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Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

Hello out there!  Is anyone left?  I’m sorry.  I’m so, so, so, so sorry.  I realize that I officially take the prize for Worst Blogger Ever.  The truth is, I’ve had an incredibly hectic month – hubby and I are currently in the midst of a personal project which has taken on all the intensity of a hurricane, and what feels like the proportions of Ancient Rome.  We’re doing something completely necessary, yet completely crazy at the same time: we’re BUYING A HOUSE.  I know, right?!?!?!  We fell in love with a house back in October, made an offer, and have been in the process of buying it ever since.  If you know me in “real life,” you’ve probably heard the entire saga several times.  So I can now explain that, other than the week when hubby and I both fell sick within days of each other back in January, most of my blog disappearances have happened around the times when things were heating up in the house-buying process.  It’s been a long haul, but I finally feel that I can mention it on the blog, because our closing is in less than two weeks, our move is three days later, and we have boxes stacked up containing many (but not all – like I said, I’ve been busy) of our worldly possessions.  We received word that our sale was going through in late February, and since then it’s been a whirlwind of doing all of the things that you need to do in order to buy a house, plus numerous phone calls with our broker, discussing whether we want to sell or rent our condo.  And I’ve been dealing with the complete shock of realizing that I’m actually moving and I’m not going to be cooking in my condo kitchen anymore, which does make me sad.  Because I do love my condo, especially the kitchen.

Given all this, hubby and I decided to throw the condo a farewell party.  We had actually planned to have a party for no reason back in February, but Snowmageddon ruined our plans.  So we moved the party to early March, and it just happened to fall after we had tumbled head-first down the rabbit hole of house-buying.  I was exhausted from the whole process and making frequent panicked phone calls to my mom about how I wasn’t sure anymore if I wanted a house, like, ever… so I mostly opted for “easy,” and our friends liked it all just fine.  One of the most popular dishes at the party was a savory mini corn muffin, jazzed up with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese.  Mmmmm, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  So, in the hopes that you’ll forgive me… here ya go.

Sun-Dried Tomato-Parmesan Mini Corn Muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (approx.) chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 24-well mini muffin tin by spraying olive oil baking spray in each well.
  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Mix in milk, oil and egg, until just incorporated.  Stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese.
  • Using a teaspoon, portion batter evenly into muffin wells.  (You may have a little extra, depending on the size of the wells in your muffin tin.  I got about 6 extra mini muffins out of my emergency backup Bakers Secret mini muffin tin, but my muffin tins have small wells.)
  • Bake 20-25 minutes, until muffins are just golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Source: adapted from Quaker

I promise that I am going to try to be better about blogging during this moving process.  I have some photos banked from the past few weeks, and as soon as I remember what the recipes were, I’ll post them.  However, the next two weeks are going to be a little bit difficult.  Most of my cookbooks, and a fair amount of my bakeware, are already packed.  Hubby and I have enough left out that we won’t starve, but I’m not planning to do much creative baking or cooking until we get unpacked and settled and get our condo cleaned up and on the market.  Please bear with me, and I promise I’ll be back with tons of fun new recipes from my new kitchen-to-be!

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I think this just may be my new favorite spaghetti sauce.  It is simple to make, inexpensive, tangy from the olives and capers, with a subtly spicy kick from the red pepper flakes.  Making puttanesca sauce from scratch is barely more effort than opening a jar of Prego, but it’s much tastier – not to mention, you control the quality of the ingredients and there are far fewer preservatives.  Plus, saying “spaghetti alla puttanesca” is fun.  Now, who can argue with that?

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, medium-diced
kosher salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced anchovy
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup green olives, sliced (substitute black olives)*
1 tablespoon non-pareil capers, rinsed
whole wheat spaghetti

  • In a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering, then add diced onion and season generously with kosher salt.  Stir frequently until onion is slightly caramelized, 12-15 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovy, and stir until anchovy has melted and garlic is golden, about 1 minute.  (Your kitchen now smells amazing, by the way.)
  • Boil water for spaghetti – I prefer whole wheat – and prepare spaghetti according to the package directions.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, olives and capers.  Stir to combine all ingredients, then turn heat down and allow sauce to simmer while pasta finishes cooking.
  • Divide pasta into bowls and top with sauce.  Add a sprinkle of extra oregano if desired and serve.  Couldn’t be easier!

