Thai Pumpkin Soup with Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

So, it finally feels like fall outside, which is great, although my apartment feels like an icebox. Phil, my lanlord, won’t turn on the heat for weeks, so I guess I better get used it. My neighbor upstairs has been roasting a turkey all day just to heat up his apartment. Fortunately, I won’t have to take such extreme measures — I have quarts of this spicy, pumpkin soup on hand. Although this soup hardly resembles the pumpkin soup I first became addicted to — ABP’s, served in a bread bowl — pumpkin soup in any form always reminds me of college and of fun trips out to eat with roommates and teammates when the dining hall’s fare just wouldn’t cut it. I love pumpkin soup.

This recipe has been adapted from one I saw recently on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks.com. Almost any winter squash can replace the pumpkin, and when I make this soup again, I will use a red kuri squash or a hubbard squash, the varieties that a woman at the Fair Food Farmstand recommended I use. (While I was shopping, I was determined to use only pumpkin for my pumpkin soup.) I did, however, roast a red kuri squash next to the pumpkins to compare flavors, and ultimately found the red kuri squash to be tastier than the pumpkins. But for a recipe like this, with lots of added seasonings — Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, ginger — a more mild-tasting squash such as a pumpkin works fine.

Next pumpkin recipe: Pumpkin Ravioli with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter Sauce … so yummy!

Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Yield = 2½ quarts

2 sugar pumpkins*, about 2 lbs. each
olive oil
kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped diced
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 can unsweetened coconut milk, (13.5 oz.)
cilantro, optional
spiced pumpkin seeds, optional
*Winter squash such as Hubbard, red kuri or butternut make fine substitutes for the pumpkin. Two sugar pumpkins yield about four cups of flesh.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut each pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil on a baking sheet. Season inside of pumpkins with salt and place cut side down. Roast for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserts easily through the skin into the flesh. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Meanwhile in a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and ginger and cook over medium heat until translucent and tender, about five to 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute longer. Add four cups water, one tablespoon of the curry paste, the coconut milk and one teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil.

When the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and add to the pot (there should be about four cups of flesh). Return mixture to a boil and let simmer 10 minutes. Using an emersion blender, purée the mixture until smooth. (Alternatively, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.) Taste mixture, adding more salt if necessary and the remaining tablespoon of curry paste if desired. Return to stove to heat through if serving immediately, or let cool completely before storing. Serve with chopped cilantro and spiced pumpkin seeds.

Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds
Yield = 1 cup

¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup pumpkin seeds

Combine sugar and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Pour oil into a nonstick sauté pan and turn heat to high. Add nuts. Sauté until nuts begin to pop violently. After three to four minutes, when half of the nuts have turned golden brown, turn off the heat, transfer nuts to the bowl with the sugar-salt mix, and toss to coat. Transfer nuts to a fine mesh strainer and shake excess any coating off. Line a sheet pan with foil and spread nuts across it to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

Figs & Fennel

Several weeks ago, just before my friend Meredith (fourth year medical student, see previous entry) departed for a grueling one-month surgical rotation in Pittsburg, Ben and I had the pleasure of dining with her and her fiancé, Matt (private chef on the Main Line). We again chose Sovalo — Matt and Mere’s favorite spot — and again delighted in a wonderful dinner.

Some of the more memorable dishes of the evening include a homemade ravioli stuffed with figs, a tortelli tossed with duck confit and mushrooms, and a crispy pan-seared red snapper. The shaved fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano salad, however, tossed lightly in a lemon vinaigrette and served with prosciutto di Parma and fresh figs, was perhaps the favorite selection of the evening.

The combination of fennel and Parmigiano never fails to please but the addition of prosciutto and figs made every bite in this appetizer truly delectable. While I haven’t made a trip to the Fair Food Farmstand in a couple weeks (so sad! CSA season has ended), I doubt they still have this variety of figs, though they carried them through the first week of October at least. With a tender green skin and a brilliant magenta-colored and sweet-tasting interior, these figs make any salad restaurant worthy. Black mission figs, however, the variety served at Sovalo, will more than suffice.

