July 7 – July 14, 2019
Monday: I don’t remember
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Butter, Tomato and Onion Sauce
Wednesday: Mahshi – Lamb and Rice Cabbage Rolls with Lemon Sauce
Thursday: Tuna, Bean and Red Onion Salad with Avocado Toast
Friday: Margherita and Sausage and Onion Pizzas
July Lilies, Casa Stuarti
Saturday: Any Way Niçoise
Sunday: Pan con Tomate, Grilled Swordfish with Wine-Bottle Sauce, cabbage and cucumber slaw, Grilled Sweet Potatoes
It is too hot to run. It is too hot to play baseball, basketball, golf or soccer. It is too hot to grill. It is too hot to think. But it is not too hot eat. And it is not too hot to make tomato sauce indoors, in the air conditioning. And it is not too hot to make a great pan con tomate – something I have been working on for years.
So that’s what you’ll be getting after this short post.
First, however, a word about Philadelphia in the summertime. It is too hot – don’t go there. And yet, that’s where I was last week,* walking very slowly across sun-backed asphalt so as not to work up, as Chaucer would have put it, ‘a muckle sweat’ on my way to meet with clients and potential clients. On my first evening in a hotel in King of Prussia, on my second trip up from the car (I travel heavy – lots of books), I got stuck in the elevator. The elevator was not air-conditioned. The power had gone out. About 10, sweaty, increasingly disturbing minutes later, the power came back on, the elevator doors opened, and I got off and took the steps.
*The recipes are actually from two weeks ago – Philly was just this last, blistering hot week. I know it’s confusing, but just in case you were checking dates and temperatures.
On the other hand – I met a slightly wacky old lady who eats at the bar at Morton’s three nights a week because she hates to cook. When she heard I was from Pittsburgh, she said, “That’s a lousy city.” Margie, as the bartender and I agreed later, is opinionated. She hates to cook, by the way, because she did so, including for lots of company dinners, nearly every day for 50 years. I have come to the habit lately (in the last six or so years), which might explain the difference in our attitudes.
And, further, on the other hand, the hotel was filled with Russian and French tourists and with approximately 50,000 young children from China, all dressed in orange shorts and white shirts and wearing small backpacks. (50,000 is, of course, a small group of children in China). Early in the morning, their handlers, a nervous looking group of young adults, would line them up for the buses which were coming to take them to Constitution Hall? The Franklin Science Museum? Math Class? They were so much quieter than American children it was frightening.
So, I’ve changed my mind. Do go to Philadelphia, after all. It’s a big city with all of the excitement and annoyance that implies. And, if you find yourself hungry in King of Prussia, eat at the bar with Margie. If the temperature and humidity are in the 90s have the Wedge Salad and a martini – you’ll need to stay hydrated.
When you’re back on home turf, here are two recipes calling for tomatoes. In Pittsburgh, it’s too early for anything but cherry tomatoes – but we’re getting good stuff from Virginia and the Carolinas. And both of the recipes below are forgiving of slightly unripe tomatoes.
The tomato sauce is simple and superb. It comes from the Hazan Family Favorites cookbook, which I’ve been using a lot recently.
The pan con tomate is from bon apetit and is maybe the best way to use ciabatta, baguette or any good bread – a simple, delicious, one-hand appetizer.
My Mother’s Butter, Tomato, and Onion Sauce
(well, not my mother’s, Giuliano Hazan’s mother – adapted from Hazan Family Favorites)
This sauce seems far too simple to taste this good. Just take your time in cooking it, and you will be rewarded with a great sauce for any type of pasta. (You can add meat, beans, tuna – whatever – but we had it plain on fettucine with a little grated cheese and basil.)
Timing: About 50 minutes
Ingredients: This is plenty of sauce for a pound of pasta – feeds 4 or 5
2 pounds of ripe tomatoes – or substitute a large can of whole peeled tomatoes (48oz.)
1 medium sweet onion (we used about ½ large red onion)
5 tablespoons of butter
1 ¼ teaspoons of salt (we used more – season to taste – and I tossed in some ground black pepper and a small pinch of red pepper flakes as well)
Peel the tomatoes, if you like. (We didn’t) Chop coarsely. If using canned tomatoes, break them up as they cook.
Trim both ends of the onion, peel, cut in half lengthwise.
Put the tomatoes, onion, butter and salt in a 4 quart or larger saucepan over medium. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat and cook at a slow but steady simmer for 45 minutes or so. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes. The sauce is finished when there is no remaining watery liquid. You can eat the onions or set aside. (We ate them with the pasta.)
It’s that simple – and that good.
Pan con Tomate
(adapted from bon appetit, July, 2019)
I’ve been working too hard at this. I have always toasted good bread until it was very dry, then rubbed it lightly with a clove of garlic and then rubbed it heavily with the flesh side of a halved tomato and then salted and peppered it.
In this version, bake your slices of ciabatta or baguette at 300 for about 30 minutes. (You want to dry them, not burn them – so keep an eye on things). Meanwhile, slice the top off a tomato and grate it on the medium-sized grates of a box grater over a bowl, until you’re holding only the skin. After you have grated enough tomatoes, salt generously and mix in some ground black pepper.
Now just spoon this onto your toasts and top with flaky sea salt and a drizzle of very good olive oil. We add some basil, or oregano, or a piece of anchovy, or all three to some of the crostini, leaving some with just the tomato, salt and olive oil.. This may be the best way to eat a tomato other than on bread with a film of mayonnaise.