Every once in a while, I find an idea in a food magazine that becomes my “go to” appetizer or a pupu with cocktails….this is my current one – tomato tarts made with puff pastry, the best aged cheddar, and the best of the seasons’ tomatoes.

If I weren’t battling a cold, coughing and just feeling lousy, I would have been on the F train into the city to the Union Square Greenmarket to buy a few pounds of gorgeous red tomatoes as well as the many other colored heirloom tomatoes now coming to a farmers market near you.  The Union Square market is one of the last remaining true joys of Manhattan (my home town) at least for me anyway.

I’ve now made these tomato tarts three times – using beautiful tomatoes from a farm on Long Island near where my sister lives.  You can tell when a tomato is fresh off the vine – as it will last for a much longer time on the kitchen counter than any you buy in a supermarket.  These tomatoes were so red, inside and out, that they looked as if they had been photoshopped!

The method for this simple, yet delicious tart begins with having  package of frozen puff pastry at the ready in your freezer.  Next, having a really well-aged white cheddar on hand, and of course, great tomatoes.  The basil garnish came from my own growing collection of herbs on my lanai (balcony) I have also garnished the tarts with sprigs of thyme.

The herbs have grown a lot since this photo was taken back in June – but you get the idea!  Basil, chives, rosemary, thyme, mint – the chives and mint are from last year – yes, they survived the cold NYC winter months – under a plastic tarp!  The chives were the first to bloom in mid-March – it’s so inspiring to see the new green shoots coming up through the old planting.  Ditto for the mint – which has spread to yield me more mint that I can use!

But I digressed from the method of making the tomato tarts….

Heat the oven to 375F.  Line a large sheet pan (cookie sheet) with parchment paper.

1.  defrost one sheet of frozen puff pastry – then roll it out on a lightly floured surface just so that it’s slightly larger than it was.

2.  use the large holes on a box grater to shred the aged cheddar

3.  slice a tomato or two, depending on their size,into slightly larger than 1/4-inch thick slices

Using a jar or glass or any object that is about 4-inches in diameter (I used the plastic top of a quart container) make rounds of the puff pastry dough and place them onto the parchment lined sheet pan.  Next, add enough shredded white cheddar to the center of each pastry disk leaving at least an 1/8 edge of dough showing.  Then add one or two slices of the tomato to cover the cheese.  I then add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to each tart, plus a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Place in the hot oven for about 20 minutes.   The timing depends on how hot your oven is – oven temps vary even if the temperature dial is set at 375F.  What you are looking for is the puff pastry to be puffed and browned around the edges – as well as on the bottom of the tarts.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the tarts cool on the parchment paper.

As you can see in the photo, I yielded 6 tarts from one sheet of puff pastry….the empty space on the sheet pan is where the one I had to taste to be sure they were as delicious as they looked – before I took the photo!

  So I won’t be explaining why it’s been almost a year since I wrote anything related to my obsessions with food and cooking…

Here’s an example of what obsesses me – saw an article about bacon and tomatoes in the L.A. Times – posting it to my Facebook page and then I just had to try it.  Bacon AND tomatoes?  No question the best combo.

I used 3 lbs. of Roma Tomatoes – from Campari – a relatively good supplier of tomatoes with the exception of this time of year in the Northeast when farmers’ markets abound in these most delicious fruits.

The method is simple;  olive oil, cut side down halves of tomatoes; sprigs of fresh thyme (from my own balcony herb farm) chopped garlic, s&p and topped with a layer of bacon strips.  I used my All-Clad 12-inch skillet; alternatively, you can use a roasting pan as long as you can put it on the stove top for the last step.

Ready for the oven

Into a 375F oven for one hour; increase the heat to 400F for another 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit until it has cooled a bit. Remove the bacon ( this is the best part) and eat some of it – then reserve for making BLTs at a moment’s notice.