We concluded the evening with two desserts, one of which we particularly enjoyed/attacked: a biscotti tirimisu layered with fruit and I believe some sort of custard, but that part of the evening, to be honest, is a touch fuzzy … cockails at the bar before dinner, wine during, Frangelico and coffee for some (me) after, and Port for all, suddenly add up — afterall it was a bon voyage dinner for our poor Pittsburg-bound Mere-Mere. Only two more weeks Mere!

Fig and Fennel Salad
Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs
olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
kosher salt and pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano
8 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma
12 fresh figs, halved

Using a mandoline or knife, slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly. Add a few shavings of cheese and toss lightly. Set aside.

Lay 2 slices of prosciutto on each plate. Top with a mound of the fennel-parmigiano mixture, and scatter six fig halves around the fennel. Serve.

Rosemary-Butternut Squash Bisque & Challah

In the beginning of the growing season, I promised to document each CSA I received. To say the least, I have been negligent, especially recently. For this soup, I think I used the contents of three separate CSAs. I definitely roasted two butternut squash and two delicata squash, and I swear I roasted a pumpkin too, but I can’t find any documentation of actually receiving a pumpkin — I’ve written down each week’s content, and pumpkin is no where to be found on my lists. Am I going crazy?

Anyway, this soup couldn’t be simpler to make, and the recipe really is just a guide. I set the oven to 400ºF or 450ºF, cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, placed the squash cut-side down, and roasted them until they were tender (maybe 45 minutes or an hour). Once cooled, I scooped out the flesh, combined it all in a bowl, froze 2 cups of the mix for a later use (maybe ravioli filling) and added the rest (about 2 quarts) to a pot. I filled the pot with chicken stock, added salt, pepper and chopped rosemary, and simmered it for 30 minutes. I used my immersion blender to purée the mix, and in no time I had made a delectable soup.

The recipe called for orange zest, which I didn’t have and so didn’t use, but I remember it being a nice flavor when my mother used to make this soup for us. The recipe also calls for cream — which I guess justifies the title, though I would hardly call this purée a bisque — which I also didn’t use.

I happened to have some frozen challah on hand and it turned out to be a nice dipping bread, though any bread will do. Little Lindis and Mr. T. are heating up a bowl of this soup as I write…they can be the judges.


Rosemary-Butternut Bisque
Adapted from a Molly O’Neill recipe printed in the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 06, 1994
Yield = 2 quarts

2 medium butternut squash
olive oil
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on the baking sheet. Place the halves cut side down, rub in the oil and place in the oven. Roast until knife tender, about 45 minutes. Remove squash from the oven and let cool.

Scoop the flesh into a saucepan (discarding the skin), and add the broth, rosemary, orange zest, a big pinch of kosher salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Alternatively, transfer to a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary and adding the cream if desired. Serve with crusty bread.

Measuring ingredients with a weight scale, just as professional bakers do, will more accurately reproduce this recipe than will volume measurers. While more accurate than digital scales, mechanical scales are expensive, take up space and are perhaps unnecessary for the home baker. Salter brand makes several good, reasonably priced, easy-to-store scales available at Fante’s, Kitchen Kapers and Williams Sonoma. For normal baking, a six to nine pound capacity will suffice.

Challah
Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Ten Speed Press, 2001)
Yield = 1 large loaf

4 cups (18 oz.) unbleached bread flour
¼ cup (2 oz.) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (.25 ounce) salt
1 1/3 teaspoons (.15 ounce) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, (whites reserved) lightly beaten
¾ cup plus 2 T. water
sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, yolks and water. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed for six minutes using the dough hook, adding a touch more flour if necessary — dough should gather round the hook (not be stuck to the bottom of the bowl), but be careful not to add to much additional flour. (Alternatively, knead on a lightly floured work surface for 10 minutes. While this method works fine, using a mixer helps prevent adding too much additional flour to the dough.)

