Tag Archives: tomatoes

Jamming…

During this time of the year, preserving food is my passion. Personally, I am obsessed with tomatoes. When I find myself up to my armpits in these delightful orbs, I consider it my mission to put up the bounty in many variations. Soup, roasted sauce, whole pastes, confi, juice, Bloody Mary mix, chutney and jam line our pantry shelves. Tomatoes are so versatile. It’s a great way to experience summer in a jar all winter long.

In the past we have grown as many as 3,200 tomato plants. Val has always found it challenging to scale back the farm, but aging and this year’s Covid pandemic has forced us to cut back out of necessity. So we settled on 850 plants, hoping it was enough for our personal needs and sharing with friends who also preserve food during high season. Why I worried that it might not be enough was beyond me! We had enough and then some.

If you haven’t tried a savory jam before, this is the recipe for you. No far out ingredients, easy to make and delicious on roasted chicken or beef. You can also spread it on a wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes and you have a tasty and beautiful appetizer to spread on cracker or crusty bread. Or if you really want to push the envelope a little, my dear friend Dana suggests you slice sweet potatoes into disks, brush with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes; allow to cool. Place a small slice of Brie on each disk and top with tomato jam. One big mouthful of yum!!

TOMATO JAM

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 pounds paste tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (you can also try white wine or tarragon vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Toss tomatoes, sugar and salt together in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Let sit at least 30 minutes or up to overnight, tossing to coat periodically to dissolve sugar. (I let it macerate overnight, to release as much juice as possible.)
  2. Add the vinegar to the tomatoes, and bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme leaves.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook the jam. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stir the jam occasionally, then more frequently as the jam starts to thicken. Do this until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have begun to break down, and the mixture resembles a very thick, shiny tomato sauce, 45-60 minutes. It’s important at this stage to keep stirring constantly along the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching and sticking.
  4. To test for thickness, spoon a bit of jam onto a chilled plate, return it to the refrigerator and chill for 2 minutes. Drag your finger through it. It should hold its shape on either side without appearing watery or runny. If not continue cooking jam and check every 10 minutes.
  5. It this point you can water bath can in 1/2 pint or 1/4 pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space for 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Yield: 4 half pints

“Autumn….make a double demand. It asks that we prepare for the future–that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go–to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.”

—Jean Abernethy

Roasted Sweetness

It’s been quite a week. I’ve roasted and canned 15 pints of cherry tomato soup, along with roasted sauce and whole paste tomatoes. I absolutely love putting up food and canning. It is peaceful and steady work. As I fill up our larder we consider ourselves fortunate to grow the food we will enjoy this winter. Every time I can or freeze something I reduce the times I need to leave the farm. As we all know Covid-19 is alive and well. We really don’t know what the future holds. Staying fluid and flexible is the order of the day. So putting up food seems like a practical way to prepare for the very real possibility of staying home for much of the winter months.

The idea of being home this winter is actually something that feels welcoming. After we put the farm to bed for the season, winter is the time that our home truly becomes of haven. We read, we dream, play board games, cook, bake and of course talk. Enjoying each other never gets old, even though we are together pretty much 24/7. It used to surprise me, but now I’m just plain grateful. If there’s an upside to Covid, it’s slowing down and taking the time to decide what is important to us. I have begun to realize that those of us who feel satisfied with the simple joys of life do a little better with isolation. After several years of health trauma and loss, simple feels good.

This week I’m offering up Tomato Conserva and a wonderful recipe Spaghetti with Tomato Conserva, Pancetta and Pecorino, from my cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat. The Italians look upon conserva in several ways. To ‘store’ to ‘save’ to ‘keep’; preserving the harvest in some way, be it sweet or savory. Sweet conserva’s might look like jam, marmalade or preserves; savory might look like roasting, dehydrating, freezing or canning. When paste tomatoes are in abundance, my favorite conserva is roasting slices of these meaty vegetables low and slow. Thick slices of plum tomatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and flake salt (I use Maldon), result in something altogether different; rich, meaty and marvelous. Think pasta, sandwiches, salad or pizza.

