summer » Wonderland Kitchen
Browsing Tag


Spring Brunch Brilliance: Porch Waffle Party

Dark chocolate dipped clementines with sea salt

We stored up quite a bit of cabin fever here in Baltimore this winter, so as soon as the weekend temperatures began to touch the 70s, the neighbors fell into action to get our notoriously non-rowdy porch parties back on the social calendar. While these affairs normally allow us to enjoy some wine and dessert as a summer day cools its way into evening, we traded down to morning so that we could trade up to waffles and mimosas for this season’s kick-off event. After an unfortunate electrical fire, we were also inaugurating our resident waffle mistress’s brand new iron, so it was perhaps best to get things going outside—just to be safe.

Waffle with butter

How do you like to top your waffles?

Mistress of the waffle iron

Mistress of the waffle iron

As the waffle production was very well in hand, I volunteered to provide some toppings. For once in my life I went simple, and I’m going to tattoo this lesson on my forearm so that I can enjoy making party food more and stress about it less. Whip a little honey into softened butter and add a tablespoon of sprinkles: perfect for the kids and takes about 5 minutes. Fry some banana slices in butter, deglaze the pan with bourbon, and stir in some pecans and a good dose of maple syrup: well worth the 20 minutes for the adult joy. A little fresh whipped cream and some mixed berries finished off the tray for the waffle traditionalists in the crowd.

Waffle topping table

Honey butter with sprinkles

Honey butter with sprinkles

With so little prep work to do, I also took a stab at some dark chocolate-dipped clementine slices with sea salt that had caught my eye on Pinterest. I don’t do a lot of fancy chocolate work, so I wasn’t super confident when I started the project, but this proved just as brainless as the rest. A 1/2 cup of good dark chocolate, a bit of shortening if you have some on hand to smooth things out, and then just melt it together in a double boiler, dip the slices, and rest them in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Finish a row and run a pinch of salt flakes down the line. Repeat. The only hard part was setting them down instead of eating them. I popped them in the fridge overnight, covered well in plastic wrap once the chocolate set hard. The next day I just had to pile them in a bowl.

For those who would like a little more detail in their recipes:

Honey Butter with Festive Sprinkles

Banana Bourbon Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Clementine Slices with Sea Salt

How do you like to top your waffles and pancakes?

August’s Pleasure: Tomatoes on Toast


The closing weeks of August generally find me living on a steady diet of tomato sandwiches, and this year is no exception. Sometimes I pair thick slices of bright red fruit with a generous schmear of kale pesto, sometimes I go classic with some mayo and salt. I almost always toast the bread, except for when it’s the first slice off a fresh loaf and I just can’t wait that long.

Tomatoes of August

I know more and more people are giving up gluten products. I’ve cut back a bit from my carb-rich diet, but I’m still committed to bread. I do try and make my own as often as I can, however, favoring whole wheat flour and add-ins such as sunflower or caraway seeds. What I usually don’t have is a lot of time and patience for super-involved recipes (aside from the times that I do). For an everyday bread, I don’t want to heat milk or make extra dishes. I want to measure it all into the bowl of my stand mixer and just let the dough hook do the work. I want it to finish five minutes later with the bowl neat enough to just pull out the dough, spray in a touch of olive oil, and it’s set for reuse as the rising bucket.

That said, I was bored with my standard recipe, and so I went cruising on the internet, as people do, for something new and exciting. I stumbled across Manly Housekeeper’s adaptation of a King Arthur recipe that sounded exactly like my kind of action. And indeed it was. On my second go, I decided to have some fun and braid it rather than rolling it into a loaf; it takes about a minute more to do but I think really adds something fun to the presentation. On the second rise, the dough expands into the edges and corners of the loaf pan, so it’s still completely suitable for sandwiches, just with a fancier top. This is definitely optional, but highly recommended. One caution I will give with this recipe is that my rising times were rapid. That may just be because of the muggy August heat of Maryland, but keep a close eye on your progress.

