Dinner in the Berkshires at Chez Nous

I am a control freak. I  love hotels, I love eating out, and I love planning the perfect vacation experience – it’s hard for me to give up control.

So, when someone else chooses the restaurant and it turns out to not only be great, but REALLY reasonably priced…I’m shocked, I’m thrilled, and I’m a little weirded out…happily weirded out.

We spent the Berkshires weekend with some of our favorite people, and friend M chose Chez Nous for dinner. She had been there before and swore that it was worthwhile.

I love having smart friends.

20140913_194810 Chez Nous sounds fancy and has an eclectic menu, but it is extremely comfortable with a buzzy, chatty atmosphere. you can arrive in jeans, but they should be nice ones. And please make reservations…if you can’t tell from the picture, the small home in which the restaurant is housed, is positively packed. 20140913_201032 Cheese plate

This is an example of how something doesn’t need to be overly complicated in order to be delicious. The cheese plate isn’t large – if you are hungry, you won’t want to share it with more than one person – but it’s well designed. The blue cheese is mild and creamy, with a slightly umami, funky finish. The local goat cheese is te other big winner here – soft and crumbly – ideal with the sweet grapes or airy, tangy bread. The chutney is the standout here. It’s clearly homemade, loaded with sweet onions and plump raisins. It’s bright with vinegar and really piquant – it is so tasty that I ate it with a fork, no cheese necessary. I would absolutely get this again.  20140913_204243 Burger topped with sauteed foie gras

My husband got this…I wimped out. Trust me, I still hate myself for not getting it. Just had to include a shot because it is so gorgeous. The burger itself was undersalted but well cooked – juicy and pink throughout. The accompanying fries and aggressively garlicky aioli are excellent. 20140913_204326 Seared Scottish salmon with spinach and einkorn risotto

Exactly what you want on a cold night when you have already maxed out on junk food on the car trip up. I always prefer local fish, but they were out of the striped bas that day and I just didn’t feel like halibut. This fish was lovely – cooked until medium rare with a tender interior and a salty, crispy crust. It’s served on some silky spinach and einkorn risotto. I am pretty sure that einkorn is farro,which I love. It has a somewhat al dente texture and nutty taste. It’s creamy and served with man mixed mushrooms that work surprisingly well with the fish. In case you didn’t notice, this portion looks on the small side. That’s because every entree here has the option to be served in half portions. This is such a great idea – if you filled up at lunch or if you are on a budget, you can diner here for a fraction of the price and/or food waste. I love, love, LOVE the half portion thing and wish that other restaurants would take its cue.
20140913_213117Lemon lavender posset

Ignore the threat of lavender, because this is all lemon meringue pie in a jar. Creamy, tart, sweet – delicious. Served with sugary macerated strawberries and a homemade cookie alongside, this is something that any lover of lemony desserts will be obsessed with. It’s the pudding of your dreams – the cookie adds a textural contrast but it’s just icing on the cake. This little pot of lemony goodness is pretty near perfect – don’t go for a half portion of this!

Chez Nous is delightful. The vibe is casual but still celebratory, the food is delicious, and those half portions are awesome. The one dark spot was the service. I’m so sorry, but our server was out to lunch. She was new, but…like…new to this planet? She was really nice and friendly, but when we would remind her of dishes that were wrong or drinks that were totally forgotten, she sort of chuckled and gave us a friendly shoulder pat like “oh yeah…haha!” Not my favorite way to correct multiple mistakes. On the upside, this meal was SO reasonably priced. Part of that is because I’m from NYC, where everything is overpriced, and part of it is because of the half portioned entrees. It’s such a great way to keep down costs while still enjoying a delicious meal. Regardless of the scatterbrained service, I would return.

Sometimes giving up control can be a beautiful thing. 

Surf’s Up at Betty’s Pizza in The Berkshires

The Berkshires might not be the first place you would think of treating yourself to a taco or a slice of pizza, but you would be thinking wrong.

