"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blueberry Pie and brilliant summertime crust-making tip

I have a confession to make. Blueberry pies don't float my boat.

Now cherry pies, peach pies...I'll run to the next county for those. I also love blueberry muffins, coffee cakes, pancakes, blueberries in cereal and in fruit salad.

But what is it about pies that seems to rob blueberries of their charm? Is it the sugar, that overwhelms the slight tartness of the berry? Or the thickeners, in this case cornstarch and tapioca, that absorb the juiciness?

All of this ambivalence didn't stop me from having a slice of pie for lunch. And it was downright tasty, yes. I didn't push it away. But it's not swoon material.

Dr. S. on the other hand, LOVES bb pies, and he's enjoying this one mightily. It's a gorgeous creature, this pie--craggy and oven browned with rivulets of blueberry juice baked onto the top crust where it overflowed. I did not leave the top crust plain as the recipe suggests and brushed it w/ heavy cream and sanded it w/ raw sugar.

take frozen peas, walnuts, what-have-you out of the freezer and put it on the counter where you are going to roll out your crust to pre-chill it. This is especially useful if you are making a tricky butter crust.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine

This is one of those recipes that I looked at when I skimmed the book and said, "Huh?" What is Prosecco, I wondered, and aren't terrines what you cook pate in?

Basically what this is folks, is Champagne Jello.

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine, and we have tons left from Dr. and Mrs. S.'s 65th anniversary party. I fact, I picked it out because I knew I could use it afterwards for this recipe. And don't get freaked out if you don't have a terrine--the lowly loaf pan will do just fine as long as it's glass, ceramic or nonstick.

But here's the best reason to make Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine: it's terrific, and for an unusual reason.

Prosecco has a complex bouquet, like most wines. You get a different taste vibe from it when you combine it with different food flavors. So here you have the Prosecco in jello-d form, and one bite will be with a blueberry. The next will be with a bing cherry. The next, a nectarine. And the Prosecco tastes a little different with each one, with spice, honey, and berry tones. It's subtle and delightful.

Please note that the alcohol in this dessert does not magically dissipate through the jello-ification process--it's front and center so if you don't care for alcohol in your food, steer clear. Please also note that the FRUIT is front and center--there are 4 full cups of it here--so you want to make sure that everything is perfectly ripe and pretty--there's no hiding with this recipe.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Shrimp and Corn with Basil, Frangipane Tart with Strawberries and Raspberries

Shrimp with Corn and Basil is SO easy, and SO yummy (given that you like the ingredients)that you might, just might, find that it's a weeknight staple.

Its virtues:
-takes less than 10 minutes
-involves one cutting board, one skillet, and one knife
-ingredients are fairly inexpensive, if you buy frozen imported shrimp and have basil in your garden
-did I mention it's yummy?

Here's one of the magical things that happens during the cooking of this dish--the butter melds with the fresh corn milk and it makes a spontaneous sauce. Yeah. Of course you can't cheat and use frozen corn niblets if you want this effect.

You will be so pleased with yourself if you make the Frangipane Tart with Strawberries and Raspberries! I know I was. Fruit tarts are just so darn pretty, I defy anybody not to gaze upon them with the admiration you might reserve for a work of art. Mine looked like a flower, with the raspberries clustered at the center and the strawberries overlapping like petals radiating from the middle. I took 8 pictures of it with my cell phone camera but haven't figured out how to get those photos from my camera to my computer--if anybody knows please enlighten me.

And what, you may be asking, is "frangipane"?


Originally a jasmine perfume which gave its name to an almond cream flavoured with the perfume. Now cake-filling made from eggs, milk, and flour with flavouring, and also a pastry filled with an almond-flavoured mixture, invented by Count Cesare Frangipani in Rome in 1532.

Thank you, Answers.com.

I've been focusing on looks, how did it taste!? Well really, what do you expect? Awesome, of course! One note--the cookbook says you can keep it at room temp--I would suggest the fridge, especially in this summer heat. The fruit deteriorates quicker than you can eat it, unless you've got a crowd.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Salmon Burgers with Spinach and Ginger; Potato and Thyme Salad

The whole time I was making the Salmon Burgers with Spinach and Ginger I was thinking, "there has to be a better way".

The salmon was tricky to dice, and I thought about steak tartare, how it's easier to cube up if it's slightly frozen. I couldn't get a small enough dice to please me, and the recipe says no food processor--you'll turn it to mush. All right, all right.

