summer squash frittata

This public service announcement has been brought to you by fancyfoodfancy and eggs. Mercury is in retrograde. If you’ve recently found yourself more distracted than usual or have experienced a serious bout of indecisiveness or brain fog, Mercury is to blame. I had a feeling something was going on with the cosmos, but I thought it had do with the moon. After a little bit of googling, I found this. And then this. Being a Mercury ruled Virgo or Gemini will make you even more susceptible to all this retrograde business. So, if you have any big decisions to make, or serious discussions that need to be had, wait until after August 8th. I’ll be marking the next Mercury retrograde (November 6-26, 2012) on my calendar; you should do the same. You’ll thank me later. Good luck.

Now, let’s talk about eggs.

I’m an eggs for breakfast kind of girl. I have them just about every morning. Every now and then I mix it up and have oatmeal or a smoothie. But I always go back to eggs. It’s true. I feel like the day doesn’t start until I’ve had my two eggs – scrambled, over easy, poached. I don’t discriminate.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been much of a frittata fan. But I think that’s because I’ve had a few not so great frittatas in the past. This needed to be remedied.

The squash at the market last weekend looked too good to pass up, so I picked up a few varieties. As I was driving home and contemplating breakfast, I decided that my squash were destined for a fritatta. Eggs, cheese, and summer squash; the combination reminded me of the zucchini casserole my Aunt Maggie makes. I couldn’t wait to make breakfast.

I absolutely love this frittata. It was such a pleasant surprise. This particular frittata has layers of zucchini and yellow squash and is fragrant with thyme and lemon. A generous sprinkling of parmesan provides the perfect amount of savory richness. Frittatas are pretty much great for any meal. I see eggs for lunch and eggs for dinner in my future. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

summer squash frittata

serves 2-4

4 large eggs

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or ghee

1/2 medium onion, diced

1-1/2 small squash, sliced into thin rounds 

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the squash to the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the squash is softened. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme and continue cooking for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Transfer the squash to the eggs and stir. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat and coat the entire surface. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and cook, undisturbed until the edges begin to brown and the top is just starting to set. Sprinkle the top of the fritta with more cheese and transfer the entire pan to the oven about 6 inches from the heating element and broil. Check after a minute or so, to ensure it doesn’t overcook. The frittata is ready when the top is fully set and nicely browned.

Remove from the oven. Run a thin spatula around the edges of the frittata to help loosen from the pan. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and then flip over to release the frittata. Serve immediately.

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cherry hand pies

Do yourself a favor this weekend. Pick up a couple pounds of cherries from the market. Don’t wait – cherry season is pretty much over. And buy or borrow a cherry pitter. We’re making pie.

I always panic towards the end of cherry season. So this year, I decided to can a few pounds of cherries for later use (yes, I’m hoarding cherries). I also had a real hankering for cherry pie.

I’d never actually made a cherry pie. But I’ve come to understand that real cherry pie is made with sour cherries, which are pretty hard to come by in these parts as this is the land of sweet cherries. A sweet cherry pie sounded just fine to me. When I was growing up, my dad used to come home with bags of super sweet Bing cherries. It was one of my favorite summertime treats. It still is.

Speaking of childhood, does anyone else remember Home Run Pies? You know, those individually packaged pies that came in flavors like lemon and cherry and apple and chocolate pudding? They were really popular in the 80’s. I can’t even remember the last time I had one, but I do remember that as an adult, I wasn’t so impressed. Reminiscing about retro junk food made me want a grown-up version of Home Run Pie.

So I made my favorite all-butter pie crust, divided and rolled out eight discs of dough, and loaded them up with sweet cherry filling. Made little cutouts with the scraps. Egg washed and sprinkled with turbinado. Baked until each pie was golden and bubbling. Picked up a still warm pie and ate the whole thing in minutes. And there you go.

cherry hand pies

serves 8

basic pie dough 

from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

makes 2 10-ounce balls of dough; 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 2 11-inch tarts

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup ice cold water

1 large egg

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a fork. Add the butter and work into the flour with a pastry blender or your fingertips, leaving some of the butter in fairly large, irregular pieces.

Pour in three quarters of the water, stirring all the while with a fork until the dough begins to form clumps and hold together. Keep adding water if needed.

Divide the dough into eight pieces (a food scale is helpful here), rolling each piece into a ball, and then flatten into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic. Let rest, refrigerated for 1 hour or longer.

cherry filling

adapted from The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss

1-1/4 pounds fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch or cornstarch

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Put the cherries, sugar, tapioca starch, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently but gently and scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking as the liquid comes to a low boil. After about 8 minutes, the cherries should have given off juice and thickened and cherries should still be whole. Let cool. Refrigerate until cold.

to assemble:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge right before assembling. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out each disk of dough until about 1/8-inch thick.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the cherry filling onto one half of the circle of dough. Fold the other side of the dough over the filling and press the tines of a fork into the dough to seal the edges together. For a neater looking pie, trim the edges with a pizza cutter or pairing knife. Make a small cut on top of the pie to make a vent. Repeat with the remaining discs of dough. Place the pies on the prepared baking sheets.

Collect any extra scraps of dough and roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes using a small cookie cutter. With a pairing knife, lightly score the back of each cut-out. Set aside.

Whisk the egg with a little bit of water. Brush the back of each cut-out with egg wash and place on pie. Lightly brush the top of each pie with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and pies are golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

It’s about that time again. I have a bad case of summer brain. It’s serious. I can’t focus. I find myself daydreaming about beaches and coastal drives and a house in the woods. Midday cocktails. Ice cream for dinner. Fireworks.

Nothing is getting done around here. Except for this salad. This salad is happening.

Earlier this year, I woke up one morning and decided I must have preserved lemons in my life. I proceeded to salt-pack a couple pounds of Meyer lemons; I had a feeling they would come in handy in the months ahead. I’ve waited very patiently for the magic to happen, the transformation from their natural, fresh-off-the-tree state to that salty, tender, essence of lemon entity. After four months, they’re finally ready.

fingerling potatoes

This salad has been on my to-do list for over a year. I knew I would get to it as soon as those lemons were ready. I think of it as a reconstructed potato salad. It involves fingerling potatoes, a smear of mayonnaise, and chopped preserved lemon. It’s finished off with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chives. The preserved lemon really takes it to another level – I love that salty-lemony element; I want to put it on everything. I’m so happy I had the foresight to take care of that lemon situation back in March.

Because of the simplicity of this dish, the ingredients are key. Naturally, you can buy preserved lemons and mayo, but as the ladies at the Canal House say, why buy it when you can make it? I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Plus, as you know, starting with the best ingredients is really important when preparing something so minimal. In this dish, it makes all the difference.

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon

from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 1: Summer by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 6

2-3 pounds small potatoes

salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil

fresh ground pepper

rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

chopped fresh chives or parsley

Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold water generously seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until they are tender. Drain.

When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a serving platter, spreading mayonnaise on one side of each potato as you work. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the preserved lemon and chives.

preserved lemons

lemons, preferably organic and unsprayed, washed

kosher salt

sterilized wide mouth container with an airtight lid

Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in the brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after one month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they will become; taste them first before using. Preserved lemons will last up to one year in the fridge.

reconstructed potato salad