20140913_134909 Betty’s Pizza looks like Gidget met Jerry Garcia in Tijuana. I mean that in a good way, in case that isn’t clear. The space is super casual and covered in bright paint, surfboards, and quirky movie posters. This is a great spot for families – we saw a ton of kids there, coloring with crayons that the restaurant provides. 20140913_135124 However, if you want to come by for a slice or 2, just stop by the counter and get something to go. 20140913_141220 Betty’s chopped salad with hopped Iceberg, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Grilled Chicken, Mozzarella Cheese, and Roasted Red Peppers

This looks mundane and tastes AWESOME! Yes, the dressing is in a little prepackaged cup, but in Betty’s defense, Ken’s really is some of the greatest bottled dressing on the market. It’s creamy, properly funky, and doesn’t have any weird gummy texture that lesser blue cheese dressings have. The lettuce is finely shredded, the peppers must be roasted in house (they are silky and have a smoky flavor), and the chicken is juicy and still warm. The eggs are a little overcooked, but it’s still an excellent combination of flavors and textures and this take on a cobb salad is really tasty and a great counterpart to the pizza.
20140913_141612 Half sausage, half mushroom pizza

Really satisfying – and I’m saying this after 8 years of New York City pies. Thin, lightly burnished crust with a tangy, bright sauce and plenty of cheese. Teh mushroom pie is studded with meaty shrooms and the sausage half was gobbled so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to try it…RUDE. 20140913_141756A little pale, but still delicious.

Betty’s is the perfect lunch spot in Lenox. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s so tasty. Get the longboard if you want 8 pieces of pie – and oh, you do.

Next up: Another morning, another brekfast

Otto’s Breakfast Deli and Church Street Bistro – Berkshires Break

After this weekend, I’m pretty sure I’m a yuppie from the movie Baby Boom. 

After all, I spent it in the Berkshires. 

This comfy, sleepy, totally relaxed section of Western MA is about 3 hours from NYC and though I didn’t find it as picturesque as Cape Cod or as foodie-centric as Maine – well, it was still a relaxing and pretty tasty weekend!

Check out our desserts at Church Street Cafe:

20140912_212104Chocolate cake with espresso ice cream

As fudgy and familiar as you could hope. Dense and sweet, with a buttery, rather than bitter, finish. The espresso ice cream adds the pleasantly bitter edge that makes chocolate desserts so delicious on every flavor facet. It’s served warm, and the combination of moist cake and creamy, cold ice cream is pretty damned unbeatable. 
20140912_212111Tiramisu

The lightest version of this dessert that I can remember. The mascarpone cheese is incredibly airy – it practically dissolves on the tongue. It has a light hand with the liquer, so the taste is mostly creamy, rich mascarpone which is not overwhelming, since it has been so aerated. The biscotti alongside is unmemorable, but if you love creamy desserts or tiramisu in general, this is one worth trying.
20140914_074803We hit up Otto’s before we left town. It is a sweet little diner with the MOST kick ass wait staff (a million coffee refills, running outside to release the shade so the sun wouldn’t get in our eyes, offering substitutions and sharing plates without prompting…seriously, wonderful service) and a menu that is not especially memorable but especially well executed.
20140914_080242Tomato and spinach two egg omelette with fruit plate

Not innovative, but well prepared and served quickly and with a smile and some hot sauce. The fruit alongside is fresh (the pineapple is especially delicious) and the pumpernickel toast is thick and pleasantly sour.

Next up: who wants pizza for lunch?

Weekday Breakfast at Le Grainne

This is a short and to the point write up:

Le Grainne is a lovely weekday breakfast spot.

It’s on 9th avenue, in that stretch of Chelsea just above Chelsea Market – you know, that street where there are still graceful brownstones and cute boutiques, like NYC wasn’t about to become one big shopping mall.

20140911_084538

There is a very small but pretty sidewalk seating area, and inside it’s cozy and Parisian-feeling. The perfect place to catch up with a friend over a bowl of cafe au lait and a crispy croissant.

20140911_093912Goat cheese and leek crepe

Maybe this isn’t how Parisians do breakfast, but this is how they should do it. Because this is both delicious and wholesome – sure beats that chocolate croissant in the “keeping you full” department. The goat cheese is melty and soft, less dense than cream cheese and with an unmistakable tang. The leeks are a little crunchy for my tastes, so next time I might go with goat cheese au naturel. The crepe itself is expertly prepared – whisper thin and crispy, substantial enough to hold the goat cheese but not at all doughy. The salad alongside is lightly dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette – fresh and tasty.
20140911_093916This place is charming! The food is lovely, the prices are fair, and the service is a little more laid back than I prefer, but hey…it’s faster than it would be if this place actually was in France!

