Counting Blessings

We had some scary moments this weekend, which culminated in an overnight stay at Children’s Hospital. They are very nice there, but it’s a place you’d rather never be. Thank goodness, it was all just a scare, and I have two healthy daughters.

Bea at Children's

Mostly it was a lot of waiting for test results, and so I found myself with something I haven’t had a lot of: time. (Big sister was with her grandparents.) I got to read two back issues of Food and Wine, something I just don’t have the time to do right now. Sylvie and Miriam actually had Indian food delivered to our room on Saturday night, and I enjoyed the leftovers this morning as my Sunday brunch. It was great Indian food — my stepdad calls it the $10,000 meal.

I kept in contact with my family via text. This morning, as I texted Sylvie a third time to thank her for the for the awesome food, we fell into a discussion about Rosh Hashana meal planning. I’m hosting for the first time in my life next week, and I’m busy plotting my menus and testing out recipes. Soon we moved to the phone to really have a conversation about the meals.

We are in a book

One of my guests first night is a pregnant woman allergic to quinoa. (Apparently this is an allergy they find they need to mention when they are hosted by Jews.) The second night there will be a vegetarian allergic to soy. I don’t do a ton of soy things, although I did just break the code on stir fried green beans of my adolescence last week. (More on that in a future post.)

I’m still figuring out a lot of the menus, but I am pretty sure I’m going to make this Ottolenghi fish dish. It’s tradition to serve fish on Rosh Hashanah — fish head, actually, but close enough. Ottolenghi calls its sweet and sour fish, but it’s more sweet than sour —  perfect for the new year, and very delicious. Ottolenghi suggests “serving it at room temperature, preferably after resting for a day or two in the fridge, with a chunk of bread.” I can confirm this, so I plan on making this on Saturday night for Sunday.

It's good to be home

When I tested this recipe last week I used four pieces of frozen cod from Costco that I always keep on hand. “Small whole fish are also good here: red mullet, sardines, or a small mackerel, scaled and gutted,” writes Ottolenghi. The peppers and tomatoes are end of summer foods at their finest hour.

Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, cut into 3/8-inch/1cm slices (3 cups/350 g in total)

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

2 peppers (1 red and 1 yellow, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into strips 3/8 inch/1 cm wide (3 cups/300 g total)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 bay leaves

1 1/2 Tablespoons curry powder

3 tomatoes, chopped (2 cups/320 g in total)

2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

5 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 lb./500 g pollock, cod (sustainably sourced), halibut, haddock, or other white fish fillets, divided into 4-equal pieces

seasoned all-purposed flour, for dusting

2 extra-large eggs, beaten (I used large)

1/3 cup/20g chopped cilantro

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and coriander seeds and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the peppers and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, curry powder and tomatoes, and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a separate frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fish with some salt, dip in the flour, then in the eggs, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer the fish to paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then add to the pan with the peppers and onions, pushing the vegetables aside so the fish sits on the bottom of the pan. Add enough water just to immerse the fish (about 1 cup/250ml) in the liquid.

Place the pan in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature. The fish can now be served, but it is actually better after a day or two in the fridge. Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed, and garnish with cilantro.

A Woman of a Certain Age

Soon after Lilli and I came home from the hospital – it’s hard to say how long, but I had been a mommy for less than a month, a magazine arrived in the mail. On the cover was Mariska Hargitay, star of Law and Order: SVU, one of the handful of shows I regularly watch. But I set it aside, wondering why on earth Ladies’ Home Journal was being sent to my house. The next month, Tina Fey was dropped off in my mailbox. Yes, Tina Fey. So I picked up the magazine and started flipping through it. “I don’t know why I get this magazine,” I remarked to Rich. “I didn’t order a subscription, and look at this: This magazine is for mommies and women in their mid-thirties who have cats… Oh.”

tomato tart

After I got over my supreme mortification that I was now solidly in a new, ahem, mature, demographic, I started to really read the magazine. Sure, like most magazines, there are great articles and some duds, but the food section has generally been in the keeper column. In fact, the May 2013 issue (with Sela Ward – remember Sisters?) encouraging me to “Have A Tart,” did just that. They provided a very basic tart crust – get out your food processor, easy – and I’ve been using this summer’s CSA to make their various suggested versions. I am not going to share with you the Lemon Thyme Goat Cheese Tart with Summer Squash, which, I promise you, was as delicious as it sounds, but was very time-consuming. I had to blind bake the crust, and also had to get out the mixer to cream together the goat cheese, lemon zest, thyme and heavy cream.

squash and goat cheese tart

Now, then, let’s talk about the Tomato Tart. It is August, after all, and we should all be talking about tomatoes. The recipe calls for 1 ½ lbs. cherry tomatoes (a mix of orange, red, and yellow), but I simply used the pint from my CSA and added more Jarlsberg cheese. If you can’t find a farmer with fresh pints of cherry tomatoes, I would bet that the plastic containers of grape tomatoes in the supermarket will work like a charm.

Now, about the cheese: I was a little nervous about sending you out to buy a cheese, as cheeses can get expensive, and this is Cheap Beets, after all. But there was a sale on Jarlsberg at the local market last week, so I considered it a sign that I should move forward with this recipe. And, honestly, the cheese was key to this tart. I can’t imagine it with another type.

Lilli and Maggie

Oh, hello!

The basic tart crust actually makes enough for two tart crusts. When I made the squash goat cheese tart, I froze the second flattened disk, and it was fine when I returned to it a few weeks later to make this tomato tart. Because I used the doughs for two separate recipes, I did not employ the cheese and herb crust variation for the tomato tart; I actually incorporated the thyme into the onion mixture. I’ll include the directions for the crust variation here, in case you want to make this tomato tart twice, like I’m actually going to be doing this week. But if you just want a good, solid tart dough to have on-hand in your freezer, make the simple variation.

Although the dough comes together with a few whirls in the food processor, the dough still needs some time to chill, let alone the time the tart needs to bake, so it’s best to make this on a Sunday afternoon, and eat it during the week, rather than hoping to make this when you get home on a Tuesday after a long day at work. It would also be a great weekend brunch dish.

I love this recipe. I didn’t really have cravings when I was pregnant, but I did, and still do, love a good slice of pizza. The roasted cheese and tomato in the buttery crust tastes like a more mature pizza. One that might read Ladies’ Home Journal, in fact.

Tomato Tart from the May, 2013 issue of Ladies Home Journal

Basic Tart Crust  — Makes 2 single crusts

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 sticks (1 cup) very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 egg yolk

½ cup cold water

  1. In a food processor combine the flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Whisk together the yolk and ½ cold water. Drizzle the liquid into the food processor while pulsing to combine. Pulse until the dough holds together when you pinch it, adding liquid as needed.
  2. Turn dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Divide in half and warp each half in plastic wrap, flattening into a disk. Chill until cold or ready to use, about 30 minutes.
  3. On a floured surface roll dough until it’s 3/16 inch thick and large enough to fit in the tart pan. (Pinch edges of dough as you roll to prevent cracks and tears.) Place dough into tart pan; gently lift into place without stretching and press into pan. Use the heel of your hand or a rolling pin to trim the edges flush with the pan.

Cheese and Herb Crust Variation for Tomato Tart

Add ½ cup Jarlsberg cheese and 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or thyme to the food processor with the flour and salt. Proceed as directed.

Tomato Tart

Ingredients

1 single Basic Tart Crust dough (or cheese and herb variation)

1 Tbs. olive oil

½ small onion (1/4 cup) diced

1 large shallot, minced

1 tsp. chopped thyme

1 ½ lbs. cherry tomatoes (a mix of orange, red and yellow)

2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ cup shredded Jarlsberg

  1. Heat oven to 375F. Line a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with the rolled-out crust. Trim edges of crust and chill in the freezer until ready to fill.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, garlic and thyme and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl toss the tomatoes with the flour, salt, pepper and cheese. Add the cooled onion and thyme mixture and stir to combine. Fill the chilled tart shell with the tomato mixture. Transfer tart to a baking sheet and cover with foil.
  4. Bake 40 minutes, then uncover and bake 30 minutes more until crust is cooked through and tomato juices are bubbling. Cover with foil near the end of baking if tomatoes are browning. Cool tart slightly before removing the tart ring. Use a spatula to slide the tart from pan base onto a serving platter.

