Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tomato Tart for a Taste of Summer!




I'll admit it.  I have had problems with tomato tarts and they usually begin with the word "too"  Most of the ones I have tasted are either too mayonnaisy, too soggy, too cheesy, or too gloopy.  One thing they are never too much of is tomatoey! So, I was on a mission to make one that was fresh and full of tomato flavor without all of the gloopy mayo and cheese filling.  I found one that sounded promising in Stacy Little's The Southern Bite Cookbook. First off, his had NO mayo.  Now y'all know I am not like Lu.  I like mayonnaise, but I like for it to be in a supporting role, not overpowering all the other flavors in a dish.  In most of the tomato tarts I have had, it just seems to take over, making the tart too rich and mushy.  Stacy's tart had cream cheese instead of mayonnaise.  

Another problem with tomato tarts is that the tomatoes often make the crust soggy.  Stacy solved that problem in three ways.  First, he prebakes his crust.  Then, he drains the liquid out of the sliced tomatoes by salting them to draw out the liquid and then letting them drain on paper towels for a good 15 minutes.  Then, as an extra measure against wet crust, he spreads the cream cheese layer on the crust, so that it serves as a barrier between the crust and the tomatoes.

Finally, the only cheese in Stacy's pie, besides the cream cheese, is freshly grated parmesan. The cream cheese and the parmesan cheese are combined with some finely chopped garlic.  I also added some salt and black pepper to this mixture, just because I thought it was needed.  

I deviated from Stacy's recipe in two other ways.  He sprinkles freshly chopped basil on top of his pie before baking.  I added the fresh basil after baking to preserve more of that fresh basil taste. I also substituted Greek yogurt cream cheese to make it a little lighter and more healthy. Additionally, I added more tomatoes and basil than he did.  I wanted the pie to be about the tomatoes and the fresh taste of the basil and not about the filling.


One other thing I liked about Stacy's pie... He used all kinds and sizes of tomatoes...yellow, red, purple, large, small, cherry, grape.  It gave the pie a happy, fresh, eclectic look which I found attractive and homey.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any heirloom tomatoes, but I did have several sizes of red and yellow tomatoes.  You can't really tell it in my photo, however.  But I promise they were all there.  

Anyway, try my version of Stacy's tart and let me know what you think.  I think it has a really fresh tomato taste and a firm crust. Just the way I like my tomato tarts!


1 recipe of pie crust dough (homemade or store bought)
4-6 medium tomatoes...use different colors
1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes...use different colors
Salt
1 (8 oz.) pkg. Greek yogurt cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 t. Salt and 1/2 t. freshly cracked black pepper
2 T. chopped fresh basil

Place pie crust into pie plate and pierce with fork.  Bake in oven at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Slice all tomatoes to about 1/4" thick.  Place slices on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for at least 15 minutes. Blot the top of the tomatoes with more paper towels to draw out as much liquid as possible without destroying the tomatoes.

Combine cream cheese, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Spread cooled crust with cheese mixture.  Place tomato slices on top of cheese layer.  Bake for 14-15 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and the tart is heated through.  Remove and sprinkle with freshly chopped basil. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Here Come the Food Trucks!

When our friend and fellow foodie, Dawn, called up with an invitation to attend Huntsville's Food Truck Rally, you know we couldn't jump in the car fast enough.  We weren't sure what to expect, but we knew we would have fun finding out.

Church Street, where the event was to be held, was completely blocked off to vehicles, so we found a parking spot close by and sashayed over to Church congratulating ourselves on being early for a change.  Early!  This is the sight that met us as we neared the Rally entrance...


