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Friday, August 28, 2009

ratatouille! or, confit byaldi!

i woke up tuesday morning the same way i do most every morning-- thinking about remnants of ingredients and what to do with them. having portions of an eggplant and zucchini, and a couple of ripe tomatoes, i thought i'd stew it all up into a ratatouille. this reminded me that i hadn't seen pixar's movie "ratatouille" in at least 6 months (there was a period of time when i suggested it every weekend), so i made some tea and settled in on the couch. every time i see it, i marvel at the attention to cooking detail. it's as if i'm watching a chef and staff in a real parisian kitchen rather than pixar-generated characters.

the movie ends with our hero, remy, serving his version of ratatouille to a monster of a food critic. when i saw his creation, i realized that i didn't want to just throw some vegetables in a pot, i wanted to cook THAT. a little internet research later and i learned that remy's ratatouille was actually chef thomas keller's confit byaldi. he was a consultant on the movie, which explains the authenticity. (those kids at pixar-- they are clever, clever souls...)

i found the recipe, published by the new york times, here. it's basically thin-sliced squash, tomato, and eggplant layered over a tomato and roasted pepper sauce and baked for a few hours, served with a drizzle of vinaigrette. i served it with artisan cheeses and crackers.

for such simple ingredients, i was expecting a much less powerful flavor-- but this dish was extremely flavorful and rich! the long, slow cooking time and the layers of flavors and seasonings must be responsible. i'll definitely make this again, with these changes:

1) i had too much olive oil in the piperade. "oily" is never good.

2) i forgot the yellow squash this time, but i think the addition of another color in this dish would be lovely.

3) i forgot a cooking step! after the first 2 hours in the oven covered, you uncover and bake for 30 minutes. i completely skipped over this step and didn't realize it until reading over the recipe again when starting this post! it needed those 30 minutes to dry out a bit-- as it was, it was kinda soupy on the plate.

4) a bigger pan would work better than the size i used. the vegetables are painfully thin, so even filling up a medium sized casserole with them only yields 2 decent sized servings. 3+ hours to make 2 servings of vegetables is a little outside of my efficiency range. besides, it tasted so good it's worth having leftovers.

really-- when your dinner starts off looking like this, can you go wrong?

Friday, August 21, 2009

potato, squash and goat cheese quesadillas. really quite tasty. really.

we're going out of town tomorrow, so tonight i decided what was for dinner based on, "what is in our kitchen and garden that will go bad in our absence?" i turned up a handful of tomatoes, a yellow squash, a potato, a half block of tillamook monterey jack, a half log of goat cheese, a bunch of cilantro, a half jalapeño, and an aging lime. the items also in possession, which were not in the same danger of decay, were an onion, a head of garlic, and some flour tortillas.

i gotta say, i thought the combo might be weird, but the resulting potato, squash and goat cheese quesadilla with a fresh tomato salsa was thoroughly delicious! i would happily make this again.

fresh tomato salsa

3 smallish, or 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2+ Tbsp onion, finely chopped
1+ tsp jalapeño, finely chopped
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
salt and pepper

mix all ingredients, adjust seasonings to taste, and refrigerate for 1 hour or more. (note: after chopping jalapeño, avoid touching eyes, nose, and lips, and pulling apart cooked chicken for the cat.)

potato, squash, and goat cheese quesadilla
2 servings

1 medium to large waxy potato, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
salt and pepper
1/2 yellow summer squash (or zucchini), shredded
1 1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 large flour tortillas
1 Tbsp butter, divided

preheat oven to 400 degrees. toss potato cubes in ovenproof pan with olive oil, then add chili powder, salt, and pepper, and toss again. cook at 400 degrees, turning once or twice, until a knife test says they are done-- soft, but not falling apart-- about 15-20 minutes.

heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. place a tortilla in the pan, and line half of it with half of the monterey jack, the squash, the potatoes, and the goat cheese. fold the other half over and cook until golden. flip, cook until the other side is crispy and the fillings are warmed through. repeat with the second tortilla and the rest of the fillings.

serve with tomato salsa.

this recipe has a ton of potential. there may be goat cheese and a potato in every quesadilla i make from here on. i can imagine a number of variations on this dish that would be filling and absolutely tasty, and, if i'm lucky, use up some perishables like it did tonight.

