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The Festival – Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

I cannot believe how quickly our first five weeks in Nashville have flown by, It feels like we only just arrived, and yet, despite the newness of life here in Nashville,  our old place and usual haunts in Delaware seem ages away in the distant past. I guess thats the way time goes. This weekend marks an event that I have been excited about and looking forward to since our arrival. The annual “Tomato Fest” in East Nashville takes place a mere two blocks from our house and is one of the largest block party style galas of the summer. Referred to locally as just “The Tomato” this extravaganza boasts numerous activities including a 5K and Art Contest devoted entirely to summer’s blushing beauty – the tomato.

As a tribute to the event I wanted to put forth a tomato themed post this week. I saw this recipe featured in the July edition of Bon Appetit and knew, right away, that I needed to make it. The recipe was originally written as a steak salad, but the flavors of the tomato mixture really stand out on their own. The salad makes a great play on a classic bloody mary by incorporating the drink’s usual ingredients into an entirely different sort of dish. This recipe also offers a great opportunity to make use of the pale leaves and slightly sweet inner ribs that typically get discarded from a large bunch of celery.

The combination of tomato and celery is a real winner and serves as a light and cooling summer side which reminds me very much of a classic summer-style tomato and cucumber salad. The presence of horseradish and celery seeds, two of my all time favorite ingredients, are really what makes this dish special to me. While the dish was intended to be served alongside a juicy grilled steak, I imagine it would also make a great side dish for burgers, fried oysters, or roast beef. Be careful that you use celery seed and not celery salt, if you only have celery salt on hand make sure you add only a bit a a tine and taste, taste, taste to ensure that it is not too salty before adding and final seasoning. For olives I like to use nice zesty picholine olives but you can really use any good, firm green olives you have available.

 

 

Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

1 Cup Onion, Finely Chopped
3 TBSP Sherry Vinegar, Divided
2 Lbs Grape Tomatoes, Cut in Half Lengthwise
1 Cup Chopped Celery Hearts, Including Inner Leaves and Inner Yellow Stalks
1/2 Cup Green Olives, Pitted and Chopped
2 TBSPs Olive Brine
2 TBSPS Prepared Horseradish
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBSP Hot Sauce
1 TSP Celery Seeds
1/3 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper

Place onions in the bottom of a large bowl and add 1 TBSP Sherry, stir to combine and let rest for 10 mins. This will take the harsh bite off of the onions.

Add tomatoes, celery, olives, brine, horse radish, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and celery seeds and stir.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Taste again and adjust seasonings. True to Bloody Mary form, I  like this firmly on the peppery side.

Slowly drizzle on oil, toss to combine, and serve.

Bon Appétit!

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Why I Love Home Goods – Israeli Couscous Salad with Sardines and Tomatoes

I love Home Goods. I really love Home Goods. If you don’t have a Home Goods (which is related to Marshalls and TJ Maxx and sells, well, home goods, at a mere fraction of other store’s prices) near you, I’m sorry, you’re missing out. The one near us is simply phenomenal (the selection from store to store tends to vary quite a bit, I have been in others that aren’t quite as good). I love to go in on days when its not too busy and make a B Line towards the gourmet foods section some days the finds are better than others at times the selection may be quite slim but I still always find some cool new spice or or salt or jam to take home and add to the arsenal I keep in the pantry for which I use when I need some inspiration to a dish (or in times of desperation when I get back from a business trip to find that there is no fresh produce in the house and raid the pantry in hopes of scrounging up something meal-worthy.)

On this particular trip the selection was amazing, I got some great nut oils (walnut and hazelnut) and can of stir fry oil which is flavored with ginger and garlic, I also came across some high quality hot smoked Spanish Paprika, which I love to add to sauteed greens for breakfast. Nestled in among some salts on the bottom shelf were some small tins of cured fish. I selected some smoked mackerel and a container of smoked trout, a tin of herring, and a small can of Portuguese sardines in Peri Peri sauce which I put to use in today’s featured recipe which is a take on a great recipe for Pearled Cous Cous with Roasted Tomatoes which I found on Smitten Kitchen last summer and immediately fell in love with.

While we are speaking of favorite things, I have used a particular favorite ingredient in this recipe that I want to talk a little more about. Garlic. Specifically Raw Garlic that I buy FROZEN from Trader Joes. It comes in a little flat that looks like a miniature ice cube tray and holds small squares of frozen minced garlic which are each equivalent to approximately one large clove. I am a garlic junkie so I used two in this recipe which I put in a large mixing bowl with the oil and allow to simultaneously thaw and infuse the olive oil with its garlicy goodness while I prepare the remaining ingredients for the dish.

While we are on the topic of specific ingredients lets talk about sardines. Before you wrinkle your nose let me tell you I was a bit apprehensive about what to do with them once I opened the can and peered inside at chunks of silvery fish which included both skin and spine. I am assured that you can eat both but I slit them in half and removed the spine before slivering the flesh into the salad. I might recommend to other first timers that you follow a similar path. To other more experienced sardine eaters, please, by all means, eat the fish spine and all, I am told there is good calcium in doing it this way but I will stick to my gut for now and keep taking the spines out (I have to say the spine removal process is a very simple procedure – hardly a taxing surgery by normal cooking standards.) If you’re really not sure about the fish, leave them out, I wont stop you, but you’ll be missing out on the hint of salty ocean flavor they bring to this Mediterranean summer dish. The salad makes a great side dish for a summer feast, it would go well with a simple meal of grilled meats or vegetable kabobs and is perfect for a summer picnic.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Sardines and Tomatoes

3/4 Cup Puy Lentils
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2.5 Cups Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Quart Grape Tomatoes Cut in Half Lengthwise
1/2 Cup Olives Chopped
1/4 Cup Basil Cut into a Chiffonade
2-3 TBSP Lemon Juice
1 Tin of Sardines in Peri Peri Sauce, Spine Removed and Flesh Flaked.
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add lentils and bay leaf and reduce to a simmer, simmer until just tender, approximately 20 minutes. When just tender remove pot from heat, drain lentils and run under cold water until cooled.

While Lentils are cooking bring chicken broth to a boil in a separate pot, once boiling add couscous and simmer uncovered for approximately 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 20 minutes until cooled.

Place garlic in a large mixing bowl with the olive oil while you halve the tomatoes and chop the olives and basil. Place the tomatoes, olives, and basil in the bowl with the garlic and olive oil and mix. Add couscous, lentils, and lemon juice and stir. Add flaked sardine meat and taste for seasoning.

Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

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