It’s the end of summer. We should celebrate!

Toast a slice of sourdough. Get it golden brown.

Top it with olive oil, shaved parmesan, basil, and heirloom tomato slices.

And maybe an egg or two.

Now pour yourself some wine. And, if you’re me, eat it while you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I never said I was classy. I only said I could cook.

OPEN FACED HEIRLOOM TOMATO SANDWICH

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 thick slice of crusty sourdough, toasted

Olive oil (I used about a tablespoon)

Parmesan, shaved (I used an ounce)

Basil leaves (I used 8)

4 small heirloom tomatoes

Cracked black pepper

Salt

Small pat butter

2 eggs

Recipe

Drizzle olive oil over sourdough toast. Layer parmesan across toast. Layer basil on top of parmesan. Layer tomato slices on top of basil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Heat a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add enough butter to thinly coat the pan. Add  eggs and cover immediately with a lid. Turn heat up to medium high. Eggs should be done within 2-4 minutes. Just keep checking on them periodically. I like them when they are a little bit white on top (about 3 1/2 minutes).

Place egg on top or next to sandwich. Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca

February 20, 2011

We celebrated my good friend Kristina’s birthday this weekend. We had a blast out on the town and started our evening right: in a stylish bar, with our very first real martinis.

I ordered mine Extra Dirty because I love olive juice and also because it sounds cool. After I ordered it, my friend David said, “Oh, aren’t you fancy?” And I said, “Well David, it takes a certain kind of person to order an extra dirty martini at a classy bar.” To which David responded, “What kind of person? Oh, right, an extra dirty one.” Here are David and Will at a burrito place much later that evening.

Midnights spent at late night burrito places sometimes lead to very difficult mornings. But I regret nothing. On top of the hours of fun we had around town, the extra dirty martini I had reminded me of a wonderful recipe I found for Pasta Puttanesca.

Pasta Puttanesca is a sauce made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and herbs. It cooks quickly (less than 30 minutes, actually) and is extremely fragrant and delciious.

Puttanesca literally translates to “in the style of the whore” in Italian. There are various explanations for this name. Some say that Italian prostitutes made this aromatic sauce to lure men into their houses of ill repute. Others claim this sauce was made by Italian housewives who wanted to finish making dinner quickly to attend to other nighttime activities. Either way, this is one of my new favorite winter time dishes. Particularly if you must attend to other nighttime activities.

PASTA PUTTANESCA (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Pasta Puttanesca)

I doubled the sauce in this recipe so we’d have extra to take for lunch and to spread over chicken later in the week. I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so this made about 5 servings of sauce.

Ingredients

  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 6 or more anchovy fillets
  • Two 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil leaves for garnish, optional

Recipe

Salt a pot of boiling water and bring it to a boil. Heat a large saucepan on medium low heat (Don’t try to heat it any higher of the anchovies will explode when you add them. Trust me). Add your olive oil, then add garlic and anchovies. Saute a few minutes until garlic is lightly browned.

Drain your tomatoes and tear them into smaller pieces with your hands (be careful not to squirt tomato juice everywhere). Add to the saucepan with a little salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high, cooking and stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to a simmer and add capers, olives, and red pepper flakes.

Cook your pasta to al dente. Toss pasta with sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs, if you like. Enjoy.

One of my all time favorite TV moments is from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations in Rome. As spoken in Italian, with English subtitles.

Roman man: Don’t you have to work?

Roman woman: We have to eat artichokes!

To which Will responded, “It’s difficult to believe the Roman Empire almost conquered the world.”

Of course this lead in is to talk about… Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are the cheapest of all tomatoes. Because they are not juicy but are, instead, meaty. This makes them ideal for long periods of low temperature roasting. Their flavor will become intense and sweet. You will love them.

This soup is about as improvised as they come. It is warm, comforting, delicious, and requires only a spin in the food processor after the initial roasting of tomatoes and garlic. My measurements change based on my mood (I want it a little more garlicky today or I have more than 5 lbs of tomatoes so I’ll just stick them in I guess). You can make it taste richer by adding cream, or keep it fresher by going without.

I’ve made this soup several times already and plan to make it many more times this winter. It is thick, hearty, and comforting. Bring on the cold weather!

More on tomatoes:

What I’m reading: Yeo Valley Organic Ad Has Hip Hop Farmers That Rap About Organic Dairy

ROASTED TOMATO AND GARLIC SOUP (made by me)

Serves 6-8 as a side

If you do add cream, do it at the very last minute, as in, after you’ve heated your individual portion. If you store this soup in the fridge with cream in it, it may curdle. Yuck.

Another note: Since this soup is very thick, you can thin it out with some water or tomato juice, if you like.