Harvest Grains Whole Wheat Bread

Harvest Grains Whole Wheat Bread
only slightly adapted from Manly Housekeeper’s recipe due to pantry stock

3 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup seed mix such as King Arthur’s harvest grains blend
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups water
3 T vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup

Measure all the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl. Combine the liquid ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together, and add in with the dry. Mix until just combined and then let sit for 20 minutes.

When the time has passed, continue kneading by hand or by hook about five minutes, until satiny and elastic. Lightly grease your bowl with olive oil, place dough at bottom and turn several times to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise one hour.

Turn dough out onto the counter and gently deflate. Divide dough into three equal portions and roll each into a 16-inch log. Braid together and place in a lightly greased 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 inch loaf pan. Reuse plastic wrap to loosely cover pan and let rise again until dough crowns over pan top about an inch (mine took 45 minutes, but it could require double that).

About 15 minutes before final rise is complete, heat over to 350°F with rack in the center. When dough is ready, bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Then tent bread with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes more.

Turn loaf out of pan immediately and cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy, topped with whatever you like best (which would be tomatoes). And keep a careful eye on any suspiciously lurking pets.

Tomatoes and Toast

Summer Simple: Tomato and Cottage Cheese


Admittedly, this is not actually a recipe, but I had completely forgotten about how much I love eating this simple summer dish. Growing up in Ohio, we had a garden overflowing with beautiful tomatoes each August, and burying them under cottage cheese often made for an easy lunch. Still, somehow the image most deeply seared onto my mind is of the ones I ate with my grandparents in the cafeteria at the Canfield Fair, line upon line of these bright red fruits stuffed and served on small paper plates, ready for the claiming. (Can you even find a fresh vegetable to eat at the fair anymore?)

Tomato with Cottage Cheese: The Cut

Tomato and Cottage Cheese

1 ripe tomato
1/2 cup cottage cheese
salt and black pepper

Core tomato and slice into wedges top to bottom without fully cutting through the fruit (leave about 1/2 inch at the bottom). Plate and nudge open wedges, sprinkling a bit of salt over top, if desired. Stuff center of tomato with cottage cheese and top with ground black pepper. A chiffonade of fresh basil or a few snips of chive would certainly not be amiss sprinkled over top of these beauties, but my family was never so fancy.

Tomato and Cottage Cheese

Savory Summer Pie: Tomatoes and Corn and Biscuit Crust, Oh My


I may have grown up amid Ohio’s horizon-filling corn fields, with tomatoes piled high at every farmer’s stand we passed, but I had never tasted the Southern treat that is tomato corn pie until a few years ago. Since that revelatory time, however, it has become the dish that announces “Summer!” in our kitchen (and celebrates its bounty a few times more throughout the season).

Tomato Corn Pie

Despite all that, somehow it has never ended up detailed here in Wonderland. I think I get distracted. There’s that weekend when I arrive at the market and see that the stall at the end has a pickup bed backed in and filled with ears of corn, and that the man who’s been selling the fresh spring peas has now traded them for bushels of the reddest, ripest fruit. I get a little dizzy. Apparently, I don’t come to again until the pie is baked and eaten. Apparently, I don’t consider sharing.

And it also has to do with the fact that a small army of writers have already blogged their way through the Gourmet recipe and posted all about how awesome this pie is, so it has always seemed silly to add to the noise about it. There are plenty of variations out there now as well: tomatoes roasted, a crust spiked with this seasoning or that one. The fact that I am extra generous with the filling–mounding up the corn and tomato slices and going extra hard with the basil–hardly seemed worth reporting.

Tomato Corn Pie

Once, however, I did read a post in which a cook expressed extreme displeasure in the finished dish. It was all wrong, she wrote, and I was weirdly crestfallen over this, that my favorite pie wasn’t universally loved. She disliked the crust (“But it’s a delicious, buttery biscuit!” I shouted at the computer screen). It was then that she really drew down on my thick slices of heaven and blamed the mayo.

