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Showing posts with label tomatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tomatoes. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorites Meet at the Table

For Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, we'll enjoy the holiday with 18 family members and friends. We know the dinner will be a lot of noisy fun, but until then, there's lots to do so the meal runs smoothly and everyone has what they want to eat.

We began preparing last Sunday when we shopped at the Pacific Palisades farmer market. This morning we picked up the turkey and a few last-minute ingredients at the Santa Monica farmers market. For "fuel" I ran into Starbucks to have a double espresso.
To prepare the turkey I'm consulting my own e-book: 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
As important as having good recipes, good planning and sharing the effort makes all the difference: Planning Well Makes for a Better Thanksgiving

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - cook
Step 8 - eat
Step 9 - clean up
Step 10 - lie down

Dietary restrictions are part of the calculations since some guests need to avoid gluten, some land based-animal proteins, others eschew sugar and for a few nuts are an issue. Avoiding those ingredients doesn't mean missing out on the fun.

Included in the mix of dishes there will be a pan charred salmon seasoned simply with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. The galette, this year's "apple pie," will not have almonds.

For everyone who can enjoy the traditional favorites there will be a large turkey stuffed with my wife's Corn Bread Stuffing with Italian sausages, pecans and dried apricots, which is a labor of love because she eats neither corn bread nor sausages (nor, for that matter, turkey).

The appetizers will include my personal favorite, deviled eggs with anchovies and capers, as well as delicious cheeses--supplied by our friend from Paris who stayed with us last week--,a selection of olives, charred pistachios in the shell flavored with dried spices, sea salt and cayenne pepper and turkey liver-shiitake mushroom pate, another personal favorite.

For side dishes there will be freshly made cranberry sauce, roasted whole tomatoes, roasted sweet potatoes--the little ones which are sweeter and not starchy--, garlic-parsley mashed potatoes, oven roasted Brussels sprouts--quartered, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar and roasted whole tomatoes.

Salads this year will be one with arugula with persimmons, a beet "carpaccio" salad, a toasted hazelnuts and cheddar cheese, black kale salad dressed with a vinaigrette and homemade rosemary croutons and--another personal favorite--frisee with blue cheese and chopped green olives.

And there will be pickles: kosher dill and Moroccan mixed vegetable pickles.

Friends are bringing desserts--a big bowl of mixed berries and selection of ice creams, a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. I will contribute a plate of my almond-dark chocolate ganache chocolates, the apple galette and a slow cooked passion fruit custard.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the recipes for our dinner.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1/2 - 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add 1/2 cup of the stock, toss well and summer 15 minutes. Add more stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. 

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.



Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoning, put in a roasting pan with enough room so they don't sit on top of each other. Roast in a preheated 350 F degree oven 30-45 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes for even cooking.

They'll come out of the oven so warm and sweet, they'll get eaten before they arrive at the table.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

A side dish, full of flavor and perfect to serve alongside turkey and stuffing.


Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. 

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'ManiPaul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon the liquid over the tomatoes.

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately.



Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tomato Pintxos for Labor Day or Any Day

On a trip to Northern Spain in the spring, I discovered pintxos.
In Spanish bars, the appetizers served with beverages are tapas (about which everyone knows), pintxos and bocadilas. There's an easy way to distinguish one from the other. No bread on the plate, it's tapas. One slice of grilled bread, pintxos. Two pieces of bread (or a roll), bocadillas.
Bar food can be as simple as a bowl of beer nuts, but in Spain having a bite to eat in a bar means something very different.
On the trip, we ate elaborately designed pintxos with shrimps riding bareback on saddles of caramelized onions and smoked salmon that topped freshly grilled slices of sourdough bread.
Others featured anchovies with hardboiled eggs, whole roasted piquillo (small red peppers) stuffed with tuna fish, prosciutto wrapped around wild arugula leaves, delicately thin omelets rolled around finely chopped seasoned tomatoes and flat strips of roasted red bell peppers topped with slabs of brie and an anchovy fillet.
The invention and flavors of pintxos are unlimited. Think of wonderfully supportive flavors and textures to place on top the solid foundation of a thin slice of grilled bread and you have a beautiful and tasty appetizer to go with an ice cold beer, glass of crisp white wine or a refreshing summer cocktail like fresh fruit Sangria.
Tomato Pintxos with Fresh Tomatoes, Thin Sliced Olives and Dried Oregano