The chopped spinach was a pain in the ass--it stuck to my hands (but not to the salmon) and it made the mix too loose to really form into patties. The recipe says to "coarsely chop" the spinach--I would say mince the heck out of it

The other problems were my fault--I didn't buy enough fresh ginger, and so wasn't completely happy with that note (or lack of it) and added a little powdered. I had (for some reason) low sodium soy sauce and so felt it was underseasoned and added a little salt.

Cooking the patties is tricky because as I said they don't really hold together so you have to pat them back in to shape once they've fallen apart--but I see on Epicurious some readers just spooned the mix into the pan and that seems much more sensible--I suggest you do the same should you give this recipe a try.

And how did they taste? Well, I thought they tasted great, and so did my diners, for the most part. I was worried that they might be overcooked but I have no way of knowing that unless I make a whole one for myself sometime. It's hard to tell with patties, how things are going in the middle.

Epicurious does not have the recipe for Potato and Thyme Salad, but it's about as simple as you can get so here goes: boil new potatoes, cut into quarters, toss with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. This is a recipe from the famous Darina Allen of the equally famous Ballymaloe Cooking School.

Darina is big into fresh, locally grown/caught food, and I find her cookbook annoying because it says things like, "go down to the shoreline and buy whatever fish the fisherman have brought in today", or "when you slaughter lambs in the spring..." or, "go out into the garden and pick the smallest sprigs of purslane for this salad." You get the idea. It makes me cranky.

So here's the thing about this salad: it's so simple, you want to make sure all the components are perfect, because any small thing will throw it off. For me, it was the XVOO, which I thought was too bitter once I tasted it on the salad. Some olive oils do go in that direction, and this particular olive oil was an expensive import, but it's been ok in vinaigrettes etc. There's no hiding it here though, and I found it distasteful. Not disgusting, just a little off-putting. So taste your olive oil before you commit.

The other thing was the darn potatoes. They were all the same large marble size, and most were cooked perfectly but a few were just slightly underdone. That's a stupid, amateur mistake, and there was no fixing it by the time I caught it, which was after it was thrown together. I find under-cooked potatoes unpleasant so I was particularly vexed with myself.

Having said all this, I think this is a worthy summer salad because a) it's super easy and b) there's no mayo so it can sit out all day and night if it lasts that long--perfect to take to the beach or on the boat or wherever. Just pay attention to the details and you'll be fine.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Three-Berry Pie with Vanilla Cream and Seeded Breadsticks

This is a pie loving family, by which I mean that the Three-Berry Pie was finished off in less than 24 hours (with very little help from me).

Here's what I especially liked about it, besides the yum-factor: using cornstarch AND tapioca as thickeners give the filling stand-up-ability without the glomminess that pure cornstarch provides.

Here's what I would change: the Basic Pastry Dough has no sugar in it, which is just fine for a quiche but in my sweet pies I like a sweet crust. Just a little sugar makes it seem right.

I didn't make the Vanilla Cream. This is an ICE cream family, not a whipped cream one. They go for the solid stuff every time, if given a choice.

There are some recipes in this book that I haven't been able to make because they call for exotic ingredients that aren't sold here in the culinary backwaters of the world.

One such recipe was Seeded Breadsticks, which calls for nigella seeds. What, you may be asking, are those? They are black onion seeds, and McCormicks definitely doesn't carry them. Don't worry, the book says, you can get them at Kalustyan's, on Lexington Ave. In NYC.

Fortunately, I have a NYC insider--granddaughter B. who has shown an interest in being an exotic ingredients courier. She has already procured cocoa powder from Maison du Chocolat, and she came through this time too, with nigella seeds and instant espresso powder.

To celebrate the arrival of the exotic nigella seeds, I made the Seeded Breadsticks for lunch to go with lentil soup and tabbouleh salad.

And how were they? Worth the jet fuel?

Well, they're breadsticks, when it's all said and done, but the nigella seeds are kind of oniony and peppery, which is nice, and the breadsticks themselves are pleasantly crunchy. A baking note--20 minutes is going to burn the sticks--you'll want to set your timer for 17 or 18.

I've sent B. off to find ground sumac next. It's kind of like a culinary scavenger hunt.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cold Buttermilk and Shrimp Soup and Black and White Cookies

Here's one of the summer recipes: Cold Buttermilk and Shrimp Soup. Sounds weird, doesn't it? It's even weirder when you consider it calls for (in the book) 1-2 tsps. of dry mustard. In the recipe on Epicurious (which I've provided the link to) it calls for 1 TABLESPOON. Do yourself a favor and start with 1 tsp., taste, and work your way up.

