Playing Catch-up

Playing Catch Up

It was a blink-and-you-missed-it summer, full of fun moments with family and friends, puppy love, laughs, and good food. I’ve been collecting stories to share with you, so stay tuned for backyard creatures, Global Supper Club: Southern Edition, and Stella’s doggy swim day in DC’s pools. You might have seen sneak peeks at some of these on my Twitter or (newly acquired) Instagram, but each photo deserves more than 140 characters of explanation!

Playing Catch Up

Were you able to spot this giant freaky thing hanging out on the tomato plant in the first picture? I woke up to my dad texting me pictures of this monster and thought I was having a nightmare! My dad found it when he was examining his tomato plant and noticed a strange looking leaf. He squeezed the leaf, but the leaf was squishy!! I can’t imagine, I just can’t imagine. Turns out, this multi-eyed green fatty is a tobacco caterpillar that can devour a whole tomato plant in a single sitting. I’ve never seen such a painted-looking bug before! Don’t worry- my dad simply relocated the caterpillar, and I’m sure that it’s fluttering around as a giant, freaky moth somewhere. I can’t even look at it without getting the chills.

Playing Catch Up

Transitioning to something a little more appetizing… the Global Supper Club met again, this time feasting on food from the Southern US. It was a fantastic meal. Starting at the top left of the plate and going clockwise, we had the juiciest fried chicken (probably the best I’ve ever had), vegetarian collard greens (amped up with peanut butter!), potato salad with cracked rye and dill, sweet corn cake, coleslaw, and mac and cheese is in the center. Not pictured were fantastic fried green tomatoes and equally delicious fried catfish. How could I forget about dessert? An elaborate banana pudding meringue and TWO apple pies did not disappoint. And yes, I went to the gym today.

Playing Catch Up

Despite not getting to taste a single morsel from the Supper Club, Stella has been having a fantastic summer. We took her to the doggie swim day at DC’s public pools to work on her swimming wading. She was willing to walk into the pool on her own this year, which was an improvement from last year.

Playing Catch Up

But she did everything she could to keep her tail dry! And once she reached a certain depth, she practically stood on her tip-toes. I didn’t let her get away with that and soaked her down, thinking that she’d be more willing to swim if she was already wet.

Playing Catch Up

That plan didn’t work, but she did look REALLY cute. I love her little freckle face when she gets wet.

Playing Catch Up

Stella is such a natural mountain dog, and can easily traverse any solid terrain. I think she feels uncomfortable in the water because her motions are not as effortless. Naturally, Stella took off into the dirt and ran around like a lunatic while all of the other dogs were paddling around and retrieving balls. Not our girl. See the dirty streak on her face?

Playing Catch Up

She was filthy. All kinds of twigs and branches were stuck in her knee hairs and tail hairs. This level of dirt guaranteed her a final dip in the pool. I carried her in, set her down, and the water around us turned to mud. We took that as our cue to leave, and Stella set off for home. Little did she know that she was heading straight for a shower. (NOT MORE WATER!!)

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Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Let me ask you a question, and be honest. Do I make you corny baby, yeah!

Now that we’ve gotten the obvious out of the way…cornbread! In my quest to get away from box mixes, I’ve needed to find a good cornbread recipe for a long time. Instead of experimenting, I’ve just gone without. It’s been a sad time. But the kitchen powers that be had other plans for me and simultaneously brought cornmeal and a reliable recipe for cornbread into my life. One bite and my fate was sealed. This cornbread recipe is just what I’ve been looking for. It’s sturdy enough to stand up to a hearty chili, but tasty enough to eat on its own. It has a pleasing crunch from the cornmeal and bits of real corn kernels to bring it all home. Toasted and smeared with the smallest bit of butter, yum.

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

To make it, preheat your oven to 400º F. Then, in a large bowl, whisk together 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of cornmeal, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. I used a finely ground, whole grain cornmeal, which resulted in a textured but not too crumbly corn bread. A coarser meal will make for a crumblier cornbread.

