Food/Wine columnist and features writer Jane Dunne never runs out of ideas when it comes to cooking for family, entertaining at home or dining out. Her blog covers the gamut-literally from soup to nuts.
Boy, have I been waiting for late summer tomatoes! I felt like buying out my local farmers market on my last visit as I eyed jewel-like yellow, orange, purple and bright red cherry tomatoes, the large, luscious red and yellow beefsteaks, and perfect romas. Biting into a freshly-picked, still warm from the sun tomato is one of my best food memories and something I still love to do today, although I’m prudent enough these days to do it over the kitchen sink. A pinch of salt and you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven.
Two of my favorite recipes follow. While the crostata is prettiest with red tomatoes of a similar size, the tomato and watermelon salad shines with a selection of cherry tomatoes, so go wild. Hope you will try both recipes as these never disappoint if made in season.
HEAVENLY TOMATO-CHEDDAR CROSTATA (6 servings)
During the years when my late husband and I owned a house in the Indiana Dunes, this easy make-ahead salad was often trotted out on summer weekends when we had guests for lunch. With hues of pink, red, white and bright green, it is pretty as a picture and tastes like a winner. Serve alongside a glass of chilled white wine and a basket of warm "anytime" muffins.
While the Pernod in the dressing ingredients is optional, I think its anise flavor punches up the fresh tarragon. A bottle of Pernod is a good investment and you'll find plenty of uses for it in the kitchen, especially in French dishes. It will last a long time.
SEASHELLS WITH SHRIMP AND SUGAR SNAP PEAS
A recent visit to South Carolina, sparked my recollection of all the wonderful cooking that comes from the "Lowcountry". One of my favorites dishes, popular in Charleston and Savannah, is Country Captain, an Anglo-Indian-Southern recipe supposedly brought over by an English sea captain in the spice trade in exchange for rice. But it's more likely the British colonials brought it with them when they settled along the coasts. Either way, Country Captain became a mainstay and is definitely a keeper.
As you read the recipe, I'm sure you'll think it labor-intensive and I won't say it doesn't take time to put together, but it you get all the prep work done first, you'll zoom right along as you put it all together. Best of all is that, apart from the final baking, you can prepare the dish a day in advance. In fact, I urge you to do it as it gives the flavors a chance to meld before it goes into the oven. Friends seem to love this dish, and I hope you will try it.
Country Captain (6 servings)
Fresh asparagus and tarragon are perfect seasonal partners. Wonderful together in a soup, or as a side with grilled salmon or chicken, they make a salad sing and an omelet rise to the occasion.
Here are recipes for two of my favorites. The salad is a perfect first course for a dinner party; the puffed omelet takes brunch to a new level. I hope you will enjoy them both as we finally begin to celebrate spring.
Asparagus and shrimp salad with tarragon
An inversion moved across Lake Michigan a few hours ago, turning our sunny 65-degree day into foggy darkness in no time. As temperatures dropped more than 20-degrees, I couldn't help but think of that line from T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" -.... "April is the cruelest month..."
Next time spring decides to stage a comeback, I'll be ready. Meanwhile, I'll console myself with this vegetable salad that, no matter the weather, always puts a smile on my face. It makes a lovely lunch or supper—and an ideal dinner party starter, especially when followed by a main course of grilled salmon or chicken.
Vegetable salad with poached eggs
Counter-espionage, double agents, straight penetration, Arnold Deutsch, The Cambridge Five - Philby, Blunt, Burgess, McLean, Cairncross -, "the bump and the pitch", Anatoly Gorskey, NKVD, MI5, the Enigma code, Bletchley Park, Michael Straight, Kitty Harris, Garbo (and I don't mean Greta).
I could tell you plenty!
The Marshall Plan, the Cold War, MI6, KGB, NATO military strategy secrets, intel, dead drops, special ops, Melinda Marling, Ian Fleming, the defectors -Walter Krivitskey, Igor Grouzenko, Vladimir Petrov - illegals all, VENONA,
Boxty on the griddle,
And Boxty on the pan;
The wee one in the middle
Florentine Meatloaf (6 servings)
I would ordinarily, at this time of year, write something about being in the home stretch, spring just around the corner and daylight savings on the horizon. However, the snow outside my window this Presidents Day in Chicago, is blowing at white-out levels. More comfort food is what I crave - spring/schming!
This almost effortless meatloaf is lighter than most and quite lovely when sliced, showing its spinach and cheese filling. It also uses prepared pesto from the supermarket section and panko bread crumbs, both of which add "oompth".
If you are a reader of The Culinarian, you already know of my love for blood oranges, those beauties of the ruby red flesh and soft, thin peel that taste like a combination of berries and orange. They are sublime and with us through the winter into early spring.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave you a favorite recipe of mine for Roast Pork with Blood Orange Sauce. Here is another recipe for marrying blood oranges with beets in a gorgeous salad.
Mixed baby beet salad with blood oranges, shaved fennel and Montrachet cheese
Many of my friends don't cook anymore. They entertain in different ways with lovely drinks parties, visits to a favorite restaurant, or other outings somewhere in the city, but (alas) no longer with dinner parties at home.
Other friends of mine who still love to gather guests around their dinner tables, do so with gusto and seem to receive as much pleasure as they give.
Certainly that seemed to be the case for my host last November when he served a memorable Sunday night supper for six - a big pot of savory, fragrant and gorgeous red lentil and butternut squash soup, almost addictive in its deliciousness, served with warm flatbread on the side. A pinot noir from Oregon and an Argentinian chardonnay were offered, and a pear tart concluded the meal.