Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Eve of the Feast















Today when I described our menu a co-worker asked if I had ever heard of a little company called "Stove-top." Are you kidding me?

Thanksgiving 2009
Red Bourbon Heritage Turkey with Gravy
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Ciabatta Bread Stuffing
Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Rainbow Turnips
Slow-Cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes
Wheat and Cornmeal Goat Cheese Rolls

and (drumroll, please....)

Caramel Armagnac Pumpkin Pie
Thanksgiving Spice Cake

p.s. - the whipped cream is in a can. you can't make everything!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bo Luc Lac - "Shaking Beef"

One of my fondest memories of San Francisco is dining at the Slanted Door. On that trip, we stayed on the Embarcadero at the beautiful Hotel Vitale, which is conveniently located at Mission Street right across from the Ferry Market. (convenient for eating, that is!)

Last month I was delighted to see this simple recipe for Shaking Beef, which we first enjoyed at the Slanted Door. Its easy preparation makes it perfect for weeknight.

I hadn't planned on writing about this meal, but a few bites in I realized it was too good to keep to myself.


Bo Luc Lac

Adapted from Michael Huynh
New York Times,
October 21, 2009
Serves 2

FOR THE MARINADE:

1 pound beef filet, (I used Wegman's organic), cut into 1-inch cubes

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SALAD:

1 medium red onion, cut into paper-thin strips

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

most of 1 head butter lettuce, cored, leaves torn into large pieces

1 shaved fennel bulb

1 bunch arugula, chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves

8-12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

1. For the marinade: In a bowl, combine beef, garlic, Maggi or soy sauce, sugar, salt and black pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. For the salad: In a large serving bowl, combine onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, sugar, salt, vinegar and olive oil. Mix well, and season with black pepper to taste. Add lettuce, fennel, arugula, mint and tomatoes. Toss to mix.

3. Preheat a large skillet over high heat, and add vegetable oil. Add remaining 5 cloves minced garlic. Add half the beef cubes and sear on all sides, shaking pan, until medium rare, 1-2 minutes. Reserve, then repeat with remaining beef.

4. Transfer beef to salad greens and toss, or serve salad and beef separately, divided among four plates. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. If desired, serve with rice or crusty French bread.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies


















There is nothing that says November like the perfect spice cookie, and this is it.

I really should stop photographing the baked goods and instead capture the looks of delight on the faces of my eager tasters. They loved 'em!

This is the time of the year when I take inventory in my baking cupboard and replenish my supplies for the holidays. The fresh spices I got from Penzey's in Chestnut Hill really made a difference in this recipe. I used their Vietnamese Cinnamon, which is purportedly the highest quality cinnamon available in America today. It's intensely flavored and deep in color, and combined with Grandma's Robust Molasses, ginger and allspice, made some very dark and delicious cookies. I took Dorie's advice and added a healthy pinch of coursely ground pepper. Mmmmm!

Other than over-baking the first tray a bit, I didn't have any issues with the dough. It was easier to handle the second day, and it didn't misbehave the way I'd heard it might. I loved the way the pressing the dough balls with a glass made the batch nice and uniform.

A big thank you to Pamela of Cookies with Boys for selecting this super-easy recipe. Stop by her blog and try not to fantasize about sitting at her dinner table - she makes some great food! The recipe and some baking tips can be found right here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TWD: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte


















This week April from short+rose made an exquisite choice for the group: this delicious brownie torte. Melted and chopped Scharfen Berger chocolate, dried cherries cooked in kirsch and a touch of fresh ground pepper combine forces in the brownie base. If that's not enough, the topping is a delightful whirl of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, vanilla, and heavy cream. Trust me - it's even more decadent than it sounds.

Having a Trader Joe's nearby was really helpful in acquiring a few of the ingredients at a reasonable price, since I splurged on a good bottle of kirsch. Thanks to Margot at Effort to Deliciousness, that's where I found the dried cherries. While I was there I found mascarpone cheese for $2.99 for 8 ounces, too. This was one pricey endeavor, but I have no regrets.

I enjoyed working on this project over the course of three days, especially since I had a few other cooking projects underway. At one point I had beans soaking on the counter, apple chutney simmering on the stove, and a chicken trussed and ready to be baked as soon as the brownie was done. I figure if I'm in the kitchen, I might as well dirty every pan.

