Thursday, September 18, 2014
So here we are again. Fall. I swing back and forth between mourning the loss of summer's warmth and light and openness and thrilling to that crisp nip in the air, the vividness of sky's blue and the splashes of bold color that are creeping into the edges of every frame.
But I'm unequivocally happy that the drop in temperature and shorter days makes me want to turn on the oven, fire up the stove, whip up a batch of this and simmer a pot of that. And it's not just dinners, I'm also feeling a bit more inspired about lunches, too. Hence these divine melts I made for lunch today.
I found this jar of fig preserves in my pantry last week, hiding behind a tower of our pickle relish, and have been using it non-stop ever since. It is the perfect foil to any kind of cheese - be it sharp, creamy, moldy, or goaty, it's all good!
And the Asian pears that Migliorelli Farm was selling at the Woodstock Farm Festival this week were too pretty to pass up.
So I decided to pair the fig preserves with sharp cheddar cheese, very thinly sliced Asian pear and a little organic ham and put it all in the toaster to get bubbly and browned and crisp around the edges.
The combination is sooooo good! Each bite contains just the right amount of sweet and savory and gooey and crunchy. I ate mine with this remarkable purple carrot which tasted as good as it looked.
This is a melt so I'm not going to insult your intelligence by sharing a real recipe - just slice your bread, smear it with fig preserves, lay down the ham (optional, of course), layer on the cheese and top with the sliced pear - apple would be good, too. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast or bake at 400 degrees until it meets your criteria for doneness.
Just a note to all you vegetarians, the combination would also be good without the ham lest you're intrigued.
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Posted by Eve Fox at 7:12 PM
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Roasting garlic turns it a soft, mellow delicacy with a delightful flavor that is sweet and rich at the same time. It's a great addition to soups and stews, hummus, pizza and salad dressing, as well as smeared on crackers or toast with a good, salty cheese.
This is one of those things that seems like it should be hard to make but is actually ridiculously easy - all you need is a head of garlic, a sheet of tinfoil and a little olive oil. And an oven, of course...
Here's what you do. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out your cutting board and a whole head of garlic.
Slice a thin layer off the bottom of the head - right next to the basal plate - to expose the bottoms of the cloves.
Get out a sheet of tinfoil. Drizzle a little organic olive oil over the cut end of the garlic.
Wrap the head of garlic up in the foil - it will look like a lumpy little silver ball. Place your foil-wrapped garlic in the oven - I usually put it on a baking sheet just in case of any leakage - and roast it for 45 minutes.
During this time, the most delicious smell will pervade every corner of your home. I think this smell would probably make me hungry even if I'd just pushed back from the table at a three-course meal.
Take a peek into that little foil ball to see how things are going -- you want to roast it until the cloves have gotten all soft and melty. It will be a thing of beauty!
You can then very easily just squeeze the cloves right out of their papery little wrappers to use however you see fit. If I'm not going to use them all in one fell swoop, I just wrap whatever I'm not using then back up in its tinfoil wrapper and store it in the fridge for several days (if it lasts that long without you eating it, that is.) I've also heard that you can remove the cloves, cover them in olive oil and store them in a clean, airtight glass container in the refrigerator for several months but I have not actually done this (I always end up using it all up too quickly) so I cannot vouch for how long it stays good for.
A quick aside for those of you who garden or who would like to start, it's almost time to plant your garlic! Start it in the fall to help it get established so it comes roaring back come springtime. Check out my short primer on growing your own garlic for more info.
You might also like:
- How to Grow Your Own Garlic
- Garlic Scape Pesto
- Lemon Aioli With Roasted Beets, Perfect Oven Fries & Steamed Asparagus
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Thursday, September 11, 2014
Whether you're struggling to keep up with your garden's mad rush to the finish or just looking for new ways to enjoy the beautiful, late summer tomatoes at the farmers' market, a little inspiration is a fine thing. I've compiled 20 delicious ways to use tomatoes for you below, dividing them into 13 things to eat right now and 7 preserving ideas to help you hold on to the glory of sun-ripened tomatoes into the cold winter months ahead.
