Tomato Explosion

Tomato Explosion For the past week, despite the best efforts of my chicken and the ground squirrels, I have been experiencing a tomato explosion in my garden. Home grown tomatoes are one of summer’s best things. But, as much as I am thrilled to have them, I am running out of ways to eat them.

My favorite way to eat tomatoes is semi bruschetta style or what some may call tartine. I fry a slice crusty bread in olive oil until it is golden brown on both sides. Then I lay alternating slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella on the bread and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil. Finish it off with a little salt and some fresh pepper and you have the best lunch in the world. But even the best lunch can’t be eaten every day.

I’ve also sliced my tomatoes up and served them on a platter alongside some ripe avocado slices with a drizzle of Italian dressing for an easy dinner side dish that goes well with anything coming off of the grill on a hot night. Of course there have been many sandwiches made with thick tomato slices adorning them. And so on…

I could make a tomato tart. But, I feel like exposing these beauties to heat would be a travesty. I have posted a number of tomato recipes on the blog over the years so I figured I would go back and take a spin through the archives. (I have also been doing this with the back issues of magazines that I have saved. It’s made coming up with dinner ideas a bit easier. And, it’s helped jump start my cooking brain again..) I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of tomato recipes that I haven’t made in a while. It’s like what’s old is new again and the Tomato, Chile, Melon Salad is calling my name!

I am slowly making my way through them all and the good news is my tomato pile is getting more manageable but the green ones still on the vine tell me that there are more coming…if the squirrels don’t get them first.

Here’s my list of recipes. Read more…

Chocolate Malted Milkshake

Chocolate Malted MilkshakeMy Milkshake
Growing up, the opportunity to go to Fenton’s was a really big treat. It happened rarely enough that when we did go it was a pretty big deal. It was the brass ring of family outings—especially if we got to go with my grandparents.

I loved everything about it. I mean, of course I loved the ice cream but I also loved hearing stories from my grandmother about when she worked at Fenton’s when she was a teenager. That was in the 30s and I think at that point Fenton’s was in the building that is the present day post office on the corner of 41st & Howe. (Historians feel free to correct me if I am wrong.) I think she said she was paid 25 cents an hour, the going rate in those days.

While we all had our favorites, our orders would vary. I would almost always order a crab sandwich and a milkshake but sometimes I went with a vanilla coke and got a sundae to go. My grandmother’s favorite ice cream was the toasted almond. (I used to drop a half gallon off at her place from time to time on my way home from work. Just ‘cause I could.) Sometimes she went all-out with the black and tan. There was one member of our party that would order the same thing every time without fail. That was my grandfather. He may have flipped-flopped between the crab sandwich or the tuna melt but the only thing he would ever order from the ice cream fountain was a chocolate malted milkshake.

A malted milkshake or Chocolate malt, is a milkshake made with chocolate ice cream (or you could use vanilla and add some chocolate syrup) with malted milk powder. Though, back in the day “Malt shops” added malt syrup. The malted milkshake actually has kind of an interesting history. In the late 1800s, Malt, which is made out of barley that has been steamed and cooked down into a syrup, was widely considered to have significant health benefits so pharmacists started producing malt-based health supplement syrups that people could stir into hot water and drink.

Malted milk powder was invented by a man named William Horlick in 1873 as a much more manageable means of using malt rather than the very thick malt syrup. The addition of powdered milk and sugar improved the taste immeasurably and its popularity took off. By the time the roaring 20s rolled around, Soda fountains were focusing less on the fizzy drinks and more on ice cream-based drinks like milkshakes and malts. And, they became so popular that soda fountains became known as Malt Shops. Fun fact: the malt flavor was so popular that in 1923 the Mars company invented a chocolate bar they claimed was a chocolate malt in bar form. We know it today as the Milky Way bar.

Looking back I understand why my grandfather ordered his chocolate malts. It’s what he grew up on and he was a man of habits. When he was growing up and you went out to a soda fountain, you either had a very early version of a Coke or you had a malt. He found what he liked and stuck with it.

I really miss those trips to Fenton’s. Even though I can walk up the street pretty much any day of the week for a crab sandwich, it’s not the same without them. (Though I do occasionally make that walk because, yum!…) Feeling a bit nostalgic, I made chocolate malts last night for my family. Man, they were so good. For those of you who haven’t tried them and are concerned about the flavor ruining a perfectly good milkshake, the best way to describe the flavor is to say they taste like Whoppers candy only better. I’m not sure if that’s my mouth or the memories talking though….

Chocolate Malted Milkshake
Yields one shake

You can use chocolate or vanilla ice cream for this. Chocolate lovers would be advised to go with the chocolate ice cream for a deeper chocolate flavor. Just omit the chocolate syrup…or not! Read more…

Mushroom Poblano Tortas

Mushroom Poblano TortasMushroom Motivation
As someone who loves to cook, it doesn’t take too much to get me excited enough about something to give it a try for dinner. Right now I feel like I’ve reached the end of the culinary internet.

I make dinner almost every night—I would say 95% of the time. But, in the past, whenever I felt like I just couldn’t muster the strength, I knew we could hop in the car and go out to eat or to pick something up. In the past almost 5 months, that hasn’t really been an option. Sure, takeout has been available, but that can get pricey quickly. All of this adds up to me having done a lot of cooking. I mean A lot of cooking. And, for the first time that I can remember, I am not very excited about cooking anymore.

My sister is in the same boat and she cooks more than I do. Both of us have cooking fatigue and I am sure we are not the only ones out there feeling this way. The arrival of summer produce has helped. But, it still feels like an ordeal to come up with what to have for dinner—or any other meal. And the other mouths in the house are not always helpful when it comes to ideas.

Over the weekend I made a Mushroom and Poblano Torta recipe that stoked my cooking flame because it was something I never made before; and if you make enough of the filling, you have options for meals the next day. It’s always good to have options. The original recipe called for coriander in the beans, I tried it that way and I also tried it by swapping out the coriander for cumin. I prefer the cumin version. The coriander was just too strong for me…

If you decide to give this a go I would recommend doubling the mushroom poblano and onion mixture. It makes great quesadillas or tacos for lunch or would be super in an omelet or egg scramble for breakfast.

Mushroom Poblano Tortas
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from Milk Street Tuesday Nights by Christopher Kimball Read more…

Mussels Dijonnaise for Bastille Day

Mussels Dijonnaise for Bastille DayVive la France!
Today is Bastille Day and we are thinking about dining al fresco on some delicious and simple-to-prepare French Bistro fare this evening. Mussels Dijonnaise or Steamed Mussels in Mustard Sauce can be made on a weeknight and paired with a toss salad with a nice Read more…