Some of my baking buddies had problems getting the topping to set, but I had the opposite situation. Dorie describes it as pourable mousse, but mine was so thick that it denied Gina, my decorating recruit, the opportunity to make some fancy chevrons. We had a few laughs trying to get the piping bag to cooperate, then attempting to carve in the design with a bamboo skewer. (God, I hope Dorie never reads that...) All I know is if Gina can't do it, it can't be done, so in the end I just smeared the preserves over the top and dusted each serving with some cocoa.

This is a great special occasion dessert, one that would be well received by any hostess. I got it out of the house as soon as possible before it could do too much damage. Needless to say, I had plenty of willing tasters between school and Moore Brothers. Perhaps my greatest compliment came from Rafael, an 11th grade student at Bodine and a professional baker. (yep, you read that right) He picked up a slice on his way to lunch, and halfway through my dreaded 9th period class walked by my door sporting a big thumbs up. Thanks for making my day, Rafi!

Monday, October 26, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits and the Phillies

















Last week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe coincided with the Phillies' return to the NLCS, and we treated ourselves to tickets to Game 1. Perhaps I should begin by saying that baseball is a pretty big deal around here. Of the 162 games in the regular season, I bet we saw 150. We count down to the day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training and freeze our butts off on opening day. In fact, the two things that will lure us off our vacation deck on St. John are a tropical storm and a Phillies' game.

Now that we've reached the postseason, we've started our lucky rituals. First, there was the pre-game sign making that once again made me wonder how I ever got out of kindergarten. I managed to burn up a few seconds of my 15 minutes of fame at the game when my made-with-love (if not talent) sign made it not only to the Jumbotron, but also to a TV montage that featured the posterboy of the postseason, Bon Jovi. (That noise is not your computer. It is the thumping of my born-to-be-your-baby heart...)

Then there are the lucky shirts. I've been wearing two at a time, so that's a lot of laundry. John actually has a ritual that involves turning a shirt inside out if things look shaky, but I can't give any other details about that because, well, it may be bad luck. As Sunday night approached, the weather report indicated that lucky clothing, long underwear, and blankets would be in order.

What does all of this have to do with biscuits, you say? Well, I was right on schedule for an on-time post, didn't have the strength to write. It's tough cheering for your team into the wee hours, along with working, baking, AND blogging!

When John and I were recalling childhood biscuit memories, we realized our mothers used the same recipe: Pillsbury. A few months ago I was re-introduced to them when my mom insisted that I take some home with me. She had quite a stash of those tubes of refrigerated dough and was eager to share. Well, that's one convenience food that 21st century technology has really improved. We put aside our disdain for all things processed and devoured them.

Dorie's biscuits, however, are the real deal. The sweet potato kept them from rising too much, but they were delicious anyway. I loved another baker's suggestion to serve them with butter and honey. The mascarpone cheese left from this week's recipe would be divine with them.

A big Philly thank you to Erin of Prudence Pennywise for choosing the recipe. She put barbecued shredded beef on hers. Erin and her blog persona, Prudy, have a lovely playlist to accompany their budget-conscious culinary adventures. Go give her blog a look and a listen.

I wonder if she'd add "You Give Love a Bad Name."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD - Allspice Crumb Muffins


















With all due respect, this post may be rather irritating.

I know it's tough to believe that the photogenic little flying-saucer-of-a-muffin smiling coquettishly at you may be evil. But according to nutritiondata.com, she's packin' a good 12 Weight Watcher points. It's a nightmare!

I personally found this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe to be fairly unique. At this moment in time, muffins have become another food item Americans shouldn't of stuffed with too many ingredients. Dorie's allspice crumb muffins, however, are pleasantly pure and wonderful, with a moist cake center and a delicate, crunchy topping. Mmmm! I can't imagine why one of my fellow bakers described these as "too buttery." Whatever.

Are you annoyed yet? You should be. Absolutely.

A big baking thank you to Kayte of Grandma's kitchen table for choosing such a great recipe! Check out her website for all of the details, and adorable pics of Homecoming 2009. Teenage romance - it is what it is.