Now, I have heard of these strange beasts, people who feel about mayonnaise the way others react to cilantro–with an innate disgust that deeply confuses the camp of addicted fans. Being both Team Mayo and Team Cilantro myself, I usually take a shoulder-shrugging “more for me” stance in the face of these expressed tastes. But the first tomato corn pie of 2012 has changed all that. I got home with my produce, shucked my corn, peeled and seeded and squeezed and blotted my tomatoes, chopped my herbs, whipped my mayo and lemon, shredded my cheese, and mixed the most lovely biscuit crust of my career. I assembled it all, crimping the edges and, yes, gloating already about how lovely it all was when I chanced to look over and see that the measuring cup full of the lemony mayo dressing was still sitting there, on the wrong side of my pie.

Unkind thoughts were mentally expressed. Also, I learned that you cannot, no matter how much you might desire to, pour the dressing in through the top crust vents. Just a little FYI.

So, I tossed the sauce into the ‘fridge and the pie into the oven, counted it as a lesson in humility, and tried to move on. When I took a bite of the baked pie, however, I discovered that I just might have stumbled onto something. First, for all the “mayo is gross” sayers in the crowd, this pie is tasty–not as tasty!!–but still plenty good sans the condiment. When made correctly, however, this recipe has a tendency to soak through its bottom crust no matter how vicious you get with the draining and blotting of all the sweet juices out of the tomatoes. This time, I cut and was rewarded with a perfectly platable slice–even the first piece popped right out of the dish with barely a chip in the bottom crust. I drizzled a bit of the unintentionally reserved dressing over the top like some kind of icing. I think this just might become a thing.

So make your own tomato corn pie, with or without mayo. No need to do anything but slice off the corn kernels, in my opinion, but definitely peel and seed and squeeze and blot those tomatoes.

Tomato Corn Pie

Savory Tomato Corn Pie
as seen across the internet, most traceable back to Gourmet

For the crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoons kosher salt
6 T cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup whole milk

For the filling

4 large, meaty tomatoes, peeled, cored and sliced crosswise, drained of their juices
3 ears of corn
3 T finely chopped basil
1 T finely chopped chives
2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T butter, melted, for brushing the top crust

Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a shallow X in the bottom of each and dunking then in a boiling water for 10 seconds, then submerging them in ice water. The skins should easily peel off at this point, sticking only if there are imperfections in the fruit. Slice and squeeze gently, discarding liquid and seeds. I like to begin with this step so that I can lay out the slices out on paper towels and get as much drainage time as possible.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Add 6 T butter in small cubes and, using with a pastry cutter or your preferred method, work the butter into the dry ingredients. When the mixture resembles a coarse meal, add the milk and mix just until all ingredients are incorporated. Divide roughly in half (I add just a touch more weight to what will become my bottom crust and wrap in plastic. I like to flatten the dough into rough discs and refrigerate until ready to roll out.

Cut the corn off the cobs and roughly chop. Prepare the cheese, whisk the mayo and lemon dressing together, and chop the herbs.

When ready to assemble the pie, heat the oven to 400F.

Unwrap one of the dough pieces and place on a well-floured counter. Flour the top of the dough as well and roll out to fit your 9-inch pie plate. Working in batches, place half the sum total of each–corn, tomato slices, herbs, and cheese–in the shell and then repeat. Finish by drizzling the mayo dressing over the filling (though you may omit this step if you absolutely must). Roll out the top crust and seal the edges. Slice vents in the top and brush with the melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Tomato Corn Pie slice

Rooted (Summer Cocktail Edition)


Over lunch a few days ago, a friend suggested I take a stab at making ginger beer. Not quite a Three Cubed project, perhaps, but not something I’d ever even thought about making in my home kitchen before. She sent me a recipe, and I filed it away for future crafting.

As these things tend to unfold, a few nights later I was at my favorite dining establishment and the summer cocktail list included a tempting item called a Root Cup. This drink involved said gingery beverage plus lemon, cucumber, and (bonus points) a new-to-me liquor called Root, produced by our friends to the north, Art in the Age. The friendly Woodberry Kitchen bartender showed me the lovely watercolor reproductions of herbs on the bottle and explained the contents, but the producer has actually made a short movie about it (it’s that kind of operation) which you can watch for a much more illuminating explanation than I could type here.

Based on my internet research, I wasn’t sure Root could be sourced locally for common purchase, but of course it was available at the Wine Source. In fact, a few people before me had clearly also been bitten by the bug and there was only a single bottle left on the shelf.

If you can juice (thank you, $5 yard sale juicer) and measure, you can make ginger beer. The ingredients in the recipe I followed are lemon juice, ginger juice, and simple syrup, plus water and a pinch (and I do mean a pinch–more on that below) of champagne yeast. Pour it into flip-top bottles, shake well, and leave it to brew in a dark, warm place for 48 hours. Then refrigerate and get ready to get your cocktail on.

By 6 p.m. this evening, we were ready to experiment. Drink production started explosively enough, since I apparently had not taken the “25 grains of yeast” proviso literally enough. Fair warning all: This recipe tastes great but the dude is serious about the teeny tiny itsy bitsy amount of yeast needed to make the bubbles. I lost a good portion of the brew when I popped the swingtop and the carbonated beverage spewed forth, over the top of the bottle and across the counter with frightening speed (not pictured due to frantic mopping). If you want to work this into a volcano demonstration for your kids, by all means. Otherwise, be stingy with the yeast, keep cameras and pets clear, and maybe open the bottle over the sink just to be safe.

Once that little bit of drama was cleaned up, the drink itself was a welcome reward. To my taste, it’s a perfect match to a setting sun and a summer swing. A little sweet, a little bubbly, the alcohol not offering too harsh a bite. This is going to become a habit, I can tell already.

Summertime, and the cooking is easy


Though I can get a little, um, over-anxious about food when entertaining, my mental energy level last night required a strategy shift for the sake of sanity, so this time I went with a  “let the food do the work” theme. I didn’t even run to the grocery. If I didn’t have it, it wasn’t going in. With 60 minutes to work, what might our fridge produce?

First course was corn soup (blend some corn kernels with a bit of milk and add salt and pepper and fresh chives on top–thank you, garden supply!), the last three carrots in the drawer cut into sticks with the left over basil dressing “artfully” drizzled over top (skip complex preparation and hide beneath the mask of presentation!), and orange tomatoes sliced with oil, vinegar, basil, scallions, and a dash of Hawaiian black salt (knew that would come in handy for something). For the main, I grabbed the left over roasted eggplant and onions (yay, already roasted! oven remains off, house temp remains reasonable), a bunch of swiss chard, and a cup of chick peas and cooked them with some garden garlic (my normal stash was empty and there they were, hanging all nice and dry in the basement!) and some tomato paste and curry powder. Tossed over pasta with a few toasted pine nuts (a little burnt–ooops!), some parsley, and a sprinkle of cheese. Bam!

M brought the wine. We didn’t even get to the leftover birthday cake from Rebecca’s party. Damn.

I have to say that the little backyard garden really helps when it comes to summer cooking, even though it doesn’t seem like much when you look at it. I’m finally figuring out how not to waste the food I get at the market every week, which has been a huge learning curve for me for some reason.  Also, doing dumb things like adding a blue tortilla chip on the side of the soup bowl with a spoon full of that tomatillo salsa gave things a kind of fanciness without much investment.

I’m not working today, so I’m thinking about bottling the wine. Stay dry everyone!

BONUS tip: How to defrost (and probably cook!)  your frozen farmers’ market corn for unexpected dinner guests on a 90 degree day:*

*This method is probably not USDA approved. I’m also pretty sure my mother would faint.