Place the skillet or roasting pan on the stovetop, turn the tomatoes skin side up and over a low-medium heat, let the juices in the pan reduce to a consistency that you like.  Taste the tomato confit with some juices to determine if it needs more salt.  If the bacon you used was very salty, you may not need anymore.  But tasting is the only way to determine that.  People who just indiscriminately salt and pepper their foods without first tasting them are not really into the food for its taste alone.

What to do with these luscious tomatoes?  Use as a topping for crostini or bruschetta; heat up and add to any shape of cooked pasta with additional olive oil and  grated Parmigiano-Reggiano;  add a few pieces of tomato confit to sauteed Swiss Chard with additional garlic and a pinch or two of pepperoncini.

I’ve been away from this blog for two months of the hottest summer on record for New York City.  Wow, how time flies when I am being reclusive in my air-conditioned home.  Really.

The end of summer can be sad or it can be a most happy occasion – just as with all things in life, it’s our perspective on a particular situation or event that will determine how we handle it.

I really love this time of year – especially at the farmers’ market with all of the remaining tomatoes and other summer produce that the farmer brings to the city folk.  What a delight it is to savor the last real taste of tomatoes.  With the onset of Fall and Winter in the northeast USA, the only tomatoes in my kitchen will be organic canned varieties.  Eating tomatoes raw, sliced or cubed will have to wait until next year…but wait…I’ll be on vacation in Honolulu and I’ll be able to have fresh locally grown tomatoes as they have a year-round growing season in the Hawaiian Islands!  Tomatoes grown on the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island (Hawai’i) are seen in the photo below –

Photo of Chef Alan Okuda, director of the Hawaii Community College (Hilo) food service program and Richard Ha, of the Hamakua Springs Country Farms holding a colorful selection of tomatoes grown by the Hamakua Springs Farms.

I did attempt to grow tomatoes (cherry size) on my lanai, but we only succeeded in harvesting about 20 or so morsels.  Tasty enough, but the skins are too tough so I will have to be more selective when buying tomato seeds to grow next Spring.

I have been ignoring my obsession for buying food as I am very conscious of the fact that I don’t want to leave a refrigerator full of fresh foods only to perish while we are feasting on papaya and mango and freshly caught mahi-mahi in Honolulu.  So I am taking this opportunity to “shop” from the freezer, which is full of lovely foods, and buying only fresh vegetables and other produce that we can consumer before we depart.

It truly is amazing how many meals are at my fingertips with my fully stocked freezer!  Maybe it’s not so bad to be food obsessed – some of the time.

Only June 28 and already in the summer doldrums of the dreaded three-H’s…

On my way home from the city I was trying to figure out what to create for dinner.  I knew what it would not be…and that’s anything that was cooked on the stove top or even on the electric grill because it’s just too HHH.   Main dish salad came immediately to mind as I mentally perused the vegetable bin and upper shelves of my refrigerator.  Mentally checking off the ingredients:   Romaine, frisee, cherry tomatoes, boccancini (baby mozzarella balls) artichoke hearts, yellow peppers, soppresatta (thinly sliced from Citterio’s. ) That may sound like quite the cache of ingredients to have on hand with no real destination, but it’s the usual cache of ingredients I have on hand all the time.  That’s what makes it so easy to create a meal out of my pantry and refrigerator ingredients.

But even though I had all that I needed to put together a nutritious meal for a three H evening meal, I still needed to fulfill that craving for a supermarket visit I was having on the subway to stop off  for “a few things”.   Eggs (I only use Eggland’s Best eggs) whipped organic butter were definite items I truly needed, but somehow, like magic, other items appeared in my shopping basket.   Peppered turkey from Boar’s Head, muenster cheese also from Boar’s Head brand, and a blue cheese dressing for tonight’s main course salad.

