Tomatoes Archive

Friday, August 24, 2012

mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes

broiled feta with tomatoes and olives

A few summers ago, I discovered what I consider to be one of the greatest things that has ever been placed over oiled grill grates on a beachy summer evening, preferably while a glass of rose trickles condensation down your hand: grilled haloumi cheese. Maybe you’re Greek Cypriot or better versed in the world of grill-able cheeses than me and are nodding silently right now, lucky enough that this is old news. Or maybe you’re confused because I just said grilled cheese and really? There is nothing new about two slices of white bread fried in butter until the gooey orange runs over the crusts and your freak-of-a-toddler won’t touch it. But, of course, this is an entirely different kind, no bread, no butter and absolutely better in summer than any other time.

a big block of bulgarian feta
a basket of pretty tomato marbles

Haloumi, the star of the saganaki show, is like the hardest feta you’ve ever seen, and quite rubbery when cold. I bet that made you really hungry, right? But the thing is, when heated, it becomes tender in the center but not runny; it doesn’t fall apart, just blisters and sighs. The easiest way to eat it is sakanaki-style, with lemon juice, black pepper and pita bread. But my favorite way is finely chop a salad of fresh tomatoes, olives or capers, red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar and spoon it over the grilled haloumi slices. You dig in immediately and wonder where it has been all of your life.

halved cherry tomatoes

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

zucchini rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

As promised, I am here to aid you with you midsummer afternoon’s zucchini nightmare, er, bounty. But please, just because I try to help people who weren’t wary enough of friends bearing baskets of zucchini doesn’t mean that I should be mistaken for someone who never lets zucchini expire on her watch. I went away for the weekend and left my last haul to meet a terrible end in my kitchen. Let this gratin be my zucchini repentance.

sliced zucchini
lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini

I started making this zucchini rice gratin a few years ago. At the time, well, rice wasn’t my thing. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it, just that it never, ever occurred to me to make it, which likely related to the fact that I burned it 100% of the time I made it, which led to pot-soaking and -scrubbing and a plague about our apartment known as a Grumpy Dishwasher. It hardly seemed worth it for a bit of rice. I’ve since figured out that nearly every package of rice lists the wrong amount of water (I always need more) and that on the gas stoves I’ve had, even the thinnest wisp of a flame, the lowest I can make it before the burner goes out entirely, will cook my rice in about 2/3 of the suggested time. I share these tips just in case any of you out there also need to go to Rice Remedial School, though you guys seem smart. I bet you’ve got this figured out already, and long before you wrote a cookbook that uses it no less than three times.

mixing rice, onions, herbs, parmesan

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar

might have bubbled over a little

Lest you think I spend any part of my days doing Important Things — preparing, and totally not at the last second or haphazardly, for my only child’s second birthday, or for his first week of pre-preschool; assembling warm, wholesome meals for his lunch each day; meeting my manuscript deadline; dealing with the shoe bomb that went off in my closet, etc. — it’s only fair and honest that I tell you that I’ve spent a significant portion of the last year considering ways to merge grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in a single vessel.

ready to roast
in to be processed

In a way, though, it relates to all of those things (well, not the shoes). There’s something very back-to-school-ish about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and because it’s still September, if you’re lucky, you can still get some tomatoes worth eating, and if not that, at least worth cooking down. In my imagined intersections of grilled cheese and tomato soup, I dreamed of grilled cheese croutons in one-inch rounds but rejected it for being overly precious. I considered grilled cheese bread bowls, but never worked out the logistics. But it was when I revisited the ne plus ultra combination of cheese and soup — French Onion Soup — this past spring that I knew unequivocally that the very best solution would be to simply broil an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich on top of a bowl of tomato soup. The only thing left to do was to wait (and wait, and wait) for the slim overlap of tomato season, soup season and a gloomy, rainy week. And that, my friends, brings us to today.

pulsed roasted tomatoes, so good

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 8, 2011

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mint

One of the things I’ve been fiddling around with last year is the idea of making bruschetta without, you know, bread. I shared a Thanksgiving-inspired version last November, but was itching for a late summer spin on it when I created this. I’m the kind of person who would happily eat appetizers for dinner any day — I’m pretty sure if I had nobody else to feed, I’d have subsisted on nothing but pan con tomate, blistered padrons, pink wine and Gossip Girl season one reruns the entire month of August — but it doesn’t really cut it with a family of three.

ricotta salata, salty love

Instead, I spend a lot of time throwing things together for the sake of being a grown-up, a grown-up who doesn’t really have an excuse (such as, she hates cooking or doesn’t know how to cook, etc.) not to make dinner but still forgot to make it again, and quite often, these meals involve some element of roasting the bleep out of well-seasoned vegetables high heat cookery. For the kid, that usually suffices but we grownups get bored more easily, and it’s from that boredom that I started making small, finely chopped and loudly flavored salads and spooning them on top of my roasted vegetable du jour. In this case, it’s eggplant with a Mediterranean-ish topping. We found it completely addictive and less heavy somehow than eating the same on pieces of toast.

alone in the kitchen with an eggplant

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

naked tomato sauce

naked tomato sauce

Every year at just about this time I renew my obsession with tomato sauce. It’s late August, after all, and just about anyone who has ever gardened or knows people who garden is drowning in tomatoes and I am here, with my virtual bucket, eager to help you out. Don’t be too fooled by my so-called benevolence, however, as it’s really a selfish endeavor; I find spaghetti with tomato sauce to be one of the universe’s perfect meals, so I’m hardly kicking and screaming my way to the kitchen the next time the whim for a new one strikes me.

a basket of plum tomatoes
peeling tomatoes

But I always think that the new one will be the one that closes the book on tomato sauce, that it will be done, that I will be able to move on and find new codes to crack in the kitchen knowing that I’ve locked in my tomato sauce nirvana. Unfortunately, these moments of spaghetti calm are increasingly short-lived. This baked tomato sauce made me happy for a few years, before curiosity got the better of me and I fell for Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with butter and onions. Even then, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and but seven months later was taking pity on the cheap buckets of “ugly but tasty!” tomatoes at the market, creating a heartier sauce that could be made with any tomato, whether a prom queen or not.

just tomatoes, cooked until saucy

Continued after the jump »


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