Wednesday, July 28, 2010


"True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes." That's the answer to the question: "What are you two things you can't find at the grocery store?" and also the name of a novel my friend Cindie read recently by Julie Cannon, who has also written books called 'Mater Biscuit: A Homegrown Novel and Those Pearly Gates: A Homegrown Novel.

But speaking of Pearly Gates, I was stunned and saddened to read that Smackdown contestant Buffalo Dick of Opinions and Rectums, We've All Got One passed away unexpectedly Monday morning. His son Craig shared the news via BD's blog, saying how much his father had enjoyed blogging and his friends in the blogging community since his retirement. There's been an outpouring of appreciations of Buffalo Dick and condolences for his family in the comments there, and elsewhere, including this post by Smackdown contestant DoggyBloggy of Chez What?, who shared this photo of Buffalo Dick.
I met Buffalo Dick on the internets only in the last few months, via the Smackdown. He always struck me as a gentle and generous man who was proud of his cooking, his family, his blog, where he was from, and especially his BB-Q. His "true love" of those passions and pursuits was apparent in each of his own posts and the many comments he was kind enough to share throughout the blogosphere. He loved simple, straightforward cooking, and was always eager to make his own better. I'll bet he was a guy who would put "true love and homegrown tomatoes" pretty far up on his list of priorities.

For his submission to this month's Veggie Smackdown, Buffalo Dick made tempura fried green beans with a dipping sauce of creamy ranch and hot sauce.
He shared the dish on his blog after a test run here, then took it to the State of Michigan BB-Q Cook-off this past weekend, where those delectable green beans took 3rd place in the vegetable category and he also took 5th in Potatoes. You can tell from his last post, on Sunday, how pleased Buffalo Dick was with his showing at the Cook-off, both exclaiming and undercutting himself in his own way: "We didn't get skunked!" I'm sorry we won't see those additional photos he planned to post about the weekend's festivities, or more tales and tips regarding his love of barbeque. He will be missed. I think Buffalo Dick deserves a "Heavenly Culinary Smackdown Winner Emeritus" badge. Even though I don't have the Photoshop skills to create one here, I'm hoping Photoshop isn't needed wherever Buffalo Dick is BB-Q-ing up a feast now, to let him know what a winner and inspiration he was to so many.

Moving on to the rest of this month's Smackdown entries (and I think Buffalo Dick would want us to) I'll go through the entries in the order in which they were posted in the comments.

DoggyBloggy's entry jumped on board this month's popular tomato train, offering a serious riff on Caprese salad, made with tomato aspic, pesto aspic, and fresh bufala mozzarella.
And, featuring this month's second favorite veggie, DoggyBloggy gave us an incredible stuffed zucchini blossom.

Second to the plate (or comments) was Heff from Heff's Bar and Grill, who, with help from Donna once again, gave us a well-rounded entry filled with an array of summertime veggies, starting with a spinach-tomato lasagna with white sauce:
I've been following the tales (and photos) of Heff and Donna's Topsy Turvey tomatoes for a while.
Sorry to hear you tapped out your Turvy supply for the Smackdown, Heff, but they went for a good cause. The climax of Heff and Donna's entry was this "Heff"-ty plate that also included corn off the cob, fried green tomatoes, and a spicy cheddar shrimp dip in the middle.

Next is Smackdown newcomer Chef Dennis, of More than a Mountfull, whose entry brought us more spectacular stuffed zucchini blossoms.
Plus this delectable Courgette (zucchini) Gratin.
And these Stuffed Eggplant Rollatines.
Be sure to go over and take a look around the rest of Chef Dennis's blog too. He's been getting gorgeous farmers market produce and featuring all sorts of enticing dishes that celebrate the season's produce!

Another newcomer to the Smackdown is Jen, from Our Good (Food) Life. Like me, she has a relatively new food blog based in Cincinnati. Like me, she is a Smitten Kitchen fan and a pickle afficianado. Unlike me, she and her husband have been trying to become active gardeners in a community garden this year (you can find a bit of that saga here and here). I've been following their travails, but am happy to report Jen just keeps on cooking, and baking. Jen really threw herself into her entry for this month's Smackdown, making her own pie crust, getting fierce about her love of in-season tomatoes, and adding roasted eggplant, sauteed onions, thin sliced tomatoes, pecorino, and parmesan for this spectacular Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Pie.
I loved the way she topped a slice of that savory pie with a light, refreshing dollop of yogurt - perfect for summertime.
And I especially loved Jen's suggested variations for this pie in future: zucchini, summer squash, peppers, potatoes, leafy greens, or even beets, in place of the eggplant and tomatoes.

Moi, of Bite the Apple, always inspires me with her creativity, breadth of knowledge and interests, and ability to make her current home territory of New Mexico come alive on the page (er, blog). For her Smackdown entry, highlighting, once again, tomatoes, she brought us this lovely pasta dish featuring fresh veggies and herbs.
Moi also kicked things up by making grilled pizzas, the "green" one with some of her beloved green chiles and lots of other great stuff.

