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Tomato Medley with Shitake and Marrows

A tomato is a tomato. Or is it? I’ve been doing some reading, which if I remember, I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about tomato’s. Turns out that the baskets and baskets of fresh Field Tomatoes we’re seeing in the supermarkets and food markets this time of year are quite probably the most watery, least flavourful tomatoes one can buy. Other than middle of February, shipped from Australia or some such Tomatoes, that is. The reasons have a lot to do with the industrialisation of food growing over the last 50 or so years and the scientific “improvements” catastrophe’d upon this once exotic fruit to insure a crop which grows fast, large and resists things like bugs and weather. Large yields equals large profit for the farmer. I found out the truth of this first hand by buying various tomatoes from various sources and the bulk-available, large, red ones were by far the blandest.

I’ve made a promise to myself to only buy tomatoes from the Organic Farmers Market and make them last as long through the week as they can. And what a difference! Each bite packs a punch of plenitude. Raw, cooked, sliced, diced and just pooped straight in the mouth. Yum. Now I fully understand why Ms R, a friend living in the Cornwall countryside of Ontario, has pledged to eat nothing but her own tomatoes, out of her garden. I remember an email from her last year where she was impatiently looking forward to her lunch, which was going to be her first tomato of the season sliced, with salt and pepper, on fresh bread. And what a lunch it would have been, no doubt, after so many months without a fresh tomato! I remember from many years ago when I lived in Ottawa as a student for a year, she would send through frozen tubs of home made pasta sauces to cook up for dinners. Delicious! Over the Summer, as her garden produced more tomatoes, peppers, marrows than the family could consume, Ms R cooked up large batched of sauces; Ragu, primavera and so on, to be frozen and used through the long Winter months of snow and cold and on until the next seasons produce were plump in the garden again. How I wish I had my own little patch of garden delights to tend!

Three Tomatoes

Tomato Medley with Shitake, Marrow and Polenta

Golden cherry tomatoes, halved, to make up a cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
good grinding of fresh black pepper
chopped basil, to make about ¼ cup
2 or 3 small yellow tomatoes (I used the low acid Peach Delight), sliced
2 or 3 small red tomatoes, sliced
cubed white cheese, I used a Basque sheeps milk cheese called Etorki, to make about ⅓ cup
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
pinch ground sage
10 – 12 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 marrow or zucchini, cut in half; 1 half grated coarsely, 1 half cut in half lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper
Parmigiano or parmesan to finish

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– in a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt pepper and 2 Tbsp of the basil, mix well. Add cherry tomatoes and mix.

– in a foil lined tin, bake the tomato mix for 40 mins, basting with the juice after 20 mins

– in a Saute pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 min until the garlic becomes fragrant

– add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add marrow or zucchini and bring to a low simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid on while you prepare the polenta.

– make the polenta according to the manufacturer’s instruction. I prefer to make mine with water, not milk, and I add 1 tsp ground mustard while it’s cooking and finish it off with a little dollop of butter and about 2 Tbsp Parmigiano.

– arrange the sliced tomatoes around the plate, top with the sheeps cheese and baked cherry tomatoes; reserving the juice and oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

– dish up the polenta, topped with the shitake marrow mix. Drizzle the juice and oil from the tomatoes over the dish and salad. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano.

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Risotto with peas, marrows and sundried tomato

I always thought of risotto as a fussy, difficult to make dish. It was Jamie Oliver, eventually, who persuaded me to give it a go, thanks to the effortless way he makes everything seem so do-able. And he was right. The only real skill you need for risotto is patience. It’s going to take a half an hour of your time while you sit over the pan stirring, and everything else will be fine. Don’t think you can quickly do this or that while it cooks. Now I love making risotto. It’s a dish that can be both fresh and comforting. For this one I used the ingredients I’d bought earlier that day at the Organic Farmers Market at the park: peas still in the pod and two plump, shiny marrows, one yellow, one green and a very fragrant bunch of sage.

The other things I picked up were a fresh tomato, which tasted nothing like any watery, tasteless tomato I’ve ever bought here in Canada. This one was so enticingly fragrant, so delicately flavoured and sweet, that putting a slice in your mouth made you close your eyes and savour every little morsel. Then I found a quart of wild blueberries, which again are nothing like their mass grown, store bought counterparts. Like fat and pimply troll next to a delicate, pretty elf. I’ve made a blueberry pie for the weekend in the country!

Pea and Marrow Risotto with Sundried Tomatopeas-in-pod-single.jpg

1 – 2 marrows cut into thin strips
1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp butter
Handful fresh sage, chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes
1½ cups Arborio rice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar in ± 80 ml of water

4 cups fresh chicken stock, warmed
about 1 cup fresh peas
180 – 125ml grated Parmegiano cheese
S + P

– heat oil and butter in a large, heavy based pan. Sauté marrows with sage until tender. Remove from pan and keep warm.

– sauté onion, shallot and garlic until translucent. Add more olive oil if needed but don’t let the garlic brown (it turns bitter)

– add rice and tomato to pan and cook, stirring continuously until rice begins to turn translucent at the edges.

– add vinegar water and stir until it’s all been absored.

– add ½ cup warm stock and stir until absorbed. Keep adding stock in quantities of about 1 cup, stirring, and only adding more once the previous has been absorbed. About half an hour. Add peas with last bit of liquid.
– when all liquid has been absorbed stir in cheese, leaving some for a garnish.

peas-comp.jpg

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