For Right Now
Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter
This sauce from Marcella Hazan couldn't get much simpler - just onions, butter and tomatoes - but the result is amazingly good - smooth and rich with a mellow sweetness from all the onions. Give it a try and you'll probably find that you end up making it once a week.
Tomato Tart Two Ways
Inspired by a recipe in one of the Canal House Cooking books, these impressively fancy-looking tarts are made very simple by the use of frozen puff pastry (though feel free to make your own pastry, by all means!) Sweet ripe tomatoes, good cheese, caramelized onions and herbs make these tarts a decadent treat.
Grilled Tomato and Eggplant Stacks with Basil and Feta Cheese
These leaning Tower of Pisa-esque delights are an easy way to make the most of summer's bounty. Grilled eggplant and tomato slices are drizzled with olive oil, layered with sliced basil and feta (or goat) cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper and stacked for layers of melting-gooey-sweet-savory-herby yumminess.
Pasta with Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Basil, Bacon & Arugula
This is an easy late summer/early fall meal packed with great flavors and with a nice mix of textures - crunchy corn, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon and just tender pasta.
Chicken Milanese on a Bed of Arugula & Tomatoes
Sweet tomatoes and peppery arugula provide a perfect backdrop for crunchy, salty, juicy breaded chicken. Hard to beat.
Tomato Corn Pie with Butter-Brushed Biscuit Topping
Like everything Deb at Smitten Kitchen makes, this pie is heart-stoppingly (and probably artery-cloggingly) delicious. Biscuit topping, sweet corn, tomatoes and cheddar cheese make for serious summer comfort food.
Provençal Vegetable Tian
Baking concentrates the flavors and natural sweetness of layered, very thin slices of tomato, potato, eggplant,summer squash, and leeks. White wine, thyme and garlic add the delicious taste of the south of France.
Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Gratin
This is basically a healthier, lighter and actually tastier take on eggplant parm that comes from Martha Rose Shulman's excellent Recipes for Health series in the New York Times. Packed with flavors, very hearty and satisfying.
Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage & Basil
A super tasty sauce filled with fresh herbs, sausage and, of course, tomatoes. Due to the inclusion of meat, either eat this one right away or freeze it for later.
Chopped Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Herbs & Feta
This simple salad is so flavorful, flesh and flexible that it's become one of my favorites. Also a perfect way to make use of summer's last cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Sweet Corn, Tomato & Basil Salad
My mom-in-law makes this often and I find it positively addictive! Sweet, fresh, flavorful and very, very easy... (a great way to make use of leftover corn on the cob, too.)
This hearty and beautiful composed salad is one of my very favorite things in the world. So many good tastes in one bowl and healthy and fresh to boot.
Ripe tomatoes are so good in salad. Don't overlook this easy way of highlighting them! Add some ripe cucumber for crunch and a little cheese for substance and dress with your favorite vinegar and some good quality organic olive oil with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
For Now and Later
Rustic Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic & Herbs
This is my new favorite way to prepare big, juicy tomatoes. Just cut in half, toss with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, whatever herbs you have on hand and some sliced garlic and roast for two hours on low. The result is a sweet, gooey, flavor-packed mess of summer flavors that you can toss with pasta or freeze to use in sauces and stews this winter.
Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Once you've made your own salsa, it's pretty hard to go back to store-bought. Although you can just make this as a one-time treat, I recommend making a big batch and canning some to use throughout the year -- soooooo good!
Pickled Green Tomatoes
If frost threatens, you can still pick your tomatoes green and make some tasty pickles out of them. This recipes comes from Marisa at the incomparable Food In Jars - check her and her cookbooks out if you're into canning and preserving.
You might not think of tomatoes and jam in the same breath but you really should... Sweet, spicy (think ginger, cloves, chili flakes and more) and simply amazing when combined with goat cheese and any kind of bread product. Hands down the best jam I've ever made. Make a batch - they make great gifts.
Spicy-Sweet Barbecue Sauce
It's actually pretty easy to make your own BBQ sauce and the result is so good! Sweet and spicy with deep flavors that make anything from tofu to a T-bone taste delicious.
