Another Summer Obsession

Thea and Gelsamina Singing

Thea and Gelsamina Singing  2003, charcoal and pastel on paper, 42 x 63 inches

This drawing of two beautiful women singing conjures up the memory of their voices and makes me happy ─ as do all the melodies of summer.

I can’t resist a warm, just-picked tomato, one of the few vegetables I grow up here on Blue Mountain Road.  They take forever to ripen, but each day, one or two, maybe only tiny cherry tomatoes, are ready for my picking.  They go straight into my mouth.  I am resigned to picking masses of green tomatoes just before the first frost and leaving them to ripen on my kitchen counter.

For serious cooking and eating, I buy luscious tomatoes from the Zwecks.  After days of tomato salads, pastas and gazpacho, I decided to make a tomato tart for a dinner with our friend Susan.  I remembered a recipe from a Time-Life cookbook I have,  Provincial French Cooking, published in 1968 and a real blast from the past. The text, explanations and descriptions of French food and customs, was written by my hero, MFK Fisher!

I’m not sure if this is her recipe but I feel guided by her when I make this tart.

Our dinner with Susan began with corn on the cob, of course.  Then I served the tart with a salad including farro and roasted figs.  Here is what I did.

For the tart crust, use half of my recipe here ─  Pie!  ─ minus the sugar. Make this first as it needs an hour-long rest in the fridge before forming and baking.


In the meantime, slice 2 large tomatoes (or enough small ones to cover the tart),  salt lightly and let them drain on paper towels.  Slice 8 – 12 ounces of gruyere and grate a 1/2 cup of parmesan.

On a piece of parchment, roll the pastry into a large rectangle, about 9 x 12 inches, and fold or pinch the edges to make a low rim.  Place on a baking sheet.


Prick with a fork and bake at 400° for about 15 minutes, until a little brown and set. Let cool.  Arrange the cheese slices, slightly overlapping, on the pastry, top with the tomatoes, patted dry; sprinkle with a lot of chopped basil, and strew with the parmesan. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

crust and gruyere

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

While the tart is baking, assemble the salad.  I had a cup of cooked farro, (dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice), on hand. If you need to cook some it will take about 40 minutes so plan accordingly.


Toss the stemmed and halved figs (about 3 figs per person) with a teaspoon or so of olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the fruit. Add a bit of salt and pepper.


Heat up a grill pan or heavy skillet and roast the figs, cut sides down, until fragrant and lightly caramelized.  Let cool a bit.  Combine lettuces, arugula and a cucumber cut into small chunks, and dress with olive oil, salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Toss in the farro and place the warm figs around the mound of greens.

figs and farro

Slide the tart, with the parchment, onto a cutting board and dinner is served.








Summer obsessions

Garden (2)

Garden, 2001, oil on canvas, 54 x 46 inches

For weeks each summer, we eat green beans at every meal.  Then we binge on corn, then tomatoes.  I recently spoke with my sister Mimi on her farm in Missouri about our seasonal obsessions. We both can or freeze some of the tomato crop, but neither of us put up beans or corn, finding that they are best cooked when freshly picked.  So we eat corn on the cob, corn salads and corn in stuffed poblanos, tomato peach salad,  tomato tart, mozzarella and tomato pasta…. When we finally tire of these dishes the season is about over and we move on to new obsessions with fall veggies.

While we eat many ears of corn on the cob and I frequently include corn off the cob in lunch salads ─ quickly roasted in a dry iron skillet, combined with grains such as quinoa, farro or rice ─ I occasionally want a more elaborate dish. And Zweck’s farm has harvested poblanos, beautiful long, dark green chilés.


First cut the kernels from two ears of corn.

corn cob

Sauté a small onion with a clove of garlic, both diced, in a bit of safflower oil, then add half a diced red pepper. When translucent add the corn and cook until it brightens, just a couple minutes.  Let this cool while preparing the chilés.


corn saute







Halve the poblanos the long way and remove the veins and seeds. (I prepared two chilés for the two of us ─ for additional servings, use one ear of corn for each poblano.  Add other ingredients accordingly.) Place in a baking dish.