Dear heavens!  It does us absolutely no good to arrive early if everyone else has to outdo us! We could not believe the crowd!  Our first thought was to walk the entire length of the rally to get the lay of the land.  As we did so, we noticed that several very long lines had started to grow in front of many of the food trucks.  We also checked out the creative logos and truck designs.  Trucks with names like The Peppered Pig, The Rollin' Lobstah, and I Love Bacon grabbed our attention right off the bat.  There were also non-truck vendors such as Piper and Leaf who set up a tent and a table and The Food Fighter's Bustaurant, selling out of a bus.  The Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza had an actual brick pizza oven on site. Other vendors included Belle Chevre, Bigfoot's Little Donuts, Crave Heat, Dale's BBQ, Dallas Mill Deli,  Food Fighters, Highbrow Cold Brew Coffee, Ice Works, Lake Guntersville Ice Cream Shop, Mason Dixon Bakery, Meaux's Sno Balls, Neon Lilly, On-On Tacos, Pigtime BBQ, Rocket City Espresso, Rocket Dogs, Sugar Belle and The Food Truck. So you can see, our work was cut out for us!  How on earth would we ever decide which of the long lines to join?  We made our way to the opposite end of the line of vendors and finally came up with a plan.  Based on our observations, we chose 3 of the trucks and decided to split up.  After making our purchases, we would get back together and sample all of our selections. 






Dawn headed for The Peppered Pig, Lu joined the line in front of I Love Bacon and I scurried over to the Rollin' Lobstah.  We were like the Three Bears.  Dawn was in line for a wee little time.  Lu's line was middle sized and I withered away in a great loooooooong line! By the time I got the lobster rolls, the food Lu and Dawn had gotten was stone cold!  

Even though our plan wasn't quite flawless, the food was all tasty and we enjoyed our samples.  Here's what we had...



Dawn got Pig Mac from The Peppered Pig.  This was fried squares of macaroni and cheese topped with a sweet pulled pork.  That pulled pork was my favorite bite of the night.  
Waitin' in line at The Peppered Pig...

Pig Mac

Lu got a sandwich called The Carlos Santana from I Love Bacon.  This sandwich was described on the menu as a chiveto, the national sandwich of Uruguay.  It included grilled flank steak, bacon, ham, mozzarella, fried egg, lettuce, tomato and smoked mayo.  I am suspicious that ours did not include the smoked mayo, however, since No Mo Mayo Lu was ordering!


The Carlos Santana
Queso mac and cheese topped with bacon and jalapenos
I ordered two different lobster rolls from the Rollin' Lobstah.  The Connecticut was a hot lobster sandwich with a butter sauce.  The Maine was a cold lobster sandwich with a bit of lemon mayo.  Obviously, Lu did NOT sample this one! Both sandwiches came with homemade potato chips which were wonderful.  And the sandwiches themselves? They were both great...and filling!  They were small sandwiches, so we were surprised at how stuffed we were.  Dawn said she liked the hot sandwich best, but I think I might have liked the cold one a bit better. 
This is the line that doesn't end...yes it goes on and on, my friend!
Some people started standin' there not knowing what it was.
And they'll continue standin' there forever just because...
This is the line that doesn't end....

Rollin' Lobstah baskets

We each also enjoyed an entire quart jar of artisan tea from Piper and Leaf.  Dawn had a berry brew, Lu had a sassafras and I had a spearmint variety.  We loved our refreshing tea! Aren't the jars cute?

Left to right: Sassyfras , Briar Patch and Front Porch Special


Lu and Dawn also snagged a couple of desserts from Honey Pie Bakery for us to sample.  One was a chocolate brownie peanut butter pie called, "Will You Be My Brownie?" and the other was their signature Honey Pie made with walnuts and "sparkles and magic" according to the Honey Pie website.  Dawn doesn't like nuts of any kind, so she obviously preferred the brownie.  (I know...it's kinda nutty not to like nuts!  It might be as strange as not liking condiments!) Lu and I loved the honey pie.  

Honey Pie
Won't You Be My Brownie?



As we finished, we decided to sample one more goodie from the food bus called the Food Fighters Bustaurant.  We had heard people talking about how delicious their food was.  But... we sidled up to the bus only to find out they had sold out of everything!  I think next time we'll hit them up first!

Food Fighter's Bustaurant


It was a fun night, but there was too much food and too few of us.  We also missed the farmer's market that was going on simultaneously, so next time we want to  make time for that, too.  Since we were newbies, we were also unprepared for the concert.  Lots of people were bringing blankets and lawn chairs to sit on while they ate and listened to the bands.  

Folks enjoying their tasty selections on the banks of the Big Spring.

Additionally, there was a brew fest going on nearby so people could sample some of the locally brewed artisan beers.  
The rally, which began in April, will be held the 3rd Friday of each month until October. If you get a chance, check it out.  Just know the lines will probably be long, so bring your patience with you!