Ingredients

5lbs Roma tomatoes

Olive oil (a few tablespoons, for brushing the tomatoes)

2 bulbs garlic

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup fresh basil or thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon – 1/2 teaspoon red peper flakes (optional, if you like a little spice)

Heavy cream, to taste (optional, about 1 tablespoon per person)

Recipe

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a two baking sheets with foil. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, then brush them with olive oil. Cut top off garlic bulbs to expose majority of the cloves. Divide butter in half. Smoosh butter in your hands to make it pliable, then pat half into one bulb of garlic, half into the other. Place bulbs on baking sheet with tomatoes. Bake for 2 hours.

Let tomatoes and garlic cool enough to handle. Squeeze cloves out from garlic skin. Place tomatoes, cloves, basil or thyme, and red pepper flakes (if using) into food processor and grind to desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and cream (if using). Enjoy.

Cherry Tomato Pizza

October 7, 2010

Goodbye cherry tomatoes! Oh how I will miss you while you’re gone.

I wanted to give the last of these beauties a show-stopping final sendoff.

This is a great pizza. But truthfully, I don’t love this pizza as much as I love my Roasted Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. Which, I should mention, is my most popular post to date by a landslide. It is not hard to see why. (If you’re interested, second place is Killing and Preparing a Lobster for the Grill).

But this pizza is simple and delicious. Roll or stretch out pizza dough. Roast garlic. Scatter cheese and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Bake. Cover with basil.

Bon voyage cherry tomatoes. Bon voyage summer. And what a great summer it was.

Will and I got engaged.

We went to a rodeo with Will’s aunt, Ann. (I am still waiting to go to another so I can say, “Well, it’s not my first rodeo.”)

And we hiked in lots of beautiful places with lots of wonderful friends.

Goodbye cherry tomatoes. Goodbye summer. It’s been fun.

CHERRY TOMATO PIZZA

I prefer roasted rather than raw garlic on this pizza because of the sweet and mellow flavor.

Serves 5-6 people

Ingredients

Pizza dough, about 1lb (homemade or store-bought. Click here for how to make your own, and if you do double the dough recipe)

Olive oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

Roasted garlic (click for recipe)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

8oz fresh mozzarella

2.5 pints cherry tomatoes (the more colors the better!)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup julienned basil

Recipe

One to two hours before making, take pizza dough out of fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (it makes it easier to work with). Make roasted garlic.  Preheat oven to 475

Spread a thin layer of olive oil on cookie sheet or pizza sheet. Sprinkle cornmeal over olive oil. Roll or stretch pizza dough to fit sheet.

Lay mozzarella slices on paper towels to absorb moisture, then sprinkle lightly with salt.

Smoosh roasted garlic cloves with your fingers, placing it all over the pizza. Grate parmesan cheese over pizza. Arrange mozzarella slices and cherry tomatoes over pizza. Sprinkle pizza with black pepper and salt.

Bake it for about 8-14 minutes, tossing an ice cube into the oven about every 3 minutes to crisp and brown the crust. Pizza is done when crust is light to medium brown and kitchen smells unbearably delicious. Take pizza out of oven.

Sprinkle with basil. Serve and enjoy.

Canning Crushed Tomatoes

September 19, 2010

Ah, I love tomato season. It signals the end of summer, and the start of autumn–my very favorite season of all. I also love tomato season because I can get my canning into full gear! I have two friends who are canning fanatics, and we like to get together and preserve massive amounts of produce. Will likes to make fun of us for this, even though he reaps the benefits. I figured now would be a good time to take you through my favorite thing to can: Crushed Tomatoes.

The first rule of canning is that it is more enjoyable and faster to do it with other people. This is Katherine and Ruby. Canning is waaaay more fun with them (and with my friend Stephanie, who couldn’t make it because she had to teach a dance class). Check out Ruby’s knit leg warmers!

Next, buy a bunch of produce, preferably from a farmer’s market. I’m not above buying organic produce from the store to can, though. If you are like Katherine and me, you will buy 35lbs of tomatoes. We are enthusiastic canners.

Next, get the biggest pot you can find. Place a rack or a bunch of jar lids in the bottom of the pot (this will prevent the jars from clinking on the bottom of the pot and cracking). Plop as many jars as you can fit on one single level into the pot. Fill with water and start that pot boiling. This process is called sterilizing the jars. You only really need to sterilize jars by boiling them for 10 minutes, but if you have a giant pot, it will take a long time to get that water boiling. You might as well start early.

Next, prepare to blanch your tomatoes. Blanching will make the skin come off easily. Boil water in a pot, and fill a large bowl with ice water.  Work in batches. Blanch tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds-1 minute.

Submerge the tomatoes in the ice water.  Peel the skin off your tomatoes when they are cool enough to handle.

Cut out the center stem scar.

Squeeze out the seeds (this is seriously messy). Cut your tomato into quarters.

Place tomato pieces into a large pot. Smash them with a potato masher or with your hands. Keep adding your tomatoes until your pot is full. Cook the tomatoes on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is boiling.  Turn heat down. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. While this simmers, pull your jars out of the boiling water. Place 1 tablespoon store-bought lemon juice or white vinegar in the bottom of each jar. (Store-bought lemon juice standardizes acidity). This will assure the acidity of the tomatoes is high enough to keep them bacteria-free.

