Day 259–Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

20120918-125708.jpg

Okra, like eggplant, is the kind of vegetable that elicits strong reactions from people. I personally love it and I’m sad that we are at the end of okra season in NC. We eat it roasted, fried, sautéed, cooked in gumbo and stewed (my personal favorite). There is some special food magic that happens when you combine okra and tomatoes. Actually, there is some wonderful magic when you combine almost anything and tomatoes. And when you cook these two veggie BFFs slowly and stew them together with onions and garlic, oh my. I could eat that for lunch and dinner every day. I keep my okra whole for this–I don’t mind the slight slime factor with okra, but keeping it whole while you cook it does decrease that aspect. This dish is easy and very healthy. If you have some leftover okra and some extra tomatoes you’re not sure what to do with, try this!

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 quart okra (best if they are smallish), washed and stems trimmed
  • 3-4 large tomatoes (about 2 lbs.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to prevent over browning. Saute for 2-3 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.
  2. While onions are cooking, core tomatoes and chop each tomato into 4-6 even pieces.
  3. Add okra to the onions and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium and saute about 3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pan, turn the heat to medium low and cook about 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes have given up their juices and the mixture starts to thicken. The okra should be very soft. If not, continue cooking, adding small amounts of water if the mixture gets dry.
  5. Correct for seasoning and serve!
Advertisements

Day 255–Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup

I am, overall, not a fan of standard tomato ketchup. Tomatoes, I love. Ketchup? Not so much. It’s too sweet for me and tastes nothing like the juicy summer tomatoes I adore. I found this recipe for a roasted red pepper ketchup that is so far superior to store bought ketchup that it almost needs a new name. It is full of tomato flavor, but also spicy. I canned a bunch of it and we have used it on pork chops, beef, hamburgers and potatoes. It is awesome. Is it obsessive to make my own ketchup? Maybe. Will you become obessive after you try it? Most likely. Yes, it’s that good.

This recipe is derived from Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

Roasted Pepper Ketchup (about 4 cups)

  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • 2 pounds red bell peppers
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  1. Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl or clean sink.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the water, no more than 1 pound at a time, and return to a boil. Blanch for 1 minute.
  3. Scoop the tomatoes out of the water with a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice-water bath. Continue blanching the tomatoes in batches. Remove from the ice bath and drain. Peel, core, and crush the tomatoes.
  4. Heat a grill. Coat the red peppers lightly in olive oil and put on the grill on medium heat. Let peppers char and turn every few minutes so all the sides of the peppers are charred and blistered.
  5. Remove peppers from the grill and put in a large paper bag (a grocery bag works well). Close the top of the bag and let peppers sit for about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove peppers from the bag and let cool. Slip the skins off the peppers, remove the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.
  7. Combine the tomato pulp, peppers, onion, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and puree with a stick blender.
  8. Return the puree to the heat and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 2 hours.
  9. Remove from the heat.
  10. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or can using a boiling water bath.
  11. To can, ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark plance for up to 1 year.

Day 224–Healthy, Local Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant

I love eggplant, but I do realize that eggplant is one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. If picked too late, eggplant can be fibrous and bitter and let’s face it, no one likes that. One of the joys of fresh, local eggplant is that it is so far superior of grocery store eggplant, that it can make a convert out of a hater. I managed to sway Tom’s opinion with this recipe, but Ellie is still out. Our eggplants are in season now and so delicious!

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil. We have local mozzarella thanks to Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano. olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery of this summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish and Tom and I commented several times that it was hard to believe this was a meatless dish. Healthy and delicious. Win-win. Yum-yum!

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the backing sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Day 196–Grilled Wahoo with Local Tomato Sauce

English: Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes

When it comes to cooking fish, my repertoire is a bit limited. I can pan fry a mean cornmeal dusted catfish or flounder and I like to grill teriyaki tuna steaks, but otherwise, I have a bit of trouble with my creativity. I found some locally caught wahoo at Locals Seafood this weekend and thought I would give it a try.

This recipe from Bobby Flay seems like a terrific combination of summer flavors, most of which come from the farmer’s market or my garden! It has a salty, lemony, tomato sauce that reminds me so much of Italy. I would actually make this sauce just for pasta as well. The flavors go so well with the fish–it is really delicious!

We made just two wahoo fillets (the original recipe calls for 4), but we ate every bit of the sauce, so I would recommend making extra sauce if you are serving 4 steaks. The tomatoes and garlic came from our Produce Box this week and the herbs came from our garden! Tom has an olive aversion, so no olives for us, but they would add a nice flavor if you like them! I also added 1/2 of a chopped onion with the garlic and serving this with sauteed summer squash.