Having said that, this is really a delicious soup. I'm sort of new to cold soups, since it's just always so cold here that 80% of the time cold soup seems like an insane idea. But we do have our summers, and cold soups are a delicious alternative to salad. It's also nice to be able to break away from gazpacho. The other cold soups in the soup chapter seem equally odd at first blush so watch this space for more to come.

I loved this soup, but boy is it pungent. If you are one of those folks who love wasabi paste with your sushi than you're in the right place and go for the maximum allowed. I served it to Dr. S. and his son J. hoping that it would be tolerable--they both cleaned their bowls but Dr. S. told me later when I asked that he "cheated" a little bit and added water.

I know Black and White Cookies are emblematic of New York. I see them there, usually in a gigantic size only an elementary school student could love, and I've tried one. They are unimpressive, in my opinion--cakey, and topped with simple frosting. No big deal, though they are pretty.

When Gourmet included them in their cookbook I though I'd give them a whirl. And they are: unimpressive--cakey, topped with simple frosting. I don't get it. The only thing they have going for them are their looks, which is sort of how I felt about some girls I knew growing up, and oh the injustice of that!

So spare yourself the bad date and just go look at a picture, and I'm talking about the cookies here, not the girls I grew up with.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Broiled Bluefish Fillets with Fennel Mayonnaise and Corn on the Cob with Cheese and Lime

For some reason, I was worried about two recipes that involve mayonnaise on the same plate. Although if you put down a rb sandwich w/ mayo and, say, coleslaw in front of me I wouldn't think twice about scarfing it down! Weird, I know. I think it's just because these two dishes are new to me.

Well, not entirely new. The idea behind Broiled Bluefish with Fennel Mayonnaise is just the same as the way my parents have cooked swordfish since the beginning of time (except different). The difference is my parents use a thin layer of mayo and then sprinkle on dill weed, s&p. I make it that way for Dr. and Mrs. S., by the way, and Dr. S. invariably says it's the best swordfish he's ever had.

This is a fancy version of that. You dry-roast fennel seeds, then mince them with garlic and salt, which you then mix w/ mayo and lemon juice. Spread that on top of your bluefish and broil, and mmmm! I got my bluefish from the Cape Ann Farmer's Market today--it is in season and beautiful.

Speaking of in season, I went through the entire cookbook and noted "summer" recipes--the ones that focus on summer produce or cooking techniques (like cold soups). You should see my book--it's riffled with pink and orange sticky notes!

So here's another summer recipe--Corn on the Cob with Cheese and Lime. This is a variation of a street snack that is apparently sold in Mexico, and since I'd spent the entire day researching Mexico for my most recent story I thought it would be appropriate. It's also a dish I didn't dare make at work, because it just seemed kind of odd. Corn brushed with spiced mayonnise, rolled in crumbled feta and sprinkled with lime juice? Hmm.

So how was it, you may ask? I'll let my husband do the talking.

Me: So, what do you think of the corn?
Don: If I died right now, holding this piece of corn, I'd die happy.
Me: So you like it.
Don: If this room were suddenly filled with forty naked women, I wouldn't get up from this piece of corn.
Me: I see.
Don: Unless they had whips. Then I would get up right away.

This might tell you more about my husband than you care to know, but at the very least you know that this is definitely a recipe worth trying.

(Now, where can I find store that sells whips?)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer Fruit Salad with Mint Sugar

This is an easy dish, and it looks like there's nothing to it, right?

What the recipe doesn't explain is the absolutely intoxicating effect freshly ground mint will have on anybody who walks into your kitchen.

Honest, it's like catnip. The housekeeper passed through, took a deep breath, clutched the counter and said, "Oh my god, what's that smell?" I gave her a grape dipped in the sugar and she swooned with pleasure.

"Try a nectarine," I said, and soon enough we were debating which fruit tasted the most amazing.

The secretary passed through, and the housekeeper motioned her over vigorously. Then Mrs. S.'s personal assistant. Soon there were four women hovering over the food processor dipping fruit into mint sugar, until the housekeeper tore herself away.

"I gotta get out of here!" she cried.

For the record, common consensus for most amazing fruit (out of green grape, bing cherry and nectarine) with the mint sugar was: nectarine.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Clay Pot Pork

It is extremely rare that I regard the product of one of these recipes with dismay, but Clay Pot Pork produced exactly that reaction.