Muffin making isn't rocket science. In fact, you could make this recipe 24/7, if you got up early enough. I made the topping the night before so I could send my husband to work with hot muffins for his co-workers. He didn't wait. Whatever. At the end of the day, it's all good.

A shout out to Oxford University's list of the most annoying phrases for making allspice muffins a lot more fun. I've added a few of my own favorites, too. My apologies, Mr. Safire.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

John and Lynne


















This weekend we went to Virginia to visit two of our favorite people - John and Lynne. We had the good fortune of sitting next to this amazing couple on the plane on our way to St. John in July. They weren't even supposed to be on our flight, and we changed our seats at the last minute. Coincidence? I don't think so.

John and Lynne were on their way to St. Thomas to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary, and we were on what has become our annual pilgrimage to St. John. They invited us to join them for a special meal at the Lime Inn and we made plans to have some adventures together during the week. One day they picked us up in their rental boat, the Awesome, and we headed to Jost Van Dyke. The Wine Guy and I had been trying to get there for years, but the charter services are prohibitively expensive and the ferry leaves at the crack of dawn. Now it would be tough to imagine a Caribbean vacation without a Foxy's grouper sandwich or the swim to the Soggy Dollar. We made great memories at our favorite villa, Drake's Lookout, enjoyed burgers at Skinny Legs, and had lobster rolls and "Drink Right, Keep Left" drinks at the Tourist Trap. We all share a love for the reef and its inhabitants, so some of the best moments involved sea turtles and sting rays and other beautiful swimmers. They even hold hands while they are snorkeling like we do!

Getting to know John and Lynne has renewed my spirit. They are the kind of people whom you proudly call family, whether you are related to them or not. When we're together, we laugh good belly laughs and dream about the possibilities that the future holds. Yes, we've had to overlook the fact that they are Redskins fans. But they have a tricked-out Tiki bar in their yard and that is a good indicator of their idea of a good time. It's a little structure John built himself, which isn't surprising once you know that basically he can build/do anything. It's filled with cool stuff from their travels, like the Soggy Dollar ring toss game. And it's where John makes his famous Green Drink, which I'm sure he intends to name after the Eagles once they are Super Bowl Champions.

Right now, Lynne is busy beating cancer for the second time. When we met her, she was facing a couple of grueling rounds of chemo, but you never would have guessed it from her demeanor. In the next few weeks, she will be receiving her own stem cells for treatment as she goes for the cure. She's got the mind of a detective and quite possibly the most generous, gentle spirit I have ever met.

Lynne doesn't know how brave she is, which is probably a blessing or she'd be rappelling off the side of the Tiki bar. I feel like she's the sister I always knew I had out there somewhere, and I'm so glad I finally found her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: A Bye Week

This week Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose Chocolate Crunched Caramel tart for the group. It's a gorgeous dessert, one I plan to make for a special occasion. Since we were enjoying a weekend getaway, I didn't participate this week. Visit Carla's blog for a full report and the recipe!

I'll be back with the Dorie bakers on October 13 for the Allspice Crumb Muffins. In fact, I'm placing my order with Penzey's right now!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD - Cottage Cheese Pufflets

















This week's recipe was a real challenge. The pastry, which is made with butter, cottage cheese, and just a touch of sugar, is tender and tangy. It's the perfect counterpoint to its filling, a dab of sweet preserves. Like most things in life, it was worth the effort.

As the week unfolded, the chatter on the Tuesdays with Dorie site revolved around the various difficulties members were having with the dough. Undaunted by the warnings of brave bakers that ventured ahead of me, I opened the dough and began to roll like someone formally trained in the art of the pastry. Wow - it was the stickiest dough ever! I took the advice of one blogger who, when even waxed paper failed her, suggested using plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin and countertop. Well, it worked, but not without a lot of coaxing, refrigerating, and even freezing. I wasn't able to roll it as thinly as the recipe indicates - a scant 1/8"- but the finished product was still a success. And I think using the pastry cutter made them really pretty. My trusted taster, gg, proclaimed them "amazing" and that's enough for me!

When I finish with the dough tonight, I'm going to make the squares a bit bigger to increase the jam to pastry ratio. I'm filling them with strawberry preserves with Grand Marnier mixed with a little blueberry all fruit. I really love that this recipe, like last week's apple turnovers, can be shaped and frozen for baking at a later date.