When dough is soft and supple (not sticky), transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, rolling the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise for one hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl, knead for two minutes to degas. Shape the dough into a ball, return it to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise again for another hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into three equal pieces. (If using a scale, weigh each portion.) Roll each portion into a ball, place on a work surface, and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll the pieces into long strands, each the same length, each with tapered ends and a slightly thicker center portion. Braid the dough starting from the middle: On a work surface, place the three strands perpendicular to you and parallel to one another. From the left, number the strands 1, 2, 3. Beginning in the middle of the loaf and working toward you, follow this pattern: right outside strand over the middle strand (3 over 2); left outside strand over the middle (1 over 2). Repeat until you reach the bottom end of the dough. Pinch the end closed to seal and rotate the dough 180º so that the unbraided end is facing you. Continue braiding but now weave the outside strand under the middle strand until you reach the end of the loaf. Pinch together the ends to seal.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and transfer the loaf to the pan. Beat the reserved egg whites until foamy and brush the dough with them. (Set aside whites for later.) Mist the loaf lightly with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature until it is one-and-a-half times its original size, about 60 to 75 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the middle shelf. Brush again with the egg whites, and if desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180º and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or longer. The bread should be a rich golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool at least one hour before slicing.

Black Prince Tomatoes & Chocolate Chip Cookies

chewy chocolate chip cookie with a touch of salt on top

I never thought I would say that I have a favorite tomato, but as of this past Saturday I do. As I passed through Reading Terminal Market on my way to the Fair Food Farmstand, I stopped at the Livengood stand, struck by the array of tomatoes on their table. I asked one of the men to suggest a tomato for a simple salad and he handed me a Black Prince. I purchased a dozen, made my way to the Farmstand for grass-fed ground beef, then headed home.

After a slight detour that led me to purchase 10 tiki torches (the price was ridiculous, really), I found my way home and started preparing for a dinner with five friends: Bates and Will, recently married and about to move to Syria for a year; Steph and Mike, recently engaged and big fans of grass-fed beef and their new East Coast city; and our friend Jon, single and still recovering from his great Asian adventure. Oh and much to my surprise, when I greeted my friends at the door, Bug, Bates and Will’s dachshund, had decided to make the trip from New York City too! Read all about the life of Bug (and Bates and Will), the latest plans for Steph and Mike’s wedding in Cabo and Jon’s wild last day in Hanoi.

By the light of the torches and a few candles, the six of us wholly enjoyed homemade hummus and pita prepared by Steph, olives brought by the New York crew and hamburgers made with Dr. Angusburger beef. The tomatoes, however, were the highlight of the evening. With basil from the farmstand, Claudio’s fresh mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt, the tomatoes made a perfect salad.

Bates particularly appreciated how the tomatoes had been cut — in irregular chunks as opposed to slices — finding them easier to eat. For these shapes, I must give credit to the chef I worked under at Fork, Thien Ngo, who always plated food with a “chaos theory” in mind. He would “trash” restaurants whose food looked like “legos” on the plate. He preferred the very natural look, believing that the plating of food reflects how much the food has been handled.

Warm chocolate chip cookies and delectable green figs from the Farmstand finished the evening nicely. The simple dinner had been a success, as had the weekend as a whole: The following day, we walked to the Headhouse Farmers’ Market, where my friends all purchased cheese from Birchrun Hills Farm and met the wonderful Sue Miller. Then we walked to Reading Terminal and of course paid a visit to the Fair Food Farmstand where I showed my friends where I buy, among many groceries, grass-fed ground beef and raw milk, which we had all delighted in that morning for breakfast. And before sending them back on the Chinatown bus, we savored fresh rice noodles at Ding Ho — a perfect weekend indeed!

Soft and Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies
Yields about 35 1¾ oz cookies

10¾ oz unsalted butter (1 1/3 cups)
10¼ oz light brown sugar (1½ cups packed)
7¾ oz granulated sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
1 T. pure vanilla extract
17 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (3¾ cups)
1¼ tsp table salt
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl, beat again on high for one minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended, about another minute on medium-high speed. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in separate bowl. Add to butter mixture and combine with a spatula or wooden spoon until just blended. Add the chocolate chips and stir till combined. The dough will be stiff.