Yield: Serves 2 for dinner, with leftovers.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

*The original/traditional recipe calls for black olives, but I can’t stand them, so I substituted green.  Feel free to experiment with different olives, or go back to tradition if you actually like black olives.

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Baked Chicken and Tomatoes

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This is a wonderfully simple, flavorful dish, and a perfect way to showcase summer tomatoes.  Baked chicken is easy, but can sometimes dry out in the oven; not in this dish.  The chicken bakes under a smattering of cherry tomato halves, which give up their juice to keep the chicken most and tender.  When it’s done, simply scoop the chicken pieces out of the roasting pan, top with the wilted, spent tomatoes and serve it alongside a green salad.  An end-of-summer tray bake at its finest…

Baked Chicken and Tomatoes

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs, or skinless, bone-in breast halves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup flour
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture and set in 8-by-8 inch baking pan.  Nestle half of the cherry tomato halves around chicken pieces, and scatter the remaining half over the top.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.  (If you are using chicken breasts, be sure to watch the temperature closely.  The bone will help to keep them moist, as will the tomatoes, but it’s still very important that you are vigilant and don’t leave the chicken in the oven too long.  Chicken breasts can go from being moist and delicious to being tougher than an old shoe in the blink of an eye.)

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Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Covered In Flour.

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This dish encompasses some of my very favorite things: adorable pastina, chicken sausage, and peppers.  It’s also easy… ridiculously easy.  You just start browning the sausage at the same time as you put the orzo’s water on to boil, and by the time the orzo is done, you have your sauce ready to go.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that, and the flavors are unbelievable, with sweet, crisp-tender peppers, tart fresh cherry tomatoes, and spiced sausage bits in every bite.

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes

1/4 box orzo
1 package fresh sausage (I used garlic and tomato chicken sausage)
2 peppers, cut into strips
1/2 package cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
salt and pepper

  • Start water to boil for the orzo.  When water is boiling, season with kosher salt, add orzo and cook according to the package directions.
  • Meanwhile, begin browning the sausage in a nonstick pan.  If the sausage is still in its casing, squeeze it out so that it is in a mass in the pan.  Break it up with a wooden spoon and distribute it so it browns in small chunks.
  • While the sausage is browning, cut the peppers into strips and prepare the cherry tomatoes.  After the sausage has made some good progress, add the peppers and tomatoes and stir to distribute them.  Continue to cook the sausage, peppers and tomatoes together, keeping a careful eye on the orzo.
  • When the orzo finishes cooking, drain it and add it to the pan with the sausage and vegetables.  Mix together and serve.

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Yield: Serves two or three for a main course, four to six as a side.

Source: Adapted from Giada’s Kitchen, by Giada de Laurentiis

Note: The original recipe actually called for roasted red peppers in a jar, cut into strips.  This is usually a standard pantry item for me, so I didn’t even give it a second thought when I made my grocery list and it turned out that when I went to look for them in my pantry or fridge, I was out – who’d have thought?  Instead, I used sweet Hungarian peppers from my farmer’s market.  However, I think this recipe would work equally well with sauteed red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers, or with roasted red peppers from a jar.

Wine Pairing: Hubby and I are trying to work through the bulk of our wines these days, because we are preparing for a trip to Napa in about a week and a half, and we’re going to be bringing quite a bit home!  For this dinner, we poured Pinot Grigio from Doukenie Winery in Purcellville, Virginia.  Doukenie is our favorite winery in the region – we are actually members of the wine club there, which requires simply that we buy twelve bottles per year (easy; their wines are delicious).  Pinot Grigio is normally not my choice.  I once received a bottle as a gift and it had oxidized.  Ever since then, I have been turned off by Pinot Grigio and will almost always choose Sauvignon Blanc or a more obscure white instead.  But Doukenie’s PG is very nice, crisp and yet smooth, with mellow fruit aromas.  It’s making headway toward changing my mind about Pinot Grigio, and I think it worked well with this dish.  I’d also recommend a northern Italian white, or a lighter-bodied Italian red such as Barbera d’Asti.  If you substitute pork sausage for the chicken or turkey, you could pair it with Chianti and it would be delightful.  Enjoy!

