Roasted Green Chile and Tomato Tart

Summer Tomato and Roasted Green Chile Tart
I am not a farmer.  I’m pretty crap at knowing why things die, what I’m doing wrong, why half my plant is brown and the other half is green, etc.  Last year, I all but neglected my tomatoes and they became like sea monsters in size and yielded dozens and dozens (if not with a little end-rot) of tomatoes.  This year, I switched where they were planted and am taking better care of them and they have all tapped out at about 4 feet tall, haven’t continued to grow in height in the last month and we’ve gotten maybe four, medium-sized tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomatoes, and all of them are split down the sides (too much watering).  Sigh.  It’s hard to win at tomatoes.  I’m sure some of you feel my pain.  I want that innate sense of what these plants need, but I am afraid I’ve learned that this instinct is no instinct at all, but trial and error.

The tomatoes pictured were, indeed, from our yard.  And they were, as all backyard tomatoes are, outstanding in flavor, despite their faults.  I will never know how a tomato that claims to be “field grown” at the store can STILL taste like NOTHING, and a tomato you go out and pick from your yard tastes like concentrated tomato paste, x 1,000,000,000.  Maybe it’s what Alton Brown said last week, that a tomato put in the fridge, even for a short time, loses a chemical designed especially for taste.  Whatever the reason, tasting just ONE perfect summer tomato will leave you satisfied for the rest of the year.  I don’t think I can be that enthusiastic about any other produce.  Especially since I’m such a crappy farmer.

Enter: the tomato tart.  Garnished with fresh, roasted, green chilies and a bit of cheddar and Parm, all baked on top of The Crust and a good slathering of green chile and caramelized onion dip.  It was just about as perfect as you can get.  And even if you don’t have a home-grown tomato, just go get one at a farmer’s market this weekend and DON’T refrigerate it and use that.  Or, since we’re baking these tomatoes, go ahead and use a supermarket tomato.  Roasting a tomato brings out great flavor in even the weakest, most genetically modified tomato.  Happy baking!

pre-baked tomato and green chile tart
Roasted Green Chile and Tomato Tart

1 recipe of The Ultimate Pie Crust
1/4 cup corn meal
1 cup green chile and caramelized onion dip
3-4 medium sized tomatoes (such as a Roma-size)
4 fresh roasted green chilies
salt and pepper
cheddar or Parmesan cheese, if desired

Get your pie crust rolled out and pressed into a 13×9″ tart pan, or like I did here, a half sheet pan.  Trim off the excess (and you will have some) and refrigerate the pan for about 30 minutes, while you get on with everything else.  Preheat oven to 450.  Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights – I use a bag of dried beans over and over for this purpose.  I even keep them in a bag labeled “Pie Beans.”  Bake the empty pie shell for 20 minutes, remove the weights and parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is golden on the bottom.  Set aside to cool.

Whip up a quick onion/chile dip if you don’t have time to make the full recipe by pureeing 4 ounces of cream cheese, two tablespoons of olive oil, a large garlic clove, two roasted green chilies and a tsp of salt in a food processor until smooth. Spread this mixture onto the bottom of the tart.  Then, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of cornmeal over the dip.  This will help absorb the juices from the tomatoes and chilies so you don’t have a soggy crust.

ingredients
Slice the tomatoes and chilies thin and layer onto your crust.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I shredded up a tiny bit of leftover cheddar and Parmesan on top of mine and loved the result.  I think it’d be good without it.  Reduce your oven to 375 and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes look slightly shriveled and bubbly.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (really – it’s awesome) and enjoy!