My treat for tonight is a favorite summertime fruit  – watermelon.  Finding a naturally sweet, crisp watermelon is not as easy as it may sound.  But I’ve had two good experiences so far this summer season;  any watermelon grown in Texas is almost guaranteed to be sweet, firm and delicious.  And, the mini-round watermelons from Mexico.

What to drink with the main course salad?  My favorite wine for a 3 H evening (or afternoon for that matter) is a French Rose.

So the next time you find yourself in the doldrums of a Hazy, Hot & Humid day and you’re stuck for what to serve for dinner, give the above suggestion a try.

…and it’s only June!   But this is a blog about the food obsessed….not the weather obsessed…so forgive my rambling….but it is hot!

I am happy to report that I am getting my food buying obsessions under control….that is, if you can call it “control” when I go to the store for whole wheat toasting bread, and come back with 3 bags full of other stuff.  No, not potato chips….I’ve forgone my obsession with potato chips.   At least I like to think that I’ve gotten control over my food spending…and so that’s the way it is – today at least!

On a hot day, dinner tonight is grilled chicken – plain grilled chicken (D’Artagnan organic chicken of course) and I thought that the lemony garlickly sauce that Rao’s Restaurant douses their broiled chicken with would be a good choice for a hot summer evening meal.  A cold side dish of cooked and chilled French green beans (haricots vert) and halved hothouse tomatoes as the garden variety are not as yet ready to eat – dressed with Trader Joe’s excellent extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and sea salt and black pepper.  I also decided to serve a wedge of the center of a huge head of romaine lettuce.  Crisp light green/yellow leaves – dressed simply with my favorite bottled dressing….YIKES….did I say bottled dressing?  Yes, salad dressing snobs, I absolutely love Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing and their original Oil & Vinegar dressing – straight out of the bottle and onto my salad.   Proceeds from Newman’s Own products sold go to various charities as you may already know.  Just a point of interest:  Paul Newman (1925 – 2008) was very hands on with his food company – charities from all over the world would submit their requests for being chosen to receive the proceeds available, and Mr. Newman himself, read all of the entries and decided on which charities would receive a share of the proceeds.  I know that for a fact as I used to volunteer at Newman’s Own offices in Westport, Connecticut when I lived there in the early 90s.  I wonder who reads the entries and makes the decisions these days.

Time for dinner….but first, a cocktail – margarita is the choice of beverage this evening.  Made with Jose Cuervo tequila of course!  Actually, the drink itself is made by Jose Cuervo (Golden Margarita)  Check it out if you haven’t already enjoyed it!

Just finished my all time favorite Sardinian dish – Clams with Fregola – the original recipe comes from a cook book by Efisio Farris – The Mediterranean Flavors of Sardinia – Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey – just Google the name and you’ll get the place on Amazon to buy the book which I highly recommend.

As much as I know about foods of the world, there is always something new that I learn about for which I am always grateful…Fregula is one of the new foods I learned about with this cookbook – I found a package of it at Citerella’s – an upscale food store in NYC…it’s a tiny round ball of pasta… similar looking to Israeli couscous if you know what that looks like, except Fregula is toasted which gives it a lot more flavor.

The dish of clams and fregula is one of the staples of Sardinian cuisine.  It  is comprised of clams, fregula, duh, but the other ingredients such as saffron may surprise you…sliced garlic, pepperoncini, chopped parsley, clam broth, (here I substitute College Inn Wine & Herb Broth) .  The dish is absolutely delish…..my husband has become an expert garlic toast maker… of course the best garlic toast requires the best French bread sliced on the diagonal – toasted – rubbed with raw garlic and brushed with olive oil.

I recommend buying the book as the other recipes of Sardinia are equally intriguing and delicious.

