Archives for posts with tag: cheese
Manzanita. Ink and watercolor. 8" by 12". Sharyn Dimmick.

Manzanita. Ink and watercolor. 8″ by 12″. Sharyn Dimmick.

I am obsessed with the garden. Johnny has taken to calling me “Farm Girl” (I have never lived on a farm although I had great uncles and grandparents who farmed). Since I last wrote I have planted both Teddy Bear Sunflowers and Mexican sunflowers, plus the blue sweet peas. The first sunflower leaves are just breaking through the soil and the sweet peas are what I call “invisible plants” — that means “I know they are there even if you can’t see them. Please water them, honey.”

The monstrous Sun Gold tomato plant is gargantuan now and full of blossoms and small green tomatoes: I do not know when they will begin to turn orange, but the heat wave we are having now might help them along. Soon they will have sibling tomato plants, which are hardening off in the garden as I write. I planted Amish paste tomato seeds and Principe Borghese seeds, but I did not label them, so I will not be able to tell the plants apart until they fruit. The leaves, however, are different colors, so I can be assured I have two different kinds.

So far I have been unable to produce peppers or Russian tarragon from seed in three tries and one of my varieties of basil failed to germinate. When the  basil plants get bigger I’ll be able to tell which one I have and I will plant some more somewhere. I will also plant more lettuce in the shade of other plants.

The scarlet runner beans have begun to climb up their improvised tepee, but nothing is in flower yet except the tomato plant. The butternut squash have their first real leaves. The cabbages are much larger, beginning to crowd one another, but there is no sign of heads forming. I have not grown cabbage before.

One of these days I will have an herb-planting day and put in dill, oregano and chives. I will also add some green beans to fill in the gaps in the bean rows. I want to plant more and more, but I am watering by hand and it already takes almost an hour to get around the garden with my tea kettles and milk bottles.

MK's Breakfast Strata. 12" x 12" gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

MK’s Breakfast Strata. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

When I am not in the garden (I don’t sleep there!) or fussing over seedlings I still busk, cook, sketch, etc. I recently left the plants to Johnny’s care and some fortuitously-timed rain and went for a long weekend in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The event was called Ballads on the Mountain, hosted by a friend who likes to call herself “Mary Kingsley.” Twelve women assembled to sing traditional ballads from the Francis James Child collection and to eat up a storm. Kingsley’s red kitchen produced meal after meal. One of my favorites was new to me: breakfast strata, a savory concoction of eggs, cheese, sourdough bread cubes, meat and vegetables. We had a wonderful one with chicken apple sausage and mushrooms, which I’m going to share with you here and then cook for Johnny when the weather cools off again. I don’t have any problem with eating this dish for lunch, brunch or supper either, believing in breakfast served all day.

Mary Kingsley’s Breakfast Strata (adapted)

12 slices dry sourdough bread, cubed

8 eggs, beaten

3 cups shredded cheese

2 cups sliced mushrooms

12 oz sliced chicken apple sausage

3 Tbsp prepared mustard

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1/4 tsp cayenne

olive oil for greasing pan

Toast your bread cubes in a 250 oven until dry and perhaps a little golden in spots. While the bread toasts you can saute your mushrooms. Set aside bread, then bump your oven up to 325. Lightly oil or butter a 3 quart rectangular baking dish. Place half of bread cubes in baking dish. Top with half of the mushrooms and half of the cheese. Top with half the sliced sausage. Repeat layers of bread, mushrooms, cheese and sausage.

Whisk cayenne, mustard and salt into beaten eggs. Pour eggs over other ingredients. Press down with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure all bread gets moistened.

Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and set. Enjoy.

Food notes: The recipe MK sent me included variations, one with sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus. When I saw this, I immediately wanted to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes into my own strata. I would also like it with peppers. MK actually made one with mushrooms and leftover broccoli for a vegetarian. The original recipe also calls for 3 cups of milk, which MK eliminated. Since I didn’t miss it, I have eliminated it, too. If you add it, you’ll probably get a more custardy texture, rather than the firm, dry, one that I enjoyed, with crunch from the bread crumbs.

Painting notes: When I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or singing, I was staring out the window at a manzanita. Hence the painting. The other painting attempts to capture the strata and some of the many reds in MK’s kitchen.

Watercolor painting of bowls of polenta, tomato, Martin guitar in green chair.

Johnny’s Polenta. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

Some of you know that I frequently eat polenta as a breakfast cereal during summer and early fall, cooking it in milk, stirring in a fresh peach or a handful of wild blackberries. Some of you know I have spent part of the summer flirting with a guitar player, wondering how much he liked me, being alternately elated and crushed as I went to play music at his house, attended band rehearsal, sang at a small festival in Santa Rosa, followed him up to another festival called Cur-Ville. You’ve seen me donning red dresses and trying to let go.

That phase has ended: the guitar player is mine now and, to prove it, spent the better part of the long weekend at my house. Mornings found us in the kitchen, brewing coffee, figuring out what to eat for breakfast. I cooked him eggs twice, scrambled with cheese and Gypsy peppers, served with sourdough toast. This morning I asked him what he ate for breakfast besides eggs. He mentioned a dish of polenta and various cheeses, topped with tomato and avocado.

We always have cornmeal, so I put on a pot of  salted water to boil and put out the cheese collection for Johnny to look at while I measured out a cup of cornmeal. He selected Red Leicester, a cheddar, and chopped it into small pieces.  I added some grated pecorino Romano. While the polenta was warm I added a chopped tomato. We tasted the polenta. He added a bit more cheese, I added a pinch of kosher salt and a healthy sprinkle of paprika and we had a beautiful golden breakfast, flecked with tomato red, Johnny’s gift to me and my gift to you.

