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Almost Instant Bruschetta (Quickie tomato spread)

18 Oct

Got a tomato and some day-old bread?

Swirl around to soften and Bob's your uncle!

Swirl around to soften and Bob’s your uncle!

Use it up deliciously and look fab doing it.

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

Ingredients:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

A few ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 or two cloves garlic minced

Day-old bread, sliced and lightly toasted

Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet. Toss in tomatoes and garlic and stir around at medium until skins begin to separate. Spread on toasts. Sprinkle with salt. Serve.

Glow!

Glow!

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Summer Tomato Recipe (or just chop fresh tomatoes over warm pasta and you’re done!)

16 Oct

We won’t be eating this light and fresh summer way much longer.

The little man and I pulled out the tomato plants today. They could have stayed in a bit longer and we might have had a few more vine-ripened tomatoes, but he took off all the little greenies (“39, Mom! I picked 39 tomatoes!”), holding up his shirt hem to make an impromptu bag for them, while I folded the netting (okay, attempted to fold the netting and then just balled it all up because it was making me crazy) and then he pulled out all the plants (about ten) I threw them in the leaf compost and we called it an afternoon. After a summer of garden disasters, the pounds and pounds of tomatoes we got from our ten plants was a true joy. And I have several quarts of sauce and puree in the freezer for later!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

My dad (he of the crazy-ass mostly vegan diet) just had surgery for bladder cancer last week, so we’ve been very, very busy with other things, not least of which is preparing food for everyone so that we all continue to eat well and keep up our strength while we work on his recuperation and everything else (like work — fullltime and freelance — and school and soccer and violin — and on and on). So yes, the healing and kitchen are going great guns, but the writing is not.

So this is not even a recipe, but a solution. Boil pasta in generously salted water and drain, reserving 1/4 Cup of pasta water.. Chop up fresh tomatoes and toss them into the pasta with a splash of olive oil, a splash of pasta water, a couple of basil leaves if you’ve got and maybe some finely minced garlic. Serve with grated cheese/a sprinkle of salt, Or not. Eat. Move on to the next thing and try not to mourn the end of the summer tomatoes. Save your seeds and plant more next year!

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it's almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

From my garden. I love this moment of the harvest season, when you realize it’s almost over and therefore appreciate these flavors that much more.

Finally! A Quicky and Easy Falafel Recipe Worth Sharing!

24 Sep

Falafel is one of my favorite dishes in the world. These fried Mediterranean chick pea (we call them garbanzos in Spanish) balls are not supposed to be hard to make, but I have struggled mightily with one recipe after another, unable to get one that was crunchy outside, creamy yet nutty inside, that would hold together nicely for me in the pan.

Into the frying pan....

Into the frying pan….

Until now.

I freely admit that I used beans from a can. I have tried and tried to make them by soaking dried chick peas. I hated the grainy texture of the few that didn’t completely disintegrate in the skillet. Using canned chick peas is a small defeat on the path to greater victory. I didn’t even riff off any particular recipe…I just combined flavors that had worked out in the past with techniques that had sort of worked out, and went for the can opener for my main ingredient.

Sometimes spelled felafel, I like mine golden and very creamy inside.

Sometimes spelled felafel, I like mine golden and very creamy inside.

Pedro of the “mostly vegan except when it’s not” crazy-ass diet loved them. Leandro of the “I hate garbanzos because I don’t like the way they look” declaration loved them. My unpredictable mother, Myrna, loved them. And I loved them too (and I was really the one that mattered in this pursuit of perfection). I hope you will too! This is a recipe for a small amount…so you can give them a shot if you’re new to falafel and then double the recipe once you are hooked! Click on for fabulously simple recipe….plus a quickie tahini sauce for topping Continue reading

How to Blanch, Blend and Freeze Paste Tomatoes for Raw Sauce

14 Sep

Yay! Home-grown paste tomatoes!

Don't they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Don’t they look lovely? My paste tomatoes (from seeds saved from Restoration Farm)

Boo! Not enough time or energy to make paste!

