Category Archives: Tomatoes

Missing Naxos

It’s that time of the evening again. The sun has set, with me as its sole witness on our rooftop deck, and I’m alternating between cold white wine and cold water. I don’t really need dinner after another late lunch, but some ice cream might be nice and, since it’s our final night on this island, I probably should indulge myself. F*ck it. I don’t know when I’ll be fortunate enough to return to this, my first Greek island, and I think I want to spend a little more time wandering the maze of streets and, perhaps, say goodbye to the cats and views which have left me utterly charmed.

I miss Naxos already.

And I haven’t even left yet.

We arrived on a day when it seemed the island was trying to keep us offshore, as the wind blew with 50 mph gusts and the ferry workers practically shoved us off the ramp and it’s barely contained bucking. It was intense. Since that day, though, Naxos has softened and accepted our presence with grace. The skies have been blue and the water is warm and the food has been fantastic. We’ve hiked and biked and paddle boarded and swam and the sun has been kind and only slightly burned us. I’m thinking of the redness on my shoulders as a means of taking a little bit of Mediterranean sunshine back home with me. I’m ok with it.

I’ll miss the sounds of sweeping brooms and the water hoses perpetually battling with the sandy soil and the dust it leaves on every single surface. I hope to always remember the noises of the birds and crickets and church bells. I’m certain I’ve never eaten as many tomatoes or capers or olives and I know, that when I eat those things in the future again, they will remind me of my time here. Just like the gelato I’m about to go into town to enjoy.

Thanks, Naxos. It’s been wonderful.

Next stop: Mykonos.

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Filed under beauty, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, musings, Summer, Tomatoes, travel, vacation, Wine

At home in Italy – dinner at Mezze Notte

Guilderland is not my usual stomping grounds, but I really need to get out that way more often.  Last week the allure of Mezze Notte‘s restaurant week menu beckoned like a siren, you know kind of like a male siren, like this:

Um, hello sailor!

Um, hello sailor!

But, anyway, back to my evening and what I ate. After a brief catch-up at the bar with dogsitter extraordinaire, Addison, we moved to the perfect booth for more conversation and dinner.  Newly svelte Addison availed himself of the regular dinner menu, which gave him the flexibility to make some substitutions to meet his needs, while the 3-course special menu (for $20.13?!?) needed not a single modification to make me happy.

I opened with the rabbit livers appetizer served on a crostini.  This was something new for me and I only wish there had been a rabbit warren’s mound of livers to savor.  Delicious, earthy and rich – fantastic!

The picture does not do this plate justice - it was wonderful!

The picture does not do this plate justice – it was wonderful!

My salad course was composed of watermelon, arugula, ricotta salata and crispy prosciutto.  I’ve been loving watermelon this summer and you know how I feel about arugula.  Yes, this made me happy.  Especially when the person who knows my wine palate better than anyone recommended a glass of Chardonnay for me which was lovely.

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crispy, salty, sweet and peppery

Seeing that I was carb loading for the next day’s Warrior Dash, I enthusiastically indulged in a tremendously satisfying and seasonal pasta of bucatini with fresh diced tomatoes, basil, garlic oil and Reggiano Parmigiano.  Note: when I say “fresh diced tomatoes,” I mean FRESH.  Connie, who owns Mezze Notte with her husband, Mitch, stopped in on a rare evening off to deliver some gorgeous vegetables from her garden, including a number of bright red tomatoes.  Summer’s best!

Summer bliss on a plate!

Summer bliss on a plate!

We passed on desert having been totally satiated by our meals and the wonderful hospitality we were treated to by all involved.  It was such a treat to have an evening out and the bonus of seeing my dear friends Paul McCullough and Susan Diep made the experience absolutely sublime.  Grazie mille, Mezze Notte.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, Tomatoes

Bridgeford Hardware

I will always remember the hardware store in my hometown, Greenwood Lake, N.Y. Despite the time of day, it always seemed like dusk inside and I can remember being fascinated by the uncountable bins filled with washers, nails, screws and other unnamed shiny metal things. On the hottest of summer days, the store emanated a mildly damp coolness that made walking the aisles a quiet treat and I don’t remember ever complaining about it being my turn to run a hardware errand. 
That store is long gone, but in the DelSo we have Bridgeford Hardware, a throwback to those simpler times. Unlike the “big box” stores it is unnecessary to waste time searching for someone for assistance. Employees are readily available to help with practical suggestions and expert advice. Last week I finally decided to suck it up and replace the the screening in my sliding door to the deck. Now generally I’m not the worst person in the world in terms of home maintenance issues, but my hesitation was prompted by my experience the last time I replaced the screen a couple of years ago. On that particular day, the door was placed back on its slider and within an hour Cassidy Lilly (our family’s sweet black lab) felt the need to open the door with her sharp claw creating a new puncture. A hole which naturally has been expanding ever since until it ultimately became an ad hoc doggie door. 
With the arrival of spring, and my desire to improve my homeowner maintenance capabilities, I called Bridgeford and asked what we could do to prevent another screen repair job from going awry. Was there plexiglass which could be screwed to the lower part of the door? Perhaps chicken wire (aesthetics are secondary to function in some instances) could be stapled over the screen to provide an extra layer of fortification from Cassidy’s need to independently let herself out to the deck? It was explained that neither of these were an option as the plexiglass would crack when affixed by screws and chicken wire was not available. As an alternative, the patient man suggested using a flat sheet of metal, the type typically used when making covers for old school radiators. He did caution that they were expensive, probably close to $25, which would bring the cost of the repair up to about $50. I ended the call and considered my options. And then – I remembered that I already had one of those sheets of metal! I even knew where it was – bonus. I carried the door and the metal to my car and mere hours later, I was pleased to rehang the door that would let a breeze into my family room, yet keep the majority of pesky bugs out. 
Despite the additional labor and hardware involved with affixing the metal sheet, I wasn’t charged anymore than the regular price for a screen repair of that size, $25. As for Cassidy, she hasn’t even attempted to let herself out, so the solution has been a complete success. And my childhood love for hardware stores, like my sliding door’s screen, remains intact.

