Thursday, June 28, 2012

You say tomato, I say...

Long hot days, shorts, flip flops, and juicy red ripe tomatoes; it must be summer! I look forward to eating those first tomatoes of the summer, all year. I love eating them anyway, on a sandwich, in a salad, or even just sliced with a sprinkle of salt. In the July issue of Southern living, they have a whole section dedicated to fresh tomato recipes. This one for tomato pie caught my eye. I had about 6 super ripe tomatoes (from my parents farm) that I needed to use, so I decided to make the tomato pie. It is fabulous! Flaky crust, lots of fresh herbs, and of course tomatoes, all baked together under a little cheese...amazing! This is the perfect recipe for in season, really ripe, tasty tomatoes. I would not recommend making it with your run of the mill grocery store tomatoes.Find a farmers market, farm stand, or farm trail, near you, get some tomatoes and enjoy a true bite of summer.

Tomato Pie
Virginia Willis,  
JULY 2012 
Printable Recipe

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice-cold water
For the filling:
2 1/4 pounds  very ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as thyme, chives, parsley,and basil)
1/2 cup freshly grated Swiss cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise 

The crust: 
Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor running, gradually add 3 Tbsp. ice-cold water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and process until dough forms a ball and leaves sides of bowl, adding up to 1 Tbsp. more water, if necessary. Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°. Unwrap pie crust dough, and place on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.
Place the rolled out dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1 inch larger than diameter of pie plate; fold overhanging dough under itself along rim of pie plate, crimp a decorative edge, if desired. Chill 30 minutes or until firm.
Line piecrust with aluminum foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans. (This will keep the crust from bubbling up.) Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack.
For the filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté onion and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper in hot oil in a skillet over medium heat 3 minutes or until tender. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onion, and herbs in the cooled pie crust, seasoning each layer with pepper (1 tsp. total). Stir together cheeses and mayonnaise; spread over the top of the pie.
 Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. If needed, shield the edges of the crust with foil to prevent excessive browning. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Celebrate Summer!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Party time!

I'm a member of a book club that started in my neighborhood a few years ago. We're an eclectic, opinionated, fun group of women, ranging in age from mid 30's to early 60's.We meet monthly and take turns hosting the book club in our homes. It's always a good time. We have lots of food, drinks, and gossip deep, intellectually stimulating book discussion. 
One of the things I enjoy about hosting the book club is that it gives me a chance to break out the party food recipes that I've been tucking away. I had been wanting to make a cheese ring for a while and hosting the book club ladies was the perfect excuse to break out this old Southern favorite. I found several different recipes on the internet for this ring, even one know as Rosalyn Carter's Cheese Ring. How Southern, circa 1970's is that? All the recipes were basically the same with just a few minor differences. My ring is a combination of things I liked from a couple of recipes I found. 
After the cheese ring is taken out of the mold, the center of the ring is filled with strawberry preserves. I dressed it up with a sprinkle of pecans and some fresh fruit. I loved how retro-y it looked and the book club devoured it.

Cheese Ring with Strawberry Preserves

1 pound shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (white cheddar is good too)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
5 medium green onions, finely chopped (white parts only)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1 cup of chopped pecans

In a medium bowl, mix together the Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, green onion, pecans, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder until well blended. *Coat a ring shaped gelatin mold generously with cooking spray, or you can use a silicon mold. Spoon the cheese mixture into the mold, cover, and chill for 2 to 3 hours to set.
Unmold onto a serving plate, and pour strawberry preserves into the center. Arrange crackers and fruit around the outside of the ring.
*If you don't have a mold, you can make the cheese into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap to set up. Serve the strawberry preserves on the side. I used these homemade strawberry preserves, but any good quality store bought preserves would be good. The ring would also be delicious served with raspberry preserves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Celebrating Life one sip at a time