Portion into 1¾ oz sized balls. This is a tedious task, but it makes for beautiful and uniform cookies that bake evenly. If you have a digital scale, this is an easy task; if you have no scale, use a small ice cream scoop or some other uniform measuring device. Chill the portioned balls for at least three hours, or freeze for months.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place portioned balls nicely spaced on an ungreased jelly roll pan. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake 8-11 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through cooking. Keep a close watch. You want to remove the cookies from the oven when they still look slightly raw—you will think you are removing them too early. The cookies will continue cooking as they sit on the tray out of the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes on tray before removing to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before storing.

Bug, enjoying the wilderness in a Philadelphia backyard:

Oven-dried Tomato Bruschetta

I must give credit to the Fair Food Farmstand again for providing another excellent recipe in their weekly email. A few weeks ago, after receiving eight Roma tomatoes (among many other treats) in my CSA, I opened my email to find Ann Karlen’s “tried and true” recipe for oven-dried tomatoes, just the guidance I needed to preserve these seasonal gems.

The recipe required six to eight hours of cooking, so I set the oven to 200ºF, as instructed, placed the prepared tray of tomatoes inside, and went to bed. I could not believe my eyes when I opened the oven door the following morning: The plump, juicy tomatoes had shriveled into desiccated, flat disks. Seeing the dehydrated tomatoes reminded me of lifting the towel from the bowl holding the first batch of bread dough I had mixed and kneaded on my own: Doubled in bulk, seemingly alive, the dough — the transformation of the dough — inspired true amazement.

I had to try one right away. To my surprise, this withered red package tasted incredible! Unable to resist storing my homemade “sun-dried tomatoes” — my intention when I set out to make them — I assembled a little bruschetta. On a toasted baguette from Metropolitan Bakery, topped with a slice of mozzarella from Claudio’s and a basil leaf from the farmstand, these tomatoes make a delectable appetizer — the most adored tastes of summer concentrated in one bite.

Oven-Dried Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 6 as an appetizer

12 plum tomatoes
kosher salt

1 baguette
olive oil
fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch thick slices
fresh basil

Preheat oven to 200ºF.
Halve each tomato lengthwise through the stem. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, side by side on a rimmed cookie sheet. (Tomatoes should not be touching one another.) Sprinkle each tomato lightly with salt.

Place in the oven and bake for six to eight hours, or until tomatoes are shriveled, but not dry and brittle. Check every couple of hours. (The tomatoes should still feel flexible when removed from the oven.) Remove tomatoes from the oven, and let cool completely before storing. Store in a glass jar or Ziploc. Moisten with olive oil if tomatoes are too dry. The tomatoes will keep indefinitely.

For the bruschetta, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Slice the baguette into ¾-inch thick rounds, drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Top each baguette slice with a piece of mozzarella, a few oven dried tomatoes and a few small leaves of basil. Serve.

Watermelon Gazpacho & Watermelon Salad

watermelon gazpacho

Last month for two weeks in a row, I received watermelons in my CSA. Though they were small, I hesitated from cracking into them, fearing I wouldn’t finish them on my own. So I let them sit for a few days until I received a fortuitous email from the Fair Food Farmstand. Emily Teel, the manager, sends an email each week listing the products the stand has in stock along with some seasonal recipes. When I saw the recipe for watermelon gazpacho, I set to work in the kitchen. Before too long, I had found a wonderful use for my two sugar baby watermelons, and produced a most delectable soup that I enjoyed, with the help of my sister, for the next few days.

While my sister and I slurped this minty, refreshing soup straight from the Tupperware containers I had packed it in, this gazpacho really deserves a more honorable presentation: The combination of colorful vegetables of all shapes and textures floating in a magenta base is truly striking. Served with a wedge of avocado and a sprig of mint in delicate bowls, this simple chilled soup makes an elegant summer meal.

When I first saw feta paired with watermelon, I thought the combination seemed odd, and truthfully, not that appetizing. My mother and I have been trying to remember where we first saw the duo — possibly a Jean Georges or Todd English cookbook, but we’re not quite sure. In any case, sweet and salty ingredients, hardly a novel concept, often work nicely together, watermelon and feta being one example. Only a few more weeks of watermelon season remain, so enjoy them while you can!