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

The Farewell to Summer List

It’s almost the end of summer…oh, who am I kidding? Summer is over, people…it’s OVER. It’s all I can do not to sit shiva for it, for heaven’s sake. Before the weather becomes chilly and the leaves start to turn, it’s time to live it up. Here is a list of six summer items you simply have to enjoy this next week, before people start going Pumpkin Spice Latte crazy already. I’m NOT READY YET…Summer, don’t LEAVE ME!

Gazpacho

Okay, I’m cheating starting with this one because this is actually the perfect time to enjoy this – summer is by far the best time to eat tomatoes. This gazpacho is obviously my favorite, but do whatever you like with the juiciest, sweetest, 1 day away from starting to rot tomatoes that you can find. No need to cook these beauties. 


Eggplant and zucchini

This ratatouille, these spicy zucchini sticks, or this casserole will use up the end of summer’s bounty in ways that may require a larger pants size, but it’s worth it. Unlike tomatoes, these veggies really can use a heavy hand with the seasoning and cheese, so go for broke!

Ice cream for lunch

Because what sadist is going to judge you as long as the weather is in the high 70s? Next week you may not be able to pull this, so take the plunge now, while you can!


Watermelon salads
 
Let’s just stop pretending that watermelon should be eaten for dessert. It’s sweet, juicy, flavor and slightly spongy texture are so ideal in savory dishes. Coat it in salt and pepper, serve it with mint and feta in a salad, and then pickle the rind to eat with spicy Asian pork.

pix 001-001
Rose
 
This much maligned wine is at its best in the final balmy days of summer – shortage be damned! Find a rose that you like with a good balance of sweet and crisp flavors. It is ideal to drink alone (not as in by yourself, but as in without any food alongside) or to with small, salty nibbles like clams on the half shell or salted nuts

pix 082
Stone fruit
 
Because all too soon, it’s going to be apples and squash. While you can, eat nectarines, peaches, and plums by the pound. Toast them, grill them, serve them with honeyed crème fraiche, and eat them fresh from the farm. Pit cherries, freeze them, and then drop them in wine for the ultimate ice cube and flavor enhancer.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Corn is good right now. No, I’m sorry. It’s actually great. This is not the time that you want to cream it or mix it with a ton of bacon. This is the time that you want it tos hine on its own. You want to enjoy the last, few, fleeting days of warmth and sunshine. You want a cool soup that isn’t overly heavy and you want the corn to be as sweet and buttery as possible without over seasoning it.

You want this soup.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Ingredients:

4 ears corn, shucked off the cob like this

1 medium russet potato, peeled and sliced thinly

1 onion, diced

1 bunch of celery hearts, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large bunch basil, washed and chopped

Tabasco to taste

1 glug balsamic vinegar (maybe 2 tsp.)

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

IMG_1461

1. Saute the mirepoix (onions, celery, and onions) in the olive oil until the veggies are translucent. This should take about 7 minutes.

IMG_1462

2. Add the corn and all of the corn milk that is with it. Now it looks a horrible frozen mixed veg medley. But, I promise…it’s going to be better than good.

IMG_1466

4. When the corn starts to release its buttery, fragrant scent, add the potato and the stock. Then, cover and let it cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

IMG_1468

5. Taste and add Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bite of the Tabasco has worn off.

IMG_1470

6. Add the basil and vinegar and puree with a stick blender or blender.

IMG_1471

7. Chill overnight (VERY IMPORTANT to let flavors decelop), then taste for seasonings and serve.

I can’t believe summer is over. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to healthy, refreshing meals like this. Not ready to say farewell to sweet summer produce. This is a sweet, a little spicy, and incredibly satisfying with a dollop of goat cheese on top or a grilled cheese sandwich alongside. The basil is a really unexpected fresh, sharp addition that doesn’t overtake the sweet corn. Next soup on the blog will probably be pumpkin something, so make this while you can.