 

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Pull them out of the water as soon as they split

Yay! Shortcut!

We’ve finally got some joy out of our backyard garden. Three raised beds (the fourth strawberry one doesn’t count because it is not expected to produce in the first year) and all we got was garlic, decent peas, decent lettuce, some kale, ONE zucchini…and a lot of failed everything else.

Live action! Padushi uses hi immersion blender to finish the job

Live action! Padushi uses his immersion blender to finish the job

Therefore I am inordinately happy about the fact that I have harvested a couple of pounds of paste tomatoes, with more greenies getting pink on the vine.

So…here’s the easy way to deal with the ones we’ve picked on a Thursday night, near collapse from the workweek and doing a million other things at the same time. Didn’t bother cooking them down. The raw fresh taste will still be there in the winter!

FREEZE! or use immediately....

FREEZE! or use immediately….

Raw Pureed Paste Tomatoes for Freezing

1) Get a big pot of water on the boil.

2) Get a bowl of ice water ready.

3) rinse the tomatoes (if you must).

4) drop tomatoes in the boiling water.

5) as they split, pluck them out and plunge (I love the word plunge) them into the ice water,

6) when they cool, pull the peels off.

7) chop, dice, or run through a mill or processor.

8) use or store or freeze.

DONE!

The Easiest Watermelon Snack Ever!

10 Sep

Thanks to my beloved, handy-dandy, double-sided melon baller from Pampered Chef (the other end hulls strawberries and cores tomatoes) my big first-grader now has a new favorite way to snack. He just pulls a quartered watermelon out of the fridge, sets it down in front of himself on a napkin and starts cutting in. He sometimes makes many at a time and puts them in a bowl and sometimes just pops them directly as he scoops them. Independence never tasted better, nor made a mother happier….

Little hands can easily manage this task.

Little hands can easily manage this task.

Ah! Summer fruits!

Don’t Throw Them Out! Easy Sauteed Beet Greens

3 Sep

So I’m at the Greenport farm stand with Vinny, buying fresh local stuff for our Caribbean cooking extravaganza (see chipotle jerk slow cooker chicken if you haven’t already) and just for dinner in general. Vinny selects some beets for grilling which is new for me and therefore very exciting. But I am not distracted enough by this to miss the shocking fact that Vinny has told the nice woman at the farm stand to go ahead and cut off and discard the beet greens, which she does.

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that's when the beet greens are best too!

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that’s when the beet greens are best too!

“Wait!,” I say, when I find my voice. “You are not gonna take those?”

“What do you do with them?” asks Vinny.

And he is drowned in words, as I and the nice woman at the farmstand tell him — at the same time — how delicious they are and how good for you and how easy to prepare. Vinny is always game for a new adventure, so we take the greens back with my promise that I will show him how to do them.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

This veg adds color and texture to your plate. They have their own natural saltiness.

Beet greens, which should be removed about an inch above the root as soon as you have a chance, are full of folate, phosphorus, zinc, and a bunch of other good nutrients They are low glycemic and filling, and for more on the nutrients, click here. While beetroot will keep in the fridge, beet greens should be used quickly. They are super tasty and make for a fast vegetable side. Plus, you pay for them! Why aren’t you using them?

The greens, which admittedly cook down to nothing, were a big success and Vinny also kept reminding me to put it up on the blog. So here it is! (for a fancier recipe that incorporates roots and greens, click here)

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil...and that's just what I did after taking this photo.

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil…and that’s just what I did after taking this photo.

Sauteed Beet Greens

1 bunch beet greens (cut from beets about an inch from the root bulb)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (or ½ Tbs) minced

Salt to taste

Chop the greens roughly (or not, if you like a longer leaf), removing the tougher stalks. You can roll them up and slice strips too. Thoroughly rinse and spin the beet greens.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet on medium, letting the garlic get golden without toasting. Add beet greens, stir to coat and cook on medium until completely wilted and tender (you may need to add a Tbs of water if things get too dry). Salt to taste and serve.

