Canned tomatoes from Europe recall the taste of summer

Canned tomatoes from Europe recall the taste of summer

This time of year we really start pining for summer tomatoes. Even the best hothouse tomatoes don't measure up. They're not as sweet or as acid and even the ripe ones are usually far too firm. Mind you, we always have some homemade marinara sauce in the pantry, but cooked sauces are no substitute for fresh vegetables. We've tried using any number of U.S. canned tomato products, and they too fall short. But the same isn't true for certain European canned tomatoes—especially those grown and packed in Italy. And, more to the point, those grown and packed in southern Italy and packed without added calcium chloride or preservatives. This may not be immediately obvious, since the front of the labels don't carry the European geographical...Read More
Fundraiser gala fare channels Shaker spirit

Fundraiser gala fare channels Shaker spirit

In early August, we had the pleasure of attending the annual fundraising Gala at Hancock Shaker Village ( One of the more prosperous of Shaker communities in the Northeast, “The City of Peace,” as its inhabitant called it, reached its height in the 1830s. More than 300 Shakers worked 3,000 acres of land just west of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires. Since 1959, the community has been a history museum with 20 original buildings, a working farm, a wealth of Shaker artifacts, and many excellent interpretive programs. The village's signature building is the Round Stone Barn, pictured at the top of the post. It's a landmark structure in America vernacular architecture. We ate dinner at tables in the hayloft level. Shaker beliefs...Read More
Summer love: Chinon and ratatouille

Summer love: Chinon and ratatouille

August brings a near-embarrassment of riches. After a wet summer with good heat, our garden is in overdrive. What we don't grow we can buy in abundance at the farmers markets held daily here in Cambridge. We have to remind ourselves that one does not live on insalata caprese alone. In August, there is also ratatouille. Such elemental foods deserve a special kind of reverence. British health and fitness guru Nick Barnard runs Rude Health ( It is a food and drinks company that goes way beyond all the wholesome foodie fashions to get back to basics. His new book of food philosophy with 130 recipes, Eat Right, is published by Kyle Books ( You can buy it here on Amazon. It's our favorite kind...Read More

Even more decadent grilled cheese and truffle sandwich

Some foodies love to play the “last supper” game: What would you want to eat for your last meal on earth? Pat and I are in accord on this one. It would probably be this elegantly simple grilled cheese sandwich with Comté, prosciutto, ripe tomato and truffle. Cooked just enough to brown the bread in butter (an omelet pan is perfect for the task), the Comté brings out all the high, resinous notes in the black truffle. You could die happy just biting into the sandwich, which gives you a strong whiff of truffle just before you actually taste it. In the interest of research, we tried this sandwich in the purist form—just Comté and truffle—before adding the prosciutto and tomato. The basic sandwich shown...Read More

Black truffle pizza tricks

I got some of my best ideas about how to adapt truffles for home preparations from Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak (, RPM Italian (, and Paris Club ( in Chicago, who is the biggest user of Aussie truffles in the U.S. Psaltis credits his comfort level with truffles to the seven and a half years he spent working for Alain Ducasse (he opened Mix in New York). “I learned the best thing about truffles—that they are really delicate and not overpowering,” he told me. “There are a lot of aromas to truffle dishes but what I really savor is the actual flavor of truffle. Handled right, it's light and delicate. You can add lots of butter and lots of cheese to make a Parmesan...Read More

Pomodorina belies canned tomato image

Pomodorina is tomato sauce rethought, and it's my most unexpected find on a recent research trip to Modena. We've already written about “What to buy in an Italian grocery store,” but here's a product I'd definitely add. Pomodorina has been the best-selling product of one of Italy's best food factories, Menù, since it was introduced in 1967. It's made only during the roughly six-week tomato harvest season and combines freshly harvested and cooked tomatoes with celery, carrots, onions, fresh basil, and some olive oil. Menù sells it as a base ingredient for sauces, but I discovered that some restaurants consider it good enough to sauce pasta on its own. That's spaghetti sauced with Pomodorina above, and it was delicious. Menù ( is based in Medollo...Read More

Celebrating great dining in Dublin

We just returned from Dublin's New Year's Festival, celebrated over three days from December 30 through January 1. This was the fourth year of the festival, and the biggest yet. Along with the raucous parade (above), it featured live rock concerts, a Spoken Word Festival of poetry and rap, other music that drew on traditional and classical genres, special museum and gallery shows, and a whole lot of fun. The Irish know how to celebrate, and it turns out that they have a lot to celebrate year-round with the new Irish cuisine. Ireland has always had the makings of great food — from the sweet vegetables to the succulent meat from animals grazed on its rich green grass to the fish and shellfish from its...Read More

French chefs, Spanish ham & summer fruits

During a recent visit to Île de Ré and Île d'Aix, the unspoiled islands off the west coast of France not far from Cognac, I also enjoyed a taste of Spain. In early September, swimmers and bicyclists were making the most of the warm, summer weather and chefs were looking for ways to highlight the last of the ripe tomatoes and melons. Several turned to Spain's jamón serrano, an air-dried mountain ham, to add salt and umami to balance the sweetness of the luscious, ripe fruit. At Le Grenier à Sel ( in the town Ars en Ré on Île de Ré, a perfect starter consisted of a tartare of tomato mixed with the chopped ham. The next day, I encountered a slightly different version...Read More

Green tomatoes inspire tequila cocktail

Two years ago we passed along Gerry Jobe's recipe for the Killer Tomato Cocktail, and this harvest season we discovered another way to drink tomatoes, courtesy of the Bar at Rialto, Jody Adams' terrific restaurant in the Charles Hotel in our hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The smooth and elegant tequila drink with lots of layers of flavor -- created by Rialto beverage director Young Won -- seemed especially timely since it uses green tomatoes. By the looks of our garden, we'll still be gathering them right up until frost. Like many craft cocktails, you have to make many of the components well in advance, so plan accordingly. ACQUA FRESCO... GREEN TOMATO, THAI BASIL, GINGER, MINT OIL To make the acqua fresco: 4 green tomatoes, chopped...Read More

Tomatoes meet their match in bacon & basil

Faced yet again with an abundance of tomatoes, we didn't have to travel far for inspiration. The inventive cooks of the Catered Affair prepare the food for the Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, including a lovely afternoon tea. Last year when we visited during harvest season, the chefs served a dainty version of a BLT. They placed a mixture of chopped bacon and chopped tomato between two small slices of bread with the crusts cut off. It was a lovely variation on a classic. This year we decided to use some of those prolific garden tomatoes to scale up the sandwich for a hearty lunch. We used English muffins and spread them with homemade basil mayonnaise, since basil is growing far more profusely...Read More