Archive for September, 2009

summer’s end

Sep 16, 2009

heirloom tomatoes and burrata

The dreaded summer heat has finally quelled here in sunny Southern California, the days are milder and the nights cooler. Though I highly doubt we’ve seen the end of the hot spells, as it’s common for another warm blast or two to sneak in before fall finally stakes its claim. The tomato plants however, are definitely over the hill, with few fruit remaining on the vines. Therefore I figured it would be nice to capture a few more photos with the available supply.

I made a beautiful dish of tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and garden herbs and flowers this past weekend to share with some friends, and didn’t have a chance to snap up a good photo. So I recreated the dish, this time with a less colorful array (used up all the yellow and dark red tomatoes already) and with creamy burrata in place of standard mozzarella. The tomatoes and cheese were dressed simply with Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper, with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a few flecks of dried red chili. Young tender leaves of basil and its flowers were plucked from the garden, along with some oregano, peppery arugula, and their respective blooms. I’ll definitely miss the tomatoes when they’re gone, but that’s the beauty of seasonality: the excitement and anticipation of the return.

spoonful of sugar

Sep 11, 2009

making oatmeal more fun with banana, strawberry, and brûlée

I know they say oatmeal is good for you, but if you’re like me, you’re adding a little something to make that colorless mush just a wee bit more appetizing. A drizzle of honey and some dried fruit like cherries or blueberries goes a long way, but why stop there when you can take it a step beyond? I like to elevate my oatmeal to dessert status. All it takes is a few slices of banana, and in this case some sliced strawberries as well, a spoonful of white sugar (I use organic sugar made from evaporated cane juice, don’t use brown sugar here as it will burn into black clumps) sprinkled over the fruit, and a propane torch for some heat.

One thing I’ve learned is to pass up the expensive mini torches you find in gourmet specialty shops and head to your local home center to pick up an industrial torch. An adjustable nozzle with a built-in lighter and a can of propane should only set you back 10-15 dollars, compared to the 30-40 you’ll shell out for the gourmet ones. The bigger flame you get with the Home Depot special will also allow you to evenly caramelize the sugar much faster, and more economically.

Pass the flame of the torch slowly over the sugared fruit, keeping the tip of the burner about 3-4 inches away. You will start to see the sugar bubble and then turn a golden brown. Keep the flame moving evenly to get a nice brûlée crust. Voilà, dessert — I mean breakfast is ready!

strawberry banana oatmeal brûlée

This works great with just bananas, though strawberries add a nice burst of color and flavor.

  • 1 portion of steel cut oats, prepared according to package directions
  • 3-4 fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar

Add oatmeal to a heat proof bowl. Add sliced banana and strawberries cut side up, to expose flat surfaces. Sprinkle evenly with sugar. Light torch and heat sugar till golden brown, making sure to pass torch slowly back and forth over fruit (be careful not to overheat the edges of the bowl or bowl may crack, and watch out, bowl will be hot afterwards!)