I know I will…as I sob into my sun lamp. Aah, winter, you are coming all too soon.

My Favorite Food Blogs

Didja ever look over to the left of your computer screen?

You know, that little bar with a list of the blogs that I like? Well, I don’t just look at other blogs here and there. I don’t just check out the stuff other people write when I am waiting in the airport for a delayed flight. I live off this stuff. I read blogs incessantly. I get ideas from blogs, I get inspired by blogs, I learn about food, and I virtually meet some pretty awesome people.

New blogs pop up all the time, but these ones…these are my favorites.

Why?

Well, I’m glad you asked:

The Amateur Gourmet

I cannot say enough about this blog. When Adam Roberts came on the blogging scene in 2004, food blogs weren’t really a thing. Not like they are now, anyway. Most food sites were run by professional chefs or restrauters. If you didn’t know how to hold a knife like a chef, buy mushrooms at a farmers’ market like a forager, and cook a souffle like Julia Child, you just bought a couple of cookbooks and practiced your craft continuously until you felt like you could kind of…maybe…put together an okay meal.

Adam changed all that.

He flat out said that he was an amateur. That not everything he made turned out well, or even edible. That he was learning as he went, from scandalous cupcake to life-changing broccoli. And, a few books and about a gazillion fans (including many professional chefs)later…well, he has become the patron saint of all of us who just know what we like to eat. He updates continuously and shares his personal and professional life with us. He walks us through complicated recipes and talks about techniques that he has developed himself. He shares his personal joys and triumphs with us. He once wrote a post that was so profound that it moved me – who faints when I even hear about anyone famous – to approach him on a crowded subway train and tell him how much it affected me. Of course, he and his now-fiance Craig couldn’t have been sweeter or more invested in my thoughts on the post. Whether he is writing about “The Sound of Music” plates that he bought second-hand or once-in-a-lifetime meals that he shares in comic strip form, reading his blog is part therapy, part comedy, all delicious.

An Immovable Feast
An Immovable Feast

Even though Justin has stopped writing his blog, I will never take his blog of my blogroll. This guy eats the way that you want to eat. You know that he does. He cooks juicy burgers and spicy chili. He wraps cold cuts and cheese in phyllo dough and bakes it. He is a fast food connoisseur, with enough condiment packets to make up a museum. He takes drool worthy pictures and was the BEST at answering comments and questions that you posted. He is a cool guy, a major foodie, and his blog is still some of the best reading out there. If I were you, I would start at the beginning and just work my way through. Don’t  be surprised if you start craving hangar steak about 3 pages in.

Ristorante Morini
Feisty Foodie

Yvo is one of my dear friends, so I really can’t say that my view is unbiased. But she is – absolutely! – the grand dame of NYC-centric food bloggers. She started in 2003 – that’s when Britney was single, Twitter wasn’t even a twinkle in Ashton’s eye, and twerking was just a made up word. She was visiting restaurants right and left and writing about them in a no holds barred way. Yvo doesn’t sugar coat – if she doesn’t like the food or the waitstaff, she will say so. And then – the best part – she will say why. She explains why she doesn’t like the steak or exactly how the server was rude. She puts out controversial opinions and holds her own in her comments. She loves a good debate and will stand up fiercely for her own opinions while taking into account other people’s opinions – I have yet to change her mind, but I have had fun trying! I started reading her because she was simply so prolific, but she is an example of how someone you meet online through a mutual passion can really become a real life friend. Though most of her posts are about restaurants, some are home cooking, and a very few are about her personal life. She writes about some of her most personal moments in a raw, poignant voice, and though those pieces are often hard to read, they are also my favorite. To read her blog is to know Yvo – her funny, witty, sarcastic, and food-loving self – and I can’t recommend more that you take the time!

King Crab Salad / Monkfish Liver / Smoked Salmon and Mango with Caviar
Kevin Eats

Food porn. Bada boom. The best, most beautiful pictures of food that I want to eat in LA and beyond. His writing is good, but his choice of restaurants and phototgraphy of the food is excellent. If you are going anywhere he has been, you simply MUST check out the blog and follow his advice. He has never steered me wrong, and is great about responding to comments. His taste in sushi is especially reliable and refined.


