Archive for the ‘Veggies’ Category

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Corn Chowder

September 9, 2010

So I take it you guys aren’t big fans of eggplant pasta, LOL. No worries, today’s recipe is much more sinful.

Yesterday’s weather made me crave soup. The wind, the overcast skies – I knew I wanted to make soup after work. You see, living in Sacramento, CA with hotter temps has made us all think 70 degrees is freezing. Break out the hoodies, blankets and Uggs. No seriously, I’m not kidding.

I had remembered seeing corn for super cheap at the store and corn chowder is one of my favorite soups – so I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and surfed the Internet on my iPhone to come up with a recipe. I ended up combining several recipes to make my own.

The Ingredients:

6 Ears of Corn – I used 3 sweet white and 3 yellow – it was just over 3 cups.
8 Ounces of Bacon – Cut into strips
1 Large Sweet White Onion
1 Large Leek – sliced into moon shapes – slit down center and chop
1 Pound Yukon Gold Potatoes – 3 medium = 1 pound
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
4 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Teaspoons Cornstarch – dissolved into 2 tablespoons water
Salt and Ground Pepper – to taste

Bacon, bacon, bacon… I love me some bacon. I used a dutch oven and set the stove to a medium heat and added the chopped bacon. Once it rendered a few tablespoons of fat, I increased the heat to high and cooked the bacon until crisp and golden brown. I then poured off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

I prepped my onion, leek and thyme and measured out the ground cumin and butter.

Adding butter to bacon fat felt so wrong, but so right at the same time. The smells coming from this pot were heavenly. I Sautéed the ingredients, stirring occasionally until the onion and leeks were soft.

I then added the corn, potatoes…

and chicken stock to the pot. I brought things to a boil and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes were soft. I used a potato masher to mash some of the corn and potatoes in the pot. I reduced the heat to medium.

I added the corn starch and water mixture and waited for the soup to thicken a bit. The mashing really helped to thicken it as well. I let the soup simmer for about 5 more minutes – stirring it throughout. I then pulled it off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.

I added the super sinful heavy whipping cream and continued to give the chowder a good stir. I did try the soup before adding the chowder and it was really good. You could omit that step if you are really watching calories. Me, not so much. I wanted mine super creamy and rich. I added salt and pepper to taste.

Outdoor photo with what natural light was left…

Indoor photo just before diving in. I seriously had to refrain from eating 2-3 bowls of this chowder. I stopped after one and have been thinking about it ever since. Sort of like the scalloped tomato dish. I have bowls stacked in my fridge ready to go for lunches.

I found so many corn chowder recipes the included bell pepper, cheese and many other interesting ingredients. I am happy that I omitted some things and added others. 2 thumbs up – I will for sure be making this soup many more times.

Dan came through the front door and thought we were having taco night because of the smells. Taco night is his favorite, guess that will need to happen soon.

So are you a fan of corn chowder? How about clam chowder?

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Eggplant Pasta

September 8, 2010

I extended my 3 day weekend into a 5 day weekend and really enjoyed the time off. I went to the spa with my Mom, did some shopping, lunching, decorating and exercising – it was a much needed break. I still cooked, but I also ate out with friends. Photos were starting to pile up, so I knew I needed to get going on a post or two.

My girlfriend Deede came over Monday afternoon with all of the ingredients for Alton Brown’s Eggplant Pasta. Her neighbor grows eggplants and tomatoes – score! We ran a couple of errands for another project and then got started on dinner for everyone. We doubled the recipe for 5 people and had a lot left over.

Giant eggplants and tomatoes

The Ingredients:

2 Medium to Large Eggplants – We used 2.5 giant eggplants
Kosher Salt – used to purge the water out of the eggplant slices
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Garlic Oil Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Chile Flakes
4 Small Tomatoes – seeded and chopped
1/2 Cup Cream
4 Tablespoons Basil – chiffonade
1/4 Cup Parmesan – freshly grated
Freshly Ground Pepper

Deede got started on peeling the eggplant. The recipe said to leave 1 inch of skin at the top and the bottom, we didn’t do that.

The next step was to cut the eggplant into 1.4 inch slices to get it ready for salting.

Evenly coat each slice with the kosher salt and purge on a rack for 30 minutes. We had 4 racks going at once.

It’s pretty cool to see how much moisture comes out of the eggplant – big drops of water coated every piece.