Watermelon Gazpacho
From Emily Teel, manager of the Fair Food Farmstand

3 pounds of watermelon flesh, diced (about 5 cups), divided
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
1 pint yellow cherry or sungold tomatoes, quartered (about 1 cup)
1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
3 pale green inner celery stalks, diced (about ½ cup)
½ small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
5-8 mint leaves, finely chopped
avocado for garnish

Puree 4 cups watermelon in blender until smooth. Transfer puree to large bowl. Add remaining 1 cup diced watermelon and next 10 ingredients; stir to combine. Cover gazpacho and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Divide gazpacho among bowls. Top each with a slice of avocado.

Watermelon and Feta Salad
Serves 1

4 slices watermelon
2 ounces feta cheese
2 slices Prosciutto di Parma
extra-virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar or reduced balsamic (see recipe below)
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Place watermelon wedges on a plate. Crumble feta cheese over the watermelon. Lay the prosciutto aside the watermelon. Drizzle entire plate with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper to taste.

Reduced Balsamic
Yield = ¼ cup

½ cup Rainwater Madeira
1 cup commercial balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Place Madeira in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Add the balsamic vinegar and boil until the vinegar has reduced to about ¼ cup and is very syrupy and big shiny bubbles are forming at the surface. Watch the mixture very closely at this point—it will burn easily. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Pour into a clean jar and cool before using.

Peaches with Ricotta and Honey

See, I lied. I thought I had finished posting about peaches this season, but it seems I’ve found one more way to savor this delectable fruit.

This dish couldn’t be simpler to prepare: Slice a peach, top it with a few spoonfuls of fresh ricotta cheese and drizzle the whole mixture with honey to taste. This combination makes a nice dessert, but can be enjoyed really at any time of day: breakfast, lunch, a hearty snack?

This tasty treat is particularly delicious when prepared with juicy white peaches, sweet lavender honey and Claudio’s fresh ricotta.

Stuffed-Squash Blossoms Tempura

Every year I look forward to the arrival of squash blossoms at the farmers’ markets. There seems to be only one way to prepare this seasonal delicacy: Stuff them; batter them; fry them. As the Barefoot Contessa says, “How bad can that be?”

I first tasted stuffed blossoms when I worked at Fork. There, during the summer, the fried and stuffed zucchini blossoms replace the onion rings on their signature romaine salad with sauce gribiche. Regulars at Fork adore sauce gribiche, a dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, capers, chopped cornichons, shallots and tons of fresh herbs — tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives and thyme.

A staple on the menu year round, this salad becomes even more popular every summer with the addition of these delectable edible flowers. I like Fork’s preparation: They stuff them minimally with an herbed goat cheese and coat them in a simple tempura batter. I prefer the light coating of tempura to the frequently used flour, egg, breadcrumb coating, which also is delicious.

This year, Weaver’s Way Co-op at the Sunday Headhouse Farmers’ Market has been carrying the blossoms consistently at three for a dollar or 40 cents each. For a perfect summer meal, make a simple romaine salad with a modified gribiche dressing (recipe below), top with some crispy blossoms and serve with fresh bread and cheese. To quote my favorite food network star again, “Who wouldn’t like that?”

Stuffed-Squash Blossoms Tempura
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 small shallot, minced
¼ C. basil, chopped finely
¼ C. goat cheese
¼ C. fresh ricotta
kosher salt and pepper

1 egg
½ C. ice water
¾ C. flour

8 squash blossoms
canola oil for frying

In a small bowl, mix the shallots, basil, goat cheese, ricotta and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg, water and flour. Don’t overmix: batter should be lumpy. Set aside.

Place heaping teaspoons of the cheese mixture into the center of each squash blossom. Place blossoms on a plate, cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap and chill until ready to fry.

Line a plate with paper towels. Heat oil in a large, wide mouth. When a sprinkling of flour sizzles in the oil, the oil is ready for the blossoms. Dip the blossoms one by one into the tempura batter, then place carefully into the oil. Fry each for 30 seconds a side until crisp. Transfer to a prepared plate until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately with a crisp romaine salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette: whisk 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1½ teaspoon honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons capers, ¼ cup chopped parsley, ¼ cup cider vinegar and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until combined.

