Tag Archives: Tomato

Tomato paella

It’s high tomato season here in California. They’re everywhere, those fragrant red orbs, and it’s hard not to just eat them all raw. But please, if you can bear it, set aside a few juicy specimens for this recipe. It’s my new favorite paella, and a truly wonderful late-summer party meal.

I’ve been trying for years to come up with a great vegetable paella. This blows away every other version I’ve tried. The difference is those tomatoes–ripe and juicy, cut into meaty wedges and scattered on top of the rice. Unlike other paellas I’ve made, this one starts on the stove and then gets a brief blast in a hot oven. The tomatoes wrinkle and slump, while holding their gorgeous form. Stick a spoon in, and you’ve got sweet tomato jelly on top of delicately seasoned rice. It’s a total winner.

This started its life as a Mark Bittman recipe. I’ve tweaked it a bit, swapping out the onions in his recipe in favor of peppers–both sweet and hot–and romano beans. I add a bay leaf for extra fragrance, and a splash of wine just for fun. To keep the tomato flavor front and center, I use water as the cooking liquid. Once the paella comes out of the oven, it gets strewn with parsley and scallion confetti. Serve with lemon wedges for folks who want a bit of zing, and the rest of that bottle of wine.

tomato paella

Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cherry tomato salsa

One thing I’ve learned this summer: people go apeshit for homemade salsa. I don’t quite know why that is–maybe it’s just that my friends are so used to the stuff from a jar. But when I brought a batch of this salsa to a barbecue, it was nearly gone before Sam had a chance to photograph it.

Good thing, too, since I can’t comfortably eat storebought salsa anymore. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to whip up a delicious tomato salsa from scratch, customized to your needs and tastes. Start with ripe, in-season tomatoes–I like cherry tomatoes for their sweet, juicy snap. Then add some thinly sliced scallion tops, a splash of lime juice, a minced chile or two, and a handful of fresh herbs. Sometimes I add a little sugar to balance the tomatoes’ tang; sometimes it’s not needed. Season with salt and pepper, and you’re in business.

Once you’ve got the basic building blocks, there’s lots of room to play. My friend Andrea makes her own preserved limes, and adds a minced tablespoon or so into every salsa she makes. You could replace some of the tomato with diced fresh fruit–ripe pineapple or papaya are nice low-FODMAP options. You could roast the tomatoes and chiles in a hot oven until they blacken and char, then pop all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Or you could just make this same, simple salsa every time. I’ve certainly never heard a complaint.

If there’s a drawback to homemade salsa, it’s that it tends to turn watery as it sits. But there’s a solution! After chopping the tomatoes, toss them with some salt in a strainer and let them drain over a bowl for about 30 minutes. The excess liquid will drip down into the bowl, leaving you with firm, perfectly seasoned tomatoes for your salsa. And don’t throw away that tomato liquid–it’s delicious to drink on its own over ice, or mixed with a little vodka for a feather-light take on a bloody Mary.

cherry tomato salsa 1

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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