Rinse with cold water and roll in paper towels to dry.

Slice the pieces into thin strips to resemble pasta. This is when we realized the importance of uniformity. Some of the comments on the Food Network website suggested slicing the initial 1/4 inch thick pieces on a mandoline. Not sure it could have handled the huge size of our eggplants, but definitely worth doing if you have smaller eggplant and actually own a mandoline.

Heat the oil over medium to high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and chili flakes and toast. We had two pans going at once.

Add the eggplant “pasta” and toss to coat. We let the eggplant cook for about 3-5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase heat to thicken sauce. Finally add the basil and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with pepper, no salt needed as the eggplant will have residual salt from the purge process. Serve immediately.

The chile flakes definitely added a zing to this dish. If you don’t want the heat, you could definitely omit or use a lot less. As soon as I dove in, I was busy thinking up additional possibilities – adding sautéed spinach or kale, artichoke hearts, more cheese, a buttered panko topping, etc.  I’m excited to try the dish with some tweaks.

Dan was not a fan – he did try the dish, but opted to fill up on the other items – Caesar salad and fresh bread.

Deede’s husband has put the dish in his “favorites” category. So now I have a zucchini pasta substitute thanks to the slicer and another option with eggplant. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of eggplant, unless it’s breaded and fried, hah! but in this form, I really enjoyed it. The slime factor was absent and the salt purge was definitely the secret to that.

No worries, I haven’t given up pasta – I also made a real pasta dish over the weekend and will be posting that next.

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South of the Border Tomato Soup

August 30, 2010

The weather over the weekend was a sneak peek into fall – it was overcast in the mornings and I actually broke out a sweatshirt. I love Fall so much that I knew I wanted to find a soup recipe. My Mom is the “Queen” of homemade soups and it’s time I adopted a similar title.

I have stacks and stacks of magazines full of recipes and I decided I would focus on the latest Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine. There was a recipe for South of the Border Tomato Soup and apparently I still have an obsession with all things tomato.

I have always loved a good tomato soup teamed with a grilled cheese sandwich, but this had a different spin and I knew I wanted to give it a try.

The Ingredients:

4 Pints Grape Tomatoes – I had another container in the fridge – that’s a lot of tomatoes, thank God for Trader Joe’s and their cheap grape tomatoes.
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Cups Chicken Broth – I used low sodium because I had some left from the Tofu Shirataki Ramen recipe
1 Teaspoon Honey
1 Ripe Avocado
1/4 Cup Plain Reduced-Fat Greek Yogurt – I used Fage 0%
4 Ounces Sharp Yellow Cheddar Cheese – Shredded (1 Packed Cup)
1/2 Teaspoon Ancho Chile Powder
1.5 Cups Lightly Crushed Baked Tortilla Chips – I used Trader Joe’s Spicy Soy and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and place the tomatoes on top. My parchment paper said it could withstand 400 degrees F. I was a little leery to try it at 450, but decided after consulting with Dan to give it a go. No issues, it worked like a champ.

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Oven shot…

Roast the tomatoes until the skins begin to split and blister, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes and any of the juices to a food processor.

I had to do mine in 3 batches – how sad is it that I had to reference my post on the minty pea and butter bean hummus recipe to see how the blender/food processor went together. Hah! I need to use it more often.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the tomatoes and process until coarsely pureed, about 10 seconds.

Force the mixture through a fine sieve/strainer set over a medium saucepan, discarding the seeds and pulp.

You are left with the above nightmare. Cleaning that puppy was not fun!

Add the honey and the remaining 1 cup chicken broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, about 5-10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash the avocado; stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. (You could also do this step while the tomatoes are in the oven)

I used a fork to mash the ingredients together.

I stored the avo mixture in the fridge and started on the cheese. Place the cheese in a medium bowl and sprinkle the ancho chile  powder on top.

Let the soup finish simmering and then ladle into bowls and serve with the avocado cream, cheese and tortilla chips.

This soup was incredible! Totally worth the extra work and steps of making it from scratch.

I was able to enjoy a rather large bowl, and I had 3 containers left for lunches or dinners this week.

Next time I think I will double the recipe – especially when I can get tomatoes on sale.

The mess was not equal to the fruits of my labor – a double batch and a full-sized food processor would have helped.

