Tag Archives: tomatoes

HAMBURGER SOUP

Back to the slow cooker; next step in the stove saga (epic?) is set for Saturday. We shall see. One thing about it, using the cooker for most meals encourages creativity. What can you put in the crock that will not taste the same as the last thing you cooked? Even though there are libraries full of slow cooker recipes, for me there are only a few things you can put in the pot and cook all day. I confess. I have gotten better at it, and I have figured out how to use lots of things from the refrigerator. Still…  I would be willing to bet that every slow-cooker aficionado out there has a recipe for hamburger, broth, and vegetables so this will not be an exciting post. But the recipe is very easy – and better than I had hoped.

RECIPE

Hamburger Soup

A bowl of soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Add the olive oil to slow cooker set at LOW. Stir in the onions, cover, and cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in everything else: ground beef, carrot, potato, celery, beef stock, canned tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, lemon juice. Cook on LOW for 4 hours, longer on SIMMER or until the carrots and potatoes are fork-tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves. Serve.
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CAPRESE SALAD

You are probably wondering, “Who needs a recipe for caprese salad?” After all, it’s fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt. But if you check out the internet, you’ll see that nearly every celebrity chef, along with all of the food websites have posted a recipe. Some call for roasted tomatoes, some call for lots of additional ingredients, some leave out one or another of the key ingredients, some with bizarre (IMHO) substitutions. Then there are the purists who insist that anything other than chunked tomatoes (I think slices are easier), “torn” pieces of homemade mozzarella (slices match the tomatoes), and torn –  not cut –  basil results in an inferior dish. (I readily admit that my taste buds have never been discriminating enough to taste the difference between torn or chopped greens of any sort. Also, there’s something to be said for whole leaves of fresh basil).

There are some requirements that I do agree with: The tomatoes should be as fresh as possible; just picked from the garden may be the best and those from the farmers’ market are certainly acceptable. Supermarket tomatoes are a distant third. The mozzarella should be as fresh as possible. If it is refrigerated, it will shrink and firm up a bit, but is certainly ok, especially if it comes in liquid. Mozzarella that comes in plastic-wrapped slabs from the grocery store is in the same category as supermarket tomatoes. As to the basil, the fresher the better, and for this dish I prefer ordinary sweet basil to any of the other varieties. The olive oil should be the very best you have. As to the salt, you can use it straight out of the shaker, but kosher salt or a good finishing salt make it better. Freshly ground black pepper is ok, too.

That’s it. An unspoken truth is that NOW is probably the only season to make caprese salad, while the tomatoes and basil are fresh from the garden. As to the mozzarella, I got a nice round lump at the Cheesemongers of Santa Fe. The label said that it was from Rhode Island, but it was fresh enough to satisfy my unsophisticated  palate. With all of that, I feel obliged to offer a recipe for a wonderful dish that needs no recipe.

Caprese salad

Caprese salad

RECIPE

Caprese Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • ½ to 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil (the best you have)
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Method

  1. Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella.
  2. Arrange the tomato slices, mozzarella slices and basil leaves in layers on salad plates. Sprinkle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and optional ground pepper. Serve immediately.

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RUSTIC GAZPACHO

The bounty of summer is beginning to pour in. Our neighbor has more peaches than he knows what to do with. Now we have more peaches than we know what to do with. And he has invited us back for more. Unfortunately his apricot and cherry trees had no fruit this year, probably because of  late frost.

Good friends gave us some delicious plums from their back yard. We will probably get some more when we visit them today. So far, no one has given us any zucchini, but they will come. The tomatoes are in abundance.

This week we went to the market at the Community Farm instead of our usual visit to the farmers’ market at the Rail Yard. The Community Farm is a group of fields and orchards owned by a 90+ year-old man who has contributed their use to the city. Volunteers do all of the work, and so the vegetables are not the perfect specimens that you find at the farmers’ market much less the supermarket. But the produce is put to good use. Most of it goes to the local food bank and a program of meals for house-bound clients. The farm has a public market every Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by a group of volunteers clearly proud of their efforts: piles of fresh vegetables. We bought baskets of  fragrant and colorful vegetables, and now we have to make some good stuff from the bounty.

There were lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a red onion in our basket. What could be better to make than a summer soup of gazpacho? Actually, I am not a big fan of most gazpacho. It is often puréed into oblivion and resembles baby food. I much prefer to have identifiable vegetables and crusty garlic croutons. That’s what this recipe is.