Grilled Pineapple Chipotle Black Bean Salsa

2 Sep

Grilled pineapple is one of the joys of summer grilling. Searing thick slices of juicy pineapple brings out their sweetness and gives them a more rounded flavor.And when you have leftovers, you can dice them and add them to salsa for a sweet-tart surprise that marries so well with smoky, spicy chipotle and bright red onion,(you can use fresh raw pineapple too).

This is what pineapple looks like off the grill.

This is what pineapple looks like off the grill.

I also like to add black beans and corn kernels — both of which tend to be around in our summer kitchen.

I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to take a picture until it was too late.

I made this a few weeks ago and forgot to take a picture until it was too late.

You can mix and match as you please and play with the proportions…this is basically a good way to use up an extra scoop of this and teaspoon of that. I will be experimenting with grilled peach salsa soon and will let you know!

This finished product. Delish!

This finished product. Delish!

Pineapple Chipotle Black Bean Salsa

¾ Cup diced fresh pineapple (grilled, if possible)

¼ Cup black beans, cook, and preferably seasoned

2 Tbs minced red onion

½ tsp sauce from chipotle in adobo

¼ Cup diced green pepper

salt

Mix all ingredients except salt in a bowl. Salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for Southwest style cooked meats.

Make Your Own (Freezeable) Tomato Puree

29 Aug

While I wait, anxiously, for my own paste tomatoes to ripen before some sort of blight gets them (my tomatoes are abundant and my only hope left for a reasonable harvest of something this summer), my CSA, Restoration Farm, is piling on tomatoes of all stripes..I think we picked up 7-10 lbs this week alone, and since the friend we share with , Allison, has not been around, we’ve been taking it all home. So…I have made and frozen a couple of quarts of sauce recently, using the simple recipe that follows.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

There are other ways to do it (some cooks just blanch, peel and run through the food mill and don’t cook it at all; while some, including me, just blanch and freeze whole tomatoes), but I like this because the puree is smooth and ready to go in a pinch and the hint of garlic gives it a round flavor without taking it in a particular ethnic direction.

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

The blanching may seem daunting at first and yes, it does add time to what you are doing, but it is so simple and I like to watch the tomatoes float up and down in the bubbles and slipping off the peels so easily is somehow satisfying.

So give it a try if you get your hands on some paste tomatoes and enjoy summer freshness when there is snow on the ground!

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns….

Tomato Puree

3-5 lbs paste tomatoes

3-5 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp coarse salt

To blanch tomatoes, put a big pot of water on to boil. Be ready with tongs and a big bowl of ice water on the side.

Rinse and core tomatoes. Drop into boiling water (you will probably have to do batches). Remove each tomato as soon as its skin starts to wrinkle/split, and drop in the ice water.

Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooled to handle, slip off the peels and discard peels or add to stock (thanks John Picardi, or was it Mad Dog for that tip!).

Dump the water from your big pot and add the peeled tomatoes, split or chopped in half if you like. (If you have a food mill, you can put the tomatoes through the mill first to eliminate seeds. Or, there is another suggested way to do it later in the recipe). Add garlic and salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for five, ten, 15 minutes…however long you want. The flavor is bright early on and mellows somewhat with more cooking, so it is up to you which you prefer.

When you’ve reached desired flavor, let cool. At this point, since my food mill is missing a piece, I press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl. The solids remain in the strainer and…true confessions…I use that as a spread on toast because the seeds don’t bother me there, but they do bother me in a smooth sauce. Then pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container (you will yield anywhere from a pint to a quart depending on quantity of tomatoes and how much liquid evaporated in the cooking) and freeze for a fresh neutral tomato puree in the middle of winter!

Grilled Lemon-Herb Pattypan Squash (no paring or peeling!)

