Posts filed under ‘tomatoes’
Everything good is in season right now, and I have a barbecue to attend this afternoon. So: Farmers’ market for produce, and a big batch of Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Sweet Corn, a fabulously flavorful – and easy! – summer recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s always-excellent Splendid Table/Weeknight Kitchen. Think “pasta salad” – only with thinly shaved raw zucchini filling in for the pasta, dressed with lemon, basil and garlicky oil. I got this via email subscription a couple of summers ago, and it never fails to make me – and anyone to whom I feed it – happy.
As Kasper suggests, I added More Stuff: cucumber, Kalamata olives, a little diced red onion. My tomatoes were great big heirlooms, chopped in chunks, and I pan-roasted the sweetcorn till it was browned before adding the garlic, basil and olive oil. For the dressing, I went with a 50-50 Greek yogurt-mayo blend, and another half-lemon’s worth of juice to thin it, with crumbled, herbed feta.
I can hardly wait for the barbecue.
(Am I back to blogging? Maybe … this is the peak time of year for the market, and for my garden … and thus my peak time of year for cooking. And my wonky sense of smell continues to improve, to the point where I can just about cook by taste again. Stay tuned …)
We’ve hit what I think of as the trifecta of harvest-season perfection: Tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches. Lots of other stuff, too, but I could (and at this time of year, often do) live on tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches.
I bought a half-dozen ears of pretty, yellow-and-white sweet corn at the market yesterday for two bucks, and ate two ears, buttered and salted, for dinner, with a sliced beefsteak tomato and a ripe peach for dessert. I went ahead and cooked the extra corn so I’d have leftover corn for one of my favorite savory side dishes, courtesy of good old Joy of Cooking, circa 1964 (the cookbook my mother sent away with me to college). If you love corn, you should try these; they’re quick, easy and really delicious.
- Enough sweet corn to make 1 cup of kernels (2-4 ears, depending on size)
- 2 eggs
- 6 Tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you’ve got it)
- 2 Tbsp butter
Cut the kernels off an ear of fresh or cooked sweet corn into a bowl , and scrape the cob with the back edge of the knife to get all of the germ and the sweet, milky corn juice. (If sweet corn isn’t in season, frozen corn works. “Joy” suggests canned, cream-style corn, but bleah.) Mash the corn a bit with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
Beat eggs until light and add to corn, along with everything else but the butter.
Melt butter in a medium-hot skillet. Drop big tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan and cook like pancakes, browning one side and then the other.
Eat hot. (“Joy” suggests topping with maple syrup, but I like these as savory side dishes, or by themselves – even reheated in the toaster-oven – for lunch). Yummy as is, or experiment with additives – I’ve made them with minced garlic and hot peppers, for a spicy version, and with a little grated cheddar, parmesan or gruyere mixed in.
Makes 6-8 fritters.
Note for the gluten-intolerant, such as my sister: I think this would work great with the same proportion of whatever gluten-free flour you prefer, or even with gf pancake mix (omit the baking powder).
I haven’t quite reached the point where I have so many ripe tomatoes that I need to start cooking them, or to where I’m bored with the basics (BLTs!), but I’m getting 3-4 ripe ones a day out of my modest garden, and I know some of you have a lot more.
So here’s a quick rundown on some great things to do with “excess” tomatoes while they’re ripe and ready to eat. I’m going to link to other people’s recipes, because (a) I’m feeling lazy and (b) it’s almost time for dinner, which will include a helping of …
Tuscan Bread Salad. This is a late-summer staple at my house, and it’s not bad in the winter made with good-quality canned tomatoes, well-drained. There are lots of variations on the recipe, many of which call for soaking the bread till it gets mooshy. I prefer it this way, sometimes substituting balsamic vinegar for red-wine vinegar and I like to use rustic whole-grain bread. Add some chopped cucumber if you like, or even canned tuna to make the dish a meal. Fast, easy and absolutely delicious.
Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille – Classic ratatouille is a vegetable stew; I prefer this version, which roasts the vegetables and then combines them in a rich, smoky-sweet dish. The tomatoes and eggplant are central; everything else is optional, and you can experiment with adding mushrooms, pearl onions and other seasonal veggies.
Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Mozarella Sandwiches with Green Tomato Gazpacho – I stumbled onto this a while back and it’s a great new harvest-season take on good old grilled cheese and tomato soup. Make one, the other or both, depending on how many tomatoes you’re blessed with.
And then there’s the Easiest Pasta Dish in the World: Chop up some room-temperature tomatoes. Add fresh basil, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the pasta of your choice and top with tomatoes. Cheese is optional.