Too salty. Unbearably salty.

This is inspired by Vietnamese cuisine, says the introductory paragraph, which often uses sweet and bitter together. The idea (and it's not posted on Epicurious so I can't show you) is to produce caramel by melting 1/3 c. sugar, then adding 1/3 c. fish sauce and 1 3/4 cup chicken stock. Then you add some other things (shallots, garlic, scallions) and cubed pork shoulder, which you braise for 2 hours.

Don't skimp on the fish sauce, the recipe says. It's necessary for authentic flavor.

Well, sure, if you don't mind your blood pressure going through the roof, and retaining every drop of fluid you drink for the next few days! OK, I exaggerate a bit, but part of my dismay is that I didn't cook it for myself, I cooked it for dinner for Dr. and Mrs. S. I can tell when a little pile of food starts stacking up on the edge of the plate that things aren't going well at the table, and sure enough, Dr. S. said, "What exactly am I eating here?"

Ugh, dagger to the heart. All that trust they have in me to feed them good and healthy food! I should point out that Mrs. S. ate most of hers--she does love salty food. And he does too, but for medical reasons he tries not to indulge. You may wonder why I decided to go with this recipe in the first place--I do know what fish sauce tastes like, after all--and all I can claim is temporary insanity.

Specifically, if you're looking for a parallel food you might have consumed, they taste sort of like the ribs you get on wooden skewers at Chinese restaurants for an appetizer. What are they called, Hong Kong Ribs or something like that? Kind of a sweet and salty lacquer.

Sounds tasty, right? Well, you can come over to my house and try it--I whisked the leftovers away so nobody would accidentally use them and gave them to my husband, who's not worried about his blood pressure.

Btw, for a post-super-salty meal, the best dessert? WATERMELON!!! Yum. Super yum. Dr. S. ate two bowls full.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Manhattan Clam Chowder and Currant Tea Scones

This is the problem with having a great cookbook that contains over 1000 recipes. You cook a bunch, and you start to get some favorites, and the next thing you know you're cooking the same things over and over and you've stopped branching out. Can I tell you how many times I've made Portuguese Cornmeal Bread? Or Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives? And my young co-worker, Miranda, makes French Pea Soup at least once a week. Anyway, my point here is that I was flipping through the book looking at all of the recipes I HAVEN'T made yet, and thinking it was time to keep expanding. Watch this spot.

And I have fully recovered from the high tide of 20 mouths to feed at work, thank you those who have asked and expressed concern. Everybody has gone back home and we are getting the house cleaned and put back together.

One of the delicious leftovers from the S.'s 65th anniversary party was half a bag of cherrystones from the raw bar. I kept them in a back refrigerator and couldn't quite decide what to do with them. I was going to make New England Clam Chowder but noted that I had already made it once, so in the spirit of expanding I went to the next recipe and made Manhattan Clam Chowder.

This is a great soup recipe, but people, clams are not the easiest things in the world to get into. There has to be a better tool than the oyster knife I was trying to use, and ultimately I just went with a hammer. The only time I could use the oyster knife was when I could catch a clam "breathing"--they open the shell a tiny crack--and then I could stick the knife in and pry the shell open. But when you're watching the clock you can't stand around waiting for a bowl of clams to take a breath of fresh air, can you? You've got to get in there and get that clam meat one way or another.

You could, of course, buy pre-shucked clams, and next time I just might, but a) it feels like cheating and b) my clams were unshucked.

The Currant Tea Scones are quite nice if you're a scone fan. I had two people turn up their noses yesterday though--E. who thought the currants might be chocolate chips, and a little visiting girl, who apparently thought the same thing but didn't think to ask first. But--if you are prepared for currants and don't need a super-sweet cookie fix to make your life complete, these are very pleasant and eatable. I ate three right out of the oven.

I deviated from the recipe only in the formation of the baked product--this calls for forming it into a round and scoring it--then baking and cutting along the score. This would make scones far too large for tea time at work so I cut the dough up into tiny triangles. If you do this as well please note that the baking time will be much reduced--more along the lines of 15 minutes. My scones were JUST on the not-burned side of doneness--another 45 seconds and they would have gone in the trash.

Scones will never replace the beloved cookies at work for tea time, but they're nice to throw in the mix every once in a while.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why You Should Guard Your Grill, or Grilled Lobster with Orange Chipotle Vinaigrette, Part II

Because a marauding seagull might steal half a lobster tail while you're not looking, that's why.

