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.

Finally, I Bathed in Buttermilk

There was a moment in time, not too long ago actually, that I could not for the life of me get the thought of a juicy, gnarly-shapen heirloom tomato out of my head. I imagined them, bursting with seeds and almost tie-dyed in their outward appearance, in a number of iterations, but at the time the markets were instead selling peaches and strawberries and maybe some squash by the bushels. A couple of tomatoes sat sadly on the corner of one table, and all the while I thought I’d be none the wiser if I just nudged them onto the ground and walked away, because I was damn tired of being taunted.

I don’t like being taunted.

Let there be no doubt – peaches, strawberries, and squash are lovely in their own right, but a tomato is what I craved. And then I missed a couple of Sundays at the market, probably the same weekends the troves of ‘maters made their awaited debut. All the while, I resorted to the canned version and made a tomato-semolina soup (okay, but not earth-shattering) and a roasted tomato and red pepper soup (totally earth-shattering, so stay tuned for this post). Then, I got some decent fresh tomatoes and made a panzanella salad with quinoa, but the quinoa was undercooked, which I’ve never done before (overcooking quinoa is my strong suit), so this merits a re-make.

To make a long story that shouldn’t be long short, I finally got what I’d really been craving and I scored those tomatoes. Then I had my way with them.

Now, some of you may say something like this when you realize I slathered them in buttermilk dressing: “wow. that’s a lot of dressing there, girlfriend. you know, you really don’t neeeeeed to put anything on a perfect heirloom tomato. it takes away from the flavor of the tomato, which should be left as is.”. This is just being way too judgmental. You should get with the program :). Others may say something like this: “damn. that’s a good lookin’ salad. not the first thing that came to mind for fresh tomatoes, but it’s worth a try.”. I’d say you’re on to something, and I like that you’re open-minded. And then there’s the rest of you, who’d say: “by golly I love me some buttermilk dressing, and I’m ’bout to tear this salad DOWN! then!, I’m going to drink the rest of the dressing and rub it all over my body.”. That’s what I’m talking about. Full of enthusiasm! I heart you.

Okay, so maybe you won’t bathe in it, but you’ll sure as hell want to. Of course, only if your thoughts are in line with the last group, and maybe the second. I’m totally in the last group, but generally I don’t like a lot of stuff on my ‘maters either, so I sorta blend into the second. And to be truthful, I normally don’t bathe in my food, but I made an exception.

What can I say? In-season, heirloom tomatoes have that effect on me.

Heirloom Tomato Salad w/ Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2010; serves 4 

okay. one thing I will say about this salad, aside from the fact that I adored it, is that the blue cheese can come or go. if you’re big in to blue cheese, you may like it. if you’re not, you may think it’s waaaaay too much. I like blue cheese, but I preferred the salad with just the dressing, and no cheese…

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
dressing
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/3 c buttermilk
2 T finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and pepper

salad
3 slices of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
2 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (various shapes and colors), cored, & cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges (I used a pineapple corer but you could also just cut the core out with a knife)
1/2 c thinly sliced shallots
2 T evoo
1 T fresh lemon juice
kosher salt
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese (optional)
2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally
2 T fresh Italian parsley leaves

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toss bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake for ~10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Place tomatoes and shallots in large bowl. Add oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and toss. Divide among 4 plates. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with blue cheese, if using, as well as green onions, and parsley. If you want a crunch to your salad, divide the croutons among the 4 plates (for leftovers, keep the croutons separate from the salad until eating.).