One of the best pintxos I enjoyed on the trip was the simplest. Don't get me wrong, I loved the elaborately constructed shrimp pintxos at Atari Gastronteka (Calle Mayor 18, 20001 Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, 34 943 44 07 92) in San Sebastián, but in Oviedo, near the Cathedral in the old town, in a working man's bar away from the tourist crush, A'Tarantella (Calle Jesus n 1, Oviedo, Spain, 985 73 81 65) restaurant served a simple pintxos that was one of my favorites.
Thin slices of tomatoes were laid on top of a piece of grilled bread, seasoned only with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced, pitted olives were scattered on top and dusted with dried oregano.

Easy to prepare. Simple flavors. Delicious.

For the bread, a dense white or whole wheat loaf is best. The tomatoes should be fresh and ripe but firm.

The individual ingredients can be prepared an hour ahead but the pintxos should be assembled just before serving to prevent the bread from becoming soggy from all those delicious tomato juices.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large, ripe but firm farmers market fresh tomatoes
12 large, pitted green olives, thin sliced, 1/8"
8 slices thin sliced French bread
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the bread 1/4" thick. Grill on a hot barbecue, cast iron frying pan with grill ridges or roast in a 450 F oven for a few seconds to put grill-marks on each side. Remove. Set aside.
Set up an assembly line with the ingredients ready to go as soon as the bread is grilled.

Using a sharp chefs knife, slice the tomatoes as thin as possible. The tops and bottoms of the tomatoes should not be used. They can be finely chopped and used as a topping for another pintxos or to create a salsa.

Assemble each tomato pintxos in the following order: grilled bread, drizzled with olive oil, tomato slices, pitted olive slices, a seasoning of dried oregano, sea salt, black pepper and (optional) a final drizzle of olive oil.

Serve immediately with ice cold beverages.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alaskan Halibut in a Roasted Tomato-Spinach-Shiitake Mushroom Sauté

When the Deadliest Catch first aired, I watched with morbid curiosity as the crews manhandled heavy metal cages. Those cages sometimes swung wildly in the air, smashing against the ship's bulkhead, threatening to hospitalize crew members.

Many times, risking life and limb did not have the hoped for payoff when the cages contained the ocean's odds and ends rather than the prized catch of Alaskan king crab.

When luck was with them, a cage would be filled with crabs, their pointed, armored legs poking out at any hand that risked a close encounter.

After that, when I ordered a crab cocktail I had newfound respect for my food. The crab meat might be delicate and sweet, but the effort it took to snatch it from the icy, turbulent ocean was marked by sweat, fear and danger.

On so many levels, when I am cooking or about to eat, I am happy to be ignorant of the difficult work it takes to get the food from ocean or farm to my table.

Recently, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute made it easy for me. They offered to send a box of Alaska seafood for me to prepare and write about.

Certainly I had bought, cooked and eaten Alaskan seafood before because it is available from local purveyors big (Ralphs and Gelson's) and small (Malibu Seafood).
From the extensive seafood available in Alaskan waters, I was offered king crab (how could I refuse!), halibut, cod, salmon and scallops. When the samples arrived, I happily opened the super-sized box to find the two pound vacuum packed packages of seafood perfectly chilled by dry ice and freezer packs.