Thanks to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for moving cottage cheese from lunch to dessert! Check out her site for the recipe, as well as her adventures in baking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Congratulations Smitten Kitchen!

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This week, one of the assignments in my 11th grade English class was for students to research the etymology of their names and present their findings to the class. Imagine my surprise when a young man stood up and presented this iconic image as his baby picture!

Well, that was not the only notable baby event this week. Deb and Alex of smitten kitchen welcomed sweet-enough-to-eat Jacob Henry on the 17th. If you'd like to see their latest confection (all 7 pounds of him!), or to find a good recipe for just about anything with thoughtful, step by step advice and gorgeous photos, check out their site. We love the blueberry crumb bar recipe they adapted from allrecipes.com.

And if you'd just like to see an adorable baby, head right over there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD - Apple Turnovers


















This week's recipe was a fun way to make my Tuesdays with Dorie debut. Although I've made many pies, turnovers had not yet made their way into my baking repertoire. Well, I think they are here to stay!

This recipe is perfect if you are busy because it can be prepared in stages. The dough is made with the usual ingredients, with the lovely addition of sour cream. I prefer unsalted cultured butter for all of my baking, although it's a bit pricey. Ok, it's outrageously priced, but worth it.

After the initial preparation, the dough is refrigerated for up to 2 days. Then, after it is worked and shaped, it can be chilled for another day. It's really pliable and easy to handle.

Finally, Sunday was the big day. I added some chopped walnuts to the apple cinnamon filling and omitted the chunks of butter that were supposed to be inside. There were already 3 sticks of butter involved, so I thought we'd be ok. I think I overworked the dough a little bit, judging from the photos on my fellow bakers' blogs, but those little envelopes of goodness were delightful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And I have an unbaked bunch in the freezer ready for an unexpected dessert emergency.

Thank you Jules from Someone's in the Kitchen for choosing such a delicious, seasonal recipe! Check out her blog for the recipe.




Ta-da!!!
I'd like to take a big basket of these to Jeff Garcia to welcome him back!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chénas: The New Vintage


















As summer reverie gives way to the responsibilities of fall, I'm sorry we haven't spent more time in our yard. It was especially pretty this year, as the perennials grew taller and lusher than ever before. This is such a lovely time of the year, and although the plants aren't in their prime anymore, the evenings are cool and the air smells so good. The mosquitoes seem a little slower in their attacks, too. It's tough to let such a great summer go, but it will be nice to sit outside in sweatshirts and reminisce about our time on St. John.

Tonight at our picnic table, we enjoyed the new vintage of Trichard Chénas with marinated grilled chicken thighs, jasmine rice, and chopped cherry tomato insalada caprese. To use a highly technical expression often employed by the Moore Brothers cast and crew, this wine rocks. It has been one of our house favorites for many years, and this vintage is particularly delicious. Once the back doors are closed up for the season, it will be perfect with roast chicken and watercress salad.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie

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In what undoubtedly will be remembered as my most desperate back to school coping strategy, I have joined the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.

This could be trouble.

It all began in January 2007 when Laurie of Quirky Cupcake received Dorie Greenspan's classic baking book, "Baking, From My Home to Yours" for Christmas. The rest is baking (and probably Weight Watchers) history. Today, approximately 250 blogging bakers are working their way through the book at a pace of one recipe a week. This week, I became one of them.

Oh boy.

I've been a Dorie Greenspan fan for a long time. I adore her Corniest Corn Muffin recipe, and just this weekend I made World Peace Cookies and Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chipsters to take to a lovely Labor Day cookout hosted by our friends Pat and Sue. On the savory side, nothing beats her Sea Scallops and Beet and Tomato Salsa, especially if you belonged to our CSA this year and had to be creative with beets. I mean a lot of beets.

I have been hinting about the book for months, but the wine guy prefers to give little blue boxes. Finally I broke down and got it myself with a 40% off Borders coupon. I like a little bargain with my butter.

One of the rules, and let me add that I LOVE that there are rules, is that participants have to post about the week's confection on Tuesday. Since I'm going for "proficient" and not "advanced" in this endeavor, I won't be baking every week. But check on Tuesdays to see my progress!

