Lots of drama in the sky these days...weather warm, cloudy, bright, electric, but never cold anymore. And in these northern climes, the sun is up more than it's down. The sky begins to blush pink about 5AM and it's not fully dark until well after 11PM. The birds will wake you up nice and early if you don't bury your head in your pillow.
After the safflowers are spent, on come the poppies.
An eye-popping contrast to the greengreengreen of the hills.
The white iris have bloomed out and the lupines and Canterbury bells have come on in the garden. We've cleared our weedy field and begun to plot out the deck and playhouse. We may get underway before the end of the month.
Meanwhile we enjoyed a short visit from the family. We had a picnic on the terrace, lowering our food supplies by basket from the third floor kitchen.
Quinn took delivery. Zinnie just looked cute.
Here's a recipe I've used a couple of times lately for a very nice starter, not too complicated but requiring a little thinking ahead.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Basil and Goat Cheese Terrine
10 beefsteak or other plump tomatoes
4 large bunches of basil (to make 3 cups of basil leaves)
8 oz soft fresh goat cheese (I buy it in a tub)
Preheat your oven to low (300ºF, or 150 Celsius) Get a large pot of water boiling on the stove and a large bowl of ice water ready on the counter. Core 10 large fresh tomatoes and with a paring knife make an 'X' at the cut end of each tomato. Plunge them into the boiling water for 20 seconds and then into the ice water for a further 20. Peel and discard skins. Arrange the tomatoes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Season liberally with coarse salt and pepper and cover with olive oil. Place in oven for 2-3 hours, until they are withered but not too brown.
Meanwhile make the basil spread. Take 3 cups of loosely packed basil leaves and plunge them into boiling water and then ice water as with the tomatoes to blanch for just 20 seconds. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands and then roll the basil in a dish towel to remove excess moisture. Put the basil pulp into a small blender with 3 T olive oil and whir to combine. Pose a piece of cheese cloth over a glass or cup and place the basil bulb inside for at least 20 minutes to drain. Reserve the liquid for garnishing the terrine later.
Before you put the terrine together, soften 8 oz of fresh goat cheese in a very low oven. It should be easily spreadable.
Now you are set to layer your terrine. Get yourself a very small loaf pan or other tub and generously line it with plastic wrap so that the plastic hangs well over the edges. If the tub is too large your terrine will not be very tall. Start by placing a layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the pan, cut side up. Spread the goat cheese to generously cover and then add some basil on top of the cheese (I find there is never enough basil to be more than rather skimpy at each layer.) Continue until you use up all your ingredients, ending with the tomato slices on top, cut side down. Fold your plastic wrap over and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before attempting to cut.
Cutting the terrine is best accomplished with either an electric knife or a super sharp kitchen knife. If you have neither, I suggest using either dental floss or thin wire.
If you like, you can make a dressing which adds to the flavor of this dish.
2 T black olive purée
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 T chopped capers
1/2 t minced garlic
1/2 t chopped shallots
3 T sherry vinegar
6 T olive oil
Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil.
I use one of my favorite kitchen tools to mince my ingredients. This great old wooden bowl and chopping knife belonged to my mother.
Voila, a beautiful and delicious starter.
And for your dessert today, a sweet video of one of Quinn's inventions: