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Posts tagged ‘summer tomatoes’

Indian Summer Tomatoes! (and what to do with them…)


I’m back.  Or at least I’m trying.  Life got in the way these past two months…though I can’t quite pin it down to one thing.  There were house guests, school starting again, typical work stresses, trying to actually have a vacation, last-minute chaperoning of an outdoor ed trip, and life in general.

As I was looking through all the photos that have accumulated over the last two months…a significant portion of the dishes include tomatoes.  Let’s review, shall we!

A lovely typical caprese with fresh tomatoes, basil from the garden, peppery and buttery olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper and of course fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!

Then there was the tomato and zucchini herb tart with gruyere…

We can’t forget the late summer farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes…

…and the burrata, oversized buttered croutons and herbed vinaigrette that took these tomatoes from summer treat to inspirational dish!

Although only garnished with tomatoes…this dish seemed to be in line with the others…

Zucchini, onion and pasilla pepper omelet with goat cheese and herbs!

I sit currently near an open window with blue skies and plenty of sunshine, which means is slightly hard to imagine that the rest of the country is slowly slipping past the height of fall and right into that season the follows autumn (and must not be named yet).  With a radio report of record October snows in the east…I promise, I’ll try to get my fall on out here in SoCal!  I feel the pull of seasons, but when it’s still 80° outside, it’s hard to consciously turn the oven on and roast things, or make soups, or even bake.  The nights are becoming increasingly cool…I even brought out a down comforter for the bed…as lows are in the high 40’s.  (don’t laugh)

I’ve got a few more posts to come and the motivation and inspiration to get back into the kitchen is creeping back!  How is your fall going?  Anybody else still enjoying the last few tomatoes of summer?

Summer Colds & T’mater’s


Summer colds.  I’ve got nothing good to say about them.

Let’s move on, shall we!?!  Let’s talk TOMATOES!

This is what is growing on my back patio as we speak…soaking in the sunshine and the heat of the day and always asking for a little more water at the end of the day with slightly droopy leaves.  Actually, the tomato plants look about how I feel after a full day of work…droopy, tired and like they could use a stiff cold drink!  Ha!

I can hardly contain my excitement for these guys as they’ve grown throughout the summer.  I look upon them lovingly and fiercely scold Cleo when I see her sniffing and about to mouth a delicious adolescent tomato who still needs a few more weeks on the vine to fulfill its full potential.

These are MY first tomato plants and about a week after planting them, I realized and remembered one of the great joys of summer.  The smell of tomato plants.  Not tomatoes.  The smell that is left on your hands after you reach in and fondle the branches for them to be supported by the tomato cage.  It is distinctly summer.  A smell not available at other times of the year.  A smell that cannot be recreated.  It takes me back to digging in the garden as a child and eating carrots straight from the ground, and learning about where food comes from.

Simple pleasures of summer!

What are your quintessential summer foods or smells?  What takes you back?

Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz


Summer tomatoes to good to cook call out for a gazpacho…especially this one made with fresh vegetables and puréed with a secret ingredient for creaminess.  Drizzled with a touch of sherry wine and olive oil…it lives up to the promise of being fresh, rich and satisfying.

Following the recipe, roughly chop the vegetables and salt them helping to bring out their moisture.

While the vegetables are getting to know each other, dice the remaining veggies into a brunoise…or small uniform cubes.

Salt these as well, mix together and then set in a colander over a bowl to allow the excess liquid to drain.

Don’t you dare throw out that liquid…now to use the secret ingredient…white bread.  Tear the white bread into chunks and let it soak up all of the vegetable sweat.

Toss the soaked bread in with the roughly chopped vegetables…mix it around…and now it is time to blend.

Use your blender to puree the mixture…make sure that you have as smooth a consistency as possible.  Most likely, you will need to do this in 2 or more batches.

The color is gorgeous and it smells amazing.  While the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil which will begin to emulsify the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids by pressing the mixture with a spatula or back of a ladle.

Add the sherry vinegar, minced herbs, season with salt and pepper and add in half of the small diced vegetables.

This is a soup that gets better the longer it sits…all the ingredients and flavors need a chance to marry and connect.  Overnight in the fridge is best, but a couple of hours will do.  Remember to salt and pepper the soup again when it is chilled to make sure the seasoning is correct.  The temperature of the food can greatly affect the seasoning.

If I were serving this in a restaurant, I would bring a bowl to the table with a small pile of diced veggies in the center and a small pitcher full of the soup, and a side plate of the various accoutrements.

Lade the soup around the vegetables.

Finish the soup with a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, and a few drops of sherry vinegar.

Voilá!

Serves 4 to 6.  From Cook’s Illustrated.

For ideal flavor, allow the gazpacho to sit in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Although we prefer to use kosher salt in this soup, half the amount of table salt can be used. Serve the soup with additional extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground black pepper, and diced vegetables for diners to season and garnish their own bowls as desired.

Ingredients

3 pounds (about 6 medium) ripe tomatoes , cored
1 small cucumber , peeled, halved, and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper , halved, cored and seeded
1 small red onion , peeled and halved
2 medium garlic cloves , peeled and quartered
1 small serrano chile , stemmed and halved lengthwise
Kosher salt (see note)
1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar , plus extra for serving (see note)
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley , chives, or basil leaves
Ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in large bowl. Add garlic, chile, and 1½ teaspoons salt; toss until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into ¼-inch dice; place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with ½ teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.
  3. Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be about ¼ cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.
  4. Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, using back of ladle or rubber spatula to press soup through strainer. Repeat with remaining vegetable-bread mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil.
  5. Stir vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours to chill completely and develop flavors. Serve, passing remaining diced vegetables, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and black pepper separately.

Dinner Last Week…Caprese and Sautéed Squash


Our first caprese of the summer…it’s the beginning.  The tomatoes still have a little way to go.  Ya know, before they are irresistible, and smell almost better than they taste…and you can’t help but think of 10 million different ideas of how to use them.  We bulked out the plate with some sautéed summer squash…also my favorite.  Slice thinly, add a little butter of olive oil into a hot pan, toss them in, brown them up and then add in just a bit of dill…or summer savory…or basil and oregano…or anything.

Eaten on the deck…it was a perfect summer dinner!

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