Green Chile Tomato Tart

 

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Summer Grilling: Romesco Sauce!

summer meal - romesco sauce
Ah, summer.  It’s upon us!  And even though I’m hoping no grilling will get done this weekend due to rain (please, oh please) we have fired up the grill several times already and hope to continue as the months continue to provide us with warm nights and light well into the 9 o’clock hour.  We had a truly noteworthy grilling session last weekend where the star of the show was that tasty little dollop of red pepper puree on the side of the asparagus called Romesco.

romesco sauce
Romesco is a blend of roasted red bell peppers, hazelnuts, almonds, garlic and roasted tomatoes.  I can’t explain how magical it all is when blended up together, but it is incredible as a topping for a grilled flank steak, a dip for asparagus, or even a spread for the grilled bread I’m hoping you’ll still try! We topped baked potatoes with our leftover romesco sauce this week and I just KNOW it would be fabulous on top of a simple omelet.  I love a sauce that can be so versatile because it won’t just sit in your fridge, unused.  There are literally endless options for this tasty sauce and I hope you will make this for your next summer meal!

grilled asparagus with romesco sauce

Romesco Sauce*
makes about 3 cups

4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
4 red bell peppers
6-8 cloves of garlic, still in their skins
3/4 cup olive oil, plus oil for roasting vegetables and toasting nuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup day-old bread, cubed and toasted with olive oil
red wine vinegar
2 tsp Piment d’Esplette (or dried chili flakes)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300F.  Season the tomatoes and peppers with 2 tablespoons of  olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake the cloves of garlic along with the tomatoes and the peppers, until the garlic is soft, (remove them when they are to let the tomatoes and peppers finish) the tomatoes have begun to caramelize and the peppers are tender and beginning to blister, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cover the peppers with foil and set aside for 10 minutes, then peel the skin and remove the seeds and veins from the peppers.

In a small skillet set over medium heat, toast the almonds and hazelnuts with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and salt.  

Remove the garlic cloves from their skins. In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, toasted nuts and bread. Add the Piment d’Esplette or chili flakes.  Slowly drizzle in the remaining ¾ cup of olive oil until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Season with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper until it’s to your liking.  We added about 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar and added about 2 tsp of kosher salt and some pepper.  Puree until very smooth, but the sauce will remain slightly chunky.  

Serve with grilled vegetables, meats, baked potatoes, bread, etc, etc, etc!

*we combined two recipes from Tasting Table to make our own version.

 

 

 

 

Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

tomato soup for a cold dayTomato Soup buried

It’s a beautiful, cold fall day!  Yesterday it was dark and very cold and it called for a cup of soup in hand and little else.  When Matt makes us his pizza on the weekends, I am always left with about 9/10ths of a can of tomatoes and inevitably during the week, that gets turned into tomato soup.  I keep adding a spice here or there, fresh basil if I happen to have it, and no matter how I tweak it, it always turns out great.  For this version, I had some stale bread from Matt’s weekly baking that I turned into croutons. I hate wasting his bread, even the stale stuff, so it gets turned into croutons, breadcrumbs or savory stuffings every time.  The good thing about breads that are as plain and rustic as his, is that they don’t mold very quickly – they just dry out.  Perfect!  The croutons were tooth-shatteringly hard, but after a few minutes in the soup, they were extremely flavorful little sponges.

Happy Fall – it’s in the air!  It’s marvelous!  There’s a faint scent of wood burning in our neighborhood and it’s a treat to get to walk outside.  It’s a treat to be alive, today, really.  Tomorrow doesn’t exist, don’t spin all day for it.  Yesterday can’t be changed, don’t regret it.  Live today and today only!  Yesterday I recalled one of my favorite quotes,“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”
― Jean de La BruyèreLes caractères.  This quote challenges me to not waste my day thinking about what all I have to do, or what all I didn’t get done yesterday.  It helps me to not sit around wasting time on my phone and it helps me to realize that time with 1 and a half year old Olive is extremely rare and won’t be here for long.  So we make a mess drinking our soup and we laugh and I try to take her up on her offers while I’m working to, “mama pay? mama do somting?” a little more frequently.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup from Scratch
serves 3-4