Midtown Lunch

I used to live and work right here, and this was everything to me. It was all of the weird little places that I didn’t know existed, the food trucks that looked too crowded, and the restaurants that I loved. It has expanded to different cities now, but to me, it will always be Midtown Lunch. It’s unpretentious, straightforward, and sometimes on the rowdy side of bawdy. It won’t win any literary or photography awards, but it’s just what you need when you are in midtown and can’t handle the thought of one of those dried out turkey paninis from Panera. It’s still useful and I refer to it all the time when people ask me where they can eat dinner before a Broadway show.


Serious Eats

The Bible. I remember reading it when it was Ed Levine’s NY Eats, and it has only gotten better. The best, funniest writers. The coolest taste tests. The best food hacks. The quick answers to questions you may have and the behind the scenes looks and what makes the site work. If you want to learn how to make a complicated lasagna or a super easy grilled cheese, this is your spot. Vegan? Great! Pizza aficionado? They have got ya covered there, too. If you like to eat…you go here. It’s Chowhound with more stories and pictures and fewer threads. It’s da best.

What are some of your favorite blogs? Besides this one, duh.

Dirty French – Dirty in All the Right Places

I’ll cut to the chase: I ate at what is probably the hottest opening of the (late) summer this weekend.

Dirty French, from the team behind Carbone and ZZ’s Clam Bar, among others, is on the Lower East Side and it couldn’t be cooler. It’s in The Ludlow hotel and the look is ultra cool Brooklyn meets Moroccan bazaar meets modern art gallery. It’s dark, it’s loud, and the hostesses are all impossibly beautiful. I felt pretty old and uncool, so don’t bring parents or an intimate first date here. This is prime real estate for business people with deep pockets, Euro-celebs, and – of course – foodies looking to see if Dirty French lives up to its elder siblings’ reputations.

The menu isn’t classical French – it’s made up of all of the foods of places that French cuisine has had influence – heavy on the Moroccan and New Orleans dishes.

Shall we begin?

20140906_204318Oysters shown tableside

Honestly, it seems gimmicky. They are all East coast oysters, which I certainly enjoy, but there is nothing like a small, deep cupped, creamy West Coast oyster. I find East Coast oysters to – generally -be a little brinier and flatter tasting. These come in a variety of preparations, with spicy garnish or baked with garlic and butter, but we didn’t try any that night. Also, this raw bar selection is market price, which is always scary when it comes time for the check.
20140906_205820Ludlow Gimlet

A refreshing, cooling citrus cocktail.None of that pine-y taste that gin sometimes has. It’s a little sweet from the apricot liqueur, which softens the tart lime juice and rounds out the edges. This is strong but not hit-you-over-the-head-powerful and it’s an ideal aperetif.
20140906_210330Warm bread and herbed yogurt

One of the hits of the night. No kidding…what’s the last time that you can say that the complimentary bread was a better than the foie gras (which, by the way, was good enough to try but not to get again – a little greasy and lacking salt)? This arrives on a silver platter piping hot from the oven. It’s a naan/doughnut hybrid that is puffy, doughy, and slicked with butter and salt. It’s tasty enough to eat on its own, but when you spoon some sumac dusted yogurt over it and let it melt into the warm bread…well, then it’s a course unto itself. Cool, hot, creamy, tangy, soft, and buttery…I’m not writing a poem, I’m just eating bread. Really, stupidly, amazingly tasty bread.
20140906_210959Beet and Roquefort salad

This could be so mundane, but the attention to detail makes it shine brighter than similar salads in town. The beets are clearly home roasted, with a toothsome texture and almost candy sweet taste that is echoed by the crunchy candied walnuts. Thinly sliced apples, miniscule slivers of chives, and some really creamy, salty Roquefort complete the dish. Everything is bite sized and easy to enjoy in one mouthful. Plus, it helps lighten up a meat-focused meal.
20140906_211007 Boudin with pickled onions and Creole mustard

Outstanding – a refined, subtle version of the down home original. This is what a great restaurant does – it takes something that you know and love, and honors it by putting its own stamp on the food. Dirty French succeeds here, with a sausage that is tender and rich with pork and liver flavor. It’s not overly garlicky or salty and really lets the minerally taste of the liver shine, almost like chicken liver pate. The outside is crispy and lacquered in an almost sweet glaze that works with the pickled onions and the spicy Creole mustard. If you like sausage, you just have to try this boudin…it is a show stopper.