Darn things! Usually they just crap on my car early in the morning--they've never hassled us in the food arena. But last night, while I was inside getting something at the stove, I looked out the window and there was a white gull, big as day, standing next to my plate of split tails ready to go on the grill. I dashed out, yelling, but he had already absconded with one and flew off to a neighboring rooftop. And there was my lovely split lobster tail, incredibly visible and impossible to reach.

Good thing I bought three for the two of us, or I would have been apoplectic. Still, I stood over the grill jealously, keeping my eye on the gull that landed on the peak of our house and stood there regarding the proceedings with a cocked head and a beady eye. I took time out from turning the lobsters and sipping my gin and tonic to occasionally give him the finger, and he eventually lost interest and left.

If you haven't already tried Grilled Lobster with Orange Chipotle Vinaigrette, what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time--you can't get a better summer dish. One technical note--don't cheat and use boxed orange juice for the vinaigrette. The first time I made this dish I used fresh squeezed, the second time (last night) I used Minute Maid or something like that--boy, it makes a difference. Still good, but not over-the-top. Regular readers may recall that I was so swoony over the vinaigrette last time that I wanted to drink it straight. I want you to have the same experience. Get out the citrus juicer!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake

This is what drives me crazy: a recipe that calls for a 10 inch wide, two inch deep skillet. Why? Consider my actions following....

I regard our ten-inch skillet. It's only one inch deep, maybe slightly more, and it's ten inches at the TOP, more like eight inches at the bottom. I reject it.

I regard our big skillet, and decide to use it. It's bigger than ten inches though, more like twelve inches, or maybe even fourteen. There won't be enough cake batter to spread across the bottom, and besides, the cake is only for seven people. I reject it.

I regard the ten inch skillet again. I decide to use it. I look at the recipe. I realize that if I want to fit all those apricots AND the cake in the skillet, it will overflow. I reject it.

I regard the big skillet again. I look for a tape measure or a ruler. I can't find one. I hold my forearm over it (as if I know how long my forearm is) and decide that it's definitely at least a foot. It will be too big. I reject it.

I look for other skillets. I find a saute pan. It's exactly the same size and shape as the ten-inch skillet. No.

I consider a pie plate, but I worry that it will crack on the stove top in the butter and sugar melting part at the beginning.

I consider a soup pot, which is ten inches wide and certainly more than two inches deep. It's perfect except that it's too deep and I worry that a) the cake will steam b) when I flip it over onto a plate after cooking it will fall unevenly and disastrously, thus ruining the whole point of it.

I decide to go with the soup pot anyway. But then I notice the four rivety things on the inside where the handles are and worry that the cake will catch on them on the way down.

I look at our other soup pot. It only has two rivety things. It's also made of some kind of non-stick stuff. I decide to use it.

Time? Less than fifteen minutes. Time in my head? Endless. An eternity of indecision.

Well, and how did it turn out, you might be wondering?

OK, the cake drop didn't go perfectly, but it didn't go disastrously. It went pretty much like any upside-down cake, which is that some of the fruit doesn't come off and you have to re-stick it and make it pretty.

The other thing that happened that I wasn't anticipating is that the apricots cooked themselves basically into mush (a wonder since they were not exactly perfectly ripe to begin with). Could it be because I used a dark colored pot? It does make a difference, for reasons I don't understand. But a cast-iron skillet is dark too, so...I don't know.

Anyway, the apricots were formless, so I just used my fingers to kind of spread the pretty colored fruit pulp around. Then I got anxious that it wasn't pretty enough and I sliced a nectarine into wedges and arranged it in a circular fan on top. THAT looked pretty.

The other thing I was a little worried about was (again) the apricots I used. As I said, they weren't perfectly ripe, really only about half-ripe. Would they be too tart?

No worries--the tartness in the finished product was really refreshing against the caramel and the sweetness of the cake. Actually, it was a big hit with my book group, and I don't think it was because we had had six bottles of wine by then (at least I hope not).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The dishes I'm not telling you about

This is the time of year when I cook more than I could possibly describe (and still have time for anything else.)

Here's what I put out for dinner last night (for 9):
Rosemary Focaccia
Sauteed Kale with Bacon and Vinegar
Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices
Fresh Banana Layer Cake

for lunch today(for 13):
Shredded Pork and Lemon Coleslaw Sandwiches
green salad

for dinner tonight (for 14):
roasted turkey and chicken
pan gravy
roasted sweet potatoes
Sesame Spinach with Ginger and Garlic
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Mint
Grilled Tropical Fruit

Oh, and let's not forget EG's birthday cake! She's a 4th of July baby and turns 3 tomorrow. What fun to have fireworks on your birthday every year!