Thick slices of paste tomatoes ready for roasting.
Six hours later.

TOMATO CONSERVA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 pounds of plum/paste tomatoes (I found that for 2 large rimmed baking sheets you need 24 tomatoes).
  • 4 cloves of garlic for each sheet, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or Maldon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Slice each paste tomato into 1/2 inch slices (you will get 3 slices per tomato and 35 slices per sheet). Place slices next to each other on baking sheets. Drizzle olive oil over slices, then sprinkle with flaked salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place the baking sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 225 degrees F. Slowly roast, switching the trays from upper to lower each hour, until the tomatoes look like juicy sun-dried tomatoes; wrinkly and slightly browned in spots, 5-6 hours.
  4. Let the tomatoes cool for at least 10 minutes before using or serving. I use one whole sheet for the following recipe. The additional sheet will fill 3 half pint mason jars. Drizzle some additional olive oil over them for freezing, about 3 tablespoons. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for 2-4 months.
2 cups (one sheet) of slow roasted paste tomatoes

SPAGHETTI WITH TOMATO CONSERVA, PANCETTA AND PECORINO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, pre-chopped
  • 2 cups tomato conserva, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces finely grated pecorino cheese (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry toasted fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
The conserva sauce coming together.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of hot pasta water and drain the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato conserva, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and toss to combine. Add the drained pasta and cook, tossing until heated through about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oik, and 1/2 the pecorino and parsley. Toss, adding more pasta water, if needed, to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of reserved pecorino. Serve in shallow bowls topping with toasted breadcrumbs if using.

Serves 4-6

“Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” —Sheila Grahm

Never Enough

The memories that mark time seem to speed up as we age. Nine years ago in 2011, when our tomato production for market was at its height, we were faced with a dilemma; what do we do with all the imperfect tomatoes we could not sell at market? Val was sick of dividing them between our chickens and our compost pile. I remember her telling me, “Figure it out!” So figure it out I did and created our delicious roasted tomato sauce. This is one recipe that went into both of my cookbooks. I give it out dozens of times at market each season. In the winter, when you go into your pantry and open a quart of this luscious stuff, you smell the sun. I put up about 28 quarts of this per year, as there are uses galore.

Why do we literally swoon over this stuff? I have never tasted a commercial product that compares to it. I use six different heirloom varieties that have different colors and flavor profiles, lots of fresh garlic, olive oil and Maldon salt. The result is something not only delicious, but a sauce you will feel proud to serve your family and company. Every two hours I ladle out the liquid that is released from the tomatoes and can this as well; adding it to risottos and soups making it a win, win! You can either water bath can it for 15 minutes or freeze it for later use. Depending on the volume of tomatoes you roast will determine the length of you roasting time. You want a thick concentrated sauce as your end result.

There are things I have learned along the way about this sauce. When removing the liquid for later use, be sure you strain it through a small mesh colander to remove unwanted seeds. Also, many people don’t mind the rustic quality of the finished sauce. However, I choose to put it in my Vita-mix blender for a few minutes before heating or adding to your recipes. You will end up with a velvety sauce that has a stunning orange-red color which I find much more pleasing to the eye and the palate. You’re welcome!

BRICKYARD FARMS ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

  • A minimum of 20-30 pounds of tomatoes (I recommend a half bushel), consider a mix of many different varieties. This will add depth to your sauce.
  • 1-2 heads Brickyard Farms garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (although I highly recommend Maldon)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. You will want to set up a “station” of sorts: sharp knife, cutting board, large stainless steel bowl, and your roasting pan.  This is when I say many hands make light work. Val and I can prep one 1/2 bushel in about 40 minutes.
  2. Next slice your tomato crosswise deep enough to eliminate the core in one step. Next hold trimmed tomato in your hand over the bowl and twist gently to remove some of the seeds.  No need to be perfect; the idea is to reduce some of the liquid. Next cut the tomato in half from top to bottom, then each half in quarters or sixths, depending on the size of your tomato.  Repeat this process until your roasting pan is heaping with tomatoes (don’t worry they will cook down considerably).
  3. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Sprinkle your garlic slices and salt over the tomatoes; pour olive oil over tomatoes. Stir gently to combine.
  4. Set your timer for one hour.  Remove roasting pan from oven and with a soup ladle, press down gently so that the juices fill you ladle.  Each time you have 4 cups, strain and fill a quart canning jar until full, leaving 1 inch head space. This juice is gold. I use it for risottos, soups, chili and stews; it’s filled with tomato and garlic flavors.  Return your roasting pan to the oven and set timer for another hour. Repeat. You will do this until the tomatoes have reduced and there is about a quart of juice left in the pan.  At this point it should be pretty thick. This should take roughly 3-4 hours (don’t be concerned if it takes a little longer).
  5. When your sauce in finished, fill quart canning jars leaving 1 inch head space. You now can choose to freeze the jars or water bath can them for 15 minutes.  When ready to use, either thaw frozen jars or open canned jars and place in a blender. Blend for about 2 minutes, or until all the skins and seeds are incorporated into the sauce.  Use in your favorite recipe.

Yields: 4-6 quarts sauce, 2-3 quarts stock

ROASTED TOMATO VODKA SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart roasted tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin vertically
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vodka, (additional for sous chef)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces dried pasta of your choice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place your quart of sauce in a blender and puree for about 2 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Place olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes, stir to combine and cook for additional 3 minutes.
  5. Add vodka and reduce by half.
  6. Add blended roasted tomato sauce and simmer until hot, about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Stir in heavy cream. Place drained pasta in decorative bowl. Top with sauce and toss gently to combine.

Serves 4

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“There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and a homegrown tomato!”

The Best of Both Worlds

Now that our shelter in place order has been extended to May 15th, we are all seeking comfort through various ways. For me, cooking and food are my go to sources for calming myself. It is gradually getting warmer, we are planting in our greenhouse, the garlic is growing, and my daffodils are blooming.

These days, when I ponder what to make, it comes from a place of what is available? It becomes a combination of home-canning, frozen, fresh and pantry staples. I must say that when you put a little thought into it, you will be surprised at what you can come up with to warm the belly. This time it was a fusion of both Greek and Italian cuisines that worked quite well together. I love to make spanakopita, but was out of phyllo dough, I had my quarts of roasted tomato sauce and uncooked lasagna sheets. Then it hit me, why not combine the spanakopita in a lasagna? Bingo, the best of both worlds. It gave us a couple days of comfort food.

SPANAKOPITA LASAGNA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 sheets of oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounce bag of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained in a wire strainer
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 green onions, using both white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 10 ounces crumbled feta
  • 16 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 quart of roasted tomato sauce (or equivalent of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 ceramic pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place the drained spinach in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the remaining water. Place spinach in a large bowl.
  3. Add lemon zest, dill, green onions, garlic, eggs, feta and goat cheese. Mix gently but thoroughly until combined.
  4. In a bowl, combine your pasta sauce with the two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Place a ladle full of pasta sauce in bottom of baking dish, and evenly spread it. Place three oven-ready lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Spoon 1/2 cup of filling on each sheet and distribute evenly. Top with three more lasagna sheets, repeat with filling. Repeat one more time. You should have 3 layers of spinach mixture.
  5. On the top of the final lasagna sheets, pour an equal amount of pasta sauce over the 3 groups of layered sheets. Top with mozzarella. Cover with foil and place in pre-heated oven. Bake covered for 25 minutes; uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and sauce is bubbling.
  6. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Serves 6

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“A good cook works by the fire of imagination not merely by the fire in the stove.”

Robert Coffin

Roll On!

Involtini is an Italian word for various small bites of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filing.  It can be made with a wrapeer of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, with fillings like cheese, vegetables, cured meats, and nuts.  In this case the wrapper is zucchini and the filling is ricotta, pesto, and fontina.