I began my Alaskan adventure with the halibut.
Halibut with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms

A thick filet can be cut into smaller pieces or prepared whole, which in this instance, meant a piece just under two pounds in weight. I liked the idea of cooking the filet whole and then slicing manageable pieces for serving.
A key ingredient is the roasted tomato sauce. You can certainly buy canned sauce, but homemade roasted tomato sauce is wonderfully easy to make, tastes much better than any commercial version and can be prepared and refrigerated several days in advance or frozen weeks or even months before using.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds halibut filet
1 bunch spinach, roots removed, washed to remove grit
4 large ripe tomatoes, washed, stems removed
2 garlic cloves, washed, ends and skins removed, finely chopped
6 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends trimmed and skins removed, roughly chopped
1/4 pound or 6-8 shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, washed and pat dried, roughly chopped or thin sliced
1 tablespoon sweet butter
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray lined with a nonstick Silpat sheet, parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Bake 1 hour. Remove and let cool.
The liquid in the bottom of the baking tray is a combination of seasoned olive oil and a clear liquid given off by tomatoes when they cook. Set up a food mill or a fine mesh stainer over a non-reactive bowl.  Pour the olive oil-tomato liquid into the food mill/strainer and add the cooked tomatoes.

Press the tomatoes through the mill/strainer, using a rubber spatula to collect all of the pulp on the bottom side of the mill/strainer.  Discard the seeds and skin or use with other ingredients to make a delicious vegetable stock.

Place the roasted tomato sauce aside in a sealed container. If not used immediately, refrigerate up to several days or freeze.

Defrost, wash and pat dry the halibut and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Many people discard spinach stems. I prefer to use them. Finely chop the stems and sauté until lightly browned. Add the shiitake mushrooms, onions and garlic and sauté until softened. Roughly chop the spinach leaves and add to the frying pan.

Once the leaves have begun to wilt, add the roasted tomato sauce (between 1 and 1 1/2 cups) and sweet butter. Simmer for ten minutes. Taste and adjust with sea salt and pepper as needed.

The halibut filet can be grilled on a barbecue or sautéed in a frying pan with similar results.  If you are using a barbecue, to prevent the fish from sticking, be certain to apply oil to the grill. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil on a paper towel and liberally rub across the grill.

If you are using a frying pan, use 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on a medium flame.

Using a large metal spatula to carefully lift the fish without leaving any of the flesh behind, lightly brown the filet on both sides.

Place the halibut on a cutting board and carefully slice the filet into large pieces.  Place on a serving platter and top with the heated vegetable sauté.

Serve with freshly cooked pasta or rice or with fresh baked French bread.

Variations

Along with the vegetables, sauté one piece of bacon, finely chopped, until lightly browned.

For a Spanish style flavor, season the vegetable sauté with 1/2 teaspoon paprika.

For heat, season the vegetable sauté with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne.



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Blogging is More Fun with Friends

Generally speaking, I'm not a joiner.

It's not that I'm a loner--well, maybe, a little bit--but I'm not a joiner of clubs, groups or social circles. I belong to the Modern Language Association--the MLA--because a long time ago I was an English professor with a specialty in 17th Century English Literature. I belong to the Writers Guild of America, West--the WGA--because I write for television. And that's about it.

In August I met with Food Bloggers, Los Angeles---the FBLA. A dozen of the group gathered to share recipes and talk about blogging. They were nice enough to invite me to join them.
Since this was the end of summer, the topic was tomatoes and zucchini, two summer vegetables (yes, I know tomatoes are a fruit) that are available in great abundance.
I contributed a pasta with roasted tomato sauce and grilled corn and Vietnamese style pickled zucchini, cabbage, carrots and onions.
What people brought to the gathering covered a meal from soup to nuts, as my grandmother would say.
Tomatoes and zucchini found themselves turned into soups, appetizers, casseroles and desserts.

Coming to a food writers' gathering has so many benefits, not the least of which you get to enjoy what other people like to cook.
Everyone at the gathering had a dish to share and a camera. We not only ate one another's dishes, we photographed them as well.