That means “the best” in Hawaiian….can be an overused expression as everyone has their opinion as to what is “the best” of everything…

You’ve all heard about “the best” this or “the best” that when it comes to food products…but this really is “No Ka Oi” … that’s “The Best” in Hawaiian….The flavor of Teriyaki is a way of life in Hawai’i andI think it is the most prominent taste in local foods….I’ve always made my own teriyaki sauce for marinades, dipping sauces, etc. but recently bought Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce and marinade and tried it for the first time tonight on rib pork chops marinated in the sauce and then pan fried.  I served it as a local Hawaiian favorite plate lunch♠ (yes I know it was dinner but the style is called “plate lunch) served with macaroni salad (another local Hawaiian staple) and of course two scoop rice (short grain rice scooped/served using an ice cream scoop).

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Trader Joe’s and buy a bottle of their fantastic Soyaki Sauce – try it on fresh salmon fillets, your favorite cut of steak and grill or pan fry.

Not that anyone knows who I am…or why I am writing this blog for the food-obsessed….but I’ve been AWOL since April 19, 2010….

Time spent doing lots of physical therapy on my shoulder replacement surgery…why can’t modern medicine invent replacement parts that don’t require the muscles to re-learn how to move????  But I digress….

Did a huge shopping spree at my local Trader Joe’s this past Friday morning.  Hubby took a vacation day so I had a chauffeur to get me to my food obsessed shopping spree…I thought the store would be fairly empty on a mid-morning Friday…but alas, we still had to park in the back lot adjacent to the store.  I think I would like to have the money that just one week brings to this Trader Joe’s location in Forest Hills, NY.

I had a list…but as usual I shopped in excess of the listed items.  Pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin, Yukon Gold potatoes and Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil were all on the list but as the total bill was almost $100 I must have bought more than that!   Haricots Vert – those lovely thin string beans looked perfectly fresh in a cellophane bag…salted cashews….Brooklyn Lager beer….and more equalled the $100 bill.  The check-out person at the register was a handsome young (duh) man who was so totally taken with the empty Trader Joe’s shopping bag I presented him to pack my items in, that I gave in and allowed him to have my old Trader Joe’s shopping bags and pack my items in the newer brown paper shopping bags.  Apparently I had hoarded the Trader Joe’s shopping bags for a long time as the graphics on the bag were no longer being used by Trader Joe’s on their current brown paper shopping bags and this young man just HAD to have them.  I asked him, in return, to do something nice for someone else.

Even with all the food bought at Trader Joe’s and another food store, we decided to go out to dinner.  There is a lovely Irish Pub style restaurant and bar in our neighborhood which serves very good quality food and an excellently poured draft of Guinness.  We don’t eat out very often, so when we do, the food and drink have to be of a high quality for both of us to fully enjoy the experience.  The Irish Cottage does just that.  I don’t know who the Chef is, but after dinner, as the waitstaff was clearing our table, I asked her to pass on my compliments to the Chef for having fried the shrimp and chips (French fries) to perfection.  For those of you who know, frying foods correctly is no easy task….but these shrimp were crispy, not greasy, and delicious.  Ditto for the fries.  Freshly cut potato thick potato strips – and served with a bottle of English malt vinegar.  My husband had a British staple meal of Bangers and Mash with a broiled tomato.  And two pints of perfectly drawn Guinness.

We had so many foods to choose from for our Saturday evening meal it was a difficult decision to make, but we settled on cooking the pork tenderloin.  Garlic mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, grilled asparagus spears with oven roasted tomatoes – favorites of ours all on one plate!  We have an electric Weber Grill (see image) on our lanai (balcony)  so grilling the pork and the asparagus was the choice of cooking method.  Add to that a bottle of our favorite Pinot Noir by Mark West and it was another meal to savor and enjoy with the love of my life.

My last posting was March 19…..on the 21st of March, one minute I’m standing/walking upright and in the next 1/10 of a second,  gravity is taking over and I’ve tripped and I’m falling onto the brick wall of the lanai (balcony) in my apartment.  Left shoulder hit first….resulting in shoulder replacement surgery….only fun thing about that is I will now be “patted down” by airport security as the hardware which is now part of my body will set off security alarms!  I don’t know if that’s a good enough excuse for my “delay of game” in writing this blog, but it will have to do.  I can’t explain why today I am feeling “up” enough to write, but I will take full advantage of the feeling.