I look forward to many more soup recipes here on the blog and enjoying them all Fall/Winter long.

What’s your favorite soup?

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Aarti’s Massaged Kale Salad

August 26, 2010

So it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with all things Food Network. Watching the 6th season of The Next Food Network Star definitely fell into that obsession.  I really liked Aarti Sequeira from the beginning. I loved that she was a food blogger over at Aarti Paarti before going on the show. Her personal style was to infuse Indian cuisine into everyday American foods. She questioned her ability to compete with working/professionally trained chefs, yet she won lots of the competitions and challenges. I was not surprised that she was crowned The Next Food Network Star.

Her first showed aired over the weekend. I set the DVR and watched it on Monday. I really liked her style and the first show had some great recipes. Sloppy Bombay Joe’s – which I plan on making at some point, Massaged Kale Salad, which I did make,  and Creamy Pistachio Pops.

I loved the Kale Chips I made back in July…but those were cooked. Raw kale? Who knew? The concept was really interesting to me.

The Ingredients:

1 Bunch of Kale – She used black kale – I already had regular curly kale on hand  – she mentioned that was fine too. (Remove stalks and discard, ribbon slice the leaves).
1 Lemon – Juiced
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Plus extra for drizzling
Kosher Salt to Taste
2 Teaspoons Honey – I added a little more
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Mango – Diced small (about 1 cup)
Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) – about 2 rounded tablespoons – I used about 4 tablespoons.

Directions:

Wash your kale and then pat dry with paper towels.

Using your hands – strip the kale off the stalk. This was very easy. I just held the stalk firmly and used my hand to slide through the curly leaves – they came right off the stalk very easily.

You are left with a pretty big pile of kale leaves. The idea is to roll them up as best as you can and then use a sharp knife to finely slice the kale into ribbons.

The curly kale made the process a little harder than what Aarti did with the black kale, but it worked in the end. I added the kale ribbons to a large bowl with 1/2 the lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt.

You then dive right into the bowl with your hands. Massage the kale, lemon, oil and salt mixture until the kale starts to soften and wilt. I had a photo of me massaging the kale, but my hand looked like a giant ham hock and that was really disturbing. Massage the kale for a good 2-3 minutes. Aarti mentioned that it will start to smell like bananas – not so much, never got the banana aroma.

The volume of the kale definitely changed – before massaging, the kale was almost to the top of the bowl. It was amazing how much softer it got after the 3 minutes.

I got my mango chopped and then I started preparing the dressing.

I whisked together the remaining lemon juice, honey and freshly ground black pepper. I then slowly added the 1/4 cup of oil, while whisking until it formed the texture of a well mixed dressing. I tasted it, added some more honey and some more lemon juice – I thought it was a little too oily.

I added the pepitas to the salad and poured on the dressing, tossed, and then plated.

Outside photo with sunlight…

Inside photo with my iPhone…

What an amazing salad. It was perfect for a 106 degree day. I ate a small bowl, had some cheese toast with celery root and carrot salad and then had a hot date with my treadmill and the Rachel Zoe Project, followed by Top Chef and another small bowl of the salad – OMG, it tasted even better after marinating in the fridge for longer. The salad is addicting. Aarti mentioned on her show that because of the hearty structure of kale, it will hold up for several days in the fridge – dressing and all. What an awesome lunch option for me, love it!

I’m really looking forward to future Aarti Party shows. It’s about time I kicked things up Indian style. This blog was about branching out and trying new foods and styles of cooking. Never in a million years did I think I’d be looking forward to seconds, thirds and fourths of a raw kale salad.

Go me…

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Tofu Shirataki Ramen

August 25, 2010

Back in my Weight Watcher years (2003-2005) Hungry Girl started mentioning House Food’s Tofu Shirataki Noodles. Hungry Girl posted a recipe for Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo! that used Laughing Cow Light Cheese.  I couldn’t find the noodles (back in 2005) in any local stores. I ended up ordering them online – they came in a fresh packed cooler. Us Weight Watcher girls weren’t going to pass up a pasta option that yielded only 1 point per package. 40 calories with 4 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of carbs – FOR THE ENTIRE package.

Once I got my noodle delivery, I sliced open the package and OMG, they STUNK so freakin’ bad. People had talked about the smell on the Weight Watcher message boards. They had a fishy/formaldehyde smell to them. Come on, you know you want some after that glorious description. hah!

