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Archive for the ‘tomato’ Category

Tomatillo’s

Are they tomatoes? I don’t know. They look like tomatoes, but they also look kinda like a Cape Gooseberry. Well, I’ll tell you one thing: they make a great salsa, and since we’re hanging on to the last shreds of Summer by our fingernails here, I’m going to be making Summer Salsa’s until they become … uh … Seasonically Illegal. Or something.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

8 or so green Tomatillo’s
2 small peach delicious tomatoes (or other yellow tomatoes)
1 small jalepeno
1 clove garlic
salt to taste
1 ripe avocado
2 Tbsp chopped Cilantro

– put the tomatillo’s, tomatoes, jalepeno and garlic in a blender and pulse a few times until it’s all finely chopped, but not liquid

– bring mixture to a boil and simmer for about 10 mins

– allow the mixture to cool a bit, then put back in the food processor with the avocado and cilantro and salt to taste and blend until fairly smooth.

Salsa Verde 2

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Tomato, herb and anchovy salad

I mentioned these in the previous post, but I really must go on about them for a bit, they’re just that good. I stood in front of Mr P one evening, two slices of different tomatoes in my hands. “Taste this”, I said, popping the generic, store bought, red slice in his open mouth. His eyes never left the screen of his computer as he chewed and swallowed. “Now taste this”, and I popped a slice of the other into his mouth. he stopped typing, and looked up at me. “Wow, what a difference!” he said and the promptly went back to what he was doing. Oh, sigh. At least it caused a smile. I suppose when you’re used to your partner cooking up all sorts of new and exciting things, a mere slice of tomato can only muster so much enthusiasm. I went back to my chopping board and savoured the rest of the left over slices from our dinner on me own, in absolute glee at what I’d found. The tomato was called a Peach Delight; a small, firm tomato coloured a soft, almost pastel yellow with a slight rosy blush, it’s skin velvety and soft, not shiny and taut. These little beauties deserve to be eaten as close to their natural state as possible, the flavour sweet and slightly tart, with a mellow after taste and no acidic bite. I know how much my Dad loves tomatoes, and how he sometimes pays the price after ingesting too much of their acid. These he could eat all day! Today they made a wonderful lunch with some parsley, spring onion, sweet corn, anchovy and some strong white cheese.

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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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Burger with shitake tarragon sauce and roquefort cheese

There’s something decadent about cooking up burgers at home. In North America we feel inundated with the things, from the multitudinous fast food chains everywhere you look to the pub ‘n grubs serving up overcooked hunks of beef-on-a-bun. One of the posher eateries down the street from us notoriously sells a burger for nearly $40, with the chips cheekily brought in from the fry up a few doors down. But I still love a burger on the odd occasion: the sloppy, messy, goo it runs down your chin as you try to fit a bun just-too-big into your mouth, the licking of fingers and slurping of beer to wash it down. It feels like the parents have left the building for a bit, leaving the rules to the five year olds. But then these are grown up burgers, after all, made with the best ingredients we can find. Mr P., the meat expert in the house, always gets fry up task, while I focus on fixing up a sauce and opening the beer.

Tonight we used sun-dried tomato and onion patties from The Healthy Butcher, which serves up organic, grass fed beef, with a shitake and tarragon sauce, Roquefort cheese caramelised shallot and garlic.

Shitake and Tarragon Burger Sauce

1Tsp butter
2Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup destalked, halved and sliced Shitake mushrooms
2 stems tarragon, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped
pinch sel de mer
pinch freshly crushed black pepper
1 Tbsp Chestnut flour
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)

– heat oil and butter over medium heat

– add garlic and heat gently until aroma’s start to rise

– add mushrooms and tarragon. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so.

– add parsley, salt and pepper. Cool until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes

– sprinkle mushrooms with chestnut flour and stir. Cook for another minute

– slowly add the milk, stirring, and bring slowly to boil. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens.

– just before serving, add cream cheese and stir until combined.

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Thai Summer Salad

We were blessed, this weekend, with extraordinarily good weather on our portage trip. Which meant a clear, deep, warm blue sky bereft of clouds, temperatures perfect for swimming and lounging on rocks like lizards and no need to ever use the gas burners to cook our food on. All meals were prepared over an open wood fire from start to sweet, gooey, smorsey end. Now, usually after 4 or so days in the bush eating what you managed to drag with you leaves one craving some or other comfort food from home, not to mention ones own mattress and a hot soapy bath. On this trip, however, the wonder-woman in charge managed to organise meals of such fabulous diversity and succulence that ne’er a soul hankered after anything for their belly that wasn’t somehow already there. No dehydrated-rehydrated pea passed the lips. No thirst went without quenching by beer or wine or cold, fresh water. And, thanks to our (rather belated) discovery of a little thing called the Thermarest, no ache graced a bone in my back through the nights. All said and done, it was a trip which bordered on the sublime and trembled dangerously near perfection.

And after a long, long weekend of, in one team member’s words, Ghetto Gourmet, what better way to get back on the bright side of health and digestion than a salad made from the sweetest, most succulent of Summer’s wares? After a trip to the farmer’s market on our return, I picked up a selection of crisp, freshly picked goods for a dinner filled with all the flavours of a gorgeous season. Due to the abundance of things like garlic, Shitake mushrooms and Cilantro (coriander leaf) I opted for a somewhat Thai inspired arrangement.

 

summer bounty

Thai Summer Salad with Sweet Corn and Watermelon Beetroot

for the topping
¼ cup pine-nuts, toasted

1Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil (or other veg oil)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced

for the saladwatermelon beetroot
small bunch of lettuce, torn
1 big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 big bunch Cilantro leaves, torn
a dozen or so golden cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
2 new carrots, julienned
2 watermelon beetroot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
⅓ garden cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 spring onions, thickly sliced

for the dressinglettuce
1½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime

– combine all dressing ingredients and leave to infuse.
This dressing is particularly good made a day ahead.

