who's in the kitchen

Ten days with the granddogs


A lot has happened since my last column! All my children were away in Israel (some with side trips to Moscow and Prague). I didn’t go away this summer, but I got to babysit my two adorable granddogs for 10 days.

As excited as I was to have the two dogs here, I was a bit nervous, as I have never watched both of them overnight, let alone for 10 days. What I was most nervous about was the fact they each get jealous of my love for the other dog. They don’t live together, but as “cousins” who happen to live near each other, they see a lot of each other. My kids said they would be fine.

I also had to plan ahead. You see, I don’t really leave the dogs by themselves. Yes, yes, I know they’re dogs, but they are my granddogs, and I treat them like I treated my kids when they were growing up (or maybe a bit better — but don’t tell my kids). In the days before they were dropped off, I tried to get things done. I shopped for as much food as I could in advance, I returned all purchases that I had in my trunk, and did all the errands that I had procrastinated.

My dog bin was overflowing with assorted yummy dog treats. And I’m talking about the good stuff — salmon, chicken, liver treats — and let’s not forget the bully sticks. For those of you that don’t know what bully sticks are, you’re better off not knowing. Oh, and actual dog food.

I don’t get to spoil the dogs that often, so when they’re at my house they have fresh chicken and soup, salmon, lean roast and sweet potatoes. I do serve them their dog food once a day, but they both look into their bowls and then look at me as if to say, “Are you kidding? We’re not eating that garbage here. Let’s be real! We don’t do dog food at your house!”

Once Murphy and Penny arrived, dog camp began. They had the run of the backyard and the swimming pool. They played all day. They also fiercely protected our property. At least three times a day, they would hear something suspicious and run to the back door barking loudly, imploring me to open it. Then they would run out to wherever they had seen the perpetrator and bark their heads off until I pulled them back inside. Sometimes it was their shadows on the window; other times it was a cat or a squirrel or a bird or the men working at my neighbor’s house next door. I had never felt so protected!

When my husband Jerry came home from work, both dogs would jump up and start kissing him. They knew his walk would be the longest of the day, and they would get to explore the entire neighborhood. Their walks with Jerry were always at least an hour long. 

My one main concern was bedtime, because the dogs sleep in our bed when they stay with me, but I couldn’t imagine having both there. But I have to tell you it worked out perfectly. I was on my side of the bed, and very comfortable. Jerry, well, he doesn’t like to move the dogs once they get cozy wherever they want, which happened to be on his side. He got pretty adept at clinging the side of the bed so as not to fall off during the night.

It was a great 10 days. It almost made me think about getting a dog of our own, but then I had to remind myself that I’d never leave the house out of guilt. We had a wedding to attend while we had the dogs, and I actually hired a babysitter to stay with them because I felt awful leaving them for six hours. The dogs probably laugh about how they have me wrapped around their paws. They probably would have been sleeping five minutes after we left. Call me a pushover, but I just love those dogs!

Soon enough, the dog’s “pawrents” returned home. I was sad to see them go, but happy that they were reunited with their humans. The house seemed so quiet, our bed so big. There were no big sloppy kisses, and we were left to defend ourselves from the “predators” in our backyard.

Since dogs would basically eat anything, I’m sure they’d like this savory pie!

Tomato and Roasted Garlic Pie (Dairy)


2-1/2 lbs. mixed heirloom tomatoes, cored, sliced 1/4-inch thick

3 Tbsp. olive oil

3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more

6 garlic cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

9 oz. Stoned Wheat Thins or other whole-grain crackers

2 large eggs

10 oz. Taleggio cheese (I used Brie, as I couldn’t find kosher Taleggio), rind removed, coarsely grated (about 1-1/2 cups)

2-1/2 oz. finely crumbled Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. chopped thyme, plus 1/2 tsp. leaves

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 475. Arrange tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, covering entire surface (it’s okay if they overlap). Drizzle with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes begin to look dry on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, cook garlic and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling often, until butter foams and milk solids turn golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof measuring cup; transfer garlic and toasty bits to a cutting board. Finely chop and set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 375. Pulse crackers and 1/4 tsp. salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form (you should have about 2 cups). Add eggs and 6 Tbsp. garlic butter and pulse until mixture is the consistency of wet sand. Transfer to a 9-inch springform pan. Using a flat-sided measuring cup, press crumbs firmly onto bottom and 1-1/2-inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until fragrant and edge is just starting to take on color, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let crust cool.

Mix Taleggio, Brie or Gorgonzola cheese, Parmesan, mayonnaise, chopped thyme, remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper, and reserved chopped garlic in a medium bowl. Gently dollop half of cheese mixture over bottom of crust, then spread into an even layer with an offset spatula (don’t press too hard or you will break the crust). Layer half of tomato slices over and press down to even out layers. Repeat with remaining cheese mixture and tomatoes. Brush remaining garlic butter over tomatoes. Top with shallot, then scatter thyme leaves over.

Bake pie until filling bubbles vigorously and crust is browned, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool 1 hour before serving. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely and chill (it’s really good cold).