Currently Snacking on….. Tomato and Ricotta Crostini

Tomato Ricotta Balsamic and Sea Salt Bruschetta by A Little Yumminess

This one’s in the running for summer’s most perfect bite. You can get quite creative and fancy with bruschetta, but sometimes simplicity rules. A slab of ciabatta layered with the best ricotta you can find (or make your own — it’s easy) and a simple salad of juicy farmers’ market tomatoes dressed liberally with balsamic vinegar, jewel green olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and flakey sea salt. We could eat this everyday and twice on Sunday.

Advertisements

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese | A Little Yumminess

One of our favorites as far as pasta sauces go is summery, bright green pesto Genoevse (basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil). When we start to see cherry blossoms on the trees and get a whiff of spring in the air (like right about now….) I start counting down the days until we begin to find giant bunches of fragrant Italian basil at the farmer’s market. My kids have gotten past the aggressively green hue of pesto Genovese and happily scarf it up and I always keep a special, secret little hoard in the way back of my freezer just for me.

Continue reading

Jamie Oliver’s Summery Roasted Pepper and Tomato Bruschetta

This is a great bruschetta to take advantage of late summer lovelies — fragrant, juicy tomatoes and sweet, sweet peppers. I love the technique of roasting the tomatoes right inside the peppers and then smooshing the whole thing down onto a hunk of grilled bread. Messy to eat for sure, but so beautiful.

I saw Jamie Oliver make this on his series “Jamie at Home” one day while I was parked on the couch, dazed from too many sleepless nights with our newborn. In such a state it was reviving to my spirits just to see Jamie wandering around his bountiful country garden, cooking up mouthwatering, rustic dishes like this one. And if I could have jumped right through the TV and grabbed one of these bruschetta right off his plate, believe me I would have! I was so exhausted at the time that I only managed to make a few mostly illegible chicken scratch notes on a scrap of paper while I was watching the show. Lucky for me, I unearthed that scrap this summer and I had enough to go on to try to re-create the dish.

I like these bruschetta along with an antipasto plate assembled from the deli for an easy summer dinner. I know sweet peppers are not necessarily a slam dunk for kids — I have one yes and one no in my family —  but it’s an easy enough recipe to put together to test the waters. I think peeling the peppers could help texture-wise for kids and it always seems to help to get them involved with the cooking process. Dressing and scooping tomatoes are good tasks for little ones and I think no kid could possibly resist a little parent sanctioned smooshing..

Summery Roasted Sweet Pepper and Tomato Bruschetta

(adapted from Jamie Oliver At Home)

  • 2 sweet peppers
  • 4 large slices of rustic bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of 2 cups chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh or dried herbs such as basil, thyme or parsley (optional)
  • Shaved ricotta salata for garnish(optional)
  • Sea salt, pepper, pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Halve the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Place the pepper halves on a foil lined baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, core and chop the tomatoes (if using cherry tomatoes, halve them). Toss the tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, red wine vinegar. I like to add a small pinch of chile flakes (enough if give it a little zing without making it too spicy for kids.). Taste and adjust the seasonings — it should taste like a well-seasoned tomato salad. Switch it up by adding fresh or dried herbs, substituting balsamic vinegar, etc.
  3. Spoon the seasoned tomatoes into the sweet pepper halves. Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until the peppers start to soften. Uncover and roast for an additional 10 minutes. While the peppers are roasting, slice your bread. The slices should be thick enough to stand up to the juicy topping.
  4. Turn your oven to broil and pop in your bread to toast while the peppers spend a few minutes under the broiler to get a light char. I like to flip my bread to toast both sides. Keep a close eye on everything during these 5 minutes — I have had too many burned toast disasters to count!
  5. When the peppers have cooled enough for you to work with them, tip excessive juice into a bowl so you won’t wont water log your bruschetta. Dress the toasted bread with a light drizzle of olive oil and then lay a roasted pepper on top (you may need to cut the peppers in half). Press down to let some of the juice mingle into the bread and to flatten out the whole thing. Sprinkle fresh herbs, sprinkle a little more salt if needed and optionally top with some shaved ricotta salata. You can also drizzle some of the juice you poured off earlier.

