My weekend revolved around tomatoes. My goal was to use as many tomatoes as I could in all that I was baking. Our temperatures during the night flirted with the upper 40's and as the daylight hours dwindle away, I have come to terms with another summer's end. And did I say, we ate a huge amount of tomatoes? I copied this recipe for Tomato Cobbler with Gruyére Crust from a Martha Stewart Living magaziine in 2002. I was never, however, satisfied with the results. I really liked the idea of sweet cherry tomatoes paired with a flaky, cheesy crust...
but the recipe combined the tomatoes with too much flour -- over 1/4 cup. What was Martha thinking? It was pasty and cloudy. I substituted arrowroot which results in a clear, flavorless thickener, allowing the tomatoes and basil to shine.
Try and let the cobbler cool somewhat before eating to allow the juices to stabelize.
Mixed Tomato Cobbler with Gruyére Crust
adapted from Martha Stewart Living|2002
• 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
• 2 teaspoons salt, divided
• 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
• 3/4 cup Gruyére cheese, divided
• 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 large onion, finely diced
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 pounds assorted cherry tomatoes
• 5 teaspoons arrowroot
• 1/2 cup chopped basil
• Pinch of pepper
• 1 large egg
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 cup Gruyére cheese. Add the butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. With the machine running, add about 1/4 cup ice water, little by little through the feed tube. Pulse. Do not allow dough to become wet.
3. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and softened, stirring frequently. Let cool.
5. Place tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the arrowroot and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, basil and pepper. Add the cooled onion mixture to the tomatoes and toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch pie dish or gratin dish.
6. Heat the oven to 375˚F. Roll the dough 1-inch larger that the baking dish. Place the dough on top of the tomatoes, tucking in edges to seal. Make several small slits in the crust and crimp the edges. In a small bowl, mix the egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush the egg glaze over the crust and sprinkle crust with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Cool before serving.
I had been looking forward to July 25th for days. It was the day the bikers riding in La Tour de France would be ascending Mont Ventoux.
We watch the Tour de France almost religiously each summer. I think I like cycling, but honestly, the reason I'm glued to the television screen during La Tour is because of the scenery. I'm a sucker for the cobblestones and tiled roofs of France. When the cyclists are on secluded stretches of road, I'll find little jobs to do around the house. But as soon as my husband yells, "Hey, look at this!", I run back to the t.v. and images of another village I now want to visit.
Seeing the 20th leg of La Tour was especially important to me because we always stay near Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse region when visiting Provence. Last summer we based ourselves in Carpentras and wherever we ventured during the day, Mont Ventoux was most likely in our sight.
My husband, who has become more interested in cycling over the years and participates in Ragbrai (the bike race across Iowa) with our youngest daughter, has never joined me on my visits to Provence. But he seemed intrigued, seeing the shots of lavender fields and vineyards during La Tour yesterday. I'm hoping he'll consider a trip with me. He could ride his bike from village to village and I could meet up with him for lunch, taking a break from the markets and brocantes -- my favorite pasttimes in Provence.
Since we would be getting up at 6 a.m. (on a Saturday!) to watch the ascent of Mont Ventoux, I decided to assemble a strata the night before, to have as breakfast Saturday morning. The great thing about a strata is that you can work with what you've got. I had 2 cooked hot Italian sausages in my freezer along with a baguette. I sliced the baguette and covered the bottom of a buttered gratin with half. Over that I layered the sliced sausages and mushrooms from a jar in my pantry. I sprinkled about a cup of shredded Gruyére over the top, along with leaves of fresh basil from my garden. I covered this with another layer of baguette slices and more shredded cheese. I whisked together 4 large eggs and about a cup of half & half, seasoned with salt and pepper, and poured this evenly over the bread. (Feel free to add more cream or milk if the strata seems too dry). Covered with plastic wrap, the strata was placed in the refrigerator until the next morning when I popped it into a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 minutes. I wish the red peppers in my refrigerator had been roasted when I assembled this late Friday night. They would have been a great addition.
My very good friend, Renate, came for a visit this past week. We are childhood friends from my hometown of Amana, Iowa.
I had a small luncheon on the patio one afternoon during Renate's stay, which included other local friends of mine. I made Salade Nicoise for the main dish, and a Raspberry Clafoutis Tart for dessert. The Goat Cheese Gratin, pictured above, was an appetizer along with glasses of French Rosé.
