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the showstoppers | new potato & tomato tatin

the showstoppers | new potato & tomato tatin

New Potato & Tomato Tatin | Delightful CrumbOh, summertime! It’s all tomatoes with good olive oil and bike rides and afternoon beers over here, and I hope you’ve got the same. I struggle, always, with the whole fear-of-missing-out thing, afraid I’ll not take full advantage of one thing or another. The condition is particularly heightened during these months. Have I eaten enough peaches? Am I spending my weekends appropriately? Has enough rosé graced my table? What will I miss when winter’s arrived? Etc. But I am doing my best, and I’m certainly enjoying myself. That’s probably sufficient.

There are, of course, a few things I am, indeed, missing out on. Which is okay! These I’m admiring from a distance. For example, someone in our neighborhood is really honing their grilling skills this summer. It smells amazing every night, at the hour just before we start on dinner. I’m a bit nostalgic for the hot summer nights of the Midwest, too, and for those thunderstorms we never get here. (I know, I know—everything is in season earlier in California, and no polar vortexes here. But Michigan, I swear that your blueberries are better.)

What with all of the summer goodness to soak up, we eat simply most evenings. Plus, what’s better than this season’s gorgeous produce all on its own? Sautéed corn with herbs, tomato and nectarine salads, sliced avocado with cucumber and a pile of sprouts: this is enough to keep me very happy. But I still pull out the showstoppers from time to time, when I’m feeling particularly inspired and/or having company for dinner. And this dish right here fits that bill, with a few of those summertime stars and just enough decadence to feel celebratory.

The recipe comes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, which I’ve been enjoying anew this summer. There’s a striking photo of this dish, which Ottolenghi calls “Surprise Tatin,” in the cookbook, only a short way in. The bold circles of potato and blackened leaves of oregano always caught my eye, puff pastry peaking out from underneath and parchment paper stained golden like caramel. All this time I’ve been eyeing it, especially once I had a potato-and-tomato loving man in my life who I knew would appreciate it thoroughly. Yet only this summer did I get around to making it. And holy cow, is this thing delicious. I made it once for us a couple of weeks ago, with the first of the new potatoes and sungold tomatoes, and then again for Ben’s parents when they visited last week. It’s a stunner, perfect with a summery green salad (corn and avocado are a nice addition there, or peaches and toasted almonds) and a glass of crisp white wine. Summertime perfection!

New Potato & Tomato Tatin | Delightful Crumb New Potato & Tomato Tatin | Delightful Crumb

New Potato & Tomato Tatin

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

For the cheese, I recommend something flavorful like a gouda. It’s nice to have that added dimension in the mix of a few milder flavors. For the puff pastry, I recommend an all butter variety. Dufour is my favorite.

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 heaped cups cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 pound small new potatoes, preferably fingerlings

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons cane sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 to 5 fresh oregano sprigs

5 ounces firm, aged cheese, sliced

1 puff pastry sheet, defrosted

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Halve the tomatoes and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to dry for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 25 minutes. Drain and let cool. Once cool, trim a bit off the top and bottom of each potato, then cut into 1-inch-thick discs.

Sauté the onion with the oil and some salt for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once you’ve prepared all of the vegetables, brush a 9-inch cake pan with oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. In a small pan, cook the sugar and butter on high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to get a semi-dark caramel. Right away, pour the caramel carefully into the cake pan. Tilt it to spread the caramel evenly over the parchment. Pick the oregano leaves, tearing any large ones in half, and scatter atop the caramel.

Lay the potato slices close together, cut-side down, on the bottom of the pan. Gently press onion and tomato into the gaps and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the slices of cheese evenly over the potatoes.

Roll out the puff pastry slightly. Then, cut a disc that is 1 inch larger in diameter than the pan. Lay the pastry lid over the tart filling and gently tuck the edges down around the potatoes inside the pan. (At this point, you can chill the tart for up to 24 hours.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is sufficiently cooked. Remove from the oven and let rest for just 2 minutes. Then, hold an inverted plate (or a cutting board) firmly on top of the pan and carefully but briskly turn them over together, then gently lift off the pan. Serve the tart hot or warm.

summer in the city

summer in the city

vibrant food | Delightful Crumbpie ranch | Delightful CrumbEarliest of summer, yes, but summer nonetheless! It’s officially here now, inviting us to fling ourselves outdoors, soak in the warmth and sunshine, eat our weight in summer berries and rainbow-colored produce. I think there’s something inside all of us that recalls what it’s like to be a child on summer vacation, and the early days of June flip the switch. I feel more free, despite the fact that nothing has changed.