26 Aug

At this time of year, everyone wants to know what to do with pattypan squash — sometimes called sunburst squash – the one that really does look a bit like a squashed mini-pumpkin, or a hat for a Scottish maiden. So first off, let me say DON”T PEEL IT. You can cook it with the rind on and you can eat the whole thing.

Pattypans and zucchini together! Not much difference when they are sliced....

Pattypans and zucchini together! Not much difference when they are sliced….

Pattypan squash can be treated pretty much the same as zucchini or any other soft-skinned summer squash. Usually I roast it/stuff it, but this week we decided to grill it along with some other vegetables. Honestly I don’t think anyone at our celebrate-the-neighborhood BBQ realized they weren’t the regular yellow squash. And when I went to snack on them at the end of the long night of festivities, there were none left, which is perhaps the best indication that these babies are goooood on the grill! Happy Late Summer, everyone!

Goodness from the grill

Goodness from the grill

Grilled Pattypan Squash

3 -4 pattypan squash, rinsed

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbs fresh oregano or other mixed Mediterranean herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil), chopped

2 -3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp salt

Slice off the stem of each pattypan. Then cut into ¼ – ½” slices, depending on how you like them.

In a separate container (preferably a recloseable one in which you can marinate the vegetables), whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until emulsified. Add the herbs, garlic and salt and stir to combine. Add the squash and stir to coat (or use your hands!). Cover (or seal) and refrigerate for at least a half hour and up to two hours. If you can, let them come back to room temperature while the grill heats up. Then cook – about three minutes each side – until you reach desired temperature and char. Sprinkle with finishing salt if desired and serve.

You may also like:

Roasted Pattypan Squash (very simple)

Stuffed and Roasted Pattypan Squash (very dramatic)

Crunchy, Salty, Sweet: Cabbage and Apple Slaw Two Ways (one vegan, one not)

16 Aug

My brother and his family are in town and we are taking a couple of weeks (yes weeks) to celebrate our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and there is a whole lot of eating and drinking going on.

One of my favorite pictures!

One of my favorite pictures!

But in between the grilling and giggling, I pause to give you these two very successful recipes for summer slaws. Regular readers know that my dad is on some crazy-ass vegan diet (the parameters of which change with bewildering frequency), so I do try to be accommodating.

This one has mayo and yogurt

This one has mayo and yogurt

This slaw is vegan!

This slaw is vegan!

Therefore my sister-in-law and I chopped enough for two salads and dressed them differently. Both were delicious! Next time I may also add a handful of corn kernels…(credit to Beth Greer for inspiring these slaws)

Bright and beautiful, Crispy and Snappy!

Bright and beautiful, Crispy and Snappy!

Cabbage and Apple Slaw (with dairy)

1 Cup finely chopped red cabbage

1 Cup finely chopped green cabbage

1 Tbs finely chopped red onion

1 Cup diced apple (Granny Smith, Gala, or other sweet-tart firm apple), peel on

1 Tbs chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

Dressing

2 Tbs prepared mayonnaise

1 Tbs plain nonfat or lowfat yogurt

1 tsp your favorite mustard

1 pinch salt (optional, depending on your mayo and mustard)

Place vegetables, fruits and nuts in a bowl and mix. Add mayo, yogurt, and mustard. Mix well, play with proportions and salt to taste.

Vegan Cabbage and Apple Slaw

1 Cup finely chopped red cabbage

1 Cup finely chopped green cabbage

1 Tbs finely chopped red onion

1 Cup diced apple (Granny Smith, Gala, or other sweet-tart firm apple), peel on

1 Tbs chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

Dressing

2 Tbs prepared balsamic vinaigrette

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs white vinegar

Salt to taste

Place vegetables, fruits and nuts in a bowl and mix. Add prepared dressing. In a separate bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together until emulsified. Add to vegetables. Mix well.  Salt to taste.

You may also like:

Easy Summer Squash Slaw

Celeriac Slaw (Remoulade)

Warm Kohlrabi, Cabbage and Apple Salad

enjoying the hols....

enjoying the hols….

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