Goat Cheese Gratin adapted from a recipe by Patricia Wells in Patricia Wells at Home in Provence• 6 to 7 ounces soft goat cheese, broken up with a fork• 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped• a sprinkling of fresh or dried thyme leaves• 1/2 cup homemade Tomato Sauce, room temperature• a scattering of black olives• several leaves of fresh basil, chopped1. Preheat the broiler.2. Scatter the goat cheese on the bottom of an 8-inch gratin or baking dish. Sprinkle with the rosemary and thyme. Spoon the tomato sauce over the cheese and herbs. Scatter the olives on top.3. Place the gratin under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted. Scatter the fresh basil on top. Serve with crackers or slices of baguette.
This is what I got to wake up to every morning at the home of our friends in Germany.
I was perfectly happy and content in that space.
One evening, while sitting in the conservatory, we were treated to Maria playing her saxophone. Another evening, Maria and her flute instructor of many years serenaded us with Brahms and Handel duets.
When sitting outdoors I was surrounded by roses. Maria and Dieter have over 150 rose bushes in their yard!
This is what I passed, stepping out of my bedroom every morning.
Maria served DELICIOUS meals and Dieter baked desserts daily. One thing my daughter immediately asked for on our return was Maria's potato gratin. I'm posting Patricia Wells' recipe for Gratin Dauphinois. Maria, I believe, only used about a cup of heavy cream and none of the whole milk used in this recipe. Also, what made Maria's potatoes so wonderful was the generous addition of French olive oil. She poured some oil onto the bottom of the dish, layered potatoes, poured on the heavy cream and then more olive oil, finishing with a good sprinkling of Swiss Emmanthal cheese. What kept me taking spoonful after spoonful of Maria's potatoes was the incredible taste of the olive oil. Maria said she used her everyday oil instead of the "good stuff" that she saves for vinaigrettes. Well, Maria's everyday French olive oil is what I would compare to the best olive oil in my kitchen. If you decide to make the potato gratin as Maria did and use oil in this recipe (and eliminate the milk), try to use the most flavorful oil you have.
(from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence)
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 pounds firm-fleshed potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin (I used Yukon Gold)
4 ounces Swiss Gruyere cheese, freshly grated (or Emmanthal)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Rub the inside of the baking dish with garlic
3. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 3/4 of the cheese, the milk, cream, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into the baking dish, pouring the liquid over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
4. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the top is crisp and golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
CURRIED CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI GRATIN
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes
1 head of broccoli flowerets, cut into 3/4-inch pieces.
3 cups chopped poached or roasted chicken
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
4 Tbsp. flour
1 can chicken broth
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook the mixture, stirring for 15 seconds, or until it is fragrant. Add the broccoli and saute' over moderately high heat, stirring for 1 minute. Add 1/3 cups water and cook the broccoli, covered, for 4 minutes, or until it is crisp-tender. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli mixture with the chicken.
2. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter. Add the curry powder and stir for one minute. Mix in the 4 Tbsp. flour and then slowly stir in the can of chicken broth. Continue to stir over medium heat until thickened slightly. Pour over the broccoli and chicken and mix gently. Add the scallions and turn into a lightly greased gratin dish.
3. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and grated Parmesan. Distribute evenly over the broccoli and chicken. Scatter the almonds on top. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Served above with a sweet potato-carrot puree.
I make gratins frequently for dinner. I love the brown crustiness that develops on top from the bread crumbs, cheese or butter, and occasionally nuts, that are combined and sprinkled over the filling before baking. This cauliflower-broccoli gratin is a great accompaniment to a roasted chicken or grilled steak, but I am also completely satisfied eating this gratin as the main dish along with sauteed apples and a loaf of bread.
Cauliflower is low in fat, high in fiber, folate and vitamin C, and shares with broccoli cancer-fighting properties.
Cauliflower at produce market on rue Montorgueil, Paris.
Cauliflower & Broccoli Gratin
(adapted from Irresistible Cheese Dishes by Laura Chenel)
1 large head cauliflower florets
1 large head broccoli florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, coarsely-chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
Salt & freshly-ground pepper
* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Cook cauliflower and broccoli in a large pan of salted, boiling water until crisp-tender. Drain thoroughly.
In a large skillet, heat 2 T. of the oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until just fragrant. Off the heat, add the cauliflower and broccoli and toss. Add half of the cheese and the olives and toss to combine. Transfer to the gratin dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
In a small bowl, combine the crumbs with the remaining olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the crumbs over the cheese. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the crumbs are brown.