For me, the definition of comfort food is smelling something luscious coming together in the kitchen.  Since I consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, I love making dishes that catch people’s attention when they come in from outside.  This dish packs a flavor punch, yet won’t weight you down.  I make it with my homemade roasted tomato sauce, but you can easily substitute canned crushed tomatoes.  If you can, try to find locally raised grass-fed lamb; it’s leaner and more flavorful.  This dish can be made ahead up to 12 hours and reheated.  It can also be doubled for a crowd.  Serve with a simple salad tossed with vinaigrette and you’re in business.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI INVOLTINI

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (slightly more if you enjoy more heat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2  cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil, ribboned for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or dish of similar size.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage or ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Reduce the heat to low, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, along with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, using mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide strips and lay them flat on a paper towel lined counter.  You should have about 30 strips.  Sprinkle the zucchini with salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and 1/2 cup pesto.
  5. To assemble, spoon the tomato meat sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Place two zucchini ribbons on cutting board side by side, and slightly overlapping lengthwise.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the zucchini.  Roll into a coil and place each seam-side down in the dish as you go.  Repeat with remaining zucchini.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.  Remove foil and broil for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown.  Cook 5 minutes and top with ribboned basil and thyme leaves.

Serves 6

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“If you cook Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”  –Martin Scorsese

Anyway You Slice It

I absolutely love Mediterranean food.  No matter if it’s from Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Spain or France, I love it all.  Fresh vegetables, legumes, olives, olive oil, cheese and an array of spices make for endless savory meals.  I find that if something you eat is truly satisfying and delicious, you eat less not more.  This Middle Eastern Tart can be served as an appetizer or entree, depending on whether or not you use both sheets of puff pastry, and how many you are serving.  Served with a salad, it is easily a complete meal.  It comes together pretty quickly and is showy enough for company.  The first time I made it there was left-over filling, which I stuffed into peppers and baked the next day.

MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB TART

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 or 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choppped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked chick peas (I use canned and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout (page    , or alternatively 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a saute pan over medium heat add olive oil, onion and garlic until soft, about 3-4 minutes.  Add ground lamb, breaking up the lamb with a spoon and brown, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and spices.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (two baking sheets if using both puff pastry sheets).  Roll out slightly, then make a one-inch rimmed line on the inside edges with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.  Prick the dough with fork all over in center area.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and spoon mixture evenly in the center of each pastry sheet.  Top with feta cheese, brush pastry edges with beaten egg (optional) and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until puffed and edges are golden brown.
  4. Top with chopped parsley and cut into desired portions; 4, 6 or multiple if serving as appetizer.  Serve.

Serves 2-4 as entree

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“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” –Harriet von Horne.

 

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

Once in a while I like to re-post a blog that seems particularly timely.  This originated back in 2011.  We currently have in our possession a large head of cabbage that was begging to be used in something tasty.  This is it.

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote

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

Cherry….Cherry Baby!

Here at the farm, we try to use whatever the land serves up; whether perfect, imperfect or abundance overload.  As we wait somewhat impatiently for our summer slicing tomatoes, we are totally excited that our cherry tomatoes are producing their delicious little orbs.  When they come on strong, as they are now, we take tons to market; but the real excitement is when I start roasting them for cherry tomato soup!  I love to stock the larder each year, and this is often where I start.  Using Sun Gold and Sweet 100’s separately or combined will offer up some of the best tomato soup you have ever tasted, and it uses only 4 ingredients! As a farmer I will have to say that the variety of cherry tomatoes does matter.  Taste your produce before purchasing to make sure yours are sweet and flavorful.  For those of you not inclined to can your produce, this soup freezes well in pint containers.  I roast two large sheet pans at a time, which will yield 5 pints of soup.  This is also when you can use your frozen roasted garlic cubes (from a previous blog post) adding it to your blender for additional depth.

When the weather gets cold (and it will get cold!) it is a real pleasure to open up a pint of this soup; top it with homemade croutons or basil oil as a starter.  And of coarse you will never go wrong with a white cheddar grilled cheese sandwich to dunk in a steaming bowl of this deliciousness for lunch!

