Summer tomato recipe roundup.

Ahhhhhhhhh … August. It’s tomato time, folks.

As a food writer and blogger, one of my biggest challenges is keeping room in my lineup for old favorites when I’m also scouting new recipes to share here. With tomato season in full swing, here are a few of my favorite tomato recipes that I’ll be revisiting again (and again … and again) this summer.

easy lemon salad dressing recipe | writes4food.com

The best lemony vinaigrette.

I won’t tell you that storebought salad dressing is just such a bad idea. Instead, I will tell you that homemade salad dressing is super easy, inexpensive and far more delicious than you could imagine.

This lemon vinaigrette recipe is my new favorite salad dressing: I usually have the ingredients on hand, it’s quick to assemble, it keeps in the refrigerator for a week or two, and it’s just so versatile. I’ve been using this lemon dressing with a simple salad of fresh lettuce. I’ve drizzled it over steamed summer green beans. I’ve tossed it with cooked rice, grilled shrimp and cherry tomatoes for the best hot-weather dinner ever. (I’ll post that recipe soon, promise!) It would make amazing potato salad. It’s the ideal dressing for the French Picnic Salad in a Jar.

If you’re a bottled dressing person (no hard feelings!), give this a try. If you’re a salad dressing maker, put this recipe in your regular rotation.

perfect lemon vinaigrette dressing recipe

makes about 1 1/4 cups
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, smashed

1/2 cup olive oil

In a lidded glass jar or mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, lemon zest, salt and pepper, until the salt dissolves. Add the smashed garlic clove and whisk well. Very slowly drizzle a thin stream of olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify. Let the dressing sit for an hour at room temperature, then remove the garlic clove.

 

recipe for summer corn and tomato pie

Improved summer tomato-corn pie.

I had (HAD!) to re-publish this recipe for improved tomato-corn pie, one of my absolute all-time summer favorites. I discovered Deb Perelman’s recipe at Smitten Kitchen, which she republished from the August 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. But the recipe has even earlier origins: Gourmet’s version is a kind of mashup between a tomato pie developed by the late food writer Laurie Colwin for the magazine in 1992 and a tomato-cheese quiche recipe in James Beard’s 1972 “American Cookery.”

My significant hack to the Gourmet tomato-corn pie recipe—and, if I daresay, its improvement—is baking it in a no-roll pie crust flavored with olive oil and crunchy with cornmeal. In my book, a double-crust pastry does this pie a disservice, making it watery and soggy. The savory no-roll pie crust stays light and crisp, even with all those juicy summer tomatoes.

Trust me: You’ll want to make this soon.

summer corn and tomato pie recipe

(serves 6 ... who are we kidding? Rob and I ate half of this in one sitting)

for the no-roll pie crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup olive oil

for the corn-tomato filling:
3 ears corn, kernels removed
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch pie plate, whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt. Combine milk and oils, and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork to combine, then use your fingers to work the mixture together until large clumps form and no loose flour remains. Use your fingers to press the crust into place, beginning with the sides and finishing with the bottom; make sure there are no holes or cracks. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes; remove from oven and let cool.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Scatter 1/3 cup of the grated cheddar in the bottom of the pie shell, lay 1/2 of the tomato slices on top of the cheese, then scatter 1/2 of corn kernels over the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and 1/2 of the thyme. Repeat with another layer of cheese and vegetables, ending with cheese on top. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream; pour this mixture gently over the vegetables.

Transfer the pie to the preheated oven (lay a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack to catch any drips), and bake until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes to set the filling before serving.

low-fat Green Goddess salad dressing recipe | writes4food.com

Perfect Green Goddess dressing.

File this under: Decades-old food trends that have come back around again. (Along with homemade butter, canning and charcuterie.)

I remember Green Goddess dressing from my childhood [mind you, at that age I positively hated salad of all kinds]. Green Goddess dressing had kind of a groovy, late ’70s sort of vibe to it: break out the mod Danish-designed salad bowl.

According to American Food Roots, the dressing originated in 1923 at San Francisco’s Palace hotel. The original recipe had a mayonnaise-sour cream base, tons of green herbs and the kick of anchovy. I recently spotted a recipe for Green Goddess in Bon Appétit‘s June issue. And among the recipes I gathered from Cincinnati chefs for “The Findlay Market Cookbook” was Julie Francis’s winter salad with Green Goddess dressing.

The Goddess—she’s back.

My version is sort of stripped-down, so the herbs really come to the fore. I used non-fat Greek yogurt as the primary base, with a couple of tablespoons of mayo for richness. I skipped the anchovy because I wanted the tarragon and chives to really shine. You can either blend a small garlic clove into the dressing, or skip that and rub a smashed clove thoroughly on your salad bowl to give that pungent hit of super-fresh garlic.

low-fat Green Goddess dressing recipe

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon

lots of pepper
In a blender (or in a tall jar using an immersion blender), whirl together the Greek yogurt and mayo. Use the blade of a knife to smash the garlic clove on a cutting board, sprinkle it generously with kosher salt, and mash it into a paste. Add the garlic-salt paste, the lemon juice, vinegar, herbs and pepper to the yogurt. Whirl to combine well and create a smooth, evenly green mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
recipe for zucchini and bacon pie in savory no-roll pie crust | writes4food.com

Summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie.

