Heirloom Tomato Tart

>> Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Heirloom Tomato Tart


Last summer, my friend Talea made me this tomato pie for lunch one day, and I loved it so much I got her recipe. It's actually a traditional recipe from the Lyons region of France, and perfect for those funny-looking heirloom tomatoes. I've been wanting to post this recipe for the last year.

Up until now, the tomato crop hasn't been so great because of cool weather in the Midwest. The tomatoes I've found at farmer's markets were way too expensive ($7.00 for one pie, anyone?). But last Friday, I stopped by the little farmer's stand near us, run by sassy Ida and Sal. Ida was putting away the produce she had left after two days of farmer's markets in different towns. She offered me her last few Brandywine and yellow globe tomatoes at a regular tomato price, so I scooted home to make a pie. In fact, I had so many tomatoes that we ended up making two pies.


Angela Williams Duea photography


One of the many reasons I love Joe is his fantastic skill at making a pastry crust. Pure delight.

Ingredients

1 single layer pie crust (we love this recipe for Murbteig pie crust, but pre-made is good and quick, too)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 ounces swiss cheese, grated
1 1/2 pounds fresh Heirloom tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence (a mixture of oregano, basil, majoram, tarragon, and thyme)
3 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tsp olive oil


Heirloom Tomato Tart


Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a pie or tart pan. Place the crust in the pan and pinch the edges. If using fresh pie crust, place it in the freezer on wax paper for a few minutes before transferring it to the pan - it will hold together better.

Prick the crust all over and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden. Take it out of the oven and let it cool while making the pie ingredients. Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice each tomato in half and squeeze out the seeds. Slice each half into 1/4" slices, and let them drain in a colander for 10 minutes (this helps prevent a soggy crust and a soupy filling). 

Stir together the mustard, mayonnaise, , salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Spread half of the mixture on the crust, then sprinkle on half of the cheese. Layer half the tomatoes over the cheese. Repeat with the second half of the mustard, cheese, and tomatoes.

Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle over the top of the pie. Scatter the basil leaves over the crumbs, then drizzle the pie with the olive oil. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until the crust is browned and the pie is cooked through.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.

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Pizza-Stuffed Squash Boats

>> Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Pizza-Stuffed Squash Boats


A few days ago I received a giant zucchini squash from a friend - I mean, this was a monster, 15 inches long and about 4 inches wide. Immediately I thought of stuffing it with something, and rummaged through the pantry for inspiration. Some good Italian sausage rounded it out nicely, and we had a carb-free pizza dinner.

One year growing up in the country, our family tried the Great Zucchini Experiment. We decided to cultivate a half acre of squash to sell at the farmer's market. Farmer's markets in that place and time were not filled with trendy gourmet and organic premium vendors; these were farmers selling directly to the produce buyers for canneries, factories, and grocery stores.

Our family plan was to work together on the zucchini plot and split the profits based on the amount of work we each put in. Being the baby and somewhat babied, I am sure I put in the least amount of work, but every Saturday before dawn I'd load up baskets of the squash into the old pickup and we'd sit with the other farmers in our folding lawn chairs while the buyers browsed.

Week after week, no one bought from us. We couldn't understand it. My mom sent me out to scout the competition, and I reported back that we had the biggest squash at the market, way bigger than anyone else's. The squash we weren't selling went week after week into the freezer or onto the table until we all thought we'd die of zucchini poisoning.

Finally mom asked a farmer friend to come take a look at our stock and tell us what we were doing wrong. He picked up a ginormous zucchini. "These are way too big. Seeds get hard in there and they taste bitter; nobody wants to buy them like that." He told us the produce folks were looking for ones about 4 inches long and 2 wide, with evenly green, unblemished skin and a high gloss. They looked for a fresh stem end, too, so we were best off picking them the day of the market if we could.

So that's what makes for the best and freshest squash, and those are the ones I recommend looking for when you're shopping. We took his advice and picked with flashlights in the early morning to get the freshest ones to the market. And it was many years before I could make myself eat zucchini again, after the Williams Zucchini Collective folded.

Ingredients

1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 14-oz. can pizza sauce, or 1 can tomato puree with 1 tsp oregano and 2 tsp basil
1/3 cup water
3 squash, 4-5 inches long
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Take the sausage out of its casing and brown it in a medium skillet until it is crumbly and completely cooked. Set it aside in a bowl, and saute the onion, pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the sausage, sauce, and water, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squashes in half lengthwise and cut off the stem end. Cut out the seeds from the center of each half. Place the squash face-down on a plate and microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Spray a baking sheet with oil. Place the squash rind-side down and fill with the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with the cheeses, then put it the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

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Eunice's Carrot-Banana Bread

>> Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Eunice's Banana-Carrot Bread



I had the most wonderful mother-in-law ever. Eunice was a sweet lady who grew up in the early 1900s and spent most of her life on cattle ranches and in church charity guilds. I see her thoughtful, kind, good-hearted traits in Joe. I just wish I'd met her (and Joe) sooner.

Eunice spent her retirement serving other people and making them happy. In her late eighties, she'd still go to the Senior Center nearly every day to serve those "old" seventy and eighty-year-olds. When she passed away the day after Mother's Day a few years ago, her funeral was swamped with people from all over the U.S. who had loved her. She truly showed a life well lived.

Eunice and Joe Duea
Joe and his mother Eunice at her 90th birthday party

The first time we traveled to Clear Lake, Iowa to meet her, she made a big loaf of this moist and dense banana-carrot bread for me and the girls. I think Joe got some too, but we might have eaten it all without him. She was so happy that I loved it that every time she knew she was going to see me, she would make a couple of extra loaves of bread for me to take home.

When Joe and I were engaged, I gave Eunice a blank cookbook and asked her to write down some of her favorite recipes and maybe some of Joe's long-time favorites. Her banana-carrot bread is the first one in the "breads" section. I love it that I have this recipe written in her handwriting.




I'm a little teary right now.

Last weekend my parents came to visit, to take me out for my birthday and to take the family to a Cubs game as our Christmas present from last year. I made a double batch of the quick bread batter to make a loaf for breakfast and muffins for Jessie and Erich, since they're working through finals week. The bread tasted just as moist and delicious as when Eunice used to make it.

Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg whites)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 or 3)
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a 9x5 loaf pan (or a 12-cup muffin pan)

In a mixing bowl, combine oil and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Stir together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually blend into the creamed mixture alternately with the mashed bananas. Stir in carrots and nuts. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes (for loaf pan) or 25-30 minutes (for muffins), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins.

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