Harvest season is in full swing, and the only thing better than having my own garden right now is knowing other gardeners who planted things I didn’t get around to planting this year. Because it seems like all of us overestimated something, and food-swapping is happening all over the place. Last week I offloaded a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a half-dozen lemon cucumbers on some friends at work, and picked up a nice zucchini someone had left in the break room.
I love green beans, but my garden isn’t laid out well for growing them. The border along the backyard fence which once made a nice spot for pole beans is now fully occupied by raspberries (poor me). So it was great to hear that my friends Debra and Gary had too many green beans. I swung by their place on the way to run errands this morning, and they weren’t home to thank, but they’d left a nice big bag of them on the porch for me.
And I have tomatoes, finally. Quite a few tomatoes, in fact, having got through an early scare with blossom-end rot by side-dressing the plants with lime and keeping to a regular watering schedule.
In my kitchen, the coincidence of fresh green beans and ripe tomatoes means one thing: Fasolakia.
This Greek dish is so easy – and so flavorful – that I can’t let a harvest season go by without making big pots of it. I always mean it as a side dish; I always eat the first big bowl all by itself.
Here’s my recipe, such as it is. It’s endlessly adaptable and forgiving, and you can adjust it to your tastes – or your harvest. Diced potatoes are traditional, some people like to add summer squash, and I change up the herbs depending on what’s thriving in my garden at the time. Heck, you can make it in the middle of winter with frozen green beans and canned tomatoes if you like. But try it with fresh, while the season is high. Trust me on this.
- Olive oil
- One medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound of fresh green beans (or more, or less), stringed if they need it, cut into bite-sized lengths
- Minced garlic (you know how much you like. I use at least 3-4 big cloves)
- 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks. If you want it to look prettier, I suppose you could peel them (dip the fruit briefly in boiling water and the skins will come right off), but the skins add a lot of flavor and good nutrients.
- A big handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- A generous amount of oregano and thyme. Dried is OK. Fresh – at least a tablespoon of each, minced – is better. If you prefer other herbs – basil, for instance – go for it.
- Generous grinding of black pepper
Pour some olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – enough to coat the bottom; more if you like (the traditional Greek recipe often calls for up to a cup of oil!). Heat to medium and toss in the onions, cooking until they begin to soften.
Add the green beans and garlic; stir to coat with oil and cook for 10 minutes to give them a head start.
Add remaining ingredients, bring it all to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer away, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes total cooking time, check beans for tenderness; continue cooking until they’re quite soft but not mushy. (Note that the traditional Greek dish, which uses much more olive oil and often substitutes canned tomatoes or tomato puree for fresh, turns out quite soupy; this doesn’t, but the flavors are startlingly good).
Serve hot or lukewarm – or even chilled (that’s how I usually eat the leftovers). Great with grilled lamb, pork or sausages or all by itself. Got vegans to feed? Feed them this!
How many does it serve? That depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or main course, but this amount could satisfy 3-4 people – or 2 really hungry ones – eaten all by itself.
… but I’m slowly starting to get back my sense of smell. Having learned way more than I ever wanted to know about anosmia, I’m thankful that my doctor’s initial diagnosis – a lingering, low-grade sinus infection left over from an awful cold I had in April and May – appears to have been the right one.
It’s been very little fun being unable to smell – or, really, taste – much of anything. Takes the fun right out of eating and cooking, I tell you; I haven’t even bothered going to the market for the past month.
That said, I do have one just-in-time-for-the-season treat to recommend, courtesy of my friend Lisa, who blogged about it:
Since I still can’t cook by taste, as is my habit, I made this last week following the recipe to the letter (well, OK, I used my food processor on the biscuit crust, and I did follow the advice of some of her commenters and drained the tomato slices before putting them in the shell, with a layer of cheese on the bottom to help seal against sogginess).
And then I invited a friend over for dinner, because while I knew there was nothing about this recipe I shouldn’t like, and it certainly looked wonderful, I couldn’t tell if it tasted as good as it looked – although the biscuit crust was wonderfully flaky and crisp.
My dinner companion, however, deemed it “fabulous.” And had seconds.
(Don’t be put off by the mayonnaise – it merges with the tomato-corn mixture and – again, according to my friend – isn’t identifiable beyond “yum!”)
During the flavor hiatus, and particularly while on the antibiotics that appear to have killed off the sinus ick, I’ve found myself drinking a lot of Reed’s Extra Ginger Ginger Ale. I’m not much of a soda drinker, but ginger calms my stomach and stimulates my appetite, and Reed’s is pungent enough I could almost taste it.
