Category Archives: tomatoes

Requiem for Spring

arugula

arugula sprouts, basil and chives

This is my first post to this blog in about a year. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. 2010 has been quite the year.  Lots of transitions at work, side projects etc. Winter has finally come to NYC. Last night I was out with Mark and Nikki to see a movie and the 2 block walk to their car was a brutal 29 degrees. It has me longing for spring and relaxing on my balcony in the sun. I’ve been going through my archives of photos – many many more blog posts to come – and I found these shots of my garden. This year I went all out and planted tomatoes, a large box of arugula, several types of herbs and my ever loyal lemon tree. Miraculously everything turned out great. Though the tomatoes don’t look like much, there were delicious. The arugula was the standout star and produced several amazing salads. Even though its freezing out, the chives are still growing and flavoring my dishes.

tomatoes

yellow plum tomatoes grown on my balcony


lemon tree

budding lemons

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Goat Cheese Tart

Goat cheese was on sale at the grocery store. But it sat in my fridge for a while before I had time to make something. When I learned that it was going to be Joncy’s last week working the bar at Blue Ribbon, I made this quick easy tart and ended up with two wedding proposals out of the Blue Ribbon staff.

Crust:
3/4 cups flour
1/2 stick of butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons sugar
1/8 cup water

In a large metal bowl, mix all ingredients, except the water, with a fork or pastry cutter. The goal is to incorporate the butter until it is the texture of course meal. Slowly sprinkle in the water and quickly mix. Making sure not to put in too much water, briefly kneed the pastry so that it forms a cohesive ball. Roll out the dough on a well flouered surface. And place inside a large tart pan.

Filling:
2 onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
7-8 oz log of goat cheese
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and cook until they brown and caramelize. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the onion into the bottom of the pastry. Crumble the goat cheese over the onions. Arrange the tomatoes over top of the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper and the Italian seasoning. Sprinkle the tart with parmesan and place in the oven. Bake until the tomatoes start to wilt and the parmesan and crust is golden brown.

Squidy Goodness

Squid is one of my favorite foods. However, I try to order it for takeout in my hood and it is always sub par. I ordered this once from the Italian takeout joint around the corner and it was so lack luster that I had to make it better myself.

Sautéed Calamari

5 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 pound squid, cut into rings
10 black olives, chopped
½ lemon

Heat the bacon in a large skillet on medium high eat. Sautee until its crispy and golden brown. Drain off most of the fat and add the onions and garlic. Keep stirring and cooking until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the tomatoes, seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes turn into a sauce. Add the squid and olives and keep cooking, for about 5 minutes, until the squid looks done. Squeeze the lemon over the squid and serve.

Suburban Farming

I was just in DC to visit my family and excited to raid my mom’s garden. Every summer their suburban yard transforms into a farm. They grow tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions, herbs, strawberries, lettuce and whatever else meats their fancy. I took home a horde of tomatoes and zucchini and had no idea what to do with them. So I made strata. It is very similar to lasagna, but instead of using noodles, you use slices of zucchini.

Italian Zucchini Strata

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 links of fresh sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
4 links of fresh hot Italian sausage, casing removed
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
9 tomatoes
15 ounces ricotta
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Sautee until they are soft and translucent. Add the sausages and Italian seasoning. Break up the sausage with the back of your wooden spoon. Chop 4 of the tomatoes and add to the sausage. Stir and cook to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Using a mandolin or really good knife skills, slice the zucchini lengthwise to make thin flat strips.

To assemble the strata, put down a layer of the tomato sausage mixture. Layer with the zucchini, making sure that the zucchini fits together tight and there is no sausage exposed. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Then spread half of the ricotta over the zucchini and then cover with the sausage and repeat the layering process.

Slice the remaining tomatoes and place them in one layer on top of the last layer of sausage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with the mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for an hour until it is cooked through and the cheese is golden brown.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Being very careful, tip the lasagna over the sink and drain out all of the excess fat and liquid from the zucchini. Cut into squares and serve.