And then there is the indefatigable Buzz of Buzzkill, who gardens, cooks, takes his sons to unforgettable rock concerts, and somehow manages to do it all. I borrowed the photo at the top of this post from Buzz, who in his entry said, in his typically understated manner, that he's growing Early Girls, Beefsteaks, "and a couple other kinds of tomatoes."

For Buzz's dish #1, he grilled eggplant (nice char marks!)

Then Buzz diced the grilled eggplant for a salad with red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and parsley. No one gets extra suck-up points for using eggplant in their dish, but I have to say this sounds like veggies and flavors I would truly enjoy, especially in that kind of salad format.
For Buzz's dish #2, he made fried tomatoes, stretching himself to try something new - panko (way to read the directions/rules, Buzz - lol). Plus bacon. Ahh, bacon. Good thing the kids don’t like fried tomatoes – more for Buzzy!

Finally, a couple of non-competing entries. Florida Cracker, of Pure Florida, who missed the Smackdown deadline, but wanted to play along for the fun of it, gave us Boilt PNuts, a straight-up dish from his part of the world. No fancy-schmancy seasonings for his dish, just plain old salt. Thanks for treating me to something new, FC!

And lastly, my own late post (which wouldn't have been a competitor anyway, since, as last month's winner, I'm hosting and judging this month), a simple tomato and zucchini salad with bruschetta-ish open-faced sandwich.

On to the winner!!! You guys made this month's decision really tough. So many good ideas, great photos, and fun posts. After much deliberation, and consultation with fellow Team Eggplant member Cindie, I've finally decided that the winner of the July Smackdown: "Summertime Veggies and the Livin' is Easy" is:
DoggyBloggy is a cook and blogger who constantly inspires me with his culinary skill, gorgeous plating, and attention to detail (even if, alas, he shares actual recipes less frequently than I would be happy for him to). For his stuffed zucchini blossoms, he started with these lovely specimens.
He made these bread crumbs in a molcajete (Mexican mortar and pestle - I had to google it).
Then he added a fresh salsa of raw tomato, basil, garlic, and olive oil, for a spectacular finished dish.
Using the same flavors as in that salsa, Doggy created what, for me, was the single most creative dish in the Smackdown, thinking outside the box to elevate Caprese salad - the classic summertime salad of raw tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella - with his inclusion of tomato aspic and pesto aspic. I have to admit I've never made an aspic, and would certainly never have thought to try to create a pesto aspic. But his use of these cold, refreshing components in this dish both sounds and looks delectable. 
Congratulations, Dog, for a job well done!!!! As this month's winner, it is up to you to select the August Culinary Smackdown theme and deadline and to play host and judge. Let us know what kind of challenge you have up your culinary sleeve for us, and wear the badge with pride!
A fine showing by all of this month's contestants!!! Thanks again to all who participated, as well as to those who came around to our entries and commented. And to everyone for your patience awaiting these results.

Happy cooking!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I had the best of intentions for this Smackdown. Truly I did. I collected all sorts of recipes and bought lots of fresh produce.
I even bought puff pastry for an array of veggie tarts. But you know what? Even though I said in the rules for this Smackdown that you had to do more than slice some tomatoes in a bowl, that's become my go-to summer meal lately, with a few variations, and I can't get enough of it.

This obsession dates back a few years ago when I was at my friend Becky's house. She grows some unbelievable heirloom tomatoes called Thomas Jeffersons, and had a bowl on hand when I stopped by. As much as I love tomatoes, I don't believe I've ever tasted any that were more amazing than those simple slices. When we finished them, with her permission, I lifted the bowl to my mouth and drained every last drop of their juice. In my taste memory, that is the very definition of "tomato water." Even though it is not that difficult to make actual tomato water (as long as you have some cheesecloth or a pillowcase on hand), I've been sticking to a simpler version of good local tomatoes in a bowl, and slurping up every last drop.
Last night's version included yellow tomatoes, Juliet tomatoes (they're the small oblong ones in the photo at the top of this post), some thinly sliced raw zucchini, a few sliced Kalamata olives, a rough chiffonade of fresh basil, salt, pepper, thyme, a drizzle of olive oil, and a splash of jerez (sherry) vinegar. I later added some Greek feta to it.

For an accompaniment, I made a bruschetta of sorts - OK, let's just call it a small open-faced veggie sandwich. Pulling some of my fig bread from last month's Smackdown out of the freezer, I smeared it with goat cheese, then added a variety of tomatoes, plus thyme and slices of marinated garlic.
Then I added some kalamata olives and shaved parm.
Here's what it looked like when it came out of the oven and I topped it with basil.
I'm lucky I don't have to please other palates around here, but this simple supper epitomizes summertime culinary satisfaction for me.
To all the participants for this month's Smackdown, I've checked out your entries and, as I knew I would be, am inspired by your efforts and creativity! You've all given me terrific ideas to use for the rest of my farmers market haul (peanuts and, sadly, zucchini blossoms not among them). There's definitely some tough competition for this month's contest. So I'll sleep on my decision, and I hope to be back tomorrow night to announce the winner. Thanks to everyone who joined in!