(almost) the grit's vegan black bean chili

there's a restaurant in athens, georgia, the city where i went to college, called the grit. it is cheap enough for students, hip enough for touring indie rockers, and down-home enough for southerners. the twist is that they have an entirely vegetarian menu. the place is enormously popular, perhaps most especially because, though their dishes are meatless, they are soulful and comforting creations that happily and heartily contribute to many a "freshman fifteen."

my brother gave me their cookbook several years ago, and i've had a couple of their recipes make it into the rotation. i'd never tried their chili, but remembered to check into it when we signed up to provide a meal at rob's family reunion this weekend. with a big group like theirs, it made sense to me to offer a meatless option. not coincidentally, i had all the ingredients i needed on hand, including black turtle beans from the farmers market, and tomatoes from our garden.

i changed a few proportions, added some flavors, omitted the bulger wheat to have it be gluten-free, and altered the cook time from the original recipe. here goes.

vegan black bean chili
adapted from the grit restaurant vegetarian cookbook

2 cups dried black beans
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tps ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
kernels from one cob of fresh corn (about 1 cup)
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 cup tomato juice
kosher salt
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
prepared hot sauce (optional)
good quality olive oil (optional)

sort, rinse, and soak the beans at least 6 hours or overnight. drain and rinse soaked beans, and add to pot with onion, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. add water to cover beans, plus about 2 inches. bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until soft. add small amounts of water as needed during cook time. start checking them after about a half an hour so they don't overcook.

if the beans are too soupy after they've finished cooking, you can dip some of the liquid out and reserve it in case you need to thin out the chili at a later stage.

in a separate pan, saute the green bell pepper and the celery in olive oil until softened. (you may also want to add the carrots to the saute. i didn't, but might try it next time.) add pepper and celery, corn kernels, and carrots to the beans. stir in tomato juice.

in same saute pan, heat up more olive oil and add the tomatoes, cooking until they are hot and beginning to break down but are still holding some of their shape. scrape the tomatoes and any accumulated juices into the pot of beans and veggies.

bring to a simmer. at this point, start tasting and adjusting seasonings, beginning with adding kosher salt. i probably added close to a tablespoon, but did so at such small intervals that i can't be sure. adjust cumin and chili powder to taste. if it has a slight bitter taste, as mine did, add small amounts of brown sugar to take the edge off. after about a 15-20 minute simmer, or once veggies are softening up and the soup is thickening, turn off the pot and let it sit for about an hour. it will thicken further, and the flavors will marry. i stirred in a dash of prepared hot sauce and a glug of good olive oil to richen it up.

this is a very diverse chili! serve over rice, with cornbread, make into a burrito, make into nachos, or just have in a bowl topped with onion and cheddar cheese.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

flour + eggs = pasta

i first decided to try homemade pasta a couple of weeks ago, and it was a JOKE. my first batch of dough was so hard that i was sore for 2 days from trying to knead it. i trashed that batch and started over, getting a much more reasonable density, but had only a glass from the cabinet to use to roll it out. i don't even own a rolling pin. by the time i was done, i had dough that was about 1/8" thick, and any attempt i made to roll it out further was met with the dough springing back onto itself. i made ravioli, and while they tasted okay, they were thick and clumsy and hard. as i said, a JOKE.

so, i bought a pasta machine. the dough is fed through the rollers, and comes out in perfect, paper-thin sheets. but again, trials and errors. after my first try using the machine, i thought, man, have we been fooled! this is almost faster than cooking dried pasta! the next 4 times, however, were disasters. either too crumbly, too dry, or entirely too sticky-- all ended up in the garbage.

i decided to try again, but take it slower this time. i would not be outsmarted by a couple of eggs and handfuls of flour. it happened that i caught an episode of everyday italian on the food network, a show i never watch but perhaps should, just in time to see giada de laurentiis making pasta dough with her aunt. i took careful notes and tried again.

