Tag Archives: Tomato

Pressure cooker tomato sauce

Hello, I’m back! I took another little break from blogging, since life doesn’t seem to slow down these days. In the space of about six months, between the two of us, Sam and I have tackled new health issues, avalanches of work, and some pretty heavy family stuff. Oh, and there’s that wedding we’re planning. (60 days to go. Holy mackerel.)

I may write more about all this at some point–we’re still in the thick of it now. But in the meantime, I have a recipe to share. It combines two things that have recently shaken up how I cook and eat–for better and for worse.

First, the fun one. I have officially become an Instant Pot fanatic. We bought the six-quart model on Black Friday sale, and it’s now a fixture on our kitchen counter. Having an electric pressure cooker has converted me to the religion of the set-it-and-forget-it meal. I can toss a mishmash of ingredients in the Instant Pot, seal it up, and go back about my business. In an hour or so–less if I’m in a hurry, more if I’m not–there’s a piping-hot meal waiting for guests, or a batch of something versatile to portion and freeze.

I love this thing so much. So far I’ve used it for soup, stew, chili, rice, pasta sauce, two or three kinds of broth, and I don’t even know what else. Pressure cookers can safely cook meat even if it’s frozen solid, so I can pull a pack of chicken thighs out of the freezer at 6 PM and be eating them by 7 PM. And for hard-boiled eggs, this machine is basically unbeatable. (My new egg-boiling method, after much experimenting: 1 cup of water, steamer basket, 4 minutes at low pressure, 5 minutes natural release, ice bath. Easiest-peeling, creamiest-yolked eggs I’ve ever had.)

instant pot

Instant Pot, hard at work on my (messy) kitchen counter

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Veracruz-style red snapper

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been doing exciting, productive things in my spare time. But that’s really not it. If I’m being totally honest, it’s because I made this recipe months ago, and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. But I’ve been hesitant to show it off, because the only photo I have of it is terrible. (Ed: Photo replaced with a better one.)

This is one of the things that frustrates me most about food blogs. Everything’s got to be gorgeously plated and naturally lit. Everything’s got to look mouthwatering, no matter whether or not it actually is. Even if you’re just snapping a photo with your iPhone while your hungry family waits out of frame, it’s got to be magazine-worthy (or just a Photoshop revamp away). Gluten-Free Girl had a glorious “Fuck Pinterest” post up a while back, which I’m unable to find now, but which laid out the pressure of the perfect photograph so beautifully. It’s not really about the recipes anymore, but about how they look through a lens.

And while I’m ranting: I’ve also noticed lately that a lot of food personalities tend to use the word “rustic” as a substitute for “not asthetically perfect.” I bristle at that. There’s nothing “rustic” about my cooking. It’s homemade. I make mistakes. Calling an imperfectly chopped or arranged or plated dish “rustic” is pretending that even kitchen accidents are deliberate. It’s insisting that everything has to be “food-styled,” rather than just letting things look how they look. It’s like the cat that runs splat into a wall, then walks away with its tail high, as if to say, “I meant to do that.” (Though it’s significantly more adorable when a cat does it.)

I may not be a food stylist, or any good with an iPhone camera. But I sure can tell you how good this recipe tastes. It’s a Mexican fish dish, quick and easy to prepare and phenomenally delicious. It starts with fillets of flaky white fish, layered in a baking dish with a piquant sauteed mixture of tomatoes, capers, olives, and pickled jalapenos. In the oven, the fish exudes its own juices, creating a gauzy sauce in the bottom of the dish that’s perfect for spooning over rice or tortillas or bread. For the amount of time it takes to prepare–maybe 45 minutes, tops, if you’re a slow chopper like me–I can’t think of any dish that offers more explosive flavor per bite. I’ve now made it multiple times, and it’s become one of my go-tos for a simple but very special supper.

I’m sure another food blogger could make this look like a million bucks. Me? I just say make this, and make it soon–no matter what the photo says.

veracruz halibut

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

White bean and tomato soup

Well. That was an adventure.

Back in August, I wrote about being overwhelmed and making jam. Sad to say, the jam-making tapered off soon afterward, but the being overwhelmed continued for a while. In the four months since I last blogged, I’ve been working through a little cascade of life changes. I moved in with my boyfriend. I quit my job. I started a few tentative steps along a new career path. I’ve spent an awful lot of time lately unpacking boxes and sending out applications and jumping on every networking happy hour invite that comes my way, all while slogging through a particularly grey bout of SAD. It’s been a challenge.