Eating Whole Lemons

I was watching the food network and saw Tyler Florence make a similar chicken cacciatore. I was intrigued by his use of lemons in the sauce. They are an amazing addition. After reducing the sauce you don’t see the lemons anymore, however they surprise your mouth and create a fresh burst of flavor in every bight. Serve this with fresh Parmesan shavings over mashed potatoes or polenta.

Chicken Cacciatore

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper
garlic powder
flour
oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
16 oz crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
parsley
3 anchovies
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut the chicken into thin cutlets. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Lightly dust the chicken with the flour so that it is all just coated. Knock off the excess. In a large non-stick pot, heat a layer of oil on medium high heat. Fry the chicken in batches so that it is brown on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and wet aside.

Sautee the onion and garlic in the same pan and oil. Once the onions are browned and soft add in rest of the ingredients and stir. Simmer the sauce for at least one hour till it is reduced. When the sauce is a thick consistency and has a rich flavor, add back in the chicken and cook thoroughly.

Think Local, Buy Local

I decided to have some school friends over for dinner on Saturday night. I still have a ton of that Parmigiano cheese left so this was the perfect dish to top with curles of Parmigiano. Also I wanted to go to the local butcher and cheese maker because it is fun to shop locally and it is better for the environment.

Veal Milanesas with Polenta

1 pint grape tomatoes
handful of fresh parsley leaves
oil and balsamic vinegar
baby arugula
1 quart fat free milk
2 cups water
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
3 cups instant polenta
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 bunch fresh parsley, minced and divided
8 veal cutlets, pounded thin
salt and pepper
garlic powder
flour
1 egg
water
Italian style breadcrumbs
Grated Parmesan
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese curls
Lemon wedges

Cut the grape tomatoes in quarters and mix them with the parsley leaves and oil and vinegar dressing. Season as necessary. Wash the arugula and set aside to dry.

Start the polenta. In a large stockpot, heat the milk, water, garlic power and salt and pepper. Once the milk mixture is scalding but not boiling, add in the polenta grains. With a large whisk, on medium, continue stirring till the polenta is thick and fully cooked. If the polenta is too thick add a bit more water. Cover and set aside till after the veal is cooked.

Season the veal cutlets with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Set up a dredging station. In the first bowl put the flower, in the second bowl make an egg wash with the egg and water and in the third bowl mix the bread crumbs, grated Parmesan and half of the minced parsley.

Heat half olive oil and canola oil on medium high in a large frying pan. Put in enough oil so that it will come up to half of the cutlet height.

Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter. After dipping the veal into the flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs, on each side, lay them in a single layer on the paper. Once the oil is heated, fry the veal 2 to 3 at a time. After it is brown on each side flip it over and brown the other side. Drain the cutlets on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt.

While the last cutlets are frying, reheat the polenta, adding water as necessary to achieve a thick consistency. Add in the grated Parmesan cheese and the rest of the parsley.

To serve, place a mound of polenta in the corner of the plate. Lean two cutlets up against the polenta. Toss the tomatoes with the arugula and place a large mound over the cutlets. Sprinkle with the Parmesan curls and sprinkle with a tiny bit of lemon.

Berries with Mascarpone Cream and Balsamic Sauce

1 pint Strawberries
½ pint blueberries
½ pint black berries
4 chewy lime butter cookies
1 small container mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
Balsamic Vinegar

To reduce the balsamic vinegar, heat on medium high until it gets thicker and sweeter. (This can be easy to burn and will make your house stink, so I like to buy reduced balsamic vinegar sauce from WholeFoods, to make my life easier.)

Wash and dry all of the berries. Quarter the strawberries and set aside.

Mix the cheese, honey and salt to form a sweet cream.

To plate the desert, place a cookie each plate and divide the cheese between the four plates. Pile the plate with the betties and drizzle the balsamic sauce over to for a pretty pattern. Use the Balsamic sparingly.