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ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes (a pint is a pound the world round)
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and divided (skip this step if using your frozen roasted garlic cubes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (I use Maldon), divided

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Using two large rimmed baking sheets, place 4 pounds of cherry tomatoes in each one.  Sprinkle one peeled and separated head of garlic on each sheet pan.
  2. Sprinkle 1/4 cup olive oil over each pan and with the palms of your hands, roll the tomatoes around until they are all evenly coated with oil.
  3. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over each sheet pan.
  4. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly colored and bursting; turning sheets from top to bottom halfway through.  Remove from oven and let cool.
  5. Prepare 5 pints for canning or freezing.  If you have a Vita Mix use it.  I can usually get one sheet pan per blender batch.  If you are using your frozen roasted garlic cubes, add one cube per batch.  Blend thoroughly and taste for salt.  Add more if needed.  In a large bowl with a wire mesh strainer over it; pour half the tomato mixture into the strainer and scrape a silicone spatula over the bottom to remove  skin and/or seeds.  (you can skip this step if the seeds don’t bother you; I like my soup with a silky texture)  Pour into pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headroom or freezer containers leaving 1 inch headroom.  Repeat process with second sheet pan.
  6. Water bath pints for 15 minutes or freeze.

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Yields: 5 pints

“There is nothing that tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich can’t fix!”

 

COMFORT IN A PAN

Surprise, I’m posting again! I apologize for my hiatus; 2018 turned into the most difficult year of my life.  Thankfully, we survived and are better for it.  We treasure each day and are moving forward with renewed purpose and gratitude.  So far  winter has given us daily  options to grapple with, from freezing rain and ice, to wind, and drifting feet of snow.  This has not been a  problem, as it gives us ample reasons to stay home and do what we enjoy:  cooking, reading, writing and playing games (we love cribbage and dominoes); not to mention working steadily on soap production for the next market season.  The good news is I’m making significant headway on my next cookbook: Twisted Basics: Rethinking Food.

While during some research I came across a staggering statistic: 70% of Americans don’t cook.  That’s right.  Most Americans eat out at least 4 times a week.  We heat up, microwave or assemble food; but cooking from scratch is becoming something of a novelty.  I asked myself, “are we really that busy?”  I couldn’t imagine not cooking regularly.  For me, it’s my most sincere expression of love.  I also started wondering if people understood what they were missing.  The kitchen has always been the heart of the home; a place where intimacy takes place, both in the preparation of food and the sharing of it around our table.  As I was contemplating this, I felt as though we’ve been sold a collective bill of goods.  As we scramble to meet our financial needs, we are forgetting some of the fundamental, simple pleasures of life:  cooking fresh food, with love, for our friends and family.  Isn’t it time we break bread together?

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Vegetable Lasagna:

  • 1 quart pasta sauce (Full disclosure:  During tomato time on the farm, I can dozens of quarts of roasted tomato sauce.  I have never tasted a deeper, more intense sauce that literally screams of summer.  The method for this will be in the new cookbook, and it’s way easier than it sounds!)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on coarse setting of box grater
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded on coarse setting of box grater
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen spinach, (if fresh, wilt in large skillet with 1/4 cup water) either way, make sure you place it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out all excess moisture
  • 1 container (16 ounces) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan or pecorino, finely shredded
  • 1 farm-fresh egg
  • 1 12 ounce package sliced provolone
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles

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DIRECTIONS:

  1.  In medium bowl, combine the ricotta, pecorino, thyme and egg.
  2.  Place 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9 deep-dish lasagna pan; position 3 no-bake lasagna sheets evenly spaced.  Spread ricotta mixture on top on each section.  Then top each ricotta  section with zucchini and carrot mixture; followed with one slice of provolone, cut in half for each section.
  3. Next, top each section with a no-bake lasagna sheet, 1/4  cup of sauce per sheet and repeat with ricotta mixture.  Then top with chopped and drained spinach on each section, two 1/2 slices of provolone, and continue with lasagna sheets for each section.  Sauce again, ricotta, zucchini and carrot mixture, provolone cheese and lasagna sheets.
  4. Sauce again, then sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top.  Cover with foil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 30 minutes covered; 30 minutes uncovered.  Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into six servings.

Serves 6

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“Italian food is all about ingredients, it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.”

                                  —- Wolfgang Puck