This is part two of the best of the summer recipes that were taught at Highfield Hall during the Farm to Table series. It’s always subjective to choose “the best,” but given the feedback on the following dishes, I feel safe in saying that these were indeed the most popular.

From the late July class I was able to offer freshly caught bluefish, which most participants approached with trepidation. But they left loving bluefish, so I’m happy.

Crispy Bluefish
Over Summer Succotash

One and a half cups chopped onion

1 cup diced fresh zucchini

3 cups fresh corn kernels

1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 TBSP each: fresh basil and cilantro, coarsely chopped

2 TBSP butter

Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté the onion until soft, about 2 minutes; add zucchini and sauté 3 minutes more. Stir in remaining ingredients, season to taste, and set aside.

2 to 4 bluefish fillets, skin-on

2 TBSP canola or grapeseed oil

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat; add 1 TBSP oil and swirl to coat. Season the bluefish with salt and pepper and place them skin-side down in the skillet; cook for 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Turn over and cook 3 minutes more, until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan and serve with succotash.

Eggplant was plentiful for the next class in early August. With that and an abundance of tomatoes, we were happy to prepare the following—it’s hard to say which of these would win the best of the best, so maybe you should try each of them and decide for yourself!

Cheesy Tomato Tart

With Caramelized Onions

(adapted from justataste.com)

Half a package frozen puff pastry (1 sheet), thawed

AP flour for rolling

4 lbs assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced and left to drain on paper towels while preparing the recipe

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 TBSP butter

1 TBSP sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBSP each: minced fresh thyme and fresh rosemary

8 oz each: goat cheese and cream cheese, at room temp

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425°F; in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the butter and onions and cook, stirring, until the butter is melted. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool completely. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the goat cheese, cream cheese, eggs, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Add caramelized onion mixture and mix well.

Lightly flour your work surface then unfold the puff pastry and use a rolling pin to lightly roll over and seal any creases; prick the center of the pastry all over with a fork then score a 1-inch border around all of the edges. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the pastry, keeping it within the docked border; pat the tomatoes dry and spread with the cream cheese mixture, then cover with the sliced tomatoes. Bake the tart until it is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes; remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Eggplant
And Italian Sausage Gratin

(adapted from

2 medium eggplant, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds

3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

12 oz Italian sausage removed from casings

1 TBSP Italian seasoning

3 cloves garlic finely minced

3 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted canned tomatoes

½ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

3 oz grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400°F; line two sheet pans with foil for easy cleanup. Brush foil generously with olive oil and arrange eggplant slices in even layers on prepared pans. Brush tops of eggplant slices lightly and quickly with olive oil, just lightly coating the surface. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake for 15 minutes, then rotate pans and bake another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While eggplant is roasting, make the meat sauce and Parmesan sauce; for the meat sauce, heat a medium-large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until lightly browned. Break the sausage up with a metal spatula and stir occasionally, as it cooks; drain excess grease and reduce heat to low. Add Italian seasoning and garlic and cook, stirring continually for 2 more minutes to soften the garlic and let the spices bloom. Add fire-roasted tomatoes to the pot and increase heat to high; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken, stirring occasionally; add fresh basil and cook for 5 minutes longer, then remove from heat.

For the Parmesan sauce, pour 1 cup heavy cream into a medium-size saucepan; heat over medium heat until simmering. Reduce heat and continue to cook, maintaining a medium-low simmer, until reduced approximately in half—this will take about 10 minutes. Add Parmesan and mozzarella, stirring over low heat, until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.

To assemble gratin, lightly grease a low enameled cast iron pan, gratin pan or shallow casserole; arrange half of the eggplant in the pan. Spoon about half of the meat sauce over the eggplant and then repeat layers. Stir the Parmesan sauce well and pour over the top of the eggplant and sauce., leaving some of the eggplant mixture showing, if desired. Reduce temperature to 350°F and bake gratin until bubbly and beginning to turn golden in spots, 25-30 minutes; remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread.