So this year, September brings a new crop of students along with Apple Turnovers and Cottage Cheese Pufflets. Ahhh, the hope and expectation of a new beginning.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sheila Lukins

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With last week's passing of Sheila Lukins, the world lost one of its original foodies. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer just 3 months ago.

Best known as one of the owners of the Silver Palate food shop in Manhattan, Ms. Lukins was an author of the cookbooks bearing the shop's name, as well as “The New Basics Cookbook” and “All Around the World Cookbook.” In all, her books have sold more than seven million copies.

In our home, she was the reason to extricate Parade Magazine, a publication not known for its literary merits, from the recycling bin. She served as food editor for Parade since 1986.

Ms. Lukins was one of my mentors in the kitchen. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I looked forward to reading her articles and recipes in Parade when they made their monthly appearance. One of the first meals I made for John - a pasta dish with tomatoes, brie (!), and basil - came from "The Silver Palate Cookbook." I didn't own the book at the time, and I recall scribbling the ingredients on a piece of notebook paper as she cooked the dish on TV.

Hundreds of lamb chops and far scarier cuts of meat later, this remains my "go to" lamb recipe. I've committed it to memory, but revisited the dog-eared paper copy in my files to ensure accuracy.


Thanks, Sheila.


Lamb Chops
from Parade Magazine, February 21, 1999

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 rib lamb chops, cut 1 1/2 inches thick

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Add the chops; toss well. Let sit for at least an hour.

Grill the chops over medium-hot heat, brushing with marinade, 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare. Or cover a baking sheet with foil and broil chops on a rack 4 minutes per side. Allow to rest before serving.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dragon Dance on 2nd Street























In the bad old days, John and I lived in an apartment on 2nd Street that we affectionately called "The Shoebox." It was a painfully small but happy place. Since we didn't have a dishwasher, there were too many dirty dishes all the time. But we were in love, the rent was ridiculously cheap and we wanted to go out anyway. I'm sure you recognize the symptoms.

There wasn't much in the neighborhood back then, but just a few steps away there was a glimmer of what might happen on the Northern Liberties restaurant scene. There Hadar Nisimi and his staff made Aden the perfect neighborhood byob with attentive service and simply prepared fresh ingredients. Up the street, the historic Bull's Head Inn became Standard Tap. And 702 North 2nd Street, which has housed Pigalle and Sovalo, established itself as a location with good restaurant karma. Kong has brought exotic flavors to this location.

Kong arrived with a flourish of firecrackers and a traditional dragon dance, which for me bodes well for its success. Michael O'Halloran, chef-owner of Old City's Bistro 7, brings this taste of Hong Kong street food to the Liberties. We enjoyed all of the dishes we sampled there last week, including the Stir-fried Egg with crab, asparagus, rice, and Lap Cheong (think sausage) and the Dan-Dan Noodles with snow peas and peanut chili sauce. Best of all, you can get a good glass of wine to accompany your meal. I enjoyed the Torrontes Finca el Retiro and the Falanghina Terra Dora di Paolo. Michael has put together a nice selection of beers, too.

Now it is hard to believe that there was life before the Piazza, and the 2nd Street Renaissance, as my friend Rich envisioned it many years ago, is in full swing. We're homebodies since we've acquired more space and a dishwasher, but when we venture out it will be nice to dine at Kong and reminisce about the days in our little shoebox.


Note - You may enjoy reading Rick Nichols' article about Kong here.


Dinner in Tuscany
















Staging my first blog photo shoot reminded me of the “Stop the Insanity” woman. You know, the one with the spiky blond hair who clearly never had heard of the Weight Watcher's Lifetime Membership, which is proof that the insanity never ends. Dragging a good lamp into the kitchen and posing a tomato like a supermodel made me question my sanity in the kitchen in a completely new way. All the days of admiring those gorgeous photos on smitten kitchen led to that moment, I suppose. Tonight needs no props, as my inspiration is our trip to Italy last summer.


Nothing, not even the stellar recommendations of the Moore Brothers cast and crew, could have prepared us for our arrival at Fallocchio, one of the guest houses at Fattoria Corzano e Paterno. It is a special place, one that stops you in your tracks and makes you thankful to be alive. I'm not sure if it was the scent of the enormous rosemary and lavender bushes or the view from our terrace, but before we could finish unpacking our rental car I turned to John and said, "I'm not leaving here in 3 days." We didn't.