1-28oz can whole tomatoes (I love Cento brand!)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs olive oil
Whatever herbs you like – dried thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano – they’re all good and they all work.  Stick to about a teaspoon.
A splash of cream – eh, if I had to measure, I’d say 1/8th of a cup
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Put the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the garlic clove.  Saute over medium heat until starting to brown.  Add in the entire can of tomatoes, red wine vinegar, herbs and stir to combine.  With an immersion blender, pulse until completely blended and smooth.  Add in the cream, stir to incorporate and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes and serve hot with crackers, croutons, or the classic grilled cheese.  Enjoy!

tomato soup face tomato soup tomato baby

The Homegrown B.L.T. with a recipe for amazing mayo!

The perfect BLT

Every year we look forward to this.  An entirely home-grown (or made) BLT!  When we are fortunate enough to have a tomato crop, as we were this summer, the homemade BLT is the first thing in our minds to make.  So when the tomatoes started looking like this:
image_1

…we knew it was time to assemble the ultimate sandwich.  Matt cures pork belly and then smokes it in our electric smoker, I made the mayo, Matt made the bread and we grew the tomatoes, but sadly had no lettuce this year.  So other than the lettuce, this was entirely from scratch!  And what a good feeling.  I think this is kind of like remembering how good the food was on vacation – most of the goodness came from the setting or the mood, or the fact that you didn’t have to cook.  Similarly with this sandwich, the ingredients are certainly wonderful, but part of the joy is knowing that we worked for each component (minus the lettuce).  We thoroughly enjoyed this sandwich and this moment and Olive deconstructed hers, discarded the impostor (lettuce) and ate the rest.  She’s adoring these tomatoes, and I absolutely get giddy knowing that she likes tomatoes and that her first taste of tomatoes (besides tomato sauces) was out of our yard!  She won’t remember, but I know we will.

For the recipes, I will post our mayo recipe and method, which is super easy and totally worth it for the huge flavor you get.  I’ve posted Matt’s bread before, which is the bread we used for this (plus an addition of rosemary) and for the tomatoes, well, you’re probably too late to grow them yourself, but if you know someone who has an abundance, beg one off them and grab some good, thick-cut bacon and have yourself a BLT party!

open faced BLT

Mayo (made with an immersion blender -might be my most used kitchen tool, next to my knife)

2 egg yolks
1.5 cups light oil like canola.  I used a blend of canola and olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard (or even dry would work)
Salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne and paprika for me!

Place the egg yolks in the bottom of a tall, wide cup (immersion blenders come with their own).  Place all the other ingredients on top of the egg yolks and stick your immersion blender all the way down to the bottom.  Turn it on the lower setting and start graaaaaaaaadddddddduuuuualllllly pulling the immersion blender up toward the surface of the oil.  As you pull up, the oil will slowly become incorporated into the egg yolk/spice mixture and in about 45 seconds, you will have perfect mayo!  It will keep two weeks in the fridge and I recommend slathering both sides of your bread and searing it on a griddle before assembling your sandwich.  Hey, if you only eat a proper BLT once a year, make it a good one.

image

 

The Ultimate Meatball and Taking Food to a Friend

meatball and marinara

We’ve been on the receiving end of food donations twice in our life and both times, we were touched by others’ thoughtfulness, great recipes and the comfort that was passed to us through the dishes they made.  It takes a bit of humbling to bring food to someone who can’t cook for themselves, or simply don’t want to or don’t have the time.  You worry if they’ll like what you made.  You worry if they will critique the preparation or that you brought store-bought cookies instead of homemade.  If I could only convince you that anything you bring is wonderful and welcome, I would.  If they can’t eat it right away or they have duplicates, they can freeze what you brought!  To worry too much about what to bring, or to worry the recipient about what you brought, shifts the focus off the deserving and on to you.  Keep the focus where it belongs, ask if they have any requests or food allergies, and get cooking!  Homemade is always nice, but I will admit, I did not turn away store-bought cookies, chocolate or coffee! 🙂

