AKA A Big Old Bowl of Love
Corn may seem meant for summer barbecues, but in my house, my mom would blanch and freeze all the sweet, juicy kernels to have throughout the fall and winter as succotash, casseroles and soups. Of the many options, I most looked forward to corn chowder: thick and creamy, with smoky bacon, sweet and crunchy corn and hearty potatoes. It was perfect on those September and October nights when you needed a warm dinner to offset the unwelcome chill in the evening air or the crappy day at school or the fight you’d just had with your little brother.
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AKA Who You Callin’ a Tart? Oh Yeah, This.
Late summer is my favorite time of year, and it all goes by too quickly, with its lazy weekends, marathon gab sessions (with bonus day drinking!), birthday cake with too many candles, beautiful sunsets, and farmers markets exploding with gorgeous colors and flavors. August is just the best, and I’m always a little sad to turn the calendar page.
To ward off the impending season-changing melancholy, I am buoyed by the fact that the dog days of summer bring us the best-tasting, most-fragrant tomatoes. And there’s nothing I love more than pairing them with tangy feta and a little tarragon. Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, one of my favorite things to do was defrost frozen puff pastry and top it with tomatoes, tarragon, feta and olive oil, then bake myself a little treat for breakfast or lunch. Now that puff pastry is a big no-no, I developed a crust I use year-round to make seasonal vegetable tarts. But this combo is my favorite. It’s summer on a plate. Happiness in a crust. Juicy deliciousness for your mouth.
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AKA Everything’s Just Peachy
This is the very first pie I made after being diagnosed with celiac disease. It’s fruity and sweet, but ginger and a bit of cracked black pepper give it the tiniest of kicks.
I grew up eating fruit pies my uncle made in his bakery, or that my mom made at home. We were the kind of family that had dessert every night after dinner, and all summer long it was pie after pie after pie. Peach pie was my favorite, followed closely by sour cherry.
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AKA Stone Fruit Summer Lovin’
There is something so special about that first weekend at the farmers market when stone fruit and berries are at their best. Forget the solstice; nectarines and blackberries at the farmers market means summer is officially here.
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AKA Wine — check! Friends — check! Salt air — check! The best dang summer salsa you will ever make? Checkity-check!
One August evening a few summers ago, a group of us were at a friend’s house on the water at the south Jersey Shore. As we sat at the beautiful weathered-teak table on the portico, with the sun well on its descent toward the horizon and the rising tide lapping the dock, a friend poured each of us a big glass of a buttery Chardonnay and plunked down a bowl of corn and tomato salsa.
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AKA All’s Fair in Love and S’mores
An old boyfriend once gave me a beautiful copper fire pit as a birthday gift. The relationship didn’t last, but my love of cooking over an open fire sure did.
On Friday evenings when the weather is nice (and, honestly, sometimes even in the snow), I load up the big copper bowl with kindling and logs, and invite the neighbors over for s’mores and bourbon. No matter what kind of week any of us has had, all our troubles are washed away by the mesmerizing flames and gooey, chocolatey, oozy s’mores.
Continue Reading Beat the Wheat: S’mores Pie for Grownups
AKA: Strawberry Shortcake. It’s What’s for Dinner!
I grew up in a traditional nuclear family of the ’70s and ’80s. Dad worked, Mom stayed home to raise us kids and we always had a “square meal” for dinner: meat, starch, two veggies, rolls and dessert.
Come summertime, though, the notion of a healthy balanced meal went out the window and Mom got a little crazy. How? She made us strawberry shortcake — for dinner. Yes, siree. It was not for dessert or a special treat. It was for dinner. Warm, flaky, sweet shortcake and sugared strawberries, all served in a bowl with cold milk. And, because she wanted to have some modicum of nutrition, there were two slices of Velveeta cheese on the side. Oh, and sometimes we even had dessert after that. Because it was the ’70s. And who wouldn’t want a bowl of chocolate pudding after eating strawberry shortcake and Velveeta? That, my friends, was dinner at least one night a week for many weeks during the summer. And those were some of the best dinners ever.
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AKA Because I Was a Jewish Grandmother in a Previous Life
I have always traveled for good food. And as a college student, one of my most-favorite things to do was go to New York City for the weekend with my college friends, most of who were Jewish. We’d take advantage of the student rate on the Trump Shuttle (RIP) and stay in the city or out on Long Island with whichever set of parents or grandparents would have us. Visiting my college BFF’s grandmother was the best because she made challah. Never with raisins (gag) or sesame seeds (eww). Just regular old challah, with a heaping helping of grandmotherly advice and whatever else we needed during our stay. Her challah — and the smell of it baking — cured any college-girl broken hearts or study-related stress.
Since then, I’ve had my fair share of challah at Shabbat dinners, holidays and family celebrations over the years. I was always happy to take home any that was left over because it makes the best French toast. But when I was diagnosed with celiac, I had to press pause on my love affair with challah. Until recently, that is.
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AKA Because Sometimes Sunday Lunch Needs a British Accent
For a few years, I was in a relationship with a Brit. When we went to Cambridge to visit his family, his mum made the most-glorious meat pies. Beef, pork, lamb, sausage — no matter what meat, the pies were warm and salty, with lush potatoes, herbs and a buttery rich crust. Savory meat pies — my favorite is pork — are such a special treat. Simmering the meat on the stove makes the house smell cozy and inviting, and the moment you can start to smell the buttery crust turning golden brown in the oven makes your Sunday sublime.
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AKA The Ultimate Hangover Helper
There was a three-year period where I did a lot of road trips — seeing friends’ new babies, going to weddings, visiting family, soaking up the sun at the beach. And on many Sunday mornings, I’d start my drive home still feeling the aftereffects from the previous night and in need of some hangover-recovery vittles.
My vice and the only thing that cleared my head? Biscuits and sausage gravy. Perhaps the least visually appealing thing on a plate, but no matter — it’s buttery, greasy and amazing. Whether I stopped at a big chain restaurant just off the interstate or a little roadside diner, all I wanted was a cup of strong black coffee, a Coca-Cola with lots of ice, and a plate of hot flaky biscuits and thick sausage gravy. That stuff was magic and did the trick every time.
Now that I can’t eat gluten, I get little pangs of nostalgia when I pass one of the many places I know has this breakfast goodness on its laminated, photo-laden menu. So every now and then — and especially when I’ve had one too many glasses of wine the night before — I make gluten-free biscuits and sausage gravy for a late breakfast here at home. It’s easy, and they’re delicious.
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