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

To a food processor, add 1 cup of buttermilk, 3/4 cup fresh or defrosted corn kernels, 1/4 cup of packed, light brown sugar, and 2 eggs. Run the food processor for approximately 5 seconds until everything is combined but so that visible pieces of the corn kernels remain. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can measure out 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of regular milk, and add in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. After about 5 minutes, the milk should have thickened and curdled and be looking pretty nasty. Just pour that right in!

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Melt 1 stick of butter, and set it aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and then pour the wet ingredients from the food processor in. Stir the ingredients a few times, just until it’s very barely combined. Then, pour in the melted butter, and stir again just until everything is fully combined. Adding the butter at this later stage is supposed to help the cornbread brown.

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to ensure an easy removal. Pour the cornbread batter into the pan, and smooth out the top.

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Bake the corn bread for approximately 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The edges of the cornbread should be golden brown and delicious looking.

Trusty, Crusty Cornbread

Let the cornbread cool until you can handle it, and then pop it out of the pan to cool some more. The corn bread is delicious eaten warm from the oven, but I preferred it even more the next day, after it sat wrapped in tin foil overnight. What’s your favorite way to eat cornbread? Should I try to make croutons out of any leftovers?

This recipe is adapted from Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen.

Shopping list:

  • All-purpose flour- 1.5 cups
  • Cornmeal- 1 cup
  • Baking powder- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt- 3/4 teaspoon
  • Baking soda- 1/4 teaspoon
  • Buttermilk- 1 cup
  • Corn kernels- 3/4 cup
  • Light brown sugar- 1/4 cup, packed
  • Eggs- 2
  • Butter- 1 stick
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Priya’s Onion Tart

Priya's Onion Tart

My friend Priya is a fantastic baker. I watched her assemble a gorgeous onion tart at a dinner party recently. It was in the oven baking while I gorged myself on the other delicious offerings, but I willed myself to accept a slice of the tart once it was ready. And am I glad that I did because it was so GOOD! I ate more than the tiny slice I set out for, and I craved it for weeks after. I had to get myself another fix before this summer’s beautiful tomatoes disappeared, and my attempt at her tart turned out great. Its flavors are balanced and interesting, and its visual appeal is undeniable.

Priya's Onion Tart

To make this tart, parbake a pie crust in a tart pan with a removable bottom. You can read my directions for making, shaping, and parbaking a pie crust here. While the crust is cooking, get the tart’s other ingredients ready. Slice 2 onions, and heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the onions, along with a few sprigs of thyme, into the pan. Season the onions with salt and pepper, and sweat them, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Once the onions have started to pick up some color, they should have sweetened considerably. Set them aside to cool.

Priya's Onion Tart

When the tart is cool enough to handle, spread the bottom with Dijon mustard. I used 2 tablespoons of Dijon, and I could definitely taste the mustard in the finished product. The slight spice and vinegary tang was a welcome counterbalance to the sweeter onions and tomatoes, but if you’re not a huge fan of Dijon mustard, then you might was to spread the crust with less… maybe half or two-thirds the amount.

Priya's Onion Tart

Spread your slightly caramelized onions in an even layer on top of the mustard. Season the onions with a bit more salt and pepper.

Priya's Onion Tart

Top the onions with a layer of shredded fontina cheese. I think gruyère cheese would work well here, so I’ll probably try that next time.

Priya's Onion Tart

Halve some of the prettiest cherry tomatoes you can find, and arrange them cut-side down on top of the cheese so that the tart is completely covered. At this point, Priya also crumbled some goat cheese onto the tart between the onions, but you know how I feel about goat cheese

Priya's Onion Tart

Bake the tart in a 400º F oven until the tomatoes and cheese begin to brown, about 20-30 minutes. Once the tart is cool enough to handle, you can pop the sides off of the tart pan and slice it to serve. I ate this tart for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack, and it always satisfied. Love it!

Shopping list:

  • Pie crust- 1
  • Onions- 2
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dijon mustard- ~2 tablespoons
  • Fontina cheese- ~1.5 cups, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes
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