RECIPE

Rustic Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic croutons
  • snipped chives (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, parsley, and garlic.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and olive oil until well combined. Stir the mixture into the vegetables.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning with more lemon juice if desired, salt and pepper. Serve, topped with croutons. Garnish with snipped chives and sour cream if desired.

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ZUCCHINI AND FRESH TOMATO LASAGNA

I thought I was finished with zucchini recipes, and then my neighbor brought over three more squash to add to the two in the refrigerator.

That is the origin of zucchini lasagna, which is a riff on eggplant lasagna. I also used fresh tomatoes instead of the usual marinara. With all that squash and fresh tomato, it is easy to anticipate that there is going to be a lot of water. You can deal with that if you plan ahead.

RECIPE

Zucchini and Fresh Tomato Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 5 medium-large zucchini
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces Parmesan
  • Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. With a very sharp chef’s knife, slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices. Arrange on a clean kitchen towel covered with several layers of paper towels. Salt the zucchini liberally on both sides and let rest for 45 minutes to release water from the squash. Place the sweated slices in a colander and rinse quickly with running water. Pat dry and set aside for final assembly.
  2. Core and thinly slice the tomatoes. Arrange on a clean kitchen towel to absorb excess water. Set aside for final assembly.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent. Add the ground beef, and over high heat, brown the meat while stirring frequently to break up any clumps. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to your taste. Drain and transfer to a plate. Set aside for final assembly.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir the eggs into the ricotta until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside for final assembly
  5. Assemble the lasagna in a large oven-proof lasagna pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray and then spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce that has been seasoned with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to your liking. Arrange a layer of the zucchini slices. Then arrange a layer of tomato slices. Top with half of the ground beef mixture, spreading it evenly. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with one cup of grated mozzarella. Repeat the process with zucchini, tomato, ground beef, ricotta, and mozzarella. Top with a third layer of zucchini and cover with the remaining cup of tomato sauce, the remaining one cup of mozzarella, and grated Parmesan.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. If water from the zucchini and tomatoes has accumulated in the bottom of the pan, pour it off carefully or remove it with a basting bulb.
  7. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into serving-sized squares. Serve while still warm.

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TOMATO GRAVY

This time of year, tomatoes are sort of like zucchini except that you can do so many more things with them. Besides, you never get tired of eating the ones from your garden out of hand with a little salt and pepper. On top of that, the season is almost over – at least around here, with color already showing up on the mountains – so you need to take full advantage.

If you are looking for something else to do with your tomatoes, this old-timey, simple recipe is excellent. It is one of my wife’s favorites. She remembers tomato gravy from her childhood. Her mother would often make it for lunch or a light supper, especially when Dad was out of town on a business trip.

Tomato gravy was also a favorite this time of year on our farm in East Texas. I suspect the dish had its origins in the Great Depression. There are several traditional Southern versions using bacon drippings and served over freshly baked biscuits. This is a “Yankee version.”

You can use store-bought tomatoes or even canned tomatoes, but the results will be a pale imitation of tomato gravy made with tomatoes just picked from the garden.

Serves 4 for lunch

RECIPE

Tomato Gravy

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices toasted bread

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  2. Arrange the tomato slices in the melted butter and sauté over medium heat until soft. Turn once to sauté both sides of the tomatoes.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
  4. Stir thoroughly to make sure the milk and flour are completely mixed. Raise the heat slightly to a gentle boil. Simmer until the sauce is thickened.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
  6. Serve immediately over slices of toast.

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SAUSAGE-STUFFED ZUCCHINI

Zucchini season, and the bounty keeps rolling in. We do not have any squash plants in our garden patch, but there is an abundance at the farmers market and from our neighbors. It is a common situation. Many folks this time of year are experiencing zucchini burn-out. Squash blossoms are delicious, but they require immediate attention to maintain their freshness. Sautéed squash begins to get a bit boring, and so the search of the web and a shelf of cookbooks begins. Deborah Madison, the Santa Fe-based vegetarian cookbook author has numerous suggestions in her collections. I especially recommend her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, New York) and The Savory Way (Broadway Books, New York) for all sorts of suggestions.