I don't believe I had ever met another food blogger. What fun to meet in the group and talk about issues only a blogger would love.

Topics like which was better Word Press or Blogger?

What are the work arounds when Blogger won't post your photographs?

What are your reasons for blogging?

How can you expand the number of readers who see your blog?

FBLA meets once a month. The meetings have a theme or topic. Food is always shared, I'm told, along with information of interest to the group.

I'm looking forward to joining them again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Summertime Open Faced BLT

Summertime is the best of times and the worst of times.

When it's hot and humid, nothing makes me happy except air conditioning. But all that heat is good for the garden and summertime tomatoes benefit from all that sun.
Luckily we have neighbors who generously share the beautiful tomatoes that grow in their garden.

A BLT is my favorite way to enjoy tomatoes.

Acidic-sweet tomato slices cozy up to crisp, salty bacon, crunchy lettuce leaves and the comfort of bread in the most satisfying of experiences.

When the rain beats against the dining room windows and the temperature hovers in the mid-40s, a wintertime BLT with hot house tomatoes on slices of a good wheat berry bread with a touch of Best Foods mayonnaise and a bowl of hot vegetable soup satisfies in a good way.

Summertime is something else altogether. First off, I don't want all that bread. In summertime, I want light and cool, not heft.

Open faced sandwiches are perfect for hot weather and an open faced BLT with a slice of avocado is refreshingly delicious. Add a tall glass of iced tea or icy homemade lemonade and you have all you'll need for a refreshing summertime meal.
Open Face BLT with Avocado

Use any kind of bread you love. Personally I prefer thin sliced French or Italian bread for my open faced sandwiches. Depending on the size of the loaf, you will need two to six slices per person.

My favorite bread for a BLT is the Italian bread from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Light with a thin crust, the bread perfectly compliments the sandwich's toppings.

To keep its shape, the slices should be lightly toasted.

Serves 4

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8-24 slices of bread, lightly toasted
8-10 slices of bacon
2 ripe avocados, washed
4 ripe large tomatoes, washed, stem and blossom end removed
8 romaine leaves, ribs removed, or a handful of arugula leaves without the stems, washed, dried
8-16 slices of bread and butter pickles (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Mayonnaise

Directions

Set the lightly toasted slices of bread aside to cool.

In batches, cook the bacon in a large frying pan or griddle on a medium-low flame. Turn the slices frequently for even browning, being careful to cook through all the fatty pieces. Place paper towels on a plate. When each bacon strip is cooked, lay it on the paper towel to drain.

While cooking, pour off excess grease into a coffee tin for later disposal.

Cut the cooked bacon pieces so they are the same length as the toasted bread slices.

Depending on your preference, make thin or thick slices of tomatoes and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, cut the avocados in half, remove the peel and discard the pit. Since the avocado flesh will discolor once it is exposed to the air, do this last step just before serving.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of lightly toasted bread, place avocado slices on the bread, covering the surface. Lay romaine or arugula leaves on the bacon. Add a slice of tomato, pickle slices (optional) and lastly the bacon slices. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with an ice cold beverage, a tossed salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

Variations

Lightly dust the avocado with cayenne for heat.

Instead of lettuce or arugula use watercress leaves for a peppery flavor.

Toss the avocado slices in a mix of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice before placing on the sandwich.

To make an open-faced melted cheese sandwich, lay thin slices of Irish or English cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich, place in a preheated, 350 degree toaster oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese, 1 minute in a toaster oven set on broil and cook until the top of the cheese lightly browns. Serve warm.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gnocchi and Summer's Best Produce

Walk through any farmers market and the bounty of summer will be on display in mounds of freshly picked carrots, beets, lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, onions, parsley, zucchini, corn, celery, green beans, tomatoes and spinach.
Nearby there will be baskets of fat figs ready to burst, bright pink peaches, sharply colored pluots and plums, nectarines the size of soft balls and clusters of black, green and red grapes, seedless and seeded.
How great is all that wonderful food! Now, what to do with it? That's the challenge.