It’s a grand moment, this one, and I am all in. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to. How about you?

socks & view | Delightful Crumb wine country clouds | Delightful Crumb good eggs spread | Delightful Crumb

Reading

-My friend Kimberley‘s cookbook, Vibrant Food, is now out in the world! She celebrated with a beautiful launch party (lead photo) and is now touring around for all sorts of wonderful events. I heartily recommend that you snatch up a copy of the book, then try to meet her if she’s coming your way.

-Summer reading recommendation number one: Delancey, from the always eloquent and charming Molly Wizenberg.

-my name is yeh: A fantastically spirited, beautiful and new-to-me blog. After only a few weeks of reading, I got to meet Molly at Kimberley’s party, and she’s as lovely as I’d imagined.

Eating / Drinking

-Fruit with cheese (and also herbs): Watermelon and salty feta with mint, figs and goat cheese, tomatoes and mozzarella marinated with oregano, tomatoes and nectarines with parmesan and basil—you get the idea.

-Sautéed dates with flaky sea salt (!), via the aforementioned Delancey.

-When I’m lucky, dinner at Bistro Ordinaire, invention of my favorite wine bar, Ordinaire, and the talented Chris Kronner.

-Farmers Jane Field Rosé, the best rosé I’ve had this summer.

-2013 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris, equally perfect on a warm night.

Listening

-Radio Cherry Bombe with Julia Turshen on Heritage Radio Network. I particularly loved this excellent interview with Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a company with which I am obsessed.

-This Sylvan Esso song, on repeat.

-And this one by Rhye, which I’ve long loved.

Adventuring

-Toluma Farms in Marin, home to Tomales Farmstead Creamery. Baby goats! Amazing cheese! Etc.!

-Healdsburg, my favorite part of wine country, for a dreamy day away. Finally visited Shed, where I ate an amazing whole wheat fig scone and drank lemon-ginger kefir water, and drank wine at Preston, Copain and current favorite VML.

summer eating | Delightful Crumb picnic | Delightful Crumb

fleeting | marinated favas with ricotta & toast

fleeting | marinated favas with ricotta & toast

Marinated Favas with Ricotta & Toast | Delightful CrumbSpring and summer propel me toward urgency. Everything at the market is fleeting, here for only an instant before disappearing for another year. Shelling peas, fava beans, sour cherries, rhubarb, figs: these are the worst offenders. So too with balmy weather and vacation and those weekends that are just made for camping. Look at it another way, and it’s rare and precious, sure. But I must admit that it stresses me out.

I lie in bed thinking about how there are only so many days to make the recipe floating about in my imagination, test it, perfect it and share it with you with enough time that you also can snatch up the produce in question to replicate it in your kitchen. And as soon as I manage to do all of that, I know there will be another gorgeous specimen in the market to consider.

Also common for me is wondering whether or not I sufficiently appreciated, say, the asparagus this year. I’m not sure if I did! I think, alarmed. I fill a bag with the newest arrival to the market—cherries, this time—my anxiety renewed. I want to gobble up the ruby red fruits by the handful, and my head is filled with favorites from seasons past, new ideas, inspiration found in cookbooks, on blogs and out on the town. How to fit it all in?

Yet all of this is exactly the opposite of the other thing that summer suggests, namely, living in the moment—forgoing responsibilities on a sunny Sunday afternoon, lying in the grass for hours, drinking one more cocktail because, why not? I’d rather fill my life with lighthearted delight than with stress. There’s enough in the world encouraging us to be anxious, and I don’t need to make it worse.

And so, I do my best. Exhibit A: this recipe involving fava beans, which you may or may not have time to make, what with the lateness in the season. It’s simple, if that helps, less a recipe than an idea. It also happens to be exactly what I want to be eating these days: light, easy and absolutely scrumptious, the sort of thing that leaving us with plenty of time to lounge around in the summer sun.

Marinated Favas with Ricotta & Toast | Delightful Crumb Marinated Favas with Ricotta & Toast | Delightful Crumb

Marinated Favas with Ricotta & Toast

There are endless variations one could try with this recipe: use another herb if you like, add some parmesan to the marinade or swap the lemon for red wine vinegar. As for the cheese, my current favorite is this one, from Bellwether Farms.