"There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live" -John Adams.
A few years ago, Hubs and I were in Paris for a long weekend.
As we were checking into our hotel we struck up a conversation with the young lady who worked behind the desk. She had been speaking to us in perfect English, but when she answered the phone she effortlessly switched to speaking German. We asked her how many languages she spoke and were impressed when she said four fluently and a couple of others "not so good".
Hubs assumed that since she spoke so many languages, her job at the hotel must just be a part-time thing and she must be a tour guide or something as well. When he asked if she worked anywhere else, she looked at him like he'd just sprouted another head.
She politely answered, "No Monsieur, I work 35 hours a week here. If I worked another job, when would I have time for life?"
Maybe it's just an American thing, but it seems that many times we get so caught up in the making the living part that we forget to make time to enjoy the life we've built. It's important to remember to take time to celebrate your life achievements and actually live life.
I was recently asked to participate in a product review for Seagram's Ginger Ale and their new line of Sparkling Seltzer Waters.
Ginger ale has always been a favorite drink of mine, mostly because I associate ginger ale with good times and celebrations. It's a party drink staple.
Seagram's Ginger Ale is everything I love about ginger ale. It's crisp, not overly sweet, with just the right amount of fizz to have you toasting your life. Seagram's Diet Ginger Ale has the same great taste and no caffeine as their regular ginger ale, but with zero calories you can feel free to celebrate all of life's moments with no regrets!

I'd love to hear about your favorite ginger ale drink recipe. Please feel free to share your recipe in the comment section!

This is one of my favorite summertime celebration drinks. The crisp, effervescent taste of Seagram's Ginger Ale gives this drink the little extra punch it needs. Cheers!

Strawberry Lemonade
10oz. pkg frozen strawberries
6oz can frozen lemonade concentrate
1/2 cups water
16 oz Seagram's ginger ale (regular or diet)

Let the strawberries thaw for 20 minutes or until they begin to soften slightly.
Place all ingredients in blender, blend until smooth and serve over ice cubes.
Adult version: Replace water with vodka.

Seagram's is also launching a new line of sparkling seltzer waters. Before I did this review I was already a fan of Seagram's plain Sparkling Seltzer Water, but I have to admit I was a little skeptical about the flavored waters. I was afraid they'd be too sweet or taste artificial...but I was wrong!
The seltzer waters are not sweetened and contain only natural flavors, resulting in a delicious break from plain water. They're perfect for an after work-out treat. The flavored sparkling seltzer waters have zero calories, so feel free to reward yourself anytime!
Seagram's has four flavors of Sparkling Seltzer Waters; Key Lime, Blackberry Raspberry, Orange Citrus, and White Peach. I was only able to try the Key Lime and the Blackberry Raspberry and thought they were both outstanding. The Blackberry Raspberry however, is my personal favorite. Simply yummy!

Seagram's wants to help you remember and celebrate that It's Good to Be You. Go to the Seagram's Facebook page and check out their new photo stamp app. Just choose a photo of your friends that you feel is  GTBU-worthy photo and stamp it with the GTBU Photo Stamp. It's a fun way to recognize and celebrate your friend's moments to remember. Get Stamping!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Tomato Cake

I can hardly believe that June is almost half gone already! I've been working on a new project out at the farm and I've neglected to post here much this month. I'm so excited about my latest venture, the Route 52 Farm Trail but it's been very time consuming. Anyway, earlier this week Mom and I were canning some of the gorgeous San Marzano tomatoes my dad grew this year, when a summer storm hit. If you've every lived in the South, then you know that sometimes they seem to come from nowhere and are gone almost as quickly. This one was really intense for about 30 minutes and then was gone. We really needed the rain but the strong winds caused a few green tomatoes to fall off the plants. I brought them home with me and thought I fry them for dinner. I was looking in The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook , (in New Orleans), for a recipe when I came across this recipe for green tomato cake. Forget fried green tomatoes, cake it is! It may sound odd to put tomatoes in a cake, but green tomatoes have the texture that's similar to an apple, so they work perfectly in cake. The recipe in the cookbook didn't have a frosting, but I decided to top it with a brown butter icing. It's so good, I may be picking some more green tomatoes, just so that I can make this cake again!!

Green Tomato Cake 
Source: Kitty Hooper (Crescent City Farmers Market green tomato vendor)
Printable Recipe
3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped green tomatoes
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing large bowl, combine flour, sugar, eggs, oil, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Stir in tomatoes and walnuts The mixture is very thick! Pour batter into greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan or cake will fall.

Serves 8-10

Browned Butter Icing
1/2 cup  butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar

After the cake has cooled and can be removed from the pan, make the frosting. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until butter is lightly browned. Whisk in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

The brown butter icing is fantastic!

Just in case you thought I did this whole blogging thing all on my own, I do have a very faithful assistant...
My "assistant" checking for crumbs after the photos are taken.