giada's dough recipe made more than i was willing to commit to, so i found a classic pasta recipe on the williams sonoma website. fresh pasta recipe here. it worked! they use the well method, which works fine, but i took a tip from giada and got the dough started in the food processor. just pulse the flour and eggs together until the dough begins to stick to itself. it won't form a ball. turn the dough out on your board, and knead until it's smooth and elastic.

the batch i'd made a couple of weeks ago was filled with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella, and the sauce was roasted sungold tomatoes with fresh basil. seems williams sonoma had the same idea, and had it published on their site. i followed theirs this time, which added lemon zest to the filling (great touch!) and more olive oil to the sauce. it was delicious! cheese ravioli with cherry tomato sauce.

making fresh pasta may not replace buying fresh or dried. i'm on the fence so far. but, it's a great alternative, and it's right up my alley to know that if i have flour and eggs, i have pasta.

a pound of pasta dough goes a long way, so i had plenty left over. i decided to try two ways of preserving it-- i used the machine to cut it into fettucine, then tossed the noodles in flour so they won't stick to each other and formed them into nests.

one group dried for an hour and went in the freezer, another group dried for 24 hours and went in the pantry. i really have no idea what the results will be, but it seems i'll have the chance to find out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

grilled veggie salad with goat cheese crostini

earlier in the summer we were grilling constantly. but after a freak heatwave had us dealing with temps in the high 90s (and no air conditioning in sight), and then a spell of cool rain and temps in the 60s, i'd nearly forgotten about the grill. thankfully, things seem back to normal this week, so yesterday we pulled it out from under it's shelter, dusted it off, and fired it up.

the inventory after saturday's market trip was as follows: 1 eggplant, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 green bell pepper, 1 sweet onion, 4 zucchini. also had on hand a half log of chevre, and half of a baguette. i can work with that.

i was cooking for 2, so i gave us each 2 slices of the vegetables, and two crostini. obviously, this can be adjusted.

grilled veggie salad with goat cheese crostini

1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 handfuls salad greens
3 Tbps balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup olive oil
baguette, sliced
goat cheese
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

prepare grill, medium heat. slice eggplant, zucchini, and onion about 1/4" thick, and cut peppers into chunks or thick strips. brush or drizzle veggies with olive oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. cook on grill, turning once, about 2 minutes each side, or until they are softening and getting a few charred spots.

meanwhile, make vinaigrette by combining balsamic and honey, and slowly whisking in olive oil to emulsify. season with salt and pepper.

mix the salad greens and grilled veggies in a bowl with the dressing, then stack veggies over greens on serving plate.

prepare crostini by drizzling both sides of bread slices with olive oil, salt and pepper, and cooking at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until they are toasted. (it's easy to overdo these and end up with toast that feels like it will break your teeth, so watch them!) remove from oven, smear tops with generous amounts of goat cheese, and stick under the broiler just until cheese warms through and begins to soften.

serve salad with warm crostini, and drizzle with more of the vinaigrette.

it was delicious, though i did feel like the dressing needed more punch. maybe next time i'll stir a teaspoon of dijon mustard into it. or a clove of garlic. or both! i think the salad could also handle a couple of slices of grilled waxy potato, especially as a main course that needs to be a bit more hearty.

Monday, August 17, 2009

mad men premier!

sunday night was the heavily promoted season 3 premier of mad men, and i thought it would be fun to have a 60s themed dinner to accompany our viewing. given the number of tomatoes i'm trying to get through right now, i took a dish from betty draper's own table and made a wonderful chilled gazpacho. and, as a nod to the decade, and a treat for us after eating so light this summer, swedish meatballs completed the menu.

i've never made swedish meatballs, and after some clumsy web searches looking for authentic 1960s recipes, i gave up and went for one from alton brown. he seems trustworthy. alton brown's swedish meatballs. they were delicious! the gravy in particular was terrific.

i haven't made gazpacho in years, so did a couple of searches and put together a very basic recipe. it turned out great! as a friend said, "it's pretty damn hard to screw up gazpacho." there are tons and tons of variations on this recipe that i'm sure are equally wonderful-- just make sure the tomatoes are ripe, and use a good quality olive oil.