To the corn, add a handful of chopped cilantro and 1/2 – 1 cup of grated cheese (cheddar or goat cheese or whatever is on hand), a pinch of salt and an egg (optional, but helps hold the filling together).  Fill the chilés with the corn, top with a dusting of panko and a drizzle of olive oil.

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until poblanos are tender and the filling browned.  Serve with a cool salad of lettuces, cucumber, tomatoes and mint.





marj wagathaga

Marj at WaGaThaGa, charcoal on paper, 22 x 30 inches (from a photo circa 1948)


Bud’s mother, and my beloved mother-in-law, Marjorie Shark, age 101, died last week. Zoë, Bud and I flew to Minneapolis to join the family in mourning her passing and celebrating her long life. We stayed in a hotel for the week and ate many meals in restaurants.

On arriving home, I was eager to cook with the summer bounty to be found at the Zweck farm. And Dorothy at Steamboat Mountain Natural Foods in Lyons had left a message saying my box of peaches had arrived. Yeah! First though, I visited my garden, kept watered for the week by Roseanne, and found ripe tomatoes, yellow beets, shishito peppers and of course, wild arugula. I couldn’t wait to cook.

peaches and tomatoes

I decided to make a chard tart.  To go with it,  we must, of course, have corn on the cob and tomatoes and cucumbers and, and… Okay, I’ll save the eggplant, peppers, and okra for another day.

For the tart, I use a wonderfully simple recipe for the crust, devised by Patricia Wells and shared in her book, Vegetable Harvest.

Combine 1 cup unbleached flour, a heaping tablespoon of wheat germ, (my addition), and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup cold water.

Press the dough into a tart or pie pan, making the sides a bit thicker than the bottom. (No need to prebake but if  a recipe does call for baking blind, this dough doesn’t require weights to prevent shrinking. I use it for all my savory tarts/quiches.)  Put in the fridge while you prepare the filling.


Wash the chard, striping the leaves from the stems.  Chop the stems into 1/4 inch pieces and the leaves into 1/2 inch shreds. Keep separate.

Sauté a chopped, small onion and a minced clove or two of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.  When the onion begins to soften, add the chopped stems  and cook until tender.  Pile the chard leaves on top of the stems and onions, cover and cook until wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the veggies cool a bit, then spread in the pie shell.

In a measuring cup, beat together 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half and 3 eggs, then stir in  1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan.  (Other cheeses to use include cheddar, goat cheese or gruyere.) Pour this evenly over the chard mixture.

ready to bake

Bake at 375° for 30 – 40 minutes or until set and brown.  Cool for 10 minutes or so before cutting into wedges.  This is good hot or at room temperature.


To accompany the tart I made a tomato and Colorado peach salad, duplicating a not great one I had ordered in a restaurant.  Both fruits must be ripe and flavorful.

peach and tomato salad

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and dress with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped basil.

And then the cukes – Kirby cucumbers are not just for making pickles.


I chopped them with some sweet onion, added a splash of olive oil, a dollop of nonfat Icelandic yogurt, a little salt and some chopped cilantro.

cucumber salad2

With corn on the cob, this made a delicious welcome home dinner, eaten on the front porch with a view of our valley and Mt. Audubon. Ahh, home.


And cheers to Marj – Mom – Grammy!

Ben and Marj

In the Fall, 1990, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches (Marjorie Shark and her grandson Ben Frisch)



Summer on Blue Mountain Road 2002, charcoal on paper, 20 x 30 inches

Friends Sherry and Jamie with Bud and I hosted a party on Blue Mountain Road for Teresa Booth Brown in honor of her beautiful exhibition just opened at Michael Warren Gallery in Denver.  Twelve of us friends sat around the table and had a grand time laughing, drinking wine and eating.  Bud smoked two salmon fillets on the Weber, Sherry made a tomato/avocado/basil salad and a mixed greens salad, we had fresh green beans from Zweck’s, and Jamie prepared grilled peaches for dessert, served with my almond macaroons and ginger cookies.

