Monday, August 27, 2012

When the Cat is Away by Violet

What’s a girl to do? While there are a great many things that Joseph and I see eye to eye on but there are a few particular food quirks that we each have. Joseph only like potatoes in fry or chip form, he dislikes peanut butter and frankly most baked goods outside of cookies. The thought of scrambled eggs makes my stomach turn and I like my fruit fresh or fermented (no pies, jams or jellies of any kind).

This means we’ve learned to cook somewhere in the middle ground, taking into account each of our unique tastes.

Every once in a while, Joseph goes out of town for a few days and I’m left with the prospect of cooking dinner for one. Typically this usually means making a vat of mashed potatoes and finding meats and veggies to accompany them. But after a bit of a perfect storm, not only was Joe out of town for the weekend but he had been out of town for work a few days before and during that time I had satisfied my mashed potato craving for the next few months (Thanksgiving isn’t too far away right?).

And wine. Of course lots of win.
So I started rolling through my recipes to see what might catch my eye, baked potato soup, veggie pizza, asparagus and shrimp, tomato and corn pie, mac and cheese, eggplant parmesan…wait…tomato and corn pie? Bright summer flavors all wrapped up in a delicious biscuit like crust? Done.

This is a gem that I found through Smitten Kitchen and made for one of our Kentucky Derby parties a few years back. I remembered it as being a little labor intensive (because frankly you have to make the dough and roll that bad boy out) but worth the effort.

Adapted, barely, from Gourmet’s adaptation of Laurie Colwin’s and James Beard’s versions

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 pounds beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 cups corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely chopped by hand or lightly puréed in a food processor, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, divided (skipped this, no harm was done)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
7ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 3/4 cups), divided

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms dough, and then gather into a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured counter into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Either fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it or, if you’re using the plastic warp method, remove top sheet of plastic wrap, then lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers trim any overhang.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. If your kitchen is excessively warm put the second half of the dough in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and, if desired, gently remove seeds and extra juices. Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, one tablespoon basil, 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1/ 2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and one cup of grated cheese. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper. Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal. 

Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 teaspoons). Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, and then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I skipped blanching the tomatoes and peeling them because I remember from the last time that step was a lot of work and I didn’t really see what the heck was the point. I did end up with a puddle at the bottom of the pie when I pulled it out of the oven. But the bottom crust wasn’t really much worse for the wear. If you want to take that step on then, by all means.

I also know that a lot of people get nervous about dealing with dough. This one is pretty cooperative. It comes together really easily and isn’t hard to work with. So don’t let it freak you out.

Highly recommend making this if your neighbor just came over and dropped off more tomatoes from their garden . It also feels like you should try out your best southern accent while eating this pie, ya’ll.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


In the dog days of summer, cold treats become a pretty big deal. If I heard the ice cream man right now, pretty sure I would run him down for an Astro Pop or those orange and red swirl popsicles (the internet is telling me those are called Firecrackers and Big Sticks but that just can’t be right). And I’m a girl who loves a Chaco Taco too but really when you get right down to it, if there’s an IT’S-IT in play it’s pretty much over for me.

Now, for those of you who didn’t grow up in California, I’ll need to explain just exactly what an IT’S-IT is. The original version is a scoop of ice cream between two oatmeal cookies covered in dark chocolate. And when I say oatmeal cookies, I don’t mean those terrible oatmeal and raisin cookies like you find at Safeway, these are much closer to graham cracker crust in cookie form. What really make them great is that they are so dense they can stand up to the moisture of the ice cream even as it melts. 

Biting into one is the perfect mix of chocolate, ice cream and crunchy cookie. They also come in mint (the thought is overwhelming), chocolate and cappuccino. But I have never seen these flavors in the wild.

They were invited in San Francisco, sold at the Playland by the Beach. When it was torn down in the 1970s they build a factory out near the San Francisco airport (which is in Burlingame, not too far from where JP grew up but he doesn’t like IT’S-IT. Yeah, I don’t know either). If you are driving up from the south you can see it from the freeway.

I had never seen one outside of California until recently. I few weeks back I spotted a box on the top shelf in the freezer section at Safeway. At first I thought it was a mirage and kept on shopping. Then the other day at Target, there they were again so the box of three came home with me.

Who puts three ice cream sandwiches in a box? IT’S-IT does. Because they have been making these delicious treats since the 1920s and, frankly, you take what you can get.

I remembered back when JP and I went to hear Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali speak. An audience member asked the chefs what did they eat at their wedding? Batali said, man we kept it simple, a taco truck and a cooler full of IT’S-IT. Sounds perfect to me.