20140906_211112Lamb carpaccio with figs, yogurt, and pita

Unique and tasty, but not a must order. The lamb is beautifully butchered and sliced paper thin in sweet, mild slices, but it lacks a lot of taste. The figs and yogurt seem to overpower it. I prefer steak tartare to carpaccio, and perhaps if the lab was ground instead of slice, it would have been more to my liking, but here it just disappeared.
20140906_213545Chicken with crepes

Shut. it. down.  (Thanks, Rachel Zoe). Get this. Moroccan chicken meets Peking duck. The breasts are seared and served with harissa, spicy mustard, and sweet chutney that you roll into thin crepes like Peking duck. The legs come later, barbecued under a peppery, lacquered skin that is the legal version of crack. The legs come fully intact with feet and claws, so order another cocktail if you are feeling squeamish.
20140906_213852Or just eat another one or 2 of the white meat filled crepes.

I didn’t even touch on the salmon maison or the absolutely EXCELLENT, UNMISSABLE POMMES FRITES (do not leave here without getting these!). So, most of the food was excellent and the vibe was super cool – why am I not giving this place an unmitigated rave review? A few things brought down the general feel of the night:

Service: Aloof at first, then warmed up to excellent service by the end of the night. Still, the beginning was so reserved and slow (cocktails alone took about 20 minutes), that it was hard to shake that.

Price: It’s expensive and without many of the perks that you get from restaurants in a similar price range. No mignardises, no super personalized attention, no questions about allergies to certain foods.

Location: Wherever you live, this is not near it. It’s just a PITA to get down here, and while I might visit it a lot more if it was farther west or farther uptown, I’m unlikely to make another special visit here.

So, what’s my takeaway? This place is great, if expensive. It needs to iron out a few kinks, but the food is interesting and delicious – not to mention, much needed in the Moroccan void that is NYC. Its longevity will, I predict, be determined by how well it fine tunes its service and listens to the neighborhood’s demands, since few of us are likely to make this a weekly trip.

But, with pommes frites and bread like this…a trip at least once is well worth it.

Dirty French on Urbanspoon

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

I haven’t been eating anything new this week. I cooked a little something new, but y’all have to wait to see that – don’t worry, it’s coming!

In the meanwhile, I thought that I should dust off one of my favorite end of summer recipes.  Enjoy the old fashioned (lack of) formatting and the always scrumptious taste.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

No matter the time of year, it’s always best to cook in season. The food tastes fresher, the cost is often less and it leaves less of a carbon footprint.
And it’s important to care about things like that, because…well I don’t really know WHY but I know that it IS.
And nothing is more seasonal that a Corn and Tomato Bread Salad.
Ingredients:
8 ears corn
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 onion
2 loaves bread, stale if possible
1.5 cups olive oil, plus more for croutons
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp.  mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. First, the corn: Grasp the top of the green husks
 and just strip them away from the cob.
 Be careful to strip all the corn silk away from the cob, too. A few errant strands won’t kill you, but more than that and you might feel like you are eating handful of hair.
2.  Once the cobs are all husked, toss them into a huge pot of boiling water
and boil to taste, JUST until it is tender. You do NOT want to overcook  this corn.
Also, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
 3. Take your tomatoes and cut them in halves, quarters, pieces…any bite-sized pieces will do.
4. Now dice the onion very finely. You want to use a whole sweet Vidalia onion or half of a red onion. The point here is to accent the flavors of the corn and tomatoes, not to add an incredibly biting or abrasive component.
5. Cut the bread into bite size pieces and drizzle additional olive oil over the whole thing before you pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
You want to really pour the olive oil on thickly here, because you want a crispy, slightly greasy crouton.
Greasy in that good way…is there any other way?
6. Now make the dressing with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Taste and adjust or add seasoning as you prefer. 
7. Now combine the tomatoes, onions and dressing in a large bowl and toss.
 8. Now, you are going to stand a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and balance the corn cob on top of the bottom of the small bowl. Scrape a knife down the cob, and all the kernels will fly off into the surrounding bowl. This is absolutely the ONLY way to scrape the kernels off the cob without them flying all over the kitchen.
I speak from experience.
It takes awhile, but you end up with the most fabulous bowl of delicious corn.
9.  Now you add the corn (which should still be slightly warm)
 and the croutons(which should also still be slightly warm) to the salad. Toss and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
 When you are ready to serve it, taste it for salt and pepper, and take a bite of one of the most delicious salads you have ever eaten. The juice from the tomatoes release while the salad marinates and tempers the pungent salad dressing, making it sweet with it’s juices. The corn is milky and toothsome, the tomatoes are soft and sweet, and the onion gives the dish just a touch of bite. The bread is crunchy on the outside but gets wonderfully soft and soaked with that vinaigrette, delightfully creamy yet light from the mustard. This is a perfect side dish for steak or fried chicken, and the best part is…it gets even better as it sits in the fridge.
Not that we ever have any leftovers here.