However, it’s spendy, and the bottles aren’t refundable in Oregon. So I rummaged around my bookmarks and found a recipe for home-made gingerale that I’d been meaning to try.
Since one of the things I like about Reed’s is its citrusy base, I altered the recipe a little and came up with something pretty doggoned tasty, at a fraction of the cost of the bottled stuff. If you’re a ginger fancier, try it out. It’s very refreshing – and it also works as a great base for my favorite warm-weather adult beverage, the Gin Gin Mule.
- 1 hand ginger, about 4 inches worth, sliced into 1/8″ disks
- Juice of 4 Meyer lemons
- pinch salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Seltzer water
Combine ginger, lemon juice, salt and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Stir in sugar until it dissolves; allow to cool. Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.
When you want ginger ale, mix a standard shotglass of the ginger syrup with 1 cup seltzer; serve over ice.
I was a little short on ginger last time I made this, so I substituted an inch or so of galangal I had in my freezer, sliced. It adds a lovely floral zing to the syrup.
Last weekend, belatedly, I found time to get out to the garden and strip the last tomatoes from the vines. For all my complaining about the late ripening – and for all my desultory gardening habits – it was a good year for tomatoes; once they finally got around to ripening, my six heirloom plants kept me in ripe tomatoes for nearly two months before they succumbed to the advancing autumn. Lots of BLTs, salads, and just plain sun-ripened, sliced tomatoes, and a few interesting experiments in stuffing the Pepper Tom variety (a tomato that ripens like a bell pepper, with sturdy outer walls and an almost-hollow center.
Two weeks ago, a surplus of very ripe tomatoes heading toward over-ripe prompted me to make a couple of pans of my infamous Tomato Goo: tomatoes, onion and garlic, flavored with the last of the basil from my herb garden, slow-roasted until nearly all the liquid is gone and shoveled into serving-sized freezer bags for the winter.
This week it was time to deal with the remaining, unripe tomatoes. In other years, I’ve wrapped them lovingly in newspaper, put them in a box and set them down in the cool of my unheated basement/garage; stored that way, unblemished tomatoes will continue to ripen right into winter, a few at a time. I’ve had ripe tomatoes for Christmas, some years. Not quite as luscious as sun-ripened, but miles better than anything you can buy in a supermarket.
This year’s green tomato harvest was modest, though, with lots of smallish fruit, so I decided to deal with them immediately, and make food for what promises to be a busy weekend: A green tomato salsa, and a delicious tart-and-savory curried tomato soup.
Does anyone invent recipes from thin air? I rarely do. Rather, I read cookbooks (and other people’s foodblogs) avidly, consider what ingredients I have on hand and what flavors I like together, and improvise, taking notes as I go. What results may or may not be recognizable as the original recipe.
That’s almost certainly true of this soup, which started out as a found-on-the-Internet recipe for a chilled summer soup. The basic elements are still there – green tomatoes, potatoes, loads of onion and garlic, curry powder – but I wanted a something warm and hearty for fall. The original called for lots of cilantro and mint; I don’t much like cilantro, but I still had lots of aromatic basil on hand, and my Italian parsley is coming back strong after the summer bolt. The original directed me to peel the tomatoes and potatoes – not a bad idea if you buy them from the supermarket, to eliminate pesticide residues, but mine were grown organically, and there’s a lot of nutrition in those peels, so I left them on. It also called for sugar – rather a lot of it – to balance the tartness of the tomatoes. Why cook with sugar when you’ve got a couple of nice, sweet-tart heirloom apples on hand? And so it went, an adjustment here, another there, until my soup barely resembles the original at all. You can do the same, and make the recipe your own.
Curried Green Tomato Soup
(Makes 4-6 servings)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium union, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp good curry powder
- 1 large (or 2 medium) potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 cups chopped green tomatoes (4-6 large tomatoes or a bunch of small ones
- 1 large (or 2 small) apples, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parlsey
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Additional parsley and curry powder for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion and curry powder. Cook, stirring often, until onion begins to soften, about five minutes. Add potatoes, stir to blend, and brown slightly. Add stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Stir in the tomatoes, apple, basil and parsley; cover, and continue simmering for 10-15 minutes more.
Remove from heat and use a wand blender or food processor to blend until fairly smooth. If you want a silky soup free of bits of peel, pass it through a coarse strainer and return to burner if necessary to reheat. I didn’t bother; the peel is tender and adds some texture. Stir in cream. Taste; add salt and pepper if you like.
To serve, ladle into bowls, and garnish with a drizzle of cream, a sprinkle of curry powder and a sprig of parsley. Serve hot.