One of my favorite ways to cook zucchini is to grate it with a box grater, sauté it along with some scallions and sliced mushrooms in olive oil, drain any excess oil, stir in some sour cream and fresh lemon juice, and serve. So simple that no recipe is needed

Today, though, I am going to write about stuffed zucchini. The first time I ever had a stuffed squash was years ago at the home of a colleague from Greece who stuffed the tender fruits with feta, Cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. This version is a little more complicated but still not difficult.

RECIPE

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 3 firm, medium zucchini (make certain they are not too big)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 medium crimini mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • ½ pound bulk breakfast sausage (mild or hot, your preference)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup almond flour (use all-purpose flour if you prefer)
  • 1 egg, beaten slightly
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly (or enough to cover the zucchini)
  • ½ pound Swiss cheese, grated
  • cooking spray
  • butter

Method

  1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon or sharp paring knife, hollow out the squash with about ¼ inch of a rim remaining. Try not to pierce the skin of the squash.
  2. In a medium sauté  pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent but not browned. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, and cook until they give up their liquid and the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a cooking spoon so that it is completely crumbled.
  4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the cream cheese so it is completely incorporated. Stir in the almond flour and egg. Set aside until you are ready to stuff the zucchini.
  6. Choose a baking pan that is large enough to hold all of the squash, or use two dishes, and spray generously with baking spray.
  7. Arrange the zucchini in the pan, and spray them lightly with baking spray.
  8. Fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the sausage mixture.
  9. Top with tomato slices seasoned with more salt and pepper, and cover with the grated Swiss cheese.
  10. Dot with butter, and bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350° F for 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the zucchini is tender.
  11. Serve immediately.

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BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES: STOPPING BY A TEXAS FRUITSTAND

We are back home after a very long two weeks in Shreveport, Louisiana. We had a good time and enjoyed seeing old friends, but taking care of two young children is not in the usual job description for folks as old as my wife and me.

Susan had driven her car all the way from Santa Fe, so we knew that we had a long drive back. We decided we were not going through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex even though it was probably the shortest and fastest return. There is too much traffic; we have been there before many, many times; and the cityscape is, well frankly, boring.

Instead, we left the interstate at Tyler and headed up to Sherman, the home  of a beautiful small liberal arts college, Austin College. The road was like so many country roads in Louisiana and Texas: well paved, not much traffic, and lines with farms and big stands of pines and hardwoods. The further west we got, the smaller the trees became. There were several towns along the way, but most were no bigger that a few hundred people. Every town, though, had an enormous high school and an even bigger football stadium. Every town also had several churches. Some had tall spires while others looked like they were just hanging on.

Still steeped in farm-to-table enthusiasm, we stopped at a small roadside stand several miles from any town. They were advertising fresh homemade ice cream along with fresh produce. We certainly helped their cash-flow that day. Susan bought several jars of homemade preserves, honey, pinto and Anasazi beans, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon, sweet cherries, fresh peaches, and bright red tomatoes.  We had to re-arrange our already crowded back seat to make room for everything.

We resumed our travel, stopping in Amarillo overnight (That is another story, but probably not appropriate for a blog) and then got back on the interstate to complete our trip home.

Since then, we have been enjoying all of the fruits and vegetables from Shreveport along with more from the fruit stand. We’ve had fresh tomatoes sliced, in a salad, and along with avocado so it occurred to me that a tasty meal might include mashed sweet potatoes, a big slice of ham from the store, and baked tomatoes.  That’s what we had last night.

RECIPE

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 3 crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + more to drizzle on top of the tomatoes
  • 3 scallions including green tops, chopped finely
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup panko
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Cut off the stem ends of the tomatoes. If needed, cut a very thin slice off the blossom end so that the tomato will sit flat. With a grapefruit knife or grapefruit spoon, remove the pulp from the tomatoes, leaving a rim of about ¼ inch of the flesh. Rinse, drain, and set aside.
  2. Rinse any seeds from the pulp, sprinkle with salt, chop finely, and set aside to drain any excess water.
  3. In a small pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms until they have given up their liquid and it has evaporated, about three minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the mushrooms with their cooking oil, scallions, parsley, panko, Italian seasoning, and vinegar. Blot the chopped tomato pulp dry with paper towels and add it to the mixture.
  5. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Stuff the tomato shells with the mixture, packing it firmly. Top with the Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F. Bake for 30 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the tomatoes to plates and serve immediately.

 

 

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