Next, heat your lids and rings in hot, but not boiling, water. Once your tomatoes have simmered, spoon the hot tomatoes into your jars. Having a funnel like this helps prevent you from getting tomato everywhere. Fill the jars up, leaving 1/2in-1/4in headspace.

Wipe the rims of your jars with a clean damp cloth. Place hot lids and rings on jars to close. Process (meaning boil) closed jars in a boiling water bath (with a rack or rings on the bottom of the pot) for 40 minutes. Take jars out of boiling water, let cool 12-24 hours. Check to make sure your jar has sealed. You can do this by pressing down on the lid. The lid should not pop when you press down on it. Store your delicious, home-canned crushed tomatoes in a cool, dry place.

Hungry for a pasta sauce recipe using your homemade, crushed tomatoes? My Grandma Rose’s Simple Pasta Sauce

More on canning: Canned Pears Poached in Wine

We got these yellow cherry tomatoes in our CSA last week.

Pretty cute, huh? They were so sweet, and deserved nothing less than a spectacular presentation. I figured there must be some way to take my very favorite savory tart dough, which I use (probably overuse, actually) for my weekly quiches. I found lots of recipes for simple cherry tomato tarts on pate brisee, but I thought any cherry tomato tart would be greatly improved by a great big gob (please click on the word gob) of goat cheese.

Which it was. NOMS. Making this tart also afforded me the opportunity to express my anal retentive artistic tendencies by arranging the tomatoes in a visually appealing but not obviously intentional pattern.

Well, this was just great. I mean, really great. My only regret is that I did not parbake (to pop it in the oven for just a couple minutes without any filling, then take it out of the oven, place the fillings in, and continue with baking) the crust. It was just a tad bit soggy and I think parkbaking for just 3 or 5 minutes would have crisped things up nicely.

I guess regret is a pretty mild term, in this case. How can you regret this, really?

More on cherry tomatoes: Sweet Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes

ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO AND GOAT CHEESE TART (adapted from Food & Wine’s Cherry Tomato Tart with Basil)

Serves 4-6 as a side or appetizer

Added note: I’ve made this many times now, and parkbaking for just 3-5 minutes before cooking crisps things up nicely. Also, I wanted to note that the goat cheese also prevents the crust from getting soggy. It forms a layer between the tomatoes and the crust that the juice released from baking can’t penetrate.

OLIVE OIL DOUGH  (adapted from Swiss Chard Pie from Everyday Food)

1.25 cups flour (I like to use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour)

1/4 cup cold water

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

TART

6 oz goat cheese

2 pints cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coarse ground salt & pepper

1/4 cup chopped basil

Recipe

First, take the goat cheese out of the refrigerator and leave it on the counter for an hour or two to get soft and pliable. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, make the olive oil dough. Stir all olive oil dough ingredients with a fork to combine, then turn out onto a work surface and knead one minute. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, toss the cherry tomatoes with EVOO and coarse ground salt and pepper.

Julienne the basil and set aside, for now.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or 9-inch pie dish with butter. Roll out the dough and place into tart pan. Crumble goat cheese evenly over dough surface. Arrange tomatoes in tart. Bake in oven 25-40 minutes until crust is brown and tomatoes are blistered. After baking, sprinkle with basil. Enjoy.

I’m back! First I was on vacation two weeks and then, oh and THEN Will and I got engaged! I’ve been sidetracked with the excitement of all that and have been horribly absent in my kitchen. Mostly, I’ve been making old standards if anything more than a sandwich! My time has been taken up by work and doing things like joining theknot.com and attempting to choose a color palette. But now I am back. Back in action. Attempting to become a good housefiancee. And, just in time, as our CSA starts this Wednesday!

I have a deep love for cherry tomatoes. My three favorite ways to eat them are a) straight up, possibly with a shake of salt.* b) roasted in the oven. and c) this way. A little balsamic, a little olive oil, a little honey, pine nuts, a little time in the pan. It’s so lovely, particularly with a red meat of some kind. I realized a bit too late that the warmth of the dish may have been a bit much for our steamy apartment, but it was still lovely. 

* Truth be told, straight up is my absolute favorite way to eat almost any kind of produce. I hardly ever make jam because boiling beautiful and fresh produce in a pot makes me die a little inside. Also because I hardly believe anyone can make a better jam than Bonne Maman. Seriously, that stuff is perfect. Of course I love a little variation now and then. This is an excellent variation.

SWEET BALSAMIC CHERRY TOMATOES (adapted from Gourmet Nutrition by Dr. John M Berardi, Michael Williams, & Kristina Andrew)

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 pinches salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Recipe

Preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add EVOO, vinegar, honey, tomatoes, pine nuts, salt and pepper and saute until tomatoes are hot to the touch. Remove tomatoes from pan, leaving the sauce and pine nuts. Continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken. Pour the sauce over the tomatoes.