But things are settling now. The move, at least, is done. We’re slowly making our new place into a home. And as a big part of that, I’ve been cooking almost every day. Our new kitchen may be tiny, but it’s getting a workout.

The very first thing I cooked, the day after we moved in, was a pot of my grandmother’s bean soup. This is one of those recipes that speaks instant comfort to me, that tastes like winter and rain and the holidays. I can picture my grandmother standing at the stove, with a stained apron tied over her lavender sweat suit, wearing a pair of bedroom slippers that might be as old as I am, stirring an enormous pot of beans and tomatoes. This was a staple every Thanksgiving, and often on Christmas Eve (my aunt’s birthday) as well. It’s simple, nutritious, and freezes like a dream. It felt like the perfect thing to make to turn our new apartment into a home.

This is one of those soups that’s so much more than the sum of its parts: dried white beans, soaked and simmered until they’re starchy and tender, mixed with a sauteed mirepoix and some diced tomatoes. Using dried beans makes the broth fragrant and thick, and cooking the vegetables down into a sauce before adding them to the pot makes the whole thing deep and resonant. Then there are the finishing touches: a spoonful of cooked orzo and a drizzle of olive oil to top off each bowl. The orzo must be cooked separately, rather than boiled it into the soup itself, so that it stays firm and toothsome rather than relaxing into the broth. And the olive oil adds fruitiness and gloss to the bowl, making it vivid and hearty all at the same time. This is how I ate soup as a child, and how I ate it that night in our new home, staring down the barrel of a new stage of adulthood and willing myself to be ready.

grangy's bean soup

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Tomato and Brie tart

You guys. I had to turn on the defroster in my car this morning. Summer is officially over.

I’m in pretty deep denial about this. Normally, by September I’m ready for knits and scarves and soup. But this year blew by so goldurned fast, I feel like summer only just started. I didn’t get nearly enough of the sticky blue heat and bright evenings and lemonade. I’ve worn a swimsuit exactly once since New Year’s. I want to stomp my feet and say it’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr. But really, there’s nothing I can do. Time is slippery, and the weather’s already cooling off.

But at least there are still tomatoes. Oh, are there tomatoes. Bushels of red at the market, and I couldn’t be happier. Even though I can’t appreciate a raw summer tomato, just the fact that it exists is comforting to me. As long as the tomatoes are juicy and fragrant, I can still hold on to a little bit of summer. When they turn mealy and inert, I know I have to finally come in from the cold.

So here’s a compromise: an end-of-summer tomato tart. Puff pastry, brushed with mustard, sprinkled with thyme, topped with tomatoes, and covered with dabs of Brie. I used an extra-soft and stubbornly melty cheese; the liquid edges ran thin over the tomatoes and caramelized in the oven into a shattering cheesy crust, while the larger pieces stayed molten and oozy. It’s basically cheating, this tart: combine puff pastry, ripe tomatoes, and Brie, and you’re guaranteed a winner. But then add the winey bite of Dijon and the resiny fragrance of thyme, and suddenly you’ve got something sophisticated enough for company yet satisfying enough for a snack.

This thing is absurdly quick to put together, and can go from oven to table in about half an hour. I’ve made two in the past week: one for three friends sipping tea in the afternoon, one for a party with beer and wine and ridiculous costumes. Both times, it was devoured within minutes. I’ve had it warm and at room temperature, and it’s phenomenal both ways. As a consolation prize for losing summer, it’s pretty unbeatable.

tomato brie tart

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Golden gazpacho

So, remember how I said I didn’t really like gazpacho? I may have spoken too soon.

There’s a Spanish-ish restaurant near my boyfriend’s apartment that does a very good gazpacho–very light, very soft, and a beautiful marigold color. I’ve eaten there several times, and ordered the gazpacho, and…well…liked it. But it wasn’t until recently that it really registered why. I just chalked it up to restaurant-magic and continued on my merry way.

But last week, Sam wanted gazpacho. He made puppy eyes at me. I caved. And it turns out there are a few things that will make me almost-kinda-sorta love gazpacho:

  1. It must be blended completely smooth.
  2. It must be relatively light on tomato, and heavy on other flavors.
  3. It must be served very, very, very cold.