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Greek Tomato Salad

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I found beautiful yellow and red cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and I was planning homemade pasta with a two-color fresh tomato sauce.  But tonight, hubby and I were finishing up the lentil soup and the meal needed something else to make it complete – a salad of some sort.  I thought of the cherry tomatoes in the fridge, checked the deli drawer and saw some traditional Greek feta in brine, and Greek Tomato Salad was born.  I’ve got to say, I am so glad this salad came into my life!  The tomatoes are sweet, the feta is salty and briney, and there’s a perfect herbal bite from the scallions and oregano.  I know I’ll be making this again and again.

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Greek Tomato Salad

1/2 pint red cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 block of Greek feta in brine
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 generous pinches of fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place in a bowl.  Medium-dice the feta and add to the bowl, along with the scallion and oregano.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything together.

Source: Covered In Flour

Yield: Serves 2

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Note: If you can’t find yellow tomatoes, feel free to substitute all red, or half orange – whatever you can find.  I think this salad would be really fun with some of the more interesting-looking heirloom tomatoes as well, and you don’t even need to do cherry tomatoes; you could thinly slice regular ones, dress with the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, and lay them out on a long platter with the feta crumbled over the top.  (Just don’t buy it pre-crumbled; you really should try the traditional feta in brine.  It’s a revelation.)  Go crazy!

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Organic French lentils, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and kombu – what’s not to love?  I made a pot of this soup before going to the spa on Sunday, and it was the perfect dinner to come home to – after treating myself to a lovely massage, I continued to treat myself to a delicious, healthy dinner.  Now that’s what I call pampering!

Lentil Vegetable Soup

1 quart organic chicken or vegetable stock
1 quart water
1/2 cup French lentils
2 strips kombu (sea vegetable, available in the Asian aisle of your market)
3 carrots, sliced in thin rounds
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1/2 teaspoon kelp granules (optional)
kosher salt and fresh pepper
pinch of cumin, oregano and thyme
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • Bring water and stock to a boil in a large stockpot.  Add lentils and kombu strips (break them in half before adding them, to make them easier to eat) and cook on a low boil for 45 minutes, until lentils have begun to soften.
  • Add vegetables and season with kelp granules, salt and pepper, dried herbs and spices, and continue to cook until lentils have completely softened and the carrots and zucchini are cooked through as well, about 10-15 more minutes.  Stir in crushed tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes or so to allow the flavors to combine.

Source: Adapted from Sara Snow

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Another weeknight wonder!  As much as I love to cook elaborate dinners and put together exciting menus, or learn new skills and try out new recipes… weeknights just don’t allow for that.  I get home at 7:00 and I’m starving, and I need something quick and easy.  Most nights, I’ve forgotten to take whatever I had planned on serving out of the freezer to defrost, too, so it helps to have a few vegetarian dishes or pantry stand-bys on the weekly menu.  This is one of the easiest, and one of the most flavorful.

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Pasta with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes

8 ounces pasta (in the shape of your choice)
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces sundried tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
splash of red wine (optional)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives

  • Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water, according to the directions on the package.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop approximately 4 ounces of sundried tomatoes.
  • When the pasta reaches al dente, drain it and put it back in the pot.  Add the sundried tomatoes.  Crumble in goat cheese and moisten with a little olive oil, add a splash of red wine (if desired), and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with chives and serve.

Yield: Serves 4.

Wine Pairing: Because the flavors of sundried tomatoes and goat cheese are quite robust, a somewhat fuller-bodied red wine can stand up to this dish.  Go for a Bordeaux blend or – if the budget allows – a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

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