My Homemade Summer solstice celebration supper

Back in April I received a review copy of a newly released cookbook, Homemade Summer. After dipping into the book and falling under its spell, I wrote:

Yvette van Boven is…a cook, illustrator, and author of two previous cookbooks, Home Made and Home Made Winter. All three books capture her enthusiasm for fresh foods, reflecting the meals and catered goods coming out of the restaurant kitchen and inviting the reader to bring a little fresh and home made to gatherings with family and friends.

This new volume, with its emphasis on summer’s huge bounty of produce, holds recipes that are lighter with fewer steps… (The book) is about making wise although minimal intervention to food as it goes from field or stream to plate… If you want a little more challenge, learn to make pork rillettes (a less fussy form of paté, perfect for the less fussy summer table), herbed goat’s milk ricotta to enhance your summer salads, your own bitters for cocktails, your own drinks syrups…her combinations are intriguing (cinnamon and saffron, anyone?) and will inspire you to take your own creative flights of fancy, both in flavor combinations and uses for the concoctions you bottle up.

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If you’ve been reading along with me for the past few years, you know that, come summer, the food coming out of my kitchen is lighter, simpler and as fresh as can be, thanks to my CSA share at Middle Earth Farm. Here in my house, summer’s heat changes our appetites and we crave crisp lettuce, thin-skinned squashes, grassy herbs; more fish, less meat; and fresh berry desserts over elaborate cakes. Summer also changes our cooking habits: we’re grilling more, cooking for shorter periods of time, and braising not at all. Any necessary baking must happen in the cool of early morning or during a rare raw day.

Summer dining also becomes more about place. Who wants to be in a restaurant at a formal table when the pool’s patio or the sand or the deck or a neighbor’s breezeway beckons?

Yvette gets this; she gets us warm weather, fun times, relaxed rules types. Because I feel that kinship with her cooking, I have been waiting for the season, the ingredients, the heat just so I might take the book off my nightstand and put it to use in that one particular place where I can kick off my shoes and feel most comfortable in the company of friends and family: my home.

Back in April, I also wrote as a coda to my brief review of the cookbook and its appealing photography and line drawings, “This book packages gorgeousness and good eating with unusual but practical recipes: an irresistible combination, trust me.”

Now that summer is officially here, I want you to see just how irresistible. To make that happen, I and a few other Boston-area food bloggers have banded together to share the creativity and summertime recipe genius of Yvette with you. This joint effort has been christened the Homemade Summer Solstice Blog Party by the cookbook’s number one fan, Jacqueline Church, and one-by-one, recipes from the book are being tested, written about, and posted during this, the second full weekend of summer. Consider the party our homage not only to the solstice day, but to an entire season.

Homemade Summer’s Eggplant Tatin (with a Mint Lemmo Chaser)

Fortunately for me and my baking plans, the heat wave of the past three days subsided, and I had a cool enough day for making pastry. An apple tarte tatin is a French classic, an apple pie baked, crust side up, in a skillet before being inverted for serving. Yvette Van Boven’s Eggplant Tatin follows that same method, only eggplant and onions bake together in a pastry case producing a pie that is meant for lunch or dinner instead of dessert.

And what a pie! The finished dish is delicious, full of perfect, and perfectly intriguing, balance: Slippery, silken eggplant and onion slices play off a crisp crust. A thin outer shell of caramelized sugar gives way to morsels of salty Feta cheese. A wedge is light fare, but the play of flavors satisfied my appetite.

Mint Lemmo is one of the several drinks syrups in the book, a basic sugar-water simple syrup enhanced with fresh mint leaves and lemon slices. I made a batch with this week’s CSA mint, and added a splash of the syrup to the tall glass of seltzer water I poured myself once the tatin was in the oven. I couldn’t think of a more refreshing way to relax and wait for my homemade summer solstice celebration supper.

Both recipes follow, along with links to the other Homemade Summer bloggers. I’ll keep adding to the list as blog posts go up, so please keep checking back.

Tatin of eggplant, red onion, and pine nuts

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • ice water
  • 2 eggplants
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 red onions
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped sage
  • 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times until you have coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and thyme and pulse a few more times until the dough sticks together. Add a little cold water, a few drops at a time, and pulse until the dough holds together. Only add as much water as needed for the dough to start to come together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplants into 1/4-inch slices. Generously oil 1 or 2 baking sheets and arrange the eggplant on both in a single layer. Salt and pepper the slices on both sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are light brown on one side. Remove the trays. flip the slices, and bake for an additional 15 minutes to brown the second side.

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As the eggplant cooks, cut the onions into thin slices and saute these gently in olive oil until they are tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir occasionally.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment, and then spray the top of this as well. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with the sugar and pine nuts.

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Cover these with the eggplant slices in overlapping circles and sauteed onions (I made two layers of each), scattering the chopped sage leaves in between.

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Roll out the dough into a circle slightly larger than the pan. Trim any ragged edges, and then drape this over the top of the vegetables, tucking in the edges of the crust. Make a hole in the center of the crust to allow steam to escape.

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Bake the tatin for 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Let the tatin rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan and invert the tart onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve immediately.

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Mint Lemmo

Bring 1 1/4 cups mint leaves with 1 1/4 cups water, 1 cup sugar,and 1 sliced lemon to a boil. Turn off the heat after 5 minutes and let it stand for one hour to steep.

Strain the syrup, return it to the pan, and bring it to a boil over low heat. Let it simmer on low for about 15 minutes until you find it syrupy enough (when it cools down it will become even more syrupy).

Pour the syrup into an ultra-clean bottle. Put it in the fridge; it’ll keep for months.

Drink with ice-cold sparkling water, fresh mint and lemon slices.

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What did everyone else bring to the table? Read on:

Lady Gouda produced gorgeous Strawberry Shortcakes

Maria Speck gave us reason to toast with her Cava Sangria

Bunkycooks made Mediterranean Salad with Spelt, Eggplant, Zucchini and Marinated Cheese

Jacqueline Church, fearless leader of this Summer Solstice Party offered the cool Fig Negroni Ice Pops

Food on the Food delivered up some seaside-worthy Crab Cakes

ChezUs refreshed with Mint Lemmo

Cobuse in the Netherlands baked up a Carrot Pie with Apple and Goat Cheese

Tomomi in Japan served up Pink Grapefruit Tart

©2013  Jane A. Ward