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Another late August, another juicy Summer Fest finale. For last year’s Tomato Week – which, I recall, also featured sweltering heat and flagging ambition – I cranked up the oven and rolled dough spirals and generally made things as hard as possible. Did I learn my lesson? You be the judge.

Better yet, let’s have my late grandmother be the judge. (Trust me, there was nothing she couldn’t judge.) Grandma Trudy enjoyed giving gifts – truly, she did. She chose my and my siblings’ birthday, holiday, graduation gifts with care. But the part she loved? I mean, lived for? That would be the actual giving of gifts, because immediately following the giving came the reciting of disclaimers.

If you don’t like it, it can go back. I like it. Don’t like the color? Gray is nice. I can get it in blue. Really, gray’s fine. If sweaters make you itch, it goes back. Sweaters are fine. So you know! Receipt is in the box.

I’m certain that if grandma were alive and food blogging, it would go something like this:

So, Cherry Tomato & Maytag Blue Beignets. What? Sounds fancy. Sounds like a lot of fat. If you don’t want fat, don’t eat it.

local sun gold cherry tomatoes
Tomatoes, I like tomatoes. Not too many tomatoes – heartburn. You don’t have heartburn? Good for you! Eat the tomatoes.

frying tomato beignets
Who frys in summer? My doctor says no frying. And if you don’t like cooking don’t cook! Just order in. Wait – I’ve got menus in the drawer.

cherry tomato & maytag blue beignets - summer fest 2010
So, they’re pretty. But they remind me of – what are those things, in the bread, with the lettuce and funny sauce, on Dempster Street, in the round bread? I don’t know. They remind me of those.
cherry tomato & maytag blue beignets
I have to say, these were not bad, not bad, might even be okay – but vey schmeer, the work. Who needs work in the kitchen? Your grandpa, he makes French toast in the kitchen. He’s crazy. If you don’t like work, this recipe can go back.

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Makes 35-50, depending on tomato size. Serve warm or at room temperature as an appetizer, on a brunch buffet, or as a very fancy sports snack.

CHERRY TOMATO & MAYTAG BLUE BEIGNETS

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/3 cup water

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper, ground
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten

small wedge Maytag Blue Cheese, about 5 oz. (Stilton would also work well)
35-50 cherry tomatoes, small size, in season (I used locally-grown Sun Golds)

vegetable oil, for frying
sea salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper, for rolling
chives or other herbs for garnish, chopped fine
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Make beignet dough: Place yeast in large bowl (if using stand mixer, bottom of mixer bowl) and pour 1/4 cup warm water over yeast to dissolve. Set aside until yeast is bubbling and activated. Place 1/3 cup water and vegetable shortening in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20-25 seconds, until shortening begins to melt. Remove and stir until shortening is completely melted.

Sift flour with sugar, sea salt and white pepper. Add melted shortening, buttermilk, and beaten egg to activated yeast. Whisk (or use paddle attachment, on mixer) together to combine. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture (by hand with a wooden spoon, by mixer with paddle on low) until a wet, sticky mass forms. Gradually add remaining 2 cups of flour to form a shaggy but fully combined dough. NOTE: Humidity makes a difference. If dough looks wet and sticky, add more flour. If dough begins to look dry and resists mixing, stop adding flour.

Roll and form beignets: Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Turn over once or twice to smooth – but don’t knead it. Roll dough into a large rectangle, 1/8 – 1/4″ thick. Using pastry or pizza wheel, mark 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ squares. Place one cherry tomato and a generous dab of blue cheese in center of each square. Pinch up corners of each square to meet, pressing edges together to seal, then roll beignet between palms to create a seamless ball. Place on a foil or parchment-lined sheet pan, and continue rolling filled beignets until done. NOTE: beignets may be formed up to one day in advance. Cover loosely with foil and store in refrigerator until ready to fry.

Frying beignets: Line a sheet pan or large plate with paper towels. Sprinkle the paper towels with an even, fine layer of sea salt, then large dashes of cayenne and white pepper, to taste.

In large pot or deep fryer, heat vegetable oil (at least a few inches) to approximately 360°. I recommend using a fry/candy thermometer to monitor oil temperature – too low and beignets will be heavy and greasy; too high and you’ll get dark outsides, raw insides. When oil is hot (test a small piece of dough – if it puffs to the top, it’s ready) drop the beignets into the pot one by one, working in small batches.  Beignets should puff and brown quickly, about 1-2 minutes. If beignets do not rise and puff, slightly raise heat. If beignets burn too fast, slightly lower heat.