A patch of pattypan squash blossoms growing on Sam Consylman’s farm in Lancaster:

Peach Bruschetta

For the past year, I have been listening to two of my most reliable sources rave about an Italian restaurant in Northern Liberties. My friends, Meredith, a Jeff med student and native Philadelphian, and her fiancé Matt, a private chef on the Main Line, rank Sovalo as one of their favorite spots in the city.

Joseph and Karey Scarpone, a husband and wife team with children named Sophia and Valentino (hence Sovalo), left the Napa Valley to open this bistro in early 2005. With a great wine list and a menu filled with homemade pastas such as burrata-filled ravioli and seasonal items such as chilled melon soup and local heirloom tomato salad, Sovalo has earned a reputation as one of the city’s best new restaurants.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to experience this highly praised establishment with none other than the restaurant’s two biggest fans. To celebrate Matt’s new job and Meredith’s start of her final year of med school, and in general, to continue celebrating their recent engagement, the three of us trekked across town to Sovalo.

As we approached the front door of this adored Northern Liberties bistro, however, Meredith expressed some anxiety. She worried that the peach bruschetta she and her family had enjoyed a week earlier might no longer be offered: Sovalo prints its menu daily, changing its dishes depending on ingredient availability. To everyone’s relief, however, this peach, robiola, arugula and prosciutto topped grilled bread again starred on the menu. We all savored the delectable combination as a second course and ultimately pegged it the highlight of the evening.

Fortunately, this peach bruschetta, unlike Sovalo’s homemade ravioli or ricotta fritter dessert, can easily be replicated at home. I have a weakness for Claudio’s fresh ricotta and have used that in place of the robiola, but a number of cheeses — fresh mozzarella, mascarpone, goat or Brie — would work well in this tasty summer starter.

Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta
Serves 6 as an appetizer

1 baguette
olive oil
2 peaches
6 oz. fresh ricotta*
2 oz. baby arugula or watercress
12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
*I love the fresh ricotta from Claudio’s. At Sovalo, the chef uses robiola, also very delicious. You could also make your own.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (or preheat a grill to high). Slice the baguette into 12 ½-inch thick slices, place on a cookie sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. (Or grill for 1-2 minutes a side). Transfer to a cooling rack. Slice each peach into about 12 wedges.

Spread each slice of bread generously with ricotta. Top each with a small handful of arugula or watercress. Top each with 2 peach wedges followed by one slice of prosciutto. Serve.

Summer Squash Tart

Frozen puff pastry is amazing. I finally found a use for the box I’ve had in my freezer for three years now — the box that survived a move across town in 2005 — and it baked off perfectly. This tart requires a fair amount of summer squash — a perfect showcasing of the season’s produce — and takes little time to prepare with puff pastry on hand.This recipe has been slightly simplified from one I saw recently in Saveur, which called for grating, salting and sauteeing some of the zucchini, and also called for chopped and strained cherry tomatoes. With a simple salad, this tart, served at room temperature as suggested by the author, makes a wonderful summer dinner, and leftovers make an even better lunch.

Summer Squash Tart with Ricotta and Feta
Serves 6

1 10” x 13” sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
parchment paper
pie weights or dried beans wrapped in plastic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. mix of zucchini and yellow squash
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
¼ cup feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place pastry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, gently score (being careful not to go all the way through) the pastry about one inch from the edge on all sides. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork, line center area only with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Remove weights and parchment paper.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and let sauté until slightly caramelized about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.

Zucchini and yellow squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market this past Tuesday:
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the squash crosswise into ¼ – inch thick rounds. Add to the pot of boiling water, cook for 30 – 60 seconds, drain and let dry on a paper-towel lined cookie tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread onto puff pastry. Top with the onions. Arrange squash pieces in overlapping rows until tart is filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven for five minutes longer. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with feta, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

CSA Week 10

1 bunch of beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
3 Cubanella peppers grown by Green Valley Organics
1 head lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 Walla Walla onion grown by the Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
1 bag of potatoes grown by Green Valley Organic
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Hillside Organics