I’m hooked on turning summer’s fresh vegetables into savory pies (I suppose there are worse vices). Think quiche—only packed with tons more vegetables and lighter on the eggy richness (and calories).

I recently shared my recipe for Improved Summer Corn & Tomato Pie with a friend on Facebook, as a way to convince him that it’s totally worth the very minimal effort to make your own crust for a savory vegetable pie. The trick is stirring together the dry and wet ingredients right in the pie plate and pressing the crumbly mixture into place. My super-easy and delicious savory no-roll pie crust recipe includes cornmeal for crunch and olive oil for flavor. My Facebook friend whipped up his own pie crust and loved how easy and tasty it was.

That no-roll pie crust is the base for this new recipe, which I adapted from a Saveur recipe that I spotted recently. I tinkered with the binding ingredients, and added bacon—well, because bacon makes any vegetable that much tastier.

Next week, I’ll be onto the corn and tomato pie—this week, I’m in love with this zucchini pie recipe!

summery zucchini, bacon and ricotta pie in no-roll crust recipe

serves 6

for the no-roll pie crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch pie plate, whisk together the flour, cornmeal and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil and olive oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a fork. When the mixture becomes crumbly and hard to stir, use your hands to completely combine the mixture so no loose flour remains. Press the crumbs into place, starting with the bottom and working up the sides. Bake the pie shell for 12 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

for the vegetable filling:
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
½ cup grated asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup ricotta
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it's crispy; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, and drain off any rendered fat from the pan. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 7 minutes. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet; add the garlic and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the zucchini begins to soften, about 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and let cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the asiago, ricotta, eggs and parsley. Stir into the vegetable mixture; season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to the pre-baked pie shell. Bake the zucchini pie for 40–45 minutes, until the filling is set and lightly browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

fruit and herb infused spa water | writes4food.com

Fruit and herb infused water.

I’m not one for gadgety kitchen things … but this summer, I’m loving an infusion water pitcher that I picked up recently. We all know (don’t we?) the importance of drinking 8 full (that’s 8-ounce) glasses of water every day to keep our bodies hydrated. Drinking infused water makes that goal so much more achievable. It’s deliciously refreshing, and it’s a great way to add potassium and vitamins to your diet without drinking those icky bottled “smart” waters. The added potassium gives fruit-infused water a double bonus: Potassium helps balance fluid and electrolyte intake in your body’s cells. Potassium helps the water you’re drinking go to better use.

The infusion pitcher is super handy: Just cut up some citrus wedges and grab a few herb sprigs from the garden and fill the infuser, then fill the pitcher with cold water. The longer the water sits in the fridge, the deeper the taste. Recently, I visited the delightful local food writer and educator Rita Heikenfeld, and she shared a pitcher of infused water with fruit, edible flowers and a bit of sweet stevia from her garden. It was beautiful.

I’ve been going through a pitcher of infused water every day. I change the fruit and herbs every 3 or 4 days. My favorite flavor combinations for infused spa water:

  • lemon and basil
  • lime and mint
  • strawberry and mint
  • strawberry and raspberry

Are you getting enough water on these hot summer days?

how to make homemade butter with heavy whipping cream | writes4food.com

How to make homemade butter.

With the proliferation of excellent artisan bread in Cincinnati, thanks to Blue Oven Bakery, Anderson Brick Oven, Shadeau Bread and Breadsmith, these wonderful loaves deserve extra-special treatment. To me, there’s nothing better than homemade butter on really good bread.

For several years, I’ve been making homemade butter from Snowville Creamery’s heavy whipping cream. I love working with Snowville cream; in the spring, when the cows are eating dandelions in the field, the butter is almost neon; in the winter, it’s a more mellow yellow.

Making butter couldn’t be easier (it’s fun, too!), and it’s suddenly become trendy (a recent issue of Bon Appetit included a how-to on making butter). Give this homemade butter recipe a whirl!

recipe for making homemade butter

makes about 1 cup of butter

2 cups heavy cream (be sure it doesn't contain thickeners like carageenan; you just want cream)
Sea salt to taste (optional; see notes below)

Take the cream out of the fridge about 30 minutes in advance; you want it at a cool room temperature. Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a deep bowl and a hand mixer) and begin whipping on high speed. Once you reach whipped cream consistency, keep going ...

After about 6 to 8 minutes (more or less; the process takes less time if the cream is warmer), the butter will begin to separate. You'll see a thin, watery liquid start to accumulate in the bowl, and you'll have small pea-sized clumps of bright yellow solids. At this point, turn the mixer to low and let the solids come together.

ButterCurds ButterRinse

Into a strainer set over a bowl, dump the contents of the mixer; strain off the buttermilk. (Save, refrigerated, for another use. Like biscuits.) Retain the butter in the strainer. Place the strainer under cold running water and rinse until the water runs through the strainer clear. Shake the strainer to drain off as much water as possible, then gather the butter into your hands and knead like dough to remove more of the water. To make salted butter, sprinkle salt over the butter and knead it in with your hands.