This restaurant makes a gazpacho that nails all three. It’s ultra-smooth, soft and not the least bit fibrous. The dominant flavor is bell pepper, not tomato. And it’s served in chilled bowls, in small portions, perfect for slurping down before it loses its frigid edge.

I set about my task, and ended up with something not totally unlike the restaurant version. To keep the gorgeous golden hue, I stuck with yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet as candy, and a big yellow bell pepper. I tossed in a few chives and some tarragon, left over from making dip, and a jalapeno pepper for a slow bloom of mild heat. I refrigerated the thing in the blender carafe for a while, then strained it into bowls.

It was good. I ate all of it. (Well, most of it.)

I still don’t think tomato gazpacho will ever be my favorite soup, but at least now I know how to make a version that I will willingly eat. So, just as I started the summer with a gazpacho disappointment, let’s kick off Labor Day weekend with a gazpacho success. It’s cold, it’s refreshing, it’s the color of sunny summer things, and it’s a nice reminder that I can sometimes be wrong about food.

golden gazpacho

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Summer succotash

I’m not used to summer rain. I’ve experienced it, here and there–spattery showers in the green Northeast, fast-moving tropical cloudbursts in Central America. But it’s not part of the rhythm of my life. I’m used to summer in the Bay Area as dry, yellow, a little hard, with stiffly moving breezes. Not the quiet humid trickle we’ve been having lately.

This is June rain, and it feels weird–simultaneously soft and heavy. The clouds outside say soup and a blanket, but the stickiness on my skin says lemonade and a humming fan. It’s been making it hard to cook, when I come in from outdoors wiping sweat from my forehead, but within minutes I’m shivering at the gloom in the sky. There’s so much gorgeous produce at the markets, that needs so little done to it, and yet the weather is tricking me into wanting hot meals.

So here’s a compromise: a warm summer succotash, with zucchini and cherry tomatoes and corn-off-the-cob, with edamame and sweet onion, with big shards of parsley and ribbons of quick-fried ham. Everything gets quickly and simply cooked, until the tomatoes barely slump and the corn is just this side of raw. It’s a potpourri of summer textures, all sweet-crunchy and beany-soft and squash-squishy and tomato-juicy. Of course, this being a summer vegetable dish, it really shines with the freshest and best ingredients you’ve got–farmer’s market fodder, for sure. If you wanted to substitute fresh shelling beans (or favas, or limas) for the edamame, I’m sure you could; they might need a little longer cooking, but I’m sure they’d be lovely.

This is the kind of meal I make for the rain–warm and meaty, but with all the freshness of the warm season. (Now give me back my dry hard sunshine.)

summer succotash Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hot roasted pepper salsa

We’re officially into summer party season, with the sunshine and heat to prove it. And that means salsa season. I don’t care where you are and who you’re with, good salsa and tortilla chips are never out of place. Especially if the salsa’s freshly made.

Usually, homemade chips-and-dip salsa means pico de gallo–tomatoes, onions, limes, a chile or two, maybe a little cilantro, salt, chunked and mixed. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my favorite. I tend to go for gutsier salsas, with a little more spice and smoke to them. And nothing punches up an ordinary tomato salsa like a roasted pepper or two. Or, in this case, three.

The basic outline of this salsa is similar to the ubiquitous pico de gallo, but with a trio of peppery additions: green bell pepper for grassiness, poblano pepper for sharpness, and jalapeno pepper for fruity heat. I roasted my peppers under the broiler, which turned out okay-not-great; my favorite method is still straight-up roasting over a gas burner. (An outdoor grill would work too, if you’ve got.) As usual, the peppers are stripped of their seeds before going into the salsa, but in this case the blackened skin can stay–it’s where all the dark smokiness is. After that, it’s smooth sailing: a quick pulse in the food processor with some tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, and salt, and hey presto–a loose, liquid salsa that clings appealingly to chips.

As far as heat goes, this is not a beginner-level salsa. Straight out of the processor, it had a pretty solid kick. I liked the spice level, but several of my friends said it was just barely edible for them. As the salsa sat and mellowed in the bowl, the heat seemed to dissipate a bit, to the point that even my more spice-averse friends were able to dip a chip every now and then. But this is still not mild-and-friendly fare, so be prepared for a bit of a bite.

The one downside of this salsa is that it doesn’t keep well. After about a day in the fridge, it loses its appealing freshness. But given how liquid it is, I’d imagine the leftovers would make a darned good marinade for chicken or pork. If anyone tries this, please report back.

roasted pepper salsa

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized