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Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

Bring on Fall – Please (Or What To Do When Summer Just Won’t Quit)

If you had approached me back in April to ask me what I was most excited about for the upcoming CSA season I undoubtedly, without blinking or even thinking twice would have rambled on and on about just how oh so very excited I was about ripe, sweet, summer tomatoes. I mean, I was literally itching to get my hands on a big fat heirloom tomato and have myself a super sweet super flavorful and texturally delightful feast. But ladies and gentlemen, it is September now, during the course of the last three months I have sliced, diced, sauteed, stewed, minced and have even made jam of these gosh darn fruit and am finally fed – the heck – up. That’s right ladies and gents, I am fed up, done, and just totally over tomatoes.

Readers, the sad part of this story is that I just know that in about three months, when the tomato glut has finally subsided, and heirlooms are no where to be found, the cravings will begin again. I am just so sure that in the deepest darkest depths of winter, when the ground is covered in frost and I am sitting at home, bundled up like an Eskimo, with my little booties and bathrobe on, sipping piping hot tea, I will be dreaming about tomatoes. Now I know what you are thinking, isn’t this blog about SEASONAL cooking? Why, oh why are we talking about your wintertime tomato yearnings? Well readers, we are talking about winter today because, when the season end approaches, and I have finally had my fill of tomatoes, I do my darndest to preserve that ripe tomato spark to warm my heart with the sweet flavor of summer during the dark and cold of winter.


In my mind, the best way to carry the sweet summer tomato flavor through to the winter is to roast tomatoes and freeze them. Here at Penchant for Produce we employ a fairly simple method for roasting tomatoes that can be adapted to suit a variety of different dishes. You can truly roast any kind of tomatoes you like, but I find that this works best with the smaller cherry and grape tomatoes. Even tomatoes that taste slightly too acidic can be mellowed and sweetened with long slow oven roasting. To roast a batch wash your tomatoes and sit them aside to dry. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and line a jelly roll pan (or really any pan with sides) with parchment, foil, or a silpat mat (this will make for easy clean up later.) Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a single layer, cut side up, on the prepared pans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle LIGHTLY with oil (at least for now, we don’t want to confit the poor tomatoes.) Place them in the oven and roast them for an hour to an hour and a half. Et, Voila! you have roasted tomatoes.

If this formula sounds a tad too boring, do not fret, there are literally hundreds of ways to mix your own flavor into this simple recipe. Frequently, we add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary to the tomatoes before the pans hit the oven. You could experiment with sprinkling on a pinch or so of Mexican spices like cumin and chile power, or mix some harissa with the olive oil for a North African flair. To freeze them, cool the tomatoes to room temperature, wrap the entire pan in plastic wrap, and place it on a flat plane in the freezer until the tomatoes are just frozen. Once frozen place them in a single layer in a freezer bag (clearly labeled, you know, with like, important stuff, e.g. the contents and date, and any spice embellishments that were added prior to roasting, written on it, preferably in permanent marker) and then seal the bag almost all the way, using a straw to suck the air out of the bag before quickly sealing it shut.

There are oh so many ways to put these little gems to use. They make a superb topping for pizza, and can quickly be sauteed (thawed) with olive oil and garlic to make a fresh tomato “sauce” for pasta. If you carefully thaw the tomatoes on paper towels (cut side up) you can plunk them down on a salad or mix them in with either hot or cold couscous to make a nice grain side dish. You can puree them for a sauce, or drizzle with olive oil and a little extra balsamic and serve them on pan fried bread for bruschetta. The possibilities are endless. However you choose to use them, these are a real delight and allow you to enjoy the taste of summer for months to come.

Shakshuka – Not Your Momma’s Peppers and Eggs

August 26, 2011 2 comments

Shakshuka, come on, say it with me, shak-skuk-a. Doesn’t that feel good. It does to me as well. Now lets discuss what this amazing word means and why I think you should give it a go. Shakshuka is a traditional Israeli street food. To those not familiar with the dish it can be likened to another one of my favorite breakfast foods, Huevos Rancheros. Like Huevos Rancheros, this morning delight consists of eggs which are half poached, half steamed in a flavorful tomato sauce. Rather than the traditional spicy and tomato based ranchero sauce that is emblematic of Huevos Rancheros, this dish is cooked with a cumin scented mixture of peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

It is simply the best breakfast food I have ever had. Really. And it is so seriously easy to make at home that you must try it, I implore you. Like Nike says “just do it.”

Its easy to see why this dish is such a hit in Israel. It is simple, cheap, and amazingly flavorful. I mean, seriously, whats not to like. While it was criminalized for its cholesterol content during the 90s the egg is back on top and in favor with many in the nutrition industry in recent years. As Web MD explains “The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended daily limit.” Not only are eggs off of the list of suspects but they are now being touted as an amazing source of complete vitamins and protein. As web MD’s Kathleen Seldman explains “Along with milk, eggs contain the highest biological value (or gold standard) for protein. One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. The egg is a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. And brain development and memory may be enhanced by the choline content of eggs.

The sauce for the shakshuka can be made several days in advance and can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a pan before cooking the eggs. The sauce makes enough for approximately 8 eggs or around 4 servings. It can easily be doubled, without affecting the integrity of the dish so please feel free to double or triple if you would like to make additional servings. Just be sure you have a pan big enough for the peppers and tomatoes to sit comfortably. Traditionally this dish is served in Israel in individual small pans, I used a larger pan when I made this which works just as well. Whatever pan you choose be sure you have a lid which fits snugly on the top, it is imperative that the cooking vessel is lidded to trap in the steam which will cook the tops of the eggs while the bottoms solidify over low heat.

I like to serve these eggs sitting atop nice thick pieces of toast. As you cut into the eggs the bread will absorb the sauce and and runny part of the yolk and the combination is simply delicious. I imagine that any leftover sauce would make a great topping for bruschetta with or without the addition of a bit of goat cheese.

Shakshuka

1 TSP Cumin Seeds
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Lg Onions Sliced Thinly
2 Red and 2 Yellow Peppers Cut Into Thin Strips
2 TSP Muscovado Sugar
2 BayLeaves
6 Sprigs Thyme, Picked and Chopped
4 TBSP Parsley Chopped
6 Ripe Tomatoes, Chopped
1 Pinch Saffron Strands
Pinch of Cayenne
Salt and Pepper
About a Cup of Water
8 Farm Fresh Eggs

Heat a large skillet over med heat. When the skillet is hot add cumin seeds and dry toast until fragrant and slightly darker in color.

Once the cumin has toasted add the oil, once the oil is hot add the onions and sautee for 5 mins. Add the peppers and sautee another 5-7 mins or until the peppers are very soft.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, and cayenne. Add some salt and pepper (about a 1/2 TSP salt and a TSP pepper). Add the water and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

Separate the sauce into the pan you plan to use. Make wells in the tomato and pepper mixture for the amount of eggs you plan to use, crack an egg into each well and turn the heat to low. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top and lid the pans. Simmer 8-12 mins depending on how done you like your eggs. I am traditionally a runny yolk sort of a girl but with the tomato sauce I like the yellows to be a bit more set and trend towards 1o mins on cooking time.

When the eggs have finished cooking sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley on top.

Carefully remove the eggs from a pan and set atop some thick slices of toast. Serve and enjoy!

A Legume Party – Smokey Baked Beans with Kielbasa

I cannot believe we are leaving on Friday, it still seems so unreal. Our belongings are almost completely packed away in boxes around the house, and its strange to open drawers and cabinets to find that the item I am searching for is tucked away in one of the brown boxes that line our walls. It is so strange to think that we will soon be leaving this apartment we have inhabited for so long, that I will no longer frequent the same restaurants, or shop in the same stores, or climb in the same gym after the end of this week. While I am excited to leave and to move on to a new scene in a new town my years in Delaware have been some of the best and I will certainly miss this place.

Last night we had a going away party for Dustin and countless members of the climbing gym came out to see him off. Thank you to everyone who came out, your presence meant so much to Dustin and to myself! We have learned so much from knowing each and everyone of you and will carry that with us as we move on to our new home in Nashville. We certainly will miss you! Our door is always open to visitors.

Now, before I get to sappy, lets move on and speak a bit about today’s featured recipe. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but these baked beans are pretty darn delicious. As the beans were simmering away in the oven the filled the home with the most amazing smoky sweet aroma. I could not wait to taste the final product! Like some other recipes featured here recently this one was inspired by a recipe in the June/July BBQ edition of Saveur and has been edited to meet our tastes. The initial recipe included significantly higher amounts of sugar which I reduced in the recipe below. If you prefer a sweeter dish feel free to adjust the amount of brown sugar to meet your liking.

Smokey Baked Beans with Kielbasa

1 lb. Smoked Kielbasa Cut into 1/2″ Round
10 Slices Bacon Cut into 1/2 Inch Strips
4 Cloves Garlic Minced
2 Medium Onions Diced
1 TBSP Thyme Minced
2 Cups Good Quality Barbeque Sauce (we used Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce)
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Cup Beef Stock
1/4 Cup Molasses
1 TBSP Yellow Mustard
1 TSP Kosher Salt
4 15-oz. Cans Navy Beans Rinsed Well and Let Dry
1 16-oz. Can Whole Peeled San Marzano Style Tomatoes Crushed by Hand

Preheat oven to 300 degreese

Sear Kielbasa in a single layer in a small amount of oil in a pan on the stove (you may need to do this in batches.) Allow the sausage to brown, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Repeat the process with the bacon, browning in the bottom of the same pan and removing with a slotted spoon.

There should be around 4 TBSP of Grease in the bottom of the pan, if there is more remove excess with a spoon. Saute the garlic, onion, and thyme in the pan until translucent.

Add BBQ Sauce, Stock, Sugar, Molasses, Mustard, Salt and some good cracks of black pepper and allow to simmer. Add beans and stir gently. Break tomatoes into the pot by hand and stir again until just mixed. Taste for seasoning, remembering that the beans will reduce slightly, making the flavors stronger.

Put a lid on the pot and place in the oven, allow the mixture to bubble away in the oven for around 2 hours, removing the lid half way through baking.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

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