When beignets are evenly gold-brown, remove from oil and drain on “seasoned” paper towel-lined pan. When you have several warm beignets on pan, pick up edges of paper towels, allowing beignets to roll and coat with seasoning. Continue frying batches of beignets until done, rolling each batch in seasoning (add more salt/cayenne/white pepper if necessary).

Serving: serve warm or at room temperature, up to four hours after frying. May garnish with chopped chives or other herbs, as desired.

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Summer Fest is an annual online celebration of good food and great ideas, featuring food and garden bloggers from around the globe. Every week we highlight a different seasonal ingredient – corn, stone fruit, tomatoes – and our guest bloggers share great recipes, stories and tips. You can participate by visiting these terrific blogs and leaving links or comments – and if you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can contribute a post of your own. Drop by A Way to Garden for details on how join the party.

THIS WEEK’S LINKS: TOMATOES

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: Heirloom Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust

Nicole at Pinch My Salt: What to do with slow-roasted tomatoes

Alison at Food2: Heirloom tomatoes

The FN Dish: Tyler’s Ultimate Tomato Salads

Margaret at A Way to Garden: More than one way to ripen a tomato

Gilded Fork: Celebrating summer lusciousness with a tomato dossier and recipes

Diane and Todd at White on Rice Couple: Sun-dried tomatoes (actually made in the sun!)

Paige at The Sister Project: 3 substantial, healthy, vegetarian tomatoey main dishes

Liz at the Cooking Channel: Easy Tomato Tart

Kelly at Just a Taste: Tomato Jam

Alexis at Food Network UK: The seven deadly tomato sins

Michelle at Healthy Eats: Top 10 Things to Do With Tomatoes

Alana at Eating From the Ground Up: Roasted Green Salsa (green zebras and tomatillos), and how late August makes her hurt for New Mexico

Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Chunky Garden Gazpacho with Flowered Corn Tortillas and Melissa Clark’s Tomato Tarte Tatin

Judy at Over a Tuscan Stove: Tomatoes, the Italian Way

Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Savory Tomato Crumble

Tigress in a Pickle: Over 50 ways to preserve tomatoes in jars

Cate at Sweetnicks: Loaded Bowl of Deliciousness

Have you seen the movie Waitress? It came out in 2007, but I never forget a movie in which pie takes a starring role.  Keri Russell plays Jenna, a small-town diner waitress with a problem – she’s pregnant. And unhappy. She doesn’t love the baby’s father – her husband Earl – but does love her obstetrician, with whom she’s having an affair. She’s also a gifted pie baker, and since the town’s citizens swear by their daily slices, at least she’s got her job.

We see Jenna make dozens of pies, from banana cream to blackberry chocolate, and she names each pie to match her mood, names like “I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong And I Don’t Want Earl To Kill Me Pie (vanilla custard with banana, hold the banana)” and “Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie (lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in).” Waitress is funny, intelligent, delicious and, best of all, features an elderly Andy Griffith as Old Joe, a sly, pie-loving philosopher. See it and you won’t be sorry. Possibly hungry, but not sorry.

In other news, I baked a pie – made for the wonderful cross-blog food event Summer Fest. I’m contributing to this week’s topic, Stone Fruits, and next week’s topic, Tomatoes.  Summer Fest 2010 features more wonderful food bloggers than ever (I had a swell time last year, too), listed at the end of this post. Be sure to visit them all today to check out their marvelous recipes, tips and ideas – and share some of your own.

What did I call my pie? Well, I wasn’t sure, at least not until late afternoon. Despite the presence of good pie, one never does know where the day will lead. Let’s take a look.
melanie pitting cherries. with a knife.
“Dopey Marilyn Doesn’t Have a Pitter, So Pal Melanie Helped Her Pit Cherries With A Knife Pie,” also known as “Melanie Was Real Mad At Her Landlord And Took It Out On The Bloody Cherries Pie.”
filling cherry apricot pie
“Calls From Auto Insurance, Volleyball Coach, Dentist, Piano Teacher and Mom Tryin’ To Keep Me From Rolling Dough Pie.”
filled cherry apricot pie, leaf crust
“Why Does Melanie Back Away Slow When I Start Cutting Dough Leaves? Pie”
tossing ginger-almond crunch on cherry apricot pie
“The Dog’s Breath Smells Like Ginger ‘Cause Half The Crunch Hit The Floor Pie”

and finally,
cherry apricot pie with ginger-almond crunch
“Hungry Crabby Tired Back-To-School Josie Got A Fork And That Was All She Wrote Pie.”

CHERRY APRICOT PIE with GINGER-ALMOND CRUNCH

1. Make pie dough. Roll crust into pie plate as directed, and chill in refrigerator until ready to fill.

2. Make Ginger-Almond Crunch. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Make Cherry Apricot filling. Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Finish and bake as directed, using one of the options below.

