Friday, September 25, 2009

the last warm breath of summer

a couple of weeks ago i rolled up my proverbial sleeves, made a tableful of food and had some friends over for lunch.

my friend yao was visiting from chicago, so we planned a little late-summer college reunion in my tiny, overheated apartment. kelly and chris brought my favorite crumbs cupcakes, jr regaled us with a series of head-scratching riddles (have you heard the one about the midget peglegged clown?) and the beatles played on the stereo all afternoon. it was all so lovely it makes me want to weep a little.

but i won't.

we ate the tomato salad jon and i have been devouring all summer (i've never eaten so many tomatoes in my life), a tart, garlicky mix that makes even so-so tomatoes taste divine. the calendar says it's officially autumn, but let's cling to the last warm breath of summer, shall we?

the best tomato salad
serves 3 or 4, or fewer if your name is katie

1 baguette, cut into large bite-sized chunks
extra-virgin olive oil

2 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 standard cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fat clove garlic, minced
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh basil leaves, torn
1 Tbs. fresh oregano
salt and pepper

For the croutons: Toss the baguette cubes with about 3 Tbs. olive oil, a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano and plenty of salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and crisp around the edges.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into thin wedges, about 10 per tomato. Dice the cucumber into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and place in a strainer over a bowl or the sink at least 10 minutes to drain.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, olive oil, red onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

When the tomatoes and cucumbers have released a lot of liquid, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Add the herbs and croutons and toss again to combine.

For an extra salty flavor, stir in a handful of black oil-cured olives or small cubes of Asiago cheese.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

pure genius

do you like lime?

i love lime. though some (like my sister) would think me crazy, i'd take some rich, citrus-infused butter cookies over a chocolate chipper any day. especially if they're sandwiched with a simple, sweet lime icing.

the secret to these cookies' delicate flavor is dorie greenspan's method of rubbing lime zest into the sugar until it becomes aromatic and flavorful, perfumed with the essence of citrus. pure genius!

lime sables
adapted from baking: from my home to yours (dorie greenspan)

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar, mixed with the zest of 2 limes
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until well blended. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Beat in the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogenous.

Mix in the flour mixture just until combined and the dough looks uniformly moist. The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball--and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long. Wrap the logs in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Alternatively, roll out into a 1/4-inch-thick sheet and cut out shapes with cookie cutters after chilling.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove a log of dough from the fridge and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Cool for a minute or two on the sheet before lifting them onto a rack.

To make cookie sandwiches, mix 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar with enough lime juice to make a spreadable icing. Spread on cookies and sandwich together. Makes about 40 cookies, or 20 sandwiches.