Geez, you might be wondering, that sounds awfully busy for one person! Tell us Melissa, what did YOU eat today?

I'll tell you:
9:00 (at home) Bran Buds with Orange Juice because we're out of soy milk
1:00-2:00 Black Coffee left over from breakfast
2:30 Sourdough Toast with Peanut Butter
4:30 Water
5:30 2 Pieces of String Cheese
7:00 Half a Glass of Rose
8:30 Half a Can of Chocolate-Covered Almonds
9:30 (at home again) More Cereal with Orange Juice
10:00 Martini

Normally I would not eat cereal for dinner but Don is in Florida. Thank God I don't live alone, and thank God even more that he likes to cook dinner for me.

Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad and what I mean by "finicky"

Dear readers, allow me to expand on food-related topic, momentarily.

There are certain types of finicky eaters--say, the ones who have a "special order" in the middle of the Saturday night rush--whose food requests are so derailing that they make you want to put your own eyes out with a rosemary skewer.

There are other types of finicky eaters--the S.'s granddaughter E. is one of them--who are more like my cat, precise in their desires, full of love and gratitude when you get it right, and more amazingly, still affectionate and sweet when you get it wrong (even though they won't eat it).

It has occurred to me that E. might take umbrage at being referred to so off-handedly as "the finicky granddaughter" in my last post when she is so much more than that. I could write an entire post dedicated to E., who is my favorite among the grandchildren (the best of a wonderful bunch) and the only one I have folded into my own life.

So if you happen to see me refer to her again in such a manner, please picture her as a discerning and affectionate ginger cat, not as somebody who makes me want to put my eyes out.

I am a stealth chef, I realized yesterday. After mixing up Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad, I set it out on the lunch buffet without really disclosing the odd sounding ingredients, letting the salad do the talking instead.

Why? It sounds weird. But it tastes great. "Refreshing" was the word I heard most, closely followed by the phrase "unusual combination". The Gourmet Cookbook says "watermelon and tomatoes have a curious but genuine affection for each other," and they really do--I made a gazpacho with the same ingredients last summer that was extremely popular.

This one isn't on epicurious, but it's quick so I'll list the ingredients here:
3 lb. piece watermelon, chunked and seeded
2 lg. tomatoes, chunked
1 c. crumbled feta
2/3 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
2 tablespoons XVO
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

The next time I make this, I might mix without the feta and crumble that over last--it does tend to give everything a white film. Also, I doubled the recipe but did not double the cilantro (I'm not sure I even had as much as they asked for).

And if you're finicky (or even just precise), I'd urge you to try just a bite. Just one! You might like it. :-)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Poached Eggs on Artichoke Bottoms with Mushrooms and White Truffle Cream

I know you're not going to believe me when I say this, but Poached Eggs on Artichoke Bottoms etc. is a light dish.

Oh, but the cream! I hear you cry...well, yes, there is cream, and the egg yolk is rich too, but what this dish evokes is eggs Benedict, and what does that have? Typically some sort of bread, and also some kind of protein...ham, smoked salmon, Canadian bacon. This has neither. I'm not going to go so far as to say it's DIET, unless you're on the Atkins Diet and then it would fit right in.

Lightness, heaviness, dietetic, fattening--all that aside, this is one tasty breakfast that will wow anybody you're trying to impress. The flavors are subtle and play perfectly off each other.

Technically, it's a bit of a pain to trim artichokes. I doubled this recipe and it took me about half an hour to trim nine (keep in mind it was pretty darn early--maybe later I'd be faster and also because it was so early I didn't read the directions properly which said to do half the trimming AFTER you cook them, oh well). I did find myself wondering if art hearts existed in frozen form, and I see on epicurious that they do (from one of the recipe reviewers) but they're not in my store. I also couldn't find either porcini or cremini mushrooms, just baby bellas, and I know that would have altered the flavor ever so slightly. Not enough to scrub the mission though, if you can't find their suggested mushrooms.

Feedback quote of the day for this dish: E. (not E., finicky granddaughter, this is E., daughter-in-law, writer, and all-around sensitive soul) wandered in the kitchen after breakfast, praising the meal, and said that while she was eating it she fantasized about the house being an inn someday, with happy diners looking out over the view and enjoying similarly fabulous meals,and that somehow it felt like Italy to her.

I don't pay her, honest.