Cobbled Together

In an effort to avoid the grocery store this weekend, I raided the heck out of our pantry to see what we could eat to get through the week. You see, I already have an issue with letting good food go to waste, and this is only intensified when I’m forced to let things go to waste as a result of being away for a few days. These are the times when I might cobble together a recipe with a ton of random ingredients (panzanella salads are great when there’s lots of produce involved, and this Moroccan shepherd’s pie was a great way to use up mashed ‘taters) or conversely, I might make something uber simple using some standby grains or pasta.

In general, they aren’t meals that really make one salivate, but they get the job done, more or less.

Of course, there are always the exceptions – the dishes you toss together, pulling stray carrots and a forgotten bunch of scallions from the crisper to add up to enough stuff to make a meal come together – that somehow end up tasting like you’d planned it that way all along. It helps when you have a few fresh ingredients hanging around (thanks, Joanne, for the tomatoes!), because those are the ones that provide the inspiration, the kick-start to power you through to the end of the recipe, if you even have a recipe in the first place.

(The fresh ingredients are also the ones that make me feel a little less guilty about tossing leftover bagged shredded cheese into a perfect biscuit dough, knowing full-well that a freshly-grated cup of cheddar would have been tons better, not only in terms of taste, but also quality and texture.)

So, here we are, at the moment where I did something like that and actually get to tell you about it, because I truly feel that this new-found recipe is something you just might want to make yourself. I take that back – it’s something you should make yourself. Rarely is there a time in the year where the produce is this perfect, this satisfying, and this accessible than now – when you get to eat fresh corn and! fresh tomatoes ’til your heart’s content. And I’m telling you this: if you do have access to both ingredients, straight from the market or the store, please do purchase them. I think I already mentioned my stubborn desire to avoid those places this week, and as a result my trusty freezer bag o’ corn came in handy here. And while it was fine, mighty fine indeed, I know it could be that. much. better. with just-shucked morsels of yellow goodness.

If the mixture of tomatoes and corn isn’t enough to get you in a tizzy, have you noticed the biscuits on top? Need I say more?! Even though I’ve moved away, I still read the blogs of many Chicagoans, and I tell ya – Midwesterners get some kinda excited about summer produce. Tim over at Lottie + Doof posted a tomato cobbler recipe from Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded like the kind of food they’d have in Paradise. I figured I could make it work, or something like it, even if I didn’t have but approximately half as many tomatoes, no regular onions, heavy cream, or Gruyere on hand, not to mention a penchant for never adhering to the regular ol’ all-purpose flour suggested in most recipes.

So yeah, you could say this recipe is a pretty far leap from the original, but that’s what happens from time to time. You may not have scallions on hand, and maybe you have a different cheese, or no cheese at all, and maybe you have neither pancetta nor bacon for the smoky twist I was craving. Maybe the carrots aren’t doing it for you, and understandably so, maybe you don’t have 10 types of flour in your pantry (15-20 if you count the ones used almost solely for gluten-free cooking). You might even be one of those people who are afraid of a little shortening in your life, for reasons I just can’t figure out. I promise you – it’s okay, and ultimately, it might even be better to use this as your inspiration, and run with it (after, or course, you put down your knife…).

I’m sure Martha would understand.

Tomato & Corn Cobbler
Inspired by Lottie + Doof; serves 4-6 as a meal

time commitment: 2 hours (~40 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
filling
2 T evoo
2 oz finely chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 scallions, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh or frozen corn (2-3 ears if fresh; thawed and drained if frozen)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes
~1 lb heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 T white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

biscuit topping
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole wheat flour (or use 2 cups all-purpose flour to replace both)
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening, cut into small pieces
1 c grated cheddar cheese, plus 1 T, for sprinkling atop biscuits
1 1/2 c buttermilk, plus ~2 T more for brushing

instructions
Make the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, then add onions and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Toss in corn and remove from heat; let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss onion/corn mixture, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and flour with 1 1/2 t salt and some pepper.

Make the biscuit topping. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms.

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon large clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/3 c each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Bake 30 minutes. Remove, and brush dough with buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining T cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.

All Grown Up

I hope you all had yourselves a lovely weekend. Over our way, it was a perfect June Saturday and Sunday (maybe even a little atypical for us, from what I’ve heard). We kept busy on Saturday by having a tasty dim sum brunch with new friends, shopping for layers (key here people, key!), and hanging with more friends over food and wine.

Sunday involved the regular grocery shopping and farmers’ market events, and then a challenging bike to the Golden Gate Bridge, at which point Chris drove over and met me where we proceeded to have a nice lounging hour looking at our gorgeous new city. Of course, Sunday also included a nice conversation with my Pops.

I’ve talked about my Pops quite a few times, from tales about his old-fashioned habits to bonding when Gramma died to cutting up chicken. But my favorite blogstory involved a discussion about one of his best meals – breakfast. Every Saturday & Sunday, the ‘samich’ would surface: plain, white untoasted bread, extra-crispy bacon, floppy American Kraft cheese (only the best, friends), and a heavily peppered fried egg left out at room temperature on that cream colored plate with the brown rim, a chip on its edge. It was my very favorite breakfast, for a lot of reasons.

Breakfasts around these parts are generally nothing to write home about – a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, a smoothie, or maybe a homemade granola bar if I’m feeling motivated, is about all we muster up. If I ever do become one of those people who like to be awake at the crack of dawn though, you best believe we’d begin our day with these samiches, French toast, pastries, egg casseroles, and fresh coffee, maybe even some homemade juice from the juicer I’ve yet to buy.

This week was a little different, since I’ve been craving something that included the words “cheese” and “bacon”. It seemed that there was no better time than Sunday to make my own version of the sandwich I woke up to every weekend morning of my childhood. This one is a little bit fancier, a little more mature, in way – loaded with all the local Bay Area ingredients I could find, including a new addiction of mine, sourdough bread (where has it been all my life?!). Also, the bread is crunchy, a total no-no according to my Pops, at least in the way of breakfast samiches.

Bells and whistles aside, at its core this samich is nothing but pure comfort, through and through. It’s crunchy, it’s cheesy, and it reminds me of those samiches I used to eat so often, only it’s a little bit different. Nonetheless, I doesn’t change my memory of them; it just makes it even better.

I would say these same things to my Pops when talking about our relationship. Sure, I’m much older now and yeah, you could say I’m more mature than I used to be, for the most part. And of course, I’ve moved away not just once but three different times, each a little further away than before, but knowing those facts doesn’t change too much. At the end of the day, I’m still his little (grown up) girl, no matter where I am.

My Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Sandwich
inspired by my Pops; makes 2

printable version

ingredients
4 pieces of thick-cut bacon
2 eggs
salt & pepper
2 T butter
2 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
4 slices of sourdough bread, ~1/2″ thick
small handful of baby spinach

instructions
cook bacon in a large saucepan until nice and crispy; let drain on paper towel-lined plate. remove some bacon fat from the pan, if it seems like a lot.

over medium-high heat, crack both eggs into the same pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. cook on one side for a minute or so, then flip and cook on the other side another minute or so. remove and set aside.

wipe down the pan, and over medium-high heat, melt butter. on one slice of bread, add a slice of cheese, an egg, then 2 pieces of bacon; top with another slice of bread. once butter is melted, put sandwiches into the pan, pressing down on them with a spatula. after a couple of minutes, use spatula to flip sandwich and cook on the other side. remove from heat and plate; place spinach between top slice of bread and bacon.