June 27, 2011

Hot Time in the City...

It's hot. I don't like heat. I turn into a vampire come bright, sunny, hot days. I stick to the shade, I wear hats, and glop on the SPF 52. Living in an apartment in Brooklyn - an old apartment at that - means that only one room in your place is air conditioned and it ain't the kitchen. I become a master strategist when eighty degrees hit. I plan my meals around least amount of heat emitted. I would invite you to my closet of a kitchen, without a window, without AC, in the ghastly NY humidity, but something tells me you're going to take my word on this.

Sunday lunch was so lovely, though. It was well planned, well executed, and enjoyed in our air conditioned bedroom over TV trays. I will be making versions of this meal all summer long. It's easy, it's delicious, and most importantly, it requires me to be hovering over a hot stove for no longer than 15 minutes. Good deal, man... good deal.

Deconstructed Guacamole Salad
(My full guacamole recipe is much more involved, has more ingredients, takes longer, and while utterly worth it, is better for a crowd)
1 ripe, medium avocado, cubed
1/2 cup+ quartered grape tomatoes (about equal amount tomato to avocado)
1 small garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

-Combine everything in a non-metal, non reactive bowl. Adjust seasoning to liking. Mix carefully with a fork, you don't wan tot mash the avocados as you would in a guacamole, you want everything whole. Refrigerate to let flavors meld, then serve.

Dill Havarti Melts
Very thinly slice chicken cutlets
Corn starch
Roasted red peppers
Dill Havarti cheese
Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil
Flat bread

-Salt and pepper the chicken, dredge in corn starch, pan fry in olive oil. As long as your cutlets are truly thin enough and your oil is hot enough, this will only take 3-4 minutes per side for a truly crispy cutlet. Set aside and go cool off in the AC.
-Preheat oven to 375 and place flat bread, (I like using Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats),on a silpat or parchment-lined baking tray. Let bread warm up in the oven to toast lightly, then remove.
-Spread a very thin layer of both Dijon and mayo. Cut cutlets to size, place on bread, and cover with red peppers that you have patted dry. (You could also use sun dried tomatoes or even fresh tomatoes if they were thin enough).
-Cover sandwich with very thin slices of Dill Havarti cheese, then place in oven for 6-8 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

June 20, 2011

Fried "Green" Tomatoes

You might notice, both in the title and the picture, that there's something off with my "green" tomatoes. Well, problem is, it's really hard to find them in NYC! I'm not whining, (well not too much, anyway), but its a shame. A green tomato is a wonderful thing. In hindsight, I suppose I could have used tomatillos, but that wasn't really the point. The point was keeping it real... really American, that is.

I won't bemoan the tomato issue any longer though because these came out spectacularly. Instead of green, I found the hardest, most unripe tomatoes I could find. You might think this means a tasteless fruit, but that's not entirely true. A green tomato has a slightly lemony tinge to it. Also, the hardness of a green tomato makes it easy to fry, of course. So although neither truly ripe, nor truly green, the inbetweeners came out lovely. Slightly sweeter than green tomatoes and slightly more acidic than a ripe one. It was a perfectly acceptable replacement.

Fried "Green" Tomatoes
Green tomatoes (or as close to green as you can find)
Coarse cornmeal
Cayenne Pepper
Oil, for frying

-In a heavy bottom pan, (preferably a cast iron pan), heat up oil. About 3-4 tbs worth at a time. You want to pan fry the tomatoes not deep fry them.
-Cut tomatoes into 1/4" thick slices.
-Combine cornmeal, salt, and cayenne. Be as generous as you want with the salt and as daring as you want with the cayenne.
-Dip tomato slices into buttermilk, then press into the cornmeal, shaking off excess.
-Pan fry in oil until deep golden brown, approximately 6-8 minutes per slice. Line your serving platter with brown paper bags and serve immediately. They're best right out of the oil, but they still taste damn good even room temperature.

June 14, 2011

My Favorite Tarte

This is for all of those Tarte Tatin lovers out there. If you're like me, you're no fan of making things off-season. In other words, since it's not December, your not munching on clementines right now. A few summers ago, I was in the country and came across the most divine peaches. I knew exactly what I wanted to do the moment I saw them. 

The most classic French Tarte Tatin is made by nestling apples in buttery caramel, covering them with pastry, and baking. My Tarte Peche does the same exact thing. Of course, I simplify things and avoid slicing the peaches. Two reasons for that... 1) it saves sanity and time, and 2) peaches are soft, they would disintegrate if you tried. Once or twice I've added some candied nuts or drizzled on some caramel, but other than some vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, you don't need a thing.

Tarte Peche
4 ripe peaches (do your best to get them perfectly ripe, too soft and they fall apart, too hard and the flavor isn't there)
1/4 cup butter, (half stick, 4 tbs) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (1/3 cup if you like things a little sweeter)
2 tbs white sugar (again, 3 if you like things a little sweeter)
1 tbs vanilla extract (you could also use brandy or even a peach flavored liquor)
Egg wash (1 cracked egg, whisked with 1 tbs water)
Pate Sucree (nothing wrong with buying it at the supermarket instead of making it at home! Just make sure you get the kind you can unroll and not the one that already comes in a tin)

-Preheat oven to 375.
-Slice around each peach and carefully pull apart from the pit. Remove pit from peach half. If it's being stubborn, use a small spoon, melon baller, or even a grapefruit spoon to remove. Try to not remove too much flesh, though. 
-In an oven-proof, non-stick pan, melt the butter. Add brown sugar and vanilla, and heat until bubbling. Add the peach halves cut-side down into the sugar. Place in a circle, with one half in the center. Let cook in the pan until just the edges of the peach halves get a good, dark brown, caramelized color.
-Turn off the heat and place the dough directly on top of peaches. Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, tuck the extra dough around the edge of peaches. This does not need to be perfect. Brush the back of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle on the white sugar. This helps with the stability and structure of the tart, as well as taste.
-Place pan in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the dough is cooked and golden brown.
-Immediately, while the sugar is still warm and hasn't hardened, flip the tart onto a serving platter. If an errant peach half sticks to the pan, simply pry it off and place it in its appropriate spot. Let cool, then cut and serve.