Grilled Wahoo with Tomato Sauce

  • 2 wahoo fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 anchovies in oil, patted dry and chopped
  • 1 pint local cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (we left these out)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tsp. chopped, fresh oregano
  • 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat the grill to high. Brush both sides of the fish with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill fish until slightly charred and almost cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  3. While fish is grilling, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies and tomatoes and cook until slightly soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the capers, olives, lemon juice and herbs and cook for about 30 seconds. Transfer the fish to the sauce and let cook for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer to a serving plate and serve!

Day 183–Making Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes

I came home from working an event on July 4th to find two lovely boxes of tomatoes on my doorstep, left by The Produce Box! The two, 10 pound boxes of field tomatoes are part of my next big challenge–making marinara sauce from scratch. If nothing, this make me more appreciative of all the mammas and nonas before me who made sauce with no air conditioning. As I type this, the sauce is simmering away (and will for another few hours) and my house smells AMAZING. In fact, I am starving and it’s only 10:00 in the morning–I’m sure this has much to do with the incredible aroma wafting through the house.

While making tomato sauce does take some work, much of the actual work is done on the stove while you can do other things around the house. The recipe I have called for blanching and peeling the tomatoes. I decided to skip that part and instead used a food mill to process the partially cooked tomatoes. MUCH faster and I didn’t add a lot of unnecessary heat to my kitchen. I’m keeping my sauce pretty simple. I’ve added some diced onion, minced garlic, and basil leaves, but that’s it. Since I don’t know how I’ll be using the sauce, I’m leaving any additional seasoning for when I open the jars to use them.

Here is the recipe I am using. There are so many tomato sauce recipes out there that you can find one to suit your preference fairly easily.

Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 20 lbs. tomatoes
  • 3 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice per quart jar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt per quart jar
  • 2 washed basil leaves per quart jar
  1. Wash, trim and quarter the tomatoes, making sure to cut off any bruised or damaged areas.
  2. Add about 1/4 of the tomatoes to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher to extract the juices.
  3. Continue adding the cut tomatoes to the pot in batches and continue mashing with the potato masher until all the tomatoes are in the pot (NOTE: at this point, I needed two stock pots because even my biggest one wouldn’t hold all the tomatoes. Later, as the tomatoes cooked down, I was able to get everything in one pot).
  4. Simmer the tomatoes for about 30 minutes. Let cool a bit and add the tomatoes in small batches to a food mill set with a fine mesh blade over a large bowl. Continue processing the tomatoes through the food mill to remove skins and seeds. You will need to empty the food mill several times (save the skins and seeds for compost!).
  5. Return the tomato juice and puree to the pot(s). Add the onion and garlic and let simmer over medium low heat for about 3 hours (this will depend on how much water your tomatoes contain).
  6. Prepare and sterilize quart sized canning jars (5-6). Add 3 Tbsp. of lemon juice, 2 basil leaves and 1 tsp. of kosher salt to each jar. Ladle the sauce into the hot jars, leaving 1/2 ” of headspace. Release any trapped air. Wipe the rims, place lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from the canner and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals. Store for up to 1 year.

Day 167–Pasta with Checca Sauce

July's Tomato Haul

Well, I have been out-of-pocket for almost a week! It has been a crazy/busy/stressful week, but I’m getting back on track again! So why not start over with tomatoes!

Tomatoes are one of my all time favorite foods and they are so amazingly good for us! When Ellie was a toddler, she would walk into the garden, pull raw tomatoes off the vines and eat them like apples. Sadly, not much chance of that anymore. Still, we tried a new recipe for pasta with a raw tomato basil sauce that seemed perfect for a warm, summer night. Tom and I thought it was great. Here is Ellie’s opinion. She felt strongly enough to type it herself:

it has way too much basil!

to me the dish had way too much of it. I am not normally picky about herbs because I dry them all the time, but it over powered the meal and it was gross! So for parents my suggestion is, don’t go overboard with the herbs.