An Apple (Cake) a Day

Last week the acupuncturist told me that apples are full of qi and that I should be eating one every single day. “Oh, that’s not a problem at all,” I quickly replied. “The CSA gives us pounds of apples every week, and I’ve been baking apple cakes pretty constantly this year.”

“We really need to work on your filter,” Rich observed, not for the first time, when I recounted the conversation. But it’s true, I’ve been on a bit of an apple cake tear. This gingerbread upside down cake with apples and bourbon cream by Sally Pasley Vargas might be the best apple cake I’ve ever had. Jess’ Teddie’s was another good one; we loved the walnut crunch. We each made a set of these apple chunk breakfast loaves from Liz. The second round was brought to my parents for Rosh Hashana for a nice breakfast cake. I think the apples she found at her shuk in Israel are much smaller than my stateside apples, because I could only squeeze in two per recipe, as opposed to her four. This one, also by Sally, was pretty good, although I think I’d reduce the cinnamon in the topping the next time. And this Dutch Apple Cake from last year is always a fine treat.

But I digress. Anyways, I’ve been following the acupuncturist’s advice all year long, and I’ve been feeling great, so I figured it’s best to do what she says.  I’ve incorporated a peeled apple (sans skin; better for my tummy) with some peanut butter in its core as part of my breakfast on most mornings, although I’m still on a constant lookout for new apple recipes.

So when the good people at Knopf asked me if I was interested in checking out Lidia Bastianich’s new cookbook that she wrote with her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, I immediately said yes. I think I’ve mentioned in the past how much I adore Lidia – her show on WGBH Create is one of the few cooking shows I watch, and I am a big fan of her Lidia’s Italy cookbook. Although, looking through my archives right now, I don’t think I’ve ever shared a recipe of hers with you. Strange, because I’m a huge fan.

When the new cookbook arrived, I did a quick read of the introduction and looked over the “100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrées” in hopes of a new apple cake recipe to use up the bowlful on my counter. Sure, there was a strudel, and a roasted beet and beet greens salad with goat cheese, but the recipe that caught my eye was like none I’d ever heard of before: Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce. We actually don’t eat a lot of pasta in this house, but the acupuncturist also did encourage the eating of deep red and colorful fruits and vegetables, so a dish involving bright red tomatoes and apples piqued my interest.

Lidia does note in the introduction to this recipe that the combination of the two might sound “odd,” but apparently in Tretino-Alto Adige, one of the most northerly regions of Italy which is known for its apples, this recipe wouldn’t be too surprising.

My back was feeling a bit cranky, so I assigned Rich the task of putting together this dish. (This actually served the dual purpose of keeping me off my feet, and seeing how well-written the recipe works for the kitchen novice.) The result? It was incredible. Honestly, one of the better pasta dishes I’ve had in my life.

We continued to cook our way through the CSA with this cookbook, enjoying the butternut squash in the marinated winter squash, and the chard melted ever so nicely when I braised it with tomatoes and cannellini beans. I think tonight I’m going to try out the Brussels Sprouts braised with vinegar for a new take on a beloved vegetable. (At least it is in our house.)

Spaghetti In Tomato Apple Sauce from Lidia’s Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees

One thing I noticed about this recipe was that it called for a food processor or blender to purée the tomatoes. I’m a big believer in the food mill, but it looks like Lidia has acknowledged that there is more likely a chance of a home cook having one of those two machines than an old-fashioned food mill. This shouldn’t stop you from purchasing a food mill. It’s almost winter time, and the persimmon pudding won’t make itself!