The ingredients included: Water, Tofu (Water, soybeans, calcium sulfate, glucono Delta Lactone), yam flour and calcium hydroxide. I honestly could barely stand the smell. The directions stated that you should rinse thoroughly and parboil for 2-3 minutes (or 1 minute in the microwave) to reduce the authentic aroma. Authentic? Yes, that would be a stretch. “Stank ass” would be a better description. I did get used to the smell and the parboiling was key – it did go away.

I was really excited when Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Raley’s/Bel Air and Nugget Markets all started carrying the tofu noodles. They became a regular staple in my Weight Watcher’s point counting diet.

I was never able to find the angel hair shaped noodles, only the fettuccine. I then stopped my Weight Watcher’s point counting obsession and I forgot all about the noodles for years. I was shopping at Trader Joe’s a few weekends ago and I saw them. They had the angel hair and I knew I wanted to give them a try. My goal was to create a less fattening ramen noodle soup. Did you know that a regular package of Top Ramen has close to 400 calories, 14 grams of fat, over 50 grams of carbs and nearly 2000 mg. of sodium? That’s crazy! I used to eat 2 packages for dinner while in college. Cheap, but definitely unhealthy.

The Ingredients:

1/4 Cup thinly sliced white onion
1 Bok Choy – washed – cut off the end to separate leaves.
1/2 Cup Bean Sprouts – rinse and pat dry with paper towels
1/2 Large Carrot  – sliced thinly
1 Package Tofu Shirataki Angel Hair Noodles
2 Cups Chicken Broth – you could use any broth – I only had low sodium, I would use regular next time.
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce – I also ended up adding a bit to the top of the bowl once served.
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil

I got everything washed and chopped. I then rinsed the noodles and put them into the microwave for 1 minute to take care of the parboil.

I got all of my veggies going into the Canola oil. The burner was set to high. I let the veggies sizzle in the wok for a good 3-5 minutes. I then added 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of the rice wine to get the flavors going.

Once the veggies took on a grilled appearance and the bok choy shrunk in size, I added the noodles.

I used a fork to separate the noodles and then I added the chicken broth and remaining soy sauce and rice wine.

I continued to let everything cook for a few minutes on a lower temperature. I then served my ramen in a new bowl.

The story behind the bowl… I helped a girlfriend a few months back with her garage sale. She was helping to sell another girlfriend’s stuff – she sold her house and moved from the west coast to the east coast and really paired down. I was looking through some of the boxes and I found the bowl. I loved that it had the hole for the chopsticks and the teal color was amazing. Then I turned the bowl over and I knew I had to have it. The original owner of the bowl (Emilyn) had actually painted the bowl and her name was etched into the bottom.  I scooped it up and now Emilyn’s bowl gets to be featured here on Foodiddy. I love my new treasure and that it has a story.

Pretty bowls and plates make eating that much more enjoyable. Treat yourself to some fun and exciting bowls, dishes and placemats. You are worth it.  I usually find mine on the sale shelves of HomeGoods, TJMaxx, Tuesday Morning or Ross. I have an entire shelf of single dishes and bowls and I love each of them for different reasons.

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Green Grape Heirloom and Avocado Gazpacho

August 24, 2010

I’m finally at the end of the Tomato Summer Tour 2010. The last recipe of the evening was Green Grape Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Gazpacho.

I know lots of bloggers eat and make gazpacho on a regular basis, so I was excited to see what this option would taste like. I’ve ordered gazpacho in restaurants, just never made it myself. Now I’m kicking myself – it’s so dang easy to make and perfect for a hot weather/summer meal.

The Ingredients:

25-30 Green Grape Heirloom Tomatoes
2 Cucumbers  – peeled, seeded, and diced
2 Limes – juiced
1/2- 1 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock – Chef Terese used Chicken – I’d use veggie to make it vegetarian.
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves
1 Small Jalapeño
2 Green Onions – sliced, including green tops
2 Ripe Avocados – add extra virgin olive oil if the avocados aren’t ripe enough – it makes them creamier.
Salt and Pepper to taste – 1/2 a teaspoon at least
Croutons, Cilantro and Extra Virgin Olive Oil for garnish

Directions:
In a blender, puree cucumbers, tomatoes, lime juice, 1/2 cup broth, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, jalapeño, green onions, and 1 of the avocados, diced. Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until the next day.

To serve, thin gazpacho with additional broth if desired. Dice remaining avocado finely and add to gazpacho base. Pour into bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves and croutons and top with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

I really liked it. Kristen, my cooking class partner in crime, would have rather had tortilla chips to dip into it.  She isn’t a fan of cold soups in general, but in her defense, it did taste a little like salsa verde. It was pretty acidic and everyone at the table stopped eating after 3-4 spoonfuls.

I’ve seen green, white, red – smooth, thick and chunky gazpacho soups. Some recipes use bell peppers, onion, lemon, and other fruits. I guess it’s like other soup recipes, lots and lots of variations.

Do you have a favorite gazpacho recipe to share?

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Strozzapreti w/Brie and Tomatoes

August 22, 2010

Strozzapreti (Priest choker in Italian) is an elongated, hand rolled pasta. One of the legends created to explain the origin of the “Priest choker” name goes back to the tradition of women from Romagna (south-eastern portion of present-day Emilia-Romagna) preparing this type of hand rolled pasta for the local priests, while the husbands, evidently opposed to the influence of the church/clergy in political affairs, wished that the  priests would choke while  stuffing themselves with the pasta.

I had never seen the pasta before. Chef Terese used Montebello Organic Strozzapreti, but any tubular pasta would be fine. Penne or Fusilli would work great for the Strozzapreti with Brie, Tomatoes and Basil recipe.

The Ingredients:
1 lb. Good Quality Pasta – Any tube shape will work
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Small Garlic Cloves – put through a press
2 Cups of Assorted Color Heirloom Tomatoes – Chef Terese used Purple Calabash, Aunt Ruby’s German Green and Persimmon
8 ounces Brie cheese – cut into small chunks  – Chef Terese used the good/expensive stuff – if you aren’t used to buying the good stuff, it has a more robust flavor. You could substitute with a mild Brie or use goat cheese instead.
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Parmesan Cheese  – sprinkled on top
Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring 4-5 quarts of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta and cooked to desired doneness and drain. Do not rinse your pasta people!

Place the hot pasta into a large bowl. Toss the cubes of Brie into the pasta first and mix. Then add the tomatoes, basil, olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. You may need more olive oil, totally up to you. Add some Parmesan to the bowl before serving.

This dish can be served multiple ways. Hot, cold or at room temperature – it really doesn’t matter. Chef Teresa suggested it as a great potluck dish. I have to say, it was not one of my favorites of the evening, but I did enjoy it. I obviously buy cheap Brie – because it’s more mellow than what she used. The Brie she used was more than $20 and had a very distinct “stink” – hah! I’m definitely going to give this dish a try with a more mellow Brie or I’ll try the goat cheese. Most people at the table felt the same way. Sometimes fancy isn’t the way to go if your palate isn’t used to it.

All that aside, I was excited to learn the origin of a new pasta (to me), and I think I can use this recipe as a base to create many others.

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Tomato Basil Phyllo, Fillo, or Filo Tart

August 20, 2010

The Tomato Basil Phyllo Tart recipe was definitely a keeper as well. It was my 2nd favorite of the evening.

Chef Terese gave us some tips on how to go about defrosting the phyllo dough. She suggested defrosting it in the fridge overnight. The important part is to keep it moist when you are working with the dough – it dries out really fast. She used damp towels to cover the sheets she wasn’t working with. A student asked why you can’t just put it on the kitchen counter to thaw and she explained that it becomes a big, clumpy mess. The layers all stick together.

Below is a photo of the beautiful tart before cooking.

The Ingredients:
7 Sheets of Phyllo – thawed
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter – melted
1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano
1 Cup Onion – very thinly sliced – she used sweet white and kept them in their raw form
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
Heirloom Tomatoes – cut into 1/8 inch thick slices – enough to cover the baking sheet – she used 3 large – 8 Roma could be substituted.
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, cut into a chiffonade – This is accomplished by stacking the basil leaves – or any herb leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife – this produces fine ribbons.
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste

Brandy Wine, Vintage Wine and Black Pineapple Heirlooms were sliced for the tart. Chef Terese suggested laying the slices on stacked paper towels to help absorb any extra juices – you don’t want them super moist. – You can then collect the seeds off the paper towels to grow your own heirlooms. Yep, totally see that happening, hah!

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a large half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil spray or brush with vegetable oil. Lay one sheet of phyllo (She used The Filo Factory – Organic Filo Dough) onto the parchment and brush with butter and then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmigiano. No worries if it tears a little while brushing with butter – the phyllo layers are stacked – the only important one is the top layer… and even that will be covered with the tomato slices.  Repeat the butter/cheese process with the remaining 6 layers – pressing down the layers so they stick to one another.

Scatter the top with the thinly sliced onions and top with the mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer over the phyllo, onion, and cheese slightly overlapping the tomatoes.

Sprinkle top with basil and salt and pepper. A tip for the basil – soak the basil in water for an hour so it won’t turn black while cooking in the oven.

The colors were so vibrant – I hoped that they would look as pretty when they came out of the oven and they were. Bake the tart until phyllo is crisp and golden brown – approximately 30-35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

The tart looked amazing out of the oven. Chef Terese was able to use a spatula to just slide it right out of the pan onto her prep board. She then cut it into rectangular pieces for us to taste.

I could have eaten the entire pan. The butter flavored flaky crust… combined with the sweetness of the tomato – OMG, so freakin’ good! Even though there was 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and a 1/2 cup of Parmigiano, the heirlooms were the star.

My Dad asked if I was going to be digging up the lawn in the backyard to plant my heirloom tomato garden – too funny. I think I’ll stick to letting the pros take care of the growing. I’ll just keep buying them at the food co-op, Nugget Market and Whole Foods. I might need a second job to fund my new heirloom habit, but I’m o.k. with that. 🙂

Tomato lover? Tomato hater? Do tell…

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Grilled Salmon w/Cherry Tomato Compote

August 18, 2010

The Grilled Salmon w/ Cherry Tomato Compote recipe was by far my favorite of the evening and deserves the first tomato recipe slot.

I can’t even explain in words how incredible this dish was.

Salmon Ingredients and Prep:
Four 6 ounce salmon fillets
Zest of 2 lemons
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Pepper

Coat the salmon well with olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Chef Terese explained that it’s o.k. to leave the skin on the salmon before grilling. She starts grilling with the skin side down. By the time you are done (10 minutes per inch thickness of fish) the skin will be crisp and just fall or peel right off.

Crappy photo due to the lack of light outside by the grill, but you get the idea.

Chef Terese’s assistant coated the grill with high heat cooking spray and then grilled the salmon over medium-high heat for 9 minutes per side. She thought the fish was just shy of an inch.

Chef Terese then grabbed the bowl of Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold and Green Grape heirloom cherry tomatoes to start the Cherry Tomato Compote.

Cherry Tomato Compote Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons good olive oil – she used Organic Apollo Extra Virgin Olive Oil – about $20/bottle.
2 Teaspoons minced garlic – about 2 cloves
2 Pints whole heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 Teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
Pinch of dried chili flakes
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives – If you don’t like kalamata olives,  you can use any type of olive.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the tomatoes in a single layer. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to lose their firm round shape. Chef Terese actually used the back of a big wooden spoon to smash some of the tomatoes in the saute pan.

Add in the olives and chili flakes and season with sea salt and pepper.

Top the grilled salmon with several spoonfuls of the cherry tomato compote and garnish with fresh basil.

The dish was so good, it deserved two photos – different angles – hah! The medley of cherry tomatoes combined with the saltiness of the kalamata olives was out of this world amazing. People at our table that weren’t big salmon fans, raved on and on about the dish. The only bummer was that there weren’t pieces of bread on the table to soak up the sauce – yes, it was that delicious. This would be the perfect meal to cook for a small dinner party. You could also easily substitute chicken for the salmon if you aren’t a big fish/seafood eater.

Do you guys like when I post recipes from the cooking classes I take? I know they don’t have the same level of prep detail shots that my other posts have. In the 4 classes I’ve taken, only 1 other person has had a camera.  The chefs don’t mind at all, but it feels a little awkward to get photos of the prep stuff.  Once the table I’m sitting at finds out why I’m doing it, they encourage me to go up to the front, they make sure I get a good sample for the photograph and they kind of giggle that everyone else is done with their samples while I’m still trying to perfect the perfect angle for the blog photo. I also get photo tips from people, it’s pretty funny.