1 lb tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 medium red bell pepper
1/2 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup organic, low-sodium tomato juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup diced avocado

finely chop (or chop in food processor) all veggies except avocado. mix all together in a bowl and stir in tomato juice, vinegar, and olive oil. season with salt and pepper. refrigerate for a couple of hours at least. this soup gets better the longer it sits. serve chilled, topped with the avocado.

of course, it wouldn't be mad men without adult beverages. irish whiskey and a french bordeaux i'm sure would have met with sterling cooper approval. this was the end of the mad men authenticity, however. we elected to skip the chain smoking, letting kids play in dry-cleaning bags, the complete and total subjugation of women and minorities, and we limited the number of brazen affairs to zero. but check out that vintage glassware!

Friday, August 14, 2009

another eggplant!

"aw, geez," i thought, opening the crisper and discovering the eggplant i'd forgotten all about. i can not stomach throwing food away, and this eggplant had already been in the fridge for 5 or 6 days. gotta act quick. how about a baba ghanoush? got everything i need for it right here, and while i'm at it, may as well make some pita bread.

for the pita, i followed this recipe exactly. it worked great.

everything was smooth sailing, except that in such a hot oven loose flour begins to get a little smoky. now at least i know that the smoke detector works...

baba ghanoush

1 large eggplant
2 Tbsp tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

broil eggplant 10 minutes. turn a couple of times during broiling. (can also grill.)

reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake another 10 minutes, or until very soft.

let cool, then pull off skin and drain flesh of extra moisture. pulse flesh in food processor to a smooth consistency. remove eggplant puree to bowl.

add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt. mix, and check seasonings. season to taste, according to how much garlic, lemon, and tahini you prefer. top with drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley. serve with warm pita bread.

so easy, and so very, very tasty. i'd eat this all night if we weren't going out for dinner!

tomato taste test-- part 1

for me, the sad direction our system of food production has gone in is no more evident than in tomatoes. i've had the approach of "don't even bother with the tomato" when going out to eat for years now. i mean, let's face it, they are about as appealing as pink packing peanuts, perhaps because they were created to be exactly that. but, a real tomato, ripened on the vine in the summer sun, is absolutely magical. i remember being a kid and waiting for that first red fruit for a simple sandwich of white bread, mayo, and slices of tomato with salt and pepper. it was worth waiting for.

we're lucky enough, as of our move to seattle in march, to have a couple of small garden spaces. tomatoes were priority number one! thanks to the delicious resurgence of heirloom varieties, and making it to the tilth edible plant sale at the last minute after everything had been picked over, i selected 8 varieties to try, 5 of which i'd never heard of.

my pruden's purples are almost ready, the green zebras are plentiful but rock hard, the early girls are fashionably late, and the san marzanos are recovering from blossom end rot. but here are the others!


these guys got started first. easy to grow, quick to ripen-- i harvest two handfuls a day. they are hearty, don't split or whither, but they also don't sit around for very long because they taste so good! they are super sweet, with just enough tang to give you that tingly feeling in your jaw. they are tiny orange flavor bombs. i can, and do, eat them all day long. cherry variety, .3 oz fruits. these are keepers.

speckled roman

speckled roman is a handsome paste tomato, showy in it's colorful stripes and patterns that look like someone tried to cover an oily surface with a water-based paint. i'll probably get 20 or so of these off of my one vine, though the yield would have been much better if i'd properly prepared my soil before planting. sigh. but, this is a great tasting fruit! it's rich and full of solid tomato flavor. as rob put it, "that's one good tomato." tastes great and beautiful? i'll see you again next year, signore.


by most accounts, brandywine is *the* flavor standard by which all other tomatoes are measured. i can see why. it has such a rich, dense flavor, especially for a tomato it's size. fruits weigh in over 1 lb (our biggest was just shy of 2 lbs), which i would expect to mean more texture, less sugars. but no-- brandywine almost has the flavor punch of a variety 1 one-hundredth it's size. bravo! meaty, velvety texture, few seeds, and a deep rich red all the way through. the downside is a low yield. we're getting 4 tomatoes off this vine. but, considering i've gotten 1 dinner and 4 lunches from a single fruit and still have a quarter of it left, it's hard to feel too let down. a heavyweight in every way!