Three Friends and a Fork and our foodie friend, Delta Dawna, give Huntsville's Food Truck Rally 
3 Big Wheelin' Yums UP!












Peppered Pig on Urbanspoon I Love Bacon Truck on Urbanspoon Rollin' Lobstah on Urbanspoon Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Peachy Keen Glazed Pound Cake


Summertime in Alabama means fresh peaches and each summer one of the things Alabamians most look forward to is getting our hands on a basket of Chilton County peaches. Chilton County is known to have some of the sweetest and juiciest peaches in the state. Most people stop and pick up a basket or two on their way to and from the beach. And Alabamians are not alone!  Thousands of folks from other states heading to Gulf Coast on I 65 do the same thing.  Just south of Birmingham, people know to start looking for the giant peach water tower that moons interstate travelers as they slide toward Montgomery.  If you want a basket for yourself, just take exit 205 in Clanton and go right....or left!  On both sides of the exit are two of the best peach stands in the whole state.

Our family during one of our many stops to pick up peaches on our way back home from the Gulf.

If you turn right, you will find Durbin Farms and if you go left, look for the Peach Park.  Either way, you can't go wrong! Both of these glorified farmer's markets have more than just peaches.  You will find fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and homemade goods of all kinds. There is a restaurant at each location, too.  The Peach Park has barbeque, fried chicken, ice cream and peach pies, just to name a few of their offerings.  Durbin Farms has chicken salad, sandwiches, salads, desserts and, yes, ice cream.

I had to take a quick trip to Montgomery the other day, so I veered off the highway right at exit 205 and picked up a big basket of Topaz peaches to bring home with me.  Most of them ended up in two peach cobblers for the 4th of July.  Some of them were eaten right out of the basket, which is my favorite way to eat a peach.  However, there were eight left over after all was said and done.  I had the idea to make a peach pound cake.  I've never made a peach pound cake before, but the possibility sounded good, so I gave it a shot.

I started with 2 sticks of butter at room temperature and 2 cups of sugar.  I creamed these together until they were light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Then I added 6 eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one fully before adding the next.  Next I added 1 t. vanilla extract and 1 t. almond extract. If you aren't a fan of almond flavoring, you could just add 2 t. vanilla or substitute peach or rum extract for the almond.

In a separate bowl, I stirred together 3 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 t. baking soda and 1/4 t. salt. I added this mixture alternating with 1/2 c. sour cream to the butter mixture.

Next, I peeled and chopped the 8 peaches and added them to the batter.  My 8 peaches equalled about 3 cups of chopped peaches. I poured the whole shootin' match into a bundt pan I had sprayed with Baker's Joy.  Then I put the pan in the oven which had been preheated to 350 degrees.  I baked it for 1 hour and 15 minutes until a wooden pick inserted into the center came out clean.

Then, because I cannot leave well enough alone and because my favorite pound cake has a glaze that I love, I made a glaze out of 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 c. water and 1/2 t. rum extract.  I stirred it all together and brought it to a boil and boiled it for 1 minute.  I immediately removed it from the fire and drizzled it over the cake.

This cake was really good... moist and flavorful....just peachy!  Try it and let us know what you think!


Peachy Keen Glazed Pound Cake

  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1t. vanilla extract
  • 1t. almond extract
  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 8 large peaches...about 3 cups
Cake:
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
Add extracts
Combine flour, baking powder and salt
Add flour mixture alternating with sour cream to the butter mixture
Add chopped peaches to batter, stirring well
Pour batter into bundt pan sprayed with Baker's Joy
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Glaze:
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. rum extract

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Boil for 1 minute.  Immediately remove from heat and drizzle over cake.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On the Road Again: Willie, Paia and Hana

Downtown Lahaina 

Our last full day in Maui was a busy one.  We got an early start to hit the hairpin curves of the road to Hana.  But first, breakfast at a restaurant in Lahaina that the boys had heard about. Someone had mentioned it when they were on their trip to Haleakala.  The restaurant, Longhi's, was, as it turned out, an Italian restaurant located on Front Street in Lahaina.


When we arrived, we were seated immediately.  There were only a couple of other tables that were occupied, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.


