in the blue plaid shirt, center, and gal to his left:
photo by Becca Dilley via Heavy Table

Some tips if you are considering attending the next Nosh, which I highly recommend:

  • Arrive early/at the start time
  • Ensure that your purse/man bag situation enables you to be hands-free but that the bag is large enough to hold any free pins, business cards, programs, and/or menus that may come your way. Or to store your sweet low-ball tasting glass once you leave.
  • Keep your fork. Along with our complimentary tasting glasses came forks. My husband threw his away at some point because many of the vendors had their own forks/toothpicks/eating tools. But many of them did not, which left him to borrow my fork or inappropriately eat with his hands. He's lucky I'm nice. 

Other general impressions:

  • The Bogart Loves doughnuts were amazing. Note to self: head to Fulton or Kingfield farmer's market come spring for more.
  • We need more beer mustard in this town. Natedogs slathered homemade Surly Bender Mustard on his dogs and said he hopes to have it available in stores soon.  Today, please? The one variety of beer mustard once found at Cub is now missing form shelves.
  • How ill must a person be to get food from Open Arms? After sampling their chicken and black bean creation, I asked "is this really what Open Arms makes for their clients??" I was told yes. I think I might be feeling a little under the weather already...
  • For the frugal at heart, fear not - I think you can definitely get your money's worth at this event. Particularly if you get there early and stay late.
  • Good work, Nosh organizers, on staging Bogart Loves and Patiserrie 46 next to Peace Coffee. How thoughtful for those of us good Minnesotans who need coffee with our treats.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

beef barley soup

I've blogged about this before, but I still don't often cook with meat. I should also mention that my husband and I recently watched Forks Over Knives, at the suggestion of my parents. Have you seen it? You should. I've watched Food Inc., read Omnivore's Dilemma, poured over Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and read just about everything Heidi Swanson has written, but this movie took it to the next level. Advocating for a very plant-centric, as vegan-as-possible diet?? I used to think vegans were crazy. Maybe I still do. But now my love for cheese is tainted by a small fear of dairy. And we started buying almond milk. Eggs, though? Although I had a delicious egg-like tofu scramble at Spoonriver once, I still don't know if I can give up eggs.

Since my parents watched Forks Over Knives, they decided to start trying to eat a more plant-centered diet, which translated into them emptying their freezer of beef and giving it all to us. All the beef comes from my uncle's farm, so knowing that it's not from CAFO cows makes me feel a little better. However, I still feel a bit like we have an unwanted house guest when I think of all that beef sitting in our freezer. Last night I made peace with the package of stew meat and concocted this soup.
Leftovers for lunch: picture taken via my dinosaur phone at work...sorry about that.*

Beef Barley Soup

1 package stew meat (1 lb? 1/2 lb? I really have no idea)
1 Tbsp oil (I used olive) 
1 leek, cut lengthwise, washed, and sliced into half-moons
2 carrots, sliced into coins
1 pkg mushrooms, sliced
4 C chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp each dried rosemary & thyme
1/4 C cooking sherry
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C quick-cooking barley
water, as needed

Place dutch oven or other pot with lid over medium heat. I used a cast iron dutch oven, so didn't need to add oil first - use your discretion. Add the stew meat pieces and brown, turning once, to sear the meat. After turning, once you've got some good browning happening, remove meat from pot and set aside on a plate.

If necessary, drain any liquid/fat from the pot. Add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks, carrots, and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, until the veggies have softened a bit. Pour in the broth. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any meat bits stuck to the bottom. Add the rosemary, thyme, and cooking sherry. Stir again and increase heat so that the soup starts to simmer. 

Add the beef back to the pot and add the barley. Cover for 10-12 minutes. Remove lid and check barley for doneness. If not fully cooked, return lid for another few minutes. If done, add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup looks too thick (the barley has absorbed too much of  the liquid), add water and adjust seasonings. Serve very warm with some crusty bread! 

You could very easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan by nixing the beef and using vegetable broth. I think it would be just as delicious (double the mushrooms?), but I had beef lurking in my freezer. 

* One plus - you can see part of my great re-usable sandwich wrap and napkin combo, which you can buy on Etsy from a local shop!