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds favas, shelled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch red pepper flakes

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 small bunch of mint, leaves plucked and coarsely chopped

Sheep’s milk ricotta, for serving

Toasted bread or crackers, for serving

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Toss in the fava beans and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water and allow to cool slightly. Remove the outer skins by pressing each bean, one by one, between your thumb and forefinger. Discard the skins.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, red pepper flakes and a generous amount of pepper. Toss with the beans and mint, reserving some mint for garnish. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Serve the marinated fava beans topped with more mint and alongside sheep’s milk ricotta and toast or crackers. You can assemble the toasts for serving, or put out all of the ingredients for folks to build crostini—or just scoop away!—on their own. Make sure to mop up any marinade left in the bowl with a crusty piece of bread.

Marinated Favas with Ricotta & Toast | Delightful Crumb

magic itself

magic itself

Rhubarb Polenta Cake | Delightful CrumbRhubarb Polenta Cake | Delightful Crumb I was sure I’d already mentioned my rhubarb theory here, but it turns out I have not. I’ve talked about rhubarb, yes: how nicely it plays in a coffee cake (plus a poem, there, for good measure), how lovely it is roasted, how to tuck it underneath a crumble. But I’ve not mentioned my most profound thought on this glorious vegetable disguised as a fruit.

Last spring was my first in the Bay Area, and I was so puzzled by how difficult it was to find rhubarb at the market, and by how nonchalant everybody was about it. I was the opposite of nonchalant. I was giddy, desperate to fill every sort of baked good with rhubarb and roast it and stash it in my freezer for the days following its fleeting season. I couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t feel the same. But then I realized: the markets were already overflowing with berries, stone fruits fast on their heels. We had fava beans and baby carrots and fresh herbs and artichokes and every sort of lettuce you could imagine. There were plenty of things to keep us occupied in the early weeks of spring.

Rhubarb Polenta Cake | Delightful CrumbThat’s not what I recall from my many Michigan springtimes. Though summer comes with an abundance of beautiful produce at the markets, spring’s approach is slow, with many dreary days tucked between the sunny ones. Summer in Michigan is so incredibly good, but man, it makes you wait. So the first things that enter the market are a miracle of sorts. After months of root vegetables and greenhouse-grown hearty greens, there, suddenly, is rhubarb, with its slender stalks and pretty pink hues, and next to it, asparagus, in bunches of bright spring green.

And that’s it! But it is enough. After all of that winter drudgery, it is magic itself. When one has spent months waiting for a hint of warmth and for fresh produce to enjoy once again, rhubarb is a precious thing. It’s hard to feel the same when you’ve been gorging on ripe avocados and gorgeous citrus all winter long.

This is one of the things I miss about my home, I have to say, and a feeling I don’t want to lose. There’s something special that you learn when you’ve had to struggle through cold and snow to get to the warmth of summer. There’s something about not having that makes you endlessly grateful for everything you get. And when you get rhubarb, during my childhood at least, you put it into quick bread with a rich brown sugar crumble that makes everyone feel spoiled at breakfast (where cake is not typically allowed), and you make pies—one with a top crust, one without—and you revel in the abundance, and you are reminded why it was not foolish to be hopeful after all.

And so I shall keep on waving the Midwestern rhubarb flag, with gusto. But if you make this cake, I think there’s a good chance you’ll be ready to do the same.

Rhubarb Polenta Cake | Delightful Crumb Rhubarb Polenta Cake | Delightful Crumb

Rhubarb Polenta Cake

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe

Nigel Slater, again—I know! But it’s the season for this cookbook, and I tell you, the man knows how to prepare fruit. This cake is exactly my style, with a jammy rhubarb layer tucked between a crumbling cornmeal crust. It’s somewhere between cake, pie and cobbler, and it is divine. The rhubarb syrup is a really lovely touch, too.

FOR THE FILLING

1 pound rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup natural cane sugar

1/4 cup water

FOR THE CRUST

3/4 cup coarse polenta or cornmeal

1 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon natural cane sugar

Zest of 1 small lemon

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan

1 egg

2 – 4 tablespoons almond milk (or use cow’s milk)

1 tablespoon coarse sugar, such as demerara

Lightly butter an 8-inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and pt a baking sheet in it to get hot as the oven heats.

Put the rhubarb in a baking dish. Scatter over the sugar and water. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape. Put the rhubarb in a colander to drain, reserving the juice to serve with the cake.

Combine the polenta, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar in a food processor. Add the lemon zest and butter. Blitz for a few seconds, until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs.

Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of milk, then blend into the crumble mix, either in the food processor or by hand. Take care not to overmix—stop as soon as the dry ingredients and liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. If it isn’t a little sticky, add a touch more milk.

Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake pan, pushing it about 3/4 inch up the sides of the pan.Make sure that there are no holes or large cracks. Place the drained rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips, and don’t worry if the rhubarb isn’t entirely covered. Scatter the coarse sugar over top.

Place the pan on the hot baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes, then cool slightly before attempting to slice or remove from the pan. Serve in slices, with the reserved rhubarb juice.

there is no shortage

there is no shortage

Strawberry Ice | Delightful CrumbThe past weeks have been composed of more visitors, busy days at work, simple meals featuring pretty green produce and a flurry of end-of-year activities for Ben, including such events as a middle school production of Peter Pan that made me laugh less for the plot than for, shall we say, other aspects of the performance. Lively springtime chaos, all good, but a bit exhausting nonetheless.

It’s my aim to live a balanced, meaningful life, even in the busy seasons. I want my relationships to be mutually fulfilling, to counter my tendency toward obsessing over silly little details like the cleanliness of my apartment, to worry less, to work hard, to love more. I am more than happy to push out whatever gets in the way. But that’s felt harder lately, due to the sudden normalcy of this season we are in, I think, and also to the particular stresses of a job firmly rooted in customer service. For the most part, we have really lovely customers, but even they are human, and I think that’s all I need to say.

I’ve been reading The Happiness Advantage (abandoned briefly this weekend so that I could start and finish Molly Wizenberg‘s gorgeous, heartfelt new book Delanceymore on that soon). In an approachable, psychology-for-the-masses style, Shawn Achor suggests that while society has long held that success leads to happiness, in reality it is the opposite—that when we are happy, we are more creative, hardworking, fulfilled and, ultimately, successful. There’s also this idea of the negativity bias, our tendency to value negative experiences over positive ones. We can’t control the impulse, but we can control whether or not we linger on the negativity, as I am wont to do. And we can counter it simply by identifying the good things already around us, like wildflowers and small positive interactions and kind people.

It’s a good exercise for me. As much as people sometimes assume the opposite, I’m actually a glass-half-empty kind of gal. I can slip right into the depths of my overthinking brain and get lost there, in my worries and fears and frustrations and projections, and I needed the reminder that I actually have control over that.

Strawberry Ice | Delightful CrumbMy team at work recently went on a retreat to the beach. It actually involved working, I swear, but we also surfed. It was my first time, and it was amazing. I am now totally obsessed. I finally understand how it is that someone can stand up on a flimsy board on a wave—it somehow makes sense when a wave sweeps up behind you that you could get up and go with it. Riding a wave is a glorious sensation, but so is sitting out there in the middle of the ocean waiting for one to come, with seals and cormorants playing nearby. I didn’t think about anything else for the two hours we were in the water. I was focused on learning a new skill that required all of my attention, and whatever focus escaped went toward marveling at the view. This doesn’t happen all that often for me, and I relished it. Life is so beautiful! I found myself thinking, like it was a revelation.

A few amazing dinners of late have convinced me to make sure the next months include as much time as possible on rooftops and in backyards eating good food with friends, and Lillet on ice with a twist of citrus is poised to be my summer drink of choice. I am currently enamored with fava beans and English peas and strawberries and sheep’s milk ricotta, so I am eating plenty of them. I think I’ll take Ben surfing this summer. I am seeking out the good things, and the truth is, there is no shortage.

Strawberry Ice | Delightful Crumb

Simple Strawberry Ice Cream

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe

This magical ice cream requires very few ingredients, very little work and no ice cream maker. The simplicity is just the right thing for ripe strawberries. The ice cream melts while you eat it, giving you the pleasant sense that you’re eating your ice cream with a nice dollop of whipped cream. I think it would be amazing with a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce as well.

I froze mine in a rectangular box and think I’ll try a loaf pan next time. I imagine it would scoop out well enough after a rest, but I liked the presentation when sliced, as pictured. 

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound strawberries

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Rinse the berries and remove their leaves. Slice each berry into three or four slices, then put them in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and set aside for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whip the cream. It should be thick enough to lie in folds, but not so stiff that it stands in peaks. Put the berries, sugar and any juice from the bottom of the dish into a food processor and whiz until smooth, then gently stir the mixture into the cream. You can blend the two as thoroughly as you like. I left a few thick swirls of the strawberry mixture in the cream.

Transfer to a freezer-safe box or loaf pan, level the top, cover with a lid or a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze for at least three to four hours. If convenient, occasionally stir the ice as it freezes.

Remove the ice from the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before serving to bring it up to temperature. Scoop or slice and enjoy!