I would also suggest putting the pasta water on to boil before starting on the sauce. Big pots of water take a while to boil, even if you’re not watching them.

Ingredients

3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large stalks celery, cut into 1/4 –inch dice (about 1 cup)

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot

1 pound tart and firm apples, such as Granny Smith

1 pound spaghetti

1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for passing

Directions

Pour the canned tomatoes into a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth.

Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a skillet, set it over medium heat, and strew the celery and onion in the pan. Cook and stir the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they wilt and start to caramelize. (Rich says this took a lot longer than 5 minutes.)

Stir in the puréed tomatoes, season with the salt, and heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so. As the tomatoes perk, peel and core the apples, and remove the seeds. Shred them, using the coarse holes of a shredder or grater.

When the tomatoes have cooked about 5 minutes, stir the apples into the sauce. Bring the skillet back to a simmer, and cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until it has reduced and thickened and the apple shreds are cooked and tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, drop in the spaghetti, and cook until just al dente. Lift the spaghetti from the water, let drain for a moment, and drop it into the warm sauce. (Reheat if necessary.)

Toss the pasta with the sauce for a minute or two, until all the strands are coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta, and toss well. Drizzle over it the remaining olive oil, toss once again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.

Salad Days

The best part of last Tuesday was the tomato sandwich I ate over the sink. Mind you, it was a very good day already. The weather was nice, good stuff happened at work. But really, those August tomato sandwiches are something I wait all year for. Just on Sunday, a West Coast native friend of ours was bemoaning the condition of January tomatoes around here, and I suggested she just not eat them in January and to wait until August. Last year we even had tomatoes coming in the CSA deep into October, so really, three months is already a quarter of a year. Not bad at all!

Rich doesn’t get it. Earlier tonight, as I was making a summer panzanella with leftover challah, quarters of red cherry tomatoes and ribbons of green basil, and a roasted eggplant salad with a cilantro and garlic-speckled yogurt sauce, he poked around the refrigerator. He reminded me that the last brownie in there was mine, that I still had some salted caramels that a friend gave me in the springtime, and there was still a half a box of truffles my dad sent for me in May. Where I go savory, he goes sweet. He actually didn’t stay for dinner, but biked to a friend’s house for chipotle-marinated grilled turkey tips. Not to worry, I was invited to join them, but I had been looking forward to my salads all day.

And last week, when I made this Southeast Asian tomato salad, Rich had a bite, but left the rest for me. He agreed that it was very delicious, but isn’t so big into tomatoes. He snapped the photo of me that’s up there. He’s also insisting I admit that that’s not a regular dish I’m eating off of: it’s the serving platter. Not to worry, I fried up some eggs so there would be a protein on the table. I’ve decided to not share the photo of me drinking the remaining dressing off the platter. But you should drink it, too. You’ll want to, anyways.

The recipe is another winner from Melissa Clark. Man, I just love her. The flavors here will probably remind you of the amazing roasted tofu and cabbage salad; I know it did for me. That’s a good thing. I actually didn’t use a half of a jalapeño, but part of a hot pepper that came in the CSA. I didn’t have Thai basil on hand, just regular basil (which then made its way into tonight’s panzanella.)

Southeast Asian Tomato Salad from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

Ingredients

About 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 fat garlic clove, minced (or just use 2 small ones)

½ jalapeño, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped

3 large or 4 medium tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Thai or regular basil

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, scallions, garlic and jalapeño. (If you think your fish sauce is very salty, start with 1 teaspoon; you can add more at the end.)

Arrange the tomato slices on a plate. Spoon the dressing over the tomatoes. Let stand 10 minutes to allow the tomatoes time to release their juices. Sprinkle with basil and cilantro; serve.

Worth Sharing

I’m not a huge food photo sharer on Facebook. The truth is, there are more photos of my cat on Facebook then there are of meals I’ve enjoyed. (Yes, I’m one of those people that can never get enough photos of cats or people’s children on the Internet. Share a photo of one of those two things, or better yet, together, and you’ll get a “like” from me.)