If you’ve prepared a fluted pie crust: sprinkle Ginger-Almond Crunch evenly over pie filling, covering fruit. Place pie on a foil-lined baking sheet (wide enough to catch all drips) and set in lower third of preheated 400° oven. Bake approximately 30 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 350° and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juices are thickened and bubbling. If crust and crunch topping brown too quickly, tent pie loosely with foil and bake until done. Cool completely before slicing. Delicious warm, but expect broken, cobbler-like pieces. Which are also good.

If you’ve prepared for a leaf cutout crust: Remove leaf cutouts from refrigerator. Fill a small bowl with water. Using fingers, moisten the back of one leaf cutout and press it gently but firmly to pie dough rim, adhering to folded edge. Add remaining leaves in an overlapping pattern, moistening and pressing each one to form a natural “wreath” along the rim.

When leaf edge is complete, sprinkle Ginger-Almond Crunch evenly over pie filling, covering fruit. Place pie on a foil-lined baking sheet (wide enough to catch all drips) and set in lower third of preheated 400° oven. Bake approximately 30 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 350° and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juices are thickened and bubbling. If crust and crunch topping brown too quickly, tent pie loosely with foil and bake until done. Cool completely before slicing. Delicious warm, but expect broken, cobbler-like pieces. Which are also good.

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Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
3 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water

Food processor method: Place flour and salt in processor bowl. Cut butter and shortening in pieces, and sprinkle over flour mixture. Pulse machine on/off to cut butter/shortening into flour, forming coarse crumbs and a few remaining chunks. Trickle ice water over mixture, pulsing until it just comes together as a rough, unformed dough, about 20-30 seconds. Wrap and chill, at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide pie dough in half, patting each half into a flattened round. (Reserve one half to roll decorative leaf or other cutouts, if desired, or wrap and chill for another use.) Roll first half of dough into a round approximately 1/8″ thick, turning as you roll to prevent sticking. Round size should be slightly larger than your 9″ or 10″ deep-dish pie plate. Transfer round to pie plate, lightly pressing dough to fit, and patching small cracks or tears if necessary. Trim excess dough, leaving about 1″ of overhang.

For fluted rim pie crust: Gently fold overhang up and over pie plate rim, pressing dough with thumb and forefinger as you work around whole plate to form a decorative indented rim. Chill unbaked crust in refrigerator until ready to fill.

For leaf cutout pie crust: Trim overhang to 1/2″, then fold up and over pie plate, pressing into a flat rim all around. Roll second half of dough to 1/8″ thick. Cut leaf shapes 1) with a leaf-shaped cookie cutter or 2) cutting freehand with a paring knife. Cut slightly pointed ovals (irregular is fine!) then use tip of paring knife to lightly score “leaf veining” marks on each one. Leaves will be added to edge after pie is filled, so chill cutouts in refrigerator until ready to use.

Ginger-Almond Crunch

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
1/4 cup crystallized ginger chunks

Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat, shaking until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes, OR toast in 350° oven on an ungreased baking sheet, about 10 minutes. Cool almonds completely before using.

Place toasted almonds and crystallized ginger in food processor bowl. Pulse machine on/off until you get small, coarse pieces. Add butter, flour, and brown sugar to bowl. Using on/off pulse again, process together into even, large crumbs. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cherry Apricot Filling

1 1/2 pounds firm ripe apricots, pitted and quartered, about 4 cups
1 1/2 pound cherries, pitted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

In large bowl, gently toss cut apricots and pitted cherries together with lemon juice. In small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle mixture over apricots and cherries, turning to coat, then add vanilla and almond extracts, lightly tossing until just mixed. Follow directions above for filling and baking pie.

Summer Fest is an annual online celebration of good food and great ideas, featuring food and garden bloggers from around the globe. Every week we highlight a different seasonal ingredient – corn, stone fruit, tomatoes – and our guest bloggers share wonderful recipes, stories and tips. You can participate by visiting these terrific blogs and leaving links or comments – and if you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can contribute a post of your own. Drop by A Way to Garden for details on how join the party.

THIS WEEK’S LINKS: STONE FRUIT

Sara at Cooking Channel: Savory Stone Fruit recipes.

Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple: Riesling Poached Pluots.

Margaret at A Way to Garden: What is stone fruit, anyhow? Plus: Clafoutis batter revisited.

Caroline at The Wright Recipes: Ginger and Vanilla Poached Peaches.

The FN Dish: Paula’s Perfect Peach Cobbler.

Alison at Food2: Peachy Party Foods.

