We viewed the 4th of July as the official kick-off of our summer in Brooklyn. June was filled with honeymooning and weather-proofing the apartment. For us, July is when summer started. (Of course, the heat started long, long before that).
In our lives, there's no better way to officially celebrate an event or in this case, a season, than by planning, prepping, and cooking a seasonal meal. In food terms, July=peaches, berries, tomatoes, squash, fresh greens, and cucumbers.
On the Friday before the 4th, I navigated the sticky subway to do the majority of my shopping at Union Square. The tomatoes came from McEnroe's Organic Farm; peaches and zucchini came from Oak Grove Plantation; the garlic came from Norwich Meadows. And so on, and so forth.
Cooking and eating (and drinking bottle after bottle of sparkling rose) consumed the entire day. In between cooking, eating, cleaning up the kitchen, and starting on the next course, we wandered down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and shared honeymoon pictures.
Without further ado, here's the complete menu. Special notes, comments, and pictures are included with each specific course.
Chips and Brooklyn Salsa
Roasted Tomatoes with Crusty Baguette
Pasta with Tomatoes and Ricotta
Berry and Peach Cobbler
Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote over Vanilla Ice cream
Roasted Tomatoes and Baguette
Recipe source: Saveur Magazine
Notes: This is actually the cover shot of the latest issue of Saveur magazine. I couldn't resist buying the magazine after I learned it was all about farmers' markets. The picture on the front was practically begging me to make it. This was the simplest thing we made all day, as it required basically zero prep work. Crush some garlic, snip some thyme and let the tomatoes roast in both their juices and some quality olive oil. If Italy was a taste, then this dish tasted like Italy. Delicious!
6 medium tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled and lightly crushed
5 sprigs of thyme
½ cup olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 425. Place the tomatoes, garlic, and thyme on a baking sheet (a pie pan works as well) and drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake, brushing the tomatoes occasionally with the oil, until the tomatoes soften and skins split, 25-30 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes, along with their choose to a serving dish. Leave them as is (relatively whole) or mash them together to make into a soupy consistency. Serve with a baguette.
Notes: Deb of Smitten Kitchen consistently concocts amazing recipes. We frequently browse her site for inspiration. Savory pastries are one of my favorite things to make and always seem to be a hit. Deb did all of the research for this one; I just followed the instructions. Cook's disclosure, I actually forgot to put in the sour cream for the pastry. As it turns out, I feel like the dough may have been too moist to roll if I had added the sour cream. I didn't notice any lack of flavor or moistness from not using it. If you choose to include the sour cream, use it sparingly. The pastry puffed up nicely and nothing beats fresh zucchini with ricotta!
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border.
Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.
Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Ricotta
Notes: Real Simple's latest magazine featured a farm to table recipe and photography spread that made my mouth water as soon I opened it. Tomatoes are packing a powerful flavor punch this season, so I picked this recipe with the hopes of buying some of Cherry Lane's awesome heirlooms. Well, Cherry Lane wasn't at the market the Friday I went, so I had to settle for Roma tomatoes. The Romas worked well in the pasta salad, though I do think heirlooms would have made it more special. Fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, fresh ricotta. The key to this recipe is finding the freshest ingredients you can.
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (Roma works as well), cut into bite sized pieces
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (example: basil, tarragon, parsley-be creative!)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & black pepper
1 box penne
2 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup grated Parmesan (more for serving)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, herbs, lemon juice, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Let stand, tossing occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot.
Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast until golden (5-6 minutes). (Be careful, as pine nuts burn easily!)
Toss the pasta w/the ricotta, Parmesan, and enough of the reserve pasta water to create a creamy sauce. Top with the tomato mixture and pine nuts. Add more parmesan (because you can never have too much!)
Mark Bittman’s Potato Salad
Notes: Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a permanent member of our cookbook collection (actually, it was my first cookbook!). When in need of an expertly done basic dish, look no further than Mark Bittman. We used cage free mayonnaise and farmers' market potatoes.
1 ½ lbs waxy potatoes (red new)
½ cup minced parsley
¼ cup minced onion
mayonnaise (to taste—start with ½ cup)
salt & black pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Wash/scrub the potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces. Cook them until tender, but still firm (about 15 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water, drain.
Toss the still warm potatoes with the parsley and onion. Add mayonnaise until the mixture is as creamy as you want. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate.
Berry and Peach Cobbler
Recipe Source: Deborah Madison, Seasonal Fruit Desserts
Notes: I may have said it before, but it bears repeating. Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts is my favorite new cookbook. Most recipes are quite simple as she wants the fruit to be the star. The fruit was most definitely the star of this dish, balanced by the biscuity cobbler. A wonderful way to end the evening! As a special note, we forgot to buy corn flour. The cobbler held up fine without, but I think the consistency would have been slightly better with it.
2 cups blueberries/blackberries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (or 5-6 tablespoons all purpose flour)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup corn flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400. Butter a 2 ½ quart baking dish. Pit and slice the peaches and then put them in a bowl with the berries. Toss the fruit with sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Let stand while you make the biscuit topping.
Mix the flour, corn flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bolw, then cut in the butter using your fingers (or a knife).
Beat the eggs with the vanilla and buttermilk. Using a fork (or your fingertips) lightly stir these wet ingredients into the flour mixture until it’s mixed evenly. It will still be slightly wet.
Transfer the fruit to the baking dish. Drop the cobbler batter by small spoonfuls on the top, covering the entire surface. Bake until the topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling (25-30 minutes). Let cool and set for 20 minutes before serving.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote over Ice Cream
Recipe Source: Bitten Word
Notes: This was our second time making this--it's too good not to. Rhubarb is mostly gone from the market and strawberries are on their way out, so we viewed this dish as a final hurrah for this perfect combination. Another dish that takes no work--cook the rhubarb in sugar and let the sugars mix together. It's heavenly over fresh vanilla ice cream.
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, sliced into half-inch pieces
1 cup strawberries, capped and halved or quartered
¼ cup sugar
Your favorite vanilla ice cream (we went with Van Leeuwen's)
Place rhubarb in a saucepan. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb begins to soften and fall apart (20 minutes). In the last 5 minutes of cooking, toss in the strawberries.
Let cool for a few minutes, then serve over ice cream.