Tag Archives: basil

Hold The Mayo!

When the weather starts to break in the spring, one of the things I crave is salads, and one of my favorites is potato salad. Although I was raised on a mayonnaise based potato salad, loaded with onions and hard-boil eggs, I enjoy making them with a slightly lighter hand. This however, does not mean bland. I want a salad with a punch. Bold Mediterranean flavors, like capers, olives, red onion and herbs guarantees flavor in every forkful . Eliminating the mayonnaise and replacing it with a good quality olive oil is key. I like to turn this into a meal salad by adding imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil. It adds additional bulk, plays well with the other ingredients and looks showy served on a bed of greens. This potato salad is best served warm or at room temperature. I also enjoy adding about 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes, when they are available in June. Not a tuna fan? Simply omit it. So simple to adjust it to your own taste preferences.

Don’t allow the potatoes to cool before tossing them with the dressing. This when they really absorb the flavor. Also, don’t skip the caper brine! It’s just not the same without it.

MEDITERRANEAN POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or red skinned potatoes (or a combination of both) cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup drained capers, plus 1 tablespoon caper brine
  • 1/2 cup sliced and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounce jar Italian olive oil-packed tuna (optional)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed Italian parsley or basil OR a combination of both, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, red wine vinegar and oregano, set aside. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water to about 1-inch above the potatoes, and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then turn down to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a potato meets no resistance.
  2. Drain the potatoes in a colander. To the large bowl, add capers, brine, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add hot potatoes and mix gently again. If using tuna, add next along with the parsley and basil. Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Serve warm on a platter lined with greens.

Yields: 4-6 servings

“Food is the ingredient that binds us together.”

The Reason For The Season

I know….another tomato post.  I’m slightly obsessed; this is what happens when you pull hundreds of pounds of them from the field several times a week.  In the summer I live for two things: garlic and tomatoes.  Focusing on my two loves helps me to deal with what I don’t love, which is the heat and humidity.  When I’m in my happy place (the kitchen) it makes it all worthwhile.

This particular dish, which ends up being two dishes in one; brings tears to my eyes the first time I make it each year.  I don’t think there is anything that compares to this simple sauce that can only be made when tomatoes are at their peak.  The reason it ends up being two dishes in one is I take a portion of it out and use it for a bruchetta topping.  I know that means tomatoes for the appetizer and tomatoes for dinner, but so far no one has ever complained.  Although it is slightly labor intensive, it is worth every delicious mouthful!

Start with about 30 dead-on ripe paste tomatoes.  This will serve 4 for dinner and enough bruchetta topping for a loaf of French bread.  Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients.  I literally have friends begging me to make it for them.  After all, it is the reason for the season!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 30 ripe paste tomatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled, separated and divided in half, grated on micro plane
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided (I use Maldon)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 16 ounces linguine, cooked to package directions
  • 2 cup grated pecorino cheese (optional)

ADDITIONS FOR BRUCHETTA:

  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 loaf fresh French bread (baguette)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place a large pot on high, 3/4 filled with water and bring to a boil.  With a sharp knife, cut an “X” on the top of each tomato, through the core.  Fill your kitchen sink with cold water.  Carefully place groups of 8 in the boiling water.  Set a timer for 3 minutes.  With a large slotted spoon, pull blanched tomatoes from boiling water and place in sink with cold water.  Repeat this process until you have blanched all your tomatoes.
  2. Assemble the following: large cutting board, paring knife, serrated knife, two large bowls.  Cut the top of a tomato about 1/2 inch from top and throw in your bowl of scraps.  Next with your paring knife, peel off the skin (it should come of with ease if your tomatoes were ripe).  With your serrated knife, cut the tomato in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds with your thumb and place it in the other bowl.  Repeat this process until you have peeled and seeded all your tomatoes over the bowl.  You will strain this later to collect your juice.
  3. Take each tomato half and chop it in small pieces.  Place pieces in large ceramic or pottery bowl.  I generally use 2/3 of tomatoes for sauce and the other 1/3 of the tomatoes for the bruchetta.  In a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, strain your tomato scraps through a wire mesh strainer.  This will give you approximately 1 cup of juice.
  4. To the large bowl add the following: 1 head of grated garlic, 1 tablespoon sea salt (do NOT be afraid of the salt), half of the basil, and 2/3 of your reserved juice.  Next start with 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil in your large bowl.  Stir gently but thoroughly.  You want it to be fairly soupy.  Add up to 1/4 cup more olive oil if needed.  Let macerate on your counter for at least 2 hours, up to 4 hours. DO NOT REFRIGERATE!
  5. Cook your linguine according to package directions and drain.  In a large pasta bowl, place the drained pasta and top it with the sauce.  Pass cheese.

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FOR BRUCHETTA:

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  1.  In your smaller bowl add the garlic, capers, olives, red onion, basil, salt and remaining reserved juice.  Pour approximately 1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil over tomatoes.  Stir gently but thoroughly.  Again you want it somewhat soupy.  The liquid will delightfully soak into your grilled bread slices.  Let this macerate on your counter for the same amount of time.
  2. Slice up your baguette in 1 inch pieces.  Heat a gas grill on high, then turn down to medium.  Place your slices on grill for about 3-5 minutes.  Turn over and grill the other side.  You are simply looking for some nice grill marks.  This can be done ahead of time.
  3. When you are ready to eat your bruchetta, top each piece with relish, making sure your are generous with the liquid.

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Serves 4

“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”  –Peter Pan

Lovin Spoonful

Boy, are we rocking the tomatoes.  We are in tomato nirvana!  BBLT’s, roasted tomato sauce, cherry tomato soup, tomato confit, caprese salad, uncooked tomato sauce, bruchetta and tomato risotto.  I wait for this time of our farm season and will eat, prep and can as many variations as I can imagine.  My time is limited but this is truly a labor of love.

Last Thursday evening was the tomato risotto.  For those of you who have followed this blog, you are aware of my roasted tomato sauce; which is a combination of all our varieties cut up and roughly seeded, mounded in a roasting pan with 2 heads of garlic, olive oil and salt.  This is roasted for 5-6 hours at 300 degrees.  Each hour I remove the macerated tomato stock with a ladle and can it for future use.  I use it in chilies, soups and risottos.  For those who don’t go through this approach, you can use tomato paste to intensify the chicken stock.  Either way, the result is luscious.   Cherry tomatoes add both sweetness and color.  Top with fresh basil and shaved pecorino and you have a show stopper.  There are two recipes each summer at peak tomato season that I am emotionally moved by when I make them; tomato risotto and uncooked tomato sauce.  It’s like eating the sun.

TOMATO RISOTTO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade) or 4 cups chicken stock mixed with  1 cup roasted tomato stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (I like Sweet 100’s)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (omit if using the tomato stock)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus 1/4 cup shaved for serving
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste if using, and cook stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes.  Add cherry tomatoes and cinnamon, and cook, stirring often, until some of the tomatoes start to burst, about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice, season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Ladle in 2 cups of stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8-10 minutes.  Ladle in another 2 cups of stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the stock is absorbed, 12-15 minutes.
  4. Add butter and grated pecorino, and remaining 1 cup of stock, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes.  Taste and season with additional salt if needed.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  5. Divide risotto among shallow bowls and top with chopped fresh basil leaves, additional olive oil and shavings of pecorino.

Serves 4

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“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”  –Laurie Colwin