Slow, Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes (you can use any size or type) combined with a few minutes of prep time and roughly 8-10 hours of slow cooking in a low heat oven yield the most divine concentrated dried tomatoes you'll ever eat. Add some herbs, balsamic vinegar and/or garlic for an even more ecstatic eating experience. You can eat them right away (great on bread, in salads, as a basis for sauce and more), pack a jar for the fridge or freeze them in bags or jars to enjoy all year-long.
Simple Pasta Sauce with Garlic & Herbs
Nothing captures the flavors of summer like homemade pasta sauce. You can eat this simple sauce right away or can or freeze some for the colder months ahead. You'll thank yourself during the dark days of winter when you're able to grab one of these magical jars of sweet summer flavors to make an easy dinner special...
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Monday, September 8, 2014
In addition to making salads galore, I've blanched and frozen enough bags of kale to fill an entire compartment of our chest freezer and am now officially Out Of Freezer Space. Time to make some kale chips. My most recent harvest yielded so much kale that I decided to experiment with a bunch of different flavors, filling every single tray in the food dehydrator.
- Sesame soy - sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds
- Garlic & onion - Stonewall Kitchen's roasted garlic & onion jam, olive oil and sea salt
- Plain - olive oil and sea salt
- Sesame - olive oil, sea salt and sesame seeds
- Sriracha lime - olive oil, sriracha and lime juice
- Italian - garlic powder, olive oil, dried oregano and sea salt
- Cheesy Italian - Parmesan, garlic powder, dried oregano, olive oil and sea salt
- Maple balsamic - Tubby Olive's maple balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt
My taste testers and I liked all of them except for the sriracha lime combo which was too spicy and bitter :(. But I still think sriracha has promise - next time I will use a little less of it and add a bit of the complex and sweet roasted garlic and onion jam instead of the lime - could be good!
The two clear winners were the Garlic & Onion (#2) and the Maple Balsamic (#8) with the Cheesy Italian (#7) and good old Plain (#3) also earning rave reviews.
I want to note that the two flavors I liked best made use of rather pricey pre-made ingredients from Stonewall Kitchen and the Tubby Olive that may not fit into your budget or be something you can find at your local grocery store. The good news is that you can make roasted garlic and onion jam at home for next to nothing - here's a recipe and you can also browse through these listings at Punk Domestics to find one that appeals to you. As for the maple balsamic, you can get similar results with a simple mixture of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar - I'd try maybe 1/2 tsp maple syrup to 2 tsps balsamic vinegar but that is just a guess so taste it and see what you think.
Just writing about this is making me want to make kale chips again and I'm kicking around the following flavor combinations for next time: garam masala and garlic, miso paste with sesame oil and soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut oil, smoked paprika and sea salt, and sun dried tomato and Parmesan cheese.
The recipe below is pretty basic to allow you to pick your seasonings. I've included directions for how to prepare these in an oven or in a food dehydrator. The dehydrator is more fool-proof since it allows you to cook them at a very even, much lower heat but you'll get great results in the oven, too, you just need to check them more often to ensure that they're not burning and to move the trays around if your oven heats unevenly like mine does. Happy crunching!
Makes enough for 4 people to snack on happily
* 1 bunch of kale, washed and fully dried
* Oil of your choice (1-2 Tbsps)
* Seasonings of your choice
1. If you're using your oven, preheat it to 250 degrees F (if your oven does not go down to 250, use whatever the lowest temperature it offers and check the chips earlier since they'll cook more quickly). If you're using a dehydrator, set it to 115 degrees or check the manual for your machine to see what setting it recommends for kale. Remove the leaves from the center rib of the kale and tear them into large pieces. Place leaves in a large bowl, drizzle with the oil, add the other seasonings and toss until the leaves are evenly coated.
2. If you're using your oven, divide the kale leaves between two heavy-duty baking sheets and arrange in a single layer - no need to grease the sheets or use parchment paper - the oil on the leaves should do the trick of keeping them from sticking quite nicely. If you're using a dehydrator, do the same thing with however many trays you need to arrange them in a single layer, probably between 2-4, depending on the size of the trays and the amount of kale you're working with.