Adjusting to the rhythms of the Tuscan countryside was easy. We frequented the cafes and shops in nearby San Casciano, enjoying each other and our new surroundings for long, lazy afternoons. We watched the locals emerge from the surrounding farmhouses for their annual festival, where gelato was served inside brioche, for a decadent please-don't-stop-this-insanity experience. And among the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to meet two winemakers whom we have admired for years: Paulo De Marchi of Isole e Olena and Aljoscha Goldschmidt of Corzano e Paterno. After a visit to her dairy, Toni Ballarin, cheesemaker at Corzano and Aljoscha's wife, recommended the best place to buy bistecca fiorentina, which is a classic Tuscan thick-cut porterhouse from Chianina oxen. I often deviate from the traditional cut by using a quick cooking, very satisfying skirt steak. A bottle of 2006 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico completes a lovely meal.


We are not dining in Tuscany tonight, but it sure tastes like it.


Tuscan Skirt Steak

1 1/2 - 2 lb skirt steak

a few sprigs each - rosemary, sage and thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

extra virgin olive oil (I used Corzano e Paterno)

gray salt

fresh ground black pepper

a sprig or two of basil, for garnish


Preheat grill. Cut steak into 2 or 3 pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Prepare serving plate with herbs, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill steak on medium for 5 minutes a side, then allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice meat and place atop prepared herb plate. Pour beef juices over steak, then dress with olive oil, gray salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Garnish with basil. Plan your next vacation.




Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tomato Invasion














We have taken to eating tomatoes with every meal. It's really not that difficult: a slice on a bagel in the morning, chopped with cottage cheese midday, and then several courses at dinner. A conveniently placed bowl of cherries and grapes makes for great snacking, too. After blanching, freezing, and roasting this summer's bounty, I was ready for some simple satisfaction - Salsa di Pomodoro Crudo, or uncooked Tomato Sauce. I've been making this in different incarnations for years. On an oppressive summer day it can provide wonderful satisfaction, but it also has the potential to disappoint. Note to self: a little care goes a long way in a simple dish with perfect, seasonal ingredients.

One way I am improving all of my pasta dishes is by using Setaro pasta, which is made in Torre Annunziata, a province of Naples. It's made according to old world traditions with semolina flour and water from Mount Vesuvius. Well, that must be why it is so delicious! I first purchased it at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market in New York during a trip to see "Hair," and this week I had it shipped to Philly. The folks at Buon Italia must understand food cravings because it arrived in two days, which feels like less time than it is taking me to write this post.

In a nod to Franca, the lovely and gifted matriarch of the family that owns one of our favorite local restaurants, Tre Scalini, I have been using more pasta alla chitarra. It feels fancier than spaghetti and really does absorb more sauce.

Earlier in the week the bunch of basil from the Northern Liberties Wednesday Farmer's Market was looking pretty sad, and the pine nuts had not been a in a cool, dark place, so I made some "almost" pesto. Actually, it wasn't pesto at all, just lightly processed basil and Chateau Calissanne extra virgin olive oil. I put it in the refrigerator hoping to buy a little time. It was perfect here and also in quinoa salad.

Some recipes recommend that the chopped tomatoes rest for as little as 30 minutes, but I let them "relax" for over 3 hours. I tend to use too much garlic, so I really held myself back here.

The dishwasher/wine guy/my sweetheart proclaimed this the "best ever." He also did a fabulous job pairing it with Le Roc rosé from Moore Brothers, of course.

Salsa di Pomodoro Crudo

2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of sea salt

basil in oil, at room temperature

black pepper

Setaro spaghetti chitarra, about 1/2 lb

Locatelli cheese (optional, but recommended)

Combine tomatoes, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Let them nap for a few hours. Bring cheese and basil to room temperature. Add basil and pepper just before serving.

Cook pasta according to the directions, which I believe roughly translate, "it's done when it's done." 9-10 minutes should do. Gently remove pasta from water with tongs or a spider and place right in the tomato mixture. Add a little pasta water if necessary. A little bit of basil and olive oil added to each plate before serving makes a nice presentation. Grate cheese at table, if you like.