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Archive for August, 2009

ugly/pretty/gross/yummy

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As you can see, I couldn’t not take a picture of this.  Laziness and hunger almost took over, but one bite in and I came to my senses.  I have to say, though, that I’m a bit conflicted with the looks of this one.  On one hand, I can’t deny its beauty – the amazing ruby-pink starbursts with chocolate brown edges, all laminated in thick, glossy amber honey.  Makes me want to go run out and buy brown suede boots and a rosy cashmere scarf for fall.  On the other hand, there’s something a little gross about a fig up close – all the little seeds embedded in the ripe flesh, everything all mushy and pink – frankly, it makes me all too aware of the fact that fruit = edible ovary…or, as Jeffrey Steingarten says, “an ovary we eat for dessert.”  Incidentally, a fig isn’t even a fruit, it’s actually a flower– but bottom line– the fig can look a bit gross.

In this case, I’ll conclude that it was more lovely than not.  The snack toast you see above, as I’ll call it, was my answer to an early afternoon hunger pang.  I spread a thin layer of peanut butter over a slice of whole grain toast, topped it with some fig medallions and drizzled over some honey.  I wasn’t sure about combining figs with peanut butter, but figs have a creamy, mellow sweetness to them that is almost akin to a banana, which I frequently partner with peanut butter..and with the honey, it was divine.  I just love the imperfect pattern of irregular circles, the jeweled tones, the nutty whole grains, just the wholesomeness of all the ingredients.  It was a chic little snack… it was like PB&J 2.0.

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‘Tis the season

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No, I’m not about to be that annoying person who starts talking about Christmas in August – and I say that because this past weekend I saw Christmas decorations in Costco and this morning the Rockettes performed “Christmas in August” on the Today Show.  Don’t get me started on that nonsense.

Nope, this is about the Season of Tomatoes, which is currently in full swing.  Ever since I had the Pappa al Pomodoro I wrote about in my previous post, I’ve been haunted by this deliriously delectable vegetable (sorry, I know it’s technically a fruit but it’s a veggie in my book).  In any case, I picked up a lovely box of heirlooms at the Union Square Greenmarket the other day, and spent a good hour marveling over them.  The colors were straight out of a Crayola 64 Crayon Set…Burnt Sienna, Brick Red, Dandelion, Blue Violet mixed with Fern Green.  The forms could have read from some children’s First Book of Shapes… lumpy, bumpy, round, oval, oblong.  Altogether and in short – marvelous.

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For a light summer dinner, I sliced up a few of these beauties and tossed them with pesto-flecked spaghetti, fruity olive oil and a salty dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  The pesto was actually home-made — a few days prior I had decided to put my new food processor to work by pulverizing some leftover basil and mint I had in the fridge.  I didn’t have any pine nuts or walnuts on hand, but I did have some sunflower seeds so I tossed those in as a substitute.  An alternative recipe, I know, but in the end you really can’t go wrong with garlic + fresh herbs.  And what I learned that evening is that you definitely can’t go wrong when you add in some sweet summer tomatoes…

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Tomato, simply

pappa al pomodoroThere are a few foods I recall disliking immensely when I was young, only to have gradually and unexpectedly come to love over the years. The tomato is one of them. As a child, I simply couldn’t stomach the slimy, pulpy insides.  And the taste was just too “of-the-garden,” making me very aware of the fact that I was eating a Plant. There was no quicker way to ruin a burger than by adding a slice of tomato, and my mother’s insistence that it would add a lovely freshness to the sandwich only strengthened my desire to keep my meat patty naked and undisturbed.

Today, I love the tomato for its rich, sweet, yet pleasantly tart flavor. Its garden-fresh taste is a welcome addition.. its juiciness a palate-cleanser to richer foods. It is the symbol of a ripe summer, and a few days ago it was heroically featured in a delicious soup at Morandi.

Pappa al Pomodoro was the soup special that day, and it came chilled in a shallow dish. It was light in mouthfeel and intense in taste, with classic flavors of garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. The soup had a slightly chunky texture that I later found out was bread– as Pappa al Pomodoro is made with stale bread that soaks up the juices of the tomato and thickens the soup. The result is surprisingly light, however, so much so that I mistook the tiny bread crumbs for celery or onion bits. It was a pure dish that honored only a few ingredients – seemingly humble yet sophisticated under the spotlight.

I ate the soup slowly, alternating with sips of a crisp Soave, and occasionally with some bites of crusty white bread dipped in fruity olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. It was a lovely, simple summer meal, and as I sat there enjoying practically-unadulterated Tomato, I felt very grown-up indeed.

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