I thought I’d take a break from posting photos of our trip to Paris to give those who would rather look at food a break. It’s only fair, I guess, after holding everyone captive with my vacation photos. But I will warn you this is still connected to Paris in a six degrees of separation sort of way. It’s about dessert, and it’s about French dessert in particular. French pastry from the French “Picasso of Pastry,” Pierre Hermé. I thought my sampling of beautiful pastry in Paris was lacking so ordered his book, Pastries as soon as we arrived home.
For the past five years or so, my very best friend and I have diligently gone to Tomatomania each April when it comes to town. We may have missed a year somewhere in that time, but still buy tomato plants elsewhere so we can make like suburban farmers and enjoy our own home grown, warmed by the sun orbs of summer lusciousness. I have to fess up and say my friend’s plot is quite huge so she can let her tomato plants grow wildly over the sunny terraced hillside behind her house, whereas I am only a poser who keeps two large pots near the side of my house. And if those tomato plants are lucky, they’ll get most of the sun they’re supposed to have. I’ve had good years, and then I’ve had not so good years — like this year.
My plants are tall and scraggly, have been producing lots of blossoms, but very few tomatoes. Yes, they’ve been appropriately watered and fertilized. I even remembered to plant them making sure the first sprout of leaves was buried. I tried egg shells around the stems this year, too, and ironically, this is the first year I’ve had stems rot. I’m about ready to rip them out of their pots to plant something else. However, my friend is having a bumper crop.
After paying $6 for a gorgeous heirloom tomato at one of our fabulous farmer’s markets last Sunday, she called to say she wanted to drop off some tomatoes, then the very next day sent me home with more. What does one do with so many tomatoes outside of occasionally enjoying one sliced and lightly salted?
My mother has always been a master at stretching a dollar because she’s had lots of practice most of her life. As a single mother of three children under the age of five by the time she was 25, she worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. She was very good at providing us a life we never considered was lacking, even though by today’s standards, most would say it was. Our clothes were mended and patched when they began to show wear, and those gently worn were passed down to the next child in line. Yes, we had toys, but more often, we ran around outside playing with friends at imaginary games. We ate only at meal times, and when we did, the food was simple and filling. Often, beans were on the menu, and on those days when my little sister asked what we were having for dinner, the response would be, “Hundreds of wonderful things.” And why not when you consider that a two-pound bag of pintos costs only a few dollars even at today’s prices.
As much as I still enjoy a good pot of beans, white beans, or cannellinis, are what we most enjoy now. Often referred to as white kidney beans, they’re related to navy beans, or great northern beans. I often keep a can or two in my pantry, but I always have a small bag of dried beans as well. They find their way into so many different quick dishes these days — like pasta, soup, or salad. Our favorite way to eat them is with wilted dark greens such as chard or kale, and lots of garlic. On some nights, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed into the mix, and others, whatever pasta I have in the pantry helps bring everything together.
This recipe for “Cooked Shell Beans” is from Frank Sitt’s Bottega Favorita and is a good starting point for so many fabulous recipes, including a nice Bean Puree if you add some roasted garlic. Put a pot on this weekend, and enjoy all the possibilities.
A good friend of mine turned 40 recently and decided to celebrate by inviting her girlfriends to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week. The plans were made seemingly forever ago, but time flies when you’re busy, doesn’t it? Since that time, we’ve had construction on our house, my sister and her family came to stay during the holidays, and then my husband’s busy season set in as it always does. From one year to the next, I can never quite figure out how April finally gets here, but it thankfully does. Normally about this time, my husband and I would be in Las Vegas where he enjoys unwinding for a couple of days, but in the fashion I’ve grown accustomed to in the years we’ve been married, he’s sending me off with good natured smiles — and threats of taking photos of all he and my son eat while I’m away. I can’t wait to see that.
This past weekend, we’ve been out and about enjoying the spring weather here, and had friends over for dinner. Oh, yes — and cheesecake. Lots and lots of cheesecake. Now that I think of it, I must have had my almost tropical vacation on my mind when I conjured up these particular cheesecakes and didn’t realize it. Or maybe it was that mangos have been on sale here. And strawberries. They go together quite well, you know, and what a coincidence that it’s time for my Daring Bakers’ challenge.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Many thanks to her for this delightfully tasty recipe. Continue reading
When we are invited to my husband’s sister’s house, I usually offer to bring a salad and dessert. When I think of it, that pretty much sums me up, and I’m smiling because I’ve never thought about it quite like that before. I love salad and vegetables, and I enjoy making dessert. Often those are the two items people may not have time to make when they’re putting a big dinner together, so I also like to think that my contributions lighten the load a bit. If you really know me, you’re thinking she just needs guinea pigs for her experimental cooking and you’d be exactly right.
But since this past weekend we were celebrating Easter and there would be two very cute little kids there, I decided to make cupcakes. Fluffy, frilly, sprinkly cupcakes.
Pink cupcakes. Hopefully my nephew would see past the color and focus on the flavor?
Right about the time I was finished decorating and positioning the cupcakes for photos, it occurred to me that I’d have a problem getting them to our destination in pristine form. I’d blame this on bad planning, but it’s more a case of cerebral flatulence. Usually, I’m fine carrying whatever it is I’ve made while my husband drives, making sure that while we’re on our way, going down steep hills or around corners doesn’t cause everything to slide around. But my husband was at work last Saturday, and we’d agreed that I’d pick him up on our way. Just a bit of a problem.
I drove carrying a plate of these lovelies held like a waitress carries a tray just waiting for someone to see me and think oh jeez, now I’ve seen everything or ask if they might sample one as they pass by in the cross walk. I was semi-successful getting them to their destination with only a couple of mishaps barely noticeable by my darling little niece who greeted me at the door all dressed in pink.