glacier's appeal is that it's an early variety, able to set fruit during the cool nw spring temps. the fruits are small, about 2-3 inches, and a pretty solid red. i'm sure i'd have been pleased as pie to have these tomatoes in my garden if they were not being compared to the others. but, the flavor isn't really there, the texture is slightly mealy... i'm sorry guys. i appreciate your efforts, and it's been a pleasure to have you. but you really didn't stand a chance...

hopefully, tomato taste test-- part 2 will be possible next week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ground cherry and goat cheese bruschetta

while paying for a couple of eggplants at the market on saturday, a nice old man picked up a weird little pod thing from a bin and asked, "have you ever tried one of these?" he squeezed the husk and a small gold fruit popped out in my hand. told me they were husk cherries, or ground cherries. he said you can use them as you would either strawberries or tomatoes. how can that be possible? they had such a peculiar flavor-- i had to bring some home to experiment.

we'd been planning to harvest the belle of the garden, our most monstrous brandywine (1lb, 15.2 oz!), and just make a simple tomato basil bruschetta with it. i decided to expand our bruschetta menu to include the ground cherries. i cooked them down into a jammy syrup with balsamic vinegar, and served it on top of goat cheese crostini. the results were amazing! if you can get ground cherries, you must make this immediately.

ground cherry and goat cheese bruschetta

1 1/2 cups ground cherries, husked and well rinsed
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 baguette, sliced
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 log goat cheese

combine ground cherries, water, sugar, and vinegar in small saucepan. cook over medium heat until fruits burst and liquids reduce to a syrup. add a little more water if it gets too thick too fast.

prepare crostini by drizzling baguette slices with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. bake at 350 degrees 5 minutes. remove from oven and smear tops with plenty of goat cheese. place under broiler just long enough for cheese to begin to soften, 2 minutes or so.

serve crostini topped with ground cherry mixture.

Monday, August 10, 2009

gnocchi success! but a different sauce next time.

i've wanted to try tyler florence's potato gnocchi recipe for a while now, but haven't been prepared for the mess it was sure to make. but really, what else is a partly-cloudy sunday afternoon for if not plastering your countertops with gooey potato dough and throwing flour all over yourself?

tyler's recipe calls for russets, but after consulting with the knowledgeable gents from olsen farms at the saturday farmer's market, i went with a variety called cal white. it has a bright white flesh and a light and fluffy texture. i'll definitely do more with these potatoes.

tyler's recipe is here. i followed the gnocchi recipe exactly, but after reading some reviews decided to take a slight detour on the sauce.

gnocchi with peas and prosciutto cream sauce
1lb or so prepared gnocchi, drained
1tbsp butter
1/2 shallot, chopped
1 c green peas
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 c white wine
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 slices prosciutto
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

bake prosciutto in 350 degree oven, 10 minutes or until crispy.

after boiling and draining gnocchi, pan fry in batches in butter over medium heat to a golden brown.

in a separate pan, saute shallots in olive oil until softened. add chicken stock, white wine, and heavy cream and cook until slightly thickened. add peas and cook until heated through. adjust seasonings. taste and adjust for cream/stock ratio as well.

serve gnocchi with sauce, crumbled prosciutto, and grated parmesan cheese.

i have to admit, i did not love the sauce. primarily, i did not think the peas did much for the dish. maybe a simple cream sauce next time, and the peas as a side? but at least i got the hard part down! searching for a great sauce will be a welcomed task.

caprese for breakfast?

absolutely. especially if you've sampled and purchased a stunning 6-year balsamic the day before. a couple of scrambled eggs and a juicy peach and we were fueled and ready for our day at the zoo.

if there's not a form of divination that involves reading the caprese plate, there should be.