– keep toasted pine-nuts to one side

– in a skillet, heat oils. saute onions until they just start to brown slightly. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

– when cool, add pine-nuts and mix. Set aside.

– combine all salad ingredients, top with mushroom pine-nut mix and dress only when ready to serve.

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Heirloom Tomatoes

Now here’s something for my Dad. I know when they visited us here in Toronto in May that they were a little disappointed at how few tomatoes we ate at home. My Dad loves a tomato, eating them in and on everything and often by themselves like an apple. We used to buy them by the crate growing up and I don’t ever remember throwing any out because they hadn’t been eaten fast enough. While they were here the local season for tomatoes was still a few months away, and the only available fruits were those shipped in, green to start with no doubt, from warmer climes, or those grown hydroponically . None of which give that tomato-iness of a true, ground and sun grown tomato. These beauties I bought for a small fortune from the Farmers market, some still with dirt on them, and their flesh is just too sweet and subtle to eat in or on anything. They deserve to be savoured and appreciated on their own with just a sprinkle of a good sea salt or fleur de sel.

heirloom tomatoes 2

tomato salad

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Fresh Summer Pasta

The first time I went to the Trinity Bellwoods Organic Farmers’ Market, their first time open for the season, there were about 5 scraggly stalls selling bits and bobs of grown greens and a bread maker with flour still under her nails selling a few loaves here and a biscuit there. Probably just enough to satisfy the crowd of about 10 people strolling from one table to another, taking their time squeezing the marrows, sniffing the small, sweet strawberries.

This week there was a buzz in the air as middle aged matrons bustled and elbowed their way to the front of the queue in a craze of fear of missing the best tomatoes to that woman with the straw hat, or not getting to the baker’s table in time to get a hot spelt and hemp loaf. Canadian politesse and reserved respect for other human beings’ right to exist only just managed to thinly veil the boiling of blood and the animalistic focusing of attentions on each one’s spotted prize. Twice I was thwarted of the exact tomato, deep red and orange, I’d had my eye on while seemingly patiently waiting for the farmer to serve me my turn.

But still.

At the breathless end I had a bag full of goodies ready to turn into a feast for two. And what better way to serve up the freshest of Summer produce than simply and unfussily with a bit of pasta. Time consuming stews and soups and long cooking pies and roasts will have their turn in the months to come, but the freshest ingredients, pulled from the garden that very morning, need only the slightest, lightest bit of help and a good wine to go with it.

Fresh Summer Pasta

1 Tbsp veg oil, like Canola
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Shitake mushrooms, halved (or quartered if very large)
bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (to make about ¼ cup) – put about 1tbsp aside for final garnish
3 Tbsp fresh Origano, finely chopped

a dozen or so green asparagus, chopped into 2″ lengths
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmigiano cheese

Penne, enough for 2

– cook the penne until el dente

– while pasta is cooking, heat canola in large sauce pan or frying pan on a meduim heat (not hot). Saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and about half the herbs. Season while cooking as this is when the mushrooms will absorb the flavours of the herbs and salt and pepper best.

– when mushrooms are soft add the asparagus and cook for just a few minutes until asparagus softens slightly and is bright green.

– when pasta is done, rinse under the tap and add to mushroom and asparagus. Add rest of herbs, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Stir to mix and remove from heat so as not to cook the tomatoes or the oil.

– serve and garnish with Parmigiano, parsley and black pepper

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Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa

I never new much about eggplants growing up. The reason, I found out when my parents visited us here in Toronto a while ago and I was doing all the cooking, is that my Dad abhors this beautiful, delicately flavoured fruit and so we never had it in the house. Oh, the disappointment of not being able to make my Iranian Eggplant and lentil stew, flavoured with pomegranate and fresh mint for them during their time here.

It was the colour of the skin which first attracted me to the eggplant a few years ago.  That rich, almost black shade of purple, so mysterious and reminiscent of stories of Arabian Nights and Vincent’s Starry Sky. I  tried a bunch of things with the Aubergine, fumbling around for a while not knowing what to do with it.  Do you eat it raw?  Do you put it in a stir fry?  Until I got to know it a bit better, did a bit of reading and discovered a few ways of turning it’s slightly rubbery, raw flesh into the creamy, flavoursome meal it can be.  I still hold hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll be able to twist me ol’ Dad’s arm and make him change his mind about this yummy food.

Eggplant with Sicilian Salsa Sicilian salsa

1 large, firm eggplant, sliced into 1cm slices
Salt
Olive oil for frying

⅓ cup black nicoise, pitted
1½ Tbsp small capers
3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1½ cups bottles tomato pasta sauce, heated

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

goats cheese

Polenta – made as per packet instructions and kept warm

– place slices of eggplant on paper towel and salt. Leave for half an hour to sweat. Dry with paper towel.

– place olives, capers, anchovy, shallot, garlic and thyme in a processor and blitz until finely chopped but not paste. Or chop all ingredients finely by hand and mix. Refrigerate for half and hour to allow flavour to develop.

– fry eggplant in olive oil in batches until lightly browned and tender. Add more oil as needed and drain on paper towel.

– place a serving of polenta on plate. Add a slice of eggplant, top with tomato sauce and repeatto use 3 or 4 slices of eggplant.

– top with about 1½ Tbsp goats cheese. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes under a hot grill, until cheese starts to bubble slightly.

– remove from oven and garnish well with salsa and pinenuts

img_7689.jpg

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