It's hot outside, so who wants to cook? You've grilled all summer long and while you love grilled vegetables, you need to take a break.

My suggestion is simple, make gnocchi.

If you've never made gnocchi, you're probably saying it's too difficult to make. Only Italian chefs can do that.  The truth is, gnocchi are easy to prepare.  And it doesn't take much time in the kitchen.

For Zesterdaily I wrote an easy-to-make recipe that lays out all the steps to making gnocchi at home.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A 30 Minute Pasta with Sautéed Farmers Market Vegetables

At the height of summer, the farmers markets have the most amazing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Corn, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, peas, broccoli, parsley, arugula, frisee, plums, pluots, figs, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes...I'm running out of breath trying to say them all.
Part of me wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen experimenting and playing with all these great ingredients.

The other part would prefer to stay outside, enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather. This recipe splits the difference. I can have fun with the farmers market bounty and it takes only 30 minutes.

That's a win-win if ever there was one.

Sautéed Vegetables and Pasta

For vegetarians, this is a very satisfying meal-in-one. For everyone else, cooked meat, poultry and seafood can easily be added with great results.
I choose to cut all the vegetables so they are similar in size to the corn kernels, although I make an exception for the string beans, which I think are more enjoyable when cooked in lengths of at least 1". A personal preference.  At any rate, cut the vegetables small or roughly, depending on how you like them.

Yield: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 pound pasta
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 pound string beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" lengths
1 small yellow onion, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring to a boil a gallon of water with the kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir well initially and every couple of minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a heatproof cup in the sink and capture one cup pasta water when you drain the pasta.

Return the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and sweet butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Lightly cover--do not seal--with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a large frying or chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté all the vegetables until brown. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over a medium flame until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cooked pasta. Toss well to coat. If more liquid is needed, add more of the remaining pasta water and a pat of butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Instead of Italian parsley, add 1 tablespoon fresh oregano.

For heat, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the vegetable sauté.

Along with the pasta water and sweet butter, add 2 cups of any chopped, cooked meat, poultry or seafood you like.

Add roasted, skinless, chopped tomatoes with the pasta water and sweet butter.

Add 1 cup raw, chopped tomatoes with the vegetables.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or roughly chopped almonds.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted or sautéed bread crumbs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

With summer still months away, the tomatoes at the Farmers' Market leave something to be desired. Still juicy and fragrant, they lack the exquisite flavor of tomatoes ripened by the full heat of the sun.

And yet....

Roasted, with a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, spring tomatoes add depth to a braise or stew. Traditional Italian recipes pair sausages with peppers and onions. Substituting roasted tomatoes for the peppers softens and sweetens the flavors. Adding pasta makes a main dish that is filling, economical, and easy-to-make.

Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 1 quart

Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Place in the oven
and roast for 60 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to save the clear liquid, tomato essence that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Place the cooked tomatoes and the liquid into an airtight container. The tomatoes can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for months.

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 Italian sausages, washed, pat dry
1 quart roasted tomatoes, skins removed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, washed, skins, tops, and stems removed
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 box pasta
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

The sausages and pasta can be made ahead and reheated with the sauce or prepared simultaneously while you are sauteing the vegetables.

Brown the sausages either by grilling or roasting in a 400 degree oven. Remove and let cool so you can cut them into 1/2" thick rounds. Set aside.

Boil 4 quarts water with kosher salt. Add the pasta. Stir well to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the unsalted butter. Stir well. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Lightly cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Set aside.

Saute the garlic, parsley, onions, and mushrooms with olive oil until lightly browned. Add the sausages, roasted tomatoes, and tomato liquid. Simmer 15 minutes, reducing the sauce by half.

Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir well to coat. Simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

To the sauteed vegetables, add 2 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

For heat, use hot Italian sausages

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Farmers' Market Fresh: Early Spring Tomatoes Roasted Whole or Sliced

Judging by the night time chill, it's still winter, Southern California style. But a walk through the local farmers' markets (the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets) and you'd think it was summertime. Just about everything you could want is in the market, with the exception of fresh corn and pluots.


One of my favorite recipes, and one of the easiest, uses early spring tomatoes to good advantage. Eaten raw, they aren't desirable, but roasted, they're delicious. Some farmers mark down their mottled and misshapen tomatoes so price is an added bonus.

Sliced Tomatoes Roasted with Garlic and Parsley

Use the roasted tomato slices as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts, meat, and seafood or in a salad of alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella, a variation on a classic Italian summer dish.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh large tomatoes, washed, pat dried
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the chopped parsley and garlic. Remove the remnants of th
e stem on top of the tomatoes, cut into 1/2" thick slices, lay on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray, top with a sprinkling of parsley-garlic mix, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast 30 minutes or until the tomatoes give off their liquid and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven to cool on a baking rack. Use a rubber spatula to reserve the liquid on the baking tray.

Serve at room temperature.

Variations


Before serving, top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pour the roasting liquid, a mix of seasoned olive oil and tomato essence, onto the plate, then lay the tomato slices on top.

Arrange the slices on top of filets of fish, such as sole, halibut, or swordfish.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

Keep this recipe for the summer when tomatoes improve in quality and come down even more in price. The technique is a winner any time of the year.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 pounds tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the end of the stem at the top of the tomato. Place all the tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle each tomato with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast 90 minutes. When you remove the tomatoes from the oven you'll notice the accumulation of a clear liquid. A small portion of that is the seasoned olive oil. But mostly the liquid is given off by the tomato itself. That liquid or, let's be bold and call it "nectar", is pure essence-of-tomato. Save every drop.

At this point the tomatoes can be served whole as a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. They can also be peeled and chopped for a pasta or a braised meat dish like short ribs. Run them through a food mill and you have the beginnings of a delicious tomato sauce.

If you don't use all the tomatoes right away, they can be placed in an air-tight container and frozen for several months without damaging their flavor.

A final tip about tomato nectar. If you like mozzarella with tomatoes but this time of year the fresh tomatoes don't have enough flavor, drizzle the tomato nectar, slightly warmed, over slices of mozzarella. You're in for a treat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

For my mother, Thanksgiving was the best day of the year. She enjoyed being surrounded by friends, family, and food. One day of the year when everyone was focused on being together and remembering how blessed we all are. She's been gone now for two years but this year, as we did last year, we'll toast her and remember how much she enjoyed Thanksgiving.

We all know that while turkey is the centerpiece of the meal, the side dishes and desserts reign supreme. Cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing with sausages and dried apricots, mushroom and giblets gravy, salads, pickles, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, string beans, squash...and the desserts: pies, custards, cakes, fresh fruit, cheese... Thanksgiving celebrates an iconic moment of generosity from strangers at a moment of crisis. Given the difficulties the world is facing for the coming year, we can use Thanksgiving to share with one another our hopes for the future.

Everyone has their favorite side dishes for the holiday. They need to be flavorful and easy to make. Here are mine: Roasted Whole Tomatoes, Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, and Avocadoes, Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad, Blackened Peppers with Capers, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and, my new favorite, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh. Find ones that are slender, appropriate as a single serving. For a dinner party, pick ones that are about the same size.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes. Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned.

Remove and discard the tin foil. Take a sharp paring knife and slice each sweet potato open the long way. Using your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional). Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Very Versatile Roasted Tomato

Always on the hunt for an easy to make ingredient, I discovered roasted tomatoes a few years ago. With several left over after a dinner party, I decided a little experimentation was in order. I discovered that roasted tomatoes served up countless uses and, because they freeze well, they can be pulled out at the last minute and added to soups, stews, and sauces.