Love, eggy

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Today's the day! Entries for the July 2010 Culinary Smackdown are due by midnight, and with any luck, I'll have my own (non-competing) entry up by then too.

I know we have some first-time entrants and readers. (Also, my dad, a surprisingly fervent supporter, has been telling friends and relatives about my blog, then asking me to email them links "and instructions.")

So let me 'splain how this Culinary Smackdown thing works. This is a monthly cooking/blogging contest, where the previous winner selects the next month's theme and serves as host and judge. This time around, that would be me. As winner of the June Culinary Smackdown: Picnic Basket hosted by the fabulous and talented La Diva of La Diva Cucina (you can find my winning entry here and La Diva's recap of all the fine June entries here), I chose as our July theme:

Summertime (Veggies) - and the Livin' Is Easy
You can find full details of this month's Smackdown in my announcement post here.

Participants will add a comment at the bottom of this post saying "I'm up" or include a link to their entry on their blog if they posted before the deadline. For my dad and other blog newbies, if you click on the name of a commenter who posts an "I'm up," it should take you either straight to their blog or to their profile, where you can click on their blog under "My Blogs" to find them. Please go visit all the contestants for some great ideas (and photos) that I'm confident will inspire you in your own kitchen with the bounty of summertime produce.

I'll go around to check out all the entries, then post a recap and announcement of this month's winner as soon as possible. The only prize for the Culinary Smackdown is bragging rights, including the opportunity to post the lovely badge below on your blog and serve as host, judge, and arbiter of the theme and deadline of next month's Culinary Smackdown.

To all you eager competitors: Please bear with me. It's been a little crazy in my day-job world lately (all good, just hectic), and I'm solo for this month's Smackdown due to Team Eggplant health issues.

To those of you who ran out of time, forgot, are considering entering next month, or might have entered but had other things befall you, know you're welcome anytime. Boxer and Dani, my heart goes out to you.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos of the goodies I hope to get to.

With my Florida friends especially in mind, I'll sign off tonight with this and hopes that everyone weathers whatever storm they're going through.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Some people get to go on fabulous vacations, and some of us have to wait. These are just a few of the sights and tastes that intrigued my niece and nephew in California this summer. I thank them for sharing - better than a T-shirt, in my book :)

Monday, July 19, 2010


I always like starting the week out on a sweet note. In exchange for offering some ideas to inspire you over the weekend, I need your suggestions on how to use this local honey from Bee Hill that I picked up at the Anderson Farmers Market.

The young man who sold it to me, profiled here, is probably in his teens now, and apparently still in the honey-making business!
I don't cook with a lot of honey, but want to do justice to this one. So please, share your suggestions.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


1. Try a new farmers market
That's what Cindie and I did last weekend, checking out the Anderson Farmers Market on a tip from a friend. Smallish, but interesting. Grass-fed beef! Olds meeting youngs! Maddux's, a long-standing favorite of ours! (Too bad they'd sold all their great corn and tomatoes by the time we got there.)

Plus a petting zoo.
Apologies to my chicken-lovin', chicken-raisin' friends, but none of my photos of the chickens there turned out worth a darn. Too many eager children crowded around to get a good photo.

2. Try a new restaurant
After our woefully late arrival at the Anderson farmers market, Cindie and I consoled ourselves with lunch at nearby Kar-ma in Anderson Towne Center. She'd eaten there before, but the restaurant and much of its Thai/Laotian cuisine were new to me. We started with Tum Yum Soup and asparagus-bacon wraps.

Then we split the Salt and Pepper Prawns.

3. Try a new taco
Switching culinary ethnicity gears here, I've become a major fan of Senor Roy's since the new Cincinnati food truck plan came to fruition and I can find this mobile delight just a couple of blocks from my office. Lines can be long for food this good (going on a rainy a day, lines are a little shorter). The first time I went, I had plenty of time to listen to the lingo before stepping up to place my order: "Three tacos. On corn [tortillas]. Meat trifecta [chicken, marinated flank steak, or pork al pastor]."  And then for the same price, which works out to about $2 per taco, you get to load on their outstanding add-ons and condiments: rice, beans, cotilja and chihuaha cheese, pico de gallo, corn salsa, fresh cilantro, and pickled onions are just a few of my favorites.
Apparently Senor Roy's is offering up a contest for customers to suggest their own favorite taco. But I'd be hard pressed to improve on what they've already got goin' on . . . . unless they might add a mole to the menu. Hmmm . . .

4. Try a new contest

Like my blogging friend Big Shamu did. Her post about her submission to Anthony Bourdain's 500-word essay contest also demonstrates her mad Photo Chopping skillz. 

And speaking of contests, I'll leave you with this musical reminder that the deadline for the next Culinary Smackdown is Saturday, July 24. Details here.

Happy cooking, and remember that summer goes by far too fast, so you'd best just slow down and enjoy it.