Green Tomato salsa
Makes 3-4 cups
Ingredients (measurements are approximate and not critical. Use what you have):
- 1 pound green tomatoes
- 1-2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 seranno (or other) pepper, minced (seeds and all); use two if you like your salsa fiery
- 1/4 tsp cayenne (or more, as above)
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
Cut the fruits/vegetables into chunks; mince the chiles. Dump everything but the salt into a food processor and pulse until it’s chopped fine, but not pureed. Taste, correct seasoning. Transfer to a lidded bowl and allow to ripen at room temperature for an hour or so, then refrigerate. Keeps several days in the fridge.
Besides making a great dipping salsa (I like it with flour tortilla chips, but use what you prefer), this stuff would be fabulous with fresh seafood…
Oven Roasted Tomatoes (aka Tomato Goo)
A method. Make as much or as little as you like. I often make two pans at once, rotating them between the upper and lower shelves of my oven a couple of times during the cooking.
- 8-10 Garden-ripe tomatoes, quartered (cut off any green stem bits and or bad spots)
- 1 medium onion, peeled cut in wedges
- One head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled and slightly crushed with the flat of a knife
- A generous handful of fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 250F. In a large roasting pan, spread the tomatoes, onion and garlic in a single layer. Scatter with basil and drizzle with olive oil.
Roast in oven for 2-4 hours or longer*, stirring every half hour or so, until almost all of the liquid is gone, the onion and garlic have caramelized and the tomatoes have taken on a deep red hue. Cool; spoon into serving-sized freezer bags, squeeze out the excess air and freeze.
* If your tomatoes are especially juicy, or you pack too many into the pan, it can take an entire afternoon to reduce the liquid down. This is a fine project for a lazy fall afternoon, and will fill your whole house with the aromas of tomato, onion and garlic.
The result is a frozen slab of a rich, chunky paste/sauce, slightly sweet from the caramelized onion and garlic and with the same intense flavor as sun-dried tomatoes. Thaw to use, or simply cut off frozen chunks. Use as a basis for a home-made tomato sauce, toss it with pasta, spread it on toasted Italian bread rounds, add it by the spoonful to home-made soups and stews – anywhere you want a jolt of garden tomato in the deep of winter. Best. Stuff. Ever.
But this isn’t that year, it seems, at least in this part of the Willamette Valley.
The peach crop has been sparse, thanks to bad weather when the trees were in bloom. Some varieties haven’t been seen at the market at all; others are small, buggy or expensive.
Sweet corn is around, but not by the usual truckloads, and not at the usual prices. I’m seeing corn priced at 5 ears for a dollar, double what it was last summer.
And tomatoes? Sloooooooow to ripen, both in back-yard gardens and, evidently, on the farms. The six tomato plants in my own garden, all different heirloom varieties, are loaded with fruit, but only one of them – a Black Plum – has produced any ripe tomatoes yet. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping they’ll ripen in the next couple of weeks, before the rain starts up or the nights get frosty.
But woudn’t you know it: today’s Albany market finally had a great selection of tomatoes, including lots of big, ripe heirloom varieties – and I was in no position to buy, because I’m heading out of town for a nine-day vacation in Seattle. Now’s the time to eat the produce on hand, not stock up on more.
Besides, a friend whose wife has better gardening prowess than I do dropped off a bag of mixed cherry tomatoes last night, and they need to be eaten before I leave town on Monday.
At this time of year I crave tomato sandwiches. Bread, tomatoes, mayonnaise, maybe a little black pepper or a bit of minced basil = heaven. As much as I like a good cherry tomato, you can’t make a decent sandwich from them, because the little suckers keep squirting out from between the slices of bread.
So I settled for the next-best thing: A BLT salad.
I don’t know why you’d need a recipe for this, but here’s one, anyway.
- 1 thick slice of slightly stale artisan bread, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces. (I used a some leftover roasted garlic bread from Big River restaurant in Corvallis that a friend had brought to my Labor Day barbecue.)*
- Olive oil
- Lettuce, torn in bite-sized pieces*
- Cherry tomatoes. Small ones can stay whole; if they’re more than a mouthful, slice them in half.*
- 2 slices of bacon, fried and crumbled*
- Real mayonnaise. Helman’s/Best Foods is canonical. Make your own if you’re feeling adventurous
- 3-4 leaves of fresh basil, minced*
- Black pepper
Toss the bread in a little olive oil. Wrap it in foil and put it in a 350F oven while you cook the bacon (10-15 minutes).
On a plate, layer lettuce, toasted bread, tomatoes and bacon. Top with a spoonful of mayonnaise, scatter basil over the top and finish with a generous grinding of black pepper.
* Locally grown or made ingredients