You might also like: Jamie Oliver’s Braised Pork and Pepper Goulash, Jamie Oliver’s Mini “Egg Cupcakes”, Summer Favorites Recipe Collection

Succotash Polenta

If the word succotash makes you think of a limp and lifeless lump of cooked to death vegetables, this could not be farther from that notion. Think instead…. a big bowl of bright, fresh, sweet summer vegetables tumbled onto creamy, creamy polenta. Are you with me? I don’t always think of making polenta this time of year, but it turns out that it’s the perfect canvas for a basket of gorgeous summer vegetables. I think this is absolutely fantastic as is, but you can easily turn this into a more substantial meal for brunch, lunch or dinner by adding a poached egg, a piece of grilled chicken or fish or even a broiled sausage. The soft and creamy polenta is ideal for little teethers and older kids can help you pick out the vegetables, snap green beans and shell fresh peas if you’re using them.

For the succotash, use any combo of vegetables you like but definitely include shallots, corn, tomatoes and green beans. We like to add fresh english peas and fava beans when we can find them. Favas take a little extra work (shelling the beans, then blanching them in salted water for 30 seconds and removing their tough skins) but are definitely worth the extra trouble. You could certainly add sliced zucchini and finely chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme) would be lovely too.

For the polenta, I like to use Marcella Hazan’s no stir polenta method. Be sure to stir in a little butter and a whole lot of grated parmesan cheese. Your polenta will stay creamy as long as you keep it warm, but the leftovers are worth spending a few minutes on. Turn leftovers into a baking dish or cookie sheet. When it cools it will set and you can cut it into squares which you can grill or fry or simply reheat. The squares wont be creamy like just made polenta but are still delicious and great with any saucy Italian recipe. You can wrap the squares in parchment paper and freeze them to enjoy later.

Succotash Polenta

  • Cook your polenta using Marcella Hazan’s “no stir” method. It will take about 45 minutes in all, but only a minute of stirring every 10 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, stir in butter and grated parmesan cheese to taste and keep warm.
  • Prep all your vegetables: finely mince shallots, trim green beans (I like 1″ pieces sliced on the diagonal), halve cherry tomatoes, cut corn off the cob. I like to cut my corn on top of a cookie sheet to catch all the juices and stray kernels that try to get away. When all the corn has been cut off, run the back of your knife along the cob to release the “corn milk” which you can cook along with your kernels.
  • Sprinkle the shallots with a few pinches of salt and saute in oilve oil until softened. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and their juices and cook 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute just to heat through. Add a tiny splash of red wine vinegar and stir. Taste and correct seasoning, adding a little more salt or vinegar if needed.
  • Spoon the succotash over polenta and sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice.

You might also like these summery faves: summer corn and lobster ravioli in a light corn broth; Easy Summer Fruit Cobbler; Tomato Water Pasta; Summer Obsession: Roasted Sweet Peppers; Summer Ratatouille

“Special Sauce”: 2-Day Tomato Conserva

Tomato conserva is one of those things that perfectly embodies the slow food concept. A welcome change of pace from our usual hectic lives. It’s not hard to make, but it takes forever – yielding a slow-cooked flavor that just cannot be reproduced with quicker cooking methods. It’s one of those secret weapons in your pantry that gives you incredible depth of flavor and makes you seem like a much better cook than you actually are. I’ll take all the help I can get! Use it like tomato paste out of a can to enhance tomato flavor in sauces, soups, dressings…. but trust me, this is sooooo much better. There’s something magical about making this in that it always reminds me — and my family — to slow down once in a while. We can use all the help we can get in that department, too.