I like to include one complicated dish in a celebratory dinner so I made sopes as a starter.  These little masa harina boats are a treat, crisp and savory with a filling of beans, cheese and salsa, but do take a bit of work.


For the masa preparation, I use a recipe in Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayliss.

Combine 2 1/4 cups of masa harina with 1 1/2 cups of hot tap water.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons softened butter, 1/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Mix until smooth then divide into 12 balls.  Flatten these into disks about 1/2 inch thick.


These cakes are then baked on a griddle to cook the outsides. Heat a comal or heavy iron pan until hot.  Place the cakes on the ungreased surface and cook until browned a bit, turn and cook the other side.  The interior will be soft and ready to be formed into little ‘boats’ (a coracle I think).


With a thin, sharp knife, split the cakes in half.  Mold the raw dough on each half  to form an edge about a 1/2 inch high.

ready to fry

Cover the sopes.  I sometimes prepare them to this stage in the morning, then refrigerate until time for frying and serving. You might even do this a day ahead.

Have the filling ingredients ready.  Prepare or reheat refried beans, (see Supper on a Summer Evening), grate your favorite melting cheese, make a salsa, (I used mango salsa, see blog link above), and open the sour cream.

Thirty minutes or so before serving, heat a 3/4 inch depth of safflower oil in a wok or deep pan to about 360° ─ or until very hot, but not smoking.  Fry 6-8 sope shells until browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Drain on paper towels or a brown bag and keep warm in a 250° oven while you cook the rest.


Layer the warm beans, grated cheese, salsa, and sour cream into the shells and serve. (With the filling ingredients ready, and with Sandra as a helper, filling the sopes went very quickly.)

filled sopes

Other fillings to consider are sauteed chopped onions, chorizo, and cilantro; whole beans with feta and pico de gallo; or chopped, sauteed zucchini, poblanos and onions with a melting cheese and cilantro.  Just remember to cut the ingredients into smallish pieces to fit into the little boats.


Lunch for an Artist

bob at wildflower farm

Bob at Wildflower Farm 2004, oil on canvas, 30 x 42 inches

Robert Kushner has been here making monotypes.  He collected flowers and fruits and various pieces of Betty Woodman pottery from my kitchen, as models to create lovely portraits using ink, crayons and collage.

As is my wont, I invited the studio crew and friends Sandra and Jack, for a celebratory lunch ─ a tapas style spread.


I made a salad with small waxy potatoes, first steaming the potatoes until tender then cutting them in half and marinating them in a simple vinaigrette made with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I added halved green olives and a handful of chopped parsley. (Here in a Jane Dillon bowl.)

The green salad included radishes, cucumber chunks and arugula from my garden.  My beets have grown big enough to eat so I was very happy to add them to the menu.  After steaming I dressed the warm, peeled beet wedges with another vinaigrette, this time made with lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and a big pinch of salt.

Zweck’s farm has had the most delicious green beans so they found a place on the table. Cooked in boiling water for a few minutes and served naked ─ they are that good.


A platter of smoked salmon, a St. Nuage cheese and homemade hummus completed the lunch.  All this was accompanied by the amazing epee loaves from the St. Vrain Market Bakery in Lyons.  We have all become quite smitten with this delicious bread. (In a basket woven by my sister Mimi.  She grows the willows used in her basketry on her farm in Missouri.)

epee loaf

We even had dessert ─ cherries and ginger cookies.

Supper on a summer evening

The swimmer

The Swimmer, pastel on paper, 30 x 41 inches

At the end of a summer day, perhaps after a swim at the pond, I crave something savory with a spicy kick for supper.  I’ve made tostadas for years and never tire of their crisp, smooth, crunchy combination of tortillas, beans, cheese and salsa.  As you know from my posts, I have been receiving quarterly shipments of beans from Rancho Gordo and have  upped our bean consumption.  I cook them with a piece of kombu (seaweed) and find this prevents any unpleasant bean gas experiences.  Plus, I think the more beans we eat the more accustomed our digestive systems are to them.