So, with that in mind, here is my version of Pasta with Checca [pronouced KEE-kah] sauce. The original recipe is from Giada DeLaurentis’s book Everyday Italian:

Pasta with Checca Sauce

  • 4 ripe garden tomatoes, cut into fourths (the original calls for 12 oz. cherry tomatoes, which I did not have)
  • 2 small spring onions (white parts only)
  • 3 cloves organic garlic
  • 10 or so basil leaves
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5-6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
  1. Put a pot of water on the stove and heat to boiling (for pasta).
  2. Add onion, garlic, basil, parmesan and oil to a food processor and coarsely chop (do not puree).
  3. Add tomatoes to the processor and coarsely chop. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add mozzarella and stir.
  5. Pour sauce into a large bowl.
  6. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and reserve 1 c. pasta water.
  7. Add drained, hot pasta to the bowl with the sauce. stir to coat the pasta. Add pasta water if necessary to make a thicker sauce.
  8. Serve!

Day 48–Pasta Con Sarde

Sardines

I am still perplexed as to why Eat Italian Food Day is not Eat Italian Food Month, but whatevs. We are not beholden to whoever makes those decisions. So in open rebellion of the “food of the day” policy makers, here is another recipe that we will be making this weekend. It takes advantage of Italy’s coastal waters as well as its love of the tomato. I am planning to buy fresh pasta at the farmer’s market tomorrow and I’m excited about that, but when left to my own devices, I like whole wheat angel hair pasta for this dish. Pasta con sarde is high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids and relatively low in fat. Basically, this is a fast, healthy and very inexpensive dish that is perfect for weeknights when you really don’t feel like cooking.

What? You don’t like sardines? My suggestion would be to have an open mind and try sardines that are packaged boneless and skinless as they have a milder taste to them. Trader Joes carries these for about $2 a can. And indeed, this dish would be better with fresh sardines rather than canned, but until global warming really kicks in, I don’t know that sardines will be swimming off the shores of North Carolina. If you are (like my child) absolutely resolute in your dislike of sardines, you could use cooked salmon or tuna and you would need very little (6 oz), just increase the amount of olive oil you use or the sauce will be dry. This is a great dish for stretching out what you have. And who doesn’t want to do that these days?

  • 1 package whole wheat angel hair pasta (16 oz.)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 (4 oz) cans sardines packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (about 3-5 slices bread toasted and run through food processor)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced + 1 Tbsp. grated zest
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions for al dente pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 2 minutes until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in sardines with their olive oil and tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When sardines are heated through, add bread crumbs and stir. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
  6. Add drained pasta to the sauce in the skillet and combine. If the sauce is too dry, add pasta water 1/2 cup at a time until you get the consistency you like. The sauce should cling to the pasta.
  7. Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the pasta, stir and serve with parmesan cheese.

Buon appetito!

Day 45–Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Ricotta cheese.

In case you missed it, Monday was national Eat Italian Food Day. I have no idea why this isn’t an entire month–I know I could do it. In spite of the Americanized version of Italian food, which tends to be very heavy on the cheese and meat, most Italian food in Italy is locally-based, impossibly fresh and creatively resourceful. I know this because I once tried to eat my way across Tuscany (I am an expert–don’t try this at home).

So in honor of Meatless Monday and Eat Italian Food Day, we celebrated with a vegetarian pasta dish that is delicious, healthy and easy to make. This recipe is actually based on a dish made by The Cake Boss (go figure!) and its simple beauty comes from using whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables are available. Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural flavor and sweetness without any additives other than olive oil and salt. That is truly Italian cooking!

You can vary this dish throughout the seasons by using what is ripe and delicious at the time. You can also vary the pasta you use. I like orecchiete (little ears) pasta because it holds the sauce well. As a mom, I think this is one of those healthy, versatile recipes that could be a regular (and by changing it up, maybe no one will notice I am basically recycling the same dish). Score!

  • 1 lb. fresh pasta (we used orecchiete pasta)
  • 1 organic onion
  • 2 organic tomatoes
  • 2 c. organic broccoli florets
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3″ planks
  • 2 c. cubed organic butternut squash
  • 2 handfuls of kale (from our garden!) or other greens–arugula is good, too!
  • About 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (we used Hillsborough Cheese Co. garlic and chive ricotta)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Put a stock pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
  3. Cut all vegetables except kale into bite sized chunks and toss with olive oil and a little kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Chop kale into little bite sized pieces and reserve.
  5. Put all vegetables except kale in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add kale to pan during last 5 minutes.
  6. While vegetables roast, add pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente. When pasta is done, reserve 1 c. pasta water for sauce and drain pasta.
  7. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, kale, ricotta and pasta water and mix together. The cheese should melt and make a light sauce. The pasta water is essential and will thicken the sauce and help it stick to the pasta.
  8. Serve with pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan or whatever makes you happy!

Buon appetito!