Friday, August 7, 2009

zucchini parmesan with fresh tomato sauce

well that was one of the best ideas i've had in a while. rob's mom sent us a couple of beautiful courgettes from her garden, which made two perfect little crunchy pies. i had last week's mozzarella to use up, along with tomatoes that i'd blanched, peeled, and frozen last fall. delicious!

fresh tomato sauce

3 cups (or more) peeled, chopped tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh oregano
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup red wine
pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste

saute onion and carrot in olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. add garlic and bay leaf, saute until fragrant. puree tomatoes in blender or food processor, maintaining slight chunky texture. add tomatoes, fresh herbs, wine, and seasonings to vegetables in pot.

bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer on low for 2+ hours, until thickened. adjust seasonings.

zucchini parmesan

2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4" thick coins
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
2+ cups tomato sauce

combine flour, paprika, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and salt. set up breading station-- flour mixture in first bowl, beaten eggs in second bowl, panko bread crumbs in third. bread zucchini in that order (dip in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko) and pan fry in olive oil at medium heat until golden. will need to add olive oil after each batch.

in small greased casserole (or two individual-size cast iron pans), layer zucchini, all mozzarella, half of parmesan, and half of tomato sauce. top with a second layer of zucchini, remaining tomato sauce, and all but a couple of tablespoons of parmesan.

bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

if cooking in individual pans, invert plate on top and flip pan over to serve. sprinkle with the rest of parmesan and enjoy.

the only change i would make is to have more tomato sauce on hand to spoon around the finished dish. otherwise, so scrumptious!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

it was fun while it lasted.



r.i.p. little buddy. sorry we didn't get to know each other better.

tomato soup and grilled wookey hole

i excitedly took rob to the store a couple of months ago, shortly after we'd arrived in seattle, to point out a cheese i thought we should try. our favorite in portland was a cave-aged gruyere, and this was a cave-aged cheddar that had caught my eye.

me: "here's what i wanted to show yo--"
rob: "whu-- whu-- WOOKEY HOLE?!"

i hadn't even noticed the name of it. true, it isn't spelled like the brethren of chewbacca, but it's become a household joke just the same. so, when it came time for tomato soup night, i obviously wanted to include a grilled w-w-wookey hole sandwich.

my plan was flawed in two ways-- first, the bread i made on monday and used for the sandwich was full of herbs and flavors of it's own, meant to be a dipping bread, and the cheese was incredibly rich. next time, it's a milder bread or a milder cheese. second, the only tomato i had was a beloved brandywine. i'd rather have done something with it that showcased it's raw, glorious flavor, but i wanted soup, and this one was ripe.

roasted tomato soup
(revised from roasted tomato soup with garlic, bon appetit, feb 1998)

3 lbs tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
pinch dried crushed red pepper
6 cups chicken stock
chopped fresh basil to serve

cut tomatoes in large chunks (in half longways if using plum varieties), drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour.

transfer tomatoes and juices to food processor or blender and chop, keeping a bit chunky.

saute onion and garlic over med-high heat until translucent (don't burn the garlic!) and add herbs, crushed red pepper, and tomatoes. stir in chicken stock. bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. adjust seasonings.

serve topped with fresh chopped basil.

this soup is really beautiful in the bowl! i'll probably roast some tomatoes and freeze them so i can have this soup in the cooler, wetter months when it is sure to be extra appreciated.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

first eggplant!

having waited patiently for fresh eggplant since the neighborhood farmers market opened in may, i wasn't going to let any of this one go to waste. after a less-than-satisfactory attempt at a dish that used 3/4 of the pretty purple goodness (i'll talk about that one when i get it right), i turned the remainder into the next day's lunch. no real measurements, just what looked right.

eggplant, lemon, and caper salad

cube eggplant and saute in olive oil at medium-high heat, letting the sides get good, dark brown color. don't burn.

remove from heat and mix with a few green olives, capers, the juice from half a lemon, and some lemon zest.

best refrigerated overnight and eaten at room temp the next day.

normally i salt and pepper everything, but with all the salty brine and acidity in these ingredients, i skipped the salt. some parsley would brighten it up, but mine in the garden has bolted.

i think this salad is an excellent candidate for making as a panzanella by adding lots of cubed, toasted bread. wish i'd thought of that monday night!