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Filed under Albany, DelSo, favorites, house, ideas, Librarians, Recommendations, relationships, Summer, Tomatoes, Washington

Tomato Pie

Ah, late August, the season for earthquakes, hurricanes and tomatoes in upstate New York.  For the record, of the three, I prefer a glut of tomatoes over an excess of seismic activity or a deluge of rain accompanied by ridiculous winds.  
I took a bike ride Saturday to the Troy Farmer’s Market to pick up a gallon (What? You don’t buy your maple syrup by the gallon?!) of maple syrup.  Naturally, when you’re riding a bike with saddlebags, as is true with many of life’s experiences,  balance is important.  So, I picked up some gorgeous tomatoes, beautiful peaches and peppery arugula, in my quest to keep on an even keel as I rode back to the DelSo.  The maple syrup is for the impressive number of pancakes and/or waffles the Lilly boys can put away, as well as for adding a touch of sweetness to roasted squash and root vegetables as the season changes and I begin cooking autumnal style.  But, let’s not rush things because there are still plenty of tomatoes to be eaten and I’m suggesting you enjoy some of them in a tomato pie.
Before baking

After
The basis of the recipe came from the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. Of course, I didn’t really measure closely and I ignored the dill called for in the recipe and substituted basil and flat leaf parsley instead, with great results.  I also did not have Parmesan so I used some Asiago instead.  I found the buttermilk dough to be a bit onerous to work with.  Maybe I needed it to be colder to successfully roll it out?  A wider plastic wrap would probably have been helpful as the circumference of the dough exceeded the width of the plastic wrap making things challenging.  Or perhaps, I just suck at dealing with dough.  Anyway – it may not have been beautiful, but, it sure was tasty.  And, unlike Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene, this dish lived up to the hype.   
PS – I sincerely hope you all made it through the storm safely with minimal damage. 

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Filed under DelSo, Food, Recipes, Recommendations, Tomatoes

Summer Steak Salad

Arugula, lightly dressed with special Ligurian olive oil and fresh lemon juice, topped with sliced London broil, local beefsteak tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, slivers of red onion and a chiffonade of my own basil.  Who says salad isn’t manly?

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Filed under Cooking, Eating, ideas, Recipes, Recommendations, Tomatoes

Mussels!

Last week I picked up 2lbs of live mussels at Price Chopper for the incredible price of $2.99.  Yep – not a typo, less than $1.50 per pound!  This may be the cheapest least expensive meal I’ve ever cooked, macaroni with butter and onions and Parmesan aside.
Coincidentally, as I flipped around the television on the very same day, there was an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on and she, too, was cooking mussels.  Weird, huh?

I missed the beginning of her demo, but saw enough to know that I was on the right track with my own sensibilities regarding how to prepare these babies.  What follows is one of the easiest, low budget, delicious recipes eva!  Sweat some chopped onion and minced garlic in a combination of olive oil and butter – just enough fat to coat the pot and the vegetables.  Dump your mussels in the pot and pour in a couple of cups of white wine. Cover and cook over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Toss in a coarsely chopped plum tomato or two and a handful of fresh herbs – parsley, basil, rosemary, whatever you’ve got in any combination which you find pleasing.  Cover and cook 2 more minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and serve with grilled crusty bread.  Done.  My 2 lbs provided me with a satisfying light dinner with enough leftovers to treat my neighbors, recently returned to the DelSo following  some time spent with family, to a surprise appetizer.  Mussels – yummy to eat and fun to share.

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Filed under Cooking, DelSo, Food, Recipes, Recommendations, Tomatoes

Remember those tomatoes…

I used them yesterday when I made this tasty, rustic* pizza. I used some of that flavored olive oil to lightly coat a baking sheet and then dusted it with some coarse corn meal.  After spreading the room temperature dough in my typical inept fashion, I topped it with a smear of pesto, a layer of roasted tomatoes and some grated pecorino Romano.  The oven was hot at 475 degrees and I baked the pizza until the crust was a shade of golden brown that I like.  To finish the pizza, I threw a handful of arugula on top to wilt, as the oven cooled down.  Summer’s here and the living is easy….

*rustic means “less than beautifully symmetric shaped crust” in my world.

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Filed under Cooking, Recipes, Tomatoes