Tomato conserva also happens to coincide with my bad habit of buying way too many tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market (or receiving large grocery bags full of super ripe tomatoes from my father-in-law’s garden). My husband and I can’t resist the large, cheap crates of “ugly” tomatoes that start showing up at the markets right about now. As mountains of tomatoes start to wilt all at once, we snap into action for some high-volume tomato cookery. Usually at this point, I throw them in a big pot with a quartered onions, a few pats of butter and a little salt, so they simmer into a versatile and simple tomato sauce (alla Marcella Hazan) which I can strain and stow in the freezer for later. But sometimes when I’m feeling my inner Italian Nonna come out, they get transformed into my “special sauce”: 2-day tomato conserva. I know the idea of slowly cooking tomatoes over hours and hours is not for everyone — but boy does it taste good!

2-day Tomato Conserva — Here’s how you do it:

Expert sources (i.e. Paul Bertoli THE guru of tomatoes) say you will get approximately one-tenth the volume of your original tomatoes.

  1. Wash, de-stem and rough chop your tomatoes. No need to be pretty or precise about it.
  2. Cook them on the stove top with a little olive oil  and a light sprinkling of salt just until they are tender and start to release their juices (approximately 10 minutes). Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them steam for 10 more minutes to continue to soften.
  3. Put them through the food mill to remove the skins and seeds.
  4. Pour your strained tomatoes into a baking dish (you will get better evaporation with a shallow layer, no more than an inch, so use multiple dishes as needed)
  5. Put them into a 250 degree oven and let them cook away all-day (~for 6-8 hours). Check them and stir once in a while — but they don’t need much babysitting at all.
  6. I like to go for a thick and concentrated paste, so at this point I usually turn off the oven and leave them overnight, then I turn the oven back on to 200 degrees as I’m making my morning coffee and let them cook away for a few more hours and maybe as much as another 6-8. Since we all need to leave the house once in a while, I’ve found you can pretty much start/stop this process as you need to.  It’s very un-fussy. Just don’t forget about them entirely. Some people keep going to point that the paste can be molded like soft clay, which is to say that you can’t really overdo it.

That’s it, you’re done… and voila instant Italian Nonna!

Spoon some into a clean jar, top with olive oil, seal well and store in the refrigerator to use over the next month or two. Freeze the rest for later. I use an ice cube tray so that I have portions perfect for adding to sauces. Conserva is to experiment with. You can add it to pasta sauces, stews, risotto and soups or anywhere you want an extra hit of tomato flavor. Tonight, for instance, I made a vinaigrette to dress tomatoes using conserva, olive oil, red wine vinegar and sea salt (tomato squared!) and I’m thinking about trying it with some of my Asian recipes in lieu of ketchup.

Just for fun — I found this video  on YouTube which shows the traditional, Sicilian method of making tomato paste, “Stattu”, using just the heat of the sun (and a whole lot of tomatoes!). I’m old school, but apparently not that old school. You’ll also get a sense of the “clay-like” version of the paste.

Video by Ganicolo

A Food Hug: Tomato Soup

Summer in San Francisco means lots of fog, but it still means lots of tomatoes. We snap up early girl tomatoes at the beginning of the season and grab cheap boxes of “ugly” tomatoes at the farmers’ market at the end of the season in late September/October. After a bumper backyard crop last year, Luca and I made a go at growing our our own again this summer, but the unusually cool summer has taken its toll.  [BTW: for you gardeners, it’s too late to plant this year, here’s a great guide from Love Apple Farm on growing tomatoes for your future reference.]

Seems like tomatoes show up on our table just about everyday during their season. We love them in salads, sandwiches and sauces. We stock our freezer with homemade conserva di pomodoro (tomato paste) and  the ultimate simple sauce Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion. If you haven’t tried this recipe, you must. Using fresh or canned tomatoes, it’s great as is — especially on gnocchi. And because it’s so simple you can use it as a flavorful base for other pasta sauces. [I usually use a little less butter and rough chop fresh tomatoes, removing the seeds and skin by passing the sauce through a food mill after it’s cooked. My husband and son prefer a less chunky sauce which is another reason I like the food mill. Using fresh tomatoes will require more cooking time because of the higher water content].

We also make sure to cook up as many batches of  tomato soup as we can. It’s become a summertime tradition. For my family, it’s the perfect comfort food especially with a grilled cheese sandwich — and it puts a smile on our faces on even the foggiest summer day. I shared some with a friend recently, and she served it cold, sort of gazpacho-like, which is an interesting idea.