Kelly at Just a Taste: Peaches & Cream Cupcakes.

Liz on Healthy Eats: Puttin’ Up Peach Pickles, Compote and More.

Food Network UK: How to Poach a Peach.

Judy of Divina Cucina: Chocolate Amaretti Baked Apricots.

The Gilded Fork: dossier & recipes featuring peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries, almonds, coconuts.

Cate at Sweetnicks: Blueberry Peach Smoothies.

Tara at Tea & Cookies: Making Peach Jam.

Alana at Eating From the Ground Up: Stone fruit slump.

Caron of San Diego Foodstuff: grilled peach parfait and coconut peach gazpacho.

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: gluten-free peach-blueberry buckle.

Paige at The Sister Project: A Summer Fruit Whatchamacallit (not a pie, not a crisp, but delicious).

Marilyn at Simmer Till Done: Cherry Apricot Pie with Ginger-Almond Crunch.

Tigress in a Jam: nectarine preserve with summer savory and white pepper.

Clearly Now

hand-carved bridge at Lutsen, MNOh, home video. People always say it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful to have everything: the cities you saw, the wedding, the first steps, the faces and talk of people we love, gone, still waiting there on tape. When Josie was born there was some pressure to take video. But we didn’t want video. I find no thrill in steel building corners or my shiny wedding-day nose and we wanted to remember, not record, the first steps. Once home movies came sentiment-ready with no sound and fuzzy pictures, a sort of dreamy, sped-up and slowed-down version of picnics, plays and road trips.  But video clarity, it’s hard. Your voice sounds like you squawking through tin, and the voices of departed too painful to play back, too precious for machines. It’s good for whatever just needs viewing, like training seminars or soap operas or how to chop an onion. But what we take doesn’t always need viewing. Memory’s edge is safer tumbling in your head, safe from poor lighting and flat sound. Memory can live quite comfortably with an audience of one.

And yet. This year up in northern Minnesota, balancing on a sunny granite rock in a Lake Superior cove, I pulled out my iPhone and took silly, shaky video. Because in the last 100-degree days of August or in the gray, woolly depth of winter, I might wish to hear water splash and wind over a lake. I may need a few seconds of the most full-hearted minutes all year, less memory than talisman, Josie’s wet sandals and the gull sky, and nowhere to be. From the lake to my head and into my hands, and for once, video does the trick.

Summer marshmallows. Lutsen Resort, Lake SuperiorIt’s been a quiet summer here, at least for the adults and one miserably hot Labrador Retriever. While Josie tore through theater stage crew, volleyball camp and writing class, Greg had his nose to the legal grindstone and I’ve been writing, writing, special-project writing, and quietly keeping fingers crossed. I know it’s still late July but I can feel summer shifting, preparing to shuffle its humid, sticky self down the hill toward fall. You can see it in the faces of tired mosquito-slappers, taste it in salad when you’re dreaming of hot soup and finally, you can hear it from children. Children who absolutely, no way, totally mean it do not want to go back to school.

For us the surest sign is a road trip, one we’ve taken every end-of-summer for years, up to northern Minnesota – way up north, as they say, near the Boundary Waters. So sacred is this trip to our little family that I believe if we did not make the drive, time might stop and summer would never end. And if the prospect of a sweaty, eternal August scares you, don’t worry: while there’s breath in our bodies and gas in the car, we will not miss granite coves or wild blueberry danishes or glittering Lake Superior, so wide and welcome and cold.

Thus we are off toward Highway 61 – revisited – in just a few days. And before I break into song about pine trees and seagulls and pie, I’d better make with today’s ten words:

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Road trip
greg on the rocks in Minnesota
Due north
Betty's Pies, Two Harbors, MN: Bumbleberry Pie a la Mode
Beloved berry break
Dockside Fish Market, Grand Marais, MN
Fish, cake
lakeshore at Lutsen lodge, MN
Cool.

What’s your favorite road trip?

Hope you’ve been enjoying a marvelous summer. I’ll be back soon with a few longer posts, a few food posts and a few sweet surprises.

Me & my girl, Lake Superior 2009

ah, last year.

More of Minnesota’s North Shore:

Josie and the Pie, with Diamonds

Comfort for the Too Close

DSCN9486
I recently tossed this together as a brunch side to lox and bagels. Minted fruit is hardly a novel idea, but standing in the drowsy Sunday kitchen, still in pajamas and part cutting, part eating drippy fruit, I thought eh, it’s summer. The season begs for no thought and less effort, falling back on old ideas like a hammock, asking little more than juicy, cold and sweet. Go easy on yourself. Dive in.
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