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Tomato Summer Tour 2010

August 17, 2010

I took another cooking class and this time it was all about heirloom tomatoes. Before class, the only thing I really knew about heirloom tomatoes was that I loved eating them, they were expensive and a bitch to grow. I walked away with a lot more knowledge and 4 awesome recipes that I will be sharing through posts.

Tomatoes do really well in Sacramento, CA due to the awesome climate. The co-op gets their heirloom tomatoes from 5 local farms. I’m going to look into touring one of the farms – I think it would be a lot of fun.

We got a double-sided fact sheet that outlined many different heirloom varieties with photos for easy identification. I don’t know about the easy part – some varieties were a bit challenging to identify – even for Chef Terese.

Between recipes, Chef Terese cut into a few with a really cool serrated knife – perfect for tomato cutting. I didn’t get a good photo of that, bummer.

The first heirloom up for tasting was my favorite of the bunch.

The Black Pineapple

The Black Pineapple is a Belgian tomato variety that features smooth fruit in a kaleidoscope of colors. When sliced, it reveals bright green flesh with deep red streaks. It has a sweet, smokey flavor with a hint of citrus. This one was served plain. I definitely noticed the sweetness and the little hint of citrus, it was really good.

The second tomato that we tasted was a Brandywine. I didn’t get a good photo of that one. The co-op guide said that it is a pink Amish variety from the 1880’s and has received cult status among heirlooms. It is legendary for it’s exceptionally rich, succulent tomato flavor. I thought it tasted a sweet. Chef Terese served this tomato plain as well.

We then got to learn the differences between salts. 99 cent salt, kosher and regular sea salts and finishing salts such as fleur de sel. The fleur de sel is a hand harvested sea salt. It was slightly damp in the jar and runs anywhere from $10 – $50 – but lasts a long time since you only use it as a finishing salt. I kind of felt like I already knew a little about the finishing salts because my girlfriend Deede and I spent an entire afternoon on the hunt through Napa and Sonoma looking for a special finishing salt for a macaron recipe she was making.

The next heirloom up for tasting was The Striped German.

I loved this one too. It was served with extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and fleur de sel.

Next up was the Vintage Wine heirloom.

The Vintage Wine was a deep pink with golden streaks – hard to see because they were on the outside. Chef Terese added fresh ground pepper and fleur de sel to the oil. The flavor was incredible, but I still liked the Black Pineapple the best.

We also tried a Black Brandywine heirloom with Gustosella Mozzarella Di Bufala, extra virgin olive oil, and fleur de sel. The Mozzarella was made from water buffalo milk raised in Campania – a region in Southern Italy. The cheese was super soft and a perfect pairing to the rich flavor of the Black Brandywine. Chef Terese brought the expensive stuff and it was obvious that I don’t normally by the “good stuff” – hah! – Note: I will be splurging now.

Chef Terese consulted with one of her sommelier friends about what type of wine would pair well with the heirloom dishes she prepared for the evening. Her friend suggested a Pinot Noir Rose – so they poured a Moniz Family Wines Pinot Noir Rose from Napa. I don’t generally like Rose wines, but I did like it paired with the dishes we tasted.

One of the assistants talked a little bit about her Heirloom tomato garden and explained how heirloom tomatoes are hand-picked and not cross-bred. Chef Terese and the assistant both talked about how you can save the seeds and grow your own. There were a bunch of gardeners in the class and apparently it’s been a bad year for heirlooms in this area. I think a lot of it is because our weather has been all over the place.

I went on wikipedia and looked up some of the other heirloom names and descriptions from our heirloom fact sheet. It’s so interesting to see how they came about and the names are very creative. One of the students in the class mentioned the “Mortgage Lifter”  – he talked about a guy selling the seeds to his popular tomato that resulted in him being able to pay off the mortgage on his house. I did a little more research and found an article about the tomato on Veggiegardener.com.

I think I’m in love with the history behind some of the tomatoes and how they got their names.

The recipes for the evening also included  Aunt Ruby’s German GreenMarvel Stripes, Purple Cherokees, Sun Gold Cherry and Green Grape Heirlooms.

I think my fear of cooking fish is over – there is no way I’m not going to make the salmon dish we had last night. Let me just throw out “Spicy Cherry Tomato Compote” as a little clue. Freakin’ amazing!

I had a great time learning about something new – Check me out – You Say Tomato! I say Tomahto. Stay tuned for the recipes.