After we ate, I did the dishes, dancing at the sink while Johnny sat in a green chair and played me Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” Occasionally, I turned around to look at him to sync my back-up vocals to his lead. Dishes have never been this much fun — who knew? All you need is a guitar-player in your kitchen to play songs for you while you wash and rinse. But you can’t have mine — he’s taken. Sorry.

If you want to make Johnny’s Polenta, measure water and cornmeal in a four-to-one ratio (I used four cups of water to one cup of cornmeal, but you could use one cup of water to a quarter cup if you want only one serving).

Add a bit of salt to the water — not too much, since you are going to be adding cheese later.

Boil polenta and water mixture until it has thickened to your liking. Remove from heat and stir in

Chopped and grated cheeses to taste : I used about 3 ounces of cheddar and 1 ounce of pecorino Romano.

Add one large chopped tomato.

Add 1/2 tsp of either sweet or hot paprika, depending on your proclivities: this adds wonderful color as well as a subtle flavor.

Taste and season as necessary. You will have to provide your own soundtrack for dish-washing.

Food Notes: You can make this with cornmeal or polenta, or even grits — whatever cereal-like corn product that you have hanging around. Lauren, if you are listening, you could swap some permitted vegetable for the contraband tomato and eliminate the cheddar, substituting some cheese you like, such as the cumin cheese we ate in France.

The Lauren Project: Thanks from Lauren and from me to all who sent recipes to the Lauren Project. Lauren is out in California, cooking up test batches of recipes. She and I will confer soon and announce the prize winners in an upcoming blog post. Before we complete the winners’ post we will contact our winner to ask what prize he or she desires. Then we will contact the second place finisher, third-place contestant, etc. until all prizes are awarded. Those of you who did not win will still be eligible for free shipping on any Kale Chronicles’ painting purchased by midnight December 31st, 2012.

original watercolor of tomato tart and ingredients

Tomato Tart 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn Dimmick

When I started blogging five weeks ago, the first food blog I found that I subscribed to was KristaandJess. Their posts have been arriving regularly in my email box. I always read them. Sometimes I comment. I’ve sighed for their watermelon chips after the end of watermelon season and longed for a juicer to make a variation on their carrot-nectarine smoothie (sans bananas).

Then they posted a link to David Lebovitz’s French Tomato Tart. I looked at it. I posted a question about it. I suggested a crust variation (my Mom’s own pie crust, which you will find in my Gravenstein Apple Pie post).  I looked at Lebovitz’s tart again. I read his recipe carefully. And then I went to work.

Mom had made a recipe of pie crust because I was going to make another Gravenstein apple pie. I did that, pulling a paper bag of apples from the back of the fridge and peeling four large apples. But before I put the apple pie in a 400 degree oven, I rolled out a single crust for my fluted porcelain tart pan. I spread the crust with honey mustard, stopping to combine two partly-used jars of honey mustard by adding a little white vinegar to the lighter jar and pouring it through a funnel into the other jar. Then I sliced the huge tomato waiting on the counter — this recipe is an excellent thing to do with a monster-sized tomato — and laid it into the mustard-slathered crust. I added just a touch of olive oil and went out to pick herbs from the front yard, bringing in basil and Thai basil and a handful of chives. I snipped chives over the tomatoes with scissors and tore basil leaves over the top.

Then I went back to the refrigerator for the only cheese remaining in the house besides cream cheese and Parmesan: a chunk of lemon Stiiton that was too sweet to eat in sandwiches. I crumbled the whole thing with my fingers over the top of the tart.

That’s it. No salt. No pepper. Just pastry, sliced tomatoes, the barest whisper of olive oil, some fresh herbs and cheese. Lebovitz uses goat cheese. Krista and Jess used whole wheat cream cheese pastry. I used Madge’s trusty pie crust recipe and the Stilton, but I encourage you to do what I did and use whatever cheese you have on hand as long as it’s not Velveeta or other processed cheese.

It was so good that Mom and I both went back for seconds immediately. It was so good that I started painting a picture of it because I knew I had to post it for you. The tart took all of fifteen minutes to assemble since Mom had already made the crust (I did have to roll it out myself). The only thing that stopped us from eating more of it is that we had apple pie baking in the same oven.

The only thing I have to say besides thank you to Krista and Jess and David Lebovitz for the basic recipe is to say to you, “Make this recipe.” You have to eat this tart during tomato season — it’s that simple. And those of you who live where the tomatoes are not ripe yet, wait and make this when you do have fresh tomatoes.

Simple Tomato Tart

Preheat oven to 400.

Prepare a single pie crust for a tart pan or regular pie tin (I used one of the four crusts produced by my standard pie crust recipe).

Spread prepared mustard of your choice upon the unbaked pastry.

Slice one 1-lb tomato or 2-3 smaller ones. The tomato should cover the bottom crust completely.

Add a very small amount of olive oil.

Season with fresh herbs of your choice.

Top with crumbled cheese or sliced goat cheese or grated Parmesan or whatever you’ve got. (I pretty much covered the top with Stiton and could just see small bits of tomato).

Bake for 45 minutes. Check for browning at around 30 minutes. Remember to turn the oven down 25 degrees if you are using a Pyrex pan. I started my tart at the full 400 degrees for twenty minutes and reduced the temperature to 375 when I put in the apple pie. This produced quite a bit of browning, which we like.

Painting note: for information about “Tomato Tart” or any other original painting, please contact me here.

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