Tonight I posted a photo of dinner to Facebook with the caption “CSA Shakshuka!” I received a few thumbs up, but also a question as to what shakshuka is. Well, let me tell you about shakshuka.

The first time I’d ever heard of shakshuka was when I lived in Israel. Aleza Eve told me about the dish, a sauce made of peppers and tomatoes with eggs poached on top, and directed me to a spot in the shuk that had the best in town. After classes one afternoon, I found the shop with the famed shakshuka, but found myself drawn to the eggplant salads in the case. (I get very distracted when it comes to eggplant saladschatzeelim, as they say in Israel.) I ate my eggplant in the shade on Mt. Scopus by the Israel Museum, convincing myself I’d get the shakshuka the next time. Well, it turns out there wasn’t a next time, and the only shakshuka I’ve had has been stateside.

I’ve found shakshuka is a great use of the August CSA box which is always full of green peppers and tomatoes. Some people add onions to theirs. I think aleppo would also be nice, maybe a smidge of harissa. I found one hot pepper to be enough for me, but I know others would add at least two more. (And no, this dish is not in the least bit reflux friendly, albeit extremely delicious.) It’s also one of those chameleon dishes that can be served for breakfast, brunch, dinner or anything in between.

Shakshuka

Ingredients

2 green peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 small hot pepper, chopped into ¼ -inch pieces

5 cloves garlic, slivered

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, or one box Pomi (Let’s be real: I rarely cook with my fresh tomatoes. Heck, I barely share mine with Rich.)

1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Two or three hearty pinches of salt

3 eggs

Directions

In a medium skillet, sauté the peppers, garlic, spices and salt in the olive oil. Cook until they soften, about six minutes. Add the tomato. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. The sauce should thicken. With the back of a spoon, make three dents in the sauce. Pour the eggs into each of the spots. Cover pan with lid for about four minutes. Some people like yolks that ooze. Others like stiff yolks, which means you should cook the eggs for closer to seven minutes. It’s really up to you.

Serve in low-rimmed bowls with hunks of crusty bread or pita.

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Babies, I am learning, as more and more of our friends have them, do not care about your carefully constructed plans for their arrival. They do not care if you’ve decided they will only wear cloth or Seventh Generation diapers; if it’s not working for them, they’ll be sure to let you know.

Our friends Amanda and Quentin hosted us for a fabulous vegetarian Mexican meal at their house in August. Amanda was due in mid-October, and we heard about their wonderful midwife they had chosen, the birthing center across from the hospital where Amanda would birth their son. We also discussed their plans for spending the last few weeks of September and early October cooking freezable meals to be eaten at a later date, because cooking with newborn babies is not something that happens.

Well, as it turned out, Miles Timothy had other plans. He zipped into the world, at one in the morning on September 29th, in their bedroom! Practically perfect in every way, Miles, and his new mother and father – who delivered him! – were escorted to the hospital by some very nice firefighters.

Everything worked out, although Miles’s surprise entrance meant that all those meals that were to be cooked before his arrival never got made. Knowing their time was going to be limited for the next few, well, 18 or so years, I spent a little time on Sunday whipping together some freezable meals for the new parents. Amanda is a vegetarian, so I felt that making a casserole, although filling and definitely freezable, wouldn’t necessarily have the protein she’d be needing. Although some babies have trouble digesting their mother’s milk if she’s eaten legumes, I decided to go with chickpeas and brown rice.

Rice, as well as quinoa, freezes and reheats without any trouble.  So when I started making the dish, I tossed a few cups of brown rice with water, a ratio of 3:1, in the rice cooker. Easy peasy. I dug around my cookbooks for a good recipe for something chickpea-based, but came up short. As it turns out, Deb from Smitten Kitchen, went through the same chana masala quest a few years ago and ended up blending a few recipes. I used hers with a few adaptations.