Incredibly versatile, roasted tomatoes work as a side dish as well as the basis for sauces. Cold, they can be tossed with cucumbers and onions for a salad. Peeled and chopped, they add body and flavor to stews, soups, and pastas.

Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. This week at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, tomatoes were selling for $2.50 - $3.50/pound, but the over ripe ones were priced at 60 cents/pound.

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The liquid can be used separately to flavor a simple pasta or as a final basting on a grilled meat. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'Mani, Paul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon it over the tomatoes.

The tomatoes can be served as a side dish with other vegetables, pasta, and grilled meats.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Yield: 1 quart
Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds roasted tomatoes

Method

Put the roasted tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the skins and seeds.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Yield: 2 cups sauce
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 quart roasted tomato sauce
1/4 pound brown mushrooms (washed, dried, sliced thin)
1 medium yellow onion (washed, peeled, finely chopped)
5 cloves garlic (peeled, finely chopped)
1 cup Italian parsley leaves (washed, finely chopped)
1 tablespoon oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Sauté the onions and garlic until lightly browned, add the parsley and mushrooms and continuing cooking until lightly browned. Add the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt, pepper, oregano, or tamari.


The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week or frozen for a month or more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California Dreamin: A Salad of Iranian Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Onions

Living near the beach in Pacific Palisades, I have to drive a long way to visit one of my favorite places to eat. An Armenian restaurant, California Dreamin (6424 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91201) is located in Glendale some 30 miles inland. Happily a block away is another favorite, Golden Farms (6501 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91202), also Armenian, a supermarket famous for its low prices, fresh produce, specialty cuts of meats, and enormous liquor department.

Reflecting the diversity of the neighborhood, California Dreamin is an all-purpose coffee shop serving American, Mexican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Armenian food. I imagine it was once a hamburger joint or the kind of coffee shop that served 99¢ breakfasts.

For years I drove by without stopping. Now I look for excuses to swing by and have lunch.

I'm certain all their food is good but I'm a creature of habit so I always order #8 the Chicken Breast Kabob. The perfectly cooked chicken is tender and juicy. Served with basmati rice, a fire-roasted whole tomato and a pepper, toasted pieces of lavash, and a small bowl of cucumber salad, there's always more than I can eat. Invariably I bring home a to-go box for a late night snack. And they make a cup of thick Armenian coffee that packs more flavor than any espresso.

At some point, I realized I came as much for the cucumber-tomato salad (Salad-e Shirazi) as anything else. The combination of flavors is so deceptively simple. Making the salad at home I shop at the local farmers' markets to get the freshest ingredients. Delicious by itself, the salad is a perfect side dish for grilled meats.

Iranian Cucumber, Tomato, Onion Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 5 minutes

I tried using regular cucumbers but they're too watery. For me the salad only works with Iranian or Persian cucumbers because they have more density and fewer seeds. The traditional version of the salad calls for the addition of an acid, either vinegar or citrus juice (lemon or lime). Personally, I like it without either, but all versions are worth trying.

Ingredients

2 Iranian cucumbers, washed, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds or quarters
1/2 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
2 tablespoons yellow onion, washed, peeled, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Mix together and dress with olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve as a side dish with grilled meats or to be eaten with grilled lavash or tortillas.

Variations

Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, or 1 teaspoon vinegar.

Add finely chopped Italian parsley or cilantro or mint leaves.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Grilled Corn Salads

Luckily there's still great corn available in the farmers' markets although some farmers have run out.

Summer for me is defined by vegetables: great tomatoes, corn, melons... Our favorite way of preparing corn is simply grilling the ears on the grill with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Eaten on the cob is so delicious but added to salads is also a great way to go.

I posted 2 recipes on Mark Bittman's site, Bitten. One combines the grilled corn with parsley, the other features tomatoes. They're easy to make and go with just about anything. Please take a look and let me know what you think.