My wonderful, life-long friend, Summer, had her second baby almost two weeks ago.  A beautiful, darling girl!  I immediately began to think of what I would bring for Summer and Phil to eat.  Summer is my food buddy.  I trust her cooking as much as my own.  Her sense of taste is far beyond most people, almost to a fault.  We used to live together in college, and I think one of our first food-bonding moments was throwing chicken patties off the balcony of our apartment because they were just so disgusting.  They were pre-cooked, breaded chicken patties and they tasted like…gray.  Or sweat.  It wasn’t good.  We both were actually offended.  How could you screw up a breaded piece of chicken, and worse, sell it to poor college students?! In our act of defiance against badly cooked food, we became unofficial food critics in our own right.  We were each other’s taste-testers. A favorite game throughout our friendship is Guess the Ingredient! in which we excitedly wait while the other tastes and see if they guess right.  I love that no matter what time of day, I can text Summer a description of something I made or want to make, and she will react with an appropriate amount of shock, enthusiasm and awe.

We joke that Summer always says her FAVORITE thing in the ENTIRE world is whatever I last cooked for her.  True to the accusation, I asked if she had any requests for what I could bring for them, and she requested the last meal I made for her, which was the BEST meatball recipe I’ve ever run across.  It’s tough to get a meatball right.  They can be too dry or too mealy or rubbery from being over cooked, or simply too greasy.  This recipe is perfect.  And even more perfect, it came to me via fashion designer, Michael Kors in his appearance on Martha Stewart Living.  So they’re both delicious AND fashionable.  Win-win.

The secret ingredient to these meatballs is the water.  Smooshing all these ingredients together, especially with the water, is not for the faint of heart.  My mother would die a thousand deaths before making this recipe.  She has a thing with texture.  However, I like playing with my food, so it’s rather enjoyable for me.  The meat mixture is very delicate, so be gentle as you turn them while cooking.  I usually use two spatulas to help me turn them without smashing them apart.  Getting a good crust on each side is key.  Then, there will still be a slight crust, even after they’ve stewed in the sauce for a while.  Oh, and serving this with spaghetti is up to you. It’s not tradition – the Italians eat their meatballs in a bowl with crusty bread.  But, the recipe makes enough sauce that even after we finish up the meatballs, I have plenty of sauce left to toss with noodles the next day.  Olive absolutely adores these.  She ate two, 3 inch meatballs by herself before slowing down.  They are so soft, you could easily smash it up for a little one.  And they get better the next day!

meatball

Frankie’s Meatballs in Rao’s Marinara Sauce

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 cups water, room temperature
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef and pork using your hands. Mince 1/2 clove garlic and add to meat mixture along with the eggs, cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Continue mixing with your hand until well combined. Add bread crumbs and mix well. Add water, 1 cup at a time, and continue mixing until mixture is quite moist.
  2. Shape mixture into 2 1/2-to-3-inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Smash remaining clove of garlic with the back of a knife and add to skillet. Cook until lightly browned and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Working in batches, add meatballs to skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, turning, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
  3. Meanwhile, bring marinara sauce to a boil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and add meatball. Let meatballs cook in sauce about 20 minutes; serve immediately with pasta, if desired.

Rao’s Marinara Sauce
Makes 7 cups

  • Four 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes with basil, preferably San Marzano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 leaves fresh basil, torn (optional)
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  1. Remove tomatoes from can and place in a large bowl, reserving juices. Crush tomatoes using your hands; remove and discard the hard core from stem end, and any skin and tough membrane; set aside. (Wear an apron and keep your hand submerged as you crush.  This is messy business, but kind of therapeutic  .)
  2. Place oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and reserved juices; season with salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 hour.
  3. Stir in basil, if using, oregano, and season with pepper; continue cooking 1 minute more. Remove from heat and serve.

*Recipes taken directly from Martha Stewart Living.  They can not be improved upon.

frankie's meatsauce