3. If you're using your oven, bake for 15-25 minutes, or until crisp - the cooking time will depend somewhat on the thickness of the leaves and the size of the pieces. Start checking them at 10 minutes in and rotate the trays if they look to be cooking unevenly. You can eat them as soon as they're cool enough to grab. Feel free to adjust your seasonings after they're out of the oven, too. If you're using a dehydrator, let them go until you're happy with the texture - depending on the type of kale, the wetness of the seasonings you're using and the level of crispness you like, this can take anywhere from 2-4 hours or potentially even longer - it's up to you!
You might also like:
- Lemony Kale Salad with Coconut Avocado Dressing
- Massaged Kale Salad with Toasted Nuts, Dried Cherries & Parmesan
- Grilled Coconut Kale
Friday, September 5, 2014
We recently invited some old friends who have a new baby over for brunch. The baby is lovely - a deliciously plump little guy with the kind of cheeks you want to snack on and a soul-deep gaze that makes you realize how rarely we adults really look one another in the eye. And he actually slept through the considerable racket of me cooking and of our son playing/screaming so he's clearly a keeper.
The food I had at hand did not exactly scream brunch to me - a ton of cucumbers from our garden, a bunch of sweet peppers from our CSA and some leftover grilled corn and quinoa from dinner the night before. Nothing was coming to mind...
Just as I was beginning to think I'd have to fall back on something traditional, like pancakes, I happened to glance at the cover of the excellent Deborah Madison's cookbook, Vegetarian Suppers sitting on my counter. Lo and behold, here was something I could make with sweet peppers, corn and quinoa!
I am a HUGE fan of Deborah Madison (more details about why here). Her recipes are always delicious and inspiring. So I ran next door to raid my mom-in-law's garden and came back with a big bag of tender, beautiful spinach and some herbs.
Sauteed some onions, garlic and jalapeno before adding in the spinach and the herbs.
Then tossed in the quinoa, corn and the feta cheese and mixed it all up.
When I cut the peppers in half, I was struck by their comically ghoulish expressions - don't they look like they're auditioning for a Halloween pageant or something?
Deborah's recipe calls for you to simmer the peppers in boiling water for a few minutes but I have also substituted microwaving them for a few minutes and that works, too, if you're in a rush. Then I stuffed them and put them in the oven. Twenty five minutes later it was showtime. I served these along with a green salad topped with roasted beets and a really nice cucumber yogurt soup that I hope to recreate soon so I can share it with you all. We all chowed down, baby included, though he's still on an all-liquid diet.
Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers with Corn, Feta & Herbs lightly adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen
* 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
* 2 cups water
* 3 Tbsps olive oil
* 1 large onion or 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
* 1 jalapeno chile, finely diced, seeds removed (if you like spicy food, you can double this - I'm just a wimp about heat so I cut it in half)
* 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* Roughly 2 cups (3 ears) of corn kernels - they can be fresh, frozen or cooked
* 1 bunch fresh spinach (roughly 3-4 cups), washed and dried
* 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or fresh sage
* 1/4 pound feta cheese, cut into small cubes
* 4 Bell peppers
* Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring the water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil then add the quinoa, stir, cover and simmer over low heat until the grains are tender and you see the little curly "tail" of the germ appear - roughly 15 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put another good-sized pot of salted water on to boil - this will be used to soften the peppers - see step 3 below - so make sure you can fit them all in.
3. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions or scallions and chiles over medium heat for about two minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, corn, and spinach and cook for another two to three minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Then add the cilantro, quinoa, and feta and toss it all together. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
4. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise without removing the tops or stems, then remove the membranes and the seeds. Simmer them for 4-5 minutes in the salted water until they are tender to the touch of a knife or fork but are not too soft. Arrange them in the baking dish (or dishes) and fill them with the quinoa mixture - don't be shy! Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the peppers and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
You might also like:
- Roasted Peppers & Butternut Squash with Rosemary, Garlic & Parmesan
- Quinoa, Corn & Feta Salad with Fresh Herbs
- Sweet Pepper & Sausage Frittata with New Potatoes & Pasture-Raised Eggs