Anyway, here’s what I did:

First I prepared the tortillas ─ 2-3 per person.  In a small skillet just bigger than the tortillas I heated sunflower oil ─ about a 1/4 cup ─ until almost smoking.  In went a corn tortilla, the oil bubbling and splattering (be careful). I turned each with tongs and cooked until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towels or a grocery bag cut open.

frying tortillas

I had cooked pintos in the freezer so that part was easy.  Check out my book for a method of cooking dried beans.  If you must use canned, rinse them well.  In a tablespoon of sunflower oil, I sauteed a chopped large clove of garlic until it was translucent then added the drained beans ─ about two cups.  Using the terrific wooden bean masher I had bought from RG I worked the beans to a semi-smooth paste, adding bean cooking liquid when the mixture got dry. I tasted for salt and added a tablespoon of pureed chipotle pepper.

mashing beansbeans with chipotle







Next I made the salsa. I have been loving the mangoes available in the market and imagined their sweetness against the chilés, beans and cheese in a tostada.  I make a tomato, peach or cantaloupe salsa with about the same ingredients so choose your favorite fruit.

To the peeled, sliced, diced and lightly mashed mango I added a good squeeze of lime, a minced pickled jalapeño, a chopped green onion and a handful of cilantro.

mangoonion and cilantro

mango salsa

To assemble the tostadas, I had ready some grated cheese ─ I used Catamount but Jack or another favorite would be delicious. Spread the warm beans on the crisp tortillas, topped with the cheese and warmed in the toaster oven until the cheese was well-melted.


I garnished the tostadas with salsa, avocado slices and a dab of sour cream leftover from cake baking.


A tart salad is a welcome sidekick to these savory, rich disks of deliciousness.  I combined shredded red and green cabbage from Zweck’s with julienned jicama.

cabbage and jicama

For a dressing I simply added the juice of a lime, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil.  If I hadn’t made the mango salsa I would have added a sliced peach to the salad.

cabbage slaw





Fresh peas




I usually plan my meals around seasonal vegetables.  So, as we officially enter summer, I choose preparations using the wonderful vegetables and herbs growing in my garden and available at the Zweck’s farm stand.

shelling peas

The short pea season is almost over but I scored a big bag of English peas to prepare with fresh green onions, mint and butter. Shelling peas is a pleasurable, contemplative task ─ splitting the shell, rolling out the peas clinging to one side, sampling the occasional sweet ball.

peas cooking

First, I sauteed a couple chopped green onions in butter ─ about 1 tablespoon ─ until softened, added 2 cups of peas and a little chopped mint, (saving the rest of the two tablespoons for a garnish), barely covered the peas with water (used just enough to prevent burning) and cooked until tender.  This takes only a few minutes so watch carefully to retain the lovely silky texture of the peas.  (If you only have frozen peas, cook very briefly.)


To accompany the peas, I made smashed potatoes, a recipe I devised for days when we crave the potatoes served with a roasted fish at Basta in Boulder. Our dinner also included a grilled pork tenderloin, and golden beets with anise that were lingering in the fridge. (Recipe in my April 30 post, Sunday Lunch.)

For the potatoes, cut a pound of Yellow Finn or red potatoes into pieces and steam until tender, 15-20 minutes.

potatoes steaming

In a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes, have ready a vinaigrette made with a tablespoon of coarse  mustard, two tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of olive olive, salt and pepper, all to your taste. I used a bowl made by Janis Hallowell.


When the potatoes are tender, tumble them into the bowl of vinaigrette and smash.  Leave various size pieces, don’t get carried away!  Add a handful of green olives cut in half─ I like Castelvetranos.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

smashing the potatoes

adding olives

Pork tenderloin is delicious, and easy to cook as Bud is the grill master in our house.  I made a dry rub in the spice grinder (an old Braun coffee grinder dedicated to spices and herbs) with fennel seeds, hot red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt.  I left the meat in the fridge for the afternoon, removing it an hour before grilling. Bud cooked it to an internal temperature of 140°, about 20-25 minutes on a hot gas grill.

the meal

Buon Appetito!


Top:  Tasting, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches.

(A portrait of Nick Helbrun in his garden.)