I figured, as an Italian restaurant,  Longhi's did the majority of their business at the lunch and dinner hours.  Anyway, our server was attentive and friendly and quickly brought a round of freshly squeezed orange juice for most of us and coffee for JD.  She also suggested a cinnamon roll, which the boys eagerly agreed to try.  It was huge, so they all shared it while we studied our menus.




Rob's breakfast included a waffle, two eggs, 2 pieces of bacon and toast.


JD had french toast.


Tyler had lox and bagels served with cream cheese and capers.


Scott had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.


I had a spinach quiche topped with a tomato slice served with fresh pineapple and toast.




So what did we think?  Well, Longhi's is in a great location.  The service was wonderful. The food was good, but not really special.  The problem was the price.  For what we got, Longhi's was way overpriced.  We realize that Longhi's is in a high priced area, but the breakfast we got wasn't worth $120.00. It was fine. and we ate it, but the quality and the price didn't match up. Honestly, we could have gotten a better meal at Waffle House for much less money.  Simply put, when we go back to Maui, we probably will not go back to Longhi's, at least not for breakfast.  


Nevertheless, we were fueled up and ready to head to Hana.  Hana is on the complete opposite side of the island from Lahaina and the road to Hana runs along Maui's northeastern shore.  It is a twisty, strand of spaghetti that winds through tropical rainforests, magnificient waterfalls, and amazing seaside vistas.  The last chance to fill up the car before hitting the Hana Highway is in the Maui cowboy town of Paia and that is just what we did

  



While in Paia, we also took time to check out the favorite haunt of Paia's Red-headed Stranger, Willie Nelson.  Charley's Restaurant and Saloon is the country crooner's hang-out of choice when he is in town.  Rob and I ran in to Charley's to see if Willie was around.  He wasn't, but we interrogated the staff and got the inside scoop.  

According to Charley's employees, Willie is usually in house about 7-8 times a year and he sometimes entertains the patrons when he stops by.  The last time he had been to Charley's was Easter. 

We saw the world's biggest guitar nicknamed, Bigger Trigger, by Willie himself.



And Rob practiced his cowboy skills by busting through the saloon's swinging doors.  

When we had gleaned all the information we could and determined that Willie wasn't hiding in a corner anywhere, we skedaddled back out to the car and headed toward Hana. Our first stop on the road to Hana was this darling little smoothie stand.  The boys had fun entertaining the cute girl manning the stand.  We ordered some pineapple banana bread which was very tasty, except for the bottom, which had been burned.  I also got a smoothie called The Cure, made with coconut, ginger, honey and papaya.  It sounded good, but it was vile!  If there was any honey in that smoothie, I couldn't tell it.  There was nothing sweet about it. There was another stand behind the main one where a girl was pounding sugar cane for the smoothies.  I should have gotten her to add some to mine! I wonder if it was called "The Cure" because drinking it would cure you of ever ordering another smoothie in your life!







We stopped for a while to check out a beautiful and mysterious looking black sand beach.
There was a swimsuit model working a photo shoot while we were here.  The boys were quite impressed!

















The Seven Sacred Pools has to be one of the most beautiful spots on earth!




We were especially impressed with a grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees.  The bark is amazing!



There were coconut trees everywhere on Hana Road!  Tyler, whom we nicknamed, Mr. Trivia, told us more people are killed by coconuts than by great white sharks!  Turns out, he was right! One of the locals told us that is why you won't see any coconut trees at any of the resorts in Hawaii.  They are worried about a coconut falling on someone's head!


We ran into Hasegawa's General Store hoping to find shave ice.  Sadly, there was no shave ice at Hasegawa's!

It was a full day of driving and stopping and driving some more.  There were many places we could have stopped that we didn't.  By the time we got back to Paia, we had a little bit of time to check out the town before everything closed.  This surfboard fence caught my eye.  That's something we don't see too often at home.


The setting sun was beautiful.  We wished we had more time, but we had a plane to catch for the big island the next morning, so we headed back to the hotel to pack up. Mahalo, Maui, for your sweet laid-back hospitality.  We had a wonderful time!


 Three Friends and a Fork gives Longhi's 2 Yums UP.  The food is fine, but not special enough to warrant the prices.  The service, location and setting are wonderful.

Longhi's on Urbanspoon