Salting the butter: For 2 cups of cream, add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt for a fairly salty butter, or 1/4 tsp. for lightly salted; alternately, leave unsalted. To store: Keeps 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long!) or for 6 months in the freezer. Note: I wouldn't advise baking with this butter; its water content is higher than stick butter.

Must-make appetizers, sides and desserts for your Fourth of July menu.

How is it possible that the Fourth of July holiday weekend is upon us? Falling on a Friday this year, July 4 gives us all a three-day weekend and more than enough excuse to fire up the grill, invite some friends over and cook up a feast of seasonal foods.

In case you’re browsing for some menu ideas for your pre-fireworks bashes, here’s a roundup of great recipes for summery appetizers, sides and desserts perfect for July 4th celebrations. Light up those sparklers, friends!

recipe for honey roasted seasonal fruit compote | writes4food.com

Honeyed summer fruit compote.

We’re at the intersection of spring and summer. Just last week, I reacted with dismay when Kim at Lobenstein Farm at Findlay Market told me the strawberries I purchased were the last of the season. But then—hooray!—the Bee Haven had the first summer blueberries for sale.

There’s so much local fruit coming on now that I’m tempted to eat as much of it, in as many preparations, as I can. This recipe for oven-roasted fruit compote is the perfect way to take advantage of the bounty. It’s super easy: just toss the fruit with local honey and a vanilla bean and pop it in the oven. You can use any combination of fruit you’d like, from berries to peeled and chopped stone fruit. For the version pictured above, I used fresh local strawberries and blueberries, plus golden raspberries that I put in the freezer last summer. (I’m clearing those out to make ample room to put up this year’s crop.)

This roasted fruit compote is fantastic in a lot of different applications—I spooned some over vanilla ice cream last night, then enjoyed more on a bowl of cold oatmeal cereal for breakfast this morning. It would be fantastic over slices of citrus olive oil cake, shortcakes or pancakes, or layered with homemade granola and yogurt in a parfait, or as a topping for the old-fashioned Spanish Cream recipe that I shared recently.

This recipe is part of the collection I’m gathering for “The Findlay Market Cookbook,” to be published this fall by Farm Fresh Books. It’s inspired by my conversation with beekeeper Mark Bering, who sells honey and bee pollen at Findlay Market.

Through the summer, I’ll be sharing a few select recipes to preview the book—so stay tuned!

honeyed summer fruit compote recipe

serves 4

4 cups mixed fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, peaches, nectarines)
2–4 Tbsp. local honey
1/2 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small baking dish, toss together the fruit and honey. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds over the mixture, and tuck the bean itself into the fruit. Place the baking dish on a larger rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, until the fruit softens and becomes juicy.

recipe for old-fashioned Spanish Cream dessert with fresh berries | writes4food.com

The Clara Project: Spanish cream with fresh berries.

This recipe didn’t come out quite as I’d expected. You see, I thought this was my first opportunity with The Clara Project to experiment with a gelatin mold; I even purchased a vintage copper mold just for such an occasion.

But when I unmolded this creamy vanilla dessert, enticingly called Spanish Cream, it was a disaster; the contents sort of disintegrated onto the plate. No matter: Lesson learned, I still consider this dessert recipe a success.

As it happens, Spanish Cream is sort of like an unbaked vanilla soufflé: wonderfully light and fluffy, lightly sweet, perfect for summer’s freshest berries. It’s really too soft to mold like a Jell-o dessert. Instead, it’s best to transfer the vanilla custard mixture to a pretty serving bowl and, once it’s set, to scoop out big spoonfuls into individual dessert dishes.

Spanish Cream is a definitively old-fashioned dessert, elegant but not at all fussy. It’s made in two steps, with a cooked vanilla custard that’s thickened with gelatin, then whisked into whipped egg whites. Give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

spanish cream recipe

spanish cream dessert recipe

(serves 6–8)

1 Tbsp. powdered gelatin
3 cups whole milk
3 eggs, separated
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Fresh berries tossed with sugar, for serving

Have ready a large bowl filled with ice cubes and water. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl. Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl; give them a stir with a whisk. Add water to the bottom of the double boiler or to a saucepan large enough that your heat-proof bowl will rest in it (not touching the bottom).

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the gelatin and milk. Place the pan over medium heat and warm the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved and the milk bubbles (but does not boil), about 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar VERY slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg yolks. Place the bowl or pan with the egg yolk mixture over the pan of simmering water and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture turns a pale golden color and thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and salt. Place the bowl (or double boiler pan) in the ice bath to quickly cool the mixture, whisking occasionally as it sets. Cool for about 1 hour (refrigeration will speed the process), until the mixture resembles a soft pudding.

Use the stand mixer or a hand-held mixer to whip the egg whites to firm peaks. Gently fold about 1/3 of the cooled custard mixture into the egg whites, then fold in the remaining egg whites, stirring gently to fully combine the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight, until the Spanish Cream is softly set. Portion into individual serving bowls and top with sugared fresh berries.