Ratatouille

(adapted from Jennifer Segal)

1 large eggplant, cut into one third-inch cubes

Salt

6 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into one third-inch cubes

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice

5 large cloves garlic, chopped

5 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into one third-inch cubes, with their juices

1 tsp tomato paste

2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving

¾ tsp sugar

pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

3 TBSP chopped fresh basil

Heat 3 TBSP oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat; add the eggplant and season with a quarter tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Add another TBSP oil to the pan (no need to clean it), and add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with another quarter tsp salt and transfer to a plate; set aside. Add two more TBSP oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more--do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and three quarters tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes; add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Simple Blueberry Basque Cheesecake

(adapted from

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 lb cream cheese, at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

3 TBSP AP flour

2 cups fresh blueberries

granulated sugar and confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 9-inch spring-form pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Gently roll the puff pastry out on a clean surface to a one quarter-inch thickness; press the pastry inside the pan and up the sides of the pan (it’s okay if the pastry does not go all the way up the pan). Transfer to the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the batter. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl until very smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time until the eggs are fully incorporated; scrape down the sides of the bowl, then reduce the mixer speed to medium-low. Add cream, vanilla, and salt, and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Sift the flour into the batter, then beat again to combine, about 30 seconds; pour the batter into the prepared pastry-lined pan. Gently sprinkle the blueberries over the batter (some will sink); gently fold the corners the pastry over the berries. Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1-2 TBSP granulated sugar and bake for 50-60 minutes, until deeply golden brown on top and still very jiggly in the center. Let the cake cool 5 minutes, then unmold; cool completely, then slice into wedges and serve at room temperature or chilled.

The last class in August was titled “It’s Tomatoes!” and that’s a lot of what we did, if you look below. We all agreed that the panzanella was one of the best any of us had ever had.

Blistered Sungold
Tomato Shrimp Scampi

2 TBSP vegetable oil

½ pt Sungold or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 lb domestic shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ cup each: white wine and butter

1 shallot, peeled and minced (or 2 TBSP minced red onion)

4 garlic cloves peeled and minced

Pinch crushed red pepper

Juice and zest from half a lemon

8 oz fresh linguine

8 to 12 oz zoodles (spiralized zucchini)

In a large skillet, set over moderately high heat, add the oil; when the oil is very hot, add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they’re seared, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low heat and remove the tomatoes from the skillet. Add another teaspoon or two of oil; when hot, add the shrimp and season with a few pinches of salt. Cook on each side for about 1 minute, flipping and cooking for an additional 30 seconds; remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat to medium-high heat and pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to get any bits up. Add the butter, and when melted, add the minced shallot and garlic; cook until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add a few pinches of salt and crushed red pepper and stir to combine. Meanwhile, place the zoodles in a colander and lightly salt them; bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 9 minutes; drain the pasta into the colander over the zoodles, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Add a quarter cup pasta water to the pan with the butter sauce and bring to a simmer; cook for about 1 minute. Add the pasta and zoodles, lemon juice and zest and toss until the pasta is completely and zoodles are coated with the sauce. Taste and adjust the salt according to taste; fold in the reserved tomatoes and shrimp and serve immediately.

Dorie Greenspan’s Peach And Tomato Panzanella

1 baguette or other sturdy loaf, preferably stale

3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste

1 lb ripe tomatoes

2 peaches or nectarines

1 lemon

half a small red onion or more to taste, thinly sliced, rinsed and patted dry

2 TBSP sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, or more to taste

Shredded fresh basil leaves or other herb(s)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350°F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and tear the bread into pieces just a little bigger than bite-sized, or cut it—often easier when the bread is stale. Spread the pieces out on the baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the bread once or twice, until the cubes are dry and lightly toasted.

Meanwhile, core the tomatoes and cut into chunks; halve and pit the peaches or nectarines and cut into similar-sized chunks, catching as much of the juice as you can. Toss the tomatoes, fruit and juice into a large serving bowl; when the bread is toasted, stir it into the bowl. Grate the zest of the lemon over, squeeze over the lemon juice and stir again; mix in the onion and let the salad rest for 5 to 10 minutes (or for up to 1 hour).

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the vinegar to the salad and season with salt and pepper; let the salad sit for a couple of minutes again, then taste it for oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Garnish with the herbs and serve.

Giambotta

4 TBSP olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

4 oz pepperoni, diced

4 clove garlic, minced

3 large carrots, chopped

Half a medium head cabbage, shredded

1½ lbs tomatoes, chopped coarsely

2 medium zucchini, diced

1⁄2 lb green beans, trimmed and halved

3 medium red potatoes

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, pepperoni, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the pot and heat over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, cabbage, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper, and toss to combine. Top with the tomatoes, then the zucchini and beans. Scatter the onion mixture over the top. Partially cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, 45 to 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a medium pot, add enough cold water to cover, and bring to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, reduce heat, and simmer until just tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into 1 1⁄2-inch pieces. Fold the potatoes into the vegetable stew and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with additional oil and serve with crusty bread, if desired. This is a very forgiving recipe, so feel free to use what you have in the vegetable drawer.

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