With my left arm in a padded sling most of the time except when I am exercising the shoulder/arm, I am doing tasks one-handed with my  right hand/arm – some tasks still need the helping hands of my husband for which I am very grateful.  Surprisingly, prepping/+cooking with my right hand (I also have some use of my left hand/fingers even while in the sling) has become easier as the days go by during my healing and physical therapy sessions.  Over many years of teaching the culinary arts, my knife skills have become second nature to my right hand – although some skills such as peeling are a challenge – mostly left to my sous chef husband.

Several easy meals have some to our table such as teriyaki salmon with Basmati rice and green peas.  Making the teriyaki sauce was fairly easy – shoyu (soy sauce), minced garlic, minced ginger, brown sugar, touch of sesame oil, chopped cilantro.  The sesame oil and cilantro are my own additions to a classic teriyaki sauce.  Peeling and mincing the garlic and ginger was accomplished with the help of my sous chef – garlic put through a press (I love the one from J.A. Henckels) and the ginger grated on a rasp grater.   A small handful of cilantro roughly chopped and there you go….a homemade teriyaki sauce.  I don’t know why people bother to buy already made teriyaki sauce when it’s so easy to make your own!

The salmon fillets are marinated in the teriyaki for about an hour – no more or else the fish can over marinate and become mushy.  Pan-fried in just a small amount of Canola oil.  I leave the skin on the fillets – if you cook the salmon skin-side down first, then when you flip it over, you can remove the skin easily.  I add some of the teriyaki sauce to the skillet and while the salmon is sauteing, the sugar in the sauce begins to thicken slightly.   Cooking Basmati rice is easy – and frozen peas are the easiest green vegetable to heat up in a small amount of butter – when the rice is cooked, just add the peas to the rice and toss lightly to combine.

Another easy one handed cooked meal …. lemon sole – coated in an egg wash with chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, then coated with seasoned bread crumbs and sauteed in  a skillet with 3 tablespoons of canola oil.  I needed some help in turning the fish fillets as using two hands, each with a spatula, is the easiest way to flip fillets of any kind when sauteing.  A meal I remember from my childhood was fried fish always served with creamed spinach – so after washing the spinach leaves – shaking excess water from the spinach in a sieve – into the 4 qt. size saucepan – cover on – and the spinach cooked with just the small amount of water remaining on the leaves.  When cooked, I removed the spinach to the sieve to press out any remaining water and cut through the spinach with  sharp knife to partially chop it.  In the same saucepan, I melted about a tablespoon of butter – when melted, I sprinkled on Wondra flour – enough to envelope the butter into a roux – cooking the roux for a few minutes but not so much as to brown it.  Then I added chicken broth a little at a time, until the roux thickened the broth to a creamy looking consistency.  Salt & pepper – and then added the cooked spinach and incorporated it into the sauce (veloute) (bechamel when made with milk) and there you go – creamed spinach.

Until my left shoulder/arm is rehabilitated to it’s original state, I will continue to create easy to prepare meals with one hand – and sometimes three!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Malus domestica ‘Scifresh’
Jazz apples.jpg
Hybrid parentage
‘Braeburn + Gala’
New Zealand New Zealand, 2007

Scifresh apple, also known by the trademark name Jazz, is a cross between the apples Gala and Braeburn,[1] launched in Sydney, Australia, in April 2007.

Jazz apples are tangy-sweet, crunchy and juicy. They have a firm, dense flesh and a complex flavor with the acid of braeburn and the sweet of Royal Gala giving it broad appeal. The Jazz brand is owned and used by ENZA for the cultivar Scifresh.

Jazz apples are being grown under license in New Zealand, UK, Washington state in the US, Australia, France, Chile, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.