Pizza Eggplant

I was inspired to make this after seeing a droolworthy recipe on Serious Eats.

Of course, when I look at a recipe, I just generally look at the title and the picture of the final product, then kind of make up all of the in between steps on my own.

This is a GREAT pasta free lasagna type recipe. It’s rich but not greasy and filling but not uber heavy. It’s a great way to use up those late season eggplants and tomatoes.

And it’s especially tasty for a vegetarian crowd.

Pizza Eggplant

2011-07-25 tomatoes aspic and pasta saladIngredients:

3 eggplants, skinned and sliced into thin slices, lengthwise

1 lb or so fresh, low moisture mozzarella

2-3 cups your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

A ton of salt…no, really, a ton of salt.

IMG_13801. Lay your eggplant on a couple layers of paper towel on a sheet pan and salt the hell out of them. No reall…mountains of salt. This isn’t to season the eggplant (thought it does), it’s to both draw out the bitterness and the moisture, so the final dish isn’t too soggy. Do it anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. When you are doing this, there may be droplet of moisture on the tops of the eggplant and the paper towel will become soaked. That’s all okay, full steam head.

IMG_13882. Then, rinse the eggplant WELL and dry it even better. You don’t want it to be a a salt lick and you DON’T want to get hit with water-meets-oil splatters in the next step.

IMG_13893. Preheat the oven to 350 F, then fry the eggplant over medium high heat in a pan with olive oil. You don’t want the eggplant to be brown, the point here is to make it lightly golden and flexible – a minute or 2 per side should do it, and you should do it in batches so they can fry in an even layer.

A word about flying eggplant: eggplant is a sponge. It soaks up moisture immediately. So, use just a little oil at a time – a  few teaspoons at first. If you need more go for it, but just use a little at a time, because you will have to re-oil for each batch.

IMG_14034. Drain the fried eggplant well on a few paper towels - it will be really greasy and you are gonna want to dry them off as well as possible. If they tear a little while you drain them, it’s okay. Now, the layering starts:

IMG_14095. Sauce…

IMG_1411eggplant…

IMG_1420cheese, and repeat until the eggplant is al used up. I threw some tomatoes in there because they were going bad - feel free to use the same. Now, bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted, the dish is bubbling, and you are drooling.

IMG_14216. Let rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute and serve.

Oh, this is gooood. This is big bowl on the couch with comfy pajamas and trash tv good. This is cold for breakfast he next day good. This…is…good. It will seem quite watery when it is first finished, but I promise that the juices get soaked right back up. Though, truth be told, I spooned up those juices and ate them as an appetizer before they even got a chance to redistribute. This is so delicious.

IMG_1423The eggplant is silky but still firm enough to stand up to the tomato sauce, the salty Parmesan, and the stretchy mozzarella. It’s pizza without the dough and lasagna without the ricotta. It’s easy to make (Even though it’s time-consuming), and any meat eater will be shocked that they can feel so satisfied with nary a pork product in sight. Make this stat and thank me tomorrow.

Or don’t. Because you will be too busy stuffing your race with leftovers.