In order to drop the temperature of the dishes without having them sit out and collect bacteria, I placed the cooking vessels in ice water. After the chickpeas and rice were cooled down, I placed them into freezable plastic containers, and brought them to the new parents. We had a quick visit and got to meet Miles in all his perfect tininess.

Chana Masala

Adapted from a Deb from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, which had also been adapted.  This was a perfect pantry recipe, as I had everything on hand.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2 medium onions, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 fresh chili pepper, minced (Deb called for a hot green one, I found a random Hungarian pepper in the bottom of my crisper and just went with it. Feel free to use whatever hot pepper you enjoy, or leave it out if heat’s not your thing.)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 15 ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small (you’ll need 2 cups worth if you’re using fresh)

2/3 cup water

4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ teaspoon salt

½ lemon, juiced

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 7 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

The Last Hurrah

Rich heard the clanging and crashing from the back room and came running. My guess is he was worried that a plate had fallen to the floor, or maybe a pot had slipped from its hook off the rack on the wall. The noise turned out to be the sound of a serving spoon scraping the last bits of the buttermilk dressing off the serving dish directly into my mouth.

“Oof. Yuuwersppdtuseethif,” I said by way of explanation. (For those of you who don’t ordinarily deal with people talking with serving spoons and platters in their mouths, what I said was “Oops. You weren’t supposed to see this.”) I swallowed, licked the spoon, and put the dish back on the table.

I couldn’t help myself. Really, I couldn’t. I saw this dinner as a final farewell for my tomatoes and peaches. Sure, I knew there’d be a few more to come in next week’s CSA box, but something had happened overnight in Boston. As soon as we’d turned the page on Labor Day, the sky grew dark, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, and a near-constant rain started to fall. Summer, the clouds seemed to say, is definitely over.  All I had left to remind me of the season were some ripe tomatoes and peaches. These needed to be treated with utmost respect; something special for their last hurrah.

I’m not sure if it was the storm or a dream, but the night before I sat straight up in bed and whispered “buttermilk,” which had taken on a kind of reverence that perhaps someone’s childhood sled name whispered by a fireside might. The thought of buttermilk haunted me the next day, its creaminess, its twang. I wanted it to bathe my tomatoes in it. And, if I was lucky and found the right recipe, my peaches could enjoy a buttermilk treatment as well.

I found the dressing recipe I was looking for via Deb, who found hers via Gourmet. I changed mine up a little bit, using a summer sweet Vidalia onion instead of a shallot. I have leftovers of the dressing, and I plan on drizzling it on top of every vegetable in my crisper, then perhaps going out to the market and buying a plain old head of iceberg lettuce to continue the dressing-fest.

The peach cake came via the food community Food52, which was founded by Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, and Merrill Stubs, a freelance food writer and recipe tester. The site’s first project was a crowd-sourced cookbook, and this recipe was one of their first contests winners: You submit a recipe, readers vote, and each week the winning recipe makes it into a cookbook, hence the name Food52. I think the tasting notes on this one sum it up:

The cake is chock full of juicy summer peaches, and the addition of ground almonds sets it apart from other simple butter cakes. It’s luscious and a bit custardy in the areas surrounding the peaches — a texture that works when the cake is either warm or at room temperature. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems to curdle when you add the buttermilk, as it will come together again once you mix in the dry ingredients.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing an entire bottle of buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk. In five minutes, you’ll have enough buttermilk for both these recipes.

Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons minced Vidalia onion

1 Tablespoon sugar

3 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, onion, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.

Simple Summer Peach Cake

Ingredients

3 ripe peaches

3/4 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter

1 large egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Turbinado sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Cut the peaches into bite sized pieces. Toss the peaches with nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and remaining sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the egg, buttermilk and extracts, and stir to combine.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this flour mixture to the butter mixture, mix until smooth (some lumps may remain). Pour into the prepared pan.

Press the peaches into the top of the cake. They can be nicely arranged, but it made more sense to cram as many peaches as possible into the cake. Sprinkle Turbinado sugar over the top.