Classic Tomato Soup

This is a hybrid of various recipes we’ve tried over the years. We like the combination of roasted and fresh tomatoes. It’s very tomato-y and the brandy gives it a nice boost.

  1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Slice 2 pounds of tomatoes and lay them on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little sugar, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 375 oven for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are a bit wrinkled and the much of their moisture has cooked out. Set aside.
  2. Saute 1-2 large shallots in butter in a large pot, then add a small pinch of ground allspice.
  3. Add 2 pounds of sliced (uncooked) tomatoes to the shallots, then add the roasted tomatoes, and enough chicken of vegetable stock to cover (about 6 cups).
  4. Simmer on low for an hour or so.
  5. Put the soup through a fine setting on a food mill, which will strain out the skins. You could use a blender, too.
  6. Return to the stove and taste for seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste. Swirl in a TBL or sherry and 1/4 cup of half and half or cream.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Last summer we had a bounty of tomatoes in our backyard. I know — seems impossible in the fog, but there they were in all their glory! Almost “Little Shop of Horrors”-like, but in a good way. We made sauce, paste, fresh tomato salads, and tomato soup (which we definitely plan to repeat this year, supplementing with some boxes of “ugly tomatoes” from the farmer’s market as necessary). But most exciting, at least to me, were the fried green tomatoes.

I love all the great produce we have access to in the Bay Area, but I really haven’t found green tomatoes available anywhere… and  I don’t mean the green varietals, I mean mature, but un-ripe tomatoes. It seems the only way to ensure your supply is to make friends with a farmer or grow your own.

I trace my little fried green tomato obsession to my stint last summer at Split Pea Seduction with chef Christian Noto. A particularly carve-able sandwich showed up on the menu one week: fried green tomatoes on a toasty housemade bun, with crisp romaine lettuce, fresh mint, swiss cheese, dab of dijon and a squeeze of lemon. I was hooked. We don’t make too many fried foods at home, but as in the rest of life, you must make exceptions — especially where fried green tomatoes and squash blossoms are concerned.

We made a few variations last year and ever since summer has rolled around again, I’ve been itching to get back to it. Luca and I check the progress of our backyard tomato crop everyday. There’s a good amount of fruit that has set, but nothing even close to being ready to cook with. So when we happened upon some under-ripe, but other-wise decent looking heirlooms at the market today, we decided to get our tomato season officially kicked off. Not exactly real-deal “green tomatoes” but close enough. Luca was very intrigued by the whole breading process and was also pretty excited about trying them, too. (Witness the little fingers sneaking into my photo.) To that I say “hurrah” let the games begin!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes will be full-sized with jelly-like pulp and maybe just a hint of ripeness, but still very firm. Once picked they last for several weeks and will slowly ripen. They usually don’t get too juicy, but still I avoid too much salting of the raw tomatoes, to minimize the amount of water they release.

Shopping List: Green Tomatoes, eggs, fresh mint and chives, lemon, panko (Japanese bread crumbs), flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Plus your favorite dipping sauce!

  • Whisk 2 eggs. Season with pepper and finely chopped mint and chives.
  • Pour flour into a bowl, season flour with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder and set aside.
  • Pour panko bread crumbs into a bowl and set aside.
  • Cut green, un-ripe tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices. Pat dry.
  • Dredge in flour, shake off excess.
  • Coat with sides with egg mixture then into the panko!
  • Fry in very hot oil until crispy and golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
  • Salt generously with kosher salt. Serve with lemon wedges.
  • You can hold the fried tomatoes in a 200 degree oven on a rack for about 30 minutes.

You could eat these as is, throw them in a sandwich like Christian, or put together a dipping sauce. A simple balsamic reduction, a remoulade, or yogurt spiced up with fresh mint, chives, and lemon zest would do nicely. Tim votes for